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Pompey's Lack of Importance?

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Here is the question. Was Pompey really not the caliber of general Julius Caesar was, or has history been written by those who conquered him to the point to diminish his abilities? And, did Julius Caesar really do everything he claims he did, or do you think a lot of it came with the help of brilliant generals such as Labienus?

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Salve, LSG

Here is the question.

Actually two questions.

Was Pompey really not the caliber of general Julius Caesar was, or has history been written by those who conquered him to the point to diminish his abilities?

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus deeds speak eloquently for themselves; half or more of the eastearn Mediterranean, the richest and more populous Roman provinces, were either conquered or left as client states by him. Besides, defeating Mithridates and Tigranes was no easy task.

IMHO, on the Civil War campaigns of DCCV-DCCVI AUC (49-48 BC) CJ Caesar had the best army; Pompeius' numerical superiority was presumably not so great as the pro-Caesar sources tried to make us think.

And, did Julius Caesar really do everything he claims he did, or do you think a lot of it came with the help of brilliant generals such as Labienus?

Regarding figures and maths, classical historians were frequently biased and unreliable; but CJ Caesar own claims were sometimes frankly delirious (ie, the Helvetii campaign).

Anyhow, checking on his curriculum I have no problem in accepting him as the best general of his highly contested era.

The Roman Civil War showed us that, brilliant as he was, Titus Labienus was nevertheless neither indispensable for Caesar's victory nor sufficient to compensate the balance on Pompeius' side.

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It is also necessary to note the contributions of Lucullus in the east prior to Pompey's political appointment via the Lex Gabinia. While Lucullus may not have been successful in an expedient finish to the campaign, his several years (74 to 66) definitively softened the resistance in Asia Minor and the surrounding future provinces. Pompey should be given credit though for both finishing the threat of Mithridatesa and by eliminating the pirate havens in the eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, it was the virtually the dignitas of Pompey (along with his army) that can be credited for incorporating the entire east into the fledgling empire.

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There was a string on the evaluation of Pompieus under the "Res Publica" heading a while ago, and I would reiterate my defense of my namesakes reputation.

 

Somebody said that amateurs study tactics but professionals study logistics. Pompey was a master of strategy and logistics and faced more able opponents than any Roman general except Scipio the elder.

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Regarding figures and maths, classical historians were frequently biased and unreliable; but CJ Caesar own claims were sometimes frankly delirious (ie, the Helvetii campaign).

Yes it's true to an extent figures could be unreliable. But did Caesar fight his battles alone? No he didn't. He was not the ONLY person writing back to Rome, there were many individuals writing back to Rome. If his figures were wildly exaggerated then his exaggerations would not have stood up to much scrutiny, right? Did Quintus NEVER write to Marcus? Wouldn't Cicero (with his notoriously loud mouth), being a political opposite of Caesar make these supposed lies known? I'm using Cicero as an example but anyone could have made exaggerations public, from the tribune down to the legionary, to the camp follower, etc...You can't keep 70,000 mouths shut. And the notion of a pro Caesarian whitewashing of history just does not fly IMO.

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Regarding figures and maths, classical historians were frequently biased and unreliable; but CJ Caesar own claims were sometimes frankly delirious (ie, the Helvetii campaign).

Yes it's true to an extent figures could be unreliable. But did Caesar fight his battles alone? No he didn't. He was not the ONLY person writing back to Rome, there were many individuals writing back to Rome. If his figures were wildly exaggerated then his exaggerations would not have stood up to much scrutiny, right? Did Quintus NEVER write to Marcus? Wouldn't Cicero (with his notoriously loud mouth), being a political opposite of Caesar make these supposed lies known? I'm using Cicero as an example but anyone could have made exaggerations public, from the tribune down to the legionary, to the camp follower, etc...You can't keep 70,000 mouths shut. And the notion of a pro Caesarian whitewashing of history just does not fly IMO.

Well, I would really love to read some of those 70,000 accounts.

 

Cicero's works were clearly purged from almost any anti-Augustus evidence, no doubt by previous re-edition by MT Tiro and the Cicero family.

 

Actually, I'm not aware of any non-caesarean accounts on the Gallic war, in fact not even from the Caesarean Civil War of DCCIII-DCCVII AUC / 49-45 BC.

 

Just isolated indirect references is all we have from prominent anti-Caesar writers like MP Cato Minor; a remarkable coincidence, indeed.

 

Pro-Caesar accounts are basically epic-like propaganda that depicted him as legendary hero; if we rely literally on their figures, we must conclude CJ Caesar was kind of stupid as a military organizer, as he would have stubbornly faced far stronger enemies once and again when he simply didn't need to.

