Pompey the Great | History | The Roman Military


Born on Sept. 29 106 BCE as Gnaseus Pompeius, Pompey the Great already had an advantage over most Romans; his father was a respected consul. Pompey went into Military service early on, and proved himself to be a competent leader and talented strategist. During the civil war between Gaius Marius and Lucius Sulla, Pompey allied himself with Sulla's forces, and utilizing new and creative strategies was able to crush many of Marius's men in Sicily and Africa. Later in his career he did work in Spain, which impressed men in Rome so much as to have Pompey elected consul in the year 70 BCE at the young age of 36. Once Pompey left his consulship he went back to work for the military. Taking control of a wing of the Navy, he cleared the Mediterranean Sea of the roving bands of pirates that had plagued Roman merchants. During his sea conquests he made new treaties and alliances with neighboring kingdoms that had a stake in the Sea. His working the Mediterranean allowed trade to flow freely, and allowed Rome's Navy to slowly gain a stronger and stronger grip on many trade routes between European kingdoms. This is very important, because it provided a huge income for Rome by ways of tariffs and taxes. After securing the seas, Pompey moved into land again, successfully taking Jerusalem and Syria for Rome. The importance of acquiring Jerusalem beyond money and expansion is obvious today.

Pompey returned to Rome as a seasoned and respected commander. It was on this return that his greatest honor was bestowed upon him; Pompey was placed with Caesar and Crassus to form the first great triumvirate. Things went smoothly between the men in the triumvirate, in the beginning, in fact Pompey married Julia, Ceaser's daughter. But this peace fell apart as time went on; Crassus died, as did Julia and Caesar began amassing his power. Caesar moved on to Gaul, and Pompey stayed in Rome. While in Gaul Caesar gained great power and ties with soldiers and the people, and by generating these ties Caesar had the loyalty base needed for his revolution. During 50 BCE, Caesar began moving his army closer and closer to Rome. Understandably worried, the Senate (and Pompey) ordered Caesar to disband his army. Caesar refused. Then, in January 49 BCE, Caesar marched into Rome and started the greatest Roman civil war. The war was short and violent, ending with Caesar victorious and Pompey running to Egypt. While there Pompey attempted to regroup and try to dethrone Caesar, but was instead assassinated by the very man he was seeking alliance with, a powerful leader named Ptolemy.