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Gnaeus Pompey the Great

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Gnaeus Pompeius (106-48 BC) - His date of birth is determined by the date of triumph and death that happened to him on the day of his birth. This was the opinion of Roman historians V. Paterculus and Pliny the Elder.

Gnaeus Pompeius was descended from the Pompeian family, which was not of Latin origin, but descended from a Plebeian family from Picenum (a region of ancient Italy) on the Adriatic coast of the Apennine Peninsula. It is believed that his generic name “Pompey " is related to the toponym in Campania.

Pompey's personal name, Gnaeus, is a mixture of two languages, Oscan and Etruscan. The root gna meaning five belongs to the Oscan language, and the ending – eius belongs to the Etruscan language.

His family was made up of horsemen, but had several praetors and consuls in their line. Pompey's father Gnaeus Pompey Strabo was consul in 89 BC. e. He commanded the Roman forces in the Allied War, where the young Gnaeus was present in his camp.

Pompey received the traditional education of a Roman aristocrat and went to gain military experience in the Allied War, under the command of his father.

In the ensuing civil war between Sulla and Gaius Marius, his family sided with Sulla. Pompey's father, Gnaeus Strabo, soon died and Gnaeus, fearing for his life, fled to Picennes, where he had connections and many people sympathized with his family or were its friends and clients. Then he began to recruit troops, thinking to join Sulla. He succeeded in this task and was able to recruit three legions of his own loyal followers.

Bust of Gnaeus Pompey the Great
Marble bust of Pompey the Great. Louvre Museum, France.
Pompey the Great. A copy of the Claudian era (mid-1st century AD) of the original. Marble. Inv. No. 62. Venice, National Archaeological Museum.

In 83 BC, after Sulla landed in Brundisium (now the city of Brindisi, located southeast of Rome, Italy), Pompey hurried with his troops to join him. Sulla, breaking with tradition, appreciated the activities of Pompey, granted him the title of emperor, although Pompey has not yet made any special military victories for this.

In 82 BC, Sulla, having become dictator and victor in the Civil War, sent Pompey, with a large army – 6 legions and many military and merchant ships, to the island of Sicily, to solve the food problem in Rome. Rome depended on grain supplies for bread from Sicily and Africa, and these supplies were interrupted due to the capture of the island of Sicily and Africa, supporters of the loser Gaius Marius. At the same time, Sulla, again bypassing law and tradition, gave Pompey, who had not yet performed any public office, the position of propraetor – the position of provincial governor.

In Sicily, Pompey was able to quickly restore order and establish grain supplies to Rome, while executing, without asking permission in Rome, a prominent supporter of Marius, who was three times consul, Gnaeus Carbo. Then, on Sulla's orders, Pompey crossed to Africa in December 82 BC, where in just 40 days, in several battles, he was able to defeat the Marian troops led by Domitius Ahenobarbamus, who was captured and executed by him. Sulla, alarmed by Pompey's growing power in the army, recalled him to Rome, where Pompey had long sought a triumph and was still able to achieve it and celebrate it, although historians dispute when this happened in 81, 80 or 79 BC.e. The fact is that Pompey celebrated his triumph at 24 or 25 years old, while not yet a member of the Senate.

There are several versions of how Pompey received his cognomen Magnus (“the Great”).:

In 77 BC, Pompey, having again received the powers of propraetor, was sent with troops to suppress the rebellion of Lepidus in northern Italy. After the suppression of the rebellion of Lepidus, Pompey, putting his authority on the Senate, was sent with troops and again in the rank of propraetor-governor of Eastern Spain to act against the colleague of Gaius Marius-Quintus Sertorius, who waged a successful guerrilla war against the Sullanians in Spain, managing to unite the Marians and local tribes to fight the Sullanians.

