Battle of Munda

Battle of Munda

:"For the World War II battle, see Battle of Munda Point."Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Munda
partof= Caesar's civil war

date=March 17, 45 BC
place=Mundane, near Osuna, modern southern Spain
result=Decisive Populares victory
commander1=Gaius Julius Caesar
Subordinate cavalry commanders:
Gaius Octavius, Marcus Agrippa
commander2=Titus Labienus †,
Publius Attius Varus †,
Gnaeus Pompeius
strength1=8 legions, 8,000 cavalry
total: "circa" 40,000 men
strength2=13 legions, cavalry and auxiliaries
total: "circa" 70,000 men

The Battle of Munda took place on March 17, 45 BC in the plains of Munda, modern southern Spain. This was the last battle of Julius Caesar's civil war against the conservative republicans. After this victory, and the death of Titus Labienus and Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey's oldest son), Caesar was free to return to Rome and govern as "dictator". His subsequent assassination began the process that eventually would lead to the end of the Roman Republic with the reign of his great-nephew, Augustus (Octavius), as the first Roman Emperor.


After the defeats of Pharsalus and Thapsus, the conservative republicans, initially led by Pompey, were confined to the Hispania. In fact, during the Spring of 46 BC two legions in Hispania Ulterior, largely formed by former Pompeian veterans enrolled in Caesar’s army, had declared themselves for Gnaeus Pompeius (son of Pompey the Great) and driven out Caesar’s proconsul. Soon they were joined by the remains of the Pompeian army, which had been destroyed at the Battle of Thapsus in April 46 BC. These forces were commanded by the brothers Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus (sons of Pompey) and by the talented general Titus Labienus (who had been one of the most trusted of Caesar’s generals during the Gallic wars). Using the resources of the province they were able to raise an army of three legions (the two original veteran legions, one additional legion from Roman citizens living in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal) and the remaining enrolled from the local population of non-citizens) and took control of almost all Hispania Ulterior, including the important Roman colonies of Italica and Corduba (the capital of the province). Caesar’s generals Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius did not risk a battle and remained encamped at Oculbo, about convert|35|mi|km east of Corduba, requesting help from Caesar.

Thus, Caesar was forced to move from Rome to Hispania to deal with the Pompeius brothers. He brought two trusted veteran legions (X "Equestris" and V "Alaudae") and some newer legions (including III "Gallica" and VI "Ferrata"), but in the main was forced to rely on the recruits already present in Hispania. Caesar covered the convert|1500|mi|km from Rome to Obulco in less than one month, arriving in early December (he immediately wrote a short poem, "Iter", describing this journey). Caesar had called for his great-nephew Octavian to join him, but due to his health Octavian was only able to reach him after the conclusion of the campaign.Capitalizing on his surprise arrival Caesar was able to relieve the stronghold of Ulipia (a town which had remained loyal to him and had been unsuccessfully besieged by Gnaeus Pompeius) but was unable to take Corduba, which was defended by Sextus Pompeius. Under Labienus’ advice, Gnaeus Pompeius decided to avoid an open battle, and Caesar was forced to wage a winter campaign, while procuring food and shelter for his army. After a short siege, Caesar took the fortified city of Ategua; this was an important blow to the Pompeian confidence and morale, and some of the native allies started to desert to Caesar. Another skirmish near Soricaria on March 7 went in Caesar's favor; many Romans in the Pompeian camp began planning to defect and Gnaeus Pompeius was forced to abandon his delaying tactics and offer battle.


The two armies met in the plains of Munda, near Osuna, in southern Hispania. The Pompeian army was situated on a gentle hill, less than one mile (1.6 km) from the walls of Munda, in a defensible position. Caesar led a total of eight legions (80 cohorts), with 8,000 horsemen, while Pompeius commanded thirteen legions, 6,000 light-infantrymen and about 6,000 horsemen. Many of the Republican soldiers had already surrendered to Caesar in previous campaigns and had then deserted his army to rejoin Pompeius: they would fight with desperation, fearing that they would not be pardoned a second time (indeed Caesar had hitherto executed prisoners). After an unsuccessful ploy designed to lure the Pompeians down the hill, Caesar ordered a frontal attack (with the watchword "Venus", the goddess reputed to be his ancestor).

The fighting lasted for some time without a clear advantage for either side, causing the generals to leave their commanding positions and join the ranks. As Caesar himself later said he had fought many times for victory, but at Munda he had to fight for his life. Caesar took command of his right wing, where his favorite X "Equestris" was involved in heavy fighting. With Caesar’s inspiration the tenth legion began to push back Pompeius' forces. Aware of the danger, Gnaeus Pompeius removed a legion from his own right wing to reinforce the threatened left wing. However, as soon as the Pompeian right wing was thus weakened, Caesar's cavalry launched a decisive attack which turned the course of the battle. King Bogud of Mauritania and his cavalry, Caesar's allies, attacked the rear of the Pompeian camp. Titus Labienus, commander of the Pompeian cavalry, saw this maneuver and moved to intercept them. Unfortunately for Pompeius, his legionaries misinterpreted the situation. Already under heavy pressure on both the left (from Legio X) and right wings (the cavalry charge), they thought Labienus was retreating. The Pompeian legions broke their lines and fled in disorder. Although some were able to find refuge within the walls of Munda, many more were killed in the rout. At the end of the battle there were about 30,000 Pompeians dead on the field; losses on Caesar’s side were 1,000 dead and 500 wounded. All thirteen standards of the Pompeian legions were captured, a sign of complete disbandment. Titus Labienus died on the field and was granted a burial by Caesar, while Gnaeus and Sextus Pompeius managed to escape from the battlefield.


Caesar left his legate Quintus Fabius Maximus to besiege Munda and moved to pacify the province. Corduba surrendered: men in arms present in the town (mostly armed slaves) were executed and the city was forced to pay a heavy indemnity. The city of Munda held out for some time, but, after an unsuccessful attempt to break the siege, surrendered, with 14,000 prisoners taken. Gaius Didius, a naval commander loyal to Caesar, hunted down most of the Pompeian ships. Gnaeus Pompeius looked for refuge on land, but was soon taken and executed.

Although Sextus Pompeius remained at large, after Munda there were no more conservative armies challenging Caesar’s dominion. Upon his return to Rome he became dictator for life, though his triumph was short-lived; Caesar was murdered on March 15 of the following year (44 BC) by the next generation of conservative republicans, led by Brutus and Cassius. By then, the Roman Republic system proved impossible to sustain.

Primary sources

* Appian, [*.html#103 Roman Civil Wars] . Book 2: 103–105
* Cassio, Dio. [*.html#28 Roman History] . Book 47: 28–42
* Caesar, Julius, [ Commentarius De Bello Hispaniensi] , 1–42.
* Plutarch, Fall of the Roman Republic: Caesar, 56

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