pompey-magnus

8

The river Rubicon; “Alea iacta est

During the Roman republic, the river Rubicon marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north-east and Italy proper to the south. Governors of Roman provinces were appointed promagistrates with imperium (roughly, “right to command”) in their province(s). The governor would then serve as the general of the Roman army within the territory of his province(s). Roman law specified that only the elected magistrates (consuls and praetors) could hold imperium within Italy. Any promagistrate who entered Italy at the head of his troops forfeited his imperium and was therefore no longer legally allowed to command troops. Exercising imperium when forbidden by the law was a capital offence. Furthermore, obeying the commands of a general who did not legally possess imperium was also a capital offence. If a general entered Italy whilst exercising command of an army, both the general and his soldiers became outlaws and were automatically condemned to death. Generals were thus obliged to disband their armies before entering Italy.

So when Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BC uttered the famous words, “Alea iacta est“ or “The die is cast” as he led his army across the River Rubicon in Northern Italy, he was very much aware of what would happen, as were his enemies, his soldiers, friends and family.

3

The Life and Times of Pompey the Great ( From 78-60 B.C.)

Despite Sulla’s laws to check the ambitions of powerful generals, his successor, was just that. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, called Pompey the Great, had in fact been one of Sulla’s most trusted lieutenants. After Sulla’s death, Pompey enjoyed a brief war in Italy with the rebel consul Lepidus (the father of the future Triumvir). Following his success, Magnus, was tasked with Spain and the great Quintus Sertorius. In 70 B.C., having won favor for his military exploits, he asked for, and got, permission to stand for consul even though he was underage and had not entered the Cursus Honorum (other offices).

Consul

Once in office, Pompey took steps to consolidate his popularity. He rescinded the most objectionable of Sulla’s law, restoring the tribune of the plebs, for instance. But he did not seek re-election, and after 1 term (with Marcus Crassus) he stepped down. Two years later, however, in 67 B.C., he was granted a three-imperium to rid ‘Our Sea’ of pirates. He accomplished the job in three months. He then turned to the East, where he defeated old Mithridates once and for all.

Magnus

While he was away from Rome, the city was again plunged into disorder, mostly through the machinations of an unscrupulous man named Catilina. The ambitious Catilina, thwarted 3 times in bids to become consul, plotted to take over the Government by force. His insurrection failed, and he was killed, but the extent of his support among the masses made it clear that they were deeply discontented with the existing state of affairs. 

With the power of his army behind him, and a chaotic politcal condition at home, Pompey could have taken over the Government when he returned to Rome. Many expected him to do so. Instead, following tradition, Pompey disbanded his army outside the city and waited for an official invitation to enter and be recognized for his feats. The Senate did grant him a 'triumph’, but refused to honor his deeds: it would not approve the agreements he made with Eastern Kings, and it refused to make any grants of land to his veterans. 

Triumvir

Pompey thereupon formed a secret alliance with two other Romans, the former consul Marcus Crassus and Gaius Julius Caesar. This unofficial coalition, based more on expediency than friendship, came to be called the First Triumvirate. 

5

On this day in history, September 28th, in 48 B.C., Pompey the Great was murdered on the orders of Ptolemy XIII, while his wife Cornelia watched in horror from a nearby boat.

Fleeing from Caesar, he had expected to gain refuge in Egypt but the boy King’s advisers persuaded him in was in their best interests to have him killed. When Pompey disembarked, instead of being met by a welcome party he was stabbed to death.

They expected this would gain them favour with Caesar, who arrived in Egypt shortly after Pompey’s murder. This was not the case, as Caesar is said to have wept upon being presented with his former adversary and son in law’s head and seal ring. He then had the men who had killed Pompey put to death.

10

Figures from the late Roman Republic.

© 2015 Antonia Alksnis

Left to right in the main image: Crassus, Lepidus, Octavia, Mark Antony, Cleopatra VII, Julius Caesar, Calpurnia, Octavian, Livia, Pompey Magnus.

