Roman Republic
 


Roman Italy (1st Century AD)


Caesar (58 - March 49 BC) 

In construction:

Extension of the Informal Triumvirate (56 BC)

Tripartite Agreement at Luca

Caesar met Pompey and Crassus at Lucca in the Spring of 56 BC to restore their informal alliance.  It was agreed that:

  1. Pompey and Crassus would support the extension of Caesar’s terms as proconsul; and

  2. Caesar would support their election as the consuls of 55 BC.

Proconsular Legislation (56 BC)

The agreement above regarding Caesar’s proconsulship obviously needed to be put into law.  In fact, the Senate met in late June or early July of 56 BC to decide on the allocation of four provinces for the following year:

  1. Caesar’s provinces of:

  2. Cisalpine Gaul (which probably included Illyricum for this purpose); and

  3. Transalpine Gaul;

  4. Macedonia, which was governed by L. Calpurnius Piso; and

  5. Syria, which was  governed by Aulus Gabinius.

Cicero delivered his speech De Provinciis  Consularibus, in which he argued (under pressure from Pompey) that Caesar should retain his provinces, and that both Piso and Gabinus (Cicero’s personal enemies) should be recalled.  It seems that Piso was indeed recalled recalled at this point, but that the arrangements for the other provinces were finally made in the summer of the following year (see below).


Consulship of Pompey and Crassus (55 BC)

Cassius Dio recorded that, after a period of turmoil in Rome that disrupted the election of consuls and necessitated an interregnum, Crassus and Pompey were appointed:

  1. ...  as none of the earlier candidates [now] opposed them.  To be sure, L. Domitius [Ahenobarbus], who canvassed for the office up to the very last day of the year, [had intended to stand against them] ... but, when [a] slave [in his entourage] was slain, he became frightened and went no further.  Hence, since no one at all opposed them, and furthermore since [Crassus’ son, who was] at that time lieutenant under Caesar, brought soldiers to Rome for this very purpose, they were easily chosen”, (‘Roman History’, 39: 31: 1-2).

Lex Trebonia

Soon after the election of the new consuls, the tribune C. Trebonius  introduced the lex Trebonia, which made both Spain and Syria consular provinces, with the former allocated to Pompey and the latter to Crassus, each for five years.  This caused considerable opposition, and considerable violence on both sides, but the measure inevitably passed.

Lex Pompeia Licinia

As soon as calm was restored, the consuls introduced the legislation that extended Caesar’s proconsulships for five years.  This prompted further roudy opposition, but, again, the measure passed.  As John Ramsey (referenced below, at p. 44) explained:

  1. “The effect of the lex Pompeia Licinia was to put at Caesar’s disposal five further campaign seasons (aestiva), those of 54, 53, 52, 51, and 50 BC.

It could be justified by the fact that the province of Transalpine Gaul had been far from pacified by 55 BC.  However, it also had another (perhaps intended) consequence: although Caesar’s enemies frequently threatened to prosecute him for the crimes that they alleged he had committed during his first consulship of 59 BC, his proconsular imperium would protect him until at least 1st March 49 BC (provided that he could continue to argue that his services were still needed in Transalpine Gaul).

  1. Parthians defeated and killed Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC)

  2. Caesar effectively ended the Gallic Wars with his victory over Vercingetorix at the Battle of Alesia (52 BC), although mopping-up operations continued.

Build-up to Civil War (52-0 BC)

While Caesar was heavily involved in Gaul in 52 BC, Pompey was elected as sole consul (effectively dictator) in order to to deal with serious unrest at Rome.  

Law of the Ten Tribunes (52 BC)

According to Cassius Dio, :

  1. “... now that [Pompey] had the glory that lay in [his election as sole consul], he wished to avoid the envy attaching to it.  He also feared that ... Caesar might be given him as colleague through the enthusiasm of his troops and the populace alike.  First of all, therefore, in order that [Caesar]l might not think that he had been entirely neglected ... , he arranged through the tribunes that Caesar should be permitted even in his absence to be a candidate for the consulship when the proper time came according to law”, (‘Roman History’, 40: 51: 1-2).

Suetonius gave a similar account:

  1. “...  the tribunes planned to make [Caesar] Pompey's colleague [until] Caesar urged them rather to propose to the people that he should be permitted to stand for a second consulship without coming to Rome, when the term of his governorship drew near its end, to prevent his being forced for the sake of the office to leave his province prematurely and without finishing the war”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 26: 1).

John Ramsey (referenced below, at p. 48) pointed out that:

  1. “While it is true that no specific year for Caesar’s [second consulship appears to have been specified in this] tribunician legislation ... , the extension of five campaign seasons (those of 54, 53, 52, 51, and 50) [to his term as proconsul, which had been granted to him] by the lex Pompeia Licinia of 55 BC [above], made it logical for [him] to stand in 49 BC for the consulship of 48 BC, the first for which he would be eligible under Sulla’s requirement that 10 years had to elapse before the consulship was repeated.”

Caesar’s own later account is consistent with this chronology: in his account of the speech that he made to the Senate when he reached Rome in 49 BC, at the start of the civil war, he quoted himself as having said that:

  1. “While [Pompey] himself was consul [in 55 BC], a proposal had been carried [unanimously] by the ten tribunes, to the effect that [I] should be allowed to compete in absentia [in the current year for the consulship of 48 BC], despite the fact that [my] enemies spoke against it: Cato, [for example], opposed [the proposal] with the utmost vehemence and, after his custom, spun out the days by obstructive speech.  If [Pompey] had disapproved [of its provisions], why had he allowed [the law] to be carried ?

This legislation greatly enhanced Caesar’s position viz-a-viz his political opponents: as John Ramsey (as above) explained:

  1. “Because of it, he could stand for office [in the summer of 49 BC, a few months after the likely arrival of his successor in Gaul late in 50 BC] without having to return from his province and without having to surrender his imperium (and immunity from prosecution) as a consequence of being forced to cross the pomerium ...”

Cicero subsequently held Pompey completely responsible for this situation: in a letter that he wrote on the 9th December, 50 BC to Atticus from Trebulanum (in Campania), when Caesar overtly threatened the Republic, he asked rhetorically:

  1. “Why was [Caesar’s] command extended, and in such a fashion?  Why was there such pressure to get the ten Tribunes to bring in the law [of 52 BC] about his candidature in absentia ?  By these steps, he has become so strong that hope of resistance now depends on one man [i.e. Pompey]; and I would rather that he had not given Caesar such formidable strength in the first place, than that he should resist him now that he is so powerful”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 126, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, p. 195).

