Battle of Valentia 75 BC
The Battle of Valentia was fought in 75 BC between a rebel army under the command of Marcus Perpenna Vento and Herennius legates of the Roman rebel Quintus Sertorius and a Roman Republican army under the command of the Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (better known as Pompey the Great). The battle was fought at Valentia in Spain and ended in a stunning victory for the Pompeian army. Much of what we know of this battle comes from a single sentence from Plutarch's Life of Pompey:
Near Valentia he [Pompey] crushed the generals Herennius and Perpenna, men of military experience among the refugees with Sertorius, and slew more than ten thousand of their men.
In 88 BC Lucius Cornelius Sulla marched his legions on Rome starting a civil war. Quintus Sertorius, a client of Gaius Marius, joined his patron's faction and took up the sword against the Sullan faction (mainly optimates). After the death of Lucius Cornelius Cinna and Gaius Marius, Sertorius lost faith with his factions leadership. In 82 BC, during the second war against Sulla, he left Italy for his assigned propraetorian province in Hispania. Unfortunately his faction lost the war in Italy right after his departure and in 81 BC Sulla sent Gaius Annius Luscus with several legions to take the Spanish provinces from Sertorius. After a brief resistance Sertorius and his men are expelled from Hispania. They end up in Mauretania in north-eastern Africa where they conquer the city of Tingis. Here the Lusitanians, a fierce Iberian tribe who were about to be invaded by a Sullan governor, approached him. They asked him to become their war leader in the fight against the Sullans. In 80 BC Sertorius landed at the little fishing town of Baelo near the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar) and returned to Hispania. Soon after his landing he fought and defeated the Sullan general Fufidius (the aforementioned Sullan governor) at the Baetis river. After this, he defeated several Sullan armies and drove his opponents from Spain. Threatened by Sertorius' success the Senate in Rome upgraded Hispania Ulterior to a proconsular province and sent the proconsul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius with a large army to fight him. Sertorius used guerrilla tactics so effectively he wore down Metellus to the point of exhaustion while his legate Lucius Hirtuleius defeated the governor of Hispania Citerior Marcus Domitius Calvinus. In 76 BC the government in Rome decided to send Pompey and an even larger army to help Metellus. In the same year Sertorius is joined by Marcus Perpenna, who brought him the remnants of the army of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus the rebel consul of 78 BC. Thus reinforced Sertorius decided to try and take the Spanish east coast (because the cities there support his enemies). His first target was the city of Lauron where he outgeneraled Pompey and massacred a large part of his army (see: the battle of Lauron).
In 75 BC Sertorius decided to take on Metellus and leave the battered Pompey to his legates Perpenna and Herennius. Pompey and Metellus repeated their strategy of the previous year. While Metellus returned through the centre of Spain to the further province with the intention of finally crushing Hirtuleius, Pompey once more marched south toward the plain of Valentia. This time he met with no serious resistance until he reached Valentia itself and found Herennius and Perpenna holding the line of the river Turia.
Battle was joined in the narrow space which separated the river from the city walls where the Pompeian army heavily defeated the rebels. Pompey's army of Sullan veterans outclassed their opponents. Herennius himself was among the 10,000 casualties. Valentia was taken and sacked.
When word reached Sertorius of Herennius' and Perpenna's defeat he decided to retrieve the situation in the north himself. He left Hirtuleius to take care of Metellus while he marched north to face Pompey. While he was en route Hirtuleius made things worse in the south by getting himself drawn into a pitched battle with Metellus near the Roman colony of Italica (see: battle of Italica). Metellus crushed Hirtuleius' army and marched north in pursuit of Sertorius' army, he wanted to catch Sertorius between himself and Pompey's army. Pompey and Sertorius, both not wanting to wait for Metellus, met at the river Sucro (see: battle of Sucro) where Pompey almost lost his army and life. Sertorius failed to destroy Pompey and with Metellus on his way he had no other choice than to march inland and revert to guerilla warfare. The war would drag on for another three years and only end because a few of his own men plotted against Sertorius and assassinated him.
- Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 18; John Leach, Pompey the Great, p.48; Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain, pp.117-118.
- Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 18.
- Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 6.
- Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 7.
- Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain, p.68.
- Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 17.
- Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 15.
- Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 18; Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 18; Frontinus, Stratagems, 2.5.31; John Leach, Pompey the Great, pp.226-227; Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain, pp.96-101.
- John Leach, Pompey the Great, p.48.
- Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain, p.118.
- Appian, Civil Wars, 1.110; Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, 19; Plutarch, Life of Pompey, 18.