Category Archives: Roman Empire

Roman Occupation of Britain

Julius Caesar Framed
Julius Caesar

Britain did not enter the Roman world until Julius Caesar arrived in 55/54BC, landing at Deal and unopposed by British forces, yet it was temporary, for they didn’t stay… the time was not right for a full blown invasion of this land.

roman-legion
Roman Forces

In the early part of AD43, an army consisting of four legions under the leadership of Aulus Plautius set foot on British soil at Richborough, Kent, the first step of an invasion by Rome.  They fought the British at the River Medway and defeated them after a two-day hard fought battle.

The Roman emperor Claudius arrives, to lead his Roman forces, against the British armies and captured Camulodunum (Colchester), home to the Catuvellauni tribe.  Roman forces outfought the British forces in the South-East, which led to many Kings submitting to Roman rule.

Aulus Plautius commander of the invasion was appointed by Emperor Claudius as the first Roman governor of Britain.

The next phase of the conquest, saw General Vespasian take his Augusta Legion into Dorset, capturing hill forts and subduing rebel armies; south of the Humber River to the Severn Estuary.

Aulus Plautius returns home to Rome in AD47, to receive a heroes welcome, whilst Publius Ostorius Scapula becomes the second Roman governor of Britain.

The Iceni tribe, located in East Anglia had become allies with Rome, so the need to conqueror did not exist.  In the summer of AD47, they revolted against Scapula, when they were ordered to surrender their weapons… this minor revolt was quelled quickly.

In AD49 the Roman colony is founded at Camulodunum (Colchester) and became the Roman capital of Britain.

In AD51, the Caratacus, the British resistance leader against the Romans, and King of Catuvellauni, fled west to the Ordovices tribes and fought an effective guerrilla war until his capture.  He was sent to Italy to live out the remainder of his days.

With Caratacus who had led guerrilla forces against the Romans, now in the hands of the Romans, one would think that would see an end to these attacks.  How wrong they were, for the Silures tribe in South Wales and Gloucestershire fought on.  With the death of Governor Publius Ostorius Scapula in AD52, and Aulus Didius Gallus appointed as the new Governor, the conflict slowly fizzled out.  All that changed in AD58, when Quintus Veranius Nepos, a new breed of Roman Governor took up office, who crushed the Silures, and went on to create a network of roads, forts and garrisons.

The Druids were the priest-scholars of ancient Britain, and were known to clash with the Romans; for they resisted Roman Rule.  In AD61, Roman Governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus subdued the island of Mona (Anglesey), but his plans were cut short by the revolt of the Iceni, under the leadership of Queen Boudicca.

Boudicca
Queen Boudicca

The Roman army defeated Queen Boudicca and her army in AD 61, at the Battle of Watling Street, but not before they had burnt to the ground, with no survivors; Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinum (London) and Verulamium (St.Albans).  Boudicca died shortly after the battle, and was buried by her people, in a way befitting their Queen.

In June of AD68, Emperor Nero of Rome died; this led to mutiny’s across the empire, and as far flung as Britain.

Cartimandua; Queen of the Brigantes tribe and a strong Roman ally ruled with a strong arm assisted by her consort Ventius.  Caratacus, the guerrilla leader had been apprehended and handed over to the Romans by Cartimandua in AD51.  In AD69 Venutius staged a revolt against Cartimandua, whilst the Romans were in the midst of a civil war, and the attempt was successful and Cartimandua had nowhere to run to, except to her Roman allies.

General Vespasian a former legion commander had gone on to found the Flavian Dynasty in AD69… now the first emperor of this new order.  Britain had experienced little in the way of rebel revolts, since the death of Boudicca in AD61.  New conquests commenced in AD71, when Quintus Petlius Cerialis defeated Venutius, the rebel leader of the Brigantes tribe.  By AD74, the Roman army had reached Carlisle, where the last in a series of garrison forts had been built.

The new Roman Governor of Britain in AD74, was Sextus Julius Frontinus.  It took three years to defeat the Silures in South-East Wales and the Ordovices in Northern-Wales, thus completing a conquest of Western-Britain.  These new territories under Roman Rule saw auxiliary forts built… by the summer of AD78.  If any uprising were to take place, one legion at Caerleon and one at Chester, could respond to any conflicts, quickly suppressing it, before it got out of control.

In the autumn of AD78, the Ordovices tribe revolted, as a new governor took up his appointment.  So it was that Governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola showed no mercy, and crushed these rebel forces.  From there he invaded the island of Mona (Anglesey), destroying the last major druid centre.

Governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, saw the completion of Verulamium (St.Albans) civic centre in AD79.  It comprised of a square forum, colonnaded shops, temples, making it the largest Roman town in Britain.  By AD80, he had encouraged native British aristocrats to learn Latin, wear the toga.  By the latter part of the first century Ad, southern parts of Britain consisted of Roman styled towns and villas.  It was as though you were in Rome, not Britain.

Governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, having advanced into Scotland faced the Caledonian tribes in AD84 at Mons Graupius in the Scottish Highlands, and defeated them in battle…

With pressure mounting in other parts of the Roman Empire, they were forced into abandoning the Inchtuthill fortress in Tayside, Scotland in AD87.  By AD100 Roman troops had withdrawn from all parts of Scotland.  A new frontier was established between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle on the Solway, it comprised of roads, forts and signal stations.

Hadrians Wall
Hadrian’s Wall

In the summer of AD122, Emperor Hadrian called for the construction of a seventy-three mile long stone wall, creating a barrier; the Roman Empire’s outer limit, and it was called “Hadrian’s Wall.”  He envisaged Britain, part of the Roman Empire, south of the wall, separating them from the barbarians north of the wall.

Antonines Wall
Antonine Wall Remnants

Following the completion of Hadrian’s Wall in AD142, the “Antonine Wall” was built from the Firth to the Clyde; thirty-seven miles of earth and timber, under the direction of Quintus Lollius Urbicus the then Governor of Britain.

In AD155, much of Verulamium (St.Albans) was destroyed by fire.

Hadrian’s Wall and Antonine Wall were both built to subdue rebel fighters and barbarians in the Northern parts of Britain and Scotland.  In AD163 the Romans retreated from Antonine’s Wall to Hadrian’s Wall.  Then in AD182 saw frequent attacks by raiders from the north along Hadrian’s Wall, and these skirmishes continued for many years.

Local towns in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall needed protection from these rebel fighters, and built earth and timber defences around their towns.

Changes took place within the Roman Empire when Clodius Albinius in Britain, Septimus Severus in Pannonia and Pescennius Niger in Syria, emerged as main contenders for the Emperor’s Throne.  Albinus joined with Severus in the civil war of AD192, and Severus had killed Niger, making it a two horse race.  Clodius Albinus invaded Gaul, and by autumn of AD196 declared himself as the new Emperor.

Decimus Clodius Albinus did battle with Septimius Severus at the “Battle of Lugdunum” (Lyons) where he was killed in a long and drawn out bloody battle.  Thus Septimius Severus became the sole claimant to the Emperor’s Throne in AD197.

With Clodius Albinus Governor of Britain dead, Emperor Septimius dispatched troops to rebuild northern defences and quell local tribes.  So it was in AD209 Emperor Severus led his legionnaires to subdue these Caledonian tribes, but they were clever, and avoided direct pitched battles with the Romans in favour of guerrilla warfare tactics.  Eventually peace treaties were signed and Severus retreated south, satisfied job done.  No sooner had one tribe been quelled, another popped his head up, to take their place; the Maeatae tribe revolted… the Romans faced a losing battle.

Emperor Septimus Severus, created two provinces, from the land up to Hadrian’s Wall in AD211; Britannia Superior had its capital at Londinium (London) and Britannia Inferior had its capital at Eboracum (York).

No matter how much he tried, Septimus Severus failed to crush these Caledonian tribes, and in AD211/212 he died at Eboracum (York).  His two sons Caracalla and Geta abandoned further offensives into Scotland, and returned to Rome, pressing home their right to become Emperor.

Parts of London had been protected since the early part of the 3rd century, and signs on the horizon spelt trouble.  So work began in AD255 running a wall along the River Thames making London virtually impregnable from land and water attacks.

Postumus; recognised by Britain, Gaul and Spain, the Gallic Empire, declared himself Emperor in Ad259 whilst defending the Western parts of the Empire from barbarians.  He was murdered in AD268 by his own soldiers.

The Gallic Empire, covered Britain, Gaul and Spain and had separated themselves from Rome, since AD259 when Postumus openly declared himself as Emperor.  In AD274, the third Gallic Emperor; Tetricus surrendered his provinces to Aurelan the Roman Emperor after being defeated at Gaul.

In AD287, Carausius took Britain and Gaul, in response to being accused of corruption by Emperor Maximian.  He minted his own coins, a first step in his eyes in accepting Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian.  Forces loyal to Rome defeated Carausius, and he was assassinated in AD293 by Allectus.

Allectus began constructing a series of coastal defences “Saxon Shore Forts” and the construction of a palace in Londinium (London).

