Caesar's civil war

Caesar's civil war

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Caesar's Civil War
partof=Roman Republican civil wars

caption=Busts of Julius Caesar and Pompey, the protagonists in this war.
date=January 10, 49 BC — March 17, 45 BC
Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon to the Battle of Munda.
place=Hispania, Italia, Graecia, Aegyptus, Africa
result= Decisive victory for Julius Caesar
combatant1=Julius Caesar and supporters, the Populares faction
combatant2=Roman senate, the Optimates faction
commander1=Julius Caesar, Curio, Marc Antony, Decimus Brutus
commander2=Pompey†, Titus Labienus†, Metellus Scipio†, Cato the younger†, Gnaeus PompeiusSextus Pompeius
The Roman civil war of 49 BC, sometimes called Caesar's Civil War, is one of the last conflicts within the Roman Republic. It was a series of political and military confrontations between Julius Caesar, his political supporters, and his legions, against the traditionalist conservative faction in the Roman Senate, sometimes known as the Optimates, or "boni", backed by legions loyal to Pompey.

After a long political and military struggle, between 49 and 45 BC, which would take in battles in Italia, Greece, Egypt, Africa, and Hispania, Caesar finally defeated the last of the traditional faction of the Roman senate at the Battle of Munda and became dictator.

Caesar's civil war and its resulting changes in Roman government all but swept away the political traditions of the Roman Republic, a blow which eventually led to the Roman Empire.

The political/military situation preceding the war

Many historians view the war as a logical result of a long process of subversion of the political institutions of the Roman government, starting with the career of Tiberius Gracchus, and continuing with the Marian reforms of the legions, the bloody dictatorship of Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and finally the sway of the First Triumvirate over Rome.

The First Triumvirate, as it was first called by Cicero, consisted of Julius Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey, and came to power in 59 BC when Caesar was elected consul. The union of Pompey's military might, Caesar's influence, and Crassus' money was solidified with the marriage of Pompey to Caesar's daughter Julia in 59 B.C. Caesar's first consulship tasked him with watching over the forests. This position was specially created because of the enemies Caesar had in the Senate. It was meant to give Caesar no fame or wealth, and to limit the climb of his career path, or, "cursus honorum". The Triumvirate reform program was enacted and Caesar got himself promoted to the position of governor of Illyricum and Gaul.

After the First Triumvirate ended, the senate supported Pompey, who became sole consul in 52 BC. Meanwhile, Caesar had become a military hero as well as a champion of the people. The senate feared him and wanted him to give up his army, knowing that he hoped to be consul when his term in Gaul expired. In December 50 BC, Caesar wrote to the senate saying that he would give up his army if Pompey would give up his. The senate heard the letter with fury and demanded that Caesar disband his army at once or be declared an enemy of the people—an illegal bill, for Caesar was entitled to keep his army until his term was up. Another reason for Caesar's immediate want for another consulship was to delay his inevitable senatorial prosecutions waiting for him after retirement of his position. The potential prosecutions were based on irregularities related to his term as consul and loose accusations of war crimes throughout his campaigns in Gaul.

Two tribunes faithful to Caesar, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) and Quintus Cassius Longinus vetoed the bill and were quickly expelled from the senate. They fled to Caesar, who assembled his army and asked for the support of the soldiers against the senate. The army called for action.

In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to return to Rome and disband his army because his term as Proconsul had finished. Moreover, the Senate forbade Caesar to stand for a second consulship "in absentia". Caesar thought that he would be prosecuted and politically marginalized if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a Consul or without the power of his army. Pompey accused Caesar of insubordination and treason.

The civil war

Crossing the Rubicon

On January 10, 49 BC Caesar crossed the Rubicon with one legion, the Legio XIII Gemina. The Rubicon marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north and Italy proper to the south, and Roman law forbade any general from crossing it with an army. The purpose of the law was to protect the republic from internal military threat. Caesar's action thus marked the beginning of the civil war.

