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Pompey the Great

Imperator c. 81 - 48 B. C.

Pompey the Great was one of the most famous of the Roman imperators. The imperators were not officially emperors, nor did they have any real legal standing. They were just strong generals who had managed to amass enough power to take over actual control of the government, even though the Senate was officially responsible for governing Rome and her conquered provinces.

Pompey was born about 106 B. C. and gained the title of Maximus or "The Great" after successfully waging a war in Africa in 81 B. C. In 67 B. C., he hunted down the pirates who had been such a great menace in the Mediterranean for the previous several years. Their presence there had almost brought commerce to a standstill and they were even Kidnapping wealthy Romans on the roads outside of Rome. Pompey executed the pirates he caught and drove the rest into hiding or forced them to adopt lawful seafaring pursuits.

In 60 B. C., Pompey joined Julius Caesar and Crassus to form the First Triumvirate, a group of powerful generals and politicians who took over the government of Rome in fact if not in name. As Julius Caesar became more powerful and began behaving more and more like an emperor, Pompey joined others in rebellion. Caesar's forces and political allies proved to be too powerful, however. In 48 B. C., Pompey was defeated at the Battle of Pharsalus. Julius Caesar stated that he wanted to pardon his old friend, and most historians believed he was sincere. Such was not to be the case. After Pompey escaped from the battlefield at Pharsalus, he landed on the coast of Egypt. Some petty politicians, knowing how powerful Caesar was in Egypt and wishing to suck up to him in a major way, murdered the brave Pompey and made Caesar a present of his head.


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