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Battle of Munda
The Battle of Munda took place on March 17, 45 BC in the plains of Munda, 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 the Great 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, as the first Emperor.
In the beginning of 45 BC, the last Republican civil war was near its decision. After the successive defeats of Dyrrhachium, Pharsalus and Thapsus, the conservative republicans, initially led by Pompey, were confined to the Hispania provinces. This was not, however, a desperate situation. Led by Titus Labienus, a talented general, and the brothers Sextus and Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey's sons), the conservatives had all the resources of Hispania to use and an recently levied army of 13 legions. Julius Caesar followed the Pompeius brothers from the Africa provinces to Hispania. His goal was to defeat the last focus of opposition. With him travelled 8 veteran legions, many of them under his command since the Gallic wars, and 8,000 cavalry men, that would be crucial to the development of the battle.
The two armies met in the plains of Munda, near Osuna, southern Spain. The Pompeian army was camped in a gentle hill, an unfavourable position for Caesar to attack. They remained in sight for a few days until March 17, when Caesar gives command to begin the battle.
The fighting lasted for some time without a clear advantage for either side, forcing the generals to leave their commanding positions and join the ranks in the battle for encouragement. Caesar then took command of his right wing, where his tenth legion was fighting heavily. His presence renewed the will of the soldiers to win the battle and slowly they pushed the enemy back. Aware of the manoeuvre, Gnaeus Pompeius removes a legion from his own right wing to reinforced the attacked left. This proved to be a major mistake. The 10th legion attack was no more than a decoy. As soon as the Pompeian right wing was depleted, Caesar's cavalry launched the attack which turned the course of the battle. At the same time, king Bogud of Mauritania, Caesar's ally, attacked the Pompeian camp in the rear. Titus Labienus, commander of the Pompeian cavalry saw this attack and proceeded to prevent it, since Bogud was threatening their rear. But the legionaries in the ranks made a different interpretation. Already under heavy attack on the left (via 10th legion commanded by Caesar) and right wings (charged by the cavalry), they thought Labienus was escaping. Panic struck and the Pompeian legions broke the line to flight.
Many of the Pompeian troops died in the flight while being followed by Caesar's men. Others died defending the city of Munda. Circa 30,000 men died in the battle, the great majority of them in the defeated side. Titus Labienus was one of the deceased but the brothers Sextus and Gnaeus Pompeius managed to escape to modern Cordoba. Caesar attacked the city that contained his enemies and their 13th legion. Cordoba surrendered but was not spared: another estimated 20,000 people died, including the Pompeian troops. The brothers escaped once again to the sea.
After the battle of Munda, Caesar proceeded to pacify other parts of Hispania, still loyal to the conservative cause, destroying cities suspect to harbour Gnaeus and Sextus Pompeius. Gaius Didius, a naval commander loyal to Caesar hunted down most of the Pompeian ships. Gnaeus Pompeius had to look for cover on land, but soon was spotted and executed.
With this victory, and with Hispania pacified, Caesar had no opposition. He marched to Rome where he assumed the office of dictator. Caesar was murdered in March 15 of the following year (44 BC) by conservative republicans of the younger generation led by Brutus and Cassius. But by then, the Roman Republic was disintegrating.
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