Battle Of Pharsalus Essay Outline
Pharsalus (48 BCE)
In the Battle of Pharsalus, on 9 August 48 BCE, the Roman general Julius Caesar defeated the troops of the Roman Senate, commanded by his rival Pompey the Great. Caesar's victory marked the end of the Roman republic.
On this webpage, you can find a translation of Caesar's own account of the decisive battle; chapters 3.88-99 of the Civil War were translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn. (For another account, go here.)
The civil war between Julius Caesar and the Senate had broken out early in 49, when the conqueror of Gaul, who was not permitted by the Senate to run for consul, crossed the river Rubico. His rival Pompey the Great decided to fight for the Senate, but he was soon forced to retreat from Italy to the east. Caesar gained some successes in Spain, where he defeated the troops that were loyal to Pompey, returned to Italy, and in January 48 crossed the Adriatic Sea, where he landed in modern Albania with seven legions. However, his navy was defeated and the remaining four legions could not be ferried to the east.
For a half year, Pompey and Caesar remained at Dyrrhachium (modern Dürres), where they built large fortresses facing each other. In March, Caesar's deputy Marc Antony managed to reinforce him with the other four legions.
The united army, however, was defeated (July 7), and Caesar had only one option: to march inland, cross the Pindus mountains and defeat Pompey's pursuing army somewhere in Greece on a more suitable place. This eventually happened to be at Pharsalus, where Caesar's more experienced men overcame Pompey's larger army (9 August). Almost 6,000 Roman soldiers were killed, and when Caesar surveyed the battlefield at sunset and saw the bodies of the dead senators, he remarked: "Well, they would have it thus." This was the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of Caesar's autocracy.
Some believe that the battle took place to the northwest of Pharsalus, with Caesar's troops attacking from the east and Pompey's men fleeing to the west; others believe that it was the other way round - the battle taking place northeast of Pharsalus, Caesar attacking from the west, Pompey's soldiers fleeing to the east. The present author visited both sides and believes the second possibility is more likely. The map is, therefore, based on the second theory, but if you prefer the first one, just turn it upside down.
Caesar on the Battle of Pharsalus
[3.88] When Caesar approached Pompey's camp, he observed that his army was drawn up in the following manner: On the left wing were the two legions, delivered over by Caesar at the beginning of the disputes in compliance with the Senate's decree, one of which was called the First, the other the Third.note[During the last years of the war in Gaul, Pompey had supported Caesar with troops; later, the Senate had ordered Caesar to return them.] Here Pompey commanded in person.
[Pompey's father-in-law Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius] Scipio with the Syrian legions commanded the center. The Cilician legion in conjunction with the Spanish cohorts [...] were disposed on the right wing. These Pompey considered his steadiest troops. The rest he had interspersed between the center and the wing, and he had 110 complete cohorts; these amounted to 45,000 men. He had besides two cohorts of volunteers, who had received favors from him in former wars, and now flocked to his standard: these were dispersed through his whole army. The seven remaining cohorts he had disposed to protect his camp and the neighboring forts. His right wing was secured by a river with steep banks; for this reason he placed all his cavalry [commanded by Titus Labienus], archers, and slingers, on his left wing.
[3.89] Caesar, as always, had placed the tenth legion on the right, the ninth on the left, although it was very much weakened by the battles at Dyrrhachium. He placed the eighth legion so close to the ninth as to almost make one of the two, and ordered them to support one another. He drew up on the field eighty cohorts, making a total of 22,000 men, and left two cohorts to guard the camp. He gave the command of the left wing to Marc Antony, of the right to [Publius Cornelius] Sulla, and of the center to Gnaeus Domitius [Calvinus]. Caesar himself took his post opposite Pompey. At the same time, fearing, from the disposition of the enemy which we have previously mentioned, lest his right wing might be surrounded by their numerous cavalry, he rapidly drafted a single cohort from each of the legions composing the third line, formed of them a fourth line, and opposed them to Pompey's cavalry, and, acquainting them with his wishes, admonished them that the success of that day depended on their courage. At the same time he ordered the third line, and the entire army not to charge without his command: that he would give the signal whenever he wished them to do so.
[3.90] When he was exhorting his army to battle, according to the military custom, and spoke to them of the favors that they had constantly received from him, he took especial care to remind them "that he could call his soldiers to witness the earnestness with which he had sought peace [...], that he had been always reluctant to shed the blood of his soldiers, and did not wish to deprive the republic of one or other of her armies." After delivering this speech, he gave by a trumpet the signal to his soldiers, who were eagerly demanding it, and were very impatient for the onset.
