Roman Emperor: Augustus (27BC-AD14)

The future emperor Augustus was born into an equestrian family as Gaius Octavius at Rome on 23 September 63 BC. His father, Gaius Octavius, was the first in the family to become a senator, but died when Octavian was only four. It was his mother who had the more distinguished connection. She was the daughter of Julia, sister to Julius Caesar.

As for his character it is said that he was cruel when young, but became mild later on. This, however, might just be because, as his position became more secure, the need for brutality lessened. For he was still prepared to be ruthless when necessary. He was tolerant of criticism, possessed a good sense of humour, and had a particular fondness for playing dice, but often provided his guests with money to place bets.

Although unfaithful to his wife Livia Drusilla, he remained deeply devoted to her. His public moral attitudes were strict (he had been appointed pontifex (priest) at the age of fifteen or sixteen) and he exiled his daughter and his grand-daughter, both named Julia, for offending against these principles.

Octavian served under Julius Caesar in the Spanish expedition of 46 BC despite his delicate health. And he was to take a senior military command in Caesar’s planned Parthian expedition of 44 BC, although at the time being only 18 years old.

But Octavian was with his friends Marcus Agrippa and Marcus Salvidienus Rufus in Apollonia in Epirus completing his academic and military studies, when news reached him of Caesar’s assassination.

At once he returned to Rome, learning on the way that Caesar had adopted him in his will. No doubt this only increased his desire to avenge Caesar’s murder.

Though when he arrived Octavian found power in the hands of Mark Antony and Aemilius Lepidus. They were urging compromise and amnesty. But Octavian refused to accept this attitude. With his determined stand he soon succeeded in winning over many of Caesar’s supporters, including some of the legions.

Though he failed to persuade Marc Antony to hand over Caesar’s assets and documents. Therefore Octavian was forced to distribute Caesar’s legacies to the Roman public from whatever funds he was able to raise himself. Such efforts to see Caesar’s will done helped raise Octavian’s standing with the Roman people considerably.

Many of the senators, too, were opposed to Antony. Octavian, appreciated as Antony’s primary rival by then, was granted the status of senator, despite not yet being twenty.

During the summer of 44 BC the senate’s leader, Cicero, delivered a series of infamous speeches against Marc Antony which came to be known as the ‘Philippics’. Cicero saw in the young Octavian a useful ally. So, when in November 44 BC Antony left Rome to take command in northern Italy, Octavian was dispatched with the senate’s blessing to make war on Antony. Marc Antony was defeated at Mutina (43 BC) and forced to retreat into Gaul.

But now it showed that Cicero had definitely lost control of the young Octavian. Had the two reigning consuls both been killed in the battle, then in August 43 BC Octavian marched on Rome and forced the senate to accept him as consul. Three months thereafter he met with Antony and Lepidus at Bologna and the three came to an agreement, the Triumvirate. This agreement between Rome’s three most powerful men completely cut off the senate from power (27 November 43 BC).

Cicero was killed in the proscriptions that followed. Brutus and Cassius, Caesar’s chief assassins, were defeated at Philippi in northern Greece.
Octavian and Marc Antony, the winners at Philippi, reached a new agreement in October 40 BC in the Treaty of Brundisium. The Roman empire was to be divided between them, Antony taking the east, Octavian the west. The third man, Lepidus, was no longer an equal partner. He therefore had to make do with the province of Africa. To further strengthen their agreeement, Antony married Octavians’ sister Octavia. But it was not to be long, before Antony abandoned her to return to his lover Cleopatra.

Meanwhile Octavian’s own standing had been heightened by the deification of Julius Caesar in early 42 BC. He was no longer to be addressed as ‘Octavian’ but insisted on being called ‘Caesar’ and he now styled himself as ‘divi filius‘ – ‘son of the divine’.

He used the following years to strengthen his hold over the western provinces. Also in this time Marcus Agrippa, Octavian’s most loyal friend, delivered Italy from the menace of the fleet of Sextus Pompeius, a son of Pompey the Great.

As Lepidus fell by the wayside during the conflict with Sextus Pompeius, this left Antony and Octavian rulers of the Roman world. Antony lived openly with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. Octavian’s apparent modesty and moral strictness contrasted strongly with Antony’s life as an oriental monarch at the lavish Egytian court. Rome’s sympathies therefore clearly lay with Octavian.

