The causes of the Roman civil war, 49 B.C.: Julia and Crassus

  • A. P. Koval T. Shevchenko national university of Kyiv
Keywords