History : May-Jun 2019
Crassus’ father died in 87 b.c. after becom- ing embroiled in a political struggle that turned violent. Publius had allied with Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who was vying for power against Gaius Marius. When Marius captured Rome in 87, Publius was either killed or forced to commit suicide. The young Crassus only survived be- cause he was able to escape to Spain. This conflict brought tragedy to the young Crassus’ life, but it also brought great opportu- nity. In Spain Crassus started to build his fabu- lous wealth. He began to recruit men who would eventually join Sulla’s ranks. In the civil war that ensued against Marius, Crassus played a deci- sive part. His forces fought in the Battle of the desire that would cost him his life and thrust Rome into civil war. Noble but Simple Born circa 115 b.c., Crassus did not come from an os- tentatiously wealthy family. The first-century a.d. historian Plutarch wrote in his work The Par- allel Lives that Crassus “lived in a little house,” where “they kept but one table amongst them.” The family might have lived frugally, but they enjoyed an enviable social position. His father, Publius Licinius Crassus, was consul in 97 b.c., a commander in Iberia, (modern Spain) and was honored with a triumph, Rome’s highest military honor, in 93 b.c. ROMAN RICHES Military victories in the first century b.c. led to a huge increase in the public funds available in the republic. The Temple of Saturn (above) was the seat of the Roman treasury. RICCARDOSPILA/FOTOTECA9X12 THE FACE OF KING ORODES II ADORNS THIS PARTHIAN COIN FROM THE FIRST CENTURY B.C . MONEY MUSEUM ZURICH BORIS STROUJKO/SHUTTERSTOCK Despite their public disputes, Crassus and Pompey share the consulate. The political tension allows only a few reforms, aiming to limit the Senate’s power, to be approved during their mandate. 70 b.c. On his return from Gaul, Caesar arranges a meeting of the triumvirs to formalize the distribution of the Roman world among them. A second consulate for Crassus and Pompey is agreed on. 56 b.c. Crassus leads the campaign against the Parthians. In Carrhae, Surenas, the leader of the Parthian army, crushes the Roman army. Crassus is killed. 53 b.c.