All things atrocious and shameless flock from all parts to Rome. — Tacitus

Pompey

(Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus)

106–48 BC
Civilization: Roman — Rome
   Field of Renown:  statesman — Triumvir
Era:  Decline

Pompey started his military career fighting under his father against the Marian party , which was then in control of Rome. He was only 23 when he raised an army of 17,000 and went to join Sulla, who was immediately impressed with the young man. He later served under Sulla in Sicily and Africa, and won his first triumph and the title Magnus (the Great), when still a young man. He was sent to Spain to fight Sertorius, and he also helped put down the slave rebellion led by Spartacus. These victories established him as the foremost general of his age, and won him the consulship in 70 B.C., sharing it with his colleague Crassus.

Pompey
SENATORS URGE POMPEY TO BECOME DICTATOR

Pompey's greatest success, however, was in putting down the Mediterranean pirates, which had plagued Rome's merchant ships for over a generation. They had become so audacious in later years as to sail into Rome's harbor at Ostia and set boats on fire, fearing no reprisals. In a single year he raised a fleet of 300 ships and in only four months, drove all the pirates out of the sea, and took twenty thousand prisoners. Instead of killing them, however, he showed great mercy, by allowing them to settle in scantily populated provinces of Rome. Immediately after this, he was sent to the East to replace his rival Lucullus in command of the Third Mithradatic War. Although Lucullus had done most of the fighting, Mithradates killed himself shortly after Pompey took over, so he received a third victorious triumph.

Pompey spent the next decade in politics, with Caesar, Crassus, Cicero, and Cato the Younger as his sometimes rivals, sometimes allies. Although Sulla had very effectively put down the Marian party in Rome twenty years ago, it was beginning to revive under Caesar. Pompey at first sympathized with the populares party, and allied himself with Caesar. He married Caesar's daughter Julia, and formed the first triumvirate with Crassus and Caesar. But over the years he began to sympathize more with the aristocratic, or republican party, led by Cicero and Cato. By the time his wife Julia died, his relationship with Caesar was already strained, and with her death they became open rivals.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he knew that it wound bring about a civil war and that his chief rival would be Pompey, but his strategy was always to bring his enemies over to his side rather than to destroy them. Pompey knew that Caesar was very popular in Rome, and that the republic's greatest strength was in the East, so he fled to Greece to prepare for war. Although Caesar controlled many legions, and enjoyed great popularity, Pompey entirely controlled the navy, and so when Caesar followed Pompey to Thessaly, he had great difficulties obtaining provisions for his troops. Although neither Caesar nor Pompey desired a battle, they were forced by circumstance to fight each other at Pharsalia. Caesar's forces were victorious, and Pompey was forced to flee. He fled to Egypt and asked sanctuary from Ptolemy, but instead of harboring him, the king sent soldiers to kill him, hoping by doing so to win Caesar's favor. It was to no avail. Caesar was appalled by the crime, and buried his rival with the highest honors.


Key events during the life of Pompey:


Year
Event
84 BC
Fought against the Marian party at Picenum; gained respect of Sulla.
81 BC
Fought Marian hold-outs in Sicily and Africa; received first triumph and title Magnus (the Great).
76 BC
Went to Spain to try to suppress the rebellion of Sertorius.
72 BC
Returned to Italy to help Crassus end the slave revolt of Spartacus.
70 BC
Elected consul with Crassus; receives triumph for his victories in Spain.
67 BC
Raises fleet and systematically eliminates the pirates from the Mediterranean.
66 BC
Replaces his rival Lucullus as commander in Third Mithradatic War.
62 BC
Returned to Rome with yet another glorious triumph; senate infighting drives Pompey into alliance with Caesar.
60 BC
Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey form first triumvirate and divide empire into three divisions.
58 BC
Caesar departs for Gaul, leaving Pompey in power in Rome.
55 BC
Elected consul again with Crassus.
54 BC
Julia, wife of Pompey and daughter of Caesar dies, further straining the relationship between the rivals.
52 BC
Pompey receives the sole consulship. Aligns himself with the senatorial party against Caesar.
49 BC
Caesar crosses the Rubicon, and commences a civil war; Pompey flees to the east, leaving Italy to Caesar.
48 BC
Defeated by Caesar at Pharsalia; murdered by soldiers of Ptolemy in Egypt.

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Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Pompey  in  Julius Caesar  by  Jacob Abbott
Flight and Death of Pompey  in  Julius Caesar  by  Jacob Abbott
Pompey  in  Roman Life in the Days of Cicero  by  Alfred J. Church
Across the Euphrates  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Of Pompey the Great  in  Stories from Roman History  by  Lena Dalkeith
Conqueror of Pirates  in  Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch  by  F. J. Gould
Pompey's Conquests  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Battle of Pharsalia  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Pompey the Great  in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Pompey  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Rosalie Kaufman
Pirates  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Flight of Pompey  in  The Story of Rome  by  Mary Macgregor
Caesar and Pompey  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
Two Young Romans  in  On the Shores of the Great Sea  by  M. B. Synge

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Image Links


Death of Pompey
 in Julius Caesar

Pompey's Pillar
 in Julius Caesar

Pompey's Statue
 in Julius Caesar

Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus
 in Roman Life in the Days of Cicero

Pompey and Sextus
 in Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch

The Senators Urge Pompey to Become Dictator
 in Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch

Flight of Pompey from Pharsalia
 in Tales of the Romans: The Children's Plutarch


Contemporary
Short Biography
Sulla Defeated Mithradates in Greece. Marched on Rome, defeated the party of his enemy Marius.
Lucullus Led Rome against Mithradates in third Mithradatic War. Known for extravagant lifestyle.
Sertorius Led rebellion against Rome in Spain; held out for 8 years.
Crassus Very wealthy general. Fought Spartacus. Formed triumvirate with Pompey and Caesar.
Pompey Very renowned general. Defeated pirates. Led opposition to Caesar in civil war.
Cinna With Marius, raised an army, and took possession of Rome for populist Party.
Julius Caesar Conquered Gaul, prevailed in civil war. Mastermind of Roman empire. Killed by senators.
Julia Caesaria Daughter of Julius Caesar, wife of Pompey.