The Battle of Pharsalus was a military engagement that took place in ancient times, on August 9, 48 BC, on Enipeus River, in Farsala, Greece. It was fought between two Roman Armies, one under the command of Julius Caesar and the other led by Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey), during the political struggle that marked the beggining of the end of the Roman Republic.

Background

Julius Caesar had successfully carried out a military campaign against the Celtic tribes of Gaul (France), totally defeating them at the final Battle of Alesia in 51 BC. This military success had made him very popular among the rank and file of his army and also among the Roman people. Jealous of Caesar’s military capacity and distrustful of his political intentions, Pompey, who was consul, and the Roman Senate began to plot to deprive him of power. Thus, in 50 BC, at the end of Caesar’s governorship in Gaul, they ordered the victorious General to discharge his troops and return to Rome alone, as a plain citizen. Afraid of being put through a legal process, the governor of Gaul disobeyed and marched on Rome with his army as he crossed the Rubicon River, uttering the famous sentence: “Alea jacta est” (“the dice have been thrown”). This forced Pompey and some Senators to flee to Southern Italy first, then to Greece.

Battle

Although he was heavily outnumbered, Julius Caesar’s Army was made up of battle-hardened veterans that had fought in France against ferocious Celtic tribes. On the other hand, the 40,000-man Army of Pompey consisted mostly of foreign recruits, poorly protected, and not as disciplined as the Roman Legionaries. Both armies clashed in Pharsalus (today’s Farsala), Greece. The battle lasted for about 9 hours, at the end of which Pompey’s Army had been thrashed and routed by Caesar’s legions. Pompey managed to escape and headed to Egypt, where he sought political protection, but Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII had him murdered as he feared Caesar’s “wrath”.

RomanLegion_battleofpharsalus

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