The wise politicians in the capital were already recalling the time when Italy found itself threatened by Philip from the east and by Hannibal from the west; they conceived that the new Hannibal, just like his predecessor, after having by himself subdued Spain, could easily arrive with the forces of Spain in Italy sooner than Pompeius, in order that, like the Phoenician formerly, he might summon the Etruscans and Samnites to arms against Rome.

Collapse Of The Power Of Sertorius

But this comparison was more ingenious than accurate. Sertorius was far from being strong enough to renew the gigantic enterprise of Hannibal. He was lost if he left Spain, where all his successes were bound up with the peculiarities of the country and the people; and even there he was more and more compelled to renounce the offensive. His admirable skill as a leader could not change the nature of his troops. The Spanish militia retained its character, untrustworthy as the wave or the wind; now collected in masses to the number of 150,000, now melting away again to a mere handful. The Roman emigrants, likewise, continued insubordinate, arrogant, and stubborn. Those kinds of armed force which require that a corps should keep together for a considerable time, such as cavalry especially, were of course very inadequately represented in his army. The war gradually swept off his ablest officers and the flower of his veterans; and even the most trustworthy communities, weary of being harassed by the Romans and maltreated by the Sertorian officers, began to show signs of impatience and wavering allegiance. It is remarkable that Sertorius, in this respect also like Hannibal, never deceived himself as to the hopelessness of his position; he allowed no opportunity for bringing about a compromise to pass, and would have been ready at any moment to lay down his staff of command on the assurance of being allowed to live peacefully in his native land. But political orthodoxy knows nothing of compromise and conciliation. Sertorius might not recede or step aside; he was compelled inevitably to move on along the path which he had once entered, however narrow and giddy it might become.

The representations which Pompeius addressed to Rome, and which derived emphasis from the behaviour of Mithradates in the east, were successful. He had the necessary supplies of money sent to him by the senate and was reinforced by two fresh legions. Thus the two generals went to work again in the spring of 680 and once more crossed the Ebro. Eastern Spain was wrested from the Sertorians in consequence of the battles on the Xucar and Guadalaviar; the struggle thenceforth became concentrated on the upper and middle Ebro around the chief strongholds of the Sertorians--Calagurris, Osca, Ilerda. As Metellus had done best in the earlier campaigns, so too on this occasion he gained the most important successes. His old opponent Hirtuleius, who again confronted him, was completely defeated and fell himself along with his brother--an irreparable loss for the Sertorians. Sertorius, whom the unfortunate news reached just as he was on the point of assailing the enemy opposed to him, cut down the messenger, that the tidings might not discourage his troops; but the news could not be long concealed. One town after another surrendered, Metellus occupied the Celtiberian towns of Segobriga (between Toledo and Cuenca) and Bilbilis (near Calatayud). Pompeius besieged Pallantia (Palencia above Valladolid), but Sertorius relieved it, and compelled Pompeius to fall back upon Metellus; in front of Calagurris (Calahorra, on the upper Ebro), into which Sertorius had thrown himself, they both suffered severe losses. Nevertheless, when they went into winter-quarters--Pompeius to Gaul, Metellus to his own province--they were able to look back on considerable results; a great portion of the insurgents had submitted or had been subdued by arms.

In a similar way the campaign of the following year (681) ran its course; in this case it was especially Pompeius who slowly but steadily restricted the field of the insurrection.

Internal Dissension Among The Sertorians

The discomfiture sustained by the arms of the insurgents failed not to react on the tone of feeling in their camp. The military successes of Sertorius became like those of Hannibal, of necessity less and less considerable; people began to call in question his military talent: he was no longer, it was alleged, what he had been; he spent the day in feasting or over his cups, and squandered money as well as time. The number of the deserters, and of communities falling away, increased. Soon projects formed by the Roman emigrants against the life of the general were reported to him; they sounded credible enough, especially as various officers of the insurgent army, and Perpenna in particular, had submitted with reluctance to the supremacy of Sertorius, and the Roman governors had for long promised amnesty and a high reward to any one who should kill him. Sertorius, on hearing such allegations, withdrew the charge of guarding his person from the Roman soldiers and entrusted it to select Spaniards. Against the suspected themselves he proceeded with fearful but necessary severity, and condemned various of the accused to death without resorting, as in other cases, to the advice of his council; he was now more dangerous--it was thereupon affirmed in the circles of the malcontents--to his friends than to his foes.

Assassination Of Sertorius

A second conspiracy was soon discovered, which had its seat in his own staff; whoever was denounced had to take flight or die; but all were not betrayed, and the remaining conspirators, including especially Perpenna, found in the circumstances only a new incentive to make haste. They were in the headquarters at Osca. There, on the instigation of Perpenna, a brilliant victory was reported to the general as having been achieved by his troops; and at the festal banquet arranged by Perpenna to celebrate this victory Sertorius accordingly appeared, attended, as was his wont, by his Spanish retinue.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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