(My deviantart, and my website, where pictures will be uploaded prior to their appearance on other platforms.)

On this day in history, September 28th, in 48 B.C., Pompey the Great was murdered on the orders of Ptolemy XIII, while Pompey’s wife watched from a nearby boat.

Fleeing from Caesar, he had expected to gain refuge in Egypt but the boy King’s advisers persuaded him in was in their best interests to have him killed. When Pompey disembarked, instead of being met by a welcome party he was stabbed to death.

They expected this would gain them favour with Caesar, who arrived in Egypt shortly after Pompey’s murder. This was not the case, as Caesar is said to have wept upon being presented with his former adversary and son in law’s head and seal ring. He then had the men who had killed Pompey put to death.

Tigranes II of Armenia (King of Armenia c.95-56 BC, ruler in Syria 83-69 BC), AR Tetradrachm, 15.90g, Antioch. Diademed, draped bust right, wearing Armenian tiara ornamented with star between two eagles / BASILEWS TIGRANOU, Tyche of Antioch seated right on rocks, holding palm-branch, before her swims the river-god Orontes, monogram on rocks, all within wreath. Bedoukian 36. 

This extraordinarily high quality coin comes from one of the many eastern kings to vex the Roman Empire in their long history. Tigranes the Great, for a time, held a vast amount of territory, stretching from Syria and the coast of the Mediterranean to the foot hills of the Caucasus Mountains and the coast of the Caspian Sea.

Tigranes fought against the expanding Romans to protect his boarders and though he lost to the Roman general Lucullus at the battle of Tigranocerta, he continued to resist both the Romans and the Persians in defense of his kingdom. He ultimately made an uneasy and embarrassing peace with Pompey Magnus which allowed him to keep his kingdom, now much reduced, until this death in 55 BC.

It has been suggested that the star on his crown may be an early representation of Halley’s Comet, which appeared in 87 BC. 

Cura Annonae

Bread stall, from a Pompeiian wall painting

Throughout most of the Republican era, the care of the grain supply (cura annonae) was part of the aedile’s duties. The annona was personified as a goddess, and the grain dole was distributed from the Temple of Ceres. As early as 440 BC, however, the Roman Senate may have appointed a special officer called the praefectus annonae with greatly extended powers. An emergency cura annonae was an important source of influence and power for Pompeius Magnus (“Pompey the Great”) in his later career. Under the Principate, the position of praefectus annonae became permanent, while a range of privileges, including grants of citizenship and exemption from certain duties, were extended to ship-owners who signed contracts to transport grain to the city.

A large part of the city’s supply was obtained through the free market. Prices in the city were invariably high, and merchants could count on making a profit. Grain was also collected as tax in kind from certain provinces; some of this was distributed to officials and soldiers and some was sold at market rates.

Grain supply was an important issue for the Gracchi, with the elder brother Tiberius Gracchus arguing that consolidation of Roman agricultural lands in the hands of a few had pushed landless Romans into the city, where they found poverty rather than employment. Under the grain law of Gaius Gracchus in 123 BC, a portion of the grain collected as revenue for the state was sold at a subsidised rate to citizens. The grain supply was a consistent plank in the popularist platform for political leaders who appealed to the plebs. But the unpopularity of these laws led to more conservative laws attempting to rein in the Gracchi reforms such as the lex Octavia and the lex Terentia Cassia.

The price of grain became a major issue when the Roman province of Sicily revolted repeatedly, thus pushing the price to unaffordable levels. Lowering grain prices became an important part of the political platform of the radical popularist Saturninus, who acquired the office of plebeian tribune an unusual three times.

In 58 BC, the patrician-turned-plebeian Clodius Pulcher advanced a popularist political agenda in his bid for the tribunate by offering free grain for the poor. The expense was considerable, and Julius Caesar later reformed the dole. Augustus considered abolishing it altogether, but instead reduced the number of the recipients to 200,000, and perhaps later 150,000.