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The Alliance with Crassus and Pompey

He returned to Rome in mid 60 BCE as a rich man, capable of paying off his debts, returning a substantial sum to the treasury and still having the resources to run for consul. On his return the senate awarded him a triumph for his conquests in Spain. This caused him a major dilemma. On the one hand, a triumph was the greatest honour a Roman leader could receive, but it meant he would have to stay outside the pomerium (the ritual city limits), since his imperium (military command) was only valid outside the pomerium. If he entered the city prematurely, he would forfeit his imperium and not be able to celebrate the triumph.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus

On the other hand, if he waited outside the city limits until the triumph could be organised, he would not be able to get to the Forum Romanum in time to announce his candidature for the consulship of 59 BCE. If he didn't become consul, which implied immunity from prosecution, he would almost certain have to face trial for his abuse of his gubernatorial powers in Spain.

Confronted with this choice, Caesar chose power over honour and entered the city. In his search of allies and support for his candidature, he approached Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey. Both had problems they needed solved.

Crassus had immense financial means, but had problems with client publicani, tax collectors, whose bid for the exaction of taxes from the recently conquered eastern provinces he had supported. The publicani hadn't been able to levy enough from the war ridden provinces to make a profit, and had turned to Crassus for support in renegotiating the contracts. Crassus had been unable to get the deals through in the Senate.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was the great general of the time. In the past decade he had defeated Mithridates, cleared the Mediterranean of pirates, conquered and annexed the territory of Syria and invaded Palestine, taking Jerusalem. He had organised the East in accordance with his imperium, but on his return in 62 BCE he had been unable to get the senate to ratify his dispositions in the East and to assure the promised land to his veterans.

Though the two were on very good terms, Caesar managed to strike a deal with both of them, promising to sort out their problems in return for their support.

The electoral campaign was tough and badly scarred by the use of violence, intimidation and bribery. Caesar won, but one of the optimates, Bibulus, came second, promising a hard consulship, since one consul could veto the other.

As consul Caesar's first priority was to fulfil his promises to Crassus and Pompey, which he did by dubious means. He used his bands of hoodlums to intimidate the opposition, including his co-consul, who for a period was so scared of leaving his house, that he would send a runner to the senate with the message that "Bibulus was watching the skies". The meaning was that he would be watching for bad omens or prodigies that would show that the gods did not approve of Caesars methods, thus rendering his decisions invalid. The tactic was of dubious legality, but it did put into doubt the validity of the decisions taken by Caesar during his consulate.

At the end of his tenure Caesar was expected to leave Rome to be proconsul in a province, but the senate did everything to avoid assigning Caesar a province that would imply the command of armed forces, and he was initially given Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul for five years. Caesar still risked being prosecuted, but his proconsular imperium gave him another five years of immunity.

Caesar, Crassus and Pompey now decided to continue their alliance, sometimes called the first triumvirate, which by the almost contemporary historian Livy was described as "conspiracy against the state by its three leading citizens". They made a private deal about dividing the empire between them. Caesar got Transalpine Gaul in addition to Illyricum and Cisalpine Gaul, Crassus got command of the eastern provinces and Pompey got Spain, but would remain in Rome to keep the optimates in check with his army. Pompey also married Julia, Caesar's daughter by Cornelia, to confirm the pact. Together they were strong enough to force this agreement on the senate which had to submit.

This article has been split into 11 separate sections. Use the menu below to jump to another section.

  1. Introduction
  2. Caesar's Political Career
  3. The Alliance with Crassus and Pompey
  4. The Conquest of Gaul
  5. The Civil War
  6. Dictator and God
  7. The Assassination
  8. Caesar's Legacy
  9. The Julian Calendar
  10. Literature and Links
  11. Photographs of Julius Caesar

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Copyright © 2003 René Seindal, last changed 2003-08-28

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