Birthday: September 29, 106 BC
Died At Age: 58
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, Pompey the Great
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Picenum
Famous as: Military Leader
Spouse/Ex-: Aemilia Scaura (82 BC – 79 BC), Antistia (86 BC – 82 BC), Cornelia Metella (52 BC – 48 BC), her death), his death), Julia (59 BC – 54 BC), Mucia Tertia (79 BC – 61 BC)
father: Pompeius Strabo
children: Gnaeus Pompeius, Pompeia Magna, Sextus Pompey
Died on: September 28, 48 BC
place of death: Pelusium, Ptolemaic
Who was Pompey?
Pompey, a key figure in ancient Roman history, was a politician and a military commander who was active during the late Roman Republic. He belonged to an affluent family without any political leverage, but he grew up to become a very influential man. His father, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, was an infamous man. Pompey worked for two years under his father’s commands and took over the reins when his father died while safeguarding Rome from the Marians. Pompey proved himself to be better than his father in using tactical skills to win battles. Equipped with an army, he brought Syria, Armenia, and Palestine under the Roman Empire. He also tamed the pirates in the Mediterranean Sea and was appointed as the administrator of the lands conquered by him. His former rival, Julius Caesar, joined hands with him in 60 BC. Along with Marcus Licinius Crassus, the trio is known in history as the “First Triumvirate.” While Pompey became jealous of Caesar’s success, Caesar, too, could not tolerate the extraordinary rise of Pompey. Soon, Caesar started plotting against him. While the general support was with Pompey, the Egyptian king, Ptolemy, feared Caesar. In order to earn Caesar’s goodwill, Ptolemy plotted and killed Pompey as soon as he landed in Egypt in 48 BC.
Childhood & Early Life
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was born on September 29, 106 BC, in Picenum, Italy, during the late Roman Republic. He belonged to a rich family. His father was the first family member to be part of the Roman nobility. In 141 BC, Pompey’s father gained the position of consul for the first time.
Being born in a rich and respected Roman family came with its advantages. Pompey was given the best of education in Greek mythology. His sharp mind made him an able man when he was in his teenage years. His father, Pompeius Strabo, was an able military general who fought as an ally of Sulla, who was a supporter of dictatorship.
While Pompei grew up, the Roman Empire was plagued with frequent civil wars. The goriest of these was the war between Sulla and Marius, who was an advocate of democracy. Pompey’s father died during the Marians’ siege of Rome. However, the actual cause of his death is still debated.
Pompey had fought under his father’s leadership and had learned a great deal from him. Following his death, he took charge of his father’s army. However, his father died as an infamous man. There were several charges of treachery and greed against him, and following his death, Pompey had to face the trials for the acts committed by his father.
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Rise to Power
Facing accusations for his father’s deeds, Pompey exhibited immense skills as he verbally fought the accuser in the court. The judge was sympathetic toward Pompey . Knowing his skills as a future leader, he married off his daughter, Antistia, to Pompey. Soon, Pompey was acquitted of all charges.
On his way to finish off what his father had started, Pompey joined hands with Sulla in 83 BC, during his final invasion of Rome. The Marians were destroyed this time, and Sulla was given the position of the dictator. Sulla was aware of Pompey’s abilities and made him an administrator in his court. In order to keep the bond strong, Sulla asked Pompey to divorce his first wife and marry Sulla’s stepdaughter, Aemilia Scaura, which Pompey gladly agreed to do.
By then, the leftover Marians had moved to Sicily, where they gathered their forces again to tackle Sulla’s regime. Pompey proved his military acumen and took over Sicily soon. Although he was known as a kind man, he was brutal to his enemies and came to be known as the “adolescent butcher.”
The enemies refused to rest. Meanwhile, Gnaeus Domitius was gathering a large force in Africa, to tackle Sulla’s forces in Rome. Pompey was still young and his exceptional performance as a leader of the forces had Sulla becoming additionally fond of him. Pompey was sent to Africa and managed to subdue Domitius. When he returned to Rome, Pompey was given the title of “Magnus,” meaning “the great,” and it was decided that “Magnus” would be his official last name.
Pompey demanded a “triumph,” or a ritual procession, upon his return to Rome in 81 BC. However, the request was denied by Sulla, as Pompey was still too young for his exceptional demands to be met. In 79 BC, Pompey canvassed for Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and made him a consul against Sulla’s wishes. This gave rise to a slight conflict between Sulla and Pompey, but both the parties respected each other. Although a mutiny was almost inevitable, it did not take place. However, Sulla left Pompey out of his will before he died.
Following Sulla’s death in 78 BC, Marcus Aemilius took his place. The new ruler was not very fond of Sulla, but Pompey demanded Sulla’s burial to be done with honor and respect. Several conflicts took place between the two, and the Roman Empire narrowly escaped a revolution.
By the time he approached his 30s, Pompey’s influence and reputation had traveled beyond the national borders. He spent many years fighting in Spain, to maintain the Roman influence there. Following his exceptional campaigns in Spain, he was elected as a consul in 70 BC. He was 36 years old then. He was inherently a military commander and refused to sit in the consul’s office. Instead, he went on several campaigns to strengthen the Roman Empire.
One of his most successful voyages was to the Mediterranean Sea, on which he embarked after he gained control over a small part of the navy. He fought the pirates there and successfully scared them away. The pirates were a major obstacle for Roman merchants. Once the ocean was cleared, it accelerated Rome’s business relations with other kingdoms. Thus, Pompey also showed his abilities as a politician and formed political alliances with several kingdoms that had stakes in the sea.
He carried on with his campaigns and soon brought Jerusalem and Syria under the Roman influence. By 60 BC, Julius Caesar had arrived from Spain and was ruling the great lands of the Roman Empire. When Pompey arrived back in Rome, he was welcomed with an open heart.
Caesar offered Pompey an alliance with him. With Marcus Licinius Crassus being the third man to enter the alliance, the famous trio known as the “First Triumvirate” was formed. Caesar’s military abilities were known to all, and combined with the wits of Pompey, the trio ruled the Roman Empire for the next seven years.
However, all was not well between the three. Each of them was in a constant struggle to be more popular and powerful than the others in the alliance. Caesar’s successes made Pompey jealous. This led to the collapse of the “First Triumvirate” in 53 BC, and Caesar was asked to give up his army. Italy was under Pompey’s rule by then, and Caesar declared war against him in 49 BC.
Pompey was not ready and was forced to draw back his forces from Italy and Spain. However, in Greece, Caesar’s forces fell short. Soon, they were forced to retreat. In 48 BC, Caesar finally defeated Pompey and compelled him to flee to Egypt.
King Ptolemy was ruling Egypt at that time. Since Ptolemy was his former ally, Pompey asked him for refuge. However, Ptolemy had other plans. Pompey was not aware that Ptolemy feared offending Caesar.
Death & Legacy
On September 28, 48 BC, Pompey was welcomed by King Ptolemy who asked him to land in Pelusium. As soon as he landed, Pompey was struck from behind by one of Ptolemy’s generals. He died on the spot.
Historians regard Pompey as one of the greatest Roman generals who lived during the late Roman Republic. Pompey has appeared in several books, novels, paintings, films, and poems.
Pompey married five times in his lifetime. Almost all of his marriages resulted from political alliances. He married Antistia, Aemilia Scaura, Mucia Tertia, Julia, and Cornelia Metella. Pompey fathered three children, all from his third wife, Mucia.