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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
The Spanish War

by an unknown author, attached to the name of
Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

The text is in the public domain.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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please let me know!

Spanish War

p403 Appendix D

The Events at Ursao1
(Spanish War chapter 22)

Party strife seems to me to be the key to this difficult chapter. For though the existence of a Caesarian party in Ursao is nowhere mentioned, and in chapter 28 its inhabitants are described as supporters of Gnaeus, yet in view of the conditions at Ucubi (ch. 20‑21), Corduba (ch. 34) and Carteia (ch. 37) this hypothesis appears reasonable. On this assumption the incidents described may, I think, be explained as follows.

The fall of Ategua — Gnaeus's strongest garrison — must have had important effects; for it strengthened the hand of Caesar's partisans in all the towns, and increased the strategic value of those in the south, particularly Ursao. The anxiety of Gnaeus is obviously reflected in his purge of the opposing faction at Ucubi.

Now Ursao was at this time divided in its allegiance and, as it lay some distance to the south, Gnaeus had not yet detached any troops to hold it, though he had in mind to do so (cf. ch. 26). Caesar was anxious that its inhabitants should learn how the Pompeian garrison at Ategua had behaved and accordingly had the envoys — clearly Caesarian partisans — escorted to the town; and the high p404rank of the members of this escorting party emphasises the importance of their mission. They may have been empowered to treat directly with the townsmen if the latter decided to join Caesar. But the Pompeian partisans seem to have persuaded their fellow-citizens as a whole that the envoys were liars in the pay of Caesar, and so procured the massacre of all but two of them before they could rejoin Caesar's deputation. Later on — no doubt at the instance of the Caesarian faction — a fact-finding commission was despatched to Ategua and on its return confirmed the envoys' report. A revulsion of feeling now set in and the Caesarians demanded vengeance on the Pompeian partisan who had misled them and, by butchering the envoys, ruined their chances of a composition with Caesar.

At this crisis the man appears to have duped his opponents very thoroughly. Affecting remorse, he sought to leave the town, pretending that he would explain to Caesar that the massacre was a genuine mistake committed in ignorance of the true facts of the case. But once clear of the town he collected sufficient reinforcements to enable him to massacre all his leading opponents and thus secure Ursao's allegiance to Gnaeus.

The last sentence of this chapter is particularly difficult to interpret. I myself believe that it refers, not to Ursao, but to Ucubi.2 For Ursao lay forty-five miles south of the Salsum, where the fighting was then going on, and its distance from Baeturia was not much less. Deserters from Caesar's army would surely make for Ucubi; and Pompeian refugees from Ucubi would not have far to go to cross the Baetis.

It is not, I think, necessary to assume a gap in the text to account for the change in scene: harsh though it certainly is, it is perhaps not beyond the powers of the author. Elsewhere he uses the phrase hoc praeterito tempore to alter the scene as well as the time (e.g. the opening words of this same chapter; also ch. 20): his recurrence, in p405chapter 21, to events at Ucubi is quite sudden and oppidum is left unspecified; while in chapter 34 he switches harshly (oppido . . . oppidum) from Corduba at once Munda.

If it is Ucubi to which he here refers, his narratives seems easier to follow. The goods being sold are those of Caesar's partisans in the town; all Pompey's troops are virtually confined to camp lest, following the example of the civilian refugees, they desert fully armed: morale in the town and camp is low and — if the text can be trusted — deserters from Caesar's side are discouraged to the extent of being embodied only in the low‑paid light-armed units.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Throughout the following argument it is assumed that the town referred to in the greater part of this chapter is Ursao (Osuna), mentioned later in the book in close connection with Munda. Madvig and Glandorp, among others, held this view. Klotz, however, who identifies Munda with Montilla (thirty-five miles NE of Osuna), assumes (Kommentar zum Bellum Hispaniense, p80) that the reference here is to a town named Bursao, of unknown situation in Baetica.

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2 So also Klotz, ibid., p81.

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Page updated: 7 Feb 13