Titus Labienus
Titus Atius Labienus was a professional 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....

 soldier in the late Roman 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...

. He served as Tribune of the Plebs in 63 BC, and is remembered as one of 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....

's lieutenants, mentioned frequently in the accounts of his military campaigns. He was the father of Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus
Quintus Labienus , the son of Titus Labienus, was a Roman republican general, later in the service of Parthia.After Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Labienus took the side of Brutus and Cassius, the latter whom he served in the capacity of an ambassador to the Parthians...


Early career

Reasoning from the fact that his praetor
Praetor was a title granted by the government of Ancient Rome to men acting in one of two official capacities: the commander of an army, usually in the field, or the named commander before mustering the army; and an elected magistratus assigned varied duties...

ship was in 60 or 59 BC, Titus Labienus most likely was born in 99 or 98 BC. Many sources suggest that he came from the town of Cingulum
The cingulum is a collection of white matter fibers projecting from the cingulate gyrus to the entorhinal cortex in the brain, allowing for communication between components of the limbic system....

 in Picenum
Picenum was a region of ancient Italy. The name is an exonym assigned by the Romans, who conquered and incorporated it into the Roman Republic. Picenum was the birthplace of such notables as Pompey the Great and his father Pompeius Strabo. It was situated in what is now Marche...

. His family was of equestrian
Equestrian (Roman)
The Roman equestrian order constituted the lower of the two aristocratic classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the patricians , a hereditary caste that monopolised political power during the regal era and during the early Republic . A member of the equestrian order was known as an eques...

 status. He most likely had early ties with Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

 during his time as a patron for Picenum
Picenum was a region of ancient Italy. The name is an exonym assigned by the Romans, who conquered and incorporated it into the Roman Republic. Picenum was the birthplace of such notables as Pompey the Great and his father Pompeius Strabo. It was situated in what is now Marche...

 and his desire to rise in military rank. His early service was ca. 78–75 BC in Cilicia
In antiquity, Cilicia was the south coastal region of Asia Minor, south of the central Anatolian plateau. It existed as a political entity from Hittite times into the Byzantine empire...

 under Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus.

Tribune of the Plebs, Trial of Gaius Rabirius

In 63 BC, Titus Labienus was a Tribune of the Plebs with close ties to Pompey. Gaius Julius Caesar was also working closely with Pompey and therefore he and Labienus occasionally cooperated. These interactions were the seed that eventually developed into a friendship between Labienus and Caesar.

At Caesar’s instigation, Labienus accused Gaius Rabirius
Gaius Rabirius (senator)
Gaius Rabirius was a senator who was involved in the death of Lucius Appuleius Saturninus. Titus Labienus was put up by Julius Caesar to accuse Rabirius of having been implicated in the murder...

 of high treason (perduellio
In the early days of Ancient Rome, perduellio was the term for the capital offense of high treason. It was set down plainly in the Law of the Twelve Tables as thus:...

) for the murder of the tribune
Tribune was a title shared by elected officials in the Roman Republic. Tribunes had the power to convene the Plebeian Council and to act as its president, which also gave them the right to propose legislation before it. They were sacrosanct, in the sense that any assault on their person was...

 Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Lucius Appuleius Saturninus
Lucius Appuleius Saturninus was a Roman popularist and tribune; he was a political ally of Gaius Marius, and his downfall caused a great deal of political embarrassment for Marius, who absented himself from public life until he returned to take up a command in the Social War of 91 to 88...

 and of his uncle Titus Labienus in 100 BC. The purpose of this trial was to discredit the so-called "final decree of the Senate" (senatus consultum ultimum
Senatus consultum ultimum
Senatus consultum ultimum , more properly senatus consultum de re publica defendenda is the modern term given to a decree of the Roman Senate during the late Roman Republic passed in times of emergency...

), an emergency measure of the senate commonly used against the Populares
Populares were aristocratic leaders in the late Roman Republic who relied on the people's assemblies and tribunate to acquire political power. They are regarded in modern scholarship as in opposition to the optimates, who are identified with the conservative interests of a senatorial elite...

 and the Roman assemblies
Roman assemblies
The Legislative Assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people who had the final say regarding the election of magistrates, the enactment of new statutes, the carrying out of capital...

. Labienus used the antiquated procedure of the duumviri, used in the early republic, against Rabirius. The procedure bypassed normal criminal law and Rabirius would be tried without defense. Since tribunes were sacrosanct, it was seen as an act against the gods to kill one. Thus punishment of the culprit was seen as more of a cleansing to appease the gods. The killing was seen as a pollution so profound that a normal criminal trial was unnecessary and immediate cleansing was necessary to avoid the wrath of the gods. The duumviri were assigned to accuse under the pretense of obvious guilt and cleanse the culprit through scourging.

Rabirius appealed to the Century Assembly and Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 spoke in his defense. However, before the assembly could vote, Metellus Celer
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer (consul)
Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer was a Consul in 60 BC and son of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos, or, according to some, the son of Tribune Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer while the latter is the son of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Nepos...

 used his powers as an augur
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of...

 to claim the sightings of bad omens and take down the flag in Janiculum
The Janiculum is a hill in western Rome, Italy. Although the second-tallest hill in the contemporary city of Rome, the Janiculum does not figure among the proverbial Seven Hills of Rome, being west of the Tiber and outside the boundaries of the ancient city.-Sights:The Janiculum is one of the...

