Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
Sign in to follow this  
L. Quintus Sertorius

Lucius Quintus Sertorius

Recommended Posts

It is a true pity that a man of such valor and skill as Lucius Quintus Sertorius goes unknown by all but classical historians and those who chance to stumble upon his biography in Plutarch. So for the hopeful benefit of the community, I present an annotated version of Plutarch's Life of Sertorius.

 

And so to these instances let us further add, that the most warlike commanders, and most remarkable for exploits of skilful stratagem, have had but one eye; as Philip, Antigonus, Hannibal, and Sertorius, whose life and actions we describe at present; of whom, indeed, we might truly say, that he was more continent than Philip, more faithful to his friends than Antigonus, and more merciful to his enemies than Hannibal; and that for prudence and judgment he gave place to none of them, but in fortune was inferior to them all. Yet though he had continually in her a far more difficult adversary to contend against than his open enemies, he nevertheless maintained his ground, with the military skill of Metellus, the boldness of Pompey, the success of Sylla, and the power of the Roman people, all to be encountered by one who was a banished man and a stranger at the head of a body of barbarians. - Plutarch, I. Sertorius

 

Lucius Quintus Sertorius was born the scion of a noble Sabine family in the city of Nursia. His father died when he was quite young, and the young Sertorius was raised and educated by his mother Rhea. He was a keen student of oratory and managed to acquire some small fortune and influence in Rome by the means of his pleading in the courts (the custom being that a successful prosecutor was paid by the fines exacted from his plaintiff, and also acquired his rank.). However, upon the second invasion of Gallia Narbonensis by the Cimbri and Teutones (105 B.C.E.), Sertorius joined the consular army of Quintus Servilius Caepio and followed him north to confront the Cimbri on the plains of Arausio.

 

The two consuls for 105, Q. Servilius Caepio and Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, were bitter political opponents. Gnaeus Maximus, a homo novus (that is, a politician with no senatorial forebears), was the senior consul and thus held jurisdiction in command over Caepio. However, Caepio, due to his prejudice against Mallius, refused to cooperate with him or even to let their armies camp together. This refusal weakened the Roman forces' morale and strategic position (they were outnumbered by a large number, and the separation of their forces left them open to attack).

 

The Cimbri, discerning the infighting between the consuls during diplomatic negotiations, and prompted by an attack upon their camp by Caepio, utterly annihilated his legion. They then proceeded to sweep down towards the camp of Mallius Maximus, whose legionaries attempted to fight but were forced into rout and cut down. Sertorius, though wounded in many places, swam the Rhone River in full armor and managed to escape.

 

The second invasion of Italy by the Cimbri and Teutones prompted Sertorius to join with the army of Gaius Marius, and follow him north to Aquae Sextiae. In the weeks preceding the battle, Sertorius acquired a Gallic disguise, taught himself basic Gaelic, and managed to spy out the enemy camp undetected. He returned to Marius with valuable information about the leadership and situation of the enemy troops; and when battle was finally joined in 102 B.C.E., Marius utterly crushed the forces of the Cimbri and Teutones, to the extent even of capturing their king, Teutobod.

 

For his conspicuous bravery, Sertorius received military decorations from the hands of Gaius Marius himself, and was awarded a military tribunate in Spain with command of a thousand men (approximately three legions), under the Roman proconsul, Didius.

 

Sertorius wintered his troops in the country of the Celtiberians, occupying the city of Castulo. The soldiers, being accustomed to treat the Iberians as inferiors, came to be despised by the Castulones so much that they sent to their near neighbors, the Grysoenians, and attacked the Romans in their barracks. Sertorius, taken by surprise, rallied those of his troops who escaped the city and by circling the walls, discovered the gate by which the Grysoenians had entered the city. Posting a guard, he ambushed the Gysoenians as they left Castulo, and slew every man who was of an age to bear arms among them. After securing Castulo, he then ordered his men to put aside their Roman arms and accoutrements, and to take up those of the fallen Grysoenians. He managed to capture Grysoenia by leading the citizens to believe that his men were their returning warriors, and slew all of an age to bear arms at the city gates where they had gathered to welcome their warriors home. He then sacked Grysoenia and enslaved a great many people in retribution for his fallen soldiers. He gained great fame and renown in Iberia for this act, and as a result was appointed quaestor of Cisalpine Gaul on his return to Italy.

 

When Sertorius took up his quaestorship in 91 B.C.E., the Italian peninsula was about to enter into the throes of the Marsian War, also called the War of the Italian Allies (Socii). Sertorius was called upon to muster and train troops for Rome, which he accomplished with exceptional alacrity and efficiency. Leading from the front against the Italian forces, he lost an eye in close combat. Stories of his heroism reached Rome, and upon his return to Rome, he was so famous that he was applauded every time he entered a theatre. This popularity was not, however, enough to secure him a tribunate; mainly because he was a declared opponent of L. Cornelius Sulla, and all the formidable resources of this favorite of Venus were arrayed against him. Defeated in the election, Sertorius was greatly embittered and withdrew from politics until Sulla marched on Rome in 87 B.C.E.

