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Dreams of Empire - Fall of Rome
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The Fall of Rome
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The Fall of Rome

Dreams of Empire - The Fall of the Roman Empire
Dreams of Empire
The Fall of the Roman Republic

by Addison Hart

"The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice." - Cicero

Early in the first century BC, a Roman teenager from a minor patrician family visited Nicomedes, King of Bithynia. On his return trip to the city of Rome, the historian Plutarch tells us that "he was captured by pirates near the island of Pharmacusa. At that time there were large fleets of pirates, with ships large and small, infesting the seas everywhere." When the boy was first captured, the pirates demanded that the family pay twenty gold talents for his safe return, but it was soon upped to a good fifty talents when the boy told them that they did not understand the importance of their new prisoner. The boy sent most of his companions away to earn the money, and he was left alone with the pirates. The boy was not at all intimidated by the villainous pirates, and for thirty-eight days he lived with them, and they grew to respect the boy, and they even began to grow a sort of bond with him. The boy once, in a jovial manner, said to them that he would one day have them crucified. They laughed with him then.

The boy was released when the pirates received their ransom money, and he made his way to the city of Miletus, governed by one Junius. There he demanded that the pirates be pursued, and they were surprised on their island and captured by the Romans. The boy then ordered Junius, governor of Asia, that the pirates "be brought forth and crucified." So says Plutarch, "Thus he carried out the threat which he had often made to the pirates when he was their prisoner. They had never imagined that the boy should be taken seriously." That boy was Julius Caesar.

In the year 23 BC, the great Republic of Rome died. The symptoms had long been present, and the malady had been lingering. For nearly a hundred years since the time of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Rome had teetered on the balance between Republic and Empire, the man Octavian being the buffer separating the two, and now Rome had finally fallen headlong into despotism, and it had itself an emperor, Octavian, the divine Augustus. Octavian, the nephew of the late Julius Caesar had become an imperator, and he was now princeps, the first citizen. The Republic, diseased and dying from the living tumors of Sulla, Marius, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, and Antonius, failing slowly for so long, had finally up and croaked. In the year 23 BC, the Senate of Rome granted Octavian, now Augustus, the titles and powers of Imperium proconsulare maius and tribunicia potestas for life. In short, this not only turned over to him the state of Rome, and all of it's foreign provinces, but it set him up as Emperor, abolishing the great Republic which had stood strong for over four hundred years.

How this had come about was a long story that unfolded in a span of less than thirty years. The story is one of triumph, tragedy, violence, decadence, betrayal, and war. The story is full of figures, major and minor, many of which had less than noble characters. The majority of them would come to tragic ends. Perhaps the most important and most noble figure in the story is the Roman Republic itself, and its end is no less tragic than that of many other figures in this story.

The First Triumvirate
General Gaius Marius, the man who had saved Rome from the Germanic tribes at Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC, the man who had reformed the army of Rome, and the uncle of Gaius Iulius Caesar, was under attack. As soon as the great Social War of 90-89 BC ended in victory for the Senate of Rome, the great general Lucius Cornelius 'Felix' Sulla, one of Rome's Consuls, had left for Pontus to fight the upstart King Mithradates after being given command of the forces of the army of Asia. When Sulla returned, he found to his horror that all of his legions had been given, literally, to General Gaius Marius. Rallying his men, Sulla turned his aggression on Rome itself, and it's ancient and glorious Republic. He marched on Rome. This was treason. When Sulla burst into Rome, his men were sent out to execute hundreds of the "enemies of the state", slaughtering huge numbers of civilians. It was a free for all. Luckily for Marius, he'd missed the whole bloody thing, but many of his followers had not. This done, Sulla and his army left to defeat Mithradates and to march on Greece, to expand the Empire of the Republic of Rome. Marius, furious at what Sulla had done, marched his own army on Rome, seizing the city, murdering most of the followers of Sulla. The anti-aristocratic Marius and his Populare followers then declared Sulla public enemy number one. At this time, while Marius had his own reign of terror in the city of Rome and Sulla attempted to fight Mithradates, the Grecians, and the Populares at the same time, three young men started to gain notice, and power. These men were Marcus Licinius Crassus, Gnaeus Pompeius, and Gaius Julius Caesar.

