Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy online

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of victory, in other words, to seek out and capture the defeated army.
Their former over-cautious reserve was succeeded by an arrogance
still less justified by the circumstances; they gave no heed
to the facts, that they had, strictly speaking, failed in the pursuit,
that they had to hold themselves in readiness to encounter
a completely refreshed and reorganized army in Thessaly,
and that there was no small risk in moving away from the sea,
renouncing the support of the fleet, and following their antagonist
to the battlefield chosen by himself. They were simply resolved
at any price to fight with Caesar, and therefore to get at him
as soon as possible and by the most convenient way. Cato took up
the command in Dyrrhachium, where a garrison was left behind
of eighteen cohorts, and in Corcyra, where 300 ships of war were left;
Pompeius and Scipio proceeded - the former, apparently, following
the Egnatian way as far as Pella and then striking into the great road
to the south, the latter from the Haliacmon through the passes
of Olympus - to the lower Peneius and met at Larisa.

The Armies at Pharsalus

Caesar lay to the south of Larisa in the plain - which extends
between the hill-country of Cynoscephalae and the chain of Othrys
and is intersected by a tributary of the Peneius, the Enipeus -
on the left bank of the latter stream near the town of Pharsalus;
Pompeius pitched his camp opposite to him on the right bank
of the Enipeus along the slope of the heights of Cynoscephalae.(30)
The entire army of Pompeius was assembled; Caesar on the other hand
still expected the corps of nearly two legions formerly detached
to Aetolia and Thessaly, now stationed under Quintus Fufius Calenus
in Greece, and the two legions of Cornificius which were sent
after him by the land-route from Italy and had already arrived
in Illyria. The army of Pompeius, numbering eleven legions
or 47,000 men and 7000 horse, was more than double that of Caesar
in infantry, and seven times as numerous in cavalry; fatigue
and conflicts had so decimated Caesar's troops, that his eight legions
did not number more than 22,000 men under arms, consequently
not nearly the half of their normal amount. The victorious army
of Pompeius provided with a countless cavalry and good magazines had
provisions in abundance, while the troops of Caesar had difficulty
in keeping themselves alive and only hoped for better supplies
from the corn-harvest not far distant. The Pompeian soldiers,
who had learned in the last campaign to know war and trust their leader,
were in the best of humour. All military reasons on the side
of Pompeius favoured the view, that the decisive battle should not be
long delayed, seeing that they now confronted Caesar in Thessaly;
and the emigrant impatience of the many genteel officers and others
accompanying the army doubtless had more weight than even such reasons
in the council of war. Since the events of Dyrrhachium
these lords regarded the triumph of their party as an ascertained fact;
already there was eager strife as to the filling up of Caesar's
supreme pontificate, and instructions were sent to Rome
to hire houses at the Forum for the next elections. When Pompeius
hesitated on his part to cross the rivulet which separated
the two armies, and which Caesar with his much weaker army
did not venture to pass, this excited great indignation; Pompeius,
it was alleged, only delayed the battle in order to rule somewhat longer
over so many consulars and praetorians and to perpetuate his part
of Agamemnon. Pompeius yielded; and Caesar, who under the impression
that matters would not come to a battle, had just projected
a mode of turning the enemy's army and for that purpose was on the point
of setting out towards Scotussa, likewise arrayed his legions for battle,
when he saw the Pompeians preparing to offer it to him on his bank.

