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  4. The Roman Civil War - Militär Wissen

Curio had little military experience—none at all of high command—and wasconsidered brilliant but unreliable by mostcontemporaries. His army consisted of troopsoriginally raised by the Pompeians who had taken the oath to Caesar after their surrenderat Corfinum. The two sidesformed for battle on either side of a steepvalley. Curiowas surrounded with the remnants of histroops on a hilltop and died fighting.

Only asmall fraction of the army, including thehistorian Asinius Pollio, escaped to Sicily. Even more serious was a mutiny involving four of his legions, and in particular Legio IX, at Placentia modern Piacenza on the river Po. The troops complained that many who had served throughout the Gallic campaigns were now long overdue for discharge, and that no one had yet received the donative of denarii per man double their annual salary promised by Caesar at Brundisium some months before.

In the end he relented, and only had the 12 ringleaders killed. Few armies were able to carry all of their food supplies with them and so relied upon foraging to supply much of their need. Peter Rockwell. Caesar spent a short time at Rome, having been appointed dictator before he arrived and held the post for 11 days, using his powers to hold elections in which he was voted to the consulship.

He was eager to move against Pompey, and near the end of the year went to join the army of some 12 legions along with 1, cavalry which had been assembled at Brundisium. Attrition meant that it was unlikely any of the legions mustered more than 3, men, and some units were closer to the 2, mark. Nevertheless, this was still a formidable total to ship across the Adriatic and to supply once there.

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On 4 January 48, there were sufficient ships to embark seven legions and cavalrymen. The crossing was a great gamble, for Caesar had no significant naval force with which to oppose the vast Pompeian fleet, currently commanded by his old enemy and consular colleague in 59, Bibulus. Yet the enemy did not expect him to move in winter when the weather was poor, and Caesar landed without opposition at Paeleste in Epirus.

Bibulus was alerted by the time the transport ships headed back to Brundisium and intercepted some of them. For the moment it proved impossible for Mark Antony to run the blockade and bring the remainder of the army across to join Caesar.


This carved stone relief from Osuna in Spain shows an Iberian cavalryman. Spanish horsemen served on both sides during the Civil War It is hard to know whether they still employed traditional equipment or had adopted more Roman styles. Caesar was isolated and severely outnumbered by the enemy. Pompey had had more than nine months to muster his forces, and by this time they amounted to nine legions, supported by over 5, light infantry and 7, cavalry. A further two legions under Scipio were on their way from Syria. Pompey, always a great organiser, had taken care to gather plenty of food and fodder to supply his troops even in the winter months.

The situation was increasingly desperate, but Caesar was not really strong enough to open a full-scale offensive.

Goldsworthy Adrian's Documents

Some manoeuvring took place, along with further attempts at negotiation, but there was no serious fighting. At one point he put to sea in a small ship during appalling weather, hoping to reach Brundisium and hurry his reinforcements over, but the weather proved so bad that he was forced to return to the shore. In was not until 10 April that Mark Antony managed to bring the remaining legions across the Adriatic. Pompey responded too slowly and failed to prevent the union of the two forces.

Caesar had all 11 legions, but was still outnumbered and continued to have supply problems. Outmarching the enemy, he managed to get between Pompey and the city, although he was not able to seize the latter. Pompey camped on the coast on a hill called Petra, overlooking a natural harbour which continued to allow him to receive supply shipments.

This provided some protection for his patrols and foraging parties from the more numerous enemy cavalry, although in part the rugged ground made the operations of the enemy cavalry less effective. More importantly the willingness of Pompey, with a numerically superior army, to be hemmed in by the enemy would be a public humiliation, perhaps weakening the loyalty of his allies.

These were held frequently during a campaign and always preceded a battle. Priority went to the cavalry and soon pack and draught animals were dying in great numbers. Caesar managed to dam the streams that carried water into the enemy positions. On seeing an example of this bread, Pompey is said to have declared that they were fighting beasts and not men.

The work went on as each side extended its fortifications further and further south. However, Caesar was not present and praised Sulla for not going beyond his orders, feeling that such an important change of plan was the responsibility of the commander, not that of a subordinate or legate.

On the same day a series of diversionary assaults were also made in some force. Heavily outnumbered, the defenders suffered many wounds from the vast number of missiles shot into the camp by the hordes of slingers and archers supporting the attacking legion. Nearly all the defenders were wounded, four out of six centurions in one cohort losing their eyes, but somehow they held on. Caesar rewarded his officers and men lavishly, and they were granted extra rations, which at the time may have seemed even more satisfying than promotions and medals. Soon after this success, two Gallic chieftains, Roucillus and Egus, defected to Pompey, along with their closest followers.