 

Even at Munda (XVI Ante Kalendas Aprilis, DCCVII AUC / March 17, 45 BC), after CJ Caesar has been the undisputable ruler over more than 90% of the Roman world and its resources for some time, the Commentarius De Bello Hispaniensi pretend us to be naive enough to believe Caesar attacked with almost half of his enemies' strength (cp. XXX), with the usual and so unsurprising outcome of getting just a fraction (1:30) of the other side casualties (cp. XXXI). PLEEEAAASEEE!!!

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Here is the question. Was Pompey really not the caliber of general Julius Caesar was, or has history been written by those who conquered him to the point to diminish his abilities?

 

Pompey was in his own right an excellent general, the way he destroyed the pirate threat was a master class in organization and in my opinion was one of the greatest military/ naval victories of the late republic. But that I think was the highlight of his career, He was taught a severe lesson on numerous occasions by Sertorius and if it wouldn't have been for the help of Mettellus Pius then he would have been totally defeated and embarrassed. And again in the Mithridatic Wars somebody else did all the hard work i.e. Lucullus, and then Pompey came in and claimed all the glory for himself. Again IMO Pompey lived off a reputation that preceeded him and when he came up against Caesar he got seriously found out!

 

did Julius Caesar really do everything he claims he did, or do you think a lot of it came with the help of brilliant generals such as Labienus?

 

Yes I do think Caesar did everything he claimed he did, OK, maybe he exaggerated with his numbers but you can't deny his achievements, Was he captured by pirates, ransomed and then did he return and hunt them down and crucify them?.......Yes. Did he pacify Gaul?......Yes. Did he build a bridge across the Rhine force the Germans into a peace treaty?.......Yes. Did he defeat Pompey in the Civil War?........Yes. Did he go to Alexandria, avenge Pompey's death and defeat the Alexandrians?...........yes. etc etc etc.

 

Whatever anyone's opinions of Gaius Julius Caesar wether good or bad, you can not possibly argue against his achievements and with his Generalship.

Edited by Gaius Paulinus Maximus

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Here comes the assesment of Mestrius Plutarchus (a devoted Caesarophile, BTW) on Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, previous to his war against Caesar:

 

"It was in the justest manner that Pompey came to fame and power, setting out on his career independently, and rendering many great services to Sulla when Sulla was freeing Italy from her tyrants... Pompey not only continued to hold Sulla in honour while he lived, but also after his death gave his body funeral obsequies in despite of Lepidus, and bestowed upon his son Faustus his own daughter in marriage ... And yet Sulla got no less from Pompey than he gave him... Pompey's transgressions of right and justice in his political life were due to his family connections, for he joined in most of the wrongdoings of Caesar and Scipio because they were his relations by marriage... of their campaigns and achievements in war, the trophies of Pompey were so many, the forces led by him so vast, and the pitched battles in which he was victorious so innumerable... Pompey gave cities to such of the pirates as changed their mode of life, and when it was in his power to lead Tigranes the king of Armenia in his triumphal procession, made him an ally instead, saying that he thought more of future time than of a single day".

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Salve, GPM

did Julius Caesar really do everything he claims he did, or do you think a lot of it came with the help of brilliant generals such as Labienus?

 

Yes I do think Caesar did everything he claimed he did, OK, maybe he exaggerated with his numbers but you can't deny his achievements...

Whatever anyone's opinions of Gaius Julius Caesar wether good or bad, you can not possibly argue against his achievements and with his Generalship.

He exaggerated indeed.

Was he captured by pirates, ransomed and then did he return and hunt them down and crucify them?.......

Maybe.

Did he pacify Gaul?......

Gaul was largely pacific previous to Caesar.

Did he build a bridge across the Rhine force the Germans into a peace treaty?.......

Yes, to cross the same river the Germans had previously pacifically crossed without any bridge; again, the Germans were at peace with Rome when they were attacked by Caesar. In fact, MP Cato and other senators proposed to hand CJ Caesar to the Germans after that.

Did he defeat Pompey in the Civil War?........Yes. Did he go to Alexandria, avenge Pompey's death and defeat the Alexandrians?...........yes. etc etc etc.

No question he resoundingly defeated Pompeius & Co. fair and square.

Even so, the "avenging" of Pompeius' death was one of the most execreable propagandistic acts ever, even by Roman standards.

... etc etc etc

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Gaul was largely pacific previous to Caesar.