By 32 BC the agreement made at Tarentum (an extension of the Treaty of Brundisium by four years) strictly speaking had run its course and the Triumvirate ceased to be. Octavian tried to maintain the charade that he really wasn’t exercising any powers.

When Antony divorced Octavia, Octavian lashed out by reading out in public Antony’s will, which had quite illegally come into his possession. This will promised not only large inheritances to his children by Cleopatra, but it also demanded that, should he die in Italy, his body should be returned to Cleopatra in Egypt. Antony’s will was the final straw. For in all Rome’s eyes, this could never be the will of a true Roman. The senate declared war.

At Actium on the west coast of Greece on 2 September 31 BC the fateful battle took place. Once again it was Agrippa who commanded the forces on behalf of his friend Octavian and won victory.

Both Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide. The vast treasures of Egypt fell to Octavian, and Egypt itself became a new Roman province.

Octavian’s next, highly questionable act was to put to death Cleopatra’s son Caesarion. Caesarion in fact was the child of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Octavian being the adoptive son of Caesar, he in essence ordered the death of his step-brother.

Victory of Actium had given Octavian the undivided mastery of the Roman world. But this position had once been held before by Julius Caesar. Octavian was not one to forget what fate had befallen Caesar. In order to prevent a similar demise, he needed to create a new constitution.

Hence on January 27 BC Octavian in the so-called ‘First Settlement’ went through a strangely orchestrated ceremony in which he ‘surrendered’ all his power to the senate – thus restoring the Republic. It was a purely symbolical sacrifice as he receiving most of the very same power right back again.

The entire effort were meticulously planned and overseen by his supporters and associates. Octavian received into his personal control, for ten years, the vitally important provinces of Egypt, Cyprus, Spain, Gaul and Syria. Also he was contually re-elected as consul from 31 to 23 BC.

Further he now received the name ‘Augustus’, a slightly archaic term, meaning ‘sacred’ or ‘revered’. Augustus apparently preferred the term ‘princeps‘ (first citizen) which he had been granted, though he also kept the title imperator to point out his position as military chief of staff.

Octavian’s great achievement was persuading the senate to accept him as head of the Roman state, while leaving the senators room for their political ambitions. Augustus left Rome for Gaul and Spain to put down truculent tribes in the summer of 27 BC and did not return until 24 BC. Then in 23 BC Augustus fell so seriously ill that he himself thought he was dying. This brush with death appeared to have been a further decisive moment in his life. For when he recovered, he set about once more to change the Roman constitution.
In the ‘Second Settlement’ Augustus gave up the consulship and instead was awarded tribunician powers (tribunicia potestas) for life by the senate.
Tribunician powers gave him the right to call the senate to meetings, to propose legislation in the popular assembly, and to veto any enactments. Also his command over ‘his’ provinces was renewed.

Then in 19 BC he also was granted not merely the consulship (which lasted for one year) but consular power for life. His power was thereafter unassailable. Augustus held equal power to the most powerful politicians in Rome and yet greater power still in the provinces of the empire.

On the death of Lepidus (12 BC), the failed third Triumvir, who had been shunted aside with the conciliatory position of pontifex maximus, Augustus assumed that highest of all religious positions for himself.
Perhaps the highest point came in 2 BC when the senate granted Augustus a new honour. He was henceforth pater patriae, the father of the country.

Augustus was undoubtedly one of the most talented, energetic and skillful administrators that the world has ever known. The enormously far-reaching work of reorganization and rehabilitation which he undertook in every branch of his vast empire created a new Roman peace with unprecedented prosperity.
Following in the footsteps of Julius Caesar, he won genuine popular support by hosting games, erecting new buildings, and by other measures to the general good. Augustus himself claimed to have restored 82 temples in one year alone. But further there were grand new buildings like the Theatre of Apollo, the Horologium (a giant sun dial) and the great Mausoleum of Augustus.

Augustus’ right hand man Agrippa, too, embarked on several major building projects. Among these were the Pantheon, later rebuilt by Hadrian. Agrippa also repaired the city’s water system and added two new aquaeducts, the Aqua Julia and the Aqua Virgo.

