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Marcvs Licinivs Crassvs

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Like you, I've always admired (albeit with a kind of fascinated horror) the way that Crassus managed to dominate the Republic of his day. While he was alive he was more than the equal of both Pompey and Caesar. Yet - and here is where I'd disagree - I would not call Crassus a warlord.

 

A warlord is someone who uses his army to dominate the political process in his country or region. Yet Crassus dominated primarily through his mastery of politics. Command of his two armies was given to him by the senate through due constitutional process. After the Spartacus campaign he disbanded his army in orderly fashion. Whether Crassus would have done the same had he fought a successful Parthian campaign, we'll never know. But at most he was a 'potential' warlord.

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Like you, I've always admired (albeit with a kind of fascinated horror) the way that Crassus managed to dominate the Republic of his day. While he was alive he was more than the equal of both Pompey and Caesar. Yet - and here is where I'd disagree - I would not call Crassus a warlord.

 

A warlord is someone who uses his army to dominate the political process in his country or region. Yet Crassus dominated primarily through his mastery of politics. Command of his two armies was given to him by the senate through due constitutional process. After the Spartacus campaign he disbanded his army in orderly fashion. Whether Crassus would have done the same had he fought a successful Parthian campaign, we'll never know. But at most he was a 'potential' warlord.

 

Though you make some good points, I would still consider Crassus a warlord. Though he was legally appointed to command the armies by the Senate, he used it as other had to his own ends. He did not immediately disband the army he used to crush Spartacus, for Pompey and himself camp outside Rome in order to have their triumph (Pompey) and ovation (Crassus). This move can be seen as a power play that ultimately ensured the consulships of both men in 70 BC.

 

I would also say that warlord is an accurate term because warlords are people who generally retain power through through both civil and military power. Crassus rose to power mostly through war. His success under Sulla enabled him to amass some of his fortune, which in turn allowed him to maintain his political clout.

 

I would agree with the idea that when compared to his contemporaries, his power was best represented by his master of politics (especially backdoor politics) and that he was more or less outshone by the military might of Pompey and then Caesar. However, I would still say he classifies as a warlord given his rise to power through the military and his successful campaign against Spartacus.

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Crassus always seems to have had his thunder stolen by better self-publicising politicians. He seems to have wavered between political success and military success, whether he genuinely sought recognition on both fronts (with partial success) or whether his goals changed according to the people around him (especially Pompey after the servile war) is unclear. I suppose I tend to think of him as a solid general and politician but overshadowed in both repects.

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Crassus may have displayed a greater sense of ego than most contemporaries, he was still definitely a product of the political atmosphere of the time. To his credit, and despite his taking advantage of political opportunities as they arose, he seems to have been less indulgent in the whims of supreme power than his partners in the triumvirate. While his money may have helped make Caesar, he did not use that same financial and military authority to direct the Republic to his personal whims.

 

He certainly showed political acumen, and he could easily be charged as an enabler, but in the end Crassus always seemed a bit of a pawn amongst the true manipulators. I don't mean to suggest that he was a bumbling patsy who unwittingly fell in with the proverbial wrong crowd, but his ulterior motive seems that of a man seeking fame and glory in the historical Roman context rather than seeking absolute authority. His actions were among many cogs in the wheel that brought down the Republic and I don't personally absolve him of that, but unlike a Caesar, I never felt that he desired the finality that eventually came.

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Crassus may have displayed a greater sense of ego than most contemporaries, he was still definitely a product of the political atmosphere of the time. To his credit, and despite his taking advantage of political opportunities as they arose, he seems to have been less indulgent in the whims of supreme power than his partners in the triumvirate. While his money may have helped make Caesar, he did not use that same financial and military authority to direct the Republic to his personal whims.

 

He certainly showed political acumen, and he could easily be charged as an enabler, but in the end Crassus always seemed a bit of a pawn amongst the true manipulators. I don't mean to suggest that he was a bumbling patsy who unwittingly fell in with the proverbial wrong crowd, but his ulterior motive seems that of a man seeking fame and glory in the historical Roman context rather than seeking absolute authority. His actions were among many cogs in the wheel that brought down the Republic and I don't personally absolve him of that, but unlike a Caesar, I never felt that he desired the finality that eventually came.

