(Quintus Sertorius)

122–72 BC

Sertorius was an able statesman and outstanding general, who achieved great renown by leading a rebellion in Spain against the Roman government, and holding out against all the forces that Rome could muster against him for over seven years. He was greatly respected, even by his enemies, and eventually perished, not in battle, but by treachery.

Sertorius started his soldiering career fighting against the Teutones in the Cimbrian War under Marius. He later entered public life, but his career was limited because of his opposition to Sulla. He was a member of the Marian party because of his opposition to Sulla, but he disliked Marius personally. He was, however, at hand when the Marian party, led by Cinna and Marius, laid siege to Rome, although he did not take part in the proscription, and was considered a moderating influence on the leaders. He took a post in Spain shortly before Sulla returned to power, but when the Marian party was purged from Rome, he fled to Africa, and fought some of Sulla's armies in that province.

In 80 B.C., the Lusitani tribe in western Spain revolted from Rome, and invited Sertorius to come and lead the rebellion. He was joined there by many refugees from Sulla's proscriptions, deserters from Sulla's army, and other malcontents. With this motley force, along with the native Spaniards, he was able to hold out against Rome for seven years. There are many stories of his great campaigns against Rome's armies in Spain, that show his extraordinary military and statesmanlike qualities. Sertorius was a brave and good-natured leader who got along well with the native tribes. It was his object to create a stable government, and civilize the people as much as possible along the Roman model. He established a senate of 300 members, drawn mostly from Roman emigrants but also including some Spanish natives. He established a school for the native children, where they received a Roman education. There are also many stories told about a white fawn, presented to him as a gift, that he claimed could speak to him with advice from the goddess Diana.

In 77 B.C. Pompey, one of the greatest generals in Rome, joined Metellus Pius, the Roman general that he had been skirmishing with for several years. But Pompey was no more successful than Metellus. At the same time, Sertorius was also joined by many new refugees from Rome, who came under the leadership of Perpenna Vento. Eventually however, some members of Sertorius's own senate became jealous and distrustful of his power. One of the Roman commanders had promised a reward to anyone who killed Sertorius, and in 72 B.C., he was killed by his own associates as he supped at a banquet. The tribes under Sertorius immediately sued Pompey for peace, and as a gesture of goodwill, it is said that Perpenna Vento presented Pompey with letters from leading citizens back in Rome, proving them to be supporters of Sertorius. Instead of accepting them, Pompey burned them unread and had Perpenna killed.

Key events during the life of Sertorius:

102 BC
Served with Marius at Aix, where the Teutones were defeated.
97 BC
Served with the army in Spain.
91 BC
Served as quaestor in Cisalpine Gaul, but was prevented by Sulla from attaining any higher office.
89 BC
Served in Social War. Lost sight in one of his eyes.
87 BC
With Marius and Cinna, took Rome for the Marian party, but did not take part in the massacres.
83 BC
Appointed governor of western Spain, but when Sulla returned, he lost his office, and fled to Africa.
80 BC
Recalled to Spain by the Lusitani tribe, that was in rebellion from Rome.
81 BC
Established government in western Spain; joined by Roman refugees from Sulla's proscriptions.
  Created a local senate, and schools for children of the natives.
77 BC
Joined by Perpenna Vento and other nobles; attacked unsuccessfully by Pompey and Metellus Pius.
72 BC
Assassinated at a banquet by one of his followers.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Early History of Spain  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Beyond the Pyrenees  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
White Fawn  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Sertorius and His Doe  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Sertorius  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Spain a Roman Province  in  Spain: A History for Young Readers  by  Frederick A. Ober

Short Biography
Sulla Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Marius Renowned general. Modernized legions. Waged a bloody feud with party of Sulla.
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Mithridates King of Pontus, enemy of Rome, raised rebellions in Greece and Asia Minor.
Perpenna Vento Leader of group of Roman nobles who joined Sertorius, but later betrayed him.
Metellus Pius Roman commander who opposed Sertorius, but without success.