One building though is clearly lacking from Augustus’ reign – a palace. He lived in a spacious house on the Palatine Hill, evidently avoiding any symbols of monarchy. And although he did continue to style himself ‘divi filius‘, son of the deified Caesar, he clearly avoided any form of worship to his own person as was the case in the eastern world, where rulers were themselves frequently worshipped as gods.

Most of all, Augustus appeared to appreciate that his personal standing and security benefitted from governing in the public interest.

Augustus was no great military commander, but he possessed enough common sense to recognize that this was so. And so he relied on Agrippa to do his fighting for him. After Actium, Augustus only once took command of a campaign (the Cantabrian War of 26-25 BC) in Spain. But even there he eventually had to rely on one of his generals to bring the war to a successful conclusion.

Though despite his lack of military skill, Augustus achieved vast gains in imperial territory as well as in the standing of Rome.

Most important was no doubt the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. Then in 20 BC he recovered the legionary standards captured by the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC simply by threatening Parthia with war. Also he made the Danube the frontier in the east of Europe, after his forces fought hard campaigns conquering the Alpine tribes and occupying the Balkans.

But his attempts at making the river Elbe the empire’s northwestern frontier ended in the Varian disaster and it became clear to everyone that the Rhine was to be the future border.

Under Augustus the army was thoroughly reorganized strengthened and posted away from Italy into the provinces. He also remodelled the civil service and substantially rebuilt some parts of Rome, even appointing 3’500 firemen under a chief fire officer.

No-one could ever have foreseen the success of Augustus’ reign. His long life only went to further create him and his family as the natural rulers in the eyes of the Roman people. Although to create a dynasty proved very difficult to Augustus.

At first he clearly understood his loyal friend Agrippa to be his obvious successor. And, when he believed himself to lay dying in 23 BC, it was indeed Agrippa he handed his signet ring to. As his marriage to Livia, accept for a premature birth, produced no children, his plans of inheritence therefore envolved his daughter Julia from his previous marriage to Scribonia.
Had Julia been married to Marcellus in 25 BC (the son of Augustus’ sister Octavia), then Marcellus was also a potential heir. But Marcellus died soon after 23 BC.

So, with Agrippa his only possible successor, Augustus had his friend divorce his existing wife and marry the widowed Julia. Agrippa was 25 years older than his new wife, but their marriage brought forth three sons and two daughters. Augustus adopted the sons Gaius and Lucius as his own. Then in 12 BC Agrippa died. Augustus realized that should he himself die, the two young boys would be left without a guardian.

Therefore, Augustus turned to his wife Livia’s two adult sons from her previous marriage. He made the elder son, Tiberius, divorce his wife Vipsania and marry Julia, and become protector to the young princes.

Tiberius deeply loved his wife Vipsania and strongly resented Augustus’ demands, but the marriage went ahead on 12 February 11 BC.
As both Gaius and Lucius died early in their lives, Augustus was left with only one choice of successor – Tiberius, son of Livia. And so, on 26 June AD 4 he somewhat reluctantly adopted the equally reluctant 44 year old Tiberius, together with the 15 year old Agrippa Postumus, the youngest son of Agrippa and Julia.

Postumus though soon turned out to be a violent and thoroughly nasty individual and so was sent into exile only three years later.

During his final years Augustus withdrew more and more from public life. Intending to travel with Tiberius to Capri, and then on to Beneventum, he left Rome for the last time in AD 14.

He fell ill on the way to Capri and, after four days resting on Capri, when they crossed back to the mainland Augustus at last passed away. He died at Nola on 19 August AD 14, only one month away of his 76th birthday.

The body was taken to Rome and given a stately funeral and his ashes were then placed in his Mausoleum.

Roman History: Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born on the 12th July 100 BC in Rome, Italy to parents Gaius Julius Caesar and Aurelia Cotta.  Allegedly Julius Caesar was a descendant of Trojan Prince Aeneas, and his birth marked the beginning of a new chapter in Roman history.

His parents believed in the Populare ideology of Rome, favouring democratization of the government and more rights for the lower class.  Whilst the Optimate factions claimed superiority for the nobility and traditional Roman values, which favoured the upper classes.