At that time the Roman Empire was ruled by four Emperor’s known as the “Tetrarchy.”  Maximian one of the chosen four, sent Constantius Chlorus to reclaim Britain for the Roman Empire.  Constantius defeated Allectus near Silchester, and divided Britain into four provinces; Maxima Caesariensis, Britannia Prima, Flavia Caesariensis and Britannia Secunda.

In the autumn of AD306, Roman Emperor Constantius died in Northern-Britain and his son Constantine was hailed as the new Emperor.

Following Civil War within the Empire, Constantine defeated Maxentius at the “Battle of Milvan Bridge” in AD312, and restored rule of a single Emperor in the west and disbanding the Tetrarchy System.

Constantine legalised Christianity and Paganism.  Christianity was first introduced into the lands of Scotland around AD205, and spread through, Britain, Wales and Southern-Ireland by the 5th century.

Barbarian raiders launched an attack on Roman Britain in AD367, from Scotland, Western Isles, Ireland and Anglo-Saxons from Germany, overwhelming coastal defences.  This event allowed these invaders to plunder at will, with little opposition, for these Romans had not expected such an organised attack.

Theodosins was sent to Britain to regain control of Britain, which he undertook in AD369, driving out these barbarians and restoring order.

Magnus Maximus Governor of Britain, went on to defeat Emperor Gratian of Gaul, Britain and Spain.  Then drove Emperor Valentinian from Africa and Italy to be hailed by his army in Britain as Roman Emperor.  He secured his position in Rome for five years before being defeated and executed by Emperor Theodosius I, in AD383/388.

In AD400 Roman troops were recalled to Italy to defend their country against possible invasion by “Alaric the Goth.”  This left Britain with only a token force… no match for barbarian raiders.

The Rhine frontier had been breached, and Italy was in trouble, they had stretched their forces too far across the Roman Empire.

General Constantine III was proclaimed Emperor by Britain’s garrisons, and he crossed the continent only to be defeated by the armies loyal to Theodosius.

Britain had been left to fight off raids by Saxons, with little help from the Romans and in AD409 the Romans left Britain.  With incursions attacking Britain, a plea was sent to Rome begging for help against these raiders from the seas and Scotland.

Emperor Honorius, refused help, ending the Roman occupation of Britain.

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Roman Empire: Malta

Ancient Malta
Ancient Malta

During the last Ice Age, Malta was nothing more than a high mountain joined to Italy by land. However, things changed when the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, the sea level rose and Malta became a group of islands. Around 5,200 BC Stone Age farmers arrived in Malta from Sicily and they began to farm the soil.

The earliest farmers in Malta made simple tools of stone and wood. They also made pottery. Despite their primitive tools the Stone Age farmers created an advanced society. From about 3,600 BC to about 2,500 BC they built great temples in Malta including those at Tarxien. They also carved the Hypogeum, a series of underground chambers, out of rock.

The temple building culture in Malta ended about 2,500 BC. Around this time the Maltese began to use bronze tools and weapons.

Around 800 BC the Phoenicians arrived in Malta. They were great sailors and traders and they gave Malta its name. They called it Malet, which means shelter or haven.

About 480 BC the Phoenicians founded a city called Carthage on the north coast of Africa. From about 400 BC The Carthaginians ruled Malta. They ruled for about 250 years until 218 BC when the Romans conquered Malta. Malta flourished under Roman rule and it was known for honey and sailcloth.

Meanwhile about 60 AD Paul was shipwrecked on Malta while he was sailing to Rome. He converted Publius, the Roman ruler to Christianity. Gradually the rest of the Maltese followed. By the 3rd century AD most of the Maltese were Christians.

Then in the 4th century the Roman Empire split into two halves, East and West. Malta was ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire, which became known as the Byzantine Empire.

Spartacus: A rebel doomed to fail

Spartacus rose up calling upon fellow slaves to break free and join him as they took on the Roman’s in a bid for freedom…

Roman Imperium

Most of us know about Spartacus. A movie, several television series, several novels and plays. Sure it sounds great about a Thracian Gladiator breaking free, fighting the ‘evil’ Roman Republic. His uprising and revolt, known as the Gladiator War or Third Servile War, was doomed to fail from the start.

Now, this post will not talk about the details of the war in depth. Just know the basics:

  1. Spartacus and around 70 gladiators broke free of a gladiator school at Capua, killing local Roman forces and militia.
  2. They freed other slaves in Southern Italy and allowed deserters and other such people to swell their ranks. They defeated Praetorian (not the imperial guards, but just elected praetors brining in forces of 2000-3000 men).
  3. After spending the winter training, they increased their raiding area.
  4. They defeated consular legions in 72 BCE (one or two, depending if you want to follow Plutarch’s or…

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Creation of the Roman Empire

Julius Caesar Framed
Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar had become the most powerful man in Rome.  He ended the Republic, as the Senate proclaimed him Dictator for life.

