Quintus Sertorius

(c. 126 bc — 173 ad)

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(c.126–73 bc),

an equestrian from Sabine Nursia, distinguished himself in the Cimbrian Wars under Marius, and in Spain. Quaestor in 91, then a senior officer in the Social War, he was thwarted by Sulla in his candidacy for a tribunate and joined Cornelius Cinna. He shared responsibility for the capture of Rome (87) and subsequent executions, but ended the indiscriminate terror of Marius' slave‐bands. He became praetor (probably) in 85; kept in Italy by Sulla's impending return, he criticized, unsuccessfully, the Cinno‐Marian leaders for their conduct of the civil war and finally took command of Spain (winter 83/2). Proscribed and driven out (81), he went to Mauretania as a condottiere. Invited by the Lusitanians and anti‐Sullan Roman exiles, he returned to Spain (80) and soon gained widespread support among the natives, owing to his bravery, justice, and skill in exploiting their religious beliefs. (His white doe was regarded as a sign of divine inspiration.) Through crafty employment of guerrilla methods (and, for naval support, ‘Cilician’ pirates) he was successful against many Roman commanders, and by 77 he held most of Roman Spain. He tried to Romanize Hispanic leaders and acted throughout as a Roman proconsul, relying heavily on Roman and Italian exiles in the province; creating a ‘counter‐senate’ from among them, he made Spain the focal point of resistance against the post‐Sullan regime in Rome. When approached by Mithradates VI he concluded an alliance, yet refused to surrender Asia to him (76/5). The arrival of Perperna Veiento with substantial remnants of the army of Aemilius Lepidus (1) enabled him to take the offensive against Pompey—now commanding in Nearer Spain—whom he defeated at Lauro (77). But costly failures, of his own and his lieutenants, in several pitched battles (76) soon forced him to revert to guerrilla warfare, with waning success after 75. Losing the confidence of his Roman and Hispanic followers alike and embittered by failure, he became increasingly despotic and was murdered by Perperna.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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