[3.91] There was in Caesar's army, a volunteer named Crastinus, who the year before had been first centurion of the tenth legion, a man of pre-eminent bravery. When the signal was given, he said, "Follow me, my old comrades, and display such exertions on behalf of your general as you have determined to do. This is our last battle, and when it shall be won, he will recover his dignity, and we our liberty."
At the same time he looked back to Caesar, and said, "General, I will act in such a manner today that you will feel grateful to me, living or dead."
After uttering these words he charged on the right wing, and about 120 chosen volunteers of the same century followed.
[3.92] There was so much space left between the two lines as sufficed for the onset of the hostile armies, but Pompey had ordered his soldiers to await Caesar's attack and not to advance from their position, or suffer their line to be put into disorder. He is said to have done this by the advice of Gaius Triarius, that the impetuosity of the charge of Caesar's soldiers might be checked, and their line broken, and that Pompey's troops remaining in their ranks, might attack them while in disorder; and he thought that the javelins would fall with less force if the soldiers were kept in their ground, than if they met them in their course. At the same time he trusted that Caesar's soldiers, after running over double the usual ground, would become weary and exhausted by the fatigue.
But to me Pompey seems to have acted without sufficient reason: for there is a certain impetuosity of spirit and an alacrity implanted by nature in the hearts of all men, which is inflamed by a desire to meet the foe. A general should endeavor not to repress this, but he must increase it. Nor was it a vain institution of our ancestors that the trumpets should sound on all sides and a general shout be raised, by which they imagined that the enemy would be struck with terror and their own army inspired with courage.
[3.93] Our men, when the signal was given, rushed forward with their javelins ready to be launched, but perceiving that Pompey's men did not run to meet their charge, and having acquired experience by custom and practice in former battles, they of their own accord repressed their speed, and halted almost midway, so that they would not come up with the enemy when their strength was exhausted. After a short respite they renewed their course, threw their javelins, and instantly drew their swords, as Caesar had ordered them.
Nor did Pompey's men fail in this crisis, for they received our javelins, stood our charge, and maintained their ranks; and having launched their javelins, had recourse to their swords. At the same time Pompey's cavalry, according to their orders, rushed out at once from his left wing, and his whole host of archers poured after them. Our cavalry did not withstand their charge, but gave ground a little, upon which Pompey's horse pressed them more vigorously, and began to file off in troops, and flank our army.
When Caesar perceived this, he gave the signal to his fourth line, which he had formed of the six cohorts.note[Probably eight. They were a reserve on Caesar's right wing] They instantly rushed forward and charged Pompey's horse with such fury, that not a man of them stood; but all wheeling about, not only quitted their post, but galloped forward to seek a refuge in the highest mountains. By their retreat the archers and slingers, being left destitute and defenseless, were all cut to pieces. The cohorts, pursuing their success, wheeled about upon Pompey's left wing, while his infantry still continued to make battle, and attacked them in the rear.
[3.94] At the same time Caesar ordered his third line to advance, which till then had not been engaged, but had kept their post. Thus, new and fresh troops having come to the assistance of the fatigued, and others having made an attack on their rear, Pompey's men were not able to maintain their ground, but all fled. Caesar had not been wrong when he had declared in his speech to his soldiers that victory would have its beginning from the six cohorts that he had placed as a fourth line to oppose the horse. For by them the cavalry were routed; by them the archers and slingers were cut to pieces; by them the left wing of Pompey's army was surrounded, and obliged to be the first to flee.
When Pompey saw his cavalry routed [...], he despaired [...], quitted the field, and retreated straightway on horseback to his camp. Calling to the centurions, whom he had placed to guard the main gate, with a loud voice, that the soldiers might hear: "Secure the camp," says he, "defend it with diligence, if any danger should threaten it; I will visit the other gates and encourage the guards of the camp." Having thus said, he retired into his tent in utter despair, yet anxiously waiting the issue.
[3.95] Caesar, having forced the Pompeians to flee into their entrenchment and thinking that he ought not to allow them any respite to recover from their fright, exhorted his soldiers to take advantage of fortune's kindness, and to attack the camp. Though they were fatigued by the intense heat, for the battle had continued till midday, they were prepared to undergo any labor and cheerfully obeyed his command.
The camp was bravely defended by the cohorts which had been left to guard it, but with much more spirit by the Thracians and foreign auxiliaries. For the soldiers who had fled for refuge to it from the field of battle, affrighted and exhausted by fatigue, having thrown away their arms and military standards, had their thoughts more engaged on their further escape than on the defense of the camp. Nor could the troops who were posted on the battlements long withstand the immense number of our darts. Fainting under their wounds, they quitted the place, and under the conduct of their centurions and tribunes, fled, without stopping, to the high mountains which joined the camp.