He was popular amongst his people, creating a strong and stable government, which meant increased prosperity for the city of Rome, and assassinated in 44 BC by Roman Senators, for his achievements, and in turn became a Roman Martyr.

The conspirators of his murder, included the likes of Brutus and Cassius among them, fearing he would abolish the Senate.

Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) joined forces with Caesar’s nephew and heir Octavian (Gaius Octavius Thurinus and Caesar’s friend Marcus Aemilius Lepidus to seek revenge upon Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Phillippi in 42 BC.

Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus formed Rome’s second Triumvirate, these men were very ambitious, and sought power and wealth for Rome.  Lepidus was neutralised, when Antony and Octavian agreed he should rule Hispania and Africa, keeping him away from Rome’s power play.  Octavian would Rule lands in the west, and Antony ruled in the east.

Antony’s involvement with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra VII, upset the balance Octavian had sought, and they went to war, against each other.

Antony and Cleopatra’s forces were defeated at the “Battle of Actium” in 31 BC, and shortly afterwards they both took their own lives.

Octavian emerged as sole power in Rome.  In 27 BC, he was granted powers by the Senate, and took the name; Augustus, first Emperor of Rome.

Wikipedia Image

Battle of Pharsalus

Battle of Pharsalus

Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar, met on the battlefield in 48 BC at Pharsalus in eastern Greece.  Two of Rome’s greatest generals would go head to head for the coveted prize; Ruler of the Roman World.

Pompey the Great, was one third of the ruling Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  Pompey had his military successes in Siciliy and Africa, cleared pirates from the Mediterranean.  Pompey governed Rome’s Spanish provinces, whilst Caesar controlled Gaul.

With the death of Crassus in 53 BC, the Triumvirate looked doomed, with Pompey and Caesar preparing to do battle with each other.

Pompey left Italy in 49 BC, choosing to gather his legions in Greece for an inevitable confrontation.  Caesar was hot on his tail, but Pompey escaped the partial blockade at Brundisium.

Pompey faced another issue, he had seven legions loyal to him in Spain, but Caesar now controlled the treasury in Rome.  Caesar made a few appointments, as to who governed provinces, and within months, the Spanish legions loyal to Pompey were subdued, and headed back to Rome.

Pompey assembled nine Roman legions at Beroea in Thessaly, with a multi-national force of 3,000 archers, 1,200 slingers and 7,000 cavalry, with access to some 600 ships.  Pompey established winter camp on the west coast of Greece, believing the military campaign would not start until the New Year.

Despite threat of Pompey’s navy and risks of a winter crossing, Caesar mustered as much of his army he could, travelling light, without additional baggage.  He sailed to Greece on the 4th January, landing at Palaeste, under the nose of Pompey’s fleet, stationed on Coreyra.  Pompey was slow in reacting to Caesars surprise landing and attacks upon its cities.

Caesar’s second-in-command, Mark Antony arrived in the April with a second force of legions, making eleven in all.  Caesar and Pompey’s forces face off against each other at Asparagium.  Pompey set camp at Dyrrachium, and Caesar constructed a wall, boxing Pompey in, against the sea.  Pompey threw all he could, at Caesar, attacking weak points in his wall.

Pompey established a new camp, south of Caesar’s wall, and on the 9th July, Pompey’s forces were split in two; old and new camps.  Caesar went on the attack, forcing Pompey to send legions to extricate comrades from the old camp.  Caesar’s soldiers took a heavy battering, but Pompey had the upper hand, and did not press home his advantage, when he had the chance.

Caesar recognised that his blockade proved futile, and withdrew to the south.  Pompey’s cavalry went in pursuit.  Caesar escaped to the Plains of Thessaly in Greece, setting up camp on the north bank of the River Enipeus between Pharsalus and Palaepharsalus.  Pompey arrived on the scene, setting up camp to the west, on low lying hills… a good strategic position.

The stage was finally set, a decisive battle as to who would control the Roman Empire; Caesar or Pompey!

Julius Caesar was noted for his use of speed, and surprise attacks, gaining the upper hand in military conquests, using small numbers of troops.

Mark Antony, Caesar’s second-in-command would lead the left wing, Domitius Calvinus, one-time tribune and consul took the centre position and Publius Cornelius Sulla, led the right wing.

