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Sextus Pompey

(75—35 bc)

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Younger son of Pompey and Mucia Tertia, was born probably c.67 bc. Left in Lesbos with his stepmother Cornelia during the campaign of Pharsalus (48), he accompanied his father to Egypt and after his murder went to Africa; after Thapsus (46) he joined his brother Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus in Spain, and during the campaign of Munda (45) commanded the garrison of Corduba. Subsequently he contrived to raise an army, partly of fugitive Pompeians, and won successes against Julius Caesar's governors in Further Spain, Gaius Carrinas, who was suffect consul in 43, and after him C. Asinius Pollio. In summer 44 Lepidus arranged a settlement between him and the senate, under the terms of which he left Spain; but instead of returning to Rome, he waited on events in Massalia with his army and fleet. In April 43 the senate made him its naval commander, with the title praefectus classis et orae maritimae (‘prefect of the fleet and the sea coast’) (see RRC 511); but in August he was outlawed under the Pedian law and then used his fleet to rescue fugitives from the proscriptions and to occupy Sicily, at first sharing authority with the governor Pompeius Bithynicus, but later putting him to death; and using the island as a base for raiding and blockading Italy. He repelled an attack by Octavian's general Quintus Salvidienus Rufus in 42, supported Antony against Octavian in 40 (when his lieutenant Menodorus occupied Sardinia) and in 30 concluded the Pact of Misenum with the triumvirs Antony, Octavian (later Augustus), and Lepidus, who conceded to him the governorship of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, and Achaia, an augurate (member of the college of official Roman diviners) and a future consulship (see ILLRP 426) in return for the suspension of his blockade. In 38 Octavian accused him of breaking the pact and again attacked him, but was defeated in sea fights off Cumae and Messana. In 36 the attack was renewed, and after Agrippa's victory off Mylae, Octavian's defeat off Tauromenium, and Lepidus' occupation of southern and western Sicily, the war was decided by the battle of Naulochus (3 September). Sextus escaped with a few ships to Asia, where he attempted to establish himself, but was forced to surrender to Marcus Titius, who put him to death.

Sextus was, like his father, an able and energetic commander. His brief career was spent entirely in the continuation—symbolized by his adoption of the surname Pius (he gives his name as Magnus Pompeius Magni f. Pius, ‘Magnus Pompeius Pius son of Magnus’)—of an inherited struggle. Despite his long absence from and blockade of Italy, he seems to have been popular in Rome. His wife was Scribonia, daughter of Lucius Scribonius Libo.

Theodore John Cadoux; Robin J. Seager

Subjects: Classical studies

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