Historians differ as to what Caesar said upon crossing the Rubicon; the two major competing lines are "Alea iacta est" ("The die is cast"), and "Let the dice fly high!" (a quotation from a line by the New Comedy poet Menander). This minor controversy is occasionally seen in modern literature when Colleen McCullough attributes the less popular Menander line to Caesar in her Masters of Rome series of novels. Fact|date=December 2007

The march on Rome & the early Hispanian campaign

Caesar's march to Rome was a triumphal progress. Not knowing that Caesar had only one legion with him and fearing the worst, the Senate offered Pompey their backing, which he neither denied nor accepted. Pompey, realizing that Rome was in danger, made the statement "Rome cannot be defended" and with the reigning consuls, and the more conservative senators (known as the Optimates), fled to Capua. This retreat was later reflected on by Cicero to be an "outward sign of weakness," giving Caesar time to consolidate his forces in his quest for eventual dictatorship.

Pompey did have some armies at his disposal: two legions he had commanded Caesar to send from Gaul earlier (11,500 men), plus hastily levied Italian troops under Domitius Ahenobarbus, who established their camp in central Italy. As Caesar moved further south, Pompey removed to southern Italy. From there, he repeatedly urged Domitius to move north against Caesar, who was making his way south along the eastern coast, in hopes of intercepting him before he got to Rome. Domitius repeatedly refused. Caesar marched right up to his camp, engaged his armies and defeated them. Pompey then went to Brundisium to await the ships that would take him to the eastern provinces, where he had enormous influence. From there he hoped to raise armies and money and blockade Italy by sea. The Optimates, including Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger, fled south to join him, leaving a rear guard at Capua.

While Pompey's fortification was taking place, Caesar turned his eye toward Hispania, and its leaderless army. He wanted to make sure he destroyed the remnants of any army that Pompey could later use against him. Therefore he attacked and defeated Afrainius and Petrieus during his Illerda campaign in 49 B.C. On that campaign, Caesar took six legions along with 3,000 cavalry from his Gallic campaigns and 900 horsemen kept as his personal bodyguard. The casualty count for the Romans was 70 deaths while the Pompeians lost 200 and had 600 wounded.

Caesar pursued Pompey to Brundisium, hoping to restore their alliance of ten years prior. In fact, throughout the early stages of the war, Caesar made frequent offers to lay down his arms if Pompey would do the same. Pompey persistently refused, on the grounds that Caesar was his subordinate and was duty-bound to cease his advance and dismiss his armies before any negotiations could take place. Pompey commanded the legitimacy as Consul of Rome, whereas Caesar's choice to cross the Rubicon legally declared him a de fact Enemy of the Senate and People of Rome.

Pompey eluded Caesar's advance on Brundisium and fled (March, 49 BC) with his fleet to Greece.

Caesar then made an astonishing 27-day route-march to Hispania where he defeated Pompey's legates and armies and pacified that province. Returning to Rome, Caesar held the dictatorship for 11 days in early December, long enough to get himself elected consul, and then set out for Greece in pursuit of Pompey.

Campaigns in Greece and Africa

At Brundisium, Caesar collected a small army of about 15,000 men and slipped across the strait to Epirus. At the time, Pompey was considering three options: allying himself with the King of Parthia, an erstwhile ally far to the east; exploiting his overwhelming naval superiority by invading Italy; or facing Caesar in one decisive battle. Allying with Parthia was a non-starter: no one would look favorably upon using Parthian troops against Roman legions. Invading Italy was politically unsavory as well as risky: the Italians, who had rebelled against Rome only 30 years earlier, might rise against him now. On his councilor's advice, he opted for the single decisive battle.

Caesar's pursuit across the Adriatic into Illyrium settled it. On July 10, 48 BC he met Pompey at Dyrrhachium but lost 1,000 veterans and was forced to fall back. Pompey could not believe his inexperienced army had bested Caesar's seasoned legions, and believing the retreat was a trap refused to give chase, thus losing the chance to end the civil war quickly. Caesar began a long retreat southward, with Pompey in pursuit. Near Pharsalus, Caesar camped in a strategic location. Pompey, who had a far larger army, was persuaded to attack Caesar but was routed in an exceedingly short engagement—Pompey had lost his nerve.

