Crassus

By pallin

He was greedy, he was wealthy, he was one of the richest Romans ever.

Marcus Licinius Crassus was born to a former consul, Publius Licinius Crassus, in 115 BC. His early life was filled with turmoil and the struggles between Marius and Sulla. Publius defended Rome in 87 BC, but was killed along with his oldest son when Marius' followers captured the city. Crassus and his brother had to flee to Hispania, where they had lived when their father was governor. After eight months, news reached Crassus that Cinna, one of Marius' allies, was dead. Gathering 2,500 men, Crassus went to join Sulla, who was helped by his presence.

Crassus also met a member that would take a place in the triumvirate, Pompey. Both of them served with Sulla during his campaigns in 83 and 82 BC. After Sulla ruled Rome, he put up proscription lists condemning all of his enemies. Informers could be paid as much of a talon of gold to disclose the whereabouts of people on the list. From the properties forfeited by the people on the proscription lists, Crassus was able to reap back some of his family fortune. Legend says that he added a man's name to the proscription lists in Bruttium for the single reason that he wanted his property.

Many times it would be said that Crassus would arrive at a burning house and offer to buy it at stupendously low prices. If the owner agreed, his firefighters would quickly put out the fire. If not, the owner's house would burn. After fixing the house up and reselling it at an exorbitantly price, Crassus would substantially increase his fortune.

Crassus disliked Pompey because of his enormous military achievements, none of which to he could compare. So to gain popularity, Crassus loaned money but didn't charge interest. Even with his measures, Pompey's popularity still grew and grew. Consequently, Crassus worked up the cursus honorum, trying to be helpful to his clients. This was a contrast to the usually arrogant way Pompey treated others.

Spartacus was a chance for Crassus to shine above Pompey in military matters for once. The Romans' initial solution to the problem, the praetor, Claudius Glaber, was quickly routed by the slave horde, along with his army. The slaves went on to defeat the legions of the two current consuls and of Gaius Cassius. With over 100,000 slaves, the leader, Spartacus, was a force to be reckoned with. Since Pompey was in Hispania fighting Sertorius, he was unable to come put a stop to the revolt. In 72 BC, Crassus was given permission to be the leader in the war against the slave rebellion. Funding six new legions, and given the remnants of the four defeated ones, Crassus marched against Spartacus. Two of his legions were lost, though, in one of the early battles. However, a giant wall built by Crassus trapped the slaves, betrayed by the pirates supposedly taking them to Sicily. When Spartacus attempted to flee to Brundisium, Crassus destroyed him. With the 6,000 captive slaves, all of them were crucified along the Via Appia. Pompey came to finish things up and then tried to take credit for ending the campaign, something that angered Crassus.

During his Spartacus campaign, Crassus befriended the final member of the triumvirate, Caesar. In 70 BC, Crassus and Pompey were consuls, yet their rivalry halted many possible reforms. Pompey then went on his famed pirate campaign, while Crassus decided to stay in Rome and increase his wealth. Finally growing tired of Pompey's and Caesar's increasing popularity, Crassus decided to instigate a war against the Parthians, even though they had done nothing to invoke the wrath of the Romans. Thus happened the Battle of Carrhae, a crushing defeat for the Roman forces. Helpless against the Parthian commander, Surena, the Roman legions lost thousands of men. After the battle, Surena said that the Romans could be escorted out of Mesopotamia, as long as Crassus and Gaius Cassius were given to him. When Crassus and his men tried to escape Carrhae by night, their guide betrayed them. Cassius, distrustful of the guide, was able to flee. Surena found Crassus and his men and offered a cease-fire again. In an ensuing scuffle, Crassus was killed.

A story says that Crassus' head and left arm were cut off and filled with gold, a signal of his insatiable greed. A member of the First Triumvirate had been killed trying to achieve the military glory he would never have.

Sources: Wikipedia, About.com

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