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Pompey The Great

Pompey was a Roman general and political leader. He was a member of the

first Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Marcus Crassus, but later became

Caesar’s enemy.

Pompey was born September 30, 106 B.C. His first important military

experiences were in the Social war during which his father Pompeius Strabo,

taught Pompey his military skills. Pompey distinguished himself in the civil

war between Lucies Sulla and Gaius Marius. Pompey raised his own army in

Picenum. He did such a good job raising his army he was made an imperator

general. In 83 B.C., he was sent as an imperator general to Sicily and then to

Africa. Successes in both places earned Pompey the name Magnus and the honor of

a triumph, although he was little over 25 years old and legally unqualified for

such a status.

Some years later, the senate used his aid against the remnants of

Marius’ factor. Then in 77 B.C., Pompey moved against the Marian forces

commanded by Quintus Sertorius in Spain. There his operations were not rewarded

but Sertoriu’s death by poison permitted Pompeys return to Italy in time to

annihilate the remnants of Spartacus’s army fleeing from the defeat at Crassus

hands (71 B.C.). For his victory, Pompey celebrated his second triumph although

he still held public office. He got a spot in office by moving into the highest

office of all, the consulship with Crassus as his colleague (70 B.C.). Together

they overthrew Sulla’s constitution by giving the plebian tribunes their former

powers and the knights partial control of the law courts.

In 67 B.C., the tribune Aulus Gabinius, by a bill gave extraordinary

military powers to Pompey. His objective was to deal with Piracy throughout the

Mediterranean. Pompey needed only three months to finish this task.

This feat led to further honors. In 60 B.C., on the motion of another

tribune, Pompey received even greater powers when appointed in Lucullus’s place

as commander against Mithridates the Great. With little difficulty, the new

Roman commander forced the Mithridates from Asia Minor and then spent some years

overrunning the North East. The big range of Pompey’s Journeys and his hatred

towards the natives started future trouble with Parthia. Pompey did, however,

increase Rome’s dominions, and he also laid a firm foundation for Roman

administration in the area. While in Palestine, he learned of Mithridates’

suicide and some months later he returned to Italy and a third triumph. His

action in disbanding his army relieved his enemies of their anxiety at his

return, but it also persuaded the senate to refuse to approve his near Eastern

arrangements or authorize bonuses for his veterans. Pompey retaliated by

forming with Crassus and Caesar the political bloc known as the First

Triumvirate (60 B.C.), and promptly proceeded ratification of Pompey’s veterans.

The coalition had agreed to exile Marcus Cicero but it would not be easy. When

Caesar went to Gaul, fighting soon arose between Pompey and Crassus, and when

Pompey acquiesced in Cicero’s recall, a war seemed imminent. Caesar then

arranged the Conference of Luca (56 B.C.) to restore harmony Pompey and Crassus

became consuls again (55 B.C.) but with violence. Then they obtained extended

commands like Caesar’s in Spain and Syria, respectively. But although Caesar

remained in Gaul and Crassus departed for Syria, Pompey did not leave Italy.

He commanded his forces in Spain by substitute.

Julia’s death in 54 (B.C.) and Crassus’s in 53 (B.C.) snapped the ties

linking Pompey and Caesar and the stage was set for their rivalry. When mob

violence prevented consuls being elected in 52 (B.C.) Pompey was appointed

consul. He quickly restored order by forcing one of the chief rioters, Titus

Milo, into exile for the murder of Publius Clodius, another mob leader.

Pompey’s third consulship was also productive of legislation that Caesar thought

was harmful to him. Caesar then attempted to safeguard his own interests and it

got him involve in a quarrel with the senate. This led him to being pronounced a

public enemy (49 B.C.). Pompey was invited to command the senatorial forces in

Italy, and when he accepted the mandate the die was cast. Caesar crossed the

Rubicon from Cisalpine Gaul, and a new civil war began.

Before Caesar’s veteran force, Pompey retired in March, to Macedonia

where he made a strong army. Caesar, after crushing Pompey’s supporters in

Spain, also crossed the Adriatic. Almost at once, Pompey scored a local success

at Dyrrhachium on the coast of Albania. However when he allowed his army to

engage, Caesar’s at Pharsalus in Thessaly, Greece, in August, he suffered a

terrible defeat. Pompey then fled to Egypt to seek isolation. The king of

Egypt, however being anxious not to offend Caesar, had Pompey kB.C.


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