46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 11 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 11 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


against Metellus on his own account, his soldiers were dissatisfied,
and there was much talk in the camp about Sertorius, to the great
annoyance of Perpenna, who was proud of his noble family and his
wealth. However, when the soldiers heard that Pompeius was crossing
the Pyrenees, taking their arms and pulling up the standards, they
assailed Perpenna with loud cries, and bade him lead them to
Sertorius; if he did not, they threatened to leave him, and go of
themselves to a man who was able to take care of himself and others
too. Perpenna yielded, and led them to join the troops of Sertorius,
to the number of fifty-three cohorts.

XVI. All the nations within the Iber river[148] were now joining
Sertorius at once, and he was powerful in numbers; for they were
continually flocking and crowding to him from all quarters. But he was
troubled by the loose discipline and self-confidence of the
barbarians, who called on him to attack the enemy, and were impatient
of delay, and he attempted to pacify them with reasons. Seeing,
however, that they were discontented, and were unwisely pressing him
with their demands, he let them have their way, and winked at their
engaging with the enemy, in so far as not to be completely crushed,
but to get some hard knocks, which he hoped would render them more
tractable for the future. Things turning out as he expected, Sertorius
came to their aid when they were flying, and brought them back safe to
the camp. However, as he wished also to cheer their spirits, a few
days after this adventure he had all the army assembled, and
introduced before them two horses,[149] one very weak and rather old,
the other of a large size and strong, with a tail remarkable for the
thickness and beauty of the hair. There stood by the side of the weak
horse a tall strong man, and by the side of the strong horse a little
man of mean appearance. On a signal given to them, the strong man
began to pull the tail of the horse with all his might towards him, as
if he would tear it off; the weak man began to pluck out the hairs
from the tail of the strong horse one by one. Now the strong man,
after no small labour to himself to no purpose, and causing much mirth
to the spectators, at last gave up; but the weak man in a trice, and
with no trouble, bared the tail of all its hairs. On which Sertorius
getting up, said, "You see, fellow allies, that perseverance will do
more than strength, and that many things which cannot be compassed all
at once, yield to continued efforts; for endurance is invincible, and
it is thus that time in its course assails and vanquishes every power,
being a favourable helper to those who with consideration watch the
opportunities that it offers, but the greatest of enemies to those who
hurry out of season." By contriving from time to time such means as
these for pacifying the barbarians, he managed his opportunities as he
chose.

XVII. His adventure with the people called Charicatani[150] was not
less admired than any of his military exploits. The Charicatani are a
people who live beyond the river Tagonius: they do not dwell in cities
or villages; but there is a large lofty hill, which contains caves and
hollows in the rocks, looking to the north. The whole of the country
at the foot of the hill consists of a clayey mud and of light earth,
easily broken in pieces, which is not strong enough to bear a man's
tread; and if it is only slightly touched will spread all about, like
unslaked lime or ashes. Whenever the barbarians through fear of war
hid themselves in their caves, and, collecting all their plunder there
kept quiet, they could not be taken by any force; and now, seeing
that Sertorius had retired before Metellus, and had encamped near the
hill, they despised him as being beaten, on which Sertorius, whether
in passion or not wishing to appear to be flying from the enemy, at
daybreak rode up to the place and examined it. But he found the
mountain unassailable on all sides; and while he was perplexing
himself to no purpose and uttering idle threats, he saw a great
quantity of dust from this light earth carried by the wind against the
barbarians; for the caves are turned, as I have said, to the north,
and the wind which blows from that quarter (some call it "caecias")
prevails most, and is the strongest of all the winds in those parts,
being generated in wet plains and snow-covered mountains; and at that
time particularly, it being the height of summer, it was strong, and
maintained by the melting of the ice in the sub-arctic regions, and it
blew most pleasantly both on the barbarians and their flocks, and
refreshed them. Now, Sertorius, thinking on all these things, and also
getting information from the country people, ordered his soldiers to
take up some of the light ashy earth, and bringing it right opposite
to the hill to make a heap of it there; which the barbarians thought
to be intended as a mound for the purpose of getting at them, and they
mocked him. Sertorius kept his soldiers thus employed till nightfall,
when he led them away. At daybreak a gentle breeze at first began to
blow, which stirred up the lightest part of the earth that had been
heaped together, and scattered it about like chaff; but when the
caecias began to blow strong, as the sun got higher, and the hills
were all covered with dust, the soldiers got on the heap of earth and
stirred it up to the bottom, and broke the clods; and some also rode
their horses up and down through the earth, kicking up the light
particles and raising them so as to be caught by the wind, which
receiving all the earth that was broken and stirred up, drove it
against the dwellings of the barbarians, whose doors were open to the
caecias. The barbarians, having only the single opening to breathe
through, upon which the wind fell, had their vision quickly obscured,
and they were speedily overpowered by a suffocating difficulty of
breathing, by reason of respiring a thick atmosphere filled with dust.
Accordingly, after holding out with difficulty for two days, they
surrendered on the third, and thus added not so much to the power as
to the reputation of Sertorius, who had taken by stratagem a place
that was impregnable to arms.