Pompey’s Lex de Iure Magistratuum (52 BC) 

Later in the year, the situation was thrown into doubt by another legislative development: according to Cassius Dio:

  1. “Pompey revived the law ... that required those who seek an office to present themselves without fail before the Assembly, so that no-one might be chosen in absentia; this law had somehow fallen into disuse ... ”, (‘Roman History’, 40: 56: 1).  

This was obviously inconsistent with the Law of the Ten Tribunes and, according to Cassius Dio,  Pompey subsequently found it prudent:

  1. “.. to grant to Caesar, whose friends were in a terrible state of indignation, the right to canvass for the consulship even in his absence, as had been decreed.  For he had amended the [later law] to read that no-one should be permitted to [stand for election in absentia] unless he had been granted the privilege by name and without disguise; but this [rendered the later law irrelevant, since] anyone of any influence was certainly going to manage to get this privilege voted to him”, (‘Roman History’, 40: 56: 3).

Suetonius made it clear that Caesar’s enemies took the opposite view of the legal standing of Pompey’s late amendment: he recorded that, in 51 BC, one of the leading opponents of Caesar:

  1. “... the consul M. Claudius Marcellus ... proposed that:

  2. a successor to Caesar should be appointed before the end of his [extended proconsular] term, on the grounds that the war [in Transalpine Gaul] had ended;

  3. [Caesar’s] victorious army should be disbanded; and

  4. [Caesar himself] should be barred from the elections [for the consuls of 50 BC] unless he were present, since Pompey's subsequent action [i.e. his late amendment] had not annulled the decree of the people.  And it was true that, when Pompey had proposed a bill touching the privileges of officials:

  5. in the clause whereby absentees were debarred from standing for office, he had forgotten to make a special exception in Caesar's case; and

  6. he had not corrected this oversight until the law had been inscribed on a tablet of bronze and deposited in the treasury”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 26: 1).

Pompey’s Lex de Provinciis (52 BC)

According to Cassius Dio, shortly before they had resigned their office, the consuls of 53 BC had:

  1. “...passed a decree that no-one (neither an ex-praetor nor an ex-consul) should assume a command abroad until five years had elapsed; they hoped that such men, by not being in a position of power immediately after holding office, would cease their craze for office.  For, there was no moderation and no decency at all being observed, but they vied with one another in spending great sums and, going still further, in fighting, so that [for example], even the consul Calvinus had been wounded [in the previous year]”, (‘Roman History’, 40: 46: 3).

It seems that this measure had not passed into law by the time of Pompey’s election.  Thus, according to Cassius Dio, he:

  1. “... confirmed the [senatus consultum] that had been passed a short time before, which required that those who had held office at Rome should not be assigned to commands abroad until 5 years had passed.   And yet, after proposing [this measure] ... , he was not ashamed a little later to take Spain himself for five years more”, (‘Roman History’, 40: 46: 1-2).

John Ramsey (referenced below, at pp. 48-9):

  1. “Previously, under the procedure prescribed by the [lex Sempronia de provinciis consularibus (123 BC)], the Senate had to designate consular provinces [for the year ahead] in advance of the consular elections.  [Thus, since] the lex Pompeia Licinia of 55BC  appears to have barred the Senate from considering the assignment of the [Caesar’s provinces] prior to the 1st March 50 BC (unless [he] completed the pacification of Gaul before that date), the earliest that [he]  could have been succeeded [as governor of his provinces] was 49 BC, by one of the consuls elected in the previous year]. ... However, since under Pompey’s lex de provinciis of 52 succession could take place without any appreciable gap between the Senate’s decision [on the designation of consular provinces] and the assumption of power [in such provinces] by the new governor, Caesar became potentially exposed to replacement any time after the 1st March 50 BC.  ... [However], the Senate was not entirely free to do as it pleased because Pompey’s law, unlike the Sempronian, did not ban the use of a tribune’s veto ... Therefore, Caesar’s strategy during the last few years of his command was always to have on his side the services of one or more loyal tribunes.

Senate Decree Relating to the Gallic Provinces (29th September 51 BC)

In early October 51 BC, when Cicero was in his province (Cilicia), his young friend, M. Caelius Rufus, wrote to him from Rome to report that:

  1. “As regards public affairs, for a long while nothing was done pending a decision on the Gallic provinces.  But eventually, after many postponements and much grave debate, during which it became quite clear that [Pompey]was in favour of [Caesar] leaving his command after [1st March 50 BC.  Then, on the 29th September] the Senate passed a decree (of which I send you [copies]) and recorded resolutions”, (‘Letter to Friends’, 84, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2001, at p. 377).

Matthew Dillon and Lynda Garland (referenced below, at entry 13: 12) paraphrased this decree as follows:

  1. “... the consuls [who had been] elected for  50 BC ... would, on 1st March [of that year], ... bring the matter of Caesar’s command before the Senate and [would propose] no other measure until this ... [one had been] resolved.”

Robin Seager (referenced below, at p. 142) paraphrased the three supplementary resolutions that were  put before the meeting:

  1. ... anyone who tried to obstruct the proceeding [of the meeting on 1st March 50 BC] should be deemed to be acting against the interests of the State; ...”

  2. ... those of Caesar’s troops whose term of service had expired had expired [should be demobilised; and]

  3. ... all the other provinces [should be made] praetorian, so that the Gallic provinces would in inevitably fall to the consuls [of 50 BC] ...”

The copy of these resolutions that Caelius (who was himself a tribune)had enclosed with his letter recorded that all three of these supplementary resolutions had been vetoed by some or all of the following the tribunes: C. Coelius; L. Vinicius; P. Cornelius; and C. Vibius Pansa. 


Caelius, in the letter above, expanded on the stance taken by Pompey at this time:

  1. “Moreover, certain remarks attributed to [Pompey] have  ...  greatly raised public confidence.  He said that, before the [1st of March], he could not in fairness take a decision about Caesar’s provinces [presumably because that was the limit of the extension that he had decreed in 55 BC].  However, after this date, he would have no hesitation. 

  2. Asked what would be the position if vetoes were cast at that point, he replied that it made no difference whether ... Caesar intended:

  3. to disobey the Senate; or

  4. to prevent the Senate from passing a decree [by arranging for one or more tribunes to veto it].

