The Roman Republic and its growing problems

Roman Republic Issues

Although originally a monarchy, Rome had become a Republic near the end of the sixth century BC. Such political revolutions were commonplace in the city-states of the ancient world, but after this Rome proved remarkably stable, free from the often violent internal disputes that constantly beset other communities. Gradually at first, the Romans expanded their territory, and by the beginning of the third century BC they controlled virtually all of the Italian peninsula. Conflict with Carthage,...

He Ides of March

Second Battle Philippi

On 15 February 44, Caesar's dictatorship and other powers were extended for life. A month later he was stabbed to death by a group of senators that included men who had served him for years, as well as pardoned Pompeians. Before discussing why the conspirators acted in this way, we must consider the difficult question of Caesar's own long-term aims - a subject of continuing scholarly debate and little agreement. It has often been stated that the Roman Republic failed and was replaced by the...

Sulla did not know his political alphabet Caesars dictatorship

In the first years of the Civil War Caesar spent little time in Rome. In 46 he spent the greater part of the year there, having just been appointed dictator for ten years, and then after his return from Spain in October 45 remained there until his assassination on 15 March 44. The rest of the time Caesar was busy on campaign and ruled Rome through deputies. He was planning to leave once again to fight a war in the Balkans against Dacia and then to move east and confront Parthia in spring 44, a...

Egypt September 48August

Caesar rested only for a very short time after the victory. Mark Antony was sent back to This iron helmet, known to modern scholars as the Agen type, was one of several Gallic designs adopted and developed by the Roman army. Such helmets were certainly in use with many of the Gallic auxiliaries in the Civil War and may also have been worm by some legionaries, especially in Caesar's legions, which had been serving in Gaul for some years. Schweisz Landesmuseum, Zurich Italy, while Domitius...

Cicero and the Civil

The Civil War presented the vast majority of Romans with a dilemma, for it was clear that joining either side or remaining inactive all had their perils. As we have seen, only a minority even among the Senate actually wanted war. The letters written and received by the great orator Cicero during these last months of peace and the years of war provide us with a remarkable insight into these times and the impact of the war on one man, his family and friends. The majority of these letters were to...

Civil wars and the end of the Republic

At Brutus' insistence the conspirators killed only Caesar. Mark Antony threw off his senator's toga to escape, not realising that he was not in danger, mingling with the crowd as the senators fled in panic. No one seems to have had much idea of what was going to happen next. Slowly and cautiously, apparently realising that there were not gangs of supporters bent on revolution and pillage, the Senate went back to the Capitol and spoke to the conspirators. The value of Brutus' reputation to the...

A leader without an army Greece January August

Sckipio Roman Leader

The report of Curio's defeat was not the only bad news reaching Caesar in late 49, for Mark Antony had suffered a lesser defeat in Illyricum. Even more serious was a mutiny involving four of his legions, and in particular Legio IX, at Placentia modern Piacenza on the river Po. The troops complained that many who had served throughout the Gallic campaigns were now long overdue for discharge, and that no one had yet received the donative of 500 denarii per man double their annual salary promised...

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar Crosses The Rubicon

Were it not for the support of my army they would have passed judgement upon me in spite of my achievements.' Caesar looking at the bodies of dead senators after Pharsalus By 50 the mood in Rome was increasingly tense. The fear was similar to that in anticipation of Pompey's return in 62, but probably even worse, for Caesar was perceived now as a more open revolutionary, and his province, with its large, veteran army, lay on Italy's own border. Many Romans feared that this...

Spain November 46 September

Battle Thapsus

Cassius had proved both corrupt and incompetent as governor of Spain, alienating both his own troops and the local population. By the time he was replaced by Caius Trebonius, the situation was almost beyond redemption and the new governor was expelled by mutinous soldiers. Pompey's elder son Cnaeus arrived and was rapidly acclaimed as commander of the rebellious legions. He was soon joined by other Pompeians, including his brother Sextus and Labienus. A huge army of 13 legions and many...

Blitzkrieg the Italian campaign January March

Campaign Caesar Rubicon

The suddenness of Caesar's advance surprised and unnerved his opponents, just as he had intended. Pompey left Rome in the second half of January, declaring that it could not be defended. He was followed by most of the magistrates, including the consuls, who left in such haste that it suggested panic. Many Romans were still uncertain about just how firmly committed each side was to fighting, and this open admission of military weakness made many wonder whether Pompey could really be relied on to...

Veni vidi vici the Zela campaign

It was not until late May or early June that Caesar finally stirred himself to move. There was bad news from Syria, and he sailed there with Legio VI, leaving the rest of his army to garrison Egypt. After the suicide of Mithridates of Pontus, his son Pharnaces had been left with only a small fraction of the old kingdom of Pontus. Seeing the disorder caused within the empire by the Civil War, Pharnaces decided to seize once more the lost territory, and invaded the old heartland of Pontus....

Primary sources

The Civil War is well documented by the standards of ancient conflicts, but there remain many gaps in our knowledge. The best account is provided by Caesar's War Commentaries in three books covering 49-48, supplemented by separate accounts of the Alexandrian War, African War and Spanish War written by his continuators. The identities of the latter are unknown, but all appear to have been officers who served with Caesar and witnessed at least some of the events they described. All of these...

Caesars centurions

Military Roman Tombstone

No personal account written by an ordinary soldier or junior officer survives for the Civil War. In the surviving narratives only a handful of men from the ranks are even mentioned by name, usually because they performed some conspicuous act of heroism. We know that soldiers were primarily recruited from the poorer classes. In normal circumstances most, if not all, were volunteers, but during civil wars many were probably unwilling conscripts. Soldiering had become a career, but the wages were...

Curio in Africa springsummer

Curio Africa Juba

Curio occupied Sicily without fighting, and then crossed with three legions to Africa, where the governor, Publius Attius Varus had declared against Caesar. The latter was supported by the Numidian King Juba, who commanded a large, if sometimes unreliable army. Curio had little military experience -none at all of high command - and was considered brilliant but unreliable by most contemporaries. His army consisted of troops originally raised by the Pompeians who had This carved stone relief from...

Lesion against lesion

Fotografias Erich Lessing

Rome's civil wars split the state into factions, and the army with it. Since there were no ethnic, ideological or social differences between the rival sides, it was inevitable -even more than in any other civil war - that the organisation, tactical doctrine and equipment of their armies was virtually identical. The main strength of the Roman army lay in the legions, units with a paper strength of about 5,000. In theory the legions were recruited only from Roman citizens, but during the civil...

An army without a leader the Spanish campaign April August

Caesar Ilerda

The main Pompeian army in Spain was at Ilerda modern L rida commanded by Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petrius. Between them they had five legions, 80 cohorts of Spanish auxiliaries - a mixture of both close- and open-order infantry - and 5,000 cavalry. The other two legions, again supported by auxiliaries, remained far to the west in Further Spain under the command of Marcus Terentius Varro. To face the force at Ilerda, Caesar was able to muster six legions, along with 3,000 cavalry of various...

He First Triumvirate

Statue First Triumvirate

For nearly two years Sulla ruled as dictator with absolute power and only laid this down when he went into voluntary retirement. Before he did so, Sulla attempted to restore the Senate's position within the Republic, confirming its traditional powers and filling it with his supporters. He passed a law that was intended to prevent army commanders from following his own example and using their legions outside their own provinces without permission. The career pattern cursus honorum followed by...