Sextus Pompey

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Sextus Pompeius Magnus Pius (* around 67 BC in Rome , † 35 BC in Miletus ) was a Roman general and politician. After the death of his father Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus , he became leader of the Pompeian party. When the Caesarians in the Second Triumvirate 43 BC Reached for power, he resisted from Sicily and blocked Italy with his fleet. Octavian's propaganda disparaged him as a pirate, but by rescuing the senators persecuted by the triumvirs and their rehabilitation enforced in the Treaty of Misenum , he made a decisive contribution to restoring legal security in the Roman Empire . After years of eventful battles, he was 36 BC. Defeated by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa .

Aureus of Sextus Pompey, 42–40 BC Minted in Sicily (8.39g). Front with portrait of Sextus Pompeius in a wreath of oak leaves and inscription MAG (ni filius) PIUS IMP (erator) ITER (ato) . Lapel with inscription PRAEF (ectus) CLAS (sis) ET ORAE MARIT (imae) EX S (enatus) C (onsulto) and profiles of the deceased father (left) and the deceased brother (right). On the outside left a lituus , on the right outside a tripod , to confirm his claim to the office of augur .


Childhood and youth

Sextus Pompeius was the youngest son of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and his third wife Mucia Tertia . According to Appian, he is said to have been 40 years old when he died, from which the year 75 would be derived as the year of his birth. The lack of military use until 47 BC However, BC suggests that he was born considerably later, considering his father's campaigns perhaps 67 BC. His older brother from the same mother was Gnaeus Pompeius the younger . Between the two brothers there was another sister, Pompeia .

After his triumphant return from the eastern Mediterranean, Pompeius divorced Mucia Tertia and married Iulia , the daughter of Gaius Iulius Caesar , who from 59 BC to affirm the later so-called “First Triumvirate ” . Was the stepmother of the children of Pompey. After the death of Juliet in 54 BC And the death of the third triumvir, Marcus Licinius Crassus , in the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. It came to the estrangement between Pompey and Caesar, because Pompey again approached the Senate faction around Marcus Porcius Cato the younger ones.

When Caesar in 49 BC Crossed the Rubicon and thus the civil war began, Gnaeus the Younger accompanied his father and most of the conservative senators on their flight to the east, where he was deployed as a fleet commander. Sextus was apparently still too young for that and initially stayed in Rome under the care of his new stepmother Cornelia Metella . Gnaeus Pompey fled after his defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC. By ship to Mytilene on the island of Lesbos , where Cornelia and Sextus reached him. From there they accompanied him to Egypt , where Sextus witnessed the murder of his father from the ship while landing on September 29 of the same year.

After the murder, Cornelia returned to Rome, while Gnaeus and Sextus continued the resistance against Caesar in the province of Africa . Together with Metellus Scipio , Cato and other senators, they prepared for the battle against Caesar and his army. In 46 BC Caesar won against Scipio in the battle of Thapsus , whereupon Cato committed suicide in Utica . After the defeat, Sextus fled with the Pompeian fleet. The brothers met again in the Balearic Islands and set off with Titus Labienus , a former general of Caesar, to Hispania to raise a new army. The perhaps 21-year-old Sextus received under the command of his brother Gnaeus for the first time an independent command in Corduba , which he was initially able to hold against the advancing legions of Caesar.

Beginnings in Spain

Ancient map of Hispania

On April 20, 45 BC The decision was made in the battle of Munda . Both armies were strong and led by capable generals. Presumably a cavalry attack by Caesar brought him the victory. Titus Labienus and an estimated 30,000 of his men died not only in the battle, but also in the panic escape that followed. Gnaeus and Sextus managed to escape again. But now supporters were difficult to find, since after this battle Caesar's final victory was clear. Within a few weeks, Gnaeus Pompey was captured and executed for treason. When Caesar advanced again against Corduba, Sextus left the city and fled to the land of the Celtiberians , where he was warmly received. Caesar apparently no longer saw a threat in him and returned to Rome with most of his troops to celebrate a triumph .

Thereupon Sextus began with smaller looting in Spain, and after the first successes he soon received support from former Pompeian soldiers and from Arabios, son of the Numidian king Massinissa II. In the summer of 44 he was already in command of six legions, to which the legate of Caesar, Gaius Asinius Pollio and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus , had not grown.