  5. Asked what he would do if Caesar were to chose to be consul and keep his army [so that he would need to be elected in absentia],  he replied, as gently as you please: ‘What [would I do if] my son chose to take his stick to me?’

  6. These utterances of his have produced an impression that he is having trouble with Caesar (‘Letter to Friends’, 84 , translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2001, at pp. 383-5).

Return of Two Legions for the Parthian Campaign (April ? 50 BC)

According to Aulus Hirtius:

  1. “... the Senate decreed that, [in preparation] for the Parthian campaign, ...[Pompey and Caesar. should each send one of his legions to Rome.  However], it was clear enough that, [in fact], both legions were, were to be withdrawn from one man:

  2. Pompey gave the First Legion, which he had sent to Caesar [in 54 BC], ... as one of his own.  Although there was not the least doubt about Pompey’s intention, Caesar nevertheless sent this legion back to him; [and]

  3. on his own account, [Caesar] ordered the Fifteenth, which he had kept in Nearer Gaul, to be handed over in accordance with the Senate’s decree.

  4. ...  He himself proceeded to Italy.  When he arrived there, he learned that, through the action of the consul C. Marcellus, both legions, ... [had] been handed over to Pompey and kept in Italy.  This action left no doubt in any man’s mind what was afoot against Caesar ... ”, (‘Gallic War’, 8: 55:1-55:2, translated by Henry Edwards, referenced below, at pp. 587-9).

Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) as Tribune of the Plebs (50/49 BC)

According to Plutarch, in the summer of 50 BC:

  1. “... matters at Rome came to a crisis, with:

  2. the aristocratic party attaching itself to Pompey, who was in the city; and

  3. the popular party summoning Caesar from Gaul, where he was in arms;

  4. [the tribune C. Scribonius] Curio, the friend of Mark Antony, who had changed sides and was now favouring the cause of Caesar, brought Mark Antony over to it.  Curio, who had great influence with the multitude, ... made lavish use of money supplied by Caesar, and so got Mark Antony elected as tribune of the people [for the following year] ...”, (‘Life of Antony’, 5: 1-2).

Thus, Caesar planned for Mark Antony to represent his interests in Rome as tribune for 50 BC, just as Curio had done in the previous year. 

Caesar decided to further enhance Mark Antony’s prestige by supporting his election as augur: as Aulus Hirtius recorded in his addition to Caesar’s ‘Gallic War’, towards the middle of 50 BC, Caesar:

  1. “... varied his usual practice, travelling to Italy with all possible speed in order to address the municipalities  and colonies to which he had already commended the candidature of his quartermaster-general, Marcus Antonius, for the priesthood.  He was glad to use his personal influence in the contest for an intimate friend of his own ...  However, before he could reach Italy, he heard that Antonius had been elected augur ...”, (‘Gallic War’, 8: 50: 1, translated by Henry Edwards, referenced below, at pp. 583-5).

Caesar in Cisalpine Gaul

Caesar did not turn back when he heard of Mark Antony’s election as augur: according to Aulus Hirtius:

  1. “... he felt that he had no less legitimate reason for visiting the municipalities and colonies [in the region]:

  2. to thank them for affording Antonius their support in so large numbers; and

  3. at the same time, to commend himself as a candidate for the office he sought [i.e. his second consulate] for [48 BC].

  4. For his opponents were insolently boasting that [C. Claudius Marcellus and L. Cornelius Lentulus] had been elected consuls [for 49 BC] to despoil Caesar of every office and distinction, and that the consulship had been wrested from [Servius Sulpicius Galba], though he had been far stronger in influence and votes alike, because he was intimately connected with Caesar by personal friendship and by service as his legate.  Caesar was welcomed by all the municipalities and colonies with honour and affection beyond all belief; ... Having passed rapidly through all the districts of Gallia Togata [his province of Cisalpine Gaul], Caesar returned with all speed to the army at Nemetocenna [the capital of the Gallic Atrebates, who occupied what is now northern France]”, (‘Gallic War’, 8: 50:1 - 52:1, translated by Henry Edwards, referenced below, at p. 585).

We can reasonably assume that Caesar’s main purpose had been to prepare the municipalities and colonies between the Alps and the river Po for his imminent return to peninsular Italy.

December 50 BC

By December 50 BC, Caesar had established himself at Ravenna, in his province of Cisalpine Gaul. Cicero, who had returned to Italy from his province of Cilicia in November, was based at his villa at Formiae in order to preserve his imperium for long enough to secure the award of a triumph.  On 13th December, he wrote to Atticus (who was in Rome):

  1. “I saw Pompey on 10th December: we were together perhaps two hours. ... On the political situation, he talked as though we were certainly in for war [and said] nothing to suggest a hope of agreement.  He told me that although he had previously been aware of Caesar’s complete estrangement from himself, a very recent incident had confirmed his opinion. [Aulus] Hirtius, a very close friend of Caesar’s, had come from him to Rome, but had not approached [Pompey] himself; he had arrived on the evening of 6 December, and[L. Cornelius Balbus, Caesar’s agent] had arranged to call at [the house of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, Pompey’s ally] before dawn on the 7th for a talk on the whole situation.  But Hirtius had left to join Caesar in the middle of the night.  This seemed to Pompey proof positive of estrangement”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 127, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, pp. 203-5).

Cicero again wrote from Formiae to Atticus in Rome on 25th or 26th December, reporting that Pompey, who had been recruiting troops in Campania:

  1. “... overtook me near the Lavernium [yesterday].   We went back to Formiae together and talked privately from two o’clock till evening. The answer to your question whether there is any hope of a pacification, ... [it seemed to me] that there isn’t even the desire for one.   All in all, ... although [I dread the prospect of war], I felt relieved as I heard such a man, courageous, experienced and powerful in prestige, discoursing statesman-wise on the dangers of a false peace.  We had in front of us a speech made by [Mark] Antony on 21 December ... [that included] threats of armed force.  Talking of which Pompey remarked:

  2. ‘How do you expect Caesar to behave if he gets control of the state, when his feckless nobody of a Quaestor [i.e. Mark Antony] dares to say this sort of thing?’

  3. In short, far from seeking the peaceful settlement you talk of, he seemed to dread it.  I think [that nothing will ?] move him from the idea of abandoning Rome”, (‘Letter to Atticus’, 131, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, pp. 217-9).

