Roman Republic

Caesar’s Earlier Career (69 - 61 BC)

(In construction)

69-8 BC:

  1. Caesar served as quaestor in Spain.

  2. He returning ante tempus, and supported the agitation of the Transpadanes (the people who lived between the river Po and the Alps) for full citizenship.

  3. Oration at the funerals of his aunt and his wife

  4. Curator of the Via Appia, probably in 68 BC

65 BC: Curule Aedile, with Marcus Calpiunius Bibulus.

  1. His games won him considerable popularity.

  2. He restored the trophies of Marius.

  3. He supported Crassus’ plan to annex Egypt

64 BC: As Iudex Quaestionis, Caesar presided over the quaestio de sicariis, and the court condemned several men charged with killing men whom Sulla had proscribed, but acquitted Catiline.

63 BC:

  1. he was elected Pontifex Maximus, to the annoyance of his older and more distinguished rivals;

  2. he prosecuted C. Calpurnius Piso, complaining of his treatment of the Transpadanes ;

  3. he was one of the iiviri perduellionis appointed for Labienus' prosecution of Rabirius;

  4. conscious of Pompey’s impending return, he supported the bill of Labienus and Ampius Balbus allowing Pompey to wear the dress of a triumphator at public shows;

  5. he opposed the killing of the men arrested in December , following the Cataline Conspiracy, and came near to carrying the Senate with him

Quintus Lutatius Catulus consistently opposed Julius Caesar, whom he endeavoured to implicate in the Catilinarian conspiracy.  Caesar, in return, accused him of embezzling public money during the reconstruction of the temple on the Capitol, and proposed to obliterate his name from the inscription and deprive him of the office of commissioner for its restoration. Catulus' supporters rallied round him, and Caesar dropped the charge. Later Caesar took his revenge on Catulus by defeating him in the election to the religious office of Pontifex Maximus in 63 BC.

62 BC: praetor [probably Urban Praetor]:

  1. Caesar supported the tribune Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos in proposing controversial legislation that would recall Pompey and his army in order to quell the Catiline rebellion.  However, the pair were so obstinate in their proposals that they were suspended from office by the Senate.  Caesar attempted to continue to perform his duties, only giving way when violence was threatened.   The Senate was persuaded to reinstate him after he quelled public demonstrations in his favour.

61 BC: Propraetor

  1. After a delay in the allocation of provinces, Caesar was given the praetorian province of Hispania Ulterior in early March.  According to Suetonius:

  2. “Being allotted the province of Further Spain after his praetorship, Caesar got rid of his creditors, who tried to detain him, ... and was on his way [even] before the provinces were provided for ...”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 18: 1).

  3. In other words, he left Rome without waiting for the decrees of the Senate that formally confirmed the appointments of the new provincial governors and provided them with funds and equipment.  He fought successfully against the Callaeci and Lusitani, granted various measures of debt relief, and captured enough booty to pay his own debts. 

Informal Triumvirate: Pompey, Crassus and Caesar (60 BC)

According to Suetonius:

  1. “After restoring order in his province, [Caesar returned to Rome] without waiting for the arrival of his successor, in order to:

  2. request a triumph; and

  3. stand for election for the consulship [of 59 BC, suo anno

  4. But, inasmuch as the day for the elections had already been announced and no account could be taken of Caesar's candidacy unless he entered the city as a private citizen, ... he was forced to forgo the triumph, to avoid losing the consulship”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 18: 1-2).

  5. He must have therefore have arrived in Rome in June (which suggests that his term in Spain had been extended. 

  6. At the same time that Caesar found himself denied a triumph, Pompey found that the the Senate was still reluctant to:

  7. confirm his acta in the East; and

  8. provide land for assignation to his veterans.

  9. These were the circumstances in which Caesar formed the agreement with Pompey and Crassus that is now known as the first triumvirate.

Caesar’s First Consulship (59 BC)

Caesar was duly elected to the consulship, with Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus as his colleague.  According to Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 187, with references):

  1. “Bibulus, with the support of three plebeian tribunes, opposed Caesar’s agrarian law [see below], but when proved powerless against the combination of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus, retired to his house and, by announcements that he was watching for omens, kept Caesar’s legislation technically invalid.”

Broughton named the three tribunes who had attempted to aid Bibulus as: Quintus Ancharius; Cnaeus Dominius Calvinus; and Caius Fannius.

Caesar’s Legislation

Caesar’s lex Julia Agraria, which was probably passed in January, was followed in May by another that distributed land in Campania.

Another of Caesar’s law ratified Pompey’s acta in the east and satisfied Crassus by remitting a third of the contracts to the tax farmers of Asia.

Caesar’s lex de repetundis improved the regulation of provincial governors.

