Category Archives: Roman Events

Roman History: Saint George

Saint George
Saint George

George was born in Cappadocia, which today is part of Turkey, to Christian parents, during the 3rd century.

His mother was a native of Palestine, and upon George’s father’s death, they left Cappadocia, returning to her home of Palestine.

George became a soldier in the Roman army, and rose to the rank of Tribune.

Emperor Diocletian (245-313AD), began a campaign of persecution against the Christians. George tore up the Emperor’s orders and resigned his military post in 303AD out of protest of these actions.

George was imprisoned and tortured, for his actions, but never would he deny his faith. The Emperor had him dragged through the streets of Diospolis (now known as Lydda), in Palestine. The Emperor gave George a chance. His life would be spared, if he would offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. The people gathered and George prayed to his Christian God, so outraging the Emperor… He was beheaded for his contempt.

Emperor Diocletian wife became a Christian, after witnessing George’s resilience, and she too was executed for her faith.

Pope Gelasius stated in 494AD about George, he was to be numbered among those saints whose names are justly re-veered among men, but whose deeds are only known to God.

George became Saint George on 23rd April 1222.

Image: Royal Society of St.George

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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.

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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.

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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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Rome’s First Triumvirate

Romans First Triumvirate

The first Triumvirate of Ancient Rome, was an alliance between Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, lasting seven years; 60 BC – 53 BC.  An unstable Republic was on the brink of Civil War.  These three men set aside their differences, joining forces for the good of Rome.  They dominated Rome’s government and controlled elections for the good of the people.

The Republic was in tatters, and  Rome’s political order in chaos.  Streets alive with violence and rioting.  Marcus Tillius Cicero, exposed a conspiracy led by Senator Lucius Sergius Catiline, to overthrow the Roman leadership.

With the Republic on the brink of collapse, three men stepped in to save the day; Pompey, Crassus and Caesar.

Each man had his own agenda, but realised he could not accomplish it alone.  While each had already attained personal success, each wanted more glory and dignity.  In 60 BC, Pompey, Crassus and Caesar, combined their resources, setting aside personal differences, and seized control of Rome.

Cicero, friend to Caesar and Pompey, took an utter dislike to Optimates (Rome’s Senators) and chose not to join the Triumvirate.  His opposition would bring about his exile, until his return in 57 BC.

In the year 73 BC, Spartacus a Thracian, led a gladiator revolt at Capua, and his followers went on the rampage through Italy.  They became a highly organised and effective fighting machine, repelling Roman legions sent to quash them.  In 71 BC Crassus was ordered to put an end to Spartacus.

Spartacus and some 6,000 of his followers were captured and crucified along the Appian Way… the road between Rome and Capua, as a warning to others.  Pompey upon his return from Spain, attempted to steal some of the limelight, even though, he only rounded up the stragglers.

The Senate called for Crassus and Pompey to disband their armies, following the end of the Gladiator Revolt, and both men refused.

In 67 BC Pompey faced problems in the east, piracy causing food shortages in Rome, and Mithridates of Pontus attacking Roman provinces.

Over a three year period Pompey’s forces marched north to the Red Sea, redrawing the map in the eastern Mediterranean.  He reorganised provinces as client states of Rome, returning home as a hero in 62 BC.

Pompey has disbanded his army, and entered Rome as a citizen, not a military leader.  He wanted land for veteran soldiers… but getting Senate approval was another matter.  Marcus Porcius (Cato the Younger), leader of the Optimates of the Senate would block such suggestions.

Pompey also wanted his military veterans to be rewarded for their years of bravery, whilst Crassus sought dignity in military command.  The third member of the Triumvirate, Julius Caesar, a military hero sought fame and wealth.

To achieve such goals, all three pooled their resources, and set their plan in motion.

Julius Caesar reconciled differences between Pompey and Crassus, and then married his daughter Julia to Pompey, thus sealing the alliance.

Julius Caesar became co-consul in 59 BC with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, a friend of Cato.

Pompey, Crassus and Caesar formed a pact, swearing to oppose all legislation of which any one of them would disapprove of.

Caesar found the pact had issues, getting new reforms passed through the Senate.  The law stated consul could veto proposals put forward by fellow consul, as was the case by Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, who tried to block the military veterans’ bill.

A frustrated Caesar took his proposal to the General Assembly, instead of fighting with the Senate.  Bibulus attempted to interfere, and was thrown down the steps of the Temple of Castor, and showered with rubbish.

Caesar ruled as sole consul.  Cato admitted defeat and accepted the bill, and the military veterans received their land, as payment for bravery… The Triumvirate worked.

Caesar’s consulship came to an end; he took his army over the Alps into Gaul in 60 BC, returning as a hero ten years later.  Pompey was jealous of Caesar’s success, but received favour from the Senate in 57 BC, taking command of the food riots.  In 55 BC Pompey and Crassus were appointed joint consulship.  After his term was up Pompey was named Governor of Spain, remaining at home and ruled through deputies.  Crassus got his wish at last, to command an army at the “Battle of Carrhae” in 53 BC, where he was defeated by Rome’s long time enemy; the Partians, who decapitated him.  His death spelled doom for the Triumvirate.  Caesar and Pompey no longer saw eye to eye, and it gradually got worse, when Pompey’s wife and Caesar’s daughter, Julia died in childbirth.

With some 40,000 soldiers at his disposal, Caesar returned to Rome, a wealthier and more powerful leader.  He sought a return to politics, opposed openly by Pompey.  Pompey the favoured son of the Senate, named consul in 52 BC, with Cato’s support.

The deep hatred that lay dormant between Caesar and Pompey, led to Civil War.  Pompey would leave Rome bound for Greece, with Caesar on his tail.  In 48 BC they met at the “Battle of Pharsalus,” where Caesar was victorious.

Pompey fled to Egypt, only to be murdered on the beach, on the orders of Ptolemy XIII, and beheaded.  His head was presented to Caesar.

In the year 45 BC, Julius Caesar was appointed dictator for life and hailed as the Father of his country.  On the Ides of March in 44 BC, he was assassinated by Longinus and Brutus.

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