Quintus Sertorius. Great Opponent of Rome

Quintus Sertorius. Great Opponent of Rome
Supposed Quintus Sertorius, bust

In a recent small series of articles dedicated to Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Quintus Sertorius, a supporter of the main opponent of this dictator, Gaius Marius, was mentioned. However, Sertorius, perhaps, deserves a separate story. Today we will talk about him.

The origin and youth of the hero of the article

It is believed that Quintus Sertorius was born around 122 BC. e. in the small Sabine city of Nursia, through which the Salarieva road ran. Sabins are known to many from the episode of the legendary stories Rome, associated with the abduction of the girls of this tribe by the alien Romans and became the subject of many paintings and sculptural compositions.

Girolamo de Pacchia. "The Rape of the Sabine Women", 1520

"The Rape of the Sabine Women", sculpture by Giambologna, Florence, 1583

The Sabines gave Rome Titus Tatius, the co-ruler of Romulus, as well as the second king, Numa Pompilius.

Drawing of a portrait of Numa Pompilius on the obverse of a coin of Calpurnius Piso

The lands of the Sabines were finally annexed to Rome in 290 BC. e.

Half a century later, the Sabines received the rights of Roman citizenship - much earlier than other Italian tribes. Strabo wrote that the Sabines were "ancient people and original inhabitants» Italy:

"The Picentines and Samnites are the colonists of the Sabines, the Lucans are of the Samnites, and the Brettians are of the Lucans."

At the same time, Pliny the Elder called the tribe of the Sabines the bravest, Horace - severe, Silius Italicus - warlike. The valor and courage of the Sabines were sometimes set by Roman orators as an example to their compatriots. In addition to Sertorius, the famous representatives of the Sabine tribe were the emperor Vespasian (whose mother was born just in Nursia) and two famous writers - Mark Terentius Varro and Gaius Sallust Crispus. As for the name "Sertorius", then it was found then mainly among representatives of the Sabines tribe and the descendants of the Etruscans.

The family of the hero of the article belonged to the class of horsemen and was not very rich, but very respected in their city. However, in Rome, Sertorius was only one of many visiting provincials and could not claim a high position in society.

The boy lost his father early, who died in one of the wars, and was raised by his mother. She wanted her son to become a lawyer, and even Cicero noted Sertorius's oratorical talent, who considered him smart and "easy on the tongue." However, Sertorius still preferred military service, which, in the conditions of constant wars, gave more career prospects. In the army, he began to serve under the command of the consul Quintus Servilius Cepion, and the first war in which he took part was a military campaign against the Teutons and Cimbri. The beginning was unsuccessful: on October 6, 105, in the battle of Arausion near the river Rodan, the Romans were defeated by the Germans and their allies, the Gauls. Sertorius then lost his horse, was wounded, but swam across the river, managing to save his shell and shield. This act did not go unnoticed and earned universal approval. It is known that the behavior of Sertorius in that battle was set as an example back in the XNUMXth century BC. n. e. However, Sertorius did not receive the award, since it was not customary for the Romans to reward the soldiers of the losing armies.

Now Gaius Marius was sent to fight the Germans, who just at that time victoriously completed the war in Africa against the Numidian king Jugurtha. He was elected consul in absentia for 104 BC. e., and then his powers were extended 4 more times in a row.

Plutarch reports that in 102 Sertorius was rewarded for having made his way to the camp of the Ambronic Gauls and returned with valuable information. The same author states:

“Since during further hostilities he (Sertorius) showed intelligence and courage, he gained fame and began to enjoy the trust of the commander (Mary).”

The next time on the pages of historical sources the name Sertorius appears in 98 BC. e., when we see him in the position of military tribune in the Spanish army, consul Titus Didius. There were fierce battles with the Celtiberians, who, according to Appian, only at Termess were killed about 20 thousand people. Plutarch reports that in the Iberian city of Castulon, whose garrison was led by Sertorius, many Romans were killed during the night attack of the Oretani. However, the retreating Sertorius recaptured the city, and then his soldiers, dressed as Spaniards, captured the neighboring city, whose inhabitants acted as allies of the oretans. For these actions, he received a very prestigious and rare award - corona graminea. It is also called the "herbal" or "siege" wreath: it was handed by the legionnaires to the commander, whose actions saved the legion or army.