The Battle

Thus the battle of Pharsalus was fought on the 9th August 706,
almost on the same field where a hundred and fifty years before
the Romans had laid the foundation of their dominion in the east.(31)
Pompeius rested his right wing on the Enipeus; Caesar opposite
to him rested his left on the broken ground stretching in front
of the Enipeus; the two other wings were stationed out in the plain,
covered in each case by the cavalry and the light troops.
The intention of Pompeius was to keep his infantry on the defensive,
but with his cavalry to scatter the weak band of horsemen which,
mixed after the German fashion with light infantry, confronted him,
and then to take Caesar's right wing in rear. His infantry
courageously sustained the first charge of that of the enemy,
and the engagement there came to a stand. Labienus likewise dispersed
the enemy's cavalry after a brave but short resistance,
and deployed his force to the left with the view of turning
the infantry. But Caesar, foreseeing the defeat of his cavalry,
had stationed behind it on the threatened flank of his right wing
some 2000 of his best legionaries. As the enemy's horsemen,
driving those of Caesar before them, galloped along and around the line,
they suddenly came upon this select corps advancing intrepidly
against them and, rapidly thrown into confusion by the unexpected
and unusual infantry attack,(32) they galloped at full speed
from the field of battle. The victorious legionaries cut to pieces
the enemy's archers now unprotected, then rushed at the left wing
of the enemy, and began now on their part to turn it. At the same time
Caesar's third division hitherto reserved advanced along
the whole line to the attack. The unexpected defeat of the best arm
of the Pompeian army, as it raised the courage of their opponents,
broke that of the army and above all that of the general. When Pompeius,
who from the outset did not trust his infantry, saw the horsemen
gallop off, he rode back at once from the field of battle to the camp,
without even awaiting the issue of the general attack ordered by Caesar.
His legions began to waver and soon to retire over the brook
into the camp, which was not accomplished without severe loss.

Its Issue
Flight of Pompeius

The day was thus lost and many an able soldier had fallen,
but the army was still substantially intact, and the situation
of Pompeius was far less perilous than that of Caesar after the defeat
of Dyrrhachium. But while Caesar in the vicissitudes of his destiny
had learned that fortune loves to withdraw herself at certain moments
even from her favourites in order to be once more won back
through their perseverance, Pompeius knew fortune hitherto
only as the constant goddess, and despaired of himself and of her
when she withdrew from him; and, while in Caesar's grander nature
despair only developed yet mightier energies, the inferior soul
of Pompeius under similar pressure sank into the infinite abyss
of despondency. As once in the war with Sertorius he had been
on the point of abandoning the office entrusted to him in presence
of his superior opponent and of departing,(33) so now, when he saw
the legions retire over the stream, he threw from him the fatal
general's scarf, and rode off by the nearest route to the sea,
to find means of embarking there. His army discouraged and leaderless -
for Scipio, although recognized by Pompeius as colleague in supreme
command, was yet general-in-chief only in name - hoped to find protection
behind the camp-walls; but Caesar allowed it no rest; the obstinate
resistance of the Roman and Thracian guard of the camp was speedily
overcome, and the mass was compelled to withdraw in disorder
to the heights of Crannon and Scotussa, at the foot of which
the camp was pitched. It attempted by moving forward along these hills
to regain Larisa; but the troops of Caesar, heeding neither
booty nor fatigue and advancing by better paths in the plain,
intercepted the route of the fugitives; in fact, when late
in the evening the Pompeians suspended their march, their pursuers
were able even to draw an entrenched line which precluded
the fugitives from access to the only rivulet to be found
in the neighbourhood. So ended the day of Pharsalus. The enemy's army
was not only defeated, but annihilated; 15,000 of the enemy
lay dead or wounded on the field of battle, while the Caesarians missed
only 200 men; the body which remained together, amounting still
to nearly 20,000 men, laid down their arms on the morning after
the battle only isolated troops, including, it is true, the officers
of most note, sought a refuge in the mountains; of the eleven eagles
of the enemy nine were handed over to Caesar. Caesar,
who on the very day of the battle had reminded the soldiers
that they should not forget the fellow-citizen in the foe,
did not treat the captives as did Bibulus and Labienus;
nevertheless he too found it necessary now to exercise some severity.
The common soldiers were incorporated in the army, fines
or confiscations of property were inflicted on the men of better rank;
the senators and equites of note who were taken, with few exceptions,
suffered death. The time for clemency was past; the longer
the civil war lasted, the more remorseless and implacable it became.