In Spain, due to intrigue and sabotage by senators from Rome, Pompey played only a minor role under Quintus Caecilius Metellus, but together they were able to defeat Sertorius and capture Spain by 72 BC. Then, in the winter of 72-71 BC, by order of the Senate, Pompey was sent to help Marcus Crassus, who at that time was fighting the rebel gladiators, under the leadership of Spartacus. Lucullus and his troops also came from Macedonia to help Crassus. Crassus was able to defeat the rebels and kill Spartacus before Pompey arrived, but Pompey attributed the laurels of the victor Spartacus to himself, since it was he who, rushing to the aid of Crassus on the way to join him, was able to defeat a large detachment of rebel slaves who were able to escape from the battle with Crassus.

For his services and victories in Spain, Pompey received a triumph in 71 BC and a consulship in 70 BC, with his colleague in the consulate, who was jealous of him, Marcus Crassus. By the way, Pompey also became consul in violation of the law. He did not hold any praetors, but the Senate took into account his popularity among the people and the army, and the experience that Pompey received as a governor and commander of armies.

As consul in 70 BC, Pompey, together with Crassus, carried out a number of reforms: they returned the former scope of powers to the people's tribunes, carried out judicial reform, and revived the censor magistracy. After his consulship, Pompey in January 69 BC, contrary to tradition, did not go to the province as governor, but became a private person, living so until 67 BC.

In 67 BC, the Senate passed a law appointing Pompey commander-in-chief for the war against pirates who were operating in the Mediterranean, disrupting grain supplies to Rome, which led to an increase in grain prices in Rome and popular unrest. Therefore, by law, Pompey received three years of power over the entire Mediterranean Sea and its entire circumference of the coast, the right to make unlimited recruitment of troops and invite 15 senators with the rank of praetors and quaestors, as well as the right to control the finances of the capital and provinces. Pompey also received a lump sum payment of 144 million sesterces from the treasury. Pompey began to resolve the issue of pirates in the spring of 67 BC. e. having 4 legions, 5 thousand cavalry and 500 ships under his command. Before going to sea, Pompey divided his fleet into parts, and the Mediterranean Sea into squares, which were supposed to explore and destroy the pirates found there, the parts of his forces responsible for this square. Most of the pirates were originally from Cilicia-Cilician pirates, so after the " sweep” Pompey also dealt a heavy blow to their homeland of Cilicia. Pompey completed the entire campaign against the pirates by the end of the summer of 67 BC. e. clearing the Mediterranean Sea of pirates, restoring grain supplies from Sicily and Africa to Rome, and destroying the pirate bases in Cilicia.

At the time when Pompey was solving the problem with pirates, in the east, with varying success for Rome, the 3rd Mithridatic War was going on (74/73-63 BC). Pompey, through his connections in Rome, was able to put pressure on the Senate, get command in this war and extend his expanded powers granted to him by the Senate to fight pirates-the Manilius Act.

In 66 BC, Pompey launched an offensive against Mithridates. During 66-63 BC, Pompey was able several times to defeat Mithridates himself, the troops of his generals, the army of his ally the king of Armenia, capture Syria and Judea for Rome, making them Roman provinces. To do this, during the entire time of the company, Pompey used the forces of 9 legions and several hundred thousand allies of Rome.

After the war, Rome got rid of its opponent King Mithridates, he was killed, gained control of almost all of Asia Minor and created another province there, in addition to Asia and Cilicia, Bithynia and Pontus. The state of Mithridates was divided between his son Pharnaces and the protege of Rome. In the East, Rome had a new province of Syria, and Parthia and Armenia became Rome's neighbors to the East.

Pompey dreamed of a third consulship and a triumph for his services, and at the end of 62 AD he returned with his troops to Italy. In 61 BC, he celebrated his triumph over Mithridates and became a member of the Senate.

None of the historians can say exactly how the positions converged Mark of Crassus, Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey, but the fact is that these three have formed a secret alliance- a triumvirate to seize power in Rome, each pursuing their own goals. But all historians agree that the initiative to create the triumvirate belonged to Caesar. The triumvirate was formed either by the summer of 60 BC, or by the autumn, after the elections of 60 BC.

