Sextus Pompeius

Sextus Pompeius

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Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius, in English Sextus Pompey (67 BC – 35 BC), was a Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 general from the late Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 (1st century BC). He was the last focus of opposition to the Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

. His father was Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) and Shakespeare had him as a major character in his play Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra
Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

(1606–07).

Biography


Sextus Pompeius
Pompeius
Pompeius , sometimes anglicized as Pompey, is the nomen of the gens Pompeia, an important family of ancient Rome from the Italian region of Picenum, which lies between the Apennines and the Adriatic...

 was the youngest son of Pompey the Great
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) by his third wife, Mucia Tertia
Mucia Tertia
Mucia Tertia was a Roman matrona who lived in the 1st century BC. She was the daughter of Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the pontifex maximus, consul in 95 BC. Her mother was a Licinia that divorced her father to marry Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos, in a scandal mentioned by several sources...

. His older brother was Gnaeus Pompeius
Gnaeus Pompeius
Gnaeus Pompeius should not be confused with his father, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, known as "Pompey the Great."Gnaeus Pompeius , also known as Pompey the Younger , was a Roman politician and general from the late Republic .Gnaeus Pompeius was the elder son of Pompey the Great Gnaeus Pompeius should...

, from the same mother. Both boys grew up in the shadow of their father, one of Rome's best generals and an originally non-conservative politician who drifted to the more traditional faction when Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 became a threat.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon
Rubicon
The Rubicon is a shallow river in northeastern Italy, about 80 kilometres long, running from the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea through the southern Emilia-Romagna region, between the towns of Rimini and Cesena. The Latin word rubico comes from the adjective "rubeus", meaning "red"...

 in 49 BC, thus starting a civil war, Sextus' older brother Gnaeus followed their father in his escape to the East, as did most of the conservative senators
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

. Sextus stayed in Rome in the care of his stepmother, Cornelia Metella
Cornelia Metella
Cornelia Metella was the daughter of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica . She appears in numerous literary sources, including an official dedicatory inscription at Pergamon....

. Pompey's army lost the Battle of Pharsalus
Battle of Pharsalus
The Battle of Pharsalus was a decisive battle of Caesar's Civil War. On 9 August 48 BC at Pharsalus in central Greece, Gaius Julius Caesar and his allies formed up opposite the army of the republic under the command of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus...

 in 48 BC and Pompey himself had to run for his life. Cornelia and Sextus met him in the island of Lesbos and together they fled to Egypt. On the arrival, Sextus watched his father being killed by treachery on September 29 of the same year. After the murder, Cornelia returned to Rome, but in the following years Sextus joined the resistance against Caesar in the African provinces. Together with Metellus Scipio
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica , in modern scholarship often as Metellus Scipio, was a Roman consul and military commander in the Late Republic. During the civil war between Julius Caesar and the senatorial faction led by Pompeius Magnus , he remained a staunch optimate...

, Cato the Younger
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

, his brother Gnaeus and other senators, they prepared to oppose Caesar and his army to the end.

Caesar won the first battle at Thapsus
Battle of Thapsus
The Battle of Thapsus took place on April 6, 46 BC near Thapsus . The Republican forces of the Optimates, led by Quintus Caecillius Metellus Scipio, clashed with the veteran forces loyal to Julius Caesar.-Prelude:...

 in 46 BC against Metellus Scipio and Cato, who committed suicide. In 45 BC, Caesar managed to defeat the Pompeius brothers in the battle of Munda
Battle of Munda
The Battle of Munda took place on March 17, 45 BC in the plains of Munda, modern southern Spain. This was the last battle of Julius Caesar's civil war against the republican armies of the Optimate leaders...

, in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

 (the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, comprising modern Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

). Gnaeus Pompeius was executed, but young Sextus escaped once more, this time to Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

.

Back in Rome, Julius Caesar was murdered on the Ides of March
Ides of March
The Ides of March is the name of the 15th day of March in the Roman calendar, probably referring to the day of the full moon. The word Ides comes from the Latin word "Idus" and means "half division" especially in relation to a month. It is a word that was used widely in the Roman calendar...

 (March 15) 44 BC by a group of senators led by Cassius
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

 and Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

. This incident did not lead to a return to normality, but provoked yet another civil war between Caesar's political heirs and his assassins. The Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

 was formed by Octavian
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

 and Lepidus
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (triumvir)
Marcus Aemilius Lepidus , was a Roman patrician who rose to become a member of the Second Triumvirate and Pontifex Maximus. His father, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, had been involved in a rebellion against the Roman Republic.Lepidus was among Julius Caesar's greatest supporters...

, with the intention of avenging Caesar and subduing all opposition. Sextus Pompeius in Sicily was certainly a rebellious man, but the Cassius and Brutus faction was the second triumvirate's first priority. Thus, with the whole island as his base, Sextus had the time and resources to develop an army and, even more importantly, a strong navy operated by Sicilian marines.