XVIII. Now, as long as Sertorius had to oppose Metellus, he was
generally considered to owe his success to the old age and natural
tardiness of Metellus, who was no match for a daring man, at the head
of a force more like a band of robbers than a regular army. But when
Pompeius had crossed the Pyrenees, and Sertorius had met him in the
field, and he and Pompeius had mutually offered one another every
opportunity for a display of generalship, and Sertorius had the
advantage in stratagem and caution, his fame was noised abroad as far
as Rome, and he was considered the most able general of his age in the
conduct of a war: for the reputation of Pompeius was no small one; but
at that time particularly he was enjoying the highest repute by reason
of his distinguished exploits in the cause of Sulla, for which Sulla
gave him the name of Magnus, which means Great, and Pompeius obtained
triumphal honours before he had a beard. All this made many of the
cities which were subject to Sertorius turn their eyes towards
Pompeius, and feel inclined to pass over to him; but their intentions
were checked by the loss at Lauron,[151] which happened contrary to
all expectation. Sertorius was besieging this town, when Pompeius came
with all his force to relieve it. There was a hill, well situated for
enabling an enemy to act against the place, which Sertorius made an
effort to seize, and Pompeius to prevent its being occupied. Sertorius
succeeded in getting possession of the hill, on which Pompeius made
his troops stop, and was well pleased at what had happened, thinking
that Sertorius was hemmed in between the city and his own army; and
he sent a message to the people in Lauron, bidding them be of good
cheer, and to keep to their walls and look on while Sertorius was
blockaded. Sertorius smiled when he heard of this, and said he would
teach Sulla's pupil (for so he contemptuously called Pompeius) that a
general should look behind him rather than before. As he said this he
pointed out to his men, who were thus blockaded, that there were six
thousand heavy armed soldiers, whom he had left in the encampment,
which he had quitted before he seized the hill, in order that if
Pompeius should turn against them, the soldiers in camp might attack
him in the rear. And Pompeius too saw this when it was too late, and
he did not venture to attack Sertorius for fear of being surrounded;
and though he could not for shame leave the citizens in their danger,
he was obliged to sit there and see them ruined before his eyes; for
the barbarians in despair surrendered. Sertorius spared their lives,
and let them all go; but he burnt the city, not for revenge or because
he was cruel, for of all commanders Sertorius appears to have least
given way to passion; but he did it to shame and humble the admirers
of Pompeius, and that the barbarians might say that Pompeius did not
help his allies, though he was close at hand, and all but warmed with
the flames of their city.

