Siege of Lauro or Lauron, 76 BC

The siege of Lauro or Lauron (76 BC) saw Sertorius outwit Pompey and force him to watch helpless while the city fell to him and was destroyed (Sertorian War).

In 76 BC the young Pompey arrived in Spain to take up his proconsular command. His first plan was to advance down the east coast towards Valentia, which supported Sertorius. Sertorius’s subordinate Perperna was unable to stop him, and retreated towards the city (Sertorian War).

Sertorius intervened by besieging the city of Lauro or Lauron, on the coast between Saguntum and Valentia. This forced Pompey to attempt to intervene, but he was repeatedly outwitted by his opponent.

The first setback came over control of high ground to the west of the city. Sertorius won the race to this hill, but at first Pompey thought that this was to his advantage, and that he had Sertorius trapped between his own army and the city walls. However it soon became clear that Sertorius had left 6,000 men in his original camp. Pompey was thus trapped between the two parts of Sertorius’s army, and was unable to risk attacking him.

Pompey’s next setback came when he sent out foraging parties to gather supplies. Frontinus describes how Pompey was tricked into sending his foragers into a distant area, after repeatedly sending his own forages into a nearer area but ignoring the distant one.

These parties were attacked by twenty cohorts of infantry and 2,000 cavalry sent by Sertoroius. Pompey sent out a legion under his legate D. Laelius to rescue them. Sertorius moved his entire army to cut off Laelius, and once again Pompey was unable to risk intervening against a stronger foe. Instead he had to sit back and watch as Laelius and his 10,000 strong legion were destroyed. 

Finally Pompey had to sit back and watch as Sertorius completed the siege, captured the city and then burnt it down (although only after letting the inhabitants go).

In his Life of Pompey, Plutarch records that this was the defeat that vexed Pompey most during his time in Spain. He had believed that Sertorius was entirely surrounded, but instead discovered that he was the one who was trapped, and was forced to watch while the city burned.

Appian gives a very brief account of the siege. The destruction of the legion is placed just before the siege, which he carried out ‘before the very eyes’ of Pompey. Appian also includes an anecdote to illustrate Sertorius’s high standards at this time. A woman from the city tore out the eyes of a soldier who was attacking her. Sertorius learn that his entire cohort behaved in a similar way, and even though it was made up of Romans had the entire cohort executed.

The siege of Lauro was an important success for Sertorius, encouraging his supporters amongst the Spanish and reducing the danger of them changing sides, at least for the moment.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 May 2018), Siege of Lauro or Lauron, 76 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_lauro.html

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