With the death of his father in 85 BC, the young Julius Caesar became head of the family.  Belonging to the priesthood appealed to Caesar, bringing most benefit to the family, with this in mind he got himself nominated as the new High Priest of Jupiter.

The position of a priest carried conditions; one must be of patrician stock and married to a patrician.  In 84 BC, Julius Caesar married Cornelia, the daughter of nobleman Lucius Cinna, an influential member of the Populares.  Julius and Cornelia were blessed with a daughter; Julia Caesaris in 76 BC, and in 69 BC, Cornelia died.

When the Roman ruler Sulla declared himself dictator, he systematically purged his enemies and those who held Populare ideology.  Caesar was targeted and ordered to divorce Cornelia, but refused.

Sullar had Caesar’s name added to a list of those to be captured and executed.  Caesar had no choice, but to go into hiding.  The sentence was lifted by the intercession of his mother’s family, the Cotta’s.

Julius Caesar was stripped of his position as priest, his wife’s dowry confiscated.  With no financial means by which to support his family, he had no choice but to join the army.

Julius Caesar, a man of God, proved his worth as a military man, and in 79 BC was awarded the “Civic Crown with Oak Leaves” for saving a citizens life in battle.

Caesar was sent to Nicomedes, to negotiate with the King of Bithynia, to obtain a fleet of ships, in which he proved to be a successful negotiator.

In 78 BC, Sulla the Dictator dies, and Caesar returned to Rome, and became an Orator (Lawyer).  He relocated to Rhodes to study philosophy.

In 75 BC, whilst sailing to Greece, he was captured by Cilician pirates and held for ransom, for thirty-eight days.

When Caesar learned they were asking a mere twenty talents, he proclaimed he was worth far more, and the ransom was increased to fifty talents.

Upon his release, he informed his captors he would hunt them down, crucify them and take back the money, this he did, as a warning to other pirates.  First he cut their throats, to reduce their suffering, as he had been treated well by his captors.

In 74 BC, Caesar put together a private army to take on Mithradates VI Eupator, King of Pontus, who had declared war on Rome.

In 69 BC, Caesar was elected to the post of Military Tribune, and in 67 BC married Pompeia, a wealthy Optimate and grand-daughter of the Emperor Sulla.  Their marriage was short lived, and the couple divorced in 62 BC.

In 65 BC Caesar was elected to the post of “Curule Aedile.”  To improve his popularity, he acquired loans from Crassus, to create the Roman games.  Rumours ran rife, that Caesar had an affair with Pompey’s wife; Mucia and other prominent ladies.

In 62 BC he was elected to the post of Praetor, and in 61 BC served as Governor of the Roman Province of Spain.

In 62 BC, Pompey returned victorious from Asia.  He called upon the Senate to grant land, to his veteran soldiers, but this was being blocked by Crassus.

Caesar stepped in, displaying his abilities as a negotiator, earning the trust of both Crassus and Pompey, and convinced them they be better suited as allies instead of enemies.

Caesar went on to promise, if they support him getting elected, he would work in their best interests.

In 60 BC Caesar returned to Spain, and the first “Triumvirate” of Ancient was created.  An alliance between Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  These three men set aside their personal differences, joining forces for the good of Rome.  They dominated Rome’s government and controlled election for the good of the people.

In 59 BC, Caesar was elected Consul against Optimate opposition led by Marcus Porcius Cato, a shrewd politician.

Caesar married off his only daughter, Julia to Pompey to consolidate their alliance.  He himself married Calpurnia, whose father was of the Populare faction.  Their marriage would last until Caesar’s death.

Caesar pushed Pompey’s measures through the Senate; land for veteran soldiers, but every which way he turned he was being blocked.  He had no option but to take a controversial route, a means to an end.  Caesar attempted to buy off Pompey’s soldiers, with public land.  In a stage further, hired Pompey’s soldiers to stage a riot, and amidst all the chaos, Senate stepped down and Pompey’s veteran soldiers got their land.

In 58 BC, Caesar departed Rome for Gaul (Modern day Belgium & France) to take up his post as Governor of Gaul.  In the nine years as Governor of Gaul, he enlarged the army, undertook many campaigns, which would make him one of Rome’s all time leaders.  Caesar conquered the rest of Gaul up to the River Rhine, and proved to be a ruthless warrior.