On March 15, 44 BC Caesar was murdered in Rome by a group of senators led by Gaius Cassius and Marcus Junius Brutus . This act provoked another civil war, this time between Caesar's self-declared political heir and his murderers. Sextus Pompeius had meanwhile been proclaimed emperor after his victory over Asinius Pollio, and after he had attacked the Tarraconensis from Baetica , his intervention was expected in Rome. Initially, however, Sextus showed little interest in the political debate and only requested in a letter to the consuls the return of his father's inheritance and the dismissal of all armies. The consul Marcus Antonius , who had acquired the goods of Gnaeus Pompeius through a sham purchase, was now looking for a comparison with the son, who was also brought about through Lepidus' mediation and guaranteed Sextus 700 million sesterces compensation and free return to Rome.

Denarius (3.85 g, 3h) of Sextus Pompeius, struck 44 to 43 BC In Massilia on the occasion of his appointment as prefect of the Roman fleet. On the front the head of the deceased father Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus looking to the right, in front of it a trident, below it a dolphin and behind it the writing NEPTUNI ; on the back a trireme under sails and a star; Signature of the mint master Q. NASIDIUS .

Prefect of the Fleet

Pompey now went with his fleet to Massilia , where he waited while he was courted by Marcus Tullius Cicero and the Senate Party. Antonius tried to keep the young Pompey close to himself and a little later had him appointed by the Senate to be the prefect of the fleet (praefectus classis et orae maritimae) . Sextus used the new position to pull together the Roman fleet in Massilia.

After Octavian , Caesar's adopted son, had become consul in August 43 despite his youth and was thus able to establish himself as the independent leader of the Caesarian party, the rivalry between the young Caesar and the young Pompey was programmed, however, and so Sextus became, although he was with had no connection whatsoever to the murder of Caesar, ostracized by the lex Pedia and declared his official position forfeited. At first he hoped for a revision, but on November 27, 43 Octavian, Antonius and Lepidus formed the Second Triumvirate with the aim of avenging Caesar's death and suppressing any opposition. Since Pompey was also ostracized in the proscription lists of the triumvirs, the inevitability of the fight now had to become clear to him.

Supported by the offshore islands and the fleet, he succeeded in increasing his following by deserters, pirates, runaway slaves and, above all, prosecuted by promising the rescuers of the persecuted twice the price offered by the triumvirs. The rule of the Tyrrhenian Sea soon allowed him to raid various coastal locations, while his power and prestige increased steadily.

Conquest of Sicily and blockade war

Map of Sicily and southern Italy in antiquity with Syracuse and Gulf of Naples

To gain a firm base, Sextus turned in December 43, correctly assessing the strategic situation, against Sicily , which he brought under his control by March 42. The previous governor Pompeius Bithynicus, who had handed Messana over on the condition that they would split the government, Sextus had eliminated after a grace period. With the conquest of Sicily, the young Pompey got the time and the means to raise an army again, while his fleet from its central position endangered the grain supply of Rome.

By intercepting the sea transports and raiding the coast, Sextus actually managed to cause famine to break out in Rome. Octavian then dispatched 42 Quintus Salvidienus Rufus in early summer with a fleet, which Pompeius, however, placed at Scyllaeum in the Strait of Messina and driven back. The magnitude of this success caused Sextus to mock the young Caesar in a show battle and to describe himself as the son of the sea god Neptune , for which he exchanged his purple imperial cloak for a blue one.

Denarius (3.5 g) of Sextus Pompeius, minted 42 BC. On the occasion of his victory over Octavian's fleet. On the front a trireme with an eagle, scepter and trident in front of the Pharos of Messina with the statue of Neptune. On the back the monster Skylla , which Octavian is said to have defeated.

After the double battle of Philippi and the subsequent suicide of the Caesar murderers Cassius and Brutus, the survivors under Lucius Staius Murcus fled to Sicily with considerable funds, two legions, 500 archers and 80 ships. Even with this reinforcement, Sextus avoided a clear front position against Octavian and only looked for a connection with Antonius. When hostilities between the triumvirs broke out, Antony asked for support, and Sextus sent his naval commander Menodoros to attack Sardinia and Corsica, which were captured after a short battle (with the privateer Marcus Titius captured in the Narbonne Sea), while Sextus himself with his fleet and cavalry attacked the cities of Thurii and Consentia in Bruttium.

