II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > E. Rome > 3. Civil War and Renewal, 70 B.C.E.–14 C.E. > b. Military Dynasts and Civil Wars
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
b. Military Dynasts and Civil Wars
The years 70 to 31 witnessed the collapse of the Roman Republic and its replacement by military dictatorships. After Sulla, the inability of the senatorial oligarchy to find generals led to the creation of extended special commands, and to the new imperialism of Lucullus, Pompey, and Caesar.  1
The menace of Mediterranean piracy had prompted sporadic Roman responses with commands in 102, 78, 74, and 68. In 67 the lex Gabinia conferred an extraordinary three-year command on Pompey. In three months Pompey cleared the sea of pirates and pacified their homeland of Cilicia.  2
The Third Mithridatic War. Mithridates' opposition to the Roman annexation of Bithynia led him to attack the Roman province of Asia. The consul of 74, L. Licinius Lucullus, drove Mithridates out of Asia and Bithynia, and in 73 he invaded Pontus without permission of the senate. In 69 Lucullus, again on his own initiative, invaded Armenia and defeated Tigranes I, the son-in-law of Mithridates, who had been expanding into Cappadocia, Cilicia, Phoenicia, and Syria. But Lucullus's armies mutinied in 68 and 67, he failed to capture Mithridates, and he had antagonized the publicani by reducing the debt of Asian cities.  3
The lex Manila, spoken for by Cicero, transferred command of the Mithridatic War to Pompey. Pompey defeated Mithridates, then Tigranes, pursuing the former to the Crimea where he committed suicide in 63. Pompey proceeded to march through the former Seleucid domains and reorganize the east (65–63), with Roman provinces in Asia, Cilicia, Bithynia-Pontus, and Syria, and with client kingdoms in Pontus, Cappadocia, Galatia, Lycia, and Judaea (See 63). His settlement vastly increased both the revenues of the Roman state (from 50 million to 135 million denarii) and his own personal wealth.  4
Conspiracy of Catiline. The oppressed and discontented classes at Rome—debtors, veterans, ruined nobles, and those proscribed by Sulla—found a leader in the aristocrat L. Sergius Catilina, who proposed a program of debt cancellation (novae tabulae). Disgruntled over setbacks and defeats in the consular elections of 66 and 64, Catilina turned to armed revolt. As consul in 63, Cicero uncovered the conspiracy and in a series of speeches (the Catilinarians) convinced the senate to pass the SCU. Catilina's associates were arrested and executed without trial. Catilina himself died bravely in battle.  5
Pompey returned to Italy, disbanded his army, and triumphed. But the optimate senate, led by M. Porcius Cato, refused to ratify his eastern settlement and blocked a land bill for his veterans.  6
The First Triumvirate. The frustrated military hero Pompey then formed a political alliance with M. Licinius Crassus, who had the support of the publicani, and the patrician C. Julius Caesar, a popularis politician and favorite of the people.  7
Caesar, as consul, employed Pompey's veterans to overcome violently optimate opposition. He passed a land bill and ratification of his eastern settlement for Pompey, had an unfavorable tax contract remitted for Crassus's publicani, and secured for himself, by the lex Vatinia, the provinces of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum for five years. Later the province of Gallia Narbonensis was added.  8
THE CONQUEST OF GAUL. Using Narbonensis as a base, Caesar subjugated Gaul in a series of annual campaigns. In 55 he invaded Britain (See 55 B.C.E.–c. 450 C.E) but soon withdrew; in 54 he made a demonstration across the Rhine. Vercingetorix led a serious national revolt in 52 but was defeated by Caesar, who suppressed the rebellion by 51. With his Gallic victories, Caesar equaled or surpassed the military reputation and personal wealth of Pompey.  9
In Rome the tribune P. Clodius pursued a popularis program (e.g., free grain), thwarting optimate opposition with gangs of thugs organized under the guise of legitimate collegia (clubs). His opponents retaliated by having the optimate tribune T. Annius Milo organize his own band of thugs. In 57 a shortage of grain prompted the senate to grant a special command to Pompey for supervision of the grain supply—cura annonae.  10
Worried by growing dissension between Pompey and Crassus, Caesar called for a meeting at Luca on the southern border of Cisalpine Gaul, where reconciliation and future plans were arranged between the three.  11
Pursuant to the arrangement, Pompey and Crassus were consuls and carried the following measures by force. Caesar's command was extended for another five years, and Crassus and Pompey were given matching five-year proconsular commands—Crassus in Syria, Pompey in the two Spanish provinces. Crassus departed for his province, while Pompey, contrary to custom, remained near Rome and governed Spain through legati.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.