Caesar claims that they had been caught claiming pay for non-existent cavalrymen and feared punishment. To regain the initiative, Caesar replied with a heavy counter-attack against a camp originally built by Legio IX, subsequently abandoned and now occupied by the enemy. His troops moved through dead ground and woodland and achieved initial surprise, breaking into the camp, but then things began to go wrong. One of the attacking columns got lost, mistaking another wall for the rampart of the camp and following it towards the sea. Pompey shifted reserves to the area.

The leading attackers began to flee and the panic spread rapidly as most of the 33 cohorts involved dissolved into rout.

The Roman Civil War - Militär Wissen

Losses amounted to over men and 32 tribunes and centurions killed and more taken prisoner. Fortunately, Pompey failed to follow up his advantage so soon after the failure of his own attack, prompting Caesar to declare that he would have lost if only the enemy commander had known how to win.

Labienus was allowed to take charge of the prisoners and had them all executed. Parading his army, Caesar publicly punished several of the standard-bearers and tried to inspire the rest.

Judging that their morale was at a low ebb, he decided that they needed to be encouraged before he risked a major action. Evacuating his sick and wounded, Caesar decided to withdraw, sending his baggage train out of camp at night to conceal his intention from the enemy. The main column was then able to withdraw with little hindrance. The Roman has punched his opponent with the boss of the shield to unbalance him and then stabbed him in the stomach. Caesar headed into Thessaly, hoping to join up with a detachment under Domitius Calvinus which he had sent to intercept Scipio and his two legions.

His army began to recover its strength as they passed through unplundered land and were able to harvest the now ripening grain. Caesar stormed the place and, for one of the very few times during the Civil War, allowed his men to sack the town.

Pompey now had several options. One would have been to use his fleet to cross to Italy, now largely unprotected, but this would still mean that Caesar had to be defeated at some future date, and might be seen as running from his opponent.

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However, there was massive pressure from the senators with the army to bring matters to a swift conclusion by bringing the enemy to battle. In early August the two armies camped near each other on the plains of Pharsalus. Several days were spent in the manoeuvring and formal challenges to battle that so often preceded the battles of this period. The pressure on Pompey to fight grew stronger and stronger. On the morning of 9 August Caesar was preparing to move his camp to another position where the army could more easily find food, when he noticed that the Pompeian army had advanced much further from the rampart of their camp than was usual, and had come fully onto the level ground by the river Enipeus.

Then the army marched out and formed up facing the enemy. Altogether Caesar had 80 cohorts totalling 22, men and 1, cavalry. He formed the legions into the usual three lines, with the most experienced units on the flanks. Legio IX had suffered heavily at Dyrrachium, so it was combined with the almost equally depleted but veteran Legio VIII into a single command and placed on the left, next to the river. The entire army was split into three commands, Mark Antony on the left, Cnaeus Domitiius Calvinus in the centre and Sulla on the right.

Caesar was free to move to wherever a crisis developed, but in fact was to spend nearly all the battle with Legio X. The cavalry were all massed on the right. In the centre were the legions from Syria and on the right nearest the river the legions from Cilicia, plus some troops from Spain.

The army was also divided into three commands, with Ahenobarbus on the left, Scipio in the centre and Afranius on the right.

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The main line was formed very deep by Roman standards, with each cohort deploying in ten ranks. Pompey had also given his infantry an unusual order, telling them not to advance to meet the enemy, but to remain stationary and throw their pila as soon as the enemy came within range. Instead of relying on them, he planned to win the battle with his cavalry. Labienus was in charge of this attack, and may even have devised the plan.

To counter this, Caesar took a single cohort from the third line of each of his legions and stationed this force behind his own cavalry, probably echeloned back from the infantry line.

Caesar as King? (45 to 44 B.C.E.)

This fourth line was concealed behind the horsemen and Legio X and not observed by the enemy. Both armies were now ready for battle, though some delay may well have elapsed as the commanders encouraged their men. During the charge and subsequent combat the Pompeians seem to have fallen into some disorder, the individual squadrons losing formation and merging into one great mass. Many of these horsemen were relatively recent recruits and neither officers nor men had much experience of operating in such large numbers, but there was always a tendency for this to happen if cavalry became too crowded.