As Caesar’s power grew, Pompey was envious of his political partner.  Crassus has never completely overcome his dislike for Pompey.  In 56 BC, Caesar, Pompey and Crassus met to renew their coalition in Luca, in light of Pompey’s move towards the Optimate faction.

In 54 BC, Caesar led a three month expedition to Britain, he was the first Roman to cross the English Channel.  He did not establish a Roman base on English soil, just checked out the area, for a future invasion.

Meanwhile Caesar’s coalition with Pompey was going through a rocky period, especially after his daughter Julia, Pompey’s wife had died in childbirth.

In 53 BC, Crassus received command of the Eastern armies, and was defeated and killed by the Parthians.

With the conquest of Gaul completed in 51 BC, Caesar set up a provincial administration to govern the territories.  The Optimate’s in Rome attempted to cut short Caesar’s term as Governor of Gaul.  They made it clear that he would be immediately prosecuted if he returned to Rome as a private citizen, and not a military leader with his army.

Pompey and Caesar were being manoeuvred into a public split; neither could yield to the other without loss of honour, dignity and power.

In 49 BC, Caesar tried to maintain his position legally, but when pushed to the limit, led his troops across the Rubicon River in the January.

Pompey aligned himself with nobility, who saw Caesar as a national threat, and civil war between the two leaders would be the final outcome.

Pompey’s legions were located in Spain, so he and Senate headed to Brundisium and sailed to the East.  Meanwhile Caesar advanced on Rome, setting up a rump Senate and declared himself Dictator.

By 48 BC, Pompey and the Optimate faction had established a strong position in Greece.  Caesar had a dilemma; he had insufficient ships to move all his legions from Brundisium in a single crossing.  He had no choice, but to cross with 20,000 men with minimal amount of baggage, leaving Mark Antony his chief legate and second-in-command to follow with the rest of his forces.

In the final battle between Pompey and Caesar on the Plains of Pharsalus, Pompey had a force of 46,000 men to Caesar’s 21,000.  Even though Pompey had the larger force, Caesar was victorious that day.  Caesar pardoned Roman citizens who had been captured, an act of clemency.

Pompey had escaped the battle, and fled to Egypt, expecting to find friends, from time spent there in the past.  New’s of Caesar’s great victory had reached Egypt before Pompey’s arrival.  The Egyptian’s believed the God’s favoured Caesar, and promptly murdered Pompey as he stepped ashore, and chopped off his head.

In the October of 48 BC, Caesar with a force of 4,000 legionaries landed in Alexandria, and was presented with the head of Pompey, much to his disgust.  Caesar seized the royal palace and declared martial law.

Caesar discovered that the throne was under the joint heirs of Ptolemy XII; Ptolemy XIII and his sister Cleopatra VII.

Pothinus the Eunuch and the Egyptian General; Achillas had driven Cleopatra from Alexandria, sending her into exile, on the orders of Ptolemy XIII.

Cleopatra saw her chance to regain her throne from her brother, seeking assistance from the like of Caesar.  Cleopatra was smuggled into the palace, rolled up in a carpet.

Caesar deposed the co-ruler Ptolemy XIII and aligned himself with Cleopatra; the Egyptian Queen, igniting a war between Caesar’s legions and the Egyptian army loyal to Ptolemy XIII.

Caesar’s forces held onto the palace and harbour, against an onslaught of 20,000 men led by Achillas, for six months until help arrived and the Egyptian forces were defeated in the March of 47 BC.

Caesar and Cleopatra became lovers and in the latter months of 47 BC, Cleopatra gave birth to a son; Caesarion son of Caesar.

In 47 BC, Caesar left Alexandria and Cleopatra, his mistress, to crush a rebellion by Pharnaces, son of Mithridates in the East.

Caesar’s forces defeated the armies of the Optimate faction under Cato who had allied themselves with King Juba of Numidia at the “Battle of Thapsus.”  Cato took his own life, rather than be pardoned by Caesar.

