Caesar Wins Munda

Caesar rallies his forces on the battlefield after suffering casualties.

By Antonio Carapella

Ancient Rome, 45 B.C.E, after defeating Pompeian forces in Africa, Julius Caesar advanced into Spain. He finds his foe, Sextus Pompeius, in Munda, where the Pompeians were using their superior forces to attack him. But Caesar, being extremely determined, still attempted to win the final battle.

Caesar had already attempted to defeat the Pompeians before, and he succeeded. But on March 17, 45 B.C.E, he was facing a more formidable and experienced force. His forces, eight battle-hardened legions, had already fought in Italy, Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Egypt, and Africa. Each and every time they won their campaign. Be it aiding Cleopatra's rise to power to countering Pompey's attacks in Greece, these legions were quite formidable. But today Caesar seemed skeptical, "I have fought many times for victory, but today I have fought for survival," this just shows how timid, yet determined, he was. The Caesarian commanders included, Octavian (Caesar's adopted son) Agrippa (Octavian's friend), and Mauretanian King Bogud.

Situated on a hill, Munda is located in southern Spain. Pompey's sons, Sextus and Gnaeus Pompeius, chose this favorable location to conduct a battle. Knowing of Caesar's military prowess, which killed their father, they knew that they were in for quite a bloody battle. They commanded 13 legions, each 5000 men-strong. They were prepared. Their generals, Caesarian deserter and famed cavalry commander Titus Labienus and legionary legate (general), Publius Attius Varus, were already planning strategies.

When battle was finally joined, Caesar's army was at the foot of the hill, and he attempted to send his cavalry to lure the Pompeians out. When this failed, he gave his men the watchword "Venus", referring to his divine relative, to begin the assault. He first sent his entire forces forward. But when he realized that he could use Bogud's well-trained light Mauretanian cavalry better, he decided to send them to the enemy camp. After riding to the Pompeian camp, Bogud ordered its destruction along with the several legionaries sent to gaurd it. Bogud later said, "I don't regret Caesar's decision, it was wise." But in the field of battle, there was no clear winner. But when Bogud's cavalry attacked the Pompeian rear and Titus Labienus sent his disorganized cavalry in reserve, the Pompeians fled. They fled not because they were losing, but because they confused Labienus's brief reorganization with a route. In the ensuing carnage that broke loose, Gnaeus Pompeius, Titus Labienus, and Publius Varus were struck down by Caesarian pila (javelins). After heavy fighting for eight hours, the smoke cleared and the casualties surfaced. The Caesarians lost only about 1,000 men, yet the Pompeians lost 20,000 legionaries, all at the fault of the Caesarian gladius.

This devastating battle finally ended the civil war that ravaged Rome for four years, and made Caesar dictator-for-life. It resulted in a new era of peace and prosperity, and it helped restore Rome to its former greatness.

Ancient downtown Rome at the time of the empire.


Obituaries: Titus Labienus

A bust of Titus Labienus, who was recently killed at Munda.

By Antonio Carapella

Titus Labienus: legionary legate, praetor, and tribune of the plebs died on the 17th of March, 45 B.C.E. Born to a wealthy family in around 100 B.C.E, in Pinculum, he grew up yearning to be a soldier. Soon after he moved to Rome in 64 B.C.E, he served as tribune of the plebs. He then further expanded his political career and was elected for praetorship in 60 B.C.E. Julius Caesar then met him and offered him a position as legate in Gaul. He accepted this offer and departed for Gaul in 58 B.C.E. Showing and displaying military prowess that rivaled even Caesar's own achievements, he was highly successful and guarded the winter quarters in Vesontio. In 57 B.C.E, he defeated the Atrebates near Sabis with the ninth and tenth legions. After a revolt was stirring in Gaul and centering around Treviri tribesman Inditiomarus, Labienus crushed it successfully. After receiving praise in Rome, Julius Caesar proceeded to take credit for most of his victories. But even then he was able to claim victory, for when he faced the Parisii tribe at Agendicum, he defeated them, inflicting heavy losses. After this success, Caesar, in 51 B.C.E, made him governor of Cisalpine Gaul. His true allegiance to the republic was displayed when he deserted Caesar after Caesar declared war on Pompey. When he met Pompey, Labienus had brought with him 3700 Gaulic and German cavalry. Knowing of his successes as a cavalry commander, Pompey gave him command of his cavalry. But even though he achieved astonishing success under Caesar, he lost many battles under Pompey. After suffering defeat at Pharsalus in 48 B.C.E, he almost defeated Caesar at Ruspina in 46 B.C.E. After constant fighting, he made it to Munda in 45 B.C.E, this was to be his last battle. He was struck down by a legionary's javelin. At the time, he was 55 years old.

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