The youngest of the three men was the lanky, long-nosed, hairless Gaius Iulius Caesar, Julius Caesar. Caesar was born on the 12th of July 100 BC, the son of Gaius Lucius Caesar and his wife Aurelia. The family that he was born into was from an old, minor aristocratic line. Caesar's political connections started in his lineage. His uncle by marriage was none other than Marius himself, the newest conqueror of Rome. In 84 BC, Caesar added another political connection when he married Cornelia, the daughter of Marius' right-hand man Cinna. Before Marius' death of natural causes in 86 BC, he made Caesar a minor priest in the city of Rome. Caesar's power was already beginning to grow. Four years after Marius died, Sulla returned with a vengeance. Mithradates was defeated, but still alive. He would die on his own sword in 63 BC. Mithradates' fall was not the only victory Sulla had won, either. Greece was now totally Rome's. This time, as he was proclaimed dictator, not simply hundreds of the Populares were put to death, but thousands. Young Julius Caesar was one of the lucky ones. After being initially arrested he was released with the orders to divorce Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna. Caesar refused. He soon found it prudent to leave Rome until Sulla resigned from office in 78 BC, and the Republic was restored. "Say what you like," said Sulla of him, "in that young fellow is many a Gaius Marius."

While Caesar hid himself from Sulla's vengeance, the stars of two other young men began to rise. Born in 106 BC, short, piggy-eyed Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Gnaeus Pompey the Great, was already famed by the time of Sulla. He, unlike Caesar, was an Optimate, a supporter of Sulla, and one of Sulla's best generals. Also unlike Caesar, he was hardly bald. The mop of hair that covered his head was nearly legendary. Despite his family connections to Cinna, Pompey "held the fort" for Sulla as he came up from Pontus. Defeating Sulla's enemies in Sicily, Spain, and later in Africa, Pompey earned two titles: Magnus, or great, and then 'teenage butcher'.

At this same time, the third of the young men, the eldest and the richest of the lot, entered the spotlight for the first time. Marcus Licinius Crassus was the son of a Consul, and he became a multimillionaire by buying the homes and villas of the "traitors" who had been either butchered or exiled by Sulla. Sulla sold off the properties for cheap prices, and because of the cheap prices, Crassus began to accumulate them quite easily. He then made his fortune by selling them off for whatever price they were actually worth. With this money, Crassus began buying real estate in the city, selling it off, or keeping it for the produce. It was said that at one time in his life, Marcus L. Crassus owned most of Rome. With his money he not only created monopolies, but he created armies. He also created careers. When Caesar returned to Rome in 73 BC after attending a school of rhetoric, Crassus began building his career on the off chance that he might well have great potential. Of the three men, none were as decadent as Crassus was.

Over the course of the next twenty-some years, the three men became famous for their civic and militaristic work. Pompey would become famed for his African Campaign, his Spanish campaign, the Black Sea Campaign, the Judean Campaign. Crassus, though he was never as great as such contemporaries as Caesar, Cicero, or Pompey, put down Spartacus' rebellion in 71 BC, and shared the Consulship with Pompey in 70. Caesar, the greatest of the three generals, was a relative unknown on the other hand. He was seen to break down in tears in front of a statue of Alexander the Great during his service in Spain, lamenting that the Macedonian had conquered most of the World by age thirty, while he, Caesar, had not conquered anything. He was still powerful, however. He was, after all, the Pontifex Maximus, the Chief Priest of Rome. Both Pompey and Crassus respected him. Pompey was a relative of Caesar's first wife, and Crassus had spent wads of denarii building up Caesar's career.

A Triumvirate, the rule of three, was always a nasty thing for the Romans. Most Triumvirates, or any occasion when Rome was controlled by multiple dictators at all for that matter, always seemed to break up in a very bloody Civil War in which most of the triumvirs were done in at the end. In the year 59 BC, Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar set up their own Triumvirate, tempting fate. As much as it may have damaged the glorious Republic, it was what was definitely in. What those three fellows wanted was to be done. Caesar had just come back from Spain after putting down a rebellion of Celtic tribes there. Now he was back in Rome, and Pompey and Crassus were out of a Consulship. The idea of the First Triumvirate was cemented into reality, and the three triumvirs were, as you guessed it, the bald Caesar, the decadent Crassus, and the piggy-eyed Pompey. Caesar would be the living buffer that held together the bunch for so long, as Crassus and Pompey were always political foes. He managed to keep them off each other's backs.

