The Real Power Behind the Late Roman Republic
In 67 BC, Pompey was given authority throughout the Mediterranean to settle a piracy problem that had grown out of control. He did so in a brilliant campaign that lasted only three months. Pompey was then appointed to command a war against Pontus, and granted authority to settle the entire eastern Mediterranean. To accomplish that, he annexed some kingdoms to the Roman Republic, and reduced others to client states. He engaged in wholesale king-making, and removed and appointed kings and rulers throughout a vast territory that stretched from the Danube to the Red Sea. That settlement, Pompey’s greatest and longest lasting achievement, endured with few modifications for over 500 years. When he returned to Italy in 62 BC, Pompey sought land upon which to settle his veterans, and legislation to ratify his settlement of the east. However, political chaos in Rome prevented that.
To accomplish his goals, Pompey formed a Triumvirate with Julius Caesar and Marcus Licinius Crassus to divide Rome’s power amongst the trio. To seal the deal, he married Caesar’s daughter. After Crassus died in 53 BC, followed by Pompey’s wife and Caesar’s daughter soon thereafter, the remaining Triumvirs drifted apart. They finally went to war when Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy in 49 BC. Pompey and the optimates conservative faction fled to Greece, where they raised an army. Caesar followed, and Rome’s two greatest generals finally met at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. Caesar proved greater, and Pompey’s army was crushed. Pompey fled, and sailed to Egypt, where he was inveigled to come ashore. As soon as his feet touched Egyptian soil, he was assassinated and had his head chopped off.