Everyone inherited their own values in this union:

Interestingly, none of the members of the triumvirate had a large number of supporters among the senators, but each of them had a certain support among the plebs and horsemen. Pompey was especially supported by his veterans in the National Assembly. In 59, when Caesar was consul, all the agreements of the triumvirates were fulfilled and the provinces they had previously agreed upon were assigned to them, not for 1 year, as was required by law, but for 5 years. Pompey even obtained from the Senate the right to act for Caesar in the war against the Gauls not only from Cisalpine Gaul, but also from Norbonian Gaul, allocating him not 3, but 4 legions.

In 58 BC, Caesar left for Gaul, and Pompey took over the allotment of land for his veterans, as a member of the agrarian commission. At this time in Rome, between Pompey and the tribune of the people, Clodius. There was a conflict, even though Clodius was Caesar's man. This led to a decline in Pompey's popularity among the people due to his sluggish resistance or complete inaction in relation to the activities of Clodius.

Seeing all this, Pompey began to suspect Caesar of wanting to gain power over Rome, that is, he became a rival for Pompey. But Caesar managed to smooth out the contradictions between Clodius and Pompey, Crassus and Pompey, and by trying on everyone at the meeting in Luke in 56 BC, they were able to extend the triumvirate.

In Luke, they decided the following: Pompey and Crassus become consuls in 55 BC, and after that they are sent as governors to Spain (Pompey) and Syria (Crassus) for a period of 5 years, and Caesar retains the right to govern in Gaul for the same period for 5 years. So they did. After the consulship, Crassus went to Syria, Caesar to Gaul, and Pompey, remaining in Rome, under the guise of caring for Rome, sent his subordinate to rule Spain on his own behalf.

After Pompey's death, the struggle against Caesar was continued by his sons. His son Sextus Pompey managed to gain a foothold in Spain. This is a denarius with a profile of his father, which he issued in the territories under his control in 40 BC. e. Private collection.

Civil War between Caesar and Pompey

In 54 BC, Pompey's wife died, Caesar's daughter Julia, and in the spring of 53 BC, Marcus Crassus died in Syria and the triumvirate collapsed. After that, gradual preparations began for the confrontation between Caesar and Pompey. In 52 BC, Pompey again became consul in the wake of the riots caused by the murder of Clodius, with dictatorial powers to restore order.

After that, he became a simple senator again. Caesar's idea of seizing power became more and more obvious, and his enemies began to act, preparing for the expiration of his powers as governor of Gaul in January 49 BC. e. Caesar tried to resolve the matter by peace and even tried to negotiate with Pompey, but Pompey, proud of his new success in the senate and people, rejected his proposal for peace and Civil War broke out in 49-45 BC between them.

Most of the Senate supported Pompey in this war. Due to the impetuosity of Caesar's actions, Pompey and his supporters were forced to leave Rome and disperse to their respective provinces, as the magistrates of 49 BC began to gather troops there, which were to be sent to connect with Pompey. In a hurry, they did not have time to withdraw the state treasury from Rome, which went to Caesar. Pompey himself, with a few followers, crossed to Greece, where he began to gather his supporters and troops to fight Caesar.

For a time, Caesar was fighting his opponents in Italy and Spain, while Pompey was recruiting and training troops in Greece. In 48 BC, Caesar unexpectedly landed with troops in Greece, where in July 48 BC, the battle of Dyrrachia took place, in which Pompey defeated Caesar and he began to retreat to Thessaly, and Pompey began to pursue Caesar's retreating troops. Historians still don't understand why Pompey refused to finish off Caesar and his troops at the crucial moment of the Battle of Dyrrachia, when he had the chance.

Pompey wanted to exhaust Caesar's troops and exhaust them with a blockade without allowing them to receive provisions, but the senators, realizing that such slowness and hesitation could lead Pompey to lose all of Greece, convinced him to give a decisive battle to Caesar's army.

The decisive battle took place in August 48 BC near Pharsalus. Pompey had transferred forces over infantry and cavalry, but on Caesar's side was his strategy and the experience of his veteran legionaries, against Pompey's mostly new recruits. Caesar saw through Pompey's plan to hit his infantry with cavalry, ordered them to throw spears in the faces of the horsemen, who were inexperienced and young aristocrats, for whom facial scars were a terrible thing, the infantry did so, as a result Pompey's cavalry retreated, and his troops were surrounded and defeated. Pompey himself left the battlefield at the end of the battle and fled first to the north of Macedonia, and from there to the city of Siedra in Cilicia.