To cement the relationship, and to assure that no triumvir would meet with a tragic accident, Caesar gave his daughter Julia in marriage to Pompey. Oddly enough, there seems to have been genuine love here, a factor unusual in most political marriages. Julia, the forth wife of the great general, was not the first wife he'd married for political reason, nor the first wife he'd actually managed to fall in love with, but the love between the two was incredibly strong, so much so that it brought ridicule from his fellow Romans. Had the once strong Pompey suddenly melted down into a softy? Whatever the other Romans thought of him, Pompey had found true love with young Julia. While the former 'teenage butcher' was spending all of his time with his new wife, his influence and the influence of Crassus put the powerful Julius Caesar in control of the Senate as one of the two Consuls of Rome for the new year. The second Consul, Calpurnius Bibulus, served simply as a figurehead for the government. He held no real power; power was in the hands of the triumvirs alone. As Suetonius wrote, people did not see it as much as the joint Consulship of 'Bibulus and Caesar' as much as of 'Julius and Caesar'. Though opposed by the conservative Senators known as Optimates (who always supported Pompey), there was no doubt as to whom was in charge. Caesar's first action was to push a land bill for the veterans of the armies of the Republic. He then proposed a bill designed to stem the misconduct of the provincial governors set up by the Republic. At the same time, Caesar's allies ensured that as soon as his term ended he would become the Pro-Consul of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum. Soon, with the sudden death of its present governor, Transalpine Gaul was added to his list. This was exactly what the wily old devil wanted.

Caesar left for his new territory, Roman Gallia (mainly the area south of the Alps and to the east of the Apennines, abruptly ending at the little river Rubicon). There he would become embroiled in one of the greatest military campaigns in history. With a large army of Italians and Spaniards, Caesar came to the assistance of an ally of Rome, the Celtic tribe known as the Aedui, in independent Northern Gaul. What had initially started as an operation to protect the Aedui from the Swiss tribe known as the Helvetti soon became a ten-year campaign for domination of all of Gaul, and parts of Germania. While Caesar fought Celtic tribes such as the Helvetti, Ariovistos, and the Nervii, trouble brewed in Rome. In 58 BC, the new Consul of Rome was declared. His name was Publius Clodius Pulcher. Clodius would have felt right at home alongside such men as Al Capone or Lucky Luciano, as a more monstrous fellow would have been hard to find. While he sat as a Consul, his mobs terrorized the streets of Rome, checked only by the mobs of Titus Annius Milo. Those who spoke out against Clodius were in very serious danger. The great orator and barrister Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of the lucky ones. He was only banished from Rome after denouncing the Borgia-like Clodius. As one can imagine, it was quite a relief to everyone when Clodius' term was up. He would still manage to make life hell for just about anyone in Rome, however, whether he was Consul or not.

In 55 BC, Julius Caesar bridged the Rhine, invaded Germany, and then turned about and crossed the English Channel. His men leapt from their boats, the standard of the 10th Legion moving forward onto the shores of Brittania. Within a short while, the Celts were routed from the beaches. The Romans did not stick around that long however, a large army of Britons could easily be raised against the Romans, and Caesar barely had a toehold on the isle. While Caesar expanded the territories of Republican Rome, Pompey and Crassus sat in the city, sharing the Consulship. The following year, Pompey was made Pro-Consul of Hispania, which he would rule from Rome via legates. It was in this year that tragedy struck. Not only was Pompey devastated by the events, but also the relationship between Pompey and Caesar was permanently shattered. Julia had died giving birth; the child had died shortly afterwards. Gnaeus Pompey was distraught.

