Battle of Italica Hispalis, 76 BC

The battle of Italica Hispalis (76 BC) was the first of two recorded victories won by Metellus Pius over Sertorius’s able lieutenant Hirtuleius, and came while Sertorius himself was campaigning in eastern Spain (Sertorian War).

For much of the campaign of 76 BC Metellus Pius was operating in the south of Spain, while his colleague Pompey was operating in the east, where he had little success against Sertorius. Hirtuleius was left in the south to face Metellus, and presumably to prevent the two Roman armies from uniting. Hirtuleius was defeated and was unable to stop Metellus moving north but he didn’t actually unite with Pompey until the following year.

We have one definite mention of this battle and one anecdote from Frontinus that is normally associated with it.

Our definite mention comes from Orosius, who states that Hirtuleius clashed with Metellus near the city of Italica Baetica (on the Guadalquivir, not too far from the south coast of Spain). Hirtuleius was defeated, lost 20,000 men, and fled with the few survivors west into Lusitania.

Frontinus includes two anecdotes about battles between Hirtuleius and Metellus. The first is normally associated with this battle, and says that Hirtuleius drew up his troops soon after daybreak and marched them towards Metellus’s camp. Metellus decided to stay in camp through the heat of the morning, and then offered battle at noon. Hirtuleius’s men were already exhausted by the heat, giving Metellus an easy victory.

Livy places a battle between the two men in the year before the battle of Sucro and the siege of Clunia, placing it in 76 BC, but it isn’t clear if this refers to Italica or to Segovia in 75 BC.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 May 2018), Battle of Italica Hispalis, 76 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_italica.html

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