On the 25th July 46 BC, a victorious Julius Caesar arrived back in Rome, triumphant over the Gauls, Egyptians, Pharnaces and Juba.  He established his mistress Cleopatra and his son Caesarion, in a luxury villa across the River Tiber in Rome.  Cleopatra had hoped Caesar would recognize and legitimize Caesarion as his son and heir, but Caesar named his grand-nephew, Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian) as his heir.

The Senate were incensed by his indiscretion of a mistress, as he already had a wife.

In April of 45 BC, the sons of Pompey: Gnaeus and Sextus, led a rebellion in Spain.  Caesar met them in battle at Munda, where Gnaeus was killed and Sextus escaped, to become leader of the Mediterranean pirates.

In 44 BC, Julius Caesar received the title: Dictator Perpetuus (Dictator for Life).  At the public festival, Mark Antony offered him a diadem (symbol of the Hellenistic monarchs), but Caesar refused, saying Jupiter alone is King of the Romans.

Caesar’s rule proved instrumental in reforming Rome for his countrymen, land redistribution among the poor and military veterans, relieving debt and reforming the Senate, by increasing its size and opening it up, to represent all Romans.  A benevolent Caesar, even invited some of his defeated rivals to join him in government.

On the 15th March 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by Senators in the portico of the basilica of Pompey the Great.  His assassins were Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, along with sixty conspirators.  Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times, and died at the base of Pompey’s statue.

Following his death, Caesar became a martyr of the new Roman Empire.  Low and middle class Romans gathered at Caesar’s funeral, with angry crowds attacking the homes of Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, for murdering Julius Caesar.

A power struggle ensued in Rome, which led to the end of the Roman Republic.

Caesar’s great-grand nephew; Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian), his chosen heir, put together an army, taking on military troops protecting Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, the leading assassins of Julius Caesar.  Octavian got his revenge over these murderer’s, took the name Augustus, and in 27 BC became the first Roman Emperor.

Battle of Pharsalus: Caesar and Pompey

Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar, met on the battlefield in 48 BC at Pharsalus in eastern Greece.  Two of Rome’s greatest generals would go head to head for the coveted prize; Ruler of the Roman World.

Pompey the Great, was one third of the ruling Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus.  Pompey had his military successes in Siciliy and Africa, cleared pirates from the Mediterranean.  Pompey governed Rome’s Spanish provinces, whilst Caesar controlled Gaul.

With the death of Crassus in 53 BC, the Triumvirate looked doomed, with Pompey and Caesar preparing to do battle with each other.

Pompey left Italy in 49 BC, choosing to gather his legions in Greece for an inevitable confrontation.  Caesar was hot on his tail, but Pompey escaped the partial blockade at Brundisium.

Pompey faced another issue, he had seven legions loyal to him in Spain, but Caesar now controlled the treasury in Rome.  Caesar made a few appointments, as to who governed provinces, and within months, the Spanish legions loyal to Pompey were subdued, and headed back to Rome.

Pompey assembled nine Roman legions at Beroea in Thessaly, with a multi-national force of 3,000 archers, 1,200 slingers and 7,000 cavalry, with access to some 600 ships.  Pompey established winter camp on the west coast of Greece, believing the military campaign would not start until the New Year.

Despite threat of Pompey’s navy and risks of a winter crossing, Caesar mustered as much of his army he could, travelling light, without additional baggage.  He sailed to Greece on the 4th January, landing at Palaeste, under the nose of Pompey’s fleet, stationed on Coreyra.  Pompey was slow in reacting to Caesars surprise landing and attacks upon its cities.

Caesar’s second-in-command, Mark Antony arrived in the April with a second force of legions, making eleven in all.  Caesar and Pompey’s forces face off against each other at Asparagium.  Pompey set camp at Dyrrachium, and Caesar constructed a wall, boxing Pompey in, against the sea.  Pompey threw all he could, at Caesar, attacking weak points in his wall.

Pompey established a new camp, south of Caesar’s wall, and on the 9th July, Pompey’s forces were split in two; old and new camps.  Caesar went on the attack, forcing Pompey to send legions to extricate comrades from the old camp.  Caesar’s soldiers took a heavy battering, but Pompey had the upper hand, and did not press home his advantage, when he had the chance.