Prelude to Caesar’s Invasion of Italy

Two Disastrous Senate Meetings (1st and 7th January 49 BC)

Like most members of the Senate, C. Claudius Marcellus Maior and L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus, the consuls who took office on 1st January 49 BC, were staunchly opposed to Caesar.  However, Pompey, who was still proconsul (with Spain as his notional province) and in command of an army, was close at hand outside the city, with hiss father-in-law, Q. Metellus Scipio, acting as his spokesman in Rom.


However, Caesar had at least one vocal supporter: as Plutarch noted:

  1. “From the moment that Mark Antony entered upon his office [as tribune, on 10th December 50 BC], he was of great assistance to those who were managing affairs [at Rome] in the interests of Caesar ”, (‘Life of Antony, 5: 2).

1st January

The surviving manuscripts of Caesar’s ‘Civil War’ begin:

  1. “. . . When Caesar’s letter was delivered to the consuls, their consent for it to be read out in the Senate was obtained with difficulty, indeed after a huge struggle by some tribunes”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 1: 1, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 3).

We can probably fill in the initial lacuna with the help of two other sources:

  1. According to Plutarch:

  2. “... when the Senate would neither receive Caesar's letters nor allow them to be read, Mark Antony, whose office [as tribune] gave him power, read them himself, and thereby changed the opinion of many, who judged from Caesar's letters that he was making only reasonable and just demands”, (‘Life of Antony, 5: 3).

  3. According to Appian:

  4. “Caesar then wrote a letter to the Senate, which Curio carried a distance of 1300 stades [from Ravenna to Rome] in three days and delivered to the newly-elected consuls as they entered the Senate House on the first of January. The letter contained

  5. a calm recital of all that Caesar had done from the beginning of his career; and

  6. a proposal that he would lay down his command at the same time with Pompey ... .

  7. [However]],  if Pompey should retain his command, he [Caesar] would not lay down his own, but would come quickly and avenge his country's wrongs and his own.  When this letter was read, as it was considered a declaration of war ... “, (‘Civil Wars’, 2: 32)

If all three of these records relate to the same letter, then:

  1. Caesar wrote it at Ravenna at the end of 50 BC and entrusted it to Curio, who delivered it to the newly-elected consuls at the start of 49 BC;

  2. Mark Antony, as tribune, ensured that it was read out in the Senate; and

  3. it contained:

  4. Caesar’s offer lay down his proconsular command if Pompey would do the same; and

  5. the threat that, if Pompey declined, there would be war.

According to Caesar, although the letter was read out to the Senate:

  1. “... consent could not be obtained for a motion on [its] contents.  The consuls’ motion [then] initiated a general debate about public affairs”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 1: 2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 3).

This debate was dominated by aggressively anti-Caesarian speeches by:

  1. the consul Lentulus; and 

  2. Scipio, in a contribution that, according to Caesar:

  3. “... seemed to issue from the mouth of Pompey himself”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 2: 1, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 3).

In the end, the Senate:

  1. “... backed Scipio’s proposal that Caesar must dismiss his army by a set date. ... This was vetoed by the tribunes Mark Antony and Q. Cassius [Longinus]”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 2: 6-7, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 5).

According to Appian:

  1. “When [Caesar’s] letter was read, it was considered a declaration of war, and a vehement shout was raised on all sides that L. Domitius should be appointed as Caesar's successor.  Domitius took the field immediately with 4,000 men from the active list”, (‘Civil Wars’, 2: 32).

7th January

The Senate re-convened on 7th January.  On this occasion, according to Caesar:

  1. “... the tribunes were granted no opportunity to protest their danger or even to hold onto their fundamental right by means of the veto.  Instead, seven days into January they were forced to think about their own safety... [when Senators] rushed to the final and ultimate decree of the Senate [i.e. it passed a rarely-used an emergency decree, the senatus consultum ultimum, ...  [proclaiming]:

  2. ‘Let the consuls, praetors, tribunes of the plebs, whoever are of consular rank in the city dedicate themselves so that the Republic take nothing of detriment.

  3. Thus, within five days from the day Lentulus entered the consulship (allowing for the two days reserved for assemblies) Caesar’s governorship ... [was] the subject of extremely urgent and harsh decrees.  [So too were the tribunes], who immediately fled from Rome and made their way to Caesar ...at ... Ravenna ...”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 5: 3-5, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at pp. 9-11).

Caesar also recorded that:

  1. “On the following days, the Senate met outside the city [so that Pompey might attend].  Pompey ... praised the Senate for courageously standing firm, and then stated [that he had]:

  2. ten legions ready; and

  3. ... good evidence that Caesar’s soldiers are estranged from him and cannot be convinced to defend or even follow him.

  4. The remaining issues were referred to the Senate: recruitment should be undertaken throughout Italy, ... [and] public funds [were to be] provided to Pompey.  ... On the remaining issues, senatorial decrees were recorded.  Provincial commands were assigned to men in private life, two at the consular level, the rest praetorian ... These men did not [even] wait ... for the bill ratifying their commands to be put to the assembly; they departed in uniform after announcing their vows.  The consuls left Rome <lacuna> (another thing that never happened before that occasion) and used lictors in Rome in a private capacity, contrary to every precedent.  Troops were recruited throughout Italy, weapons were requisitioned, money was extorted from towns and taken from temples. All rights, divine and human, were thrown into confusion”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 6: 1-8, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at pp. 11-13).

Cicero summed up the situation in a letter that he wrote on 12th January wrote to his secretary Tiro (whom he had left behind in Greece, so that he could recover from an illness):

  1. “I arrived at the city walls on the 4th of January.  ... I found things in a blaze of civil discord, or rather civil war.  I desired to find a cure for this, ...  but I was hindered by the passions of particular persons, for there are men on both sides, who desire to fight.  The long and short of it is that:

  2. Caesar himself ... has sent the Senate a menacing and offensive despatch [the letter read out on 1st January] , and is so insolent as to retain his army and province in spite of the Senate (and my old friend Curio is backing him up); [and

  3. ... the tribunes] Mark Antony and Quintus Cassius, having been expelled from the house, though without any violence, left town with Curio to join Caesar as soon as the Senate had passed the decree ordering consuls, praetors, tribunes, and us proconsuls [i.e. Cicero himself, Pompey and Caesar] to see that the Republic received no damage [a reference to the decree passed on 7th January]. 