Returning to Rome, Sertorius secured the position of quaestor for himself - this was the first step along the so-called "road of honor" (cursus honorum).

Allied war and its aftermath

In articles about Sulla, we have already talked about the Allied (Marsian) war, which in 91 BC. e. The Italian tribes of the Marsi, Marrucini, Peligni, Frentani, Piceni, Vesti, Girpini, Samnites, Lucani, and Iapygi began against Rome.

Map of the tribes of the Apennine Peninsula

The Italians were not satisfied with the unequal position in the Roman state, in which they were listed as "allies" of Rome and did not even have Roman citizenship, which gave many advantages. They tried to create their own confederate state and minted coins on which the Italian bull trampled the Roman she-wolf. The Roman generals who opposed them on different fronts were Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Gnaeus Pompey (who will go down in history under the nickname Magnus - the Great), Gaius Marius, as well as Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, Gnaeus Pompey Strabo (Pompey's father Magna), Lucius Cornelius Cinna. The Romans were forced to make significant concessions, in particular, to provide the Italians with the rights of Roman citizens. But not all the Italic tribes were ready to compromise: the Marses, Samnites and Piceni continued to fight. In addition, two categories of citizens now appeared in the Roman Republic - "old" and "new". The contradictions between them soon led to two civil wars waged by supporters of the popular and optimates parties.

After the outbreak of hostilities, the quaestor Sertorius was sent to Cisalpine Gaul, where he was to form new army units. Plutarch reports that he not only completed this task, but

“He showed such zeal and swiftness in this matter (especially when compared with the slowness and lethargy of other young military leaders) that he gained a good reputation as an active person.”

In one of the battles that followed, he lost an eye, and, as they say, he was proud of this wound, because it made him look like Hannibal. He was later called the "Spanish Hannibal".

In general, the man was clearly in his place, and the same Plutarch claims that in the theater of Sertorius steel

"greeted with noisy welcome cries - and this was not easy to deserve even for people who far surpassed him in age and fame."

But in the Allied War, a man died, on whose patronage an ignoble native of Nursia, Titus Didius, could count. And Gaius Marius and people from his inner circle did not seem to trust Sertorius. Even worse, Sertorius had a relationship with Sulla, who openly prevented his election as a tribune.

Civil wars

The first civil war began because of the confrontation between the parties of the optimates and the populists, who relied, among other things, on numerous “new citizens”. One of the leaders of the optimates was the consul Lucius Cornelius Sulla. His main opponent, the tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus, the leader of the populace, demanded the distribution of new citizens not to 8 tribes, but to all 35, which gave the popular party a significant majority in the voting. In addition, on his initiative, it was decided to transfer the army of Sulla to Gaius Marius, who, as consul, was going to lead it to war against the king of Pontus Mithridates VI Eupator (in 89 BC, Mithridates attacked the Asian possessions of Rome). Sulla refused to surrender command, instead he moved his army to Rome.

The battle of the Sullans and the Marians on the streets of Rome in the painting by P. Dennis, 1982

Having captured the city, he repealed all the laws adopted on the initiative of Sulpicius - himself, Maria and 10 other people outlawed. However, the supporters of the popular Gnaeus Octavius ​​and Lucius Cornelius Cinna won the election of consuls. It was then that Sertorius tried to get elected as a tribune, but was defeated due to the opposition of Sulla. Sertorius, who had no connections, was doomed to join some party. Given Sulla's hostile attitude towards him, he chose the Marians. According to Plutarch, Sertorius, having become a supporter of Cinna,

"joined the enemy of his enemy and the man who gave him hope for the future."

And Cinna accepted Sertorius not out of friendship, but because he was already a fairly well-known military leader - experienced and respected among the legionnaires. Sulla, who, having captured Rome, failed to defeat the party of the populace, nevertheless left for the war with Mithridates, hoping to strengthen his authority with resounding victories over an external enemy. After his departure, the consul Cinna again proposed the distribution of "new citizens" among 35 tribes, and also demanded the return to Rome of Marius and his supporters. It came to armed clashes between the optimates and the populace, and Cinna even tried to attract slaves to his side. In the end, Cinna and his supporters (including Sertorius) were defeated and forced to leave Rome. The Senate decided to remove Cinna from the post of consul, although he had no right to do so. And the exiled Cinna found support in the Italian cities. He managed to win over the soldiers of the army of Appius Claudius Pulchra, which at that time was located near Nola. And in Etruria at that time, Gaius Marius appeared, who arrived there from Carthage. Sertorius opposed the alliance with him, because he believed that there were already enough forces, and Marius had a difficult character and “unable to share power with others". However, Cinna nevertheless concluded an agreement with the disgraced commander.

