Pompey was born on September 29, 106 BCE, into wealth and politics and war. His father, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, was an affluent landowning Italian from Picenum, one of the homines novi (new men). His father went from being a quaestor to a praetor and eventually a consul. He was known for being greedy, being deceitful with politics, and military mercilessness. He died during the Marian siege against Rome in 87 BCE. Pompey, at 20 years old, inherited his lands, his politics and the devotion of his legions.
Although Pompey was fluent in Greek and had received a solid education as a young nobleman, he learned the most from his father. Pompey served two years underneath his father’s military command, and took part in the concluding acts of the Marsic Social War against the Italians. When Pompey returned to Rome he faced prosecution for unlawfully plundering. Luckily for Pompey, his relations with the judge’s daughter, Antistia, brought about a quick discharge.
The Marians controlled Italy for the next couple years until Sulla returned after his campaign against Mithridates in 83 BCE. Pompey then assembled three Picenean legions to fight the Marian regime of Gnaeus Papirius Carbo. After Sulla defeated the Marians, he became dictator of Rome, and who better to have supporting you for Pompey then his own dictator. Sulla was impressed by Pompey’s military abilities and performance, especially his self-confidence. Pompey was soon after promoted or known as “Imperator” which is a close synonym to commander under the Roman Republic.Sula was so infatuated with Pompey and his potential that he even offered him his already married and pregnant stepdaughter, Aemilia Scaura, in marriage. Pompey and Aemilia both divorced their husband and wife and started a new life together. Unfortunately, soon after Aemilia died in childbirth. Although the marriage was short-lived, it had still confirmed Pompey’s devotion and significantly furthered his career.
The senate then gave Pompey the task of reclaiming Sicily and Africa from the Marians under Sulla’s order. Pompey finished the job in two different fast but efficient campaigns (82-81). Pompey did as his father would, like he learned, and executed the Marian leaders who surrendered to him mercilessly. Although Pompeys actions could be considered barbaric, they were effective, instilling fear in his enemies. He became known as Sulla’s butcher, but to his own men he was “Magnus” and “imperator”. He had both his enemies and his own men in the best mental states for his own prosperity. This may have gotten to his head, leading him to demand his own dictator Sulla to have a triumph for him when he returned. Sulla refused his request so in turn Pompey refused to disband his army and showed up at the gates of Rome, commanding Sulla to oblige to his demands. Sulla gave in, and after he had his own triumph, granted Metellus Pius his triumph, then fulfilled Pompey’s request and allowed him to have one of his own.
The career of Pompey seemed to be compelled by the aspiration of military glory and neglect of the customary political restraints. In 78 BCE he supported Lepidus, opposing Sulla’s request, in the elections of consular. After Sulla died in 78 BCE, Lepidus revolted, but was repressed by Pompey as requested by the Senate. After obliging with the senates wishes Pompey requested to be the proconsular imperium in Spain to fight the pupulares general Quintus Sertorius. Sertorius had kept his own the previous three years while taking on Metellus Pius, who had been one of Sulla’s best generals. When he was denied his request he resorted to his fighting ways and once again refused to release his army until they changed their minds and approved his request.
Pompey now had power equal to Metellus and ventured to Spain. He fought there from 76 BCE to 71 BCE. Because of Sertorius’s guerilla warfare tactics, unlike Rome’s traditional style of fighting, it took Pompey a long time to begin winning. Eventually Pompey started winning in a war of attrition against Sertorius’s junior officers and after him and Metellus starting taking city by city. Finally, after Sertorius was killed by his very own officer, Marcus Perperna Vento, Pompey crushed him in their first battle and the war ended soon after.
Meanwhile in Rome, Pompey was the people’s champion. He had another triumph after his victory in Spain. Many of his fans thoroughly believe he was the best general of their time, with the gods in his favor. And with the defeat of Sulla and his supporters the plebian’s may regain their deserved civil rights and constitutional privileges that were vacant during Sulla’s reign Because of this He was able to once again circumvent yet another Roman custom and at the age of only 35 he became a Consul without even being a senator, with the result of a vast majority vote. He became Crassus partner serving in 70 BCE.
Two years passed his consulship, Pompey was given and offer to lead a naval force to clear out the pirates in the Mediterranean Sea which was becoming increasingly problematic. There was more opposition then support in Pompey’s favor for this action but with the backing of the Plebians and their Tribune, Aulus Gabinius, he was granted a Lex Gabinia which gave him absolute control of the Mediterranean and in the coastline as far as 50 miles inland. In significantly less time than he was given to complete this task, the Sea was cleared of pirates and communication and trade throughout the Mediterranean was restored. Once again Pompey was a hero in Rome.
Pompey was still in the east resettling pirates as peaceful farmers, while in Rome a new Tribune, Gaius Manilius, inacted a bill assigning Pompey to the command against Mithradates, with full powers to make war and peace and to organize the whole Roman East. Pompey defeated Mithradates in Asia Minor with relative ease. After the death of Mithradates in 63 BCE, Pompey was then free to plan the consolidation of the eastern provinces and frontier kingdoms. The re-organization of the East is if not the greatest, one of the greatest of Pompey’s achievement. His comprehensive appreciation of the geographical and political aspects involved allowed him to execute a general settlement that was to form the foundation of the defensive frontier system and was to endure, with few significant changes, for over 500 years.
Pompey was at his best with all of his influence and respect in 62 BCE when he finally dismissed his army and had his third triumph. For the next decade he reigned supreme until Caesar’s growing military, along with most of the nobles who were never fully behind him, started getting in the way. This led to the first triumvirate. The first triumvirate was an informal alliance between Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus. This was to benefit all of them with their desired political careers. Pompey, who was now married to Caesar’s daughter, Julia, saw Caesar as his necessary instrument. The three of them protected their ends by violence and corruption after a prolonged struggle. Early in 55 Pompey and Crassus were at last elected consuls. Nonetheless the triumvirate was approaching the end. The death of Julia shattered the strongest bond between Pompey and Caesar, and Crassus suffered a terrible defeat and died in Mesopotamia. The triumvirate was no more.
Pompey watched the lawlessness and disorder in the city becoming day-to-day and more unbearable. He was ready to wait without obliging himself up until the inner circle of nobles, who once never wanted Pompey to get what he wanted, realized an alliance with him was inevitable. He rejected all proposals from Caesar for an alliance. Without any senior magistrates in office, Pompey was called upon to reestablish order. Quickly, Pompey called upon his troops from Italy. Although it was a case that would usually call for making Pompey dictator, it was thought by them to be safer to make him sole consul.
At first, Pompey boasted he could beat Caesar but Caesars growing legions caused Pompey to leave Rome and head east eventually ending in Egypt. While waiting for refuge in Egypt, Caesar was on his way, causing the consular of King Ptomely XIII to debate whether it was smart or not to let Pompey in.Pompey boarded a small boat and sailed to the coast to talk with the hosts of Egypt where there appeared to be a welcoming party. When Pompey arrived he was stabbed to death by his betrayers, Suptimius, Salvius, and Achillas on September 28th 48 BCE.
Pompey’s legacy cast a lasting shadow. A militant champion, that fell short just before real greatness. The Republican hero, who at one point appeared to control all of Rome and its empire in the palm of his hand. His down fall besides Caesar of course, was his own poor judgment and desires. By ending his life in a murder he became a tragic hero. Some called him The Roman Alexander the Great, with a good head and heart, but devastated by the contemptuous ambitions of his fellow Romans.