'Pompeius' Career from 79 to 70 BCE: Constitutional, Political and Historical Considerations
Source TitleKlio: Beitraege zur Alten Geschichte
PublisherWalter de Gruyter
University of Melbourne Author/sVervaet, Frederik
AffiliationHistorical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsVERVAET, F. (2009). 'Pompeius' Career from 79 to 70 BCE: Constitutional, Political and Historical Considerations. Klio, 91 (2), pp.406-434. https://doi.org/10.1524/klio.2009.0021.
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Abstract Cn. Pompeius Magnus is undoubtedly best known for his great commands of 67 and 66 BCE and his subsequent role as ally, then enemy, of Iulius Caesar. Nonetheless, comprehensive scrutiny of Pompeius’ track record from 79 to 70 BCE reveals that this was perhaps the most remarkable and ground breaking stage of his career. In 78, in the face of yet another civil war, the Senate charged Rome’s first ever eques triumphalis with an independent propraetorian commission, under the auspices of the consul Q. Lutatius Catulus. In 77, Pompeius flatly ignored Catulus’ direct orders to disband his army, eager to secure a major role in the war against Sertorius and his Spanish associates. After a long and acerbic debate, the Senate eventually decided to have the People appoint Pompeius to an extraordinary proconsulship. By virtue of an unprecedented provision, the equestrian proconsul was, moreover, authorized to command in Spain on an equal footing with the consular proconsul Metellus Pius, the princeps ciuitatis of the time. In 71, Pompeius boldly decided to stand for the consulship of 70, in collusion with M. Licinius Crassus. As he ran on a decidedly popular platform and, once again, refused to disband his legions, the conscript Fathers had little choice but to grant dispensation from the Cornelian Law as well as a second public triumph. This paper will argue that, in political and constitutional terms, Pompeius played an instrumental role in burying Sulla’s constitutional settlement, and that his extraordinary career in the seventies BCE set a fateful example for the next couple of decades.
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