Guy Mari, bust, Vatican Museums

Sertorius was appointed one of the four commanders of the assembled troops (the others were Cinna, Marius, and Carbone).

It was Sertorius who opposed Pompey Strabo, whose son would become known as Pompey Magnus, the most experienced commander of all that the senate then had at its disposal. Plutarch reports that a certain Lucius Terentius, one of the contubernals of Pompey's son Strabo, was bribed by the populares, who agreed to kill the enemy commander. The assassination attempt failed, but a mutiny arose in the camp. Gnaeus Pompey the Youngerappeared among the soldiers and begged with tears not to leave his father". He managed to prevent the transition of most of the army to the side of Sertorius. But then 800 people still left the camp - among them were high-ranking commanders who were present at Pompey's military councils. One of them - Lucius Girtuley then became one of the most successful commanders of Sertorius. In the ensuing battle, none of the armies achieved decisive success, but the battlefield remained with Pompey, it was his soldiers who were engaged in the burial of the dead the next day. Orosius reports that one of Pompey's soldiers killed his brother in that battle, whom he did not recognize, because "in a fight, recognition was hindered by a helmet, sound thinking - fury":

“When he recognized the body of his brother and his crime, he cursed the civil war, pierced his chest with a sword, and, shedding blood and tears, collapsed on the corpse of his brother.”

Then some kind of epidemic, traditionally called the plague, broke out in the armies of the senate. Among others, Gnaeus Pompey Strabo also died. The remnants of his army did not want to go under the command of the consul Gnaeus Octavius, demanding that they be led by a more authoritative commander - Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius. After the refusal, they went over to the side of Cinna. Metellus retreated from Rome, famine began in the besieged city, and the Senate, having entered into negotiations with Cinna, agreed to return the title of consul to him and allowed troops to be sent to Rome - the second time in the history of this city. The Marians immediately launched repressions against the optimates. According to Plutarch, only Sertorius then

“did not succumb to a feeling of anger and did not kill anyone ... did not use the right of the winner and did not commit violence; on the contrary, he was indignant with Mari and in private conversations persuaded Cinna to act softer.

And then Sertorius, on the orders of Cinna, surrounded the camp of the slaves who had joined Mary (who raged more than anyone else), and killed them.

But now Orosius reports that the senators and noble Romans who fled to Sulla

"were saved from the power of Cinna, the cruelty of Marius, the madness of Fimbria and the audacity of Sertorius."

But the worst for Rome was yet to come. Velleius Paterculus states:

"Nothing would be more cruel than this victory, if Sullan did not follow it."

Return of Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla, bust. Museum of Archeology, Venice

Having won the war with Mithridates, Sulla sent his army to Brundisium. In Italy, he was joined by the detachments of Gnaeus Pompey (he did not have his own troops and recruited them from his friends and clients), Marcus Licinius Crassus, Metellus Pius and some other surviving optimates. Gaius Marius had already died by this time, and Cinna was killed by rebellious soldiers. Lucius Cornelius Scipio and Gaius Junius Norbanus, who did not have much combat experience, were chosen as consuls. Sertorius was a legate in the army of Scipio. Sulla, on the other hand, led his troops into Campania, where at Mount Tifat he defeated the army of Norban, who retreated to Capua. After this, Sulla entered into negotiations with Scipio near Teana, while at the same time conducting agitation in his army. Experienced Sertorius warned the consul that he could lose the army without a fight, but his speeches only caused irritation. As a result, Sertorius was sent as an envoy to the camp of Norbanus. On the way, he arbitrarily captured Suessa Avrunka, which was located on the Appian Way, blocking a possible retreat route. Scipio tried to justify himself to Sulla, assuring that he knew nothing about the actions of a subordinate. Discontent grew in his troops, and everything ended, as Sertorius had expected, with the transition of the soldiers to the side of Sulla. Sertorius moved to Etruria, where he gathered a detachment of 40 cohorts. In Rome, at that time, the elections of consuls were held, which were won by Gnaeus Papirius Carbon and Gaius Marius Jr., who was only 26 or 27 years old. Interestingly, Marius the Younger, like his father, turned out to be hostile to Sertorius. In the end, he was sent as praetor with proconsular powers to Near Spain. Exuperantius says:

“Meanwhile, Marius and Carbon became consuls; at this time, Sertorius, not afraid of the power of Marius (the Younger), arrived in the City and began to denounce the general lethargy, while pointing to the energy and valor of Sulla, who, if he was not given proper resistance, would win. Then the consuls and other leaders of the cabal, censured by such words, decided either to put out of sight the zealous and ardent denunciator of their negligence, or to put a reliable ruler at the head of a warlike province, whose infidelity they feared, to send him to the Middle Spain, and he was ordered along the way to put things in order in Transalpine Gaul.

We have already spoken about the victory of Sulla in the Second Civil War, his repressions, which shook the imagination of contemporaries and the voluntary refusal of this dictator from power, in articles devoted to the life and fate of this dictator. Let's continue the story of Sertoria.

Proconsul of Near Spain

Having sent Sertorius to the "militant" Middle Spain, and even with the order "on the way to put things in order in Transalpine Gaul”, ill-wishers allocated only a small detachment to the new proconsul. And therefore, according to Plutarch, he had to pay the local tribes for the right to pass through the Pyrenees. Outraged by his compliance with his companions, he said that "buys time, which is especially dear to a person striving for a great goal"(Plutarch).

In 82 BC. e. Sertorius took over the administration of the province. We remember that he had already fought in Spain under the command of Titus Didius. Plutarch claims that Sertorius

“The nobility won over to their side with courtesy, and the people with a reduction in taxes; he won a special location by canceling the stay: he forced the soldiers to arrange winter quarters in the suburbs, and he himself was the first to set an example.

And also that Sertorius was "gentle in solving civil cases».

Exuperantius writes about the same:

“Sertorius, having arrived in the province, began to so zealously incline with kindness and prudent care in his favor the mood of the allies, who were already ready to fall away and who wanted a different order, that he inspired sympathy for everyone.”

And in Sallust you can read that Sertorius "was loved for moderate and impeccable management».

At the same time, according to Plutarch, the new proconsul

“He built his calculations not only on the location of the barbarians, he armed those capable of wearing weapon Roman settlers, and also ordered the manufacture of all kinds of military vehicles and the construction of triremes. He kept the cities under close surveillance, while the enemies were horrified at seeing his military preparations.


Ahead was a war with the dictator Sulla, who did not negotiate with Sertorius (as with the governor of Sicily Perperna), but immediately entered his name on the proscription lists.

proscription sheet

This war was called the Sertorian. Lucius Annaeus Florus spoke of her as "legacy of proscriptions". Velleius Paterculus called her "terrible", and Cicero -"cruelest","most terrible" and "the greatest».

To protect the Pyrenean passes, Sertorius sent 6 soldiers, commanded by Livy Salinator. Warships were built to protect the coast. An alliance was made with the Cilician pirates.

The first opponent of Sertorius was the proconsul Gaius Annius Lusk, who led an army of up to 20 thousand people. He managed to break through the passages in the Pyrenees after he agreed with the traitor to kill Livy Salinator. Left without a commander, the soldiers left their positions. Sertorius by that time had only three thousand people, with whom he retreated to New Carthage. Here, putting his soldiers on ships, he went with them to Africa - but not to the Roman province, where the Marian Domitius Ahenobarbus still fought, but to Mauretania. It seemed that now he had no chance of success. But with the help of Cilician pirates, he later managed to capture the island of Pitius (Ibiza). Then his ships crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and landed troops just above the mouth of the Betis River. Here, by the way, he met sailors who visited some island of the Canary archipelago (according to another version - on the island of Madeira), who took these lands, where it is always warm and there is no change of seasons, for one of the Isles of the Blessed:

“It rains occasionally there, soft and damp winds constantly blow; the people, not burdening themselves with either labor or trouble, gather in abundance sweet fruits that grow by themselves.

