Tag 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 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.

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.


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

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.

Roman Britain Timeline

Roman Britain
Roman Britain

55 BC: Julius Caesar led the first Roman military expedition to Britain, checking out its inhabitants, for a conquest in later years.

54 BC:  Julius Caesar’s made a second expedition to Britain.

27 BC:  Augustus becomes the first Roman emperor.

AD 43:  The Roman Emperor Claudius orders four legions to conquer Britain, and in the august capture the capital of the Catuvellauni tribe, Colchester.

AD 44:  The Romans capture the hills forts of Dorset, which included Maiden Castle.

AD 48: The Romans conquered all territory between the Humber Estuary and the Severn Estuary, leaving Cornwall, Devon, Wales and parts of the North West still under British control.

AD 47: The Romans force their allies, the Iceni tribe of East Anglia, to relinquish all of their weapons, they revolted, but it was short lived.

AD 49: The Romans founded a colony (or colonia) at Colchester for retired soldiers. This was to be the first civilian centre of Roman Britain and temporary capital of the territory.

AD 51: The leader of the exiled Catuvellauni tribe; Caratacus, is captured. He had led a protracted guerrilla war against the occupying Roman forces for years, but was eventually brought to battle by the Roman governor Publius Ostorius. Caratacus spent the remainder of his days in retirement in Italy.

AD 60: The Romans attacked the Druid stronghold of Anglesey. The campaign to occupy Wales was however cut short by the Iceni revolt in south east England.

AD 61: After attempting to fully annexe East Anglia, Boudica leads a rebellion of the Iceni against the Romans. After burning down Colchester, London and St Albans, Boudica was eventually defeated at the Battle of Watling Street.

AD 75: The building of Fishbourne palace commence.

AD 80: London has grown in size to the point where it now housed a forum, basilica, governor’s palace and even an amphitheatre.

AD 84: The Romans engaged the Caledonians in battle at Mons Graupius, in Scotland. Although actual location of battle is unknown, it is believed to be in Aberdeenshire.

AD 100: By this time some 8,000 miles of Roman roads had been completed across Britain, allowing troops and goods to travel easily across the country.  The new Roman emperor, Trajan, also orders a complete withdrawal from Scotland and the construction of a new frontier between Newcastle-on-Tyne and Carlisle.

AD 122: To strengthen the border between Roman-occupied Britain and Scotland, Emperor Hadrian orders the construction of a wall. Interestingly, many of the early forts along Hadrian’s Wall face south into Brigantian territory, showing the ongoing threat posed by northern England tribes.

AD 139/40: The Antonine Wall in Scotland is built, dramatically shifting the northern border of Roman occupied Britain. This new wall is built of earth and timber, and is strengthened by a series of forts along its length.

AD 150: Villas start appearing across the British countryside. Compared to their southern counterparts, are of modest design, with only a few containing mosaic floors.

AD 155: St Albans in Hertfordshire, one of the largest towns in Roman Britain, is destroyed by fire.

AD 163: The order is given to abandon Antonine Wall and for Roman troops to withdraw back to Hadrian’s Wall.  It is believed that an uprising by the Brigantes had forced the retreat.

AD 182: The Brigantes, along with other tribes of southern Scotland and northern England, start revolting against the Romans. Fighting continued for many years along Hadrian’s Wall, with towns further south building preventative defences should the rioting spread.

AD 197: After a period of in-fighting within Rome, a series of military commissioners arrive in Britain looking to purge any supporters of the recently ousted usurper, Decimus Clodius. They also look at rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall after over 15 years of clashes with the northern tribes.

AD 209: After years of protracted conflict with the northern tribes, the Romans lead an army to Hadrian’s Wall border to engage the Caledonians. With the Romans aiming to meet the rebels in pitched battle, the Caledonians instead opt for guerrilla warfare. This forces peace treaties to be signed between the two parties.

AD 211: Britain is divided into two separate provinces; the south was to be called “Britannia Superior” (superior being in reference to the fact that it was closer to Rome), with the north being named “Britannia Inferior”. London was the new capital of the south, with York the capital of the north.

AD 250:  New threats to Roman Britannia emerge as the Picts from Scotland, as well as the Angles, Saxon and Jutes from Germany and Scandinavia, start threatening Roman lands.

AD 255: With the increasing threat from seaborne Germanic tribes, London’s city wall is completed with the final stretch along the north bank of the Thames.

AD 259: Britain, Gaul and Spain split from the Roman Empire, leading to the creation of the ‘Gallic Empire’.

AD 274: The Gallic Empire is re-absorbed into the main Roman Empire.

AD 287: Carausius, admiral of the Roman Channel fleet declares himself Emperor of Britain and Northern Gaul and starts minting his own coins.

AD 293: Carausius is assassinated by Allectus, his treasurer who quickly starts work on his palace in London to solidify his claim to authority. He also starts building the ‘Saxon Shore Forts’ along the coasts of Britain, both to strengthen defences against the Germanic tribes to the east but also to prevent Rome from sending a fleet to recover Britain for the empire.

AD 296: The Roman Empire recaptures Britannia and Allectus is killed in battle near Silchester. Britain is then split up into four provinces; (1) Northern England up to Hadrian’s Wall, (2) South of England), (3) Midlands and East Anglia (4) Wales.

AD 314: Christianity becomes legal within the Roman Empire.

AD 343: Probably in response to a military emergency, Emperor Constans makes a visit to Britain.

AD 367: Barbarians from Scotland, Ireland and Germany co-ordinate their attacks and launch raids on Roman Britain. Many towns are plundered throughout the province, and Britain falls into a state of anarchy.

AD 369: A large force from Rome, led by military commander Theodosius, arrives in Britain and drives back the Barbarians.

AD 396: Large scale Barbarian attacks on Britain start up again. Large naval engagements are ordered against the invaders, with reinforcements arriving from other areas of the empire.

AD 399: Peace is fully restored throughout Roman Britannia.

AD 401: A large number of troops are withdrawn from Britain to assist with the war against Alaric I, who is attempting to sack Rome.

AD 406: For the past five years, Roman Britannia has suffered frequent breaches of its borders by Barbarian forces. With the Roman Empire focused on the more serious threats at home, reinforcements have stopped and Britain is left to its own devices.

AD 407: The remaining Roman garrisons in Britain proclaim one of their generals, Constantine III, Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Constantine quickly pulls together a force and crosses the English Channel to invade Gaul, leaving Britain with only a skeleton force to defend itself.

AD 409: After throwing off their allegiance to Constantine III in 408, the local British populace expel the final remnants of Roman authority in 409.

AD 410 – With increased incursions from the Saxons, Scots, Picts and Angles, Britain turns to the Roman emperor Honorius for help. He informs them to look within themselves to defend their own lands, as he refuses to send help, and so ended the period of Roman occupation of Britain.

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