An army without a leader the Spanish campaign April August

The main Pompeian army in Spain was at llerda (modern LĂ©rida) commanded by Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petrius. Between them they had five legions, HO cohorts of Spanish auxiliaries - a mixture of both close- and open-order infantry - and 5,(XX) cavalry. The other two legions, again supported by auxiliaries, remained far to the west in Further Spain under the command of Marcus Terentius Varro. To face the force at llerda, Caesar was able to muster six legions, along with 3,<XX) cavalry of various nationalities which had served with his army throughout the Gallic campaigns, and the same number of recently recruited Gauls. Also mentioned is a force of 9(X) horsemen kept as his personal bodyguard, but it is not entirely clear whether these were included in the above total. Most of this force was sent on in advance under the command of Caius Fabius. As Caesar marched to join them, his tribunes and centurions offered to loan him money with which to pay the soldiers. Gratefully accepting lilis gesture, their commander felt that this commitment helped bond both officers and legionaries to his cause.

llerda lies on a ridge to the west of the river Sicoris (modern Segre). A small force covered the bridge outside the town, but the main Pompeian camp was situated further south on the same high ground, where they had gathered considerable store of provisions from the surrounding area. On arrival Fabius built two bridges across the river and crossed to camp on the west bank. Finding it difficult to gather food and fodder, he sent a foraging expedition of two legions back across to the eastern side, but this was threatened when one of the bridges unexpectedly collapsed and only rescued when a force was sent to its aid.

Caesar arrived in June, and immediately advanced and offered battle at the foot of the ridge. When Afranius refused to be drawn, Caesar had the third of his three lines dig a deep trench - a rampart would have been more visible and would therefore have invited attack - and then camped behind it. It took several days to complete the defences of this camp to Caesar's satisfaction, and after that he attempted to seize the hill between llerda and the enemy camp. Three legions formed for battle, and then the front line of one advanced to capture the height. The Pompeians responded quickly, and, moving swiftly and operating in a looser order learned in fighting the tribes of l.usitania (roughly the area of modern-day Portugal), occupied and defended the hilltop. Both sides fed in reinforcements throughout the day, although the narrow slope only allowed three cohorts in the fighting line at any one time. In the end, I.egio IX charged uphill and drove the enemy back for sufficient time to permit Caesar's army to withdraw. 'They had lost 70 dead, including the senior centurion {primus pilus) of Legio XIV, and over 600 wounded, while the enemy had suffered 200 fatalities including five centurions.

Two days later heavy rainfall raised the level and power of the river and swept away the bridges used by Caesar's army, largely cutting them off from supplies. Coming under increasing pressure, Caesar's soldiers built boats of the type they had seen in Britain. Ferrying a legion across the Sicoris at night, they secured a bridgehead and permitted the construction of a new bridge, allowing the army once again to operate effectively on the eastern bank as well as the west, winning several small engagements. This success

Roman Army Leader

The early I st century AD Arch of Orange commemorated the Roman defeat of the last of the Gallic rebellions.This relief depicts Gallic military equipment piled and captured by Roman victors. Caesar's successful campaigns in Gaul provided him with a loyal and extremely effective army willing to fight for him against other Romans. (Topham Picturepoint)

The early I st century AD Arch of Orange commemorated the Roman defeat of the last of the Gallic rebellions.This relief depicts Gallic military equipment piled and captured by Roman victors. Caesar's successful campaigns in Gaul provided him with a loyal and extremely effective army willing to fight for him against other Romans. (Topham Picturepoint)

encouraged many local communities to join Caesar, providing new sources of food. His engineers then dug canals off from the main river, lowering its level and creating a serviceable ford for men on horseback much nearer to the army's camp than the bridge. More Gallic cavalry had arrived, giving Caesar's horsemen a considerable numerical advantage over the Pompeians which soon made it increasingly difficult for their foraging parties to operate.

Llerda Campaign



In pursuit

The Herda campaign

Lower . Bridge T>


I mile

Afranius and Petreius decided that they could no longer maintain their position and so, using barges gathered from along the river as pontoons, they threw another bridge across the Sicoris and under cover of darkness crossed to the east bank, before turning south. Caesar's scouts reported this activity and in response he sent his cavalry to harass the enemy retreat, the rest of the army following at dawn. His men waded through the rudimentary ford, the infantry moving between two lines of pack animals to slow the flow of water. In the next days, Caesar's patrols discovered a more direct path than the enemy and by hard marching he was able to get in front of them. The enemy were now at a severe disadvantage, but Caesar refused the pleas of his officers and men to fight a battle, saying that he hoped to win with as little loss of Roman life as possible. Camped close together, the legionaries on both sides began to fraternise. Nervous of their men's loyalty, Afranius and Petreius massacred all of Caesar's men they could catch, though their opponent released all the Pompeian soldiers in his camp unharmed. They then made their officers and men swear an oath not to abandon the cause. In spite of this, within a short time, the generals, their troops cut off from all supplies, capitulated. The commanders were pardoned

RIGHT This scene fromTraian's column shewing legionanes constructing a fortified camp dates to the early 2nd century AD. Segmented armour of the type shown here, does not appear to have been introduced until several decades after the Civil War (Author's collection)

Sertorian Spanish Roman Army

Another scene from Trajan's column, this time showing legionaries harvesting gram. Few armies were able to carry all of their food supplies wrth them and so relied upon foraging to supply much of their need. During the Dyracchium campaign Caesar's men were brought close to starvation when the Pompeians prevented them from foraging freely. (Peter Rockwell)

and allowed to go free, some of the army incorporated into Caesar's own and the rest disbanded. Varro and the two legions in Further Spain surrendered immediately on the approach of Caesar's forces. In a matter of months, and through a mixture of boldness and skilful manoeuvre, Caesar had overrun Spain at minimal loss to himself. Appointing Quintus Cassius Longinus as governor - an extraordinary appointment for a man serving as tribune of the plebs - he returned to Italy.

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