Pompey’s reputation as a military leader was legendary, following his string of successful campaigns; he was noted for his careful planning and attention to detail.  Some say he may have been over cautious.

Pompey’s command included Titus Labienus, Caesar’s past second-in-command who led the cavalry force.  Leading the centre would be Scipio Metellus, past consul with success in Syria, whilst Africanus commanded the right wing and Ahenobarbus to the left.

Caesar was keen, but Pompey proved unwilling to relinquish his high ground advantage.  Several days passed by, and Caesar observed a stalemate situation had come into effect.  Caesar opted to pack up camp and leave.  On the morning of the 9th August, Pompey came down and moved out of the hills, it was what Caesar had desired.  Caesar’s forces abandoned their baggage, and marched forth to meet their enemy.

Pompey had tired of this cat-and-mouse game, he wanted to capitalise on his mens good morale, after Dyrrachium.  Pompey had given away his high ground advantage, coming face to face with his enemy on the plains below.

Pompey fielded 47,000 men, 110 cohorts, with four cohorts in the first line, three each in the second and third lines.  The bulk of his cavalry, archers and slingers held the far left flank up against the low lying hills, while a smaller cavalry and light infantry force was located on the far right up against the River Enipeus.

His best troops took place on wings and centre, with veteran supporting troops new to battle conditions.  Pompey’s plan was to send cavalry around enemy flank, attacking from the rear, as infantry pressed forward and Caesar’s forces would be crushed.

Caesar lined up his troops, mirroring Pompey’s positions, but thinly spread.  His forces consisted of 22,000 men, divided into 80 80 cohorts.  Caesar positioned himself opposite Pompey, and behind his best legion.  His light infantry placed right of centre.  Caesar moved six cohorts, some 2,000 men from his rear line, acting as reserve on the right flank, against Pompey’s cavalry.

Pompey went on the attack first, with cavalry drawn out on a counter-charge, by Caesar, followed up with the front two infantry lines attacking and engaging all three lines of Pompey’s infantry who stood their ground.  This tactic tired Caesar’s infantry quickly, seeing Pompey’s lines were not advancing, his infantry stopped, regrouped to catch their breath, and then resumed their charge.  Caesar deliberately kept back in reserve his own third line of infantry.  First weapons hurled were javelins, a volley from either side.  Then the enemies met with a clash of shields, and thrusting of swords.

Through sheer weight of numbers, Pompey’s cavalry overwhelmed their enemy, by getting behind Caesar’s infantry.  As Pompey’s cavalry changed tactics by organising themselves into smaller squadrons, Caesar saw his opportunity and attacked.  Having withdrawn what was left of his own cavalry he ordered his Javelin’s to aim at enemy faces.  The attack threw the cavalry into panic, and Pompey’s forces bolted from the battlefield in confusion.  Pompey’s slingers and archers were open at the rear to attack.  Having engaged all three lines of infantry Pompey had no contingency forces left to deal with the surprise attack.

Pompey’s troops resisted the onslaught, not helped by the desertion of multi-national allied troops.  Legions retreated to the hills, as their leader fled the battlefield.  Caesar pressed home his advantage and wiped out Pompey’s camp, as remnants of his army fled into the Kaloyiros hills.  On the morning of the 10th, Pompey’s army threw down their weapons and surrendered… Caesar was victorious.

Pompey arrived in Egypt, by way of Cyprus and was murdered on the 28th September 48 BC.

A triumphant Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC.  Julius Caesar stood alone, the last member of the Triumvirate, the most powerful man in the Roman World.  In February of 44 BC, the Senate voted him dictator for life.

Wikipedia Image

Roman Empire: Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar Framed
Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the 13th July 100 BC in Rome, Italy to parents Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta.  Allegedly Julius Caesar was a descendant of Trojan Prince Aeneas, and his birth marked the beginning of a new chapter in Roman history.

His parents believed in the Populare ideology of Rome, favouring democratization of the government and more rights for the lower class.  Whilst the Optimate factions claimed superiority for the nobility and traditional Roman values, which favoured the upper classes.

With the death of his father in 85 BC, the young Julius Caesar became head of the family.  Belonging to the priesthood appealed to Caesar, bringing most benefit to the family, with this in mind he got himself nominated as the new High Priest of Jupiter.

The position of a priest carried conditions; one must be of patrician stock and married to a patrician.  In 84 BC, Julius Caesar married Cornelia, the daughter of nobleman Lucius Cinna, an influential member of the Populares.  Julius and Cornelia were blessed with a daughter; Julia Caesaris in 76 BC, and in 69 BC, Cornelia died.