Sertorius even wanted to settle on this island and establish a "new Rome" there. But instead, unable to stay in Baetica, he again sailed to Mauretania. Here he took part in the civil war, supporting the opponents of the deposed king Ascalides. He defeated the army of the former king and besieged him in the city of Tingis (Tangier). At this city, he managed to defeat the Sullan detachment, which was headed by Vibius Pakcian: the Sullan commander died in battle, the remnants of his army went over to the side of Sertorius. Tingis was taken, the morale of Sertorius's soldiers rose, and the Lusitanians sent envoys with an invitation to become their leader in the coming war against the Romans. According to another version, Sertorius himself turned to the Lusitanians with a proposal to lead their troops. One way or another, now, in 80 BC. e. Sertorius returned to the Iberian Peninsula, where he was joined by about 4 Lusitanian soldiers. Here he also found support among some other local tribes, part of the Roman settlers, as well as among those Romans and Italians who fled to Spain from the repressions of Sulla.

We will talk about the continuation of the Sertorian War in the next article.
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  1. +4
    27 December 2022 04: 12
    Good afternoon everyone. To the author - the bust of Gaius Marius is shown in the photo in front of the article. Reliable images of Quintus Sertorius have not been preserved.
    1. VLR
      27 December 2022 07: 21
      There are discrepancies here, perhaps the word "alleged" should have been written
      1. +4
        27 December 2022 20: 48
        Thank you Valery for the article!
        Today I was able to read only late in the evening, I really enjoyed it!
  2. +7
    27 December 2022 05: 25
    The Italians were not satisfied with the unequal position in the Roman state, in which they were listed as "allies" of Rome and did not even have Roman citizenship
    .. More correctly, they did not have Roman citizenship. Without, even. The status of "ally" and Roman citizenship, two big differences. Later, "Roman citizenship" became one of the goodies for subordinate territories .. But "to the right" and " to the left", the Romans did not distribute it.
    1. 0
      27 December 2022 11: 08
      Quote: parusnik
      But "to the right" and "to the left", the Romans did not distribute it

      By the time of the decline of the empire, even wild barbarians dressed in skins received citizenship ...
      1. 0
        4 March 2023 10: 36
        It's like joining the EU now. Looks like disaster is near.
      2. 0
        4 March 2023 10: 37
        It's like joining the EU now. Looks like disaster is near.
  3. +7
    27 December 2022 06: 20
    Thank you, Valery!

    A developed society knows how to distribute awards from improvised means.

    And the system of award wreaths is quite remarkable.
  4. +5
    27 December 2022 06: 52
    As always, very interesting, Valery! Thank you!
  5. +4
    27 December 2022 07: 08
    Only on the 6th picture is the inscription "Map of tribes Iberian peninsula". Must be "Apennine"
    1. VLR
      27 December 2022 07: 19
      Wow, typo, that's probably because I've been thinking about the Sertorian War in the Iberian Peninsula all the time. Thanks, we'll fix it now.
      1. VLR
        27 December 2022 14: 29
        Wow, typo... we'll fix it now

        1. +3
          27 December 2022 21: 23
          Who does not work - he is not mistaken!
          Regards, Vlad!
    2. -1
      28 December 2022 06: 30
      Quote: VENOM
      "Map of the tribes of the Iberian Peninsula".