  4. Never has the State been in greater danger: never have disloyal citizens had a better-prepared leader [than Caesar].  On the whole, however, preparations on our side are also being pushed on with very great activity.  This is being done by the influence and energy of our friend Pompey, who now, when it is too late, begins to fear Caesar. ... Italy has been marked out into districts, showing for which part each of us is to be responsible.  I have taken Capua”, (‘Letter to Friends’, 143, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 2001, at pp. 75-7).

It seems that, when he wrote this letter, Cicero was blissfully unaware that Caesar was already marching south, and that Pompey had disastrously misrepresented both Caesar’s military position and his own.

Caesar’s Invasion of Italy  (11 - 17th January 49 BC)


Adapted from Adrian Goldsworthy (referenced below, 2006, at p. 468)

As noted on the previous page, the Senate appointed L. Domitius Ahenobarbus as Caesar’s successor in Gaul.  On 7th January, when Caesar was with his army at Ravenna (which was in his erstwhile province, the Senate passed a senatus consultum ultimum that required him to disband his army on pain of death: should he refuse, anyone of praetorian rank who remained with his army would be the same penalty.  Clearly, he now had to make a decision.  Caesar claimed that:

  1. “After learning about these matters [i.e., both the senatus consultum ultimum and Pompey’s subsequent military preparations], Caesar addressed his soldiers”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 7: 1, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 13).

Having given his men his version of recent events, he urged them:

  1. “... to protect from his enemies the reputation and prestige of a man under whose leadership they had served the Republic with outstanding good fortune for 9 years, while fighting a huge number of successful battles and pacifying the whole of Gaul and Germany.   A shout went up from the soldiers of the 13th legion (... the rest [of his army] had not yet arrived) that they were ready to protect their commander and the tribunes from injury”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 7: 8, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 15).

Crossing the Rubicon (on or shortly after 10th January 49 BC)

According to Plutarch (1st century AD), at the time that the Senate issued the decree of 7th January:

  1. “Caesar had with him fewer than 300 horsemen and 5,000 legionaries: the rest of his army had been left beyond the Alps, and was to be brought up by those whom he had sent for the purpose.  However, he saw that the beginning of his enterprise ... did not require a large force ... , [and that he]  must take advantage of the golden moment by showing amazing boldness and speed ... He therefore ordered his centurions and other officers, taking only their swords ... , to occupy Ariminum ... , avoiding commotion and bloodshed as far as possible; and he entrusted this force to [Quintus Hortensius, the eponymous son of the famous orator].  He himself spent the day in public ... [at Ravenna.  He then left secretly for Ariminum, having] previously ordered a few of his friends to follow him, not all by the same route ... [He stopped] when he came to the  {rubicon], which separates Cisalpine Gaul from the rest of Italy, and began to reflect [on the implications of proceeding]. ...  He also spent a long time discussing his perplexities with his friends who were present, among whom was Asinius Pollio ... But finally, with a sort of passion, as if abandoning calculation and casting himself upon the future, he uttered the phrase with which men usually prelude their plunge into desperate and daring fortunes:

  2. ‘Let the die be cast.’ 

  3. He then hastened to cross the river; and going at full speed,  he reached Ariminum before daybreak and took possession of it”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 32: 1-8).

Given Plutarch’s description of Caesar’s soul-searching at the Rubicon, we might have expected that Caesar himself would have at least mentioned it.  However, all he wrote about this momentous event was that, after his speech to his soldiers (above):

  1. “Apprised of [their]’ goodwill, he set out [from Ravenna] with the 13th legion for Ariminum,..., (‘Civil War’, 1: 8: 1-2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 15). 

Furthermore, as Jeffrey Beneker (referenced below, at p. 74) pointed out:

  1. “... [although] Cicero’s writings include a negative response to the start of the war and to Caesar’s actions in general, ... they [too] make no mention of the [Rubicon].  

Unfortunately, Livy’s account of these events does not survive.  However, according to the 4th century account of Paulus Osirius, which was largely drawn from Livy:

  1. “[After] Mark Antony and Q. Cassius ... [had been] barred from the Curia and Forum by order of the consul [L. Cornelius] Lentulus [on 7th January], they set out, accompanied by Curio and [M. Caelius Rufus], to join Caesar.  After crossing the Rubicon river, Caesar, [accompanied by only five cohorts] came to Ariminum ... With these cohorts, according to Livy, he set out to attack the whole world”, (‘History Against the Pagans’, 6: 15: 3).

It seems from this that Livy had probably recorded Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, but that (like Caesar and Cicero) he had not drawn particular attention to the fact that this crossing arguably marked the start of his ‘attack on the whole word’.  The earliest surviving record of Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was by Velleius Paterculus (early 1st century AD), who simply recorded that:

  1. “When ... the Senate decreed [on 7th January] that [Caesar] should enter the City as a private citizen and should, as such, submit himself to the votes of the Roman people in his candidacy for the consulship, Caesar concluded that war was inevitable and crossed the Rubicon with his army.  Pompey, the consuls, and the majority of the Senate first abandoned Rome then Italy”, (‘Roman History’, 2: 49: 4).

Asinius Pollio, whom Plutarch (above) mentioned as an eye-witness, was probably one of Plutarch’s sources: as Jeffrey Beneker (referenced below, at p. 74) pointed out:

  1. “Pollio almost certainly described the crossing in some detail [in the book that he added to Caesar’s ‘Gallic Wars’ ], but his lost account may be glimpsed only through the filter of later writers [such as Plutarch], which makes it difficult to discover what significance, if any, [Pollio himself] attached to the event”, (my change of sentence order). 

He had clearly influenced Plutarch, and his account (perhaps alongside that of other eye witnesses) presumably also influenced Plutarch’s contemporaries:

  1. the poet Lucan:

  2. “The reddish waters of the Rubicon ... serve as the boundary between the land of Gaul and the farms of Italy.  ... [Caesar’s] cavalry first met the flow, taking position slantwise across the current, lessening its power so that the rest of the army could ford it with ease.  Once Caesar had crossed and reached the Italian shore on the further side, he halted on the forbidden territory and cried:

  3. ‘Here I relinquish peace and the law that has already been scorned [by my enemies], to follow you, my Fortune.  Let me hear no more talk of pacts, I have placed my trust in those for far too long: now I must seek the judgement of war’”, (‘Civil War’1: 213-227); and

  4. Suetonius:

  5. “It was not until after sunset that [Caesar] out very privily with a small company, taking the mules from a bakeshop close by and harnessing them to a carriage; and when his lights went out and he lost his way, he was astray for some time, but at last found a guide at dawn and got back to the road on foot by narrow by-paths.  Then, overtaking his cohorts at the river Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province, he paused for a while and, realising what a step he was taking, turned to those about him and said:

  6. ‘Even yet we may draw back; but once we cross this little bridge, the whole issue is with the sword’

  7. As he stood in doubt, he was given a sign: there appeared close by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed ... the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of [the soldiers], rushed to the river and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank.  Then Caesar cried:

  8. ‘We should take the course that both the signs of the gods and the false dealing of our foes point out.  The die is cast’”. (‘Life of Caesar’, 31–32).