While Pompey mourned his wife, Caesar launched a second attack on Brittania, but it was cut short when Caesar received the news of the Celtic rebellion in northeast Gaul. As Caesar slogged back across the Channel, the eldest triumvir, old Marcus L. Crassus, was preparing his own military campaign. Parthia (Persia) had long been a source of agitation for Rome, a thorn in it's side, so to speak. Now Crassus decided that it was finally time to make a strike at King Orodes II and his men, led by the capable Surenas. In 53 BC, while the mobs of Clodius and Milo ran amuck in Rome Crassus invaded Parthia. His seven thousand-man army managed to get itself in very grave danger, however, when the huge army of the brilliant Surenas attacked. In the midst of a long battle at Carrhae, Crassus asked for terms of surrender. There were no terms given. Parthia didn't want his surrender; it simply wanted his head. Crassus was killed near the end of the fight, his son Publius falling as well. There were 5,500 Roman casualties that day, and most of them were fatalities. While Publius' severed head was stuck onto a spear on the battlefield, the triumvir's head and right hand were sent to King Orodes himself. In his palace, Orodes poured molten gold into the mouth of the late Crassus, exclaiming, "Satisfy yourself with the metal for which you were so greedy in life." Marcus Licinius Crassus was dead.

The following year, a lone Pompey assumed the Consulship, watching over Rome as, in succession, Caesar put down a rebellion of Gauls under Vercingetorix in the siege of Alesia (fighting a Celtic army that had actually surrounded him at the same time), and then Milo himself personally slew Clodius in the streets of Rome. Milo was exiled after a long trial. His skillful defender was none other than Marcus T. Cicero himself, a long enemy of the dead Clodius, freshly back from exile. Soon after, however, the riots grew so bad that a mob actually burned the Senate House to the ground. It was, of course, quickly rebuilt, and bigger and swankier than ever. With this year, Rome was no longer simply a great Mediterranean power, it was a European empire. Now, with Caesar wrapping up things in Gaul, with Crassus dead in Parthia, and Pompey gaining power in Rome, the stage was set for the fall of the Republic of Rome.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was jealous of his young rival, who was, at the time, sending back to Rome his Commentarii de bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War) to promote himself in the political arena. While Pompey sat running things alone in Rome, Caesar was gaining fame in his province, expanding the empire, and defeating the barbarians who opposed Rome's rule. Even a man so influential as Pompey was no where as popular as the younger general who had conquered the Gauls. Pompey was far too busy running things in the city to be able to go about accomplishing such similar acts of conquest. That sort of thing had been left to Crassus and just look where it had gotten him. Pompey was certain of one thing: Caesar would definitely have to go. Though there were still plenty of supporters of Caesar in Rome, Pompey was the real power in the city. As Pompey slowly weakened Caesar's army by relocating his legions to other areas of the empire, he moved in for the kill politically. At the start of the year of 51 BC, an attempt was made by the Consul of Rome to have Caesar removed, but it failed. Caesar now knew what was up, and he sent a suggestion to the Senate that both he and Pompey resign simultaneously. The Senate rejected the idea, much to the delight of the rotund General Pompey. The next idea of Caesar's was to resign as Pro-Consul for Gaul and Illyricum, and make his way directly to Rome to become Consul, but that idea quickly dissipated. Caesar had served as Consul in 59 BC, he could only run again after an interval of ten years. He had to think quickly. He was in terrible danger of receiving punishment through the courts for his actions in Gaul (which had been done for the most part without the approval of the Senate). If Pompey should act quickly, Caesar would be done for.

Finally, Pompey made his move. On January 1st and 7th, 49 BC, the Senate met in the Curia (the Senate House) to discuss what they should do regarding the conqueror of Gaul. Pompey's supporters called for Caesar's immediate recall, alone and unarmed, over the little Rubicon just below Ravenna to return to Rome as a private citizen. His political enemy, General Lucius Domitus Ahenobarbus (like Marcus Brutus, a son-in-law to Cato the Younger) would henceforth command his Gallic legions. After Caesar's recall, the Senate, with the full powers granted by senatusconsultum ultimum (in other words, a free hand in all decisions) would do what to him what was best. In other words, Caesar would probably end up being dredged out of the Tiber a few days after his return. No questions, of course, would be asked.