Despite this active support, Sextus was passed over by Antonius in the Treaty of Brundisium , with which the disputes between the triumvirs were settled in September 40, which is why he retained his conquests and continued the pirate war. The supply difficulties led to demonstrations of sympathy for Pompey in Rome, which finally turned into open riot. Octavian finally had to give in to this pressure from the street, so he sent Mucia Tertia , the mother of Sextus, to Sicily and arranged a meeting for the following summer.

Treaty of Misenum

Map of the Roman Empire after the Treaty of Misenum
  • Octavian's sphere of influence
  • Antony's sphere of influence
  • Provinces of Lepidus
  • Sea realm of Sextus Pompey
  • Kingdom of Egypt (Cleopatra)
  • Vassal states
  • Parthian Empire
  • In the early summer of 39 Sextus came with his father-in-law Lucius Scribonius Libo at the helm of his best ships to meet with Antonius and Octavian in Misenum . While Octavian was exhausted by the ongoing blockade of Italy, Antonius sought relief in the west in order to free all available troops for his planned campaign against the Parthians . In Pompey's camp, on the other hand, the refugees seeking their rehabilitation and return pressed for an understanding. So, after some back and forth, an agreement was reached in the Treaty of Misenum , which confirmed Sextus in rule over Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, for which he should deliver grain to Italy and secure maritime traffic. He was also to receive the province of Achaia from Antonius , and the future consulate with Octavian was promised to him. In addition, he received the dignity of augur and the right to reimbursement of his father's inheritance and care for the veterans . Of utmost importance, however, was the line under the open wound of the proscriptions: with the exception of the Caesar murderers , all refugees and proscribed were allowed to return unhindered and compensation was promised.

    Marcus Antonius and Octavian, Aureus 41 BC Chr.

    During the festivities on Pompey's ship that followed the conclusion of the contract, his admiral Menodorus suggested that he seize the two triumvirs and thus decide the question of power in a coup.

    "Shall I," he said, "cut the ropes and make you master not only of Sicily and Sardinia, but of the whole Roman Empire?"

    Sextus Pompey replied that he should have done it without asking him, as he was now bound by the sworn contract.

    Most of the refugees returned to Rome after the reconciliation celebrations. Most of the other provisions positive for Sextus, however, never came into force, and disputes arose again soon after the conclusion of the contract, as Antonius refused to surrender Achaia.

    Operations 38/37 BC Chr.
    The theater of war Italy with the sea battles 42–36 BC Chr.

    Sicily fortress

    Pompey suffered another serious setback shortly afterwards due to the infidelity of his admiral Menodorus, who in the early 38's with three legions and sixty ships overran to Octavian and handed over the islands of Sardinia and Corsica as a dowry. After this severe defeat, Sextus immediately resumed the war of blockade in the sharpest form.

    Since Octavian had a considerable fleet in the meantime, he thought the time had come for the counter-attack and ordered his ships south under the command of Calvisius Sabinus and Menodoros. At the height of Cumae they met the fleet of Pompey. Its Admiral Menekrates brought heavy losses to the enemy, but was killed in a duel with the traitor Menodoros, so that his deputy Demochares ordered the retreat.

    Operations 36 BC Chr.
    Roman trireme (mosaic, Tunisia)

    So Octavian was able to advance his ships to Scyllaeum. He himself went to his Adriatic fleet, which was approaching from the Ionian Sea. In the difficult waters of the Strait of Messina, however, the young Caesar was attacked by Demochares, and when his ship sank he had to swim ashore to save himself. Although Demochares could not prevent the unification of the two enemy fleets in the battle of Messina, a severe storm hit Octavian's squadrons so badly that an invasion of Sicily was out of the question.

    Octavian was now forced to ask for help from Antony, whom he had given him in the Agreement of Taranto in 37 BC. 120 ships to fight against the "sea king". These were soon joined by the excellent ships that Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa built on the lakes around Baiae , so that Pompey was soon completely surrounded in Sicily, especially since Lepidus also came to an agreement with Octavian and threatened the western tip of Sicily from his province of Africa . Shortly before the invasion began, Menodoros returned to his old master with seven ships at the end of 37.

