Academic journal article Antichthon

Dealing with Caesar: Finding Politics between 42 and 27 BC*

Academic journal article Antichthon

Dealing with Caesar: Finding Politics between 42 and 27 BC*

Article excerpt


The idea that 'the republic died at Philippi' was an essential element in the discourse of the principate because it denied legitimacy to the resistance that followed. Yet, until 36, the republicans' control of the seas under Sextus Pompeius' leadership allowed the continuation of military resistance which all too often was embarrassingly successful. Restoring Sextus Pompeius to his rightful place in the alliance against the triumvirate allows us to rethink the narrative of the war as well the ways his supporters contributed to the politics of the novus status even after his defeat.

(ProQuest: Foreign text omitted.)

. . . nullo adversante, cum ferocissimi per acies aut proscriptione cecidissent, ceteri nobilium, quanto quis servitio promptior, opibus et honoribus extollerentur ac novis ex rebus aucti tuta et praesentia quam vetera et periculosa mallent.

No-one opposed him, for the most aggressive had fallen in battle or by proscription while the rest of the nobles, the readier they were to be slaves, were raised the higher by wealth and promotion, and, made prosperous by revolution, they preferred the safety of the present to the dangerous past.

(Tac. Ann. 1.2)

Thus Tacitus introduces the political elite of Rome at the dawn of the principate. Those who were courageous enough to resist had all died in battle and those who survived had become complicit in the march to power of the first princeps , Caesar Augustus, and his successors. In many respects, he saw the second group as engineering its own downfall through their failure to resist the take-over of the government of the res publica .1

The opening of the Annales provides an unforgettable account of the triumviral period and the formation of the principate. However, for all its brilliance, it is brief and rhetorical. The evocative generalisation nullo adversante is a particularly absolute judgement of what must have been a nuanced and changing relationship between the elite and the civil war victor. If Tacitus had lefta detailed account of the rise and rise of the almost- Augustus, we would surely have been better informed of individuals and groups who dissented, even though they had given up their armed struggle. Without such evidence, the task of recovering the nuances is rendered more difficult but we should not assume from the beginning that they did not exist.

The larger work from which this paper has been drawn will present a narrative of the years between 49 and 27 from the point(s) of view of Gaius Julius Caesar's republican opponents.2 The pivotal figure is Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius, the younger son of Cn. Pompeius Magnus, who was a part of that opposition from the time he leftItaly with his father in 49 until his death in 35. If we can establish, as I try to do, that he was integral to the antitriumviral coalition in 42, it will be more easily seen that the campaigns of 41-35 were an extension of that same struggle and not some kind of private feud, as they are all too often perceived.3 Once we fully account for the younger Pompeius, we have to acknowledge the fact, too often overlooked, that Caesar never completely overcame his enemies on the battlefield, even though he celebrated triumphs over Juba of Numidia and the republicans in Spain.4 A further continuum may be found in the use of the navy to restrict food supplies, firstly to enemy troops and secondly to Italy. The years in which Sextus Pompeius led the republicans, however, differed in one important respect. He enjoyed success after success, defeating the Dictator's representatives on land in Spain during 44 and the triumvirs' admirals on the seas around Sicily on several occasions between 42 and 36. Moreover, he placed the younger Caesar in direct personal danger on more than one occasion. In sum, the longer work will argue that although the battle of Philippi was a critical episode, it was not the final chapter in the history of the Republic. If one requires an event to mark this occasion, the moment of Sextus Pompeius' death is a better choice. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.