The Political Effects of the Battle of Pharsalus
The East Submits

Some time elapsed, before the consequences of the 9th of August 706
could be fully discerned. What admitted of least doubt,
was the passing over to the side of Caesar of all those
who had attached themselves to the party vanquished at Pharsalus
merely as to the more powerful; the defeat was so thoroughly
decisive, that the victor was joined by all who were not willing
or were not obliged to fight for a lost cause. All the kings,
peoples, and cities, which had hitherto been the clients of Pompeius,
now recalled their naval and military contingents and declined
to receive the refugees of the beaten party; such as Egypt, Cyrene,
the communities of Syria, Phoenicia, Cilicia and Asia Minor, Rhodes,
Athens, and generally the whole east. In fact Pharnaces
king of the Bosporus pushed his officiousness so far, that on the news
of the Pharsalian battle he took possession not only of the town
of Phanagoria which several years before had been declared free
by Pompeius, and of the dominions of the Colchian princes confirmed
by him, but even of the kingdom of Little Armenia which Pompeius
had conferred on king Deiotarus. Almost the sole exceptions
to this general submission were the little town of Megara
which allowed itself to be besieged and stormed by the Caesarians,
and Juba king of Numidia, who had for long expected, and after the victory
over Curio expected only with all the greater certainty, that his kingdom
would be annexed by Caesar, and was thus obliged for better or for worse
to abide by the defeated party.

The Aristocracy after the Battle of Pharsalus

In the same way as the client communities submitted to the victor
of Pharsalus, the tail of the constitutional party - all who had
joined it with half a heart or had even, like Marcus Cicero
and his congeners, merely danced around the aristocracy like the witches
around the Brocken - approached to make their peace with the new monarch,
a peace accordingly which his contemptuous indulgence readily
and courteously granted to the petitioners. But the flower
of the defeated party made no compromise. All was over
with the aristocracy; but the aristocrats could never become converted
to monarchy. The highest revelations of humanity are perishable;
the religion once true may become a lie,(34) the polity once fraught
with blessing may become a curse; but even the gospel that is past
still finds confessors, and if such a faith cannot remove mountains
like faith in the living truth, it yet remains true to itself
down to its very end, and does not depart from the realm of the living
till it has dragged its last priests and its last partisans
along with it, and a new generation, freed from those shadows of the past
and the perishing, rules over a world that has renewed its youth.
So it was in Rome. Into whatever abyss of degeneracy the aristocratic
rule had now sunk, it had once been a great political system;
the sacred fire, by which Italy had been conquered and Hannibal
had been vanquished, continued to glow - although somewhat dimmed
and dull - in the Roman nobility so long as that nobility existed,
and rendered a cordial understanding between the men of the old regime
and the new monarch impossible. A large portion of the constitutional
party submitted at least outwardly, and recognized the monarchy
so far as to accept pardon from Caesar and to retire as much as possible
into private life; which, however, ordinarily was not done
without the mental reservation of thereby preserving themselves
for a future change of things. This course was chiefly followed
by the partisans of lesser note; but the able Marcus Marcellus,
the same who had brought about the rupture with Caesar,(35)
was to be found among these judicious persons and voluntarily
banished himself to Lesbos. In the majority, however, of the genuine
aristocracy passion was more powerful than cool reflection;
along with which, no doubt, self-deceptions as to success
being still possible and apprehensions of the inevitable
vengeance of the victor variously co-operated.


No one probably formed a judgment as to the situation of affairs
with so painful a clearness, and so free from fear or hope
on his own account, as Marcus Cato. Completely convinced
that after the days of Ilerda and Pharsalus the monarchy was inevitable,
and morally firm enough to confess to himself this bitter truth
and to act in accordance with it, he hesitated for a moment whether
the constitutional party ought at all to continue a war, which would
necessarily require sacrifices for a lost cause on the part of many
who did not know why they offered them. And when he resolved
to fight against the monarchy not for victory, but for a speedier
and more honourable fall, he yet sought as far as possible to draw
no one into this war, who chose to survive the fall of the republic
and to be reconciled to monarchy. He conceived that, so long
as the republic had been merely threatened, it was a right and a duty
to compel the lukewarm and bad citizen to take part in the struggle;
but that now it was senseless and cruel to compel the individual
to share the ruin of the lost republic. Not only did he himself
discharge every one who desired to return to Italy; but when the wildest
of the wild partisans, Gnaeus Pompeius the younger, insisted
on the execution of these people and of Cicero in particular:
it was Cato alone who by his moral authority prevented it.


