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HBO Rome: Quintus Pompeius as Gnaeus Pompeius and Sextus Pompeius

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My friend Rufus always finds out the truth...


In the HBO series Rome, actor Rick Warden plays the historically fictional character Quintus Pompeius, son of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. In the series, the historical sons Gnaeus and Sextus are united in the fictional character of Quintus. Quintus Pompeius is portrayed as violent and devious - fuelled by his hatred of all Caesarians. The cinematic persona of Quintus Pompeius is orientated more towards the historical character of Pompey the Younger.

Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger was the eldest son of the general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and his third wife Mucia Tertia. His younger brother was the later admiral Sextus Pompeius. Gnaeus and Sextus grew up in the shadow of their famous father, who had been consul three times due to his military successes without having completed the usual cursus honourum. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army in January 49 BC and thus made his readiness for civil war clear, Gnaeus accompanied his father with the two acting consuls and numerous senators on his retreat to the Balkan Peninsula. The army led by Pompey was defeated in the Battle of Pharsalos, which he had been urged to join by senators with less military experience, and Pompey himself was murdered in Egypt while fleeing.

After the death of their father, Gnaeus and his brother Sextus continued the resistance against Caesar in the province of Africa. Together with Metellus Scipio, the younger Cato and other senators, they prepared for the battle against Caesar and his army. Caesar won the first battle at Thapsus in 46 BC against Metellus Scipio and Cato, who then committed suicide. Gnaeus fled again, this time to the Balearic Islands, where he met Sextus. Together with Titus Labienus, a former legate of Caesar who had switched sides at the beginning of the civil war, the brothers travelled to Hispania, where they formed a new army. Caesar and his legions followed them and met them at the Battle of Munda on 17 March 45 BC. Led by Titus Labienus, a talented general, and the brothers Sextus and Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger, Caesar's opponents had all the resources of Hispania and a newly recruited army of 13 legions at their disposal. Although Caesar's troops were outnumbered by his opponents with 8 legions, his soldiers were far better prepared for battle than their enemies due to their many years of combat experience.


The two armies met in the plain of Munda near Osuna in southern Spain. The Senate army was camped on a gentle hill in an unfavourable position for Caesar's attack plans. He remained in sight for several days, until 17 March, when he gave the order to attack. The battle continued for some time with no clear advantage for either side, forcing the generals on both sides to abandon their command posts and go to the fighting troops for encouragement. Caesar took command of the right wing, where his 10th Legion was engaged in heavy fighting. His presence renewed the soldiers' determination to win and they slowly pushed the enemy back. Nevertheless, the situation was so threatening for Caesar that he is said to have said later that he usually fought for victory, but at Munda he fought for his life.

Aware of the new development, Gnaeus Pompeius moved a legion from his own right wing to the left in order to repel the attack, but this proved to be a serious mistake: the attack by the 10th legion had only been a feint. As soon as Pompey had exposed his right flank, Caesar's cavalry launched their attack there. At the same time, King Bogud of Mauretania, Caesar's ally, attacked Pompey's camp in the rear. Titus Labienus, the commander of the Optimates' cavalry, noticed the attack and tried to prevent it, as Bogud was also threatening the rear of the main army. However, the legionaries misinterpreted the action: already under heavy attack on the left (the 10th legion under Caesar) and right (the cavalry), they thought Labienus was fleeing. Panic broke out and the lines of the Pompeian legions collapsed.


Many of Pompey's fleeing troops died in the pursuit by Caesar's men. Others fell in the defence of the city of Munda. Around 30,000 men died in the battle, the vast majority on the losing side. Titus Labienus was one of those killed, but the brothers Sextus and Gnaeus Pompeius managed to escape to what is now Córdoba. Caesar attacked the city, which harboured his enemies and troops. Córdoba surrendered, but was not spared. Around 20,000 people died here, including soldiers. Sextus and Gnaeus fled again, this time to the sea.

After the Battle of Munda, Caesar set about "pacifying" other parts of Hispania that were still loyal to the Republican senators. He destroyed the cities where he suspected Sextus and Gnaeus to be, while Gaius Didius, a naval commander loyal to Caesar, destroyed the Optimates' fleet so that Gnaeus had to try to hide on land. However, Gnaeus was captured within a few weeks and executed for treason in 45 BC. Sextus Pompeius, on the other hand, was able to evade his enemies and, after Caesar's assassination on the Ides of March in 44 BC, built up a considerable position of power as an admiral in the western Mediterranean. He was not defeated until 36 BC by Caesar's heir, the future Emperor Augustus, and was finally executed in Miletus in 35 BC.

If we are to believe Cicero, Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger was known for his cruelty (Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares 11,19,4). This also gave rise to the fictional character of Quintus Pompeius in the Rome series - known for his violence, torture and unscrupulous behaviour when trying to get what he wants.


With this little thread I would like to introduce you to my latest coin during the civil war of the Roman Republic. Issued in Spain by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus the Younger under the moneyer and his Legatus Pro Praetor, Marcus Poblicius. Woytek identifies the soldier on the Prora as Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus the Younger, rather than a simple soldier. He also recognises Mars in the head on the front and not Roma, as assumed in previous research. 

There is an interesting publication on this by Piotr Berdowski: "RRC 469-470 and the revolt in Hispania in 46 BC" - which can be downloaded free of charge from academia: https://www.academia.edu/38003344/RRC_469_470_and_the_Revolt_in_Hispania_in_46_B_C_E 

As promised, here is my latest coin - I invite you to show your coins too - Pompeius Magnus the father, of the sons or whatever you think is relevant.


Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus the Younger; Moneyer: Marcus Poblicius; Reign: Roman Republic, Civil War; Mint: Military mint, traveling Hispania with Pompeius; Date: ca. 46/45 BC; Nominal: Denarius; Material: Silver; Diameter: 19mm; Weight: 3.98g; Reference: Sydenham 1035; Reference: Babelon Pompeia 9; Reference: Crawford RRC 469/1a; Obverse: Head of Roma, right, wearing Corinthian helmet. Bead and reel border; Inscription: M POBLICI LEG PRO PR; Translation: Marcus Poblicius Legatus Pro Praetor; Translation: Marcus Poblicius, Legate Propraetor; Reverse: Hispania standing right, with shield slung on back, holding two spears in left hand and with right hand giving palm-branch to Pompeian soldier standing left on prow of galley. Border of dots; Inscription: CN MAGNVS IMP; Translation: Gnaeus Magnus Imperator; Translation: Emperor Gnaeus Magnus.


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I don't think Imperator as translated to Emperor can be accurate as this time, since he was ostensibly fighting to preserve the Republic and an Emperor was the exact opposite what they were trying to achieve.  It means that his troops had hailed him as a victorious general. It later became the equivalent of emperor during Augustus' rule when the Republic was dead and buried. 

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