The Egyptian dynastic struggle

Main|Cleopatra VII

Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was murdered by an officer of King Ptolemy XIII. In Rome in the meantime, Caesar was appointed dictator, with Mark Antony as his Master of the Horse; Caesar resigned this dictatorate after eleven days and was elected to a second term as consul with Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus as his colleague. He pursued the Pompeian army to Alexandria, where they camped and became involved with the Alexandrine civil war between Ptolemy and his sister, wife, and co-regnant queen, the Pharaoh Cleopatra VII. Perhaps as a result of Ptolemy's role in Pompey's murder, Caesar sided with Cleopatra; he is reported to have wept at the sight of Pompey's head, which was offered to him by Ptolemy's chamberlain Pothinus as a gift. In any event, Caesar defeated the Ptolemaic forces and installed Cleopatra as ruler, with whom he fathered his only known biological son, Ptolemy XV Caesar, better known as "Caesarion". Caesar and Cleopatra never married, due to Roman law that prohibited a marriage with a non-Roman citizen.

The war against Pharnaces

After spending the first months of 47 BC in Egypt, he went to Syria, and then to Pontus to deal with Pharnaces II, a client king of Pompey's who had taken advantage of the Romans being distracted by their civil war to oppose the Roman-friendly Deiotarus and make himself the ruler of Colchis and lesser Armenia. At Nicopolis he had defeated what little Roman opposition Caesar's Asian lieutenant Domitius Calvinus could muster. He had also taken the city of Amisus, which was a Roman ally, made all the boys eunuchs and sold the inhabitants to slave traders. After this show of strength against the Romans, Pharnaces drew back to suppress revolt in his new conquests.

Nevertheless, the extremely rapid approach of Caesar in person forced Pharnaces to turn his attention back to the Romans. At first, recognizing the threat, he made offers of submission, with the sole object of gaining time until Caesar's attention fell elsewhere; Caesar's speed brought war quickly and battle took place near Zela (modern Zile in Turkey), where Pharnaces was routed with just a small detachment of cavalry. Caesar's victory was so swift and complete that, in a letter to a friend in Rome, he famously said of the short war, “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) - indeed, for his Pontic triumph, that may well have been the label displayed above the spoils.

Pharnaces himself fled quickly back to the Bosporus, where he managed to assemble a small force of Scythian and Sarmatian troops, with which he was able to gain control of a few cities; however, a former governor of his, Asandar, attacked his forces and killed him. The historian Appian states that Pharnaces died in battle; Dio Cassius says Pharnaces was captured and then killed.

The later campaign in Africa: the war on Cato

Caesar returned to Rome to deal with several mutinous legions. While Caesar had been in Egypt installing Cleopatra as Queen, four of his veteran legions encamped outside of Rome under the command of Mark Antony. The legions were waiting for their discharges and the bonus pay Caesar had promised them before the battle of Pharsalus. As Caesar lingered in Egypt, the situation quickly deteriorated. Antony lost control of the troops and they began looting estates south of the capital. Several delegations of diplomats were dispatched to try to quell the mutiny. Nothing worked and the mutineers continued to call for their discharges and back pay. After several months, Caesar finally arrived to address the legions in person. Caesar knew he needed these legions to deal with Pompey's supporters in north Africa, who had mustered 14 legions of their own. Caesar also knew that he did not have the funds to give the soldiers their back pay, much less the money needed to induce them to reenlist for the north African campaign.