 

Was it??? Although the tribes were moderately stable political entities, Gaul as a whole tended to be politically-divided, there being virtually no unity among the various tribes. Only during particularly trying times, such as the invasion of Caesar, could the Gauls unite under a single leader like Vercingetorix. Even then, however, the faction lines were clear. (wiki)

 

Yes, to cross the same river the Germans had previously pacifically crossed without any bridge; again, the Germans were at peace with Rome when they were attacked by Caesar. In fact, MP Cato and other senators proposed to hand CJ Caesar to the Germans after that.

 

Caesar didn't just build the bridge to cross the river he built it to show and to warn the Germans just what they were up against, to show the professionalism, speed and superior technical ability that the Romans possessed. It was not about crossing the River it was about impressing and frightening the Germans.

 

OK, in theory the Germans were at peace with Rome, but they were make bigger and more daring raids into Gaul and onto the tribes that Caesar had promised to protect.

 

 

No question he resoundingly defeated Pompeius & Co. fair and square.

Even so, the "avenging" of Pompeius' death was one of the most execreable propagandistic acts ever, even by Roman standards.

... etc etc etc

 

OK, avenging ?? maybe not entirely. He went to Alexandria in pursuit of Pompey, to end the Civil War once and for all. But I don't doubt for a second that when he was presented with the head of Pompey he was not sickened by the sight, after all Pompey was a great Roman and ex son in law, and to be murdered in this way by "barbarians" was totally disrespectful and would surely of made any Roman swear revenge. What happened after was not entirely related to what happened to Pompey but it DID happen and Caesar DID come away with another victory. not for just him but for Rome as well.

 

Caesar was a master of propaganda and used it to further his career and reputation, there weren't many Romans who didn't use these "standards"

Edited by Gaius Paulinus Maximus

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Salve, GPM.

 

It's clear we don't judge Caesar's propaganda in the same way.

 

Anyhow, it's also clear both of us acknowledge his notorious abilities and deeds.

 

The personal judgement on Caesar by almost any member of UNRV is probably our most recurrent topic, so I don't think it is a good idea to continue in this same road.

 

Regarding Pompey, I would say we basically agree.

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Fascinating topic, gentlemen :rolleyes:

While on the subject of Labienus, I wonder what really was the reason for his deserting his erstwhile commander-in-chief and going over to Pompey's side? I don't recall Caesar touching on the topic in his Commentario. Or did I miss something there?

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Fascinating topic, gentlemen :rolleyes:

While on the subject of Labienus, I wonder what really was the reason for his deserting his erstwhile commander-in-chief and going over to Pompey's side? I don't recall Caesar touching on the topic in his Commentario. Or did I miss something there?

No he didn't mention it, though it is reputed he was pissed about it. Caesar prized loyalty. More on Labienus HERE.

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Bribery, propaganda and subterfuge were the norm in the murky swamp of late republican politics, and obviously on into the principate. As has already been stated we can be reasonably sure of the basic events in the lives and careers of both Pompey and Caesar, but when dealing with a master of political spin like Caesar, and Augustus after him, best not to take any stated motives put forth by Caesar in the Gallic Wars or the Civil wars at face value.

Personally, I think Pompey was a great organiser, and obviously engendered some measure of loyalty in his troops, and much faith in his abilities from the Senate. Caesar however, at least in a military sense was well ahead of the curve. In the case of these two men I tend to remember who was the victor, regardless of the history subsequently written by him and his partisans.

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Salve, PC...

Fascinating topic, gentlemen :rolleyes:

While on the subject of Labienus, I wonder what really was the reason for his deserting his erstwhile commander-in-chief and going over to Pompey's side? I don't recall Caesar touching on the topic in his Commentario. Or did I miss something there?

No he didn't mention it, though it is reputed he was pissed about it. Caesar prized loyalty. More on Labienus HERE.

et gratiam habeo for such wonderful essay.

Prof. Tyrrell conclusion, in a nutshell:

 

"Mommsen sees Caesar as a man of foresight, whose aim from the outset of his career was to rid Rome of the degenerate oligarchy and provide in its place a just system of government.

For Mommsen, a move away from such a man could only be utmost folly.

But despite their foibles, infighting and excesses, the nobility and senatorial class represented the constitutional authority of the Roman state, a condition which Caesar himself realized.

Neither did Caesar have the approval and devotion of his partisans to the extent Mommsen imagined.

A few followed from affection; the others from more practical motives.

Hence we must not assume that Labienus, in leaving Caesar, deserted a trusting friend and fellow soldier.

Personal reasons aside, he in fact joined the legitimate government in its struggle against a revolutionary proconsul who placed his own dignitas above his country.

At least that was Cicero

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