This is mostly a reconstruction of the Sertorian War. There’s also some notes of the larger history of the Iberian peninsula, and people with an interest in the history of Iberia in general may want to pick this up too.

Back to the main subject, Sertorius is considered one of Rome’s best and least known generals. While I generally agree, I can’t help wondering if Sertorius was only successful because he was well-suited to the mixed force he had and the guerilla holding action he fought. That is, put him in charge of regular Roman legions in a more normal Roman war, would he have done so well, or would all of his superb qualities have been wasted in the standardized system, away from terrain he knew well? In any case, he was the perfect person for the role he did play, but that was unfortunately on the losing side of the civil wars of the early 1st Century BC. And the upshot of that is despite some glowing praise for his generalship, we don’t know a lot about what exactly happened over the course of eight years of fighting.

However, scholars have combed through all the various references that do exist to what happened, many of which are just particular incidents without a lot of context, and assembled them into a framework that seems to work. This book is Matyszak’s presentation of this framework for a popular audience. As there is so little go off of, a high percentage of the book is direct quotes from the ancient sources, woven together with explanations and probable interpretations.

As such, this is a very important book for those wanting to know more about Sertorius’ campaigns, as this is about as fleshed out as it gets at the moment (and quite possibly, ever). I have some quibbles with yet another unneeded in medias res opening to a history book, and Matyszak is still too unforgiving on the character of Gaius Marius (but that’s much more peripheral than it was in Cataclysm 90 BC). There’s three maps of Iberia at the beginning of the book, and the fun one is ‘from a campaigning point of view’, and is keyed with ‘merely unpleasant’, ‘rugged and mountainous’, and ‘practically impassible’. Overlaying the apparent routes of march of various campaigning seasons on that one would have been interesting.