Pompeius also had no desire for peace. Had he been a man
who deserved to hold the position which he occupied, we might suppose
him to have perceived that he who aspires to a crown cannot return
to the beaten track of ordinary existence, and that there is
accordingly no place left on earth for one who has failed.
But Pompeius was hardly too noble-minded to ask a favour,
which the victor would have been perhaps magnanimous enough
not to refuse to him; on the contrary, he was probably too mean
to do so. Whether it was that he could not make up his mind
to trust himself to Caesar, or that in his usual vague
and undecided way, after the first immediate impression of the disaster
of Pharsalus had vanished, be began again to cherish hope, Pompeius
was resolved to continue the struggle against Caesar and to seek
for himself yet another battle-field after that of Pharsalus.

Military Effects of the Battle
The Leaders Scattered

Thus, however much Caesar had striven by prudence and moderation
to appease the fury of his opponents and to lessen their number,
the struggle nevertheless went on without alteration. But the leading
men had almost all taken part in the fight at Pharsalus;
and, although they all escaped with the exception of Lucius Domitius
Ahenobarbus, who was killed in the flight, they were yet scattered
in all directions, so that they were unable to concert a common plan
for the continuance of the campaign. Most of them found their way,
partly through the desolate mountains of Macedonia and Illyria,
partly by the aid of the fleet, to Corcyra, where Marcus Cato
commanded the reserve left behind. Here a sort of council
of war took place under the presidency of Cato, at which Metellus Scipio,
Titus Labienus, Lucius Afranius, Gnaeus Pompeius the younger
and others were present; but the absence of the commander-in-chief
and the painful uncertainty as to his fate, as well as the internal
dissensions of the party, prevented the adoption of any common
resolution, and ultimately each took the course which seemed to him
the most suitable for himself or for the common cause. It was in fact
in a high degree difficult to say among the many straws
to which they might possibly cling which was the one
that would keep longest above water.

Macedonia and Greece
The East

Macedonia and Greece were lost by the battle of Pharsalus.
It is true that Cato, who had immediately on the news of the defeat
evacuated Dyrrhachium, still held Corcyra, and Rutilius Lupus
the Peloponnesus, during a time for the constitutional party.
For a moment it seemed also as if the Pompeians would make a stand
at Patrae in the Peloponnesus; but the accounts of the advance
of Calenus sufficed to frighten them from that quarter. As little
was there any attempt to maintain Corcyra. On the Italian
and Sicilian coasts the Pompeian squadrons despatched thither
after the victories of Dyrrhachium(36) had achieved not unimportant
successes against the ports of Brundisium, Messana and Vibo,
and at Messana especially had burnt the whole fleet in course
of being fitted out for Caesar; but the ships that were thus active,
mostly from Asia Minor and Syria, were recalled by their communities
in consequence of the Pharsalian battle, so that the expedition
came to an end of itself. In Asia Minor and Syria there were
at the moment no troops of either party, with the exception
of the Bosporan army of Pharnaces which had taken possession,
ostensibly on Caesar's account, of different regions belonging
to his opponents. In Egypt there was still indeed a considerable
Roman army, formed of the troops left behind there by Gabinius(37)
and thereafter recruited from Italian vagrants and Syrian
or Cilician banditti; but it was self-evident and was soon
officially confirmed by the recall of the Egyptian vessels,
that the court of Alexandria by no means had the intention
of holding firmly by the defeated party or of even placing
its force of troops at their disposal. Somewhat more favourable
prospects presented themselves to the vanquished in the west.
In Spain Pompeian sympathies were so strong among the population,
that the Caesarians had on that account to give up the attack
which they contemplated from this quarter against Africa,
and an insurrection seemed inevitable, so soon as a leader of note
should appear in the peninsula. In Africa moreover the coalition,
or rather Juba king of Numidia, who was the true regent there,
had been arming unmolested since the autumn of 705. While the whole
east was consequently lost to the coalition by the battle
of Pharsalus, it might on the other hand continue the war
after an honourable manner probably in Spain, and certainly in Africa;
for to claim the aid of the king of Numidia, who had for a long time
been subject to the Roman community, against revolutionary fellow-
burgesses was for Romans a painful humiliation doubtless, but by no means
an act of treason. Those again who in this conflict of despair
had no further regard for right or honour, might declare themselves
beyond the pale of the law, and commence hostilities as robbers;
or might enter into alliance with independent neighbouring states,
and introduce the public foe into the intestine strife; or, lastly,
might profess monarchy with the lips and prosecute the restoration
of the legitimate republic with the dagger of the assassin.

