(Caesar Photo: Bust of Julius Caesar, remastered photograph from Alfred von Domaszewski Geschichte der Romischen Kaiser Verlag von Quelle & Meyer in Leipzig 1914, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
In 48 BCE, Pompey was assassinated in Egypt, leaving Julius Caesar as the sole surviving member of the former First Triumvirate that had dominated Roman politics. Though Caesar’s greatest military foe was dead, a massive coalition of soldiers and politicians still resisted Caesar’s rule.
Caesar arrived in Egypt shortly after the death of Pompey. There, he ended the ongoing Civil War between Cleopatra and her brother (more specifically her brother’s advisors) in a bloody bout of urban warfare, and then moved north to crush an upstart king in Pontus. Only then, did Caesar return to Rome in 47 BCE.
While Caesar was cleaning up the east of his empire and enjoying the city of Rome, his enemies were gathering in North Africa and Spain. When Caesar had calmed Rome to a reasonable level, he began planning an invasion of Africa, where Labienus (a former officer of Caesar’s from the wars in Gaul) had gathered much of Pompey’s remaining forces. There, however, was a problem for Caesar—his men were superstitious about this upcoming campaign.
In the ranks of Labienus’ army was a descendant of the Punic War hero, Scipio Africanus, who defeated one of Rome’s greatest enemies, Hannibal Barca. Caesar’s men were wary of invading Africa with a Scipio on the opposing side. Caesar quickly found a remedy to raise the spirits of his troops—a Scipio of their own. To counteract the Scipio in Labienus’ force, Caesar hired Scipio Salvito, a professional mime, to accompany his army on their voyage to Africa.
With their morale boosted, Caesar’s men defeated Labienus in a massacre near the town of Thapsus in 46 BCE. After that, he defeated his enemies in Spain, and returned to Rome to fall prey to the hidden blades of treacherous friends and forgiven enemies in 44 BCE.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- War Commentaries by Gaius Julius Caesar and Aulus Hirtius, translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn, 2014.
- The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius, translated by Robert Graves and edited by James B. Rives. New York: Penguin Classics, 2007.
- Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2008.