    Invasion and defeat

    The Strait of Messina

    The concentric attack began on July 1, 36, but only two days later a storm broke out in the entire sea area, which particularly affected Octavian's fleet at Elea , while the ships of Antonius were under the command of Statilius Taurus withdrew to Taranto and Lepidus could only land at Lilybaeum with losses . Sextus also missed this opportunity for a counter-attack and only sent his old Admiral Menodoros with seven ships to disrupt the repair work, which he promptly used to overflow again.

    After the repairs were completed, Octavian's fleets soon advanced again. While Agrippa von Elea occupied the Aeolian Islands and threatened Sicily from the north, Octavian went overland to the squadron of Statilius Taurus to carry out the attack from the east.

    The port of Messina

    Meanwhile, at Mylae, a battle broke out between Agrippa's fleet and the cover left by Sextus under Demochares, who was helped by another admiral, Apollophanes. Pompey's fleet lost thirty ships, but was able to retreat to Messina in good order and was therefore ready the next day to thwart an attempt by Octavian to land at Tauromenium , with Sextus advancing on the coast in parallel with his cavalry. Of the approximately 130 ships of the Statilius Taurus, over 60 were sunk, and even Octavian was only able to save himself with difficulty.

    Nevertheless, Pompey could no longer prevent the unification of the troops that had landed and was soon restricted to the north-east of Sicily around Messana . Octavian now took one city after another, and Sextus had no choice but to seek a decision at sea. So he proposed a decisive battle to the young Caesar, for which the place, time and number of ships were fixed. At the end of August 36, the two fleets with 300 ships each met in the bay of Naulochos . Octavian and Pompey themselves did not take part and left the leadership to Agrippa or Demochares and Apollophanes. The battle ended after Agrippa had made the breakthrough, with the complete defeat of Pompey, from whose ships 163 were taken or sunk.

    Escape and final fights

    Pompey escaped with 17 ships to Messina, which he left with his daughter and his treasures to the east that night. He first went to Kerkyra and Kephallenia without being followed , while Octavian ousted Lepidus in Sicily. In Cephallenia, Sextus urged his followers to seek salvation for themselves. End of 36 BC He went on to Lesbos , probably with the intention of entrusting himself to Antonius. However, when he heard of his failures against the Parthians and of the further events in Sicily, he saw another chance and again took on the rank of commander in order to set up a new army and fleet. When Antonius returned to Alexandria , he sent the latter an offer of alliance. At the same time, however, he also sought to establish contact with Thrace , Pontus and the Parthians, a duplicate that was soon discovered when his embassy, ​​which had been sent to Parthia, was intercepted by Antony.

    Map of Asia Minor in Antiquity

    Antonius now instructed his legate Marcus Titius to advance the fugitive with land and sea forces and to fight him if necessary. However, if Pompey were ready to submit, Titius should give him an honorable escort to Alexandria . Meanwhile, however, Pompey was at the beginning of 35 BC. He landed in northwestern Asia Minor without Gaius Furnius , the governor of the province of Asia , hindering him, because Furnius had too few troops for this and was not yet familiar with Antonius' decision. In Bithynia Pompey was able to conquer Lampsakos , Nicaia and Nicomedia , but then Titius arrived from Syria with his army and 120 ships. They were joined by another 70 ships belonging to Antony at Prokonnesos , the rest of the fleet that had previously supported Octavian in the fight against Pompey and was now returning from Sicily.

    Since Titius refused negotiations and was far superior with his naval forces, Sextus Pompeius burned his fleet, integrated its crews into his land army and wanted to get to Armenia via Bithynia . He was persecuted by the armies of Titius, Furnius and Amyntas , King of the Galatians . Although Pompey could inflict losses on his opponents by raiding, his situation quickly became rather hopeless. He asked Furnius, a friend of his father's, to negotiate, offered him his submission and wanted him to lead him to Antonius, which Furnius refused with the demand that he surrender to Titius. Pompey refused this, however, because he considered Titius, whom he had once pardoned as a prisoner, to be ungrateful.

    Capture and Death

    In this situation Sextus tried at night to secretly reach the coast with lightly armed troops and set Titius' ships on fire. However, since his stepbrother Marcus Aemilius Scaurus betrayed the plan, Amyntas and 1500 riders were able to catch up with him at Midaeion in Phrygia and take him prisoner. On the orders of Titius he was transferred to Miletus and there around the summer of 35 BC. Executed without trial. His violent death became one of Octavian's arguments in his fight against Antony a few years later when the situation between them had become intolerable.

