In the plains of Saguntum, after he had reduced his enemies to the greatest straits, he was forced to give them battle when they came out for plunder and forage. Both sides fought splendidly. Memmius, the most capable of Pompey's generals, fell in the thickest of the battle, and Sertorius was carrying all before him, and, with great slaughter of the enemy who still held together, was forcing his way towards Metellus himself.
Then Metellus, who was holding his ground with a vigour that belied his years, and fighting gloriously, was struck by a spear. All the Romans who saw or heard of this were seized with shame at the thought of deserting their commander, and at the same time were filled with rage against the enemy. So, after they had covered Metellus with their shields and carried him out of danger, they stoutly drove the Iberians back.
Victory had now changed sides, and therefore Sertorius, contriving a safe retreat for his men and devising the quiet assembly of another force for himself, took refuge in a strong city among the mountains, and there began to repair the walls and strengthen the gates, although his purpose was anything rather than to stand a siege.
But he completely deceived his enemies; for they sat down to invest him and expected to take the place without difficulty, and thus suffered the Barbarians who were in flight to escape, and took no heed of the force that was being collected anew for Sertorius. And collected it was, after Sertorius had sent officers to the cities, with orders that as soon as they had a large body of troops, they should send a messenger to him.
Then, when the cities sent their messengers, he cut his way through the enemy with no trouble and effected a junction with his new troops; and so once more he advanced upon the enemy with large reinforcements and began to cut off their land supplies by means of ambuscades, flank movements, and swift marches in every direction, and their maritime supplies by besetting the coast with piratical craft; so that the Roman generals were compelled to separate, Metellus retiring into Gaul, and Pompey spending the winter among the Vaccaci. Here he suffered much from lack of supplies, and wrote to the senate that he would bring his army home unless they sent him money, since he had already exhausted his own resources in his war for the defence of Italy.1
Indeed, this story was prevalent in Rome, that Sertorius would come back to Italy before Pompey did. To such straits were the first and ablest generals of the time reduced by the skill of Sertorius.