Caesar recognised that his blockade proved futile, and withdrew to the south.  Pompey’s cavalry went in pursuit.  Caesar escaped to the Plains of Thessaly in Greece, setting up camp on the north bank of the River Enipeus between Pharsalus and Palaepharsalus.  Pompey arrived on the scene, setting up camp to the west, on low lying hills… a good strategic position.

The stage was finally set, a decisive battle as to who would control the Roman Empire; Caesar or Pompey!

Julius Caesar was noted for his use of speed, and surprise attacks, gaining the upper hand in military conquests, using small numbers of troops.

Mark Antony, Caesar’s second-in-command would lead the left wing, Domitius Calvinus, one-time tribune and consul took the centre position and Publius Cornelius Sulla, led the right wing.

Pompey’s reputation as a military leader was legendary, following his string of successful campaigns; he was noted for his careful planning and attention to detail.  Some say he may have been over cautious.

Pompey’s command included Titus Labienus, Caesar’s past second-in-command who led the cavalry force.  Leading the centre would be Scipio Metellus, past consul with success in Syria, whilst Africanus commanded the right wing and Ahenobarbus to the left.

Caesar was keen, but Pompey proved unwilling to relinquish his high ground advantage.  Several days passed by, and Caesar observed a stalemate situation had come into effect.  Caesar opted to pack up camp and leave.  On the morning of the 9th August, Pompey came down and moved out of the hills, it was what Caesar had desired.  Caesar’s forces abandoned their baggage, and marched forth to meet their enemy.

Pompey had tired of this cat-and-mouse game, he wanted to capitalise on his mens good morale, after Dyrrachium.  Pompey had given away his high ground advantage, coming face to face with his enemy on the plains below.

Pompey fielded 47,000 men, 110 cohorts, with four cohorts in the first line, three each in the second and third lines.  The bulk of his cavalry, archers and slingers held the far left flank up against the low lying hills, while a smaller cavalry and light infantry force was located on the far right up against the River Enipeus.

His best troops took place on wings and centre, with veteran supporting troops new to battle conditions.  Pompey’s plan was to send cavalry around enemy flank, attacking from the rear, as infantry pressed forward and Caesar’s forces would be crushed.

Caesar lined up his troops, mirroring Pompey’s positions, but thinly spread.  His forces consisted of 22,000 men, divided into 80 80 cohorts.  Caesar positioned himself opposite Pompey, and behind his best legion.  His light infantry placed right of centre.  Caesar moved six cohorts, some 2,000 men from his rear line, acting as reserve on the right flank, against Pompey’s cavalry.

Pompey went on the attack first, with cavalry drawn out on a counter-charge, by Caesar, followed up with the front two infantry lines attacking and engaging all three lines of Pompey’s infantry who stood their ground.  This tactic tired Caesar’s infantry quickly, seeing Pompey’s lines were not advancing, his infantry stopped, regrouped to catch their breath, and then resumed their charge.  Caesar deliberately kept back in reserve his own third line of infantry.  First weapons hurled were javelins, a volley from either side.  Then the enemies met with a clash of shields, and thrusting of swords.

Through sheer weight of numbers, Pompey’s cavalry overwhelmed their enemy, by getting behind Caesar’s infantry.  As Pompey’s cavalry changed tactics by organising themselves into smaller squadrons, Caesar saw his opportunity and attacked.  Having withdrawn what was left of his own cavalry he ordered his Javelin’s to aim at enemy faces.  The attack threw the cavalry into panic, and Pompey’s forces bolted from the battlefield in confusion.  Pompey’s slingers and archers were open at the rear to attack.  Having engaged all three lines of infantry Pompey had no contingency forces left to deal with the surprise attack.

Pompey’s troops resisted the onslaught, not helped by the desertion of multi-national allied troops.  Legions retreated to the hills, as their leader fled the battlefield.  Caesar pressed home his advantage and wiped out Pompey’s camp, as remnants of his army fled into the Kaloyiros hills.  On the morning of the 10th, Pompey’s army threw down their weapons and surrendered… Caesar was victorious.

Pompey arrived in Egypt, by way of Cyprus and was murdered on the 28th September 48 BC.

A triumphant Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC.  Julius Caesar stood alone, the last member of the Triumvirate, the most powerful man in the Roman World.  In February of 44 BC, the Senate voted him dictator for life.

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