Marcus Licinius Crassus

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Portrait head, probably Marcus Licinius Crassus, from the Licinier tomb . Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Marcus Licinius Crassus; Portrait bust in the Louvre

Marcus Licinius Crassus (* 115 or 114 BC ; † June 9 (?) 53 BC in Synnaka ) was a politician of the late Roman Republic . He was known for his wealth. Leaning on his fortune, he tried, temporarily in league with Caesar and Pompey , to gain a leading position. However, according to modern research, Crassus' political and military capabilities did not match his financial capabilities and self-assessment.


Crassus came from a family that had held leading political offices in Rome since the Second Punic War and thus belonged to the nobility . His father Publius Licinius Crassus was 97 BC. Chr. Consul and 89 v. Chr. Censor , but was killed a few years later, when Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Cinna during the confrontation with Sulla seized in Rome power. The young Crassus was able to save himself and fought with a troop he had recruited in Spain in the civil war on the side of Sulla, who was returning from the east. As an officer in Sulla's service, Crassus earned some military service, including in the last great battle of the civil war, the " Battle of the Collinian Gate ". During the subsequent political purges ( proscriptions ), Crassus enriched himself so much that he himself aroused Sulla's displeasure. He increased his fortune determinedly, among other things by renting out slaves trained to become skilled workers and as a landowner and house owner; according to Plutarch (Crassus 2, 4) he had his henchmen set houses on fire, which were then rescued by Crassus' private fire department after Crassus had forced the house owners to transfer their property to him for little money. When he was 85 BC When he fled to Spain, he had a fortune of 300 talents , at the end of his career he could fall back on 7100 talents.

After he died in 73 BC Chr. Had been praetor , Crassus was transferred to the supreme command against the slave army of Spartacus , but could only after heavy fighting in 71 BC. To win the victory. He had the 6,000 captured slaves crucified along the Via Appia . Together with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus , who had returned from Spain , Crassus became consul for the year 70 BC. Despite the rivalry between them (Pompey also claimed victory over the slaves for himself), the two consuls jointly passed several laws through which the Sullan constitution, the main idea of ​​which was to strengthen the Senate by suppressing potentially rival powers, in some parts Points was canceled.

Politically, however, Crassus remained, although 65 BC. BC Censor , not very influential until he was 60 BC. BC entered into an informal relationship with Pompey and Gaius Iulius Caesar, who was elected consul for the following year , which later became known as the First Triumvirate . Above all, Crassus brought in his wealth and paid Caesar's huge debts.

In the following years there were again tensions between Crassus and Pompey, which Caesar , who was at war in Gaul , tried to balance them. Crassus and Pompey were, as agreed at the conferences of the triumvirs in Ravenna and Lucca , in the year 55 BC. Once again elected consuls. In a war against the Parthians, Crassus wanted to achieve the war glory and above all the army clientele that he lacked in contrast to his partners. With that he ended a phase of relative calm between Rome and the Parthian Empire.

With an army of over 40,000 men, Crassus moved from the province of Syria across the Euphrates , but suffered in May or June 53 BC. A crushing defeat in the battle of Carrhae and was killed in Synnaka in Mygdonia during surrender negotiations with the Parthian general Surenas . The loss of the Roman standard was a serious disgrace for Rome and would later lead to conflicts with the Parthians several times; but the losses were also enormous: only about 10,000 men reached Syria again. The Parthian King Orodes II presented Crassus' severed head . Victory was celebrated at the Parthian court: According to Plutarch's account, the severed head of Crassus is said to have been presented at a celebration by a Greek actor, Jason von Tralles , during the performance of Euripides ' Die Bacchen :

"We bring the Mountain
worn Home
The magnificent prey
The bloody game."

- Plutarch : Crassus , 33

Crassus' older son, Marcus, was a quaestor of Caesar. His younger son Publius was also a general under Caesar's command before he accompanied his father on the campaign against the Parthians. Publius also lost his life in the battle of Carrhae.


Some researchers give the full name to Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives and rely on Marcus Tullius Cicero , Pliny the Elder and Apuleius . The ancient historian BA Marshall argues, however, that the Latin dives 'rich' can also be understood simply as a descriptive adjective , or it is confused with Publius Licinius Crassus Dives Mucianus , the consul of the year 131 BC. BC, before, whose branch of the gens Licinia - unlike that of the Triumvirn - carried the Cognomen Dives verifiably.



  • Bruce A. Marshall: Crassus. A Political Biography. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1976, ISBN 90-256-0692-X (also: Sydney, University, dissertation, 1975).
  • Allen Mason Ward: Marcus Crassus and the late Roman Republic. University of Missouri Press, Columbia MO et al. 1977, ISBN 0-8262-0216-0 .
  • Katharina Weggen: The long shadow of Carrhae. Studies on M. Licinius Crassus. Publishing house Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-8300-5520-4 (also: University of Mannheim, dissertation, 2007).


  1. To identify this portrait and the replica in the Louvre, cf. in short Volker Michael Strocka : Caesar, Pompeius, Sulla. Portraits of Politicians in the Late Republic. In: Freiburg University Gazette . 163, 2004, pp. 54-55, ( online (PDF, 7.4 MB) ).
  2. See Ovid , Fasti 6, 465 .
  3. See e.g. B. Matthias Gelzer : Licinius No. 68. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume XIII, 1, Stuttgart 1926, Col. 331 .: “spiritually and morally the demands that his ambition made, neither as a politician nor as a military ever equal”; Alfred Heuss : Roman history. 5th edition. Westermann, Braunschweig 1983, ISBN 3-14-160340-5 , p. 187: "But he was an average person and imagined that he was called to extraordinary things solely by virtue of his ability." Jochen Bleicken : History of the Roman Republic (= Oldenbourg floor plan of history. 2). 2nd Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich et al. 1982, ISBN 3-486-49662-X , p. 78: “Crassus was probably more of a businessman than a soldier”; Christian Meier : Caesar (= German 10524). Unabridged edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-423-10524-0 , p. 199: “What was worrying, however, was that Crassus wanted to become the first man in Rome, because whatever he could muster, the mediocre nature of his nature was balanced that's not enough. "
  4. Strabon 16, 1, 23 p. 231.
  5. Plutarch, Crassus 30-31 .
  6. ^ Theodor Mommsen : Roman history. Crassus' death. The break of the general rulers in the Gutenberg-DE project
  7. ^ Matthias Gelzer : Licinius 69). In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume XIII, 1, Stuttgart 1926, Sp. 295. T. Robert S. Broughton : The Magistrates Of The Roman Republic. Volume 2: 99 BC - 31 BC (= Philological Monographs. Vol. 15, Part 2, ZDB -ID 418575-4 ). American Philological Association, New York NY 1952, p. 110.
  8. ^ Cicero, De officiis 2, 57.
  9. Pliny, Naturalis historia 33, 134.
  10. Apuleius, Apology 20.
  11. ^ Bruce A. Marshall: Crassus and the cognomen Dives. In: Historia . Vol. 22, No. 3, 1973, pp. 459-467, JSTOR 4435357 .