The story had certainly grown in the re-telling.

Ariminium

The Romans had founded the colony at Ariminum (modern Rimini) in 268 BC), on land, at the northern extreme of the ager Gallicus, as a bulwark against the Gauls to the north.  It would have been the first settlement of any kind that Caesar would have encountered as he led his army south along the Adriatic coast from Ravenna.  It is unlikely that Plutarch (above) or his source(s) invented the role that Hortensius played in occupying Ariminum.  Nevertheless, it is difficult to see what Caesar would have achieved by the subsequent subterfuge that Plutarch (and a number of other sources) described, and it might have been a later elaboration.  Whatever the true sequence of events, there is nothing in any of the surviving sources to suggest that Caesar had to take Ariminum by force.  It is, of course, possible that he had already reached an understanding with the authorities there during his visit to Cisalpine Gaul some six months before (see the previous page).

Caesar recorded that, when he reached Ariminum:

  1. “... he met the tribunes [Mark Antony and Cassius], who had taken refuge with him.  He summoned the rest of his legions from winter quarters [in Gaul] and ordered them to follow [into Italy] immediately, (‘Civil War’, 1: 8: 1-2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at pp. 15-7).

It would have taken the tribunes about 3 days to travel from Rome to Ariminum, so Caesar must have arrived at Ariminum on or shortly after 10th January.

Arretium, Pisaurum, Fanum Fortunae, Ancona and Iguvium

According to Caesar, after the apparent failure of mediation by Lucius Julius Caesar (the eponymous son of Caesar’s cousin, the consul of 64 BC) and the praetor Lucius Roscius Fabatus, he:

  1. “... sent Mark Antony from Ariminum to Arretium with 5 cohorts.  He himself stayed at Ariminum with two [cohorts], and began to recruit troops there. He occupied Pisaurum, Fanum, Ancona with one cohort each.  Meanwhile, having been informed that at Iguvium (a town that the [Pompeian] praetor Thermus was holding with five cohorts and fortifying), the attitude of all the inhabitants toward him was strongly positive, Caesar sent Curio with the three cohorts that he had at Pisaurum and Ariminum.  At news of his approach Thermus, distrusting the community’s attitude, withdrew his cohorts from the city and fled; his soldiers abandoned him on the march and returned home.  Curio recovered Iguvium with great and universal goodwill, (‘Civil War’, 1: 11:4 - 12:2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 21).

Caesar now controlled all of the main routes between Rome and Ariminum.

Auximum

Caesar then moved south into Auximum, which seems to have been the centre of Pompeian resistance north of Rome.  According to Caesar:

  1. “Learning of this, and confident of goodwill in the towns [of Arretium, Pisaurum, Fanum Fortunae, Ancona and Iguvium], Caesar withdrew the cohorts of the 13th legion from garrison duty and set out for Auximum, a town that [the Pompeian, Publius Attius Varro] held with cohorts he had brought in.  He was also recruiting troops throughout Picenum by sending senators from town to town.  [However], when they learned of Caesar’s approach, the magistrates at Auximum met as a body with Attius and  told him that the affair was not something for them to decide.  {Caesar claimed that they had insisted that: “Neither we nor the rest of our townspeople can tolerate that Caius Caesar, a commander who has such important public achievements to his credit, should be barred from the town and its fortifications. Furthermore, you should consider the future and your danger.  Disturbed by their words. Varus led out the garrison he had installed, and fled.  A few of Caesar’s advance-guard soldiers caught up and forced him to stop.  A fight began, but Varus was deserted by his men: some of them went home, and the rest reached Caesar, bringing the chief centurion Lucius Pupius along as a prisoner.  ... Caesar ... praised Attius’ soldiers, dismissed Pupius, and thanked the people of Auximum, promising to remember their action”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 8: 13, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 23).

This was apparently the first military engagement of the civil war.  Caesar then:

  1. “... traversed the whole of Picenum.  All the prefectures of those parts received him with the utmost gladness and assisted him with supplies of every kind.  Even from Cingulum, a town that [Titus Labienus - see below] had constituted and built at his own expense, envoys came to him and promised to do his bidding with the utmost eagerness”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 8: 15, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 25).

Titus Labienus, who had been born at Cingulum, had been Caesar’s senior legate in Gaul, but he had defected to Pompey shortly after Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon. 

After Fall of Ariminum (February - March 49 BC)

Pompey and Consuls Leave Rome (17th -18th January 49 BC?)

Pompey

According to Cassius Dio, Pompey sent L. Julius Caesar (a relative of Caesar) and L. Roscius Fabatu (a praetor) as envoys to negotiate with Caesar, but:

  1. “Pompey ... set out for Campania before the envoys returned, thinking that he could more easily carry on war there.  He also commanded the whole Senate and the other magistrates to accompany him, ... announcing to them that he would regard anyone who remained behind in exactly the same light as those who were working against him.  Furthermore, he ordered them to decree that public moneys and the votive offering in the city should all be seized, hoping that, by using them, he could recruit a vast number of soldiers”, (‘Roman History’, 41: 6: 1-3).

Caesar recorded that:

  1. “Pompey, having left Rome the day before [the consuls - see below], was en route to the legions that he had [previously] received from Caesar, which he had distributed in winter quarters around Apulia.  Recruitment in the City’s vicinity was put on hold; nothing north of Capua felt safe to anyone”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 14: 3-4), translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at pp. 23-5).

It seems that, even at this early stage, Pompey had decided to abandon Rome, at least temporarily.  Most scholars believe that Pompey announced his imminent departure from Rome to the Senate on 17th January, and that Cicero referred to his demeanour at this meeting in a letter that he sent to Atticus on 18th March:

  1. “I saw [Pompey] on 17 January, thoroughly cowed.  That very day, I realised what he was at. Thereafter he was never to my liking.  He went on blundering, now here now there”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 177, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 3, p. 53).