When Caesar approached the speaker's dais, a hush fell over the mutinous soldiers. Most were embarrassed by their role in the mutiny in Caesar's presence. Caesar coldy asked the troops what they wanted. Ashamed to demand money, the men began to call out for their discharge. Caesar bluntly addressed them as "citizens" instead of "soldiers," a tacit indication that they had already discharged themselves by virtue of their disloyalty. He went on to tell them that that they would all be discharged immediately. He said he would pay them the money he owed them after he won the north African campaign with other legions. The soldiers were shocked. They had been through 15 years of war with Caesar and they had become fiercely loyal to him in the process. It had never occurred to them that Caesar did not need them. The soldiers' resistance collapsed. They crowded the dais and begged to be taken to north Africa. Caesar feigned indignation and then allowed himself to be won over. When he announced that he would suffer to bring them along, a huge cheer arose from the assembled troops. Through a brilliant combination of personal charisma and reverse psychology, Caesar reenlisted four enthusiastic veteran legions to invade north Africa without spending a single sesterce.

In the same year he set out for Africa, where the followers of Pompey had fled, to end their opposition led by Cato.

Caesar quickly gained a significant victory at Thapsus in 46 BC over the forces of Metellus Scipio (who was drowned) and Cato the Younger and Juba (who both committed suicide).

The second Hispanian campaign: end of the war

Nevertheless, Pompey's sons Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius, together with Titus Labienus (Caesar's former propraetorian legate ("legatus propraetore") and second in command in the Gallic War) escaped to Hispania. Caesar gave chase and defeated the last remnants of opposition in the Munda in March 45 BC. During this time, Caesar was elected to his third and fourth terms as consul in 46 BC (with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus) and 45 BC (without colleague).

Aftermath of the war

* Caesar becomes dictator of Rome, for life
* Caesar is assassinated on the Ides of March.