Caesar’s Prospective Proconsular Provinces

Under the lex Sempronia de Provinciis Consularibus (123 BC), the two consular provinces assigned for a particular year had to be designated before the election of that year’s  consuls.   According to Suetonius, when it had become evident in the summer of 60 BC that Caesar would stand in the elections for the consulship of 59 BC:

  1. “... the aristocracy took care that provinces of the smallest importance, that is, silvae callesque (woods and pastures), should be assigned to the consuls about to be elected”, (‘Life of Julius Caesar’, 19: 2).

Since decrees under this law were not subject to tribunician veto, Caesar was potentially destined to follow his proconsul a year with another as proconsul in an obscure province, while the more important provinces would all be governed by others.  However, Caesar soon secured the assignation of more important provinces:

  1. “Backed ... by his father-in‑law [Lucius Calpurnius Piso] and his son-in‑law [Pompey], ... [Caesar] made the Gauls his choice, as the most likely to enrich him and furnish suitable material for triumphs:

  2. at first, it is true, he received only Cisalpine Gaul, with the addition of Illyricum, by the bill of Vatinius [see below]; but

  3. he subsequently received [Transalpine Gaul] as well, [this time] from the Senate, since the members feared that, should they refuse it, the people would [add this to his earlier allocations]” (‘Life of Caesar’, 22: 1).

Cassius Dio gave a similar account, in which Caesar:

  1. “... claimed [publicly] to be thoroughly satisfied with what he had [i.e. the consulship].  However, others [i.e. friendly tribunes] ... proposed whatever he [really wanted], and had it passed, not only by the people, but also by the Senate itself.  So it was that:

  2. the people granted him the government of Illyricum and of Cisalpine Gaul, with three legions, for five years; and

  3. the Senate granted him, in addition, Transalpine Gaul and another legion (‘Roman History’, 38: 8: 4-5).

Cisalpine Gaul

During a short-lived emergency in Gaul in March 60 BC (discussed in more detail below), the Senate mandated that the consuls of that year, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and Lucius Afranius, should draw lots for the Gallic provinces (presumably so that they could assume overall command).  Cisalpine Gaul fell to Afranius but, since the emergency soon ended, it is unclear whether(and, if so, when) he took up this military assignment: 

  1. According to Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 189), it is possible that Afranius served as governor of Cisalpine Gaul during Caesar’s consular year of 59 BC. 

  2. David Rafferty (referenced below, at pp. 201-2) observed that:

  3. “... all that we can say with confidence is that Afranius was probably still in Rome in mid-December [60 BC]: ... this would not precluded him from [having gone] to his [allotted] province [thereafter].”

  4. He concluded that:

  5. “The likelihood ... is that Afranius took up his province [in 59 BC] but [that his colleague], Metellus Celer - see below] did not, meaning that only one of the [twelve] territorial provinces was held by a consul or consular proconsul [in that year]. ”

  6. Terry Corey Brennan (referenced below, at p. 583) argued that:

  7. “... although detailed evidence is lacking, there is good reason to suspect that ... Afranius took up Cisalpina at some point after he received it in the emergency sortition of March of [60 BC] ... : and he will have remained there until .... Caesar took charge [in March 58 BC].”

However, David Rafferty (as above0 also noted that:

  1. “Eight praetorian [provincial governors of this year] are known, including [Caius] Pomptinus, [the governor of Transalpine Gaul - see below] ... Thus, three [of the twelve] provinces were held by unknown imperators.”

Given the lack of hard evidence for Afranius’ career after 60 BC, Cisalpine Gaul could conceivably have been a fourth.

Lex Vatinia de Caesaris Provincia

The tribunician law that assigned Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum to Caesar was put forward by Publius Vatinius, whom Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 189, with references) characterised as:

  1. “The chief supporter in the tribunicial college of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus.”

Cicero addressed this law in a passage in the speech of 56 BC in which he defended Publius Sestius: in his hostile cross-examination, of Vatinius (who appeared as a witness at the trial), Cicero asked:

  1. “... by what decree of the Senate [were you] appointed [as Caesar’s legate in Gaul ?] ... .  Your gesture gives me your answer: you say [that it was] in virtue of your own law. 

  2. Are you then ... a traitor to your fatherland ? 

  3. Was it your object that no trace of the Senate should be left in the state ? 

  4. Did you wish to rob the Senate even of the prerogative that no-one had ever before denied to it, the right of appointing staff-officers by a resolution of the House ? 

  5. Did this Council of State appear to you so mean, the Senate so degraded, the State so wretched and prostrate, that envoys of peace and war, that ambassadors, that representatives, that directors of policy in war, that assistants in the administration of a province, should no longer, according to the custom of our ancestors, be chosen by the Senate? 

  6. You had deprived the Senate of the right of assigning provinces [and] sanctioning the appointment of commanders ... ”, (‘In Vatinium’, 35-6, translated by Robert Gardner, referenced below, 1958a, at pp. 287-9).