 

I don't know if I would agree with the notion of Crassus being a "pawn." In many ways he was better at manipulating the political atmosphere than his co-triumvirates, especially Pompey, who was abysmal at politics. Crassus often manipulated events in such a way that left Pompey the worse of the two, in a political sense. This can be seen as early as 70 BC, when a tribune expressed concern about the consuls feuding and Crassus played the better man, embracing Pompey and endearing himself to the citizenry (some evidence suggest that the tribune who did this was in fact one of Crassus' stooges). Consider also, that after the triumvirate had been formed, and Pompey and Caesar were beginning to exclude Crassus from power, Crassus manipulated events in Rome to such an extent that Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus had to meet again and re-establish their alliance in terms very favorable to Crassus (although it did ultimately lead to his death).

 

I think an interest fact about Crassus that is often overlooked, is that he appears to have been more connected to the "optimates" than Pompey, who eventually became their champion. Allan Ward, in his book Marcus Crassus and the Late Roman Republic (an excellent read that I highly recommend) drew attention to the fact that when the triumvirate was formed the senate often went to Crassus, hoping to play him against the other two, especially playing Crassus against Pompey. So I was curious what everyone's thoughts on this were. Do you think that the optimates were simply exploiting a rift that had long existed between the two, or do you agree with Ward's idea that the senate preferred Crassus over the others? And finally, another interesting question that he brings up, had Crassus been successful in his Parthian invasion, but Civil War still occurred, do we think that senate would have turned to him or Pompey or perhaps both?

 

I know conjecture of this type is not necessarily accurate, but Ward raises the questions and I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss.

 

Any thoughts?

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And finally, another interesting question that he brings up, had Crassus been successful in his Parthian invasion, but Civil War still occurred, do we think that senate would have turned to him or Pompey or perhaps both?

 

I know conjecture of this type is not necessarily accurate, but Ward raises the questions and I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Let's not forget that Crassus backed Caesar to the hilt, financially anyway, so he must have some liking and confidence in the man, so what's to say that Crassus would have turned his back on the senate and chosen to support Caesar instead? Now there's a thought????

 

Btw welcome to the forum Marcvs Licinivs Crassvs.

.

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And finally, another interesting question that he brings up, had Crassus been successful in his Parthian invasion, but Civil War still occurred, do we think that senate would have turned to him or Pompey or perhaps both?

 

I know conjecture of this type is not necessarily accurate, but Ward raises the questions and I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Let's not forget that Crassus backed Caesar to the hilt, financially anyway, so he must have some liking and confidence in the man, so what's to say that Crassus would have turned his back on the senate and chosen to support Caesar instead? Now there's a thought????

 

Btw welcome to the forum Marcvs Licinivs Crassvs.

.

 

That thought had crossed my mind, however, given the politics of the late republic, I would think he would do what was best for him, which would have been to side with the Senate and Pompey. Of course, conjecture like this leads to all sorts of unforeseen possibilities!!

 

And thank for the welcome, I'm finding this forum fascinating!!

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Remember that Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cato and the rest were ALL senators. There was not REALLY a contest between a SENATORIAL PARTY and a POPULAR PARTY. There were just senators and loose groups of senators vying for prestige, office and influence. Or as Gruen says Dignitas and gloria.

 

Pompey was the dominant figure in the 60's and 50's due to his military victories, and was trying to fortify his position by putting forward his adherents for office and snuggling up to influential families like the Metelli. But the group of senators led by Catullus and Hortensius were having none of it and were thwarting him whenever they could.

 

Crassus had seen his military performances at the Colline Gate and against Spartacus overshadowed by Pompey, but he was expanding his influence thru loaning money to senators like Caesar and supporting the business classes, like when he lobbied to have the tax contract for Asia renegotiated.

 

Caesar was doing whatever he could to improve his fortunes, and supported both Crassus and Pompey at various times, as well as forming connections with other senators for instance by marrying a Calpurnia.

 

When Catullus and Hortensius died and Lucullus retired to his fishponds Cato, who had connections to the Junii Bruti and Servilii, took up the task of thwarting the too powerful senators.