A few men rejected the idea. Among these men was Marcus Antonius (the famed Marc Antony), a trusted friend and general under Caesar, and one of the government's plebeian tribunes. Another of these was the future Master of the Horse, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, another one of Caesar's generals. Even the Consul, Lucius Lentulus, was not pleased by the idea. Lentulus announced that he would support the decisions of the Senate, even if it were not in favor of Caesar. "If on the other hand," he said, "as has happened on previous occasions, you are going to let your thoughts turn toward Caesar and the prospects of making yourselves popular in that direction, then I, Lentulus, am going to make my own decisions without reference to you. I too can, if I like, make myself safe by accepting Caesar's favor and Caesar's friendship." It was decided that Caesar would be recalled from Gaul alone.

On January 12th, 49 BC, Gaius Iulius Caesar committed treason against the Republic of Rome. In the early morning hours of January the 12th, makeshift bridges were thrown across the little Rubicon River, and soon after they were put down, hundreds of armored human killing machines trod across them. Jogging across the river was Caesar's single legion. As Caesar watched his men come over the river, he uttered the famous words "The die is cast." More troops from other areas of Gaul and Germania were quickly advancing in support. There was no turning back now. By bringing his troops into Italy, Caesar had committed high treason. No one was to bring troops into Rome, or most of Italy, unless the city of Rome was in danger. Caesar was back in Italia, and he was here to stay. Pompey was literally unable to do anything but desperately try to recruit troops in Italy, and call up his own men from Hispania. There were no Pompeian soldiers already in Italia, and so with his single legion, Caesar could do enough damage. It was obvious what was going to happen, Caesar would take Italy, and Rome. Pompey would have to flee and recruit his own troops in Spain and in the East, as Sulla had done against Marius. There would be Civil War. Within a week of the invasion, Caesar had conquered much of Umbria and Picenum, Ariminum and Ancona falling almost immediately. Unlike Marius and Sulla, Caesar was actually clement to the captured Pompeians, which was something of a pleasant surprise to those conquered. It was one of the great reasons that Caesar became so popular in such a short period of time.

Caesar soon found his way blocked by the makeshift army of L. Domitus Ahenobarbus, Caesar's old enemy. At Corfinium, Caesar came up against Ahenobarbus' troops, and the walls of the city that protected them. His walls were guarded also by large, missile tossing weapons known as ballistas. After a short skirmish, Marcus Antonius' 13th Legion came up against the walls, joining Caesar in the siege. Many of Pompey's own legions, such as those of Ahenobarbus, were leaving Pompey for Caesar. He had, after all, lead most of these same men to victory in Gaul and Germania. In a short amount of time, the town surrendered. It had been an almost bloodless victory. However, Ahenobarbus and many of his thirty cohorts of men had slipped away. Ahenobarbus himself had tried a botched attempt at suicide, but he was still on his feet and able to command. The ease of Caesar's conquests unnerved the plump Pompey, and he decided that the only thing to do was to abandon Rome for Greece. Despite being a great general, Pompey had no men to fight against Caesar with. Pompey immediately left for Canossa, and from there he made his way to the great port city of Brundisium in the south of Italia. Unable even to rely on the loyalty of his own remaining soldiers, even those in Spain, Pompey stepped into a boat for Greece. Perhaps the Grecians would support him against this rebel. Looking back upon Italy, Pompey, in an optimistic way, said, "Sulla did it, why not I?" Now that Pompey was gone, there was no one to fight in Italia. In less than three months after crossing the Rubicon, Caesar marched his troops right into Rome unopposed. There he secured the treasury. He soon began making his plans for the attack on the remaining Pompeian forces in Europe, namely the defenders of the port city of Massilia (Marseilles) and the legions of Hispania. Despite the fact that the Senate gave him no support, he was the one with the troops, and the popularity. The Republicans were still strong, but only abroad, in such provinces as Hispania and North Africa.

When Caesar began his march to Massilia, he found that his enemy, Ahenobarbus was occupying the city with his cohorts, and that Pompey had sent another of his lieutenants, Vibullius Rufus, off to Hispania. While stopping to try and gain the support of an independent Gallic tribe in the region to assist him in his attack on Massilia, Caesar allowed, much to his regret, Ahenobarbus to slip through his fingers and enter Massilia, becoming the city's governor and protector. Angered and frustrated by Ahenobarbus' sudden move, and the refusal of the barbarian tribes to assist him, Caesar ordered that three of his legions advance to the city, and that warships be built at neighboring ports to assist in the attack. Within thirty days they were completed, and Caesar put them under the charge of Decimus Brutus. Caesar then "entrusted the task of besieging the city to Gaius Trebonius."