XIX. However, Sertorius was now sustaining several defeats, though he
always saved himself and those with him from defeat; but his losses
were occasioned by the other generals. Yet he gained more credit from
the means by which he repaired his defeats than the generals on the
other side who won the victories; an instance of which occurred in the
battle against Pompeius, on the Sucro, and another in the battle near
Tuttia,[152] against Pompeius[153] and Metellus together. Now the
battle on the Sucro is said to have been brought about by the
eagerness of Pompeius, who wished Metellus to have no share in the
victory. Sertorius, on his part, also wished to engage Pompeius before
Metellus arrived; and, drawing out his forces when the evening was
coming on, he commenced the battle, thinking that, as the enemy were
strangers and unacquainted with the ground, the darkness would be a
disadvantage to them, whether they were the pursued or the pursuers.
When the battle began, it happened that Sertorius was not engaged with
Pompeius, but with Afranius at first, who commanded the left wing of
the enemy, while Sertorius commanded his own right. But, hearing that
those who were opposed to Pompeius were giving way before his attack
and being defeated, Sertorius left the right wing to the care of other
generals, and hastened to the support of the wing that was giving way.
Bringing together the soldiers who were already flying, and those who
were still keeping their ranks, he encouraged them and made a fresh
charge upon Pompeius, who was pursuing, and put his men to the rout;
on which occasion Pompeius himself nearly lost his life, and had a
wonderful escape after being wounded. The Libyans of Sertorius seized
the horse of Pompeius, which was decked with golden ornaments and
loaded with trappings; but while they were dividing the booty and
quarrelling about it, they neglected the pursuit. As soon as Sertorius
quitted the right wing to relieve the other part of the army,
Afranius[154] put to flight his opponents and drove them to their
camp, which, he entered with the captives, it being now dark, and
began to plunder, knowing nothing of the defeat of Pompeius, and being
unable to stop his soldiers from seizing the booty. In the mean time
Sertorius returned, after defeating the enemy who were opposed to him,
and falling on the soldiers of Afranius, who were all in disorder and
consequently panic-stricken, he slaughtered many of them. In the
morning he again armed his troops and came out to fight; but observing
that Metellus was near, he broke up his order of battle, and marched
off saying, "If that old woman had not come up, I would have given
this boy a good drubbing by way of lesson, and have sent him back to
Rome."

XX. About this time Sertorius was much dispirited, because that
deer[155] of his could nowhere be found; for he was thus deprived of a
great means of cheering the barbarians, who then particularly required
consolation. It happened that some men, who were rambling about at
night for other purposes, fell in with the deer and caught it, for
they knew it by the colour. Sertorius hearing of this, promised to
give them a large sum of money if they would mention it to nobody;
and, concealing the deer for several days, he came forward with a
joyful countenance to the tribunal, and told the barbarian chiefs that
the deity prognosticated to him in his sleep some great good fortune.
He then ascended the tribunal, and transacted business with those who
applied to him. The deer being let loose by those who had charge of it
close by, and, seeing Sertorius, bounded joyfully up to the tribunal,
and, standing by him, placed its head on his knees, and touched his
right hand with its mouth, having been accustomed to do this before.
Sertorius cordially returned the caresses of the animal, and even
shed tears. The spectators were at first surprised; then clapping
their hands and shouting, they conducted Sertorius to his residence,
considering him to be a man superior to other mortals and beloved by
the gods; and they were full of good hopes.

XXI. Sertorius, who had reduced the enemy to the greatest straits in
the plains about Seguntum[156] was compelled to fight a battle with
them when they came down to plunder and forage. The battle was well
contested on both sides. Memmius, one of the most skillful of the
commanders under Pompeius, fell in the thick of the fight, and
Sertorius, who was victorious, and making a great slaughter of those
who opposed him, attempted to get at Metellus, who stood his ground
with a resolution above his years, and, while fighting bravely, was
struck by a spear. This made the Romans who were on the spot, as well
as those who heard of it, ashamed to desert their leader, and inspired
them with courage against their enemies. After covering Metellus with
their shields and rescuing him from danger, by making a vigorous onset
they drove the Iberians from their ground; and, as the victory now
changed sides, Sertorius, with a view of securing a safe retreat for
his men, and contriving the means of getting together another army
without any interruption, retired to a strong city in the mountains,
and began to repair the walls and strengthen the gates, though his
object was anything rather than to stand a siege: but his design was
to deceive the enemy, in which he succeeded; for they sat down before
the place, thinking they should take it without difficulty, and in the
mean time they let the defeated barbarians escape, and allowed
Sertorius to collect a fresh army. It was got together by Sertorius
sending officers to the cities, and giving orders that when they had
collected a good body of men, they should dispatch a messenger to him.
When the messenger came, he broke through the besiegers without any
difficulty and joined his troops; and now he again advanced against
the enemy in great force, and began to cut off their land supplies by
ambuscades, and hemming them in, and showing himself at every point,
inasmuch as his attacks were made with great expedition; and he cut
off all their maritime supplies by occupying the coast with his
piratical vessels, so that the generals opposed to him were obliged to
separate, one to march off into Gaul, and Pompeius to winter among the
Vaccæi[157] in great distress for want of supplies, and to write to
the Senate, that he would lead his army out of Iberia, if they did not
send him money, for he had spent all his own in defence of Italy.
There was great talk in Rome that Sertorius would come to Italy before
Pompeius[158] to such difficulties did Sertorius, by his military
abilities, reduce the first and ablest of the generals of that age.