 

Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and Cato were the most prominent senators due to their prestige and strength of personality, but there were lots of others competing for power and clout. The Claudii Pulchri, Cornelii Lentuli, Aemilii Lepidi and many others were not "locked in" to supporting one or the other of the prominent leaders. They shifted their support as necessary to forward their own agendas.

Edited by Pompieus

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Remember that Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Cato and the rest were ALL senators. There was not REALLY a contest between a SENATORIAL PARTY and a POPULAR PARTY. There were just senators and loose groups of senators vying for prestige, office and influence. Or as Gruen says Dignitas and gloria.

 

Pompey was the dominant figure in the 60's and 50's due to his military victories, and was trying to fortify his position by putting forward his adherents for office and snuggling up to influential families like the Metelli. But the group of senators led by Catullus and Hortensius were having none of it and were thwarting him whenever they could.

 

Crassus had seen his military performances at the Milvian Gate and against Spartacus overshadowed by Pompey, but he was expanding his influence thru loaning money to senators like Caesar and supporting the business classes, like when he lobbied to have the tax contract for Asia renegotiated.

 

Caesar was doing whatever he could to improve his fortunes, and supported both Crassus and Pompey at various times, as well as forming connections with other senators for instance by marrying a Calpurnia.

 

When Catullus and Hortensius died and Lucullus retired to his fishponds Cato, who had connections to the Junii Bruti and Servilii, took up the task of thwarting the too powerful senators.

 

Pompey, Crassus, Caesar and Cato were the most prominent senators due to their prestige and strength of personality, but there were lots of others competing for power and clout. The Claudii Pulchri, Cornelii Lentuli, Aemilii Lepidi and many others were not "locked in" to supporting one or the other of the prominent leaders. They shifted their support as necessary to forward their own agendas.

 

Just a quick correction, it was the Battle of Colline Gate.

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A Senior moment. They are more common every year.

 

By the way, Gruen's sketch of Crassus, emphasising his auctoritas, potentia and clientelae on pages 66-74 of his "Last Generation of the Roman Republic" (with many references) is interesting.

Edited by Pompieus

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Of course, conjecture like this leads to all sorts of unforeseen possibilities!!

 

And thank for the welcome, I'm finding this forum fascinating!!

 

Ahhh the unforeseen possibilities of ancient history, don't you just love em?

 

I'm a big fan of what if's? Although in the grand scheme of things speculation get's us absolutely no where and get's you no closer to the answers that we so desperately long to know, it's great fun doing it though isn't it ;)

Edited by Gaius Paulinus Maximus

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A Senior moment. They are more common every year.

 

By the way, Gruen's sketch of Crassus, emphasising his auctoritas, potentia and clientelae on pages 66-74 of his "Last Generation of the Roman Republic" (with many references) is interesting.

 

I admit I had not heard of the work, I will have to take a look at it! Thank you for the reference.

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Well all 3 of them were very influential, but although he was the the richest man is Rome, and maybe even in all human history ,Crassus always wanted and never got what Pompey and Cesar had, the love of the Roman people, Crassus was always jealous of their popularity, while he was just a bag of money, even after he defetead Spartacus he still was left in Pompey's shadow, so maybe he was good at manipulating the political atmosphere as Marcvs Licinivs Crassvs said earlier , but never good at manipulating the simple Roman citizen, and this jelousy and desire for glory made him attack the parthian empire where not only he, but his son too met their deaths, i even made a video about this

 

 

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Well all 3 of them were very influential, but although he was the the richest man is Rome, and maybe even in all human history ,Crassus always wanted and never got what Pompey and Cesar had, the love of the Roman people, Crassus was always jealous of their popularity, while he was just a bag of money, even after he defetead Spartacus he still was left in Pompey's shadow, so maybe he was good at manipulating the political atmosphere as Marcvs Licinivs Crassvs said earlier , but never good at manipulating the simple Roman citizen, and this jelousy and desire for glory made him attack the parthian empire where not only he, but his son too met their deaths, i even made a video about this

 

 

Yup. this one is right to give us answer.

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