    Whether Titius acted independently during this execution, on the orders of Antonius or Munatius Plancus , is uncertain and was already disputed in ancient times. The imperial historian Cassius Dio states that Antonius first ordered the death sentence in a letter to Titius, but reversed this in a second letter. Nevertheless, Pompey's execution took place because Titius had deliberately or erroneously mixed up the letters, although the latter seems rather improbable in view of the circumstances of the ancient mail system. According to the historian Appian , Titius had Pompey killed out of anger because of an earlier insult or on behalf of Antony, but in the latter case it may not have been the triumvir himself, but Munatius Plancus, who signed his seal, giving the order. According to some sources available to Appian, Antonius did not want to appear as the main responsible person, with regard to the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII , who was well disposed to Pompey, as well as because of his reputation. In spite of the contradicting sources, it seems quite certain that this judgment was made with the knowledge and consent of Antonius.

    The act met with the approval of Octavian, but not of the people of Rome. When Titius wanted to play games in Pompey's theater after his return , he had to get away from the angry crowd. In the same year 35 BC A senator of the same name Sextus Pompeius became consul, presumably in order to “keep” the promise of Misenum in this rather cynical way. Since Scribonius Libo was elected consul alongside Marcus Antonius in the elections at the end of the year, it can be assumed that the triumvirs also tried to appease the followers of the Sextus through these personnel decisions.


    Political party

    After the battle of Munda, Pompey's party seemed at first to be destroyed; But Sextus soon managed to straighten her up again. The Senate Party then promoted him to an honorable position, giving the Pompeian Party an official leader again. Some naval commanders, not only among the freedmen, had stayed with him even during the most difficult times in Spain and helped him to concentrate the fleet in Massilia.

    After the proscriptions, Sextus increased his following considerably through the influx of refugees, and after the Battle of Philippi more came from the army of the Caesar murderers. Sextus was evidently a charismatic leader who knew how to bind his followers permanently. He left no doubt about his sole leadership. If necessary, according to ancient sources, he also defended them with contract killings. Examples were those to Pompeius Bithynicus, the previous governor of Sicily, and to Staius Murcus, who was murdered around the time of the Misenum conference in Syracuse, possibly as a pledge of loyalty for Octavian's courtesy. Despite these two negative episodes, most party supporters remained loyal to Sextus and many only left him during the last desperate struggles in Bithynia.


    Denarius (3.8 g) of Sextus Pompeius from the year 40 BC. In memory of his father Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. On the front his portrait and the inscription MAG PIVS IMP ITER , on the back Neptune with his foot on a ship's bow between the brothers Amphinomos and Anapias and the inscription CLAS ET ORÆ / MARIT EX SC .

    Mainspring of Sextus Pompey was at least not the pursuit of power, but the memory of his great father, whose full civil and moral restoration in the early years (restitutio) he rose to his political program. Pietas was the motto of the Pompeians at Munda, and the phrase Mag. F. ("Son of Magnus") with the nickname Pius underlines this as well as the image of the brothers Amphinomos and Anapias, chosen for some lapels .

    In addition, after five years of civil war, the young Pompey had initially acquired a very pacifist attitude, as his demand for the dissolution of all armies testifies. His first concern was to return to Rome. After his ostracism in the Lex Pedia, however, he had to recognize the inevitability of the fight. It was not ambition but persecution by the Caesarians that drove him into battle. Only the increase in power as the unrestricted ruler of Sicily and the western Mediterranean allowed his ambitions to grow gradually.

    A republican sentiment like that of Cicero, Cato or the Caesar murderers is therefore not recognizable, and spiritually Pompey seemed rather to be close to the triumvirs who also fought for the memory of a great man. Unlike these, however, he was not guilty of any open breaches of law.


    The memory of his father's memory was the most powerful propaganda weapon of the Sextus Pompeius. On various occasions, particularly in Spain, and even more recently in Asia Minor, it therefore appeared that the sound of his name alone was enough to immediately attract crowds of followers.

    However, Sextus also skillfully combined this with an emphasis on his loyalty to the republican constitution, for example by emphasizing the legitimacy of his position conferred by the Senate on his coins (Praefectus Classis ex Senatus Consulto ) .

