Curio in Africa springsummer

Curio occupied Sicily without fighting, and then crossed with three legions to Africa,

where the governor, Publius Attius Varus had declared against Caesar. The latter was supported by the Numidian King Juba, who

Curio Africa Juba

commanded a large, if sometimes unreliable army. Curio had little military experience -none at all of high command - and was considered brilliant but unreliable by most contemporaries. His army consisted of troops originally raised by the Pompeians who had

This carved stone relief from Osuna in Spain shows an Iberian cavalryman. Spanish horsemen served on both sides during the Civil War. It is hard to know whether they still employed traditional equipment or had adopted more Roman styles. (AISA)

taken the oath to Caesar after their surrender at Corfinum. Curio landed successfully near Utica, surprising the enemy, and soon came into contact with Varus' army. The two sides formed for battle on either side of a steep valley. Varus' brother, Sextus, had been at Corfinum and appealed to Curio's legions to desert and return to their original loyalty. However, the soldiers refused and, after a success in a cavalry skirmish, Curio led them in a bold, uphill attack which swiftly routed Varus' army. Encouraged by this success,

Curio acted on what proved to be faulty intelligence, and attacked what he believed was a detachment of Juba's army. In fact, the bulk of the king's forces was there and, after an initial success, the Romans were ambushed and virtually annihilated. Curio was surrounded with the remnants of his troops on a hilltop and died fighting. Only a small fraction of the army, including the historian Asinius Pollio, escaped to Sicily.

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