While Caesar prepared to advance on Massilia, he sent on three more legions of his men under General Gaius Fabius to open the campaign in Hispania. Lucius Vibullius Rufus was present with, as Suetonius wrote "very strong forces" under Marcus Petreius, Lucius Afranius (a legate), and Marcus Varro (the second legate, a writer). Afranius' three legions held eastern Spain. Four legions were in western Spain under Petreius and Varro. Petreius took his two legions to the east where Afranius held an impressive strategic position. Fabius was moving his men forward towards his enemies while they maneuvered. Caesar arrived a short while later, nine hundred cavalrymen with him. While Massilia was assaulted by land and by sea, Caesar would personally take over in Hispania. As Caesar and Fabius advanced with six legions, 5000 auxiliaries, and 3000 cavalry, Afranius dug into his position.

When Afranius and Petreius realized, much to their dismay, that the last thing Caesar was going to do was retreat, and that they would not be able to withdraw, as hoped, they decided to frighten Caesar's men somewhat, sending several of their own legions down towards Caesar's entrenchments. However, Afranius called off the feint before the legions could reach Caesar's lines. Afranius soon began to slowly pull his men away, hoping to escape from Caesar's forces in the night. Before all of Afranius' men withdrew, Caesar sent forward one legion to seize the hillock. However, Afranius saw what Caesar was up to and brought in his own troops. Here, at the hills near Lerida, Caesar and Afranius would fight. As Caesar's legion fell back, he brought up the 9th Legion in support. Unfortunately, these men were trapped in a bad position. As Afranius' men charged down on them from the heights, rushing down the rocky slopes, hundreds of pila (javelins) were tossed down at Caesar's men. As Caesar wrote, "every weapon directed at them found its mark." While Afranius and Caesar put fresh cohorts into the battle, the two legions on the hill fought valiantly, suffering horrendous casualties. Unable to move forward, they didn't want to lose the day by moving backward. After five hours of long and bloody fighting, as the plains below the hills began to flood in a heavy rainstorm, Caesar finally ordered an all-out attack. He was heavily outnumbered, but every one of his men unsheathed his own gladius (sword) and plowed up the hill, catching the Pompeians quite by surprise. The Pompeians stood no chance as Caesar's men broke through the enemy works and swarmed into the enemy's lines. "Some [Pompeians] they [Caesar's men] cut to pieces, others they forced to turn and run." With Afranius' men frantically running into the town below the hill, or dying in their positions behind the wall, Caesar's beleaguered legions could withdraw to a safer position. In the aftermath, Caesar recorded that he had lost seventy men killed, including one centurion. Afranius had lost two hundred dead; four centurions had perished among them. The senior Centurion was also dead.

Several days later, in the midst of the rain, Afranius attacked in the midst of the night. With three of his legions he had his entire cavalry force. In the darkness, the Gallic Cavalry of Caesar rode into the midst of the battle. The cavalry and several cohorts of archers held out in the darkness while Afranius hurled his forces at them. Caesar's troops only withdrew once the legions of Afranius advanced. Afranius soon called off the assault further; it was too dark to do much more. Caesar then began to outflank his enemy, moving across the swollen rivers. Caesar would have to outmaneuver his enemy. While Caesar made this movement, he received good news from Massilia. Ahenobarbus' fleet had been destroyed outside the port by Caesar's newly built warships. Nine Massilian ships had been sunk or captured. The rest were now bottled up with Ahenobarbus in the city.

