Battle of Segovia, 75 BC

The battle of Segovia (75 BC) was one of the most significant battles of the Sertorian War, and saw Metellus Pius defeat and kill Sertorius’s most able lieutenant Hirtuleius.

The location of the battle is very uncertain, and our sources don’t really support the traditional location at Segovia, in the upper reaches of the Duero valley, but it does fit with the basic outline of the campaign for 75 BC. This saw Metellus Pius start the year in the south, after defeating Hirtuleius at Italica in the previous year, while Pompey advanced down the east coast.

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

The two most detailed mentions come from Frontinus. He has two anecdotes from battles between Metellus and Hirtuleius, of which the second refers to the battle in which Metellus vanquished Hirtuleius. Metellus is said to have discovered that Hirtuleius had placed his strongest forces in the centre of the line. Metellus decided to hold his own centre back, and attack on the flanks instead. He didn’t commit the centre of his line until he had won on both wings and was able to envelop Hirtuleius’s centre. This might explain while Hirtuleius was killed in this battle, having escaped safely from Italica in the previous year.

The second anecdote says that news of Hirtuleius’s death reached Sertorius while he was actually engaged in battle himself (possibly at Sucro). In order to prevent the news spreading across his army, Sertorius killed the barbarian messenger.

This battle, wherever it took place, cost Sertorius one of his most able lieutenants. He lost another subordinate, Herennius, at Valentia, and was forced into a series of inconclusive battles at Sucro and Saguntum or the Turia, and was briefly besieged at Clunia, before he was finally able to force Pompey and Metellus to retreat into winter quarters.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 May 2018), Battle of Segovia, 75 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_segovia.html

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