    In his self-portrayal he set himself apart from the Caesarians not only by emphasizing his loyalty to the constitution, but also by stylizing himself as a ruler of the sea, sometimes imitating or trying to outdo his competitor Octavian. While Octavian traced his descent through Caesar to the goddess Venus , Sextus claimed, probably in allusion to his father's great achievements in sea warfare, to descend from the sea god Neptune . After his victories at sea over Octavian, he underscored this comparison with demonstrative sea sacrifices and a blue imperial coat.

    The fact that his sea blockade repeatedly provoked severe famine in the capital did not seem to detract from his popularity. His propaganda was actually so successful that there were repeated turmoil and unrest in Rome by the Pompeian party, which Octavian finally forced to give in.


    Sextus first demonstrated diplomatic skill in Massilia, where he obtained considerable concessions from Antonius as well as from Cicero and the Senate Party just by his appearance. Cicero also praised the neat style of his letters to the consuls.

    In the run-up to the Misenum conference, Sextus showed that he also knew how to use the family ties by welcoming Julia , Antonius' mother, who had fled to him in Sicily after the Peruvian war , and her splendid escort to her son in Athens gave to propose an agreement, which should be directed primarily against Octavian, who had become too powerful. The young Caesar knew how to counter the danger of isolation, however, by sending Mucia Tertia , the mother of Pompey, to see him in Sicily. Pompey responded by sending his father-in-law Scribonius Libo, who initiated his sister's marriage to Octavian in Rome and prepared the Misenum conference as a mediator.

    At the conference itself, Sextus knew how to impress with his well-groomed manners, for example by using a play on words to remind Antonius that he had appropriated Pompey's father's house in the Carinae district in Rome : when they entered the Sextus' flagship, he refused on the planks and said

    "Haec sunt meae carinae."
    ("These are my ship keels.")

    However, Sextus did not achieve the goal of being accepted into the triumvirate as the third man in place of Lepidus, and after the undisputed interim success he subsequently failed because of Octavian's relentless determination and the autolesionist vacillation of Antonius, which he met after his defeat and flight in the east only knew how to oppose a slightly transparent double game.


    In his political strategy, Sextus Pompey avoided any direct challenge to the Caesarians until the Treaty of Misenum and beyond, and in all that time he made no serious attempt to encroach on Italy. Instead, he limited himself to a war of blockades and clever propaganda in order to exert economic and political pressure on his opponents and to force them to give in.

    He kept his distance from the Caesar murderers and limited himself to offering his protection to those persecuted by the triumvirs. This generous and effective aid did not fail to have its effect in Rome, where Pompey was so popular that the crowd protested if only the statue of Neptune did not appear in the procession. The return of the proscribed after the Treaty of Misenum should have increased this gratitude even more. In fact, this treaty was of the utmost importance for legal security in the empire, to the advantage above all of Octavian, who admittedly had other priorities in his program.


    Underestimating Octavian's determination, Sextus Pompeius mostly remained militarily on the defensive, not unlike his father. He made no serious attempt to encroach on Africa or Italy in order to free himself from the clutches of the triumvirs and to gain a decisive strategic advantage over his opponents. Despite this weakness, however, his performance as a general was also impressive, especially his organizational talent and his strategic understanding of naval operations that identify Sextus as the true son of his great father.

    However, he left the tactical leadership in naval warfare to the freedmen from the pirate war, whose undisputed competence was not always paired with the corresponding reliability. Sextus himself, on the other hand, was characterized by his aggressive spirit and his bravery in land warfare, where his daring actions were admired even by his opponents.


    Various episodes evidently reveal a character trait of above-average chivalry, whereby not only the rescue of the proscribed or his attitude in Misenum should be considered. Even if he should by no means be assessed as naive and if necessary, according to our sources, resorted to contract killing himself in at least two cases to secure his power, the negative experiences with his fellow men left him astonishingly unaffected for a long time, such as his "return" of Menodorus or the agreement for the decisive battle at Naulochos. Until this unfortunate day there was hardly anything wrong with his attitude, and it was only the defeat that seems to have hit him deeply in the end, so that he now gave up the role of “champion of the persecuted” and sought refuge in similarly dubious methods as the triumvirs.