XXII. Metellus also showed, that he feared the man and thought he was
powerful; for he made proclamation, that if any Roman killed Sertorius
he would give him a hundred talents of silver and twenty thousand
jugera of land; and, if he was an exile, permission to return, to
Rome: thus declaring that he despaired of being able to defeat
Sertorius in the field, and therefore would purchase his life by
treachery. Besides this, Metellus was so elated by a victory which on
one occasion he gained over Sertorius, and so well pleased with his
success, that he was proclaimed Imperator[159] and the cities received
him in his visits to them with sacrifices and altars. It is also said,
that he allowed chaplets to be placed on his head, and accepted
invitations to sumptuous feasts, at which he wore a triumphal vest;
and Victories[160] which were contrived to move by machinery,
descended and distributed golden trophies and crowns, and companies of
youths and women sang epinician hymns in honour of him. For this he
was with good reason ridiculed, for that after calling Sertorius a
runaway slave of Sulla, and a remnant of the routed party of Carbo, he
was so puffed up and transported with delight because he had gained an
advantage over Sertorius, who had been compelled to retire. But it was
a proof of the magnanimous character of Sertorius, first, that he gave
the name of Senate to the Senators who fled from Rome and joined him,
and that he appointed quæstors and generals from among them, and
arranged everything of this kind according to Roman usage; and next,
that though he availed himself of the arms, the money and the cities
of the Iberians, he never yielded to them one *tittle of the Roman
supremacy, but he appointed Romans to be their generals and
commanders, considering that he was recovering freedom for the Romans,
and was not strengthening the Iberians against the Romans; for
Sertorius loved his country and had a great desire to return home.
Notwithstanding this, in his reverses he behaved like a brave man, and
never humbled himself before his enemies; and after his victories he
would send to Metellus and to Pompeius, and declare that he was ready
to lay down his arms and to live in a private station, if he might be
allowed to return home; for, he said, he would rather be the obscurest
citizen in Rome than an exile from his country, though he were
proclaimed supreme ruler of all other countries in the world. It is
said, that he longed to return home chiefly on account of his mother,
who brought him up after his father's death, and to whom he was
completely devoted. At the time when his friends in Iberia invited him
to take the command, he heard of the death of his mother, and he was
near dying of grief. He lay in his tent for seven days without giving
the watchword, or being seen by any of his friends; and it was with
difficulty that his fellow-generals and those of like rank with
himself, who had assembled about his tent, prevailed on him to come
out to the soldiers, and take a share in the administration of
affairs, which were going on well. This made many people think that
Sertorius was naturally a man of mild temper, and well disposed to a
quiet life; but that, owing to uncontrollable causes, and contrary to
his wishes, he entered on the career of a commander, and then, when he
could not ensure his safety, and was driven to arms by his enemies, he
had recourse to war as the only means by which he could protect his
life.