From this, it is clear that, even in 56 BC, Vatinius’ law remained controversial.  However, despite his distaste for the lex Vatinia, Cicero argued against a proposal to assign Cisalpine Gaul to another consul when Caesar’s five year term came to an end: in another speech that he delivered in 56 BC, (which is discussed further below), he pointed out that, should Cisalpine Gaul be assigned in 56 BC under the lex Sempronia to one of the consuls who was elected for 55 BC, then this consul:

  1. “... should [normally] take over his province on the first day of January [54 BC. ... However, because the province was originally assigned to Caesar for five full years, this consul would] seem to have [Cisalpine Gaul] promised to him but not definitely assigned.  ... [What would happen when his consular year ended ?]:

  2. Is he to leave Rome [on 1st January 54 BC] wearing his general’s cloak ?  

  3. [Is he to depart for] a place where he will not be allowed to present himself before a fixed day [in the future]? 

  4. During January and February he will have no province; all at once, on the first day of March, a province will be found for him”, (‘De Provinciis Consularibus’, 37, translated by , translated by Robert Gardner, referenced below, 1958b, at pp.585-7).

This suggests that the lex Vatinia had:

  1. taken effect on the 28th February 59 BC: and

  2. prescribed the 28th February 54 BC as the end of Caesar’s five years as governor of Cisalpine Gaul.

Transalpine Gaul

As noted above, he status of the Gallic provinces changed in early 60 BC.  This is clear from a passage in a letter that Cicero wrote from Rome on 15th March to Atticus (who was in Epirus):

  1. “... the chief subject of interest in public affairs [here] ... is the disturbance in Gaul, ... [where]  the Helvetii are undoubtedly in arms and making raids on our province.  The Senate has [therefore] decreed that the two consuls [Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer and Lucius Afranius] should draw lots for the Gauls ...”, (Letter to Atticus, 1: 19: 2).

It seems that Metellus drew Transalpine Gaul and (as noted above) Afranius Cisalpine Gaul.  However, the emergency soon evaporated: in a second letter to Atticus on 13th May, Cicero noted that:

  1. “Your friend Metellus is an admirable consul.  I have only one fault to find with him: he [is disappointed with] the news from Gaul of the restoration of peace: I suppose that [he had been hoping to replace Pomptinus (see below) in Transalpina, and to secure] a triumph”, (Letter to Atticus, 1: 20: 5).

Caius Pomptinus

Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 77) recorded that Pomptinus, a praetor in 63 BC, had first been appointed as governor of Transalpine Gaul for 62 BC, and that his appointment was prorogued in each of the following two years, during which time he:

  1. “... checked and repressed a rebellion of the [Gallic] Allobroges”

It is clear from Cicero’s two letter above that:

  1. the Senate had mandated the consul Metellus Celer to relieve him of overall command in March 60 BC; but

  2. he had quickly put an end to the emergency that had prompted this senatorial intervention.

It is clear from a passage of Cicero’s speech of 56 BC in defence of Marcus Caelius Rufus that Metellus  had still been in Rome in April 59 BC when he had died, and that some (including Cicero) suspected that his wife (who was, by then, married to Cicero’s enemy, Clodius) had poisoned him:

  1. “I witnessed what was perhaps the most bitter sorrow of my life ... , when Q. Metellus was snatched from the bosom and embrace of his country, ... [only] two days after he had displayed his full vigour in the Senate, on the Rostra, and in public life, ...  when [still] in the prime of his years, in the best of health, and in the fullness of his strength.  At that moment, at the point of death, ... he remembered the State with his last thoughts... [as] he strove in broken and dying words to tell how ... great a tempest threatened [it] ...;  he grieved, not so much because he was dying, but because his country ... should be bereft of his aid.  Being the man he was, had the violence of a sudden crime not removed him, in what fashion would he, as a man of consular rank, have resisted [Clodius’s] revolutionary madness, ... Shall, then, that woman who comes from a house like this venture to speak about the speedy effect of a draught of poison? ... Will she not shudder at the walls that know her guilt, and at the memory of that night of death and grief ?, (‘Pro Caelio’, 59-60, translated by Robert Gardner, referenced below, 1958b, at pp. 479-83).

There is no surviving evidence to suggest that he had taken up the governorship of Transalpine Gaul before his death, but some scholars believe that he was about to do so.  However, Robert Broughton (referenced below, at p. 184) argued that:

  1. “... since he apparently lost his province, it is probable that Pomptinus [was] Caesar’s immediate predecessor.  It is uncertain when he returned to Rome to demand his triumph [see below].”

David Rafferty (referenced below, at p. 201) agreed, and Metellus’:

  1. “... position in 59 BC was therefore that of a privatus, and his death in that year had no bearing on the assignment of Transalpine Gaul to Caesar.  Broughton is correct that Pomptinus retained the province until it was given to Caesar. [which] helps explain the constant opposition of Vatinius and other partisans of Caesar to any recognition of Pomptinus‘ achievements [see below].” 

