Sertorius and His Doe
When Sulla died, there were still two parties, or factions, in Rome, which could not agree to keep the peace. These two factions were headed by Catulus and Lepidus, the consuls for that year. Catulus had been a friend of Sulla, and was upheld by Pompey, who was a very clever man. Pompey was not cruel like Marius and Sulla, but he could not be trusted, for he did not always tell the truth, nor was he careful to keep his promises.
As the two consuls had very different ideas, and were at the head of hostile parties, they soon quarreled and came to open war. Catulus, helped by so able a general as Pompey, won the victory, and drove Lepidus to Sardinia, where he died.
Although the civil war at home was now stopped, there was no peace yet, for it still raged abroad. Sertorius, one of the friends of Marius, had taken refuge in Spain when Sulla returned. Here he won the respect and affection of the Spaniards, who even intrusted their sons to his care, asking him to have them educated in the Roman way.
The Spaniards, who were a very credulous people, thought that Sertorius was a favorite of the gods, because he was followed wherever he went by a snow-white doe, an animal held sacred to the goddess Diana. This doe wandered in and out of the camp at will, and the soldiers fancied that it brought messages from the gods; so they were careful to do it no harm.
As the Spaniards shared this belief, they were always ready to do whatever Sertorius bade them; and when a Roman army was sent to Spain to conquer him, they rallied around him in great numbers.
Now you must know that Spain is a very mountainous country. The inhabitants, of course, were familiar with all the roads and paths, and therefore they had a great advantage over the Roman legions, who were accustomed to fight on plains, where they could draw themselves up in battle array.
Instead of meeting the Romans in a pitched battle, Sertorius had his Spaniards worry them in skirmishes. By his orders, they took up their station on the mountains, and behind trees, from whence they could hurl rocks and arrows down upon their foe.
When the Roman general saw that his army was rapidly growing less, and that he would have no chance to show his skill in a great battle, he made a proclamation, offering a large sum of money to any one who would kill Sertorius, and bring his head into the Roman camp.
Sertorius was indignant when he heard of this proclamation, and gladly accepted the offer of Mithridates to join forces with him against the Romans. But before this king could help him, Sertorius grew suspicious of the Spaniards, and fancied that they were about to turn traitors and sell him to the Romans.
Without waiting to find out whether these suspicions were true, he ordered the massacre of all the boys intrusted to his care. Of course the Spaniards were furious, and they all declared that it served Sertorius right when Perperna, one of his own men, fell upon him while he was sitting at table, and killed him.
In the mean while, however, the Roman senate had sent out another army, under Pompey, and this general had fought several regular battles with Sertorius. Perperna now tried to take the lead of the Spaniards and the Romans who hated Pompey; but, as he was a coward, he lost the next battle and was made prisoner. Hoping to save his life, Perperna then offered to hand over all the papers belonging to Sertorius, so that Pompey could find out the names of the Romans who were against him.
Fortunately, Pompey was too honorable to read letters which were not addressed to him. Although he took the papers, it was only to fling them straight into the fire without a single glance at their contents. Then he ordered that Perperna, the traitor, should be put to death; and, having ended the war in Spain, he returned to Rome.