Caesar vs Pompey: Clash of the Deadly Rivals

Julius Caesar vs Pompey the Great

At the height of its power, Rome not only accomplished great things and achievements but also faced many problems and threats such as slave rebellion in Sicily in 73 BC and Pirate attacks on strongholds in the eastern Mediterranean. Challenging times require army generals like Pompey and Julius Caesar to deal with challenges. At first, these two great historical figures were on friendly terms, but they then became deadly rivals.

Pompey Removed The Pirates Out Of The Mediterranean

Pirates, especially the Cilician pirates, controlled the Mediterranean sea starting from the 2nd century BC until their suppression by Pompey in 67-66 BC. After the appointment of Pompey, the prices of wheat and other goods stabilized, which went in favor of ending the foreign threat.

That foreign threat was the pirate activity that impeded the rule of Rome, particularly in the Mediterranean. In 67 BC, accompanied by a large contingent of ships, Pompey was eager and ready to wipe out the pirates.

Pompey pirates
The Sicilian pirates were a great threat to Rome. Pompey decided to put an end to the pirates’ dominion in the Mediterranean. Credits: Pinterest

The tactics included driving the pirates inland where they would be in no position to offer resistance. After having utilized his tactics successfully, Pompey wanted to integrate those former pirates into the Roman society by offering them life as farmers. For these reasons, Pompey delivered on his promises to secure Roman waters from piracy threats.

Caesar Led His Army To Conquer The Whole Of Gaul

Perhaps one of the best-known episodes in the Roman history is Gallic Wars and the Roman commander that waged them, Julius Caesar. At the time, Julius Caesar was a rising star of the Roman political world when appointed governor of northern Italy and southern France in 59 BC.

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Ambitious by nature, Julius Caesar was not content to stay within the boundaries of his provinces, so he embarked on a campaign of conquest. His first target was the Gallic peoples. In order to gain their trust, he offered a helping hand in their endeavor to fight back foreign aggressors. In the second year of his command, he decided to conquer the Gallic lands.

Gallic Wars
The Gallic Wars resulted in the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul. Credits: DualShockers

The Gauls offered great resistance, almost inflicting serious defeats on the Roman legions. Nonetheless, it took 6 years for the Romans to yield results and conquer the whole of Gaul. But the greatest test was yet to come for the Gauls rose up in revolt the following  year. Once again, the Gauls were defeated, and Caesar was ready to turn his attention to the seizure of supreme power in Rome itself.

Pompey Conquered Jerusalem

During his campaigns in the Middle East, Pompey encountered the Jewish people living under the rule of the Hasmonean Dynasty. During the siege of Jerusalem, Pompey destroyed the city and badly damaged a temple.

Realizing they had been defeated, the Jewish people had to accept the terms of Rome, which resulted in Jerusalem becoming a province of the Roman Empire in 64 BC. When Pompey conquered Jerusalem, he allegedly had entered into the temple to inspect and evaluate the religious items.

Pompée Siege of Jerusalem
Pompée Siege of Jerusalem via wikipedia

The interesting thing is that Pompey could not understand how a people can be monotheistic, i.e. worship just one God. Though puzzled, he ordered the city and the temple to be restored.

Caesar Sent An Expedition Over To Britain

After conquering the Gauls, Caesar did not settle with not setting the foot on Britain. He reckoned his army was absolutely ready for a new, successful raid. Therefore, the history has learnt about the two Caesar’s invasions of Britain.

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Landing of the Romans on the Coast of Kent
Caesar’s invasions of Britain via wikipedia

These two offensives took place in 55 BC and 54 BC when the Roman commander Julius Caesar seized the British lands and subjugated the Britons. Despite the military success, Caesar could not control both the lands and the people completely due to the poor logistics and the rebellious province of Gaul, which was supposed to connect the British province and the rest of the continental part of Rome. Nevertheless, it was a great step forward towards establishing a lasting bond between the British Isles and the continental part of ancient Europe.

Pompey And Caesar Became Deadly Rivals

The two commanders, once on friendly terms and then deadly rivals, aspired to seize power of the entire ancient Rome. None of them was willing to back up so they waged war on each other. Subsequently, both Caesar and Pompey formed the armies, but with a difference in support. Namely, Pompey had the backing of a majority of the senators, and his army outnumbered the veteran Caesarian legions.

Battle of Pharsalus
The Battle of Pharsalus was incited by the dispute between Pompey and Caesar. Credits: Ravenseniors

The two armies confronted in the battle of Pharsalus, Caesar being in a much weaker position than Pompey. Caesar found himself isolated with only 22,000 men while on the other side of the river stood Pompey with an army about twice as large in number. Pompey knew that he should delay the battle for Caesar would surrender from exhaustion and hunger. Despite his pleas, the senators were running out of patience, which turned out to be a cardinal error. The Pompey’s army suffered an overwhelming defeat, causing him to flee the camp disguised as an ordinary citizen.

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