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Quintus Sertorius

A Roman senator, who led the people of Hispania against the Romans and threatened the status quo.

Beginning as a jurist and an orator, Sertorius soon proved himself as a military leader. At the Battle of Arausio and the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, he especially proved himself. In 97 BCE, he served as a military tribune in HIspania. In 91 BCE, as a quaestor in Cisalpine Gaul, he recruited and trained legions for the Social War. During this time, he lost one of his eyes.

In 87 BCE violence erupted between the Optimates, led by Gnaeus Octavius, and the Populares, led by Lucius Cornelius Cinna, Sertorius sided with Cinna and Marius. When the war was over and the murders began, however, he abstained and rebuked both Marius and Cinna. Later in 83 BCE after Sulla returned, Sertorius went to Hispania and declared himself governor (proconsul) there. Needless to say, Sulla didn’t take kindly to this and sent an army against Sertorius in Hispania. Sertorius was forced to withdraw to North Africa, where he he succeeded in holding off Sulla’s armies..

Though the Roman people had not recognized his power in Hispania, Sertorius had now won the respect of the people of Hispania, whom the Romans had oppressed. Plutarch reports,

    And it is said that Sertorius was no easy victim either of pleasure or of fear, but that he was naturally unterrified in the face of danger, and bore prosperity with moderation; in straightforward fighting he was as bold as any commander of his time, while in all military activities demanding stealth and the power to seize an advantage in securing strong positions or in crossing rivers, where speed, deceit, and, if necessary, falsehood are required, he was an expert of the highest ability (Sertorius 10).

In 80 BCE, he was called back to Hispania by the Lusitanians, people from modern Portugal and western Spain, to lead them against the Romans. He was recognized as the “new Hannibal.” He kept a white fawn as a pet, who was to said to have acted as an interlocutor between himself and the goddess Diana. While a successful general, he also moved to establish a solid infrastructure, modelled off the Roman system. For example, in 77 BCE, he created a rival “senate” in Spain. Sertorius was strict and severe with the soldiers. On the whole, he seemed considerate to the natives of Hispania.

After six successful years in Spain, in 77BCE, Pompey was sent to reconquer Hispania and put an end to Sertorius’ rule. Though Sertorius was successful initially, by 74 BCE, Pompey began to gain the upper hand. As his fortunes declined, Sertorius became more harsh with the Lusitanians, thus losing their respect. Moreover, there were jealousies between the Roman officers and the high-ranking Hispanians. He was assassinated by Marcus Perpenna Vento, his erstwhile ally, in 72 BCE.

Attalus Entry: Quintus Sertorius1
Smith Entry
Wikipedia Entry


Monmouth College