When the Roman ruler Sulla declared himself dictator, he systematically purged his enemies and those who held Populare ideology.  Caesar was targeted and ordered to divorce Cornelia, but refused.

Sullar had Caesar’s name added to a list of those to be captured and executed.  Caesar had no choice, but to go into hiding.  The sentence was lifted by the intercession of his mother’s family, the Cotta’s.

Julius Caesar was stripped of his position as priest, his wife’s dowry confiscated.  With no financial means by which to support his family, he had no choice but to join the army.

Julius Caesar, a man of God, proved his worth as a military man, and in 79 BC was awarded the “Civic Crown with Oak Leaves” for saving a citizens life in battle.

Caesar was sent to Nicomedes, to negotiate with the King of Bithynia, to obtain a fleet of ships, in which he proved to be a successful negotiator.

In 78 BC, Sulla the Dictator dies, and Caesar returned to Rome, and became an Orator (Lawyer).  He relocated to Rhodes to study philosophy.

In 75 BC, whilst sailing to Greece, he was captured by Cilician pirates and held for ransom, for thirty-eight days.

When Caesar learned they were asking a mere twenty talents, he proclaimed he was worth far more, and the ransom was increased to fifty talents.

Upon his release, he informed his captors he would hunt them down, crucify them and take back the money, this he did, as a warning to other pirates.  First he cut their throats, to reduce their suffering, as he had been treated well by his captors.

In 74 BC, Caesar put together a private army to take on Mithradates VI Eupator, King of Pontus, who had declared war on Rome.

In 69 BC, Caesar was elected to the post of Military Tribune, and in 67 BC married Pompeia, a wealthy Optimate and grand-daughter of the Emperor Sulla.  Their marriage was short lived, and the couple divorced in 62 BC.

In 65 BC Caesar was elected to the post of “Curule Aedile.”  To improve his popularity, he acquired loans from Crassus, to create the Roman games.  Rumours ran rife, that Caesar had an affair with Pompey’s wife; Mucia and other prominent ladies.

In 62 BC he was elected to the post of Praetor, and in 61 BC served as Governor of the Roman Province of Spain.

In 62 BC, Pompey returned victorious from Asia.  He called upon the Senate to grant land, to his veteran soldiers, but this was being blocked by Crassus.

Caesar stepped in, displaying his abilities as a negotiator, earning the trust of both Crassus and Pompey, and convinced them they be better suited as allies instead of enemies.

Caesar went on to promise, if they support him getting elected, he would work in their best interests.

Romans First Triumvirate

In 60 BC Caesar returned to Spain, and the first “Triumvirate” of Ancient was created.  An alliance between Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  These three men set aside their personal differences, joining forces for the good of Rome.  They dominated Rome’s government and controlled election for the good of the people.

In 59 BC, Caesar was elected Consul against Optimate opposition led by Marcus Porcius Cato, a shrewd politician.

Caesar married off his only daughter, Julia to Pompey to consolidate their alliance.  He himself married Calpurnia, whose father was of the Populare faction.  Their marriage would last until Caesar’s death.

Caesar pushed Pompey’s measures through the Senate; land for veteran soldiers, but every which way he turned he was being blocked.  He had no option but to take a controversial route, a means to an end.  Caesar attempted to buy off Pompey’s soldiers, with public land.  In a stage further, hired Pompey’s soldiers to stage a riot, and amidst all the chaos, Senate stepped down and Pompey’s veteran soldiers got their land.

In 58 BC, Caesar departed Rome for Gaul (Modern day Belgium & France) to take up his post as Governor of Gaul.  In the nine years as Governor of Gaul, he enlarged the army, undertook many campaigns, which would make him one of Rome’s all time leaders.  Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul up to the River Rhine, and proved to be a ruthless warrior.

As Caesar’s power grew, Pompey was envious of his political partner.  Crassus has never completely overcome his dislike for Pompey.  In 56 BC, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus met to renew their coalition in Luca, in light of Pompey’s move towards the Optimate faction.

In 54 BC, Caesar led a three month expedition to Britain, he was the first Roman to cross the English Channel.  He did not establish a Roman base on English soil, just checked out the area, for a future invasion.

Meanwhile Caesar’s coalition with Pompey was going through a rocky period, especially after his daughter Julia, Pompey’s wife had died in childbirth.

In 53 BC, Crassus received command of the Eastern armies, and was defeated and killed by the Parthians.

With the conquest of Gaul completed in 51 BC, Caesar set up a provincial administration to govern the territories.  The Optimate’s in Rome attempted to cut short Caesar’s term as Governor of Gaul.  They made it clear that he would be immediately prosecuted if he returned to Rome as a private citizen, and not a military leader with his army.