Brutus and Cassius lost the twin battles of Philippi and committed suicide in 42 BC. After this, the triumvirs turned their attentions to Sicily and Sextus.


But by this time, Sextus was prepared for strong resistance. In the following years, military confrontations failed to return a conclusive victory for either side, although in 40 BC Sextus' admiral, the freedman
Freedman
A freedman is a former slave who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, slaves became freedmen either by manumission or emancipation ....

 Menas
Menas (admiral)
Menas, also known as Menodorus, was an admiral who served under Sextus Pompey during the 1st Century BC Roman Civil Wars.Menas was a freedman of Pompey the Great and when Pompey's son, Sextus, set himself up as ruler of Sicily in the late 40's BC Menas became one of his leading admirals...

, seized Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

 from Octavian's governor Marcus Lurius
Marcus Lurius
Marcus Lurius was a 1st century BC Roman admiral. Lurius is best known for holding an important command in the Battle of Actium.Around 40 BC Marcus Lurius, as governor of Sardinia, fought off an invasion of the island led by Menas, an admiral serving under Sextus Pompey who ruled Sicily at the time...

. In 39 BC, Sextus and the triumvirs signed for peace in the Pact of Misenum
Pact of Misenum
The Pact of Misenum was a treaty which ended the naval blockade of the Italian Peninsula during the Sicilian revolt. The pact was signed in 39 BC between Sextus Pompeius and the members of the Second Triumvirate. The triumvirs allowed Sextus Pompeius to retain his control of Sicily and Sardinia and...

. The reason for this peace treaty was the anticipated campaign against the Parthian Empire
Parthian Empire
The Parthian Empire , also known as the Arsacid Empire , was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Persia...

. Antony, the leader, needed all the legions
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 he could get so it was useful to secure an armistice in the Sicilian front.

The peace did not last for long. Octavian and Antony's frequent quarrels were a strong political motivation for resuming the war against Sextus. Octavian tried again to conquer Sicily, but he was defeated in the naval battle of Messina (37 BC) and again in August 36 BC. But Octavian had Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman and general. He was a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defense minister to Octavian, the future Emperor Caesar Augustus...

, a very talented general, on his side. Only a month afterwards, Agrippa destroyed Sextus' navy off Naulochus
Battle of Naulochus
The naval Battle of Naulochus was fought on 3 September 36 BC between the fleets of Sextus Pompeius and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, off Naulochus, Sicily...

 cape. Sextus escaped to Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 and, by abandoning Sicily, lost his only base of support.

Sextus Pompeius was caught in Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

 in 35 BC and executed without trial (an illegal act since Sextus was a Roman citizen) by order of Marcus Titius
Marcus Titius
Marcus Titius was a Roman politician and commander at the end of the Roman Republic.- Descent and Proscription :Marcus Titius was the son of a Lucius Titius and nephew of Lucius Munatius Plancus. The offices which Lucius Titius held are not known but he was proscribed at the end of 43 BC and...

, Antony's minion. His violent death would be one of the weapons used by Octavian against Antony several years later, when the situation between the two reached a boiling point.

Sextus had married Scribonia, a distant relative of his. Scribonia was the daughter of Lucius Scribonius Libo
Lucius Scribonius Libo
Several men of plebeian status were named Lucius Scribonius Libo during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire; they were members of the gens Scribonia.-L. Scribonius Libo :...

, consul of 34 BC. Sextus and Scribonia had a daughter and only child called Pompeia Magna.

Chronology

  • 48 BC – in Egypt with his father, who is assassinated
  • 47/45 BC – resistance in Africa
  • 45 BC – defeated in Munda
  • 42 BC – controls Sicily with a powerful navy
  • 39 BC – pact of Misenum with Octavianus and Antony
  • 37 BC – defeats Octavian off Messina
  • 36 BC
    • August, defeats Octavian
    • September, defeated by Agrippa off Naulochus
      Battle of Naulochus
      The naval Battle of Naulochus was fought on 3 September 36 BC between the fleets of Sextus Pompeius and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, off Naulochus, Sicily...

       (Sicily)
  • 35 BC – captured and executed in Asia Minor (Miletus)

Dramatic representations

  • British actor Donald Sumpter
    Donald Sumpter
    Donald Sumpter is a British actor. He has appeared in film and television since the mid 1960s.-Life and work:One of his early television appearances was the 1968 Doctor Who serial The Wheel in Space with Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. He appeared in Doctor Who again in the 1972 serial The Sea...

     portrayed Sextus Pompey in the BBC Shakespeare television production of Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

    (1981).
  • American actor Walter Koenig
    Walter Koenig
    Walter Marvin Koenig is an American actor, writer, teacher and director, known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in Star Trek and Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. He wrote the script for the 2008 science fiction legal thriller InAlienable.-Early life:...

     portrayed Sextus Pompey in the Bard Productions television production of Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607. It was first printed in the First Folio of 1623. The plot is based on Thomas North's translation of Plutarch's Lives and follows the relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony...

    (1983).

External links