Cicero’s second letter above had indeed indicated that, when news had arrived in Rime in May 60 BC that the emergency in Gaul had ended, Metellus had been disappointed, since he had hoped to take overall command there and thus to secure a triumph.

According to Cassius Dio:

  1. “... Metellus would not ...yield, even when Flavius later threatened that he would not allow him to go out to the province that he had drawn[in March 60 BC] unless he would permit the law to be passed; on the contrary, [Metellus said that] he was very glad to remain in the city”, (‘Roman History’, 37: 50: 4).

Terry Corey Brennan (referenced below, at p. 578)


Cicero, in his hostile cross-examination of Caius Vatinius in 56 BC, asked rhetorically::

  1. “... I should like to learn from you ...  your intention, when you the funeral celebration given by my friend Quintus Arrius [probably in April 59 BC] wearing the toga pulla (mourning dress) ? Had you ever seen or heard of anyone presenting himself in such a costume on such an occasion ? ...  You will say that you [were signifying your disapproval]  of the supplicationes (public thanksgivings] that were then being held. Very well, I grant you that those thanksgivings were nothing.  Do you see that I am not questioning you on the subject of that year, nor about the interests you seem to share with very high personages [i.e. Caesar and Pompey], but about your own misdeeds ?”, (‘In Vatinium’, 30, translated by Robert Gardner, referenced below, 1958a, at pp. 281).

Gardner (at note d) observed  that the so-called Bobbio Scholiast (in his commentary on this passage) asserted  that the supplicationes of which Vatinius disapproved had been those given in 59 BC in honour of Pomptinus (although the scholiast had not reveal the source of his information).

In late October 54 BC;, Cicero wrote from Rome to Atticus (who was in Asia), reporting that:

  1. “Pomptinus wants to celebrate his triumph on 2 November.  The praetors Cato and Servilius and the tribune Q. Mucius are stopping him at the city gate: they say that no enabling law has been brought in, and it is true that the manner of its bringing in was insulse (in bad taste).  The consul Appius [Claudius Pulcher] will be on Pomptinus’ side.  Cato, however, asseverates that Pomptinus will triumph over his (Cato’s) dead body, an utterance that, I expect, will end in air( like a good many from the same quarter).”, (‘Letters to Atticus’, 4: 18: 4).

Cassius Dio:

  1. “... Caius Pomptinus [finally] celebrated a triumph over the Gauls: he had remained outside the pomerium [since his victory in 60 BC], because no one granted him the right to hold it, and he would have missed it even now had not the praetor Servius Sulpicius Galba [... who had served under Pomptinus in Gaul] not, secretly and just before dawn, [enrolled a number of new citizens], despite the fact that it is illegal for any business to be brought before the people before the first hour.  For this reason some of the tribunes, who had been left out of the assembly, caused him trouble in [Pomptinus’ triumphal] procession, at any rate, so that there was some bloodshed”, (‘Roman History’, 39: 65: 1-2).

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, ... [became clear: 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 (early January 49 BC) 

Three Disastrous Senate Meetings (1st and 7-8th January 49 BC)

C. Claudius Marcellus Maior and L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus took office as consuls on 1st January 49 BC.  Like most members of the Senate, they were staunchly opposed to Caesar.  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 his father-in-law, Q. Metellus Scipio, acting as his spokesman in Rome.  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:

“. . . When Caesar’s letter was delivered to the consuls, their agreement that it should be read out in the Senate was obtained ... [only] 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 eventually 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 [Ahenobarbus] should be appointed as Caesar's successor [as proconsul of Gaul].  Domitius took the field immediately with 4,000 men from the active list”, (‘Civil Wars, 2: 32).

7th -8th 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 exercise 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 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.   Cicero’s phrase “I have taken Capua’ indicates that he had agreed to take responsibility for Campania.

Read more:

Rafferty, D., “Provincial Allocations in Rome: 123-52 BC”, (2019) Stuttgart

Grillo L., “Cicero's De Provinciis Consularibus Oratio”, (2015) New York

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

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

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

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

Brennan T. C., “The Praetorship in the Roman Republic: Volume 1: Origins to 122 BC”, (2000) Oxford

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

Seager R., “Pompey the Great: a Political Biography”, (1979) Malden MA, Oxford, Melbournes and Berlin

Gardner R. (translator), “Cicero: Pro Sestio: In Vatinium”, (1958a) Cambridge MA

Gardner R. (translator), “Cicero: Pro Caelio: De Provinciis Consularibus: Pro Balbo”, (1958b) Cambridge MA

Broughton T. R. S., “The Magistrates of the Roman Republic,Volume II (99 - 31 BC)”,  (1952) New York

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

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