A successful young military general, who ascended the political system due to his popularity. He threatened the natural order of political progress.
Gnaeus Pompeius’ father, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, was a strong supporter of
Sulla. When his father died in Marius’ siege against Rome in 87 BCE, his son inherited his estates and his legions. He continued supporting Sulla as he raised armies to help face Gnaeus Papirius Carbo. Sulla was so impressed by him that he offered his step daughter in marriage. This marriage, though short-lived, served to confirm Pompey’s loyalty and boosted his prestige.
Sulla sent Pompey against
Marius the Younger (now leading the Marian forces after his father’s death). In 82 BCE, Pompey captured Sicily and thus secured a steady supply of rain. At this time, he also executed
Gnaeus Papirius Carbo and his supporters, thus earning the nickname, adulescens carnifex, “the young butcher.” In 81 BCE, he then moved to Africa, where he defeated
Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and
Hiarbas. When he returned to Rome, Sulla, who had previously hailed him as imperator (a great honor for a Roman general), now called him Magnus. Pompey celebrated a triumph for his victories, though only after Sulla and
Metellus Pius had celebrated their triumphs.
In 77 BCE, he was granted command to suppresses
Sertorius’ rebellion in Hispania. On his way, he suppressed the forces in southern Gaul. Working with Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, he remained in Spain from 76-71 BCE. On his return to Rome, Pompey swept in to ‘help’
Crassus bring an end to
Spartacus’ rebellion (though no help was truly needed, Pompey managed to get some of the glory). In 71 BCE, he was granted a triumph upon his return for his victories in Spain, and in the following year he was elected consul alongside Marcus Licinius Crassus.
In 67 BCE, he was granted command over a naval force in order to put an end to the piracy that was plaguing the Mediterranean. Aulus Gabinius, the Tribune of the Plebs, passed the Lex Gabinia, which granted him control over the sea and coasts for 50 miles inland. This was an unprecedented mandate for a Roman commander. Ordinarily, they were limited to military action in one province or area. In forty days, he had cleared the western Mediterranean of pirates. By guaranteeing the grain supply, Pompey was once again a hero. Despite the war’s rapid conclusion, Pompey remained in the East, lining his pockets with local tax revenue for a year.
In 66 BCE, he was nominated to lead the Roman forces during the Third Mithridatic War. During this time period, he annexed four new provinces and extended the Roman influence as far east as the Black Sea. After his victories in the east, he earned a third triumph in 61 BCE. This third triumph is said to have outpaced the previous two in grandeur. Though he gave the promised land to his veterans and dismissed his army, the Senate remained skeptical.
Despite mutual distrust between Pompey and Crassus, they entered into an alliance with Caesar. Their alliance was known as the First Triumvirate. Caesar was named consul in 59 BCE, and he gave Pompey land for his veterans and Pompey married Caesar’s daughter, Julia. In 58 BCE, he oversaw the grain supply and successfully solver the issue. By 56 BCE, the alliance was beginning to fray, though it was resolidified in 56 BCE at the Lucca Conference. Pompey and Crassus would run for consul in 55 BCE and Caesar would be given a command in Gaul. Crassus would be named governor of Syria, and Pompey would keep Hispania. In 55 BCE, Pompey also completed his grand theater, the first permanent theater in Rome.
In 54 BCE, Pompey’s wife - and Caesar’s daughter - Julia died in childbirth. This event as well as Caesar’s growing military power and Crassus’ death in Parthia created a deep fracture in the alliance. Pompey refused to enter into another marriage alliance with Caesar, and he gradually drifted back towards the optimates. In 52 BCE, Pompey was not named dictator but rather was named sole consul in order to restore order after the murder of the popularist, Publius Clodius Pulcher. He demanded that Caesar give up his armies, and thus his power, when he returned to Rome from Gaul.
However, in 49 BCE, Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his army and thus declared war on Rome. Pompey marched south in order to gather his men and prepare for battle. At the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BCE, Pompey was defeated, and he fled to Egypt. However, when Pompey attempted to disembark, he was betrayed and killed by the Egyptian commanders, Achillas, Septimius, and Salvius. His head and seal were later presented to Caesar, who is said to have mourned this insult and have punished the Egyptian co-conspirators.