Lentulus and Marcellus

Caesar recorded that, when the news of the fall of Auximum reached Rome:

  1. “... the panic that suddenly hit [the City] was so great that, although the consul Lentulus had come to open the treasury to provide money for Pompey in accordance with the Senate’s decree [of 17th January - above], he fled the city directly after opening the treasury reserve, because false reports [had it that] Caesar was already approaching ... Lentulus was followed by his colleague Marcellus and most of the magistrates”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 14: 1-3), translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 23).

According to Plutarch:

  1. “... the consuls fled, without even making the sacrifices usual before departure”, (‘Life of Caesar’, 34: 1).

As noted on the previous page, a sentence in Caesar’s description of the events of 7th January reads

  1. “The consuls left Rome <lacuna> (another thing that never happened before that occasion) and used lictors in Rome in a private capacity, contrary to every precedent”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 6: 7, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 13).

Cynthia Damon completed the lacuna as <inauspicato (without taking the auspices)>, but commented (at note 20) that:

  1. “[The phrase] ‘in a private capacity’ [in Caesar’s passage] seems to allude to a constitutional irregularity (e.g., that the formalities pertaining to the consuls’ installation were incomplete), but the text may be corrupt.”

William Dingee(referenced below, at p.  309) argued that:

  1. “On the basis of this parallel [between Caesar and Plutarch], textual critics have attempted to emend [Caesar’s] text here to restore an assertion that the consuls departed inauspicato.  While a variety of procedural objections could plausibly give rise to the accusation that a consul had departed for campaign without receiving the sanction of auspicium, Plutarch ... refers specifically to sacrifice.  It therefore seems more likely that the action that Caesar claimed was unprecedented was the omission of the feriae Latinae.”

In other words, it is possible that:

  1. the corrupt text in the surviving manuscripts of Caesar’s work belonged to the events of the 17th rather than the 7th January; and

  2. Plutarch was following Caesar when he claimed that the consuls fled the City of 17th March before making the usual sacrifices, by which he menat the sacrifices at the feriae Latinae on the AlbanMount.

Domitius and the Fall of Corfinium (21st February 49 BC)

After consolidating his position by incorporating many displaced or deserting soldiers from the senatorial army into his own, Caesar besieged Corfinium: L. Domitius Ahenobarbus, Caesar’s replacement for the provincia of Gaul, had concentrated his forces there and hoped to receive reinforcements from Pompey in order to halt Caesar’s march on Rome.

Cicero wrote to Atticus from Campania on 18th February, reporting that he had just received:

  1. “... a letter to announce that Caesar is camped outside Corfinium, and that Domitius is inside the town, with a powerful army eager for battle. I  don’t believe that [Pompey] will crown all [his recent mistakes] by leaving Domitius in the lurch [albeit that he has] sent Scipio with two cohorts to Brundisium and written to the Consuls that he wished one of them to take the legion raised by Faustus to Sicily.  But, it will be a disgraceful thing to desert Domitius when he is begging for help”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 153, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 2, p. 287).

Cicero could not know that, by this time, Caesar had received the legion that he had summoned from Gaul.  When he wrote to Atticus on 28th February, he referred back to the time of Caesar’s arrival outside Corfinium: 

  1. “Nor can anyone fairly blame me, in this last phase [of the war in Italy], for not going overseas. ... Indeed I could not be expected to guess the plan, particularly as, from Pompey’s own letter, I was firmly under the impression (and I see you thought the same) that he would go to Domitius’ rescue”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 162, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 2, p. 321).

It is clear that, for many of the leading Romans who opposed Caesar, Domitius’ stand at Cofinium had represented their last chance to stop him from taking control of the whole of Italy. Now, some two weeks later, Cicero knew what Pompey had actually decided to do: indeed he forwarded to Atticus copies of two letters that Pompey (who was then at Luceria) had writtenat that crucial point in the war:

  1. “17th  February 49 BC: Cn. Magnus Proconsul to L. Domitius Proconsul:

  2. A letter of yours has been delivered to me [today] in which you say that Caesar has encamped at Corfinium.  What I thought and predicted is happening: he is unwilling to join battle with you at present and, having collected all his forces, hems you in, obstructing your road to me and preventing you from adding your own thoroughly loyal forces to the legions here, whose loyalty is doubtful.  I am therefore all the more disturbed by your letter.  I do not have enough confidence in the morale of the men that I have with me to fight a battle on which the whole future of the commonwealth would be staked, and the levies raised for the Consuls have not yet mustered.  Therefore, do your best, even at this stage, if  you can ... extricate yourself and to come here as soon as possible before the entire enemy forces have joined up [with Caesar].  The men from the levies cannot muster here rapidly, and if they did, you will appreciate how little confidence could be placed in troops who do not even know one another against veteran legions”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 162D, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, pp. 333-5).

  3. “18th February 49 BC: Cn. Magnus, Proconsul to C. Marcellus and L. Lentulus, Consuls

  4. “Holding as I do that,  while we are scattered, we can neither be of use to the State nor any protection to one another ... I have ... decided ... to take the force that I have with me to Brundisium, [and] I urge you [both] ... to muster all the troops that you can and come likewise to Brundisium as soon as possible.  ... Please inform our friends of this.  I have sent instructions to Praetors P. Lupus and C. Coponius to join you with such troops as they have”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 162A, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, pp. 325-7).

In other words, Pompey also knew that the outcome of Caesar’a siege of Corfinium would be decisive for control of Italy, but he believed that this battle was already lost.  This proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: Caesar claimed that Domitius had kept the contents of Pompey’s letter from his men while he planned his own escape, but his officers discerned his intent, arrested him and then surrendered, following which, he:

  1. “... ordered all senators, sons of senators, staff officers, and men of equestrian rank [in the surrendering army] to be brought before him.  From the senatorial order there were these: L. Domitius, P. Lentulus Spinther, L. Caecilius Rufus, the quaestor Sex. Quintilius Varus, and L. Rubrius, in addition to Domitius’ son and several other young men and a large number of men of equestrian rank and council members whom Domitius had summoned from the towns.  When they stood before him ,he protected them from insults and derision by his soldiers.  He spoke briefly about the failure of some of them to show gratitude for the great favours he had conferred, then dismissed all of them unharmed.  As for the 6,000,000 sesterces that Domitius had brought to Corfinium and deposited in the public treasury, although they were delivered to Caesar by the town’s magistrates, he returned them to Domitius  ... And yet. everyone knew that that this was public money and had been given by Pompey for paying the troops.  He ordered Domitius’ soldiers to swear fidelity to himself.   That same day, he struck camp and set out on a full day’s march.  Altogether, he had spent seven days at Corfinium.  Traveling through the territory of the Marrucini, the Frentani, and the Larinates he came to Apulia”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 23: 1-5, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at pp. 35-7).