Road to Pharsalus
The reports coming in from Hispania were disturbing. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was horrified. It seemed that all of eastern Spain was lost. General Petreius had watched in horror as his men simply betrayed Great Pompey at Lerida. They had sworn an oath to Caesar! Not only this, but they joined his ranks, fighting Afranius' own Pompeian forces…their own brothers in arms! Petreius, in tears, himself felt compelled to swear the oath. It was the only way to ensure his survival. Afranius' men soon followed Petrieus' men, leaving for Caesar's camps. Within a remarkably short period, most of Pompey's troops in Hispania had deserted for Caesar's forces. The Senate mourned. Pompey mourned. All along the river Var, Afranius' men fell away from the fighting, surrendering to Caesar, and perhaps hoping to find a place in his legions. Afranius himself had finally been forced to swear the oath. What could General Varro do now against these numbers when fighting in eastern Hispania? Surely, Pompey felt disheartened.

While he waited in Illyricum, building up his legions in Greece and in the east, Pompey must have felt that there weren't too many chances of his final victory now. The only loyalists in Rome now were the Republicans, the Senate, and men like Marcus Cicero. Even Cicero wasn't sure of him. The great barrister despaired that both Pompey and Caesar wanted to control Rome themselves. Now, while Pompey visited Ptolemaic Pharaoh Cleopatra of Egypt for help in his war on Caesar, the rebel was taking over most of Europe. Pompey arrived in late 49 BC at the Egyptian port city of Alexandria. The city, built by Alexander the Great, whom Pompey always sought to emulate, had become one of the greatest cities in the world. As well as becoming the capital of Egypt, it was a center of learning and the arts. The city was not only home to the Grecian Royal Family of Egypt, it was home to the Great Pharos Lighthouse, one of the World's Seven Wonders. It was also the site of the Great Library. It was truly a magnificent city. Pompey met the daughter of the late Pharaoh Ptolemy XII, Neos Dionysos, Auletes upon his arrival in the city. This daughter was, of course, Cleopatra VII, Thea Philopator. Pompey knew her from years before when he had brought down the Seleucid armies in the area. She was, of course, much younger then, hardly a teenager. He now met her at the palace of Alexandria, right on the waterfront. Pompey had been on good terms with the recently departed Auletes, who had assisted him in his campaigns against the Seleucids some years before. The Ptolemies were in Pompey's debt; after all, it was one of Pompey's generals who had assured Auletes' rule in the first place. The troops of General Gabinus, and fifty of Egypt's best warships were given to Pompey, along with cartloads of grain for Pompey's troops. Before Pompey left Alexandria, he received more bad news. A short time after the destruction of the Pompeian Spanish legions at Ilerda, Massilia surrendered after a long siege and many bloody assaults on the earthworks. Caesar states that in some areas, the walls of the city were eighty feet tall. Despite the apparent impregnability of the position, the city had been taken. Domitus Ahenobarbus himself had fled in one of the few surviving ships, running Caesar's blockade and slipping away into the Mediterranean, where he was protected from Caesar's vengeance. More bad news came in; it seemed that Caesar had invaded North Africa. If the African campaigns of Caesar were to succeed, Pompey would be surrounded, boxed in. His only avenues of escape would be either Egypt, or the Far East, to the far cities of India and China where few Romans ever stepped foot.

The news was slightly inaccurate. Caesar hadn't actually invaded North Africa. Caesar had sent General Gaius S. Curio and four legions and five hundred cavalrymen to Africa. For one reason or another, Curio only took two of the four legions into Africa, but it seemed to be enough at first. As Caesar fell upon Massilia, and Pompey paid a visit to Cleopatra, Curio boldly attacked Pompey's legions in Mauritania under General Publius Varus. Backing up Varus, much to the horror of Curio, was King Juba I of Mauritania and the Numidian cavalry. Six hundred Numidian horsemen and four hundred infantrymen were struck at Utica by a headlong assault led by Curio himself. After routing the Numidians, Curio declared victory, his troops hailing him as 'Imperator'. Now, in the midst of this victory, the unexpected happened. Caesar writes, "…a great cloud of dust appeared in the distance and very soon the vanguard came into sight." Juba had arrived. Curio met Juba head on, defeating him in a violent battle. Juba's cavalry escaped but much of his infantry did not. Juba withdrew to regroup. In the meantime, Curio pressed on, but was soon surrounded by his enemies, Under constant attack; Curio began to fall into the doldrums. Finally, Curio marched on Juba's newest armies, assembled from Leptis Magna. Backing up Juba was Varus and his legions. Leaving his camp, Curio took most of his army forward, leading the infantry himself, leaving the cavalry command to Gnaeus Domitus. In the pitched battle that followed, Curio's army was systematically cut to pieces and destroyed by the Pompeians. Exposing himself to the enemy, Curio cried to Domitus, "I have lost the army which Caesar entrusted to me. I can never face him again." In the heat of battle the enemy swooped down on him. Curio himself was literally cut to pieces. Few horsemen survived the fight, and as Caesar wrote, "the soldiers in the legion were killed to the man." Pompey had been saved from having Caesar roll up both his flanks.

