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Definition: Pompey from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

Pompey 106–48 b.c. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus; the Great Rom. gen. & statesman

Summary Article: Pompey
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus)(pŏm'pē), 106 B.C.–48 B.C., Roman general, the rival of Julius Caesar. Sometimes called Pompey the Great, he was the son of Cnaeus Pompeius Strabo (consul in 89 B.C.), a commander of equivocal reputation. The young Pompey fought for Sulla in Picenum, in Sicily, and in Africa so successfully that Sulla allowed him to enter Rome in triumph and receive (81 B.C.) the title Magnus. He helped drive (77 B.C.) Lepidus from Italy and went (76 B.C.) to Spain to fight the remnants of the Marius party led by Sertorius. After this he returned (72 B.C.) to Italy and helped to end the slave revolt of Spartacus. Although he was not legally eligible, he was elected consul in 70 B.C.; he supported laws restoring the powers of the tribunes and forcing the senate to share some of the magistracies with the knights. Pompey's main career as a general began in 67 B.C., when he was commissioned by the law proposed by Aulus Gabinius to destroy the pirates infesting the Mediterranean. From this success he went on to vanquish Mithradates VI and Tigranes, king of Armenia. He next annexed Syria and Palestine and began the Roman organization of the East. In 62 B.C. he returned to Rome. The senate, jealous and ungrateful, had been influenced by the Metellus faction of senatorial extremists, who eventually drove Pompey into alliance with their deadly enemy, Caesar. The First Triumvirate was established in 60 B.C., and Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey became rulers of Rome. Pompey profited least from the combination. He was never popular, and his residence in Rome, while Caesar was away, diminished his hold on the people. At the same time the irresponsible behavior of Clodius and Pompey's own inclinations made him more and more sympathetic to the senate. The relations of Pompey and Caesar, however strained, were always amicable while Pompey's wife Julia, Caesar's daughter, was alive, but after her death (54 B.C.) Pompey became Caesar's jealous enemy. Finally, after the disorders of the gangs organized by Clodius and Milo, in 52 B.C., Pompey received the sole consulship as the leader of the senatorial party. He made Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio his colleague. Caesar broke with the senate and crossed (49 B.C.) the Rubicon, and the civil war began. Pompey was defeated at Pharsalus (48 B.C.) and fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated.

  • See M. Beard; M. Crawford, Rome in the Late Republic (1985).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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