[3.96] In Pompey's camp you might see arbors in which tables were laid, a large quantity of plate set out, the floors of the tents covered with fresh sods, the tents of Lucius Lentulus and others shaded with ivy, and many other things which were proofs of excessive luxury and a confidence of victory, so that it might readily be inferred that they had no apprehensions of the issue of the day, as they indulged themselves in unnecessary pleasures, and yet upbraided with luxury Caesar's army, distressed and suffering troops, who had always been in want of common necessaries.
Pompey, as soon as our men had forced the trenches, mounted his horse, stripped off his general's habit, went hastily out of the back gate of the camp, and galloped with all speed to Larissa. Nor did he stop there, but with the same dispatch, collecting a few of his flying troops, and halting neither day nor night, he arrived at the seaside, attended by only thirty horse, and went on board a victualing barque, often complaining, as we have been told, that he had been so deceived in his expectation, that he was almost persuaded that he had been betrayed by those from whom he had expected victory, as they began the fight.
[3.97] When Caesar was master of Pompey's camp, he urged his soldiers not to be too intent on plunder and lose the opportunity of completing their conquest. Having obtained their consent, he began to draw lines round the mountain. The Pompeians distrusting the position, as there was no water on the mountain, abandoned it, and all began to retreat toward Larissa. Caesar perceived it, divided his troops, ordered part of his legions to remain in Pompey's camp, sent back a part to his own camp, and taking four legions with him, went by a shorter road to intercept the enemy, Having marched 9 kilometers, Caesar drew up his army.
But the Pompeians observing this, took post on a mountain, whose foot was washed by a river. Caesar encouraged his troops, though they were greatly exhausted [...], to throw up works and cut off the communication between the river and the mountain, so that the enemy might not get water in the night. As soon as our work was finished, they sent ambassadors to treat about a capitulation. A few senators who had espoused that party, made their escape by night.
[3.98] At dawn, Caesar ordered all those who had taken post on the mountain to come down from the higher grounds into the plain, and pile their arms. They did this without refusal, and with outstretched arms they prostrated themselves on the ground and with tears implored his mercy. He comforted them and bade them rise, and having spoken a few words of his own clemency to alleviate their fears, he pardoned them all, and gave orders to his soldiers, that no injury should be done to them, and nothing taken from them. Having used this diligence, he ordered the legions in his camp to come and meet him, and those which were with him to take their turn of rest, and go back to the camp. The same day, they went to Larissa
[3.99] In that battle, no more than 200 privates were missing, but Caesar lost about 30 centurions, valiant officers. Crastinus, also, of whom mention was made before, fighting most courageously, lost his life by the wound of a sword in the mouth. It had not been false what he had declared when marching to battle: for Caesar entertained the highest opinion of his behavior in that battle, and thought him highly deserving of his approbation.
Of Pompey's army, there fell about 15,000; but upwards of 24,000 were made prisoners: for even the cohorts which were stationed in the forts, surrendered to Sulla. Several others took shelter in the neighboring states. 180 stands of colors, and nine eagles, were brought to Caesar. Lucius Domitius [Ahenobarbus], fleeing from the camp to the mountains, his strength being exhausted by fatigue, was killed by the horse.
This page was created in 2005; last modified on 18 August 2017.
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Mark Antony is one of the most famous people of Roman history. He was one of the most superior generals and a crucial statesman in his time. A comrade and patron of Julius Caesar, Antony was an ideal military tactician and leader of the people. He was a man who started out for the people but eventually became hungry for power and empire expansion. Mark Antony was a military and political leader in Caesar's time who rose to the highest of Roman power but eventually lost everything due to his greed.
Marcus Antonius was born in 83 BC, the son of a noble Roman family, related to the Roman leader Julius Caesar. His father died when he was young and soon after his mother remarried P.Lentulus. Lentulus found him self in trouble and was strangled by Cicero for his involvement in the Catiline Affair. This changed Antony’s early life severely and he promised one day he would meet up with Cicero and kill him.
Mark Antony’s military career started when he was young. His first travels were to Syria where he was soon promoted to a Calvary Commander, and sent off to Judea and Egypt. Antony was later sent to Gaul where he served under Caesar. He was so superior to his peers that at the age of 22 he became Tribune of the People. Soon Antony became a quaestor with a reputation of being a speaker on behalf of Caesar’s interests while he was no there.
It was during this period in Rome where Antony met Fulvia. Fulvia also had a hate for Cicero from her last marriage. They soon were married and Antony was making his way higher in the Roman world. In 49BC, he received the title of Augur (priest and soothsayer). It was during this same year that he vetoed the Senates attempt to take Caesar’s command. Antony left Rome and traveled to Gaul until things cooled down where he went back to watch over Caesar’s interests. Caesar soon became enemies against Pompey, Antony tried to defend Caesar and was kicked out of the senate. Antony soon fled with Caesar to get ready for battle.
