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Updated on November 24, 2009

Pompeius was the name of several soldier-statesmen of ancient Rome, including Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great); his father, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo; and his two sons, Sextus Pompeius and Gnaeus Pompeius.

Pompey the Great
Pompey the Great

Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo

Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo (d. 87 B.C.) was an arrogant military commander with whom Pompey served during the Social War (90-88 B.C.). To advance his own interests, Strabo gathered troops for that war from his estates in Picenum. He was elected consul in 89 and captured Asculum, an important stronghold of the Italian rebels. After the war, Sulla, in his rise to power, deprived Strabo of his command, but when the democratic revolutionaries Marius and Cinna besieged Rome in 87, the Senate appealed to Strabo for help. He responded slowly, bargaining for a second consulship. He died soon after his arrival at Rome, perhaps of a pestilence then raging there.

Gnaeus Pompeius

Gnaeus Pompeius (d. 45 B.C.), the elder son of Pompey the Great, adopted the surname Magnus, borne by his illustrious father, after the lat-ter's death in 48 B.C. Earlier in that year, after Pompey crossed the Adriatic Sea to Epirus to escape the advancing forces of Gaius Julius Caesar, Gnaeus joined him with a fleet from Egypt. He destroyed some of Caesar's transport ships at Dyrrhachium, but stupidly failed to follow up his success. Later, he fled from Pharsalus to Spain and tried to keep the Roman Republic alive. His brother, Sextus Pompeius, joined him after Caesar's victory at Thapsus in Africa (46). Caesar ultimately pursued them to Spain and routed them amid a vast slaughter at Munda in March 45, although he had hardly more than half as many troops as did the Pompeians. Gnaeus was soon captured and put to death.

Sextus Pompeius

Sextus Pompeius (born 75 B.C., died Miletus, Asia Minor, 35 B.C.), the younger son of Pompey the Great, fled with his father to Egypt after the Battle of Pharsalus (48), and, after Pompey's murder, became a champion of the Roman Republic, rallying Caesar's opponents.. Upon the latter's victory at Thapsus in 46, Sextus joined his brother, Gnaeus Pompeius, in Spain. The so-called Pompeians were overwhelmed by Caesar at Munda in the following year and Gnaeus was killed, but Caesar's murder in 44 enabled Sextus to remain in Spain. The Second Triumvirate, formed in 43 (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus), outlawed Sextus and confiscated his property. He then went to Sicily, where he defeated Salvidienus Rufus, Octavian's lieutenant, in 42 and became so powerful that he controlled the neighboring seas. He now began to cut Italy off from its supplies of imported food. At a conference at Misenum in 39, the triumvirs made Sextus governor of Sicily, Sardinia, and Achaea, on condition that he provision Rome. This was merely a temporary adjustment of affairs, and in 38 Sextus defeated Octavian at sea. Then, in 36, a major sea battle was fought off Naulochus in Sicily, near the Straits of Messana (now Messina). The troops were drawn up on shore while the ships (reputedly 300 on each side) battled. Octavian had with him Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, who had invented an iron grapnel which fastened to the enemy's ships and allowed marines to board. Sextus was decisively defeated and fled to Asia Minor, where he was captured and executed by Marcus Titus, Antony's lieutenant.


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