As Caesar made plans for an invasion of Illyricum and a landing at the city of Dyrrachium in Greece, directly across the Adriatic from Italy, Pompey built himself an army with the assistance of Publius Scipio, his lieutenant and new father-in-law. Domitus Ahenobarbus had arrived from Massilia as well, assuming command of a legion of Pompey's. The great Marcus Porcius Cato, Cato the Younger, was also present. Pompey might well have now outnumbered Caesar, but he knew that against Caesar he could not win in battle. Whereas Caesar's men were veterans, Pompey's men were all green. Pompey's greatest asset was his navy. Romans did not easily take to the sea, but Pompey's navy was the finest in the world at the time. He controlled the whole of the Mare Internum (Mediterranean Sea), and made things increasingly hard for Caesar to get his troops across the water. By November of 49 BC, Caesar had finally managed to get his troops across the sea, landing at Epirus in northern Greece. Though Pompey's troops in the region boxed him in, he expected reinforcements. While receiving news of his election to Consul for the year of 48 BC, Caesar barely avoided a pitched battle with his conservative enemy as Marcus Antonius attempted, with great difficulty, to join Caesar with the rest of the army. Finally, in early 48 BC, after a long wait, the tall, curly-haired, square-faced Antonius brought his army to Dyrrachium, much to Caesar's relief.

Caesar had been fighting his own demons in Rome. Most of the Senators opposed the liberal Caesar, and many, such as Cato the Younger, had simply left Rome for Pompey's lines. A Praetor (a legal eagle of Rome), Marcus Caelius Rufus, had actually led an open rebellion in Rome after his removal from his post. Summoning up the mob leader Milo, exiled after the murder of Clodius, he purchased the services of a group of armed gladiators, marching them on to Casilinum in the Thurii district. On the day of his arrival, the real trouble started. The Consul, Servillus, seized the arms and standards of Milo's makeshift "army" at Capua. Meanwhile, in nearby Neapolis (Naples), the gladiatorial bands were seeing slogging about the countryside. Soon, Caelius' plan was revealed, and he was denounced and thrown out of Capua. Caelius then developed a new plan. Milo, claiming to act under the orders of one of Pompey's lieutenants, Vibullius Rufus, marched on to Cosca, freeing slaves and gladiators alike, recruiting men for his "army", capturing more weapons to replace the old ones. Soon, Milo attacked the town of Cosca. Much to his horror, the Praetor Quintus Pedius was there with an entire legion. In a very short time, the little fight was over; Milo's men were quickly defeated. Milo had been one of the first to fall. He'd been struck in the skull by a stone, dying instantly. Caelius fled to Thurii where some of Caesar's cavalrymen caught up with him in the night. With him died the rebellion.

Caesar was now ready to move onward, Antonius by his side. He left the little port city of Palaeokastro in the charge of three veteran cohorts. As Caesar moved on, Gnaeus Pompeius, a son of Pompey the Great, attacked. The Egyptian Fleet, as young Gnaeus' force was called, had some initial success in the operation, but the attack was soon called off. With the abortive naval assault finished, Caesar marched forward, Pompey withdrawing before him, hoping to avoid a full-scale battle. Caesar cut a bloody swath into Thessaly, taking first the city of Dyrrachium, and pushing back Pompey's vanguard. However, Pompey struck at a fraction of Caesar's force as the rebel marched on to Thessaly, and won a minor victory over his enemy. Despite these victories on Pompey's part, Caesar was doing extremely well. Of course, in this seesaw Civil War, one could never be too sure as to what on earth would happen next. What did happen next was the battle of Pharsalus.

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Copyright © 2002 Addison Hart.

Written by Addison Hart.

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