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Pompey the Great

Gnaeus Pompeius, better known as Pompey, was born on September 29, 106 BC. He was four years older than Julius Caesar. Pompeys father was a rich Roman noble, who was elected to the consul in 89 BC. Pompey distinguished himself as a great leader early in his life. In the civil war between Gaius Marius and Lucius Sulla, Pompey sided with Sulla. Sulla, with the help of Pompey, made some vary impressive defeats in Africa and Sicily. In 79 BC Sulla resigned and died the next year. Two of his patrons, who had fought for him, Pompey and Marcus Crassus, moved to leading military positions in the seventies.

Crassus and Pompey fought together in a battle against a Marian rebel, Quintus Sertorius, and a slave rebellion lead by Spartacus in Italy. They returned, having won, in 71 BC. Pompey then spent time campaigning successfully in Rome before he was elected to consul, with Marcus Crassus for the year 70 BC. After Pompey served his time on Consul he was given command over the Mediterranean, where he did what nobody else had successfully done before. He rid it of Pirates. Pompey, then, went to various places, establishing an ally of the King of Armenia, capturing Jerusalem, and making Syria a Roman duty.

Pompey was a great general, but not a very good politician. In 59 BC Pompey returned to Rome to find that tensions with himself and Crassus had grown. Both Crassus and Pompey had large armies, but also pieces of the city that were loyal to them. Cicero, the leader of the senate, allied himself with Pompey through great flattery. Cicero told Pompey that he must be the protector of the republic. Crassus had other plans, and by 57 BC both men were in Italy with their armies. Before war broke out Julius Caesar stepped in.

Caesar being a neutral negotiator used these well-known talents and convinced Pompey, Crassus, and Cicero to meet. The men worked out an agreement. This settlement had never been made before among the leaders of Rome. Caesar convinced Crassus and Pompey to join their power and influence with his own. Caesar was a successful leader of Gaul at this time. So the three agreed, and formed what is today known as the First Triumvirate. During this time Pompey married, most likely for political reasons, Julia, Caesar’s daughter.

Two of the three men returned to Rome and forced the Senate to obey them. Pompey asked for and got special legislation from the Senate allowing him to remain in Italy. He wanted this because he dearly wanted to become a great statesmen. Within the next five years Julia died followed by Crassus’ death. Crassus in 53 BC went to Syria where he assembled his army. He then ordered them into the Syrian dessert after the Parthian army, since Crassus was a great financier, a good politician, but a bad general. After a few days Crassus’ army was out of water and suffering.

It was then the Parthian army attacked, killing off two full Roman legions; Crassus was among the deceased. Pompey again was persuaded by Cicero to work with him. Cicero named Pompey the Rector of the Republic, a nice title, but it had no meaning. Once again Pompey showed his poor political capability, and his tendency to easily be influenced. Pompey heard of Crassus death and began to fear Caesar. Caesar had been campaigning, winning many allies in Gaul, and the support of the people. Pompey on the other hand had stayed in Rome while onlookers watched his once strong leadership diminish.

Pompey tried to gain allies in the senate, but it was to late. Caesar and his troops marched across the Rubicon and on to Rome on January 11, 49 BC. Pompey had a larger army than Caesar with 40,000 men, but they were inexperienced compared to Caesar’s 22,000 experienced fighters. Pompey was pressured heavily by the Senate to attack first, and he did so against his better judgment. Caesar won at the battle of Pharsalus, destroying Pompey’s army and killing many senators. Pompey escaped, fleeing to Egypt, where he tried to ally Ptolemy.

Caesar quickly put Rome into order and went after Pompey. The Egyptians saw Caesar coming and Ptolemy had Pompey cautiously killed. Ptolemy had Pompey put to death immediately by decapitation. Gnaeus Pompeius died in 48 BC, thus ending the first Triumvirate. Pompey was not a talented politician, as he proved with some of his decisions, but he was a great general, and he fought successfully many times. It was not until later in life that his force and influence over people weakened. He with out any doubts earned his title Pompey the Great.

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