    • 67 BC Chr. - Supposed birth year (after Appianus . 75 BC. )
    • 48 BC Chr. - Flight to Egypt accompanied by his father, who was murdered on arrival
    • 47 BC Chr. - 46 BC Chr. - Accompanied by his brother Gnaeus Pompey in Africa
    • 45 BC BC - First command in Spain, defeat of the Pompeians at Munda and death of young Gnaeus
    • 44 BC BC - Resumption of the fight in Spain, victory over Asinius Pollio
    • 43 BC BC - Fleet prefect, concentration of the Roman fleet in Massilia, ostracism and proscription by the triumvirs
    • 42 BC BC - Conquest of Sicily, victory over Octavian at Messina (Scyllaeum) and beginning of the blockade war
    • 40 BC Chr. - Support of Antony in perusine war, conquest of Sardinia and Corsica
    • 39 BC Chr. - Treaty of Misenum, rehabilitation of proscribed
    • 38 BC Chr. - betrayal of Menodoros and loss of Sardinia and Corsica, the second naval victory against Octavian in Messina (Rhegion)
    • 36 BC BC - Victory over Octavian at Tauromenium and final defeat against Agrippa at Naulochus, escape to Kephallenia.
    • 35 BC Chr. - Recent fighting in Bithynia and execution in Miletus



    Research suspects that the most important source about Sextus Pompeius is a large, lost work on the civil wars, possibly that of Gaius Asinius Pollio , whose negative tendency was carried over to later historians via the equally negative Livy . The Roman writers of the early imperial era in particular did not want to forgive the “sea king” for having brought the later Augustus into severe distress or for having made him appear in a bad light. The Greek authors such as Appian, however, show a more balanced judgment and certify Sextus that he fought for a just cause.

    The vilification of Sextus by the writers of the imperial era is most evident in Lucan (39–65 AD), in whose epic Pharsalia the son of Pompeius Magnus is portrayed as an evil pirate and fear-driven necromancer. His figure is in the clearest contrast to Cato the Younger as the idealized hero of the work, although both fought for the same cause.

    Early modern age

    The young Pompey had the most impressive appearance in world literature in William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra , where the poet, based on Plutarch, depicts how Sextus in Misenum missed his chance to reach for world domination.


    The derogatory assessment of Sextus Pompeius has persisted into modern times through the ancient authors of the imperial era. In the 20th century, Ronald Syme in particular was among the most prominent representatives of this view. In contrast, Moses Hadas in 1930 and Franz Miltner in 1952 came to a much more favorable verdict. A final turn towards a positive assessment, which in some places borders on romantic transfiguration, only came about through the studies of Anton Powell, Kathryn Welch and seven other authors (Alain M. Gowing, Hugh Lindsay, Benedict J. Lowe, Daniel Ogden, Shelley C. Stone, Charles Tesoriero, Lindsay Watson), the results of which were published in a volume of essays in 2002. A new biography by Kathryn Welch was published in 2011.

    Source editions

    • Appian : Roman History , Vol. 2: Civil Wars , translated by Otto Veh , 1988 ( English translation by LacusCurtius ).
    • Cassius Dio : Roman History . Translated by Otto Veh, Artemis-Verlag, Zurich 1985 ( English translation ).
    • Eutropius : Eutropii breviarium ab urbe condita - Eutropius, Brief history of Rome since its founding (753 BC-364 AD) . Edited by Friedhelm L. Müller, Stuttgart 1995.
    • Florus : Roman History . Translated, introduced and commented by Günter Laser. Darmstadt 2005.
    • Titus Livius : Roman History - From the Foundation of the City . Translated by Otto Güthling , ed. by Lenelotte Möller. Marix Verlag, Wiesbaden 2009, (translation of all received books as well as table of contents of the books not received).
    • Nikolaos of Damascus : The Life of Augustus . Bilingual translation by Jürgen Malitz, Nikolaos von Damascus. The life of the emperor Augustus , Darmstadt 2003 ( English translation , German translation ; PDF; 77 kB).
    • Orosius : The ancient world history from a Christian perspective . Edited by Adolf Lippold, 2 vols. Zurich 1985/86.
    • Plutarch : Vitae parallelae . German translations by Konrat Ziegler: Great Greeks and Romans , 6 volumes, Zurich 1954–1965 (numerous reprints) and Eduard Eyth, Wunderkammer Verlag, Neu-Isenburg 2008.
    • Suetonius : Divus Augustus . Various German translations, for example in Complete Works , Essen 2004. Text (Latin) , English translation .
    • Velleius Paterculus : Historia Romana. Roman history. Latin / German . Transl. And ed. by Marion Giebel, Reclam, Stuttgart 1989; bibliographically supplemented edition 1998.