Here he gathered his allies, and they began to decide what to do next. There were three possible options:

Pompey did not trust the rulers of Numidia and Egypt, and was inclined to ally with Parthia, but he was convinced that the Parthians were eternal enemies of Rome and their armies, not knowing the terrain of Greece and Italy, would not help much in a war with Caesar. As a result, they decided to ask for help from Egypt, since the local ruler, Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII, personally owed his throne to Pompey. To do this, Pompey moved to Cyprus, and from there sailed to Egypt, before sending a letter to Ptolemy asking for a personal meeting and discussing the joint struggle against Caesar.

Since Ptolemy XIII was still a small boy (9-10 years old), then for him the actual rulers of Egypt were three of his confidants and advisers: Theodatus (teacher and adviser to Ptolemy XIII); Pothinus (eunuch and tutor of Ptolemy XIII); Achilla. They decided that helping Pompey in his fight against Caesar might threaten their power and the independence of Egypt, so they decided to verbally support Pompey's proposal for a meeting, and in fact – to kill him. They sent him a reply letter with sincere support for his idea of a meeting and invited him to this meeting.

Lucius Septimius, a former Roman centurion who had fought alongside Pompey in one of his wars in the service of the Egyptians, was chosen to assassinate Pompey. The murder plan was as follows: Achilles and Septimius meet the ship with Pompey in the harbor, transfer him to a boat for delivery to the shore, take him to the shore in it, and after disembarking from the boat, Septimius kills Pompey.

The murder of Pompey is described in detail by many authors, but we will quote a fragment from the work of Plutarch: "The ship was at a considerable distance from the coast, and as none of the companions said a single friendly word to him, Pompey, looking at Septimius, said: "If I'm not mistaken, I recognize my old comrade-in-arms." The latter nodded only his head in agreement, but made no reply, and showed no sign of friendship. Then there was a long silence, during which Pompey read a small scroll containing his Greek speech to Ptolemy. As Pompey neared the shore, Cornelia and her friends watched in great excitement from the ship what was going to happen, and she began to gather her courage, seeing that many courtiers were flocking to the landing site, as if for an honorable meeting. But just as Pompey was leaning on Philip's arm to help him up, Septimus ran his sword through him from behind, and then Salvius and Achilles drew their swords. Pompey pulled the toga over his face with both hands, without saying or doing anything unworthy of his dignity; he uttered only a groan and courageously took the blows”" Plutarch. Pompeii. 78-80.

The plan was carried out in September 48 BC.e. Pompey's head and his seal ring (a lion holding a sword in its paw) were presented to Caesar by the Egyptians when he landed in Egypt shortly after. Pompey was buried, or rather cremated, first in Egypt, and then, his widow, Cornelia Metellus, moved his ashes to Albane (now the city of Albano Laziale, Italy), Pompey's estate in Italy. Although historians Appian and Strabo claim that Pompey's grave was originally in Egypt.

Pompey was survived by two sons, Gnaeus and Sextus, and a daughter from his five marriages. All three children were his children from his 3rd marriage to Mucia Tertia. His sons continued the work of their father, in the fight against Caesar, or rather with his heirs – Mark Antony and By Octavian Augustus.

By coincidence, Caesar's favorite daughter, Julia, was married to Pompey (Pompey's 4th marriage, died in childbirth), and in his last 5th marriage, he was married to Cornelia Metella, the widow of Publius Crassus, son of Marcus Crassus, who died in the Parthian campaign.

Cornelia arrived in Egypt with her husband and watched his death from the ship, after which she fled to Italy, where she received a pardon from Caesar and lived a private life.

A kind of revenge of Pompey from the other world, Caesar, as contemporaries later joked, was the murder of Caesar under the statue of Pompey in March 44 BC.e. in the Senate building.

Related Topics

Roman Republic, The first Triumvirate, Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Mark Antony, Octavian Augustus