. This postponed the trial. Rabirius was ultimately sentenced to exile, as he was unable to pay an unreasonable fine.

In the same year Labienus carried a plebiscite returning the elections of the pontifices to the people. This indirectly secured for Caesar the dignity of Pontifex Maximus
Pontifex Maximus
The Pontifex Maximus was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. This was the most important position in the ancient Roman religion, open only to patricians until 254 BC, when a plebeian first occupied this post...

, by his act of supporting Labienus in this cause (Dio Cassius xxxvii. 37).

Labienus was more a soldier than politician, and primarily used his office as a gateway to secure himself positions of high military command. After his term as tribune, Labienus served as Caesar’s legate
A legatus was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux, and he outranked all military tribunes...

 in Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...


Lieutenant under Caesar in Gaul

Labienus acted as Caesar’s second in command during his campaign in Gaul and was the only legate mentioned by name in Caesar’s writings about his first campaign. Labienus could be considered a military genius, rivaling Caesar himself in tactical command. However Caesar, as imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

, took credit for many of the accomplishments of his subordinates, especially Labienus. He was also a skilled cavalry commander.

He commanded the winter quarters in Vesontio in 58 BC. He also had full command of the legions in Gaul during Caesar’s absence, as his legatus pro praetore. He had this privilege when Caesar was administering justice in Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul
Cisalpine Gaul, in Latin: Gallia Cisalpina or Citerior, also called Gallia Togata, was a Roman province until 41 BC when it was merged into Roman Italy.It bore the name Gallia, because the great body of its inhabitants, after the expulsion of the Etruscans, consisted of Gauls or Celts...

 as well as during Caesar’s second campaign in Britain (in 54 BC).

In 57 BC, during the Belgian campaign, in a battle against the Atrebates
The Atrebates were a Belgic tribe of Gaul and Britain before the Roman conquests.- Name of the tribe :Cognate with Old Irish aittrebaid meaning 'inhabitant', Atrebates comes from proto-Celtic *ad-treb-a-t-es, 'inhabitants'. The Celtic root is treb- 'building', 'home' The Atrebates (singular...

 and Nervii
The Nervii were an ancient Germanic tribe, and one of the most powerful Belgic tribes; living in the northeastern hinterlands of Gaul, they were known to trek long distances to engage in various wars and functions...

 near Sabis
Battle of the Sabis
The Battle of the Sabis, also known as the Battle of the Sambre or the Battle against the Nervians , was fought in 57 BC in the area known today as Wallonia, between the legions of the Roman Republic and an association of Belgic tribes, principally the Nervii...

, Labienus, commanding the 9th and 10th legions, defeated the opposing Atrebates force and proceeded to take the enemy camp. From there he sent the 10th Legion against the rear of the Nervii line while engaged with the rest of Caesar’s army, single-handedly turning the tide of battle and securing Caesar the victory.

Labienus is also credited with the defeat of the Treviri under Indutiomarus
Indutiomarus was a leading aristocrat of the Treveri at the time of Caesar's conquest of Gaul...

. Labienus spent days with his army fortified in their camp, while Indutiomarus harassed him daily in an attempt at intimidation and demoralization. Labienus waited for the right moment, when Indutiomarus and his forces were returning to their camp disorganized, to send out his cavalry through two gates. He gave them the orders to first kill Indutiomarus, then his trailing forces on their return. Labienus’s men were successful, and with the death of their leader, the Treviri army scattered. The Treviri forces later regrouped under relatives of Indutiomarus and moved upon Labienus, setting up camp across the river from his legions, waiting for reinforcements from the Germans. Labienus feigned a withdrawal, enticing the Treviri to cross the river, after which he turned around and had his men attack. Being in such a disadvantageous position, the Treviri forces were decimated. After hearing this, the German reinforcements turned around.

Labienus’ victory over the Parisii in Lutetia
Lutetia was a town in pre-Roman and Roman Gaul. The Gallo-Roman city was a forerunner of the re-established Merovingian town that is the ancestor of present-day Paris...

 is another example of his tactical genius. Sending five cohort
Cohort (military unit)
A cohort was the basic tactical unit of a Roman legion following the reforms of Gaius Marius in 107 BC.-Legionary cohort:...

s back towards Agedincum, and himself crossing the Sequana
In Gallo-Roman religion, Sequana was the goddess of the river Seine, particularly the springs at the source of the Seine, and the Gaulish tribe the Sequani...

 River with three legions, he tricked the enemy into thinking that he divided his army and was crossing the river in three different locations. The enemy army split into thirds and pursued Labienus. The main body met Labienus which he subsequently surrounded with the rest of his legions. He then annihilated the reinforcements with his cavalry.

In September, 51 BC, Caesar made Labienus governor of Cisalpine Gaul.