Events at Brundisium (February - March 49 BC)

On 22nd February, Cicero reported to Atticus that:

  1. “I am in suspense, waiting for the outcome at Corfinium, where the existence of the Republic is at stake”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 157, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, p. 297).

However, his suspense would soon be over: on 23rd February, he described his feelings to Atticus:

  1. “What a dishonourable and therefore miserable business!  ... [Pompey first] built Caesar up, then suddenly began to fear him, rejected all terms of peace, made no preparations for war, abandoned Rome, culpably lost Picenum, squeezed himself into Apulia, [and would soon be] off to Greece, leaving us all without a word, without [giving us] any part in so momentous and extraordinary a plan.  Then, out of the blue, comes Domitius’ letter to him and his to the Consuls.  It seemed to me as though the light of Honour had shone before his eyes ... But Pompey, waving goodbye to Honour, is making for Brundisium.  As for Domitius, they say that on hearing the news [that Pompey was not sending reinforcements] he and those with him have given themselves up [and Caesar has taken Corfinium].   A tragic business!”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 158, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999 at vol. 2, pp. 299).

Caesar was now effectively in control of Italy, and the main hope of defeating him depended on Pompey’s plan to evacuate the military resources that were still at his disposal to Epirus before Caesar could stop him.

Caesar

Two pieces of evidence enable us to date Caesar’s movements in the aftermath of the fall of Corfinium:

  1. In a letter that Cicero wrote to Atticus on 2nd March, he observed that:

  2. “... Brundisium is [now] the focus of the whole struggle ... I am racked with suspense on that account.  But, we shall know all before the Nones (7th March), for I see that Caesar left Corfinium on the afternoon of the Feralia (21st February), the same day that Pompey left Canusium at dawn.  In view of Caesar’s marching habits, ... I am that afraid he may reach Brundisium sooner than desirable”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 164, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 2, p. 337).

  3. In a letter that L. Cornelius Balbus, Caesar’s agent in Rome, sent to Cicero on 22nd March, he copied the contents of a letter that he (Balbus) and a colleague had received from Caesar:

  4. “Caesar to Oppius and Cornelius: On 9 March, I reached Brundisium and encamped before the walls.  Pompey, who is in Brundisium, ent N. Magius to me to treat of peace.  I replied as I thought proper.  I wanted you to know this at once.  As soon as I see any hope of achieving anything in the way of a composition I shall at once inform you”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 181 A, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 3, p. 53).

Thus, Caesar began his 460 km march along the Adriatic coast from Corfinium to Brundisium on 21st February and arrived on 9th March.

Pompey

Three pieces of evidence enable us to date Pompey’s movements after the fall of Corfinium:

  1. In a letter that Cicero  wrote to Pompey on 27th February, he reported that:

  2. “... news arrived simultaneously of the [fall of] Corfinium on the one hand and, on the other, that you had set out for Brundisium”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 161D, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 2, pp. 315).

  3. Caesar similarly recorded that:

  4. “After learning what had happened at Corfinium, Pompey set out from Luceria for Canusium and from there for Brundisium.  He ordered all of the troops from the recent recruiting, wherever they were, to be concentrated [there]”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 24: 1-2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 37).

  5. In a letter that Cicero wrote to Atticus on 18th March, he referred back to a letter that Atticus had sent to him:

  6. “... on the 1st of March, when Pompey had been at Brundisium for four days”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 177, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 3, p. 61).

Thus, when Pompey heard of the fall of Corfinium sometime before 27th February, he travelled from Luceria, via Canusium, to Brundisium.

Evacuation of Pompey’s Army

Three pieces of evidence enable us to date the subsequent events at Brundisium:

  1. According to Caesar, when he arrived at Brundisium (on 9th March):

  2. “He found that the consuls had left for Dyrrachium with a large part of the army, but that Pompey was still in Brundisium with 20 cohorts”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 25: 1-2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 39).

  3. Caesar then described the measures that he took to obstruct Pompey’s plans, but then recorded that:

  4. “When nearly half of Caesar’s barrier was complete after 9 days had been spent on it, Pompey’s ships were sent back from Dyrrachium by the consuls.  (These had transported the first part of the army and now returned to Brundisium.)  Pompey ... began preparing his departure after the ships’ arrival”, (‘Civil War’, 1: 27: 1-2, translated by Cynthia Damon, referenced below, at p. 43).

  5. Cicero, in a letter that  wrote to Atticus on 25th March, enclosed a copy of a letter that he had received from two of his friends:

  6. “Matius and Trebatius to Cicero Imperator: After leaving Capua, we heard on the road that:

  7. Pompey left Brundisium with his entire force on 17th  March;

  8. Caesar entered the town on the following day, made a public speech and then left for Rome; and

  9. he desires to reach the capital before the Kalends (1st April), to stay there only a few days, and then to set out for Spain”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 184, translated by David Shackleton Bailey, referenced below, 1999, at vol. 3, p. 91).  


Read more:

C. Damon (translator), “Caesar: Civil War’, (2016) Cambridge, MA

J.  Beneker, “The Crossing of the Rubicon and the Outbreak of Civil War in Cicero, Lucan, Plutarch, and Suetonius”, Phoenix, 65: 1/2 (2011) 74-99

J. Ramsey, “The Proconsular Years: Politics at a Distance”, in:

  1. M. Griffin (Ed.), “A Companion to Julius Caesar”, (2009) Chichester and Malden, MA, at pp. 37-56

A. Goldsworthy, “Caesar”, (2006) London

M. Dillon and L. Garland, “Ancient Rome: Social and Historical Documents from the Early Republic to the Death of Augustus”, (2005) Oxford and New York

D. R. Shackleton Bailey  (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Friends, Volume I: Letters 1-113”, (2001) Cambridge, MA

D. R. Shackleton Bailey (translator), “Cicero: Letters to Atticus, Volumes I IV”, (1999) Cambridge MA

R. Seager, “Pompey the Great”, (1979) Oxford

H. J. Edwards (translator), “Caesar: Gallic War’, (1917) Cambridge, MA


Return to Roman History (1st Century BC)

Home