Hostilities of Robbers and Pirates

That the vanquished should withdraw and renounce the new monarchy,
was at least the natural and so far the truest expression of their
desperate position. The mountains and above all the sea had been
in those times ever since the memory of man the asylum not only
of all crime, but also of intolerable misery and of oppressed right;
it was natural for Pompeians and republicans to wage a defiant war
against the monarchy of Caesar, which had ejected them,
in the mountains and on the seas, and especially natural for them
to take up piracy on a greater scale, with more compact organization,
and with more definite aims. Even after the recall of the squadrons
that had come from the east they still possessed a very considerable
fleet of their own, while Caesar was as yet virtually without
vessels of war; and their connection with the Dalmatae who had risen
in their own interest against Caesar,(38) and their control
over the most important seas and seaports, presented the most
advantageous prospects for a naval war, especially on a small scale.
As formerly Sulla's hunting out of the democrats had ended
in the Sertorian insurrection, which was a conflict first waged
by pirates and then by robbers and ultimately became a very serious war,
so possibly, if there was in the Catonian aristocracy or among
the adherents of Pompeius as much spirit and fire as in the Marian
democracy, and if there was found among them a true sea-king,
a commonwealth independent of the monarchy of Caesar and perhaps a match
for it might arise on the still unconquered sea.

Parthian Alliance

Far more serious disapproval in every respect is due to the idea
of dragging an independent neighbouring state into the Roman civil war
and of bringing about by its means a counter-revolution;
law and conscience condemn the deserter more severely than the robber,
and a victorious band of robbers finds its way back to a free
and well-ordered commonwealth more easily than the emigrants who are
conducted back by the public foe. Besides it was scarcely probable
that the beaten party would be able to effect a restoration in this way.
The only state, from which they could attempt to seek support,
was that of the Parthians; and as to this it was at least doubtful
whether it would make their cause its own, and very improbable
that it would fight out that cause against Caesar.

The time for republican conspiracies had not yet come.

Caesar Pursues Pompeius to Egypt

While the remnant of the defeated party thus allowed themselves
to be helplessly driven about by fate, and even those
who had determined to continue the struggle knew not how or where
to do so, Caesar, quickly as ever resolving and quickly acting,
laid everything aside to pursue Pompeius - the only one of his opponents
whom he respected as an officer, and the one whose personal capture
would have probably paralyzed a half, and that perhaps
the more dangerous half, of his opponents. With a few men
he crossed the Hellespont - his single bark encountered in it a fleet
of the enemy destined for the Black Sea, and took the whole crews,
struck as with stupefaction by the news of the battle of Pharsalus,
prisoners - and as soon as the most necessary preparations were made,
hastened in pursuit of Pompeius to the east. The latter had gone
from the Pharsalian battlefield to Lesbos, whence he brought away
his wife and his second son Sextus, and had sailed onward round
Asia Minor to Cilicia and thence to Cyprus. He might have joined
his partisans at Corcyra or Africa; but repugnance toward his
aristocratic allies and the thought of the reception which awaited him
there after the day of Pharsalus and above all after his disgraceful
flight, appear to have induced him to take his own course
and rather to resort to the protection of the Parthian king
than to that of Cato. While he was employed in collecting money
and slaves from the Roman revenue-farmers and merchants in Cyprus,
and in arming a band of 2000 slaves, he received news that Antioch
had declared for Caesar and that the route to the Parthians
was no longer open. So he altered his plan and sailed to Egypt,
where a number of his old soldiers served in the army and the situation
and rich resources of the country allowed him time and opportunity
to reorganize the war.

In Egypt, after the death of Ptolemaeus Auletes (May 703)
his children, Cleopatra about sixteen years of age and Ptolemaeus Dionysus
about ten, had ascended the throne according to their father's will

Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy → online text (page 41 of 65)