Defection from Caesar, command under Pompey in Civil War

Before Caesar took Rome, Labienus left him in Gaul and joined Pompey. He was rapturously welcomed on the Pompeian side, bringing 3,700 Gallic and German cavalry with him.

In the book, Biography of Titus Labienus, Caesar’s Lieutenant in Gaul, Tyrrell notes that modern historians describe Labienus' actions as defection from Caesar, and do not hesitate to call him a “deserter” or “renegade”, possibly due to their liking for Caesar. Tyrrell recognizes that in the end Labienus can be described as a man who “joined the legitimate government in its struggle against a revolutionary proconsul who placed his own dignitas above his country (Tyrrell, 36). Tyrrell points out, however, that "Labienus had proved on every occasion his capacity for independent command. He could easily have felt himself Caesar’s equal in the field. Although a praetorius since 59 or 58, a consulship with its subsequently provincial army was not forthcoming. The consulship with Caesar, even if seriously planned, would not have altered the balance of power between them. Antonius’ election to the augurate, the first step to the consulship, showed the direction of Caesar’s purposes. Caesar’s enemies held out a new opportunity to gain an army. Three years later he could boast that he had won the loyalty of his troops (BAf. 19.3)." Beyond that, we cannot go.".

Pompey made Labienus commander of the cavalry. He attempted to convince Pompey to face Caesar in Italy and not retreat to 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....

 (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 , 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 , 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...

) to regroup, in his claims that Caesar’s army was thin and weakened after his campaign in Gaul.

But his ill fortune under Pompey was as marked as his success had been under Caesar. From the defeat at 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...

, he fled to Corcyra, and after hearing of the death of Pompey, proceeded to Africa. He created confidence in the followers of Pompey by lying to them; he told them that Caesar had received a mortal wound at the Battle of Pharsalus. He was able by mere force of numbers to inflict a slight check upon Caesar at the Battle of Ruspina
Battle of Ruspina
The Battle of Ruspina was fought on January 4, 46 BC in the Roman Republic, between the Republican forces of the Optimates and forces loyal to Julius Caesar...

 in 46 BC. By condensing his force into dense formations, he tricked Caesar into thinking he had only foot soldiers, was able to rout Caesar’s cavalry and surround Caesar’s army. He was unable to defeat Caesar's army, and was forced to leave the field. After the defeat at the Battle of 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:...

 he joined Gnaeus Pompey the Younger in 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....


Death came to Labienus 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...

, an evenly matched conflict between the armies of Caesar and the sons of Pompey. King Bogud
Bogud, son of King Bocchus of Mauretania , was joint king of Mauretania with his elder brother Bocchus II, with Bocchus ruling east of the Mulucha River and his brother west...

, an ally of Caesar, and his army also approached the Pompeians from the rear. Labienus was commanding the Pompeians’ cavalry unit at the time and saw this and took the cavalry from the front lines to meet him. The Pompeian legions misinterpreted this as a retreat, became disheartened and began to break. Pompey suffered massive casualties during the rout. This defeat ended the Roman Civil War. Labienus was killed during the rout. He was buried but according to Appian (BC2.105), his head was brought to Caesar.

Fictional accounts

Labienus is featured in The Gods of War
The Gods of War
The Gods of War is the fourth novel in the Emperor series, written by British author Conn Iggulden. The series is historical fiction following the life of Julius Caesar.- Plot summary :...

, a novel by British author Conn Iggulden
Conn Iggulden
Conn Iggulden is a British author who mainly writes historical fiction. He also co-authored The Dangerous Book for Boys.-Background:...

. He was also an important minor character in the later Masters of Rome
Masters of Rome
Masters of Rome is a series of historical fiction novels by author Colleen McCullough set in ancient Rome during the last days of the old Roman Republic; it primarily chronicles the lives and careers of Gaius Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Pompeius Magnus, Gaius Julius Caesar, and the early...

novels by Australian author Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough-Robinson, , is an internationally acclaimed Australian author.-Life:McCullough was born in Wellington, in outback central west New South Wales, in 1937 to James and Laurie McCullough. Her mother was a New Zealander of part-Māori descent. During her childhood, her family moved...

. In these, his first appearance is in the Trial of Rabirius, but this is placed rather later in the political year than it is usually stated as having been, orchestrated by Caesar as a reaction to Cicero's decision to have several Catiline conspirators executed without trial while the "Senatus Consultum Ultimum" is in force - rather than as a prior warning against such an action before the decree was even in place. He then falls on hard times because he had drawn the disfavour of Pompey for having an affair with his Picentine 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...

. He is portrayed latterly as a very capable but fierce and cruel soldier and commander, whose brilliance wins battles in Gaul, but whose brutality went some way towards alienating Caesar's Gallic allies and thus causing the battles in the first place. McCullough takes a somewhat different interpretation of the events, and has Caesar shunning Labienus, instead of Labienus defecting to Pompey. In the novels, Caesar disowns Labienus when it comes to civil war, not wanting him on his side because he is too cruel and unpredictable.
Labienus was also featured in the BBC One docudrama
In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....

 Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire.
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