Cassius had proved both corrupt and incompetent as governor of Spain, alienating both his own troops and the local population. By the time he was replaced by Caius Trebonius, the situation was almost beyond redemption and the new governor was expelled by mutinous soldiers. Pompey's elder son Cnaeus arrived and was rapidly acclaimed as commander of the rebellious legions. He was soon joined by other Pompeians, including his brother Sextus and Labienus. A huge army of 13 legions and many auxiliaries was raised, although the quality of most of the new units was highly questionable.
Caesar travelled rapidly as was his wont, covering the 1,500 miles to Corduba in just 27 days, and whiling away the trip by composing a long poem, The Journey. He had eight legions - the best probably being Legio V Alaudae which was experienced but still eager - and the old soldiers of Legio X, and 8,000 cavalry. The early stages of the fighting included a number of fierce skirmishes, but Cnaeus Pompey was reluctant to risk a battle. It was already proving the most brutal campaign of the entire conflict.
The Pompeians were suffering a continual trickle of deserters. Men accused of publicly stating that they thought Caesar would win were arrested. Of these soldiers 74 were executed and the remainder imprisoned. In the middle of March Pompey reached the hilltop town of Munda. Caesar followed in pursuit and camped nearby. The next morning, 17 March 45, he prepared to march after the enemy, but then saw that they were forming up in battle order on the high ground. Pompey had the bulk of 13 legions, a strong force of cavalry, and some 12,000 Spanish auxiliaries, half of them skirmishers. There was a level plain between this rise and the hill on which the Caesarean camp was located. His army marched out to deploy in the usual three lines, Legio X on the right and III and V
Alaudae on the left, each flank guarded by cavalry. Once formed, the Caesareans marched down onto the open ground, expecting the enemy to do the same. The Pompeians did not move, keeping to the high ground so that the enemy would have
The battle of Munda
Legio V Legio III Alaudae
to attack uphill. Caesar's men were as eager as they had been at Thapsus and he attacked anyway, in spite of the disadvantage. The fighting was fierce and determined. One tradition claims that the Caesareans began to waver and that he dismounted and charged alone against the enemy, rallying first his officers and then the remainder of the army. In the end, the veterans of Legio X started to drive back the enemy left. Pompey tried to shift troops from his right to plug the gap, but Caesar's cavalry renewed the pressure on that flank and pinned the legions there. At last the
Pompeians broke and were slaughtered in great numbers. All 13 eagles were taken, and most of the enemy leaders, including Cnaeus Pompey and Labienus, were killed in the next few days. Some 1,000 Caesareans had fallen, a heavier loss than in any of the earlier victories and testimony to hard fighting. Munda was blockaded, the legionaries grimly fixing the severed heads of Pompeians to spikes topping their rampart. The mopping-up took several months. Caesar had won the Civil War, but now it remained to be seen whether he could win the peace.
Was this article helpful?