XXIII. His negociations with Mithridates also were a proof of his
magnanimity; for now that Mithridates, rising from the fall that he
had from Sulla, as it were, to a second contest, had again attacked
Asia, and the fame of Sertorius was great, and had gone abroad to all
parts, and those who sailed from the West had filled the Pontus with
the reports about him, as if with so many foreign wares, Mithridates
was moved to send an embassy to him, being urged thereto mainly by the
fulsome exaggerations of his flatterers, who compared Sertorius to
Hannibal and Mithridates to Pyrrhus, and said that if the Romans were
attacked on both sides, they could not hold out against such great
abilities and powers combined, when the most expert of commanders had
joined the greatest of kings. Accordingly, Mithridates sent
ambassadors to Iberia, with letters to Sertorius and proposals. On his
part he offered to supply money and ships for the war, and he asked
from Sertorius a confirmation of his title to the whole of Asia, which
he had given up to the Romans pursuant to the treaty made with Sulla.
Sertorius assembled a council, which he called a senate, and all the
members advised to accept the king's proposal, and to be well content
with it; they said the king only asked of them a name and an empty
answer touching things that were not in their power, in return for
which they were to receive what they happened to stand most in need
of. But Sertorius would not listen to this; he said he did not grudge
Mithridates having Bithynia and Cappadocia; these were nations that
were accustomed to a king, and the Romans had nothing to do with them;
but the province which belonged to the Romans by the justest of
titles, which Mithridates took from them and kept, from which, after a
contest, he was driven out by Fimbria, and which he gave up by treaty
with Sulla,[161] -that province he would never allow to fall again
into the power of Mithridates; for it was fit that the Roman state
should be extended by his success, not that his success should be
owing to her humiliation. To a generous mind, victory by honest means
was a thing to desire, but life itself was not worth having with
dishonour.

XXIV. When this was reported to Mithridates he was amazed, and it is
said that he remarked to his friends - what terms, then, will Sertorius
impose when he is seated on the Palatium,[162] if now, when he is
driven to the shores of the Atlantic, he fixes limits to our kingdom,
and threatens us with war if we make any attempt upon Asia? However, a
treaty was made, and ratified by oath, on the following terms:
Mithridates[163] was to have Cappadocia and Bithynia, and Sertorius
was to send him a general and soldiers; and Sertorius was to receive
from Mithridates three thousand talents, and forty ships. Sertorius
sent as general to Asia Marcus Marius, one of the Senators who had
fled to him; and Mithridates, after assisting him to take some of the
Asiatic cities,[164] followed Marius as he entered them with the
fasces and axes, voluntarily taking the second place and the character
of an inferior. Marius restored some of the cities to liberty, and he
wrote to others to announce to them their freedom from taxation
through the power of Sertorius; so that Asia, which was much troubled
by the Publicani,[165] and oppressed by the rapacity and insolence of
the soldiers quartered there, was again raised on the wings of hope,
and longed for the expected change of masters.

XXV. In Iberia, the senators and nobles about Sertorius, as soon as
they were put into a condition to hope that they were a match for the
opposite party, and their fears were over, began to feel envious, and
had a foolish jealousy of the power of Sertorius. Perpenna encouraged
this feeling, being urged by the empty pride of high birth to aspire
to the supreme command, and he secretly held treasonable language to
those who were favourable to his designs. "What evil dæmon," he would
say, "has got hold of us, and carried us from bad to worse - us who did
not brook to stay at home and do the bidding of Sulla, though in a
manner he was lord of all the earth and sea at once, but coming here
with ill luck, in order to live free, have voluntarily become slaves
by making ourselves the guards of Sertorius in his exile, and while we
are called a senate, a name jeered at by all who hear it, we submit to
insults, and orders, and sufferings as great as the Iberians and
Lusitanians endure." Their minds filled with such suggestions as
these, the majority did not, indeed, openly desert Sertorius, for they
feared his power, but they secretly damaged all his measures, and they
oppressed the barbarians by severe treatment and exactions, on the
pretext that it was by the order of Sertorius. This caused revolts and
disturbances in the cities; and those who were sent to settle and
pacify these outbreaks returned after causing more wars, and
increasing the existing insubordination; so that Sertorius, contrary
to his former moderation and mildness, did a grievous wrong to the
sons of the Iberians, who were educating at Osca,[166] by putting some
to death, and selling others as slaves.

XXVI. Now Perpenna, having got several to join him in his conspiracy,
gained over Manlius, one of those who were in command. This Manlius



Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 11 of 55)