 

After Marius and his partisans fled Rome for Africa, Sulla withdrew his forces from Rome and embarked for Pontus and the Mithridatic War. By the end of 87, Marius had returned to Rome and set up a pseudo-dictatorship with L. Cornelius Cinna. Sertorius had attempted to dissuade Cinna from summoning Marius back to Rome, as Plutarch relates:

 

Most were for the immediate reception of Marius, but Sertorius openly declared against it, because he feared that the violence of Marius would bring all things to confusion, by his boundless wrath and vengeance after victory. He insisted upon it with Cinna that they were already victorious, that there remained little to be done, and that if they admitted Marius, he would deprive them of the glory and advantage of the war, as there was no man less easy to deal with, or less to be trusted in, as a partner in power.

 

However, Cinna was not swayed, and Marius became, in effect, the ruler of Rome. Cinna and Sertorius insisted that Marius divide his forces between the three of them, so that no one man should have supreme power. Marius assented to this, but raised in replacement an army of freed slaves, which committed such atrocities upon the Romans that they looked upon the evils of wartime as a golden age in comparison. Sertorius, despairing of Marius

Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

His inattention to the skill of his subordinates. He spent little, if any, time educating his Iberian and Roman officers about the conduction of military matters - and as a result was forced to be in command at all important conflicts. His campaign would have been much more successful had he been in command of a skillful officer corps, as his style of guerilla warfare would have been less haphazard and more in tune with the actual goals of his campaign.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Sertorius,

 

You truly did your namesake justice. :rolleyes:

 

But what do you make of the burned list of Populists in Italy ready to revolt? Do you think that this is just a story Plutarch used to contrast how honorable Sertorius and Pompey were with Perpenna's cowardice? If you do do you think that there was enough discontent with the Sullan regime to do Sertorius any good?

 

I understand that no one can really know, but what do you think?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sulla's proscriptions and massacres after his final victory in Italy did much to ensure that there were few, if any, supporters of Marius willing to actively oppose him.

 

Also, I'm not certain what the papers burned by Pompey contained - they may have been letters from former Marians begging Sertorius to reconcile, military directives, etc.; but I doubt highly that they were actual lists of populares in Italy. As mentioned before, there were few people actively espousing the popular tradition after Sulla's victory - no one would even do so much as publically commemorate Marius until the time of Caesar's aedileship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sertorius landed near Mauritania, and allowed his soldiers to go ashore to gather provisions. Having dispersed, they were set upon by the native population and slain in large numbers. Sertorius, disheartened, embarked again and headed for Spain. However, he was also repulsed upon landing there. In the meantime, some Cilician pirate ships encountered his squadron and offered their aid. With the help of the Cilicians, Sertorius took the island of Pityussa and overpowered the garrison that Annius had placed there.

 

Under what authority did he have the means to distribute territory so freely?

 

Another question is: do you think Sertorius successes as a general was more to do with the rift between Metellus and Pompey, or because of his own merits as a strategist?

 

Excellent article by the way; I do not think you could have added more detail it you tried.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The same authority that Sulla wielded to reform the Roman state - the force of arms. The years following Sulla's victory were nearly anarchic outside the boundaries of the Roman pomerium. There were small Marian forces active in Italy, Greece, Asia, and obviously Spain for some time after Rome itself fell.

 

The rift between Metellus and Pompey really only had a large effect in the early stage of the joint campaign. After the debacle at Sucro, the two commanders worked much more closely together (in effect, Pompey was given de facto command of both forces) and managed slightly better. However, I do think that Sertorius' skill as a general played a large part in his successes. Place any other general of the time period in Sertorius' shoes, and I doubt they would have been half as successful.

Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However, terms were soon agreed upon, that Mithridates should be given Cappadocia and Bithynia, and in return send Sertorius 30,000 talents of gold and 40 ships.

 

It just seems that Sertorius felt that he was in a strong enough position to give such an offer. True, he had just beaten his rivals twice in battle, but it seems that at this point, Sertious was seen as a more of a nuisance to the Rome

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Christopher Konrad, Plutarch's Sertorius: A Historical Commentary. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

 

EDIT - A source that I would have liked to use would have been "Quintus Sertorius and the legacy of Sulla"

by Philip O Spann

Publisher: Fayetteville : University of Arkansas Press, 1987.

 

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to read it while up at LSUS on JSTOR, and I don't foresee any such time in the near future with soccer season fast approaching. So if anyone could send me a .pdf or link to an online copy, it would be much appreciated.

Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
EDIT - A source that I would have liked to use would have been "Quintus Sertorius and the legacy of Sulla"

by Philip O Spann

 

Is that title available on Amazon US?Amazon UK dont have it in stock :( .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×