Antony commanded a wing of Caesar’s Legions at the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC where Pompey was defeated. Following the battle in 44 BC, Antony became
co-consul with Caesar. When Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 BC, Antony immediately took all of Caesar’s possessions including papers, residences, and other assets.
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Mark Antony Famous People Noble Roman Political Leader Early Life Roman History Cicero Married Pompey
He gave his famous speech at Caesar’s funeral at the forum and was successful in turning the people against the corrupt senate led by the assassin Brutus. Antony was ignoring a important part of Caesar’s wishes, to hand everything to his heir Octavian who soon showed up in Rome, but Antony refused to cooperate.
Octavian found himself in a difficult position and with Antony’s greed and refusal to release Caesar’s assets, Cicero sought to corrupt the Senate. Octavian was given the rank of senator and the senate backed Octavian against Antony. While Antony was successful in capturing Cisalpine Gaul, he was defeated at Forum Gallorum and Mutina against the young Octavian. Antony was forced to retreat and met up with Plancus, Asinius, and Lepidus.
Octavian found that his real enemy was the senate and that they were trying to start battles between powers, the same as between Pompey and Caesar. Octavian soon went to Antony to call a truce and combine forces. They decided they would let another person join with them, Lepidus. Lepidus was an important man who made his fame with Caesar in the civil war and owned the needed Spain.
In 43 BC, Antony joined with Octavian and Lepidus to establish a second triumvirate. They shared power by Antony ruling the eastern providences and Gaul, Octavian took Italy and Spain, and Lepidus took Africa. Their first objective was to start making a list of their enemies to be killed. The new triumvirate marched on the corrupt senate. In 42 BC, the two opposing armies met at Philippi where Antony led a great victory. The two assassins who were the leaders of the senate both committed suicide at the end. Cicero attempted to flee but was hunted down by the Antony’s soldiers, captured and executed. His head and hands were chopped off and sent back to Rome. His head was given to Fulvia as a gift for what she formerly suffered. Cicero’s hands were nailed to the Rostra in the Forum.
After the battle of Philippi, Octavian returned to Rome, while Antony stayed in Asia Minor where he planned to take Parthia. While there he asked Cleopatra for her help. The two of them then traveled to Alexandria, where they fell in love. He stayed with her for the winter of 41-40 BC.
Octavian and Antony’s friendship started to deplete again. Antony’s wife Fulvia and brother Lucius were back in Italy where they started conflict with Octavian, beginning the Perusine War. They were easily defeated and Fulvia fled to Athens. Antony did not know of the incident and when he found out, he went to Athens to confront his wife. Fulvia became ill and died shortly thereafter. Antony went back to Egypt to tell Cleopatra of the news and then to Brundisium to end the altercation between him and Octavian. At Brundisium, Octavian gave his sister Octavia to Antony in return for the Province of Cisalpine Gaul.
The triumvirate was renewed for an additional five years. Antony soon launched his Parthian campaign which was unsuccessful and was taken by Parthian Calvary. Lepidus was tired of taking care of Africa from Rome so he made a bad decision to take Sicily for himself. As a result he was deprived of his powers and administrative positions to be sent to exile, where he stayed to his death.
Antony wanted a great eastern empire and Cleopatra was willing to help. Once again tension between Antony and Octavian started to emerge. Antony told Octavian how he treated his sister Octavia. Octavian told the public Antony had been having children with Cleopatra and that Egypt was his country where he was getting his wealth.
The final break up between Antony and Octavian was when Antony got so mad that he publicly divorced Octavia. Antony also gave his lands that should have been Rome’s to Cleopatra. Octavian wanted him out of the picture completely so he read Antony’s Will which left many gifts to his illegitimate children by Cleopatra. The Senate stepped in and took his powers and started a civil war.
Octavian was given a fleet of ships and advanced toward Egypt. Antony met his ships at the gulf of Actium. Antony’s heavier ships were no match for Octavian’s quicker, smaller ships. Antony and Cleopatra sensing a defeat abandoned and went to Alexandria. Octavian soon reached Alexandria where Cleopatra tried to negotiate and when Antony heard of this he fell on his sword committing suicide. Directly after Cleopatra took her life as well with a poisonous snake. Octavian made sure that nothing like this would ever happen again and killed all Antony’s children except he ones he had with Octavia.
With Lepidus in exile, Antony and Cleopatra dead, their personal treasures and the wealth of Egypt captured, the Pompeian party dead, and the corruption of the Senate, Octavian became the ruler of the Greco-Roman-Egyptian World.