Pompey and Caesar were being manoeuvred into a public split; neither could yield to the other without loss of honour, dignity and power.

In 49 BC, Caesar tried to maintain his position legally, but when pushed to the limit, led his troops across the Rubicon River in the January.

Pompey aligned himself with nobility, who saw Caesar as a national threat, and civil war between the two leaders would be the final outcome.

Pompey’s legions were located in Spain, so he and Senate headed to Brundisium and sailed to the East.  Meanwhile Caesar advanced on Rome, setting up a rump Senate and declared himself Dictator.

By 48 BC, Pompey and the Optimate faction had established a strong position in Greece.  Caesar had a dilemma; he had insufficient ships to move all his legions from Brundisium in a single crossing.  He had no choice, but to cross with 20,000 men with minimal amount of baggage, leaving Mark Antony his chief legate and second-in-command to follow with the rest of his forces.

In the final battle between Pompey and Caesar on the Plains of Pharsalus, Pompey had a force of 46,000 men to Caesar’s 21,000.  Even though Pompey had the larger force, Caesar was victorious that day.  Caesar pardoned Roman citizens who had been captured, an act of clemency.

Pompey had escaped the battle, and fled to Egypt, expecting to find friends, from time spent there in the past.  New’s of Caesar’s great victory had reached Egypt before Pompey’s arrival.  The Egyptian’s believed the God’s favoured Caesar, and promptly murdered Pompey as he stepped ashore, and chopped off his head.

In the October of 48 BC, Caesar with a force of 4,000 legionaries landed in Alexandria, and was presented with the head of Pompey, much to his disgust.  Caesar seized the royal palace and declared martial law.

Caesar discovered that the throne was under the joint heirs of Ptolemy XII; Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra VII.

Pothinus the Eunuch and the Egyptian General; Achillas had driven Cleopatra from Alexandria, sending her into exile, on the orders of Ptolemy XIII.

Cleopatra saw her chance to regain her throne from her brother, seeking assistance from the like of Caesar.  Cleopatra was smuggled into the palace, rolled up in a carpet.

Caesar deposed the co-ruler Ptolemy XIII and aligned himself with Cleopatra; the Egyptian Queen, igniting a war between Caesar’s legions and the Egyptian army loyal to Ptolemy XIII.

Caesar’s forces held onto the palace and harbour, against an onslaught of 20,000 men led by Achillas, for six months until help arrived and the Egyptian forces were defeated in the March of 47 BC.

Queen Cleopatra
Queen Cleopatra

Caesar and Cleopatra became lovers and in the latter months of 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to a son; Caesarion son of Caesar.

In 47 BC, Caesar left Alexandria and Cleopatra, his mistress, to crush a rebellion by Pharnaces, son of Mithridates in the East.

Caesar’s forces defeated the armies of the Optimate faction under Cato who had allied themselves with King Juba of Numidia at the “Battle of Thapsus.”  Cato took his own life, rather than be pardoned by Caesar.

On the 25th July 46 BC, a victorious Julius Caesar arrived back in Rome, triumphant over the Gauls, Egyptians, Pharnaces and Juba.  He established his mistress Cleopatra and his son Caesarion, in a luxury villa across the River Tiber in Rome.  Cleopatra had hoped Caesar would recognize and legitimize Caesarion as his son and heir, but Caesar named his grand-nephew, Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian) as his heir.

The Senate were incensed by his indiscretion of a mistress, as he already had a wife.

In April of 45 BC, the sons of Pompey: Gnaeus and Sextus, led a rebellion in Spain.  Caesar met them in battle at Munda, where Gnaeus was killed and Sextus escaped, to become leader of the Mediterranean pirates.

In 44 BC, Julius Caesar received the title: Dictator Perpetuus (Dictator for Life).  At the public festival, Mark Antony offered him a diadem (symbol of the Hellenistic monarchs), but Caesar refused, saying Jupiter alone is King of the Romans.

Caesar’s rule proved instrumental in reforming Rome for his countrymen, land redistribution among the poor and military veterans, relieving debt and reforming the Senate, by increasing its size and opening it up, to represent all Romans.  A benevolent Caesar, even invited some of his defeated rivals to join him in government.

Assasination of Julius Caesar
Assassination of Julius Caesar

On the 15th March 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by Senators in the portico of the basilica of Pompey the Great.  His assassins were Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, along with sixty conspirators.  Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times, and died at the base of Pompey’s statue.

Following his death, Caesar became a martyr of the new Roman Empire.  Low and middle class Romans gathered at Caesar’s funeral, with angry crowds attacking the homes of Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, for murdering Julius Caesar.