    Web links

    Commons : Sextus Pompeius  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


    1. Appian, Civil Wars 5.144 ( English translation ).
    2. ^ Cf. Franz Miltner : Pompeius 33. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswwissenschaft (RE). Volume XXI, 2, Stuttgart 1952, Col. 2213-2250, here Col. 2214.
    3. Florus 2,13,52 ( online ).
    4. ^ Cassius Dio, Römische Geschichte 45,10,3 ( English translation ).
    5. Cicero, ad Atticum 14.22.2 ( online ) and 16.4.2 ( online ); as well as Appian, Civil Wars 3,4 ( English translation ).
    6. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 4.84 ( English translation ).
    7. Cassius Dio, Römische Geschichte 46,48,4 ( online ) and 48,17,2 ( online ), as well as Orosius 6,18,19 ( online ).
    8. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 47,12,3 ( online ).
    9. Cassius Dio, Roman History 48: 18-19; Livy, periochae 123 ( online ); Appian, Civil Wars 5,100.
    10. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5:52 and 5:56.
    11. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5,69.
    12. Appian, Civil Wars 5.70 to 72.
    13. Plutarch , Antonius 32.4 ( online ).
    14. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5,73.
    15. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5,77.
    16. ^ Appian, Civil Wars 5,78; Cassius Dio, Roman History 48,45,5.
    17. Appian, Civil Wars 5.133 et seq .; Cassius Dio, Roman History 49,18,1 ff .; Orosius 6.19.2.
    18. Appian, Civil Wars 5,137 ff.
    19. Appian, Civil Wars 5.140.
    20. Appianus, civil wars 5.140 to 144; Cassius Dio, Roman History 49,18,4 f .; Velleius, Roman History 2,79,5; Strabon 3.2, p. 141; Orosius 6,19,2; Livy , periochae 131; Eutropius 7,6,1.
    21. ^ Cassius Dio, Römische Geschichte 49,18,4 f .; Appian Civil Wars 5,144.
    22. So Rudolf Hanslik : Titius 18. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen antiquity science (RE). Volume VI A, 1, Stuttgart 1936, Sp. 1559-1562, here Sp. 1561 .; Joachim Brambach: Cleopatra and her time. 1996, p. 270 ff.
    23. Cf. Bruno Schor: Contributions to the history of Sextus Pompeius. Hochschulverlag, Stuttgart 1978, p. 155.
    24. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History 19 and 48, Appian, Civil Wars 5,100.
    25. Cicero, ad Atticum 15.10 (7), 1 ( online ).
    26. Plutarch, Antonius 32,1; Appian, Civil Wars 5,217 f. and 5,267; Cassius Dio 48.15.2; 16.2; 27.4.
    27. de viribus illustribus 84.3; see. Velleius 2,77,1 and Florus 2,18,4.
    28. See Appian, civil wars 4.83–85 and 5.138 f. and Velleius 2,79,6.
    29. Velleius 2.73; see. Franz Miltner: Pompeius 33. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume XXI, 2, Stuttgart 1952, Col. 2213-2250, here Col. 2247.
    30. See Appian, Civil Wars 5,25 and 5,143.
    31. Cf. Eduard Meyer : Caesar's Monarchy and the Principate of Pompeius . 2nd edition, Cotta, Stuttgart / Berlin 1919, p. 613; Moses Hadas : Sextus Pompey . AMS Press, New York 1966, pp. 162-165.
    32. Cf. Livius, periochae 128; Velleius, Roman History 2.73; Florus, 2,18,2 and especially Seneca the Elder , Suasoriae 6,14.
    33. Appian, Civil Wars 5.143.
    34. See Ronald Syme: The Roman Revolution . Oxford University Press, Oxford 1939; Moses Hadas: Sextus Pompey . Humphrey Press, Geneva / NY 1930; Reprinted by AMS Press, New York 1966; Franz Miltner: Pompeius 33. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume XXI, 2, Stuttgart 1952, Col. 2213-2250 .; Anton Powell, Kathryn Welch (eds.): Sextus Pompeius . Classical Press of Wales, Swansea 2002.