      How I remember right now - how these pirates boarded our Legion airships!
  6. +5
    27 December 2022 08: 35
    But nevertheless, Sertorius, nevertheless, made enemies for himself, which ruined him in the future, but we will learn about this in the second part.
  7. +4
    27 December 2022 09: 52
    But Peter Paul Rubens in his painting "The Rape of the Sabine Women", in contrast to a similar painting by Girolamo de Piccaya, depicted completely different scenes, where the main details of the abduction are.
    Male Romans kidnap Sabine women lustfully grabbing their bare breasts and hips, in the eyes of the kidnappers there is pressure from prolonged abstinence, and in the eyes of the abducted there is horror before this unknown savagery. It is precisely because of the details that the painting by Rubens is more suitable as evidence of the victims and perpetrators of the crime, since kidnapping has always been a crime.
    And this trouble happened for the Sabines in 753 BC, when two brothers without documents and permanent residence founded the city of Rome, and in order to become the sole founder of the city, brother Romulus nailed brother Remus to death. But there are no cities of one person, so gradually other specific brothers without documents and permanent residence began to arrive in a convenient location in this city, expelled from work in their homeland for idleness and robbery. And all those who gathered there, all as one greyhounds, with weapons, ambition and a long list of misconduct and crimes. Well, as if later, after two thousand years, cowboys in North America ... And there are no women in this city of Rome at all! So these Romans have been sitting without women for a year now, they have built some houses for themselves, bakeries, kitchens, forges have established, Romulus brought iron discipline, like the brothers. But without women, all this is very, very boring to the point of impossibility!
    And then Romulus comes up with a plan to invite neighbors and families to a feast in honor of the god of grain. And the people of the Sabines lived not far from the newly founded Rome. And since only 1 year had passed from the founding of Rome, this poor people, the Sabines, did not know what kind of "gift" in the person of their neighbors fate sent him. And the Sabines men along with their families came to visit Rome. And when the Sabines men relaxed and got drunk for free, the Romans began to grab and kidnap their women. Moreover, after that, the separation of not beautiful and old took place, and they were sent home, and the brothers divided the beautiful among themselves, and not everyone got it yet.
    Moral! Do not go with your family on city holidays in a suspicious area!
    the commentary is written based on the book by Sofia Bagdasarova.
    1. +4
      28 December 2022 06: 22
      Good morning Colleague. smile

      Male Romans kidnap Sabine women lustfully grabbing their bare breasts and thighs, in the eyes of the kidnappers the pressure from prolonged abstinence

      Everything is completely ordinary, and it would be strange if the occupying army behaved differently. Although it was said on a different occasion, it is quite suitable for this case: "It is necessary to feed the unarmed soldiers, the armed ones will feed themselves." wink
      And as for the "pressure in the eyes", then for a year of sitting without getting out in the barracks, you will go berserk even without any military operations. drinks
      1. +1
        28 December 2022 20: 41
        In general, no one occupied anyone there ... they just stole the girls from the neighboring village and the barracks had nothing to do with it, and there weren’t these barracks then laughing
        1. +1
          28 December 2022 22: 16
          And the "Stockholm Syndrome" quickly developed among the ladies. Although there was no Stockholm at that time, even in the most promising perspective. And the "syndrome" already existed.
  8. +2
    27 December 2022 12: 17
    Good afternoon everyone. Valery, I'm sorry that's off topic. Now I've filed a report with the police.
    They called Vera that her son had burned down in the tank, she and the "little one" went there, and on the "farm
    I have a branded handbag with a V, and they called me: "Zeleboba's bedding"!
    I'm not Vera to "swallow"!
    The police dashed off: "distribution of fascist symbols, insulting the army, I also have a military ID, public calls for a violent overthrow. + inaction of the authorities" I have one copy of the statement. I scared that I would send the prosecutor
    I think Stalin approved me.
    1. +3
      27 December 2022 13: 56
      Is it really such a tragedy for Vera? It's just terrible, please send my condolences
      1. VLR
        27 December 2022 14: 27
        condolences please

        And on my behalf too
    2. +2
      27 December 2022 15: 56
      Condolences, but where is it, green beetle is called a name?
    3. +3
      27 December 2022 21: 40
      Everything is on topic. Hold on.

      .............................. ..
  9. +5
    27 December 2022 13: 55
    Nothing would be more cruel than this victory, if the Sullanic

    Mariy and Cinna came - rob and kill, Sulla came - kills and robs. And where should the poor patrician go? :)
  10. +1
    27 December 2022 23: 05
    Is Mauritania spelled wrong?
    1. VLR
      27 December 2022 23: 18
      The ancient country is Mauretania. And the modern Islamic republic is Mauritania
  11. +3
    28 December 2022 14: 35
    What is there to comment? New Year's Eve dreams come true. So my request for an article about Sertorius was fulfilled. A deep bow, Valery, for such a wonderful New Year's gift. drinks
  12. +2
    28 December 2022 20: 38
    Interesting article. He was truly an extraordinary person. Although he is just one of the worthy opponents of Rome. For there were very, very many of them in Rome's long history.