A power struggle ensued in Rome, which led to the end of the Roman Republic.

Caesar’s great-grand nephew; Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian), his chosen heir, put together an army, taking on military troops protecting Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, the leading assassins of Julius Caesar.  Octavian got his revenge over these murderer’s, took the name Augustus, and in 27 BC became the first Roman Emperor.

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My Life: Pompey

pompey 1
Roman Empire: Pompey

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey was born in 106 BC to Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo.

Pompey’s military career started during the Social Wars (91-89 BC), serving under his father’s army at Asculum in 89 BC.  In 83 BC aged just twenty-three, the young Pompey procured his own private army of three legions; his father’s veteran soldiers , giving him the way with all to fight for Sulla.  Shortly there after Pompey was sent to Sicily, and then Africa, to put down dissident forces.

On the 12th March 81 BC, Sulla gave Pompey the right of triumph, which was only afforded to Generals.

The Right of Triumph:  In classical times, the procession would enter Rome through the “Triumphal Gate.”  It made its way to the capitol, comprising of a four-horse chariot, with out-riders, eminent captives, captured spoils and animals for sacrifice.  Escorted by senate and magistrates.  A slave would ride with him, holding a laurel wreath above his head, a reminder that he be mortal.  (An excerpt from Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth & Religion).

Following the death of his first wife Aemilia, Pompey married Sulla’s step daughter, Mucia Tertia in a political move.

In 78 BC, Pompey supported Lepidus for consulship, and in response Sulla removed Pompey from his will.  In 77 BC, Pompey supported Quintus Lutatius Catulus, and Sulla observed Pompey had learnt his lesson…

In 77 BC, Pompey was dispatched to Spain, to assist in the struggle against Sertorius.

Pompey returned to Rome in 71 BC, wiping out scattered bands of slaves, those loyal to Spartacus.  Pompey tried to take credit, for ending the slave war, when the true victor was Crassus.  Pompey’s victories saw him achieve victory and his second triumph on the 29th December 71BC.

Pompey an experienced warrior by 70 BC, was not eligible for consulship.  The rules were waived in Pompey’s favour, as he stepped into the limelight accepting the post alongside Crassus.  Following his consulship, Pompey opted not to take a province under his control.

According to Gabinian Law of 67 BC, it gave Pompey the power and authority to oppose and dispose of the increasing problem of piracy in the Mediterranean, which posed the greatest of threat’s to Rome’s corn supply line.

Gabinian Laws granted him a command for three years, and within two months he dealt with the pirate problem.  In 66 BC Pompey was given command of the Roman army, against the Mithradates VI of Pontus.  With their defeat under his belt, Pompey took Bithynia, Pontus and Syria, making them Roman provinces, becoming a stepping stone for the Roman conquest of the East. In 62 BC, Pompey returned to his homeland of Italy, disbanded his army, entering Rome on the 30th September 61 BC.

Pompey celebrated a procession of triumph through the streets of Rome, in honour of all his wars at once.  He was represented by Pontus, Armenia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Syria, Albanians, Heniochi, Achaens of Syria and Eastern Iberians.

Some 1,000 strongholds captured, 900 cities, 800 pirate ships captured and 39 new cities founded.

Pompey had hoped the Senate would approve land grants for his army veterans, his request was denied.

With Caesar’s return from Spain in 60 BC, Pompey formed the “First Triumvirate,” with Caesar and Crassus, the three most powerful and influential men in Rome.

In 59 BC, Caesar was appointed consul, supported by Crassus and Pompey, which enabled Pompey to fulfil the land grants to his veteran soldiers.

In 59 BC, Pompey divorced his wife Marcia, and married Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar.

In 55 BC Pompey and Crassus were appointed joint consulship.  After his term of office had come to an end, Pompey was named Governor of Spain, who chose to stay at home, and have his territories governed by legates.

Pompey dropped out of further political marriage links with Caesar, when his wife Julia died in childbirth in 54 BC.

In 53 BC Crassus was slain at the “Battle of Carrhae.”  With Crassus dead, it spelled doom for the “Triumvirate,” for Caesar and Pompey no longer saw eye to eye.  The deep hatred that had laid dormant, had all the hallmarks of Civil War.  Pompey left Rome bound for Greece with Caesar on his tail.

On the 9th August 48 BC, Pompey and Caesar came face to face in a pitched battle at Pharsalus in Thessaly, where Caesar was victorious.  Pompey fled to Egypt, and on the 28th September 48 BC, was murdered as he disembarked at Alexandria.

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