*49 BC
**January 1 - The Roman Senate receives a proposal from Julius Caesar that he and Pompey should lay down their commands simultaneously. The Senate responds that Caesar must immediately surrender his command.
**January 10 - Julius Caesar leads his army across the Rubicon, which separates his jurisdiction (Cisalpine Gaul) from that of the Senate (Italy), and thus initiates a civil war.
**February, Pompey's flight to Epirus (in Western Greece) with most of the Senate
**March 9, Caesar advanced against Pompeian forces in Hispania
**April 19, Caesar's siege of Massilia against the Pompeian Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, later the siege was conducted by Caesarian Gaius Trebonius
**June, Caesar's arrival in Hispania, who was able to seized the Pyrenees passes against the Pompeian L. Afranius and M. Petreius.
**July 30, Caesar surrounded Afranius and Petreius's army in Ilerda
**August 2, Pompeians in Ilerda surrendered to Caesar
**August 24 - Caesar's general Gaius Scribonius Curio, is defeated in North Africa by the Pompeians under Attius Varus and King Juba I of Numidia (whom he defeated earlier in the Battle of Utica, in the Battle of the Bagradas River), and commits suicide.
**September Decimus Brutus, a Caesarian, defeated the combined Pompeian-Massilian naval forces in the naval Battle of Massilia, while the Caesarian fleet in the Adriatic was defeated near Curicta (Krk)
**September 6, Massilia surrendered to Caesar, coming back from Hispania
**October, Caesar appointed Dictator in Rome
*48 BC:
** January 4, Caesar landed at Dyrrhachium (Durazzo)
** March, Antony joined Caesar
** April, Battle of Dyrrhachium
** July 10 - Battle of Dyrrhachium, Julius Caesar barely avoids a catastrophic defeat to Pompey in Macedonia, he retreats to Thessaly.
** August 9 - Roman Civil War: Battle of Pharsalus - Julius Caesar decisively defeats Pompey at Pharsalus and Pompey flees to Egypt.
** Julius Caesar is named consul for a period of five years
** September 28, Caesar learned that Pompey was assassinated.
** Siege of Alexandria
** October, Pharnaces, King of Bosporus defeated the Caesarian Domitius Calvinus in the Battle of Nicopolis (or Nikopol)
** December — Battle in Alexandria, Egypt between the forces of Caesar and his ally Cleopatra VII of Egypt and those of rival King Ptolemy XIII of Egypt and Queen Arsinoe IV. The latter two are defeated and flee the city; Cleopatra becomes queen of Egypt. During the battle part of the Library of Alexandria catches fire and is burned down.
*47 BC
**February — Caesar and his ally Cleopatra defeat the forces of the rival Egyptian Queen Arsinoe IV in the Battle of the Nile, Ptolemy was killed, Caesar then relieved his besieged forces in Alexandria
**May — Caesar defeated Pharnaces II of Pontus, king of the Bosporus in the Battle of Zela. (This is the war that Caesar tersely described "veni, vidi, vici".)
**Pharaoh Cleopatra VII of Egypt promotes her younger brother Ptolemy XIV of Egypt to co-ruler.
**August, Caesar quelled a mutiny of his veterans in Rome.
**October, Caesar's invasion of Africa, against Metellus Scipio and Labienus, Caesar's former lieutenant in Gaul
*46 BC
**January 4 – Caesar is defeated by his former second in command Titus Labienus in the Battle of Ruspina. Nearly 1/3 of Caesar's army is killed.
**February 6 – Caesar defeats the combined army of Pompeian followers and Numidians under Metellus Scipio and Juba in the Battle of Thapsus. Cato commits suicide.
**November – Caesar leaves for Farther Hispania to deal with a fresh outbreak of resistance.
**Caesar is "elected" Pontifex Maximus for life, and reforms the Roman calendar to create the Julian calendar. The transitional year is extended to 445 days to synchronize the new calendar and the seasonal cycle. The "Julian Calendar" would remain the standard in the western world for over 1600 years, until superseded by the Gregorian Calendar in 1582.
**Caesar appoints his nephew Octavian his heir.
*45 BC
**January 1 - Julian calendar goes into effect
**March 17 - In his last victory, Caesar defeats the Pompeian forces of Titus Labienus and Pompey the younger in the Battle of Munda. Pompey the younger was executed, and Labienus died in battle, but Sextus Pompey escaped to take command of the remnants of the Pompeian fleet.
**The veterans of Caesar's Legions "Legio XIII Gemina" and "Legio X Equestris" demobilized. The veterans of the 10th legion would be settled in Narbo, while those of the 13th would be given somewhat better lands in Italia itself.
**Caesar probably writes the Commentaries in this year
*44 BC
**Julius Caesar is named "dictator perpetuo" ("dictator in perpetuity")
**Julius Caesar is assassinated on March 15th, the Ides of March.

ee also

*Julius Caesar



In ancient literature

Caesar's propaganda

He was very concerned to present the war as just and not a crime against the state as his enemies said.

* The "Commentarii de Bello Civili" ("Commentaries on the Civil War") [] , events of the Civil War until immediately after Pompey's death in Egypt.

Other works about the civil war historically attributed to Caesar, but whose authorship is doubted, are:

* "De Bello Hispaniensis" ("On the Hispanic War") [] , campaigns in Hispania;
* "De Bello Africo" ("On the African War") [] , campaigns in North Africa; and
* "De Bello Alexandrino" ("On the Alexandrine War") [] , campaign in Alexandria.

In later literature

Modern fictionalized accounts

*A fictionalized version of the civil war is portrayed in the first season of HBO/BBC historical drama television series, "Rome". While better than many fictional portrayals, the series takes many liberties with events, and people, drastically altering many historical figures, and only covering a few of the "famous" battles of the civil war. Even then, these battles are presented symbolically, schematically and briefly, with a ten-second burst of soldiers shouting at one another and then a standard dropped in the mud in slow-motion.
*The Roma Sub Rosa series of detective novels is set in part during this civil war.

cholarly literature

On causes

E.S. Gruen, "The Last Generation of the Roman Republic", California U.P. 1974, pp. 449-497. ISBN 0-520-20153-1

On the war itself

Gelzer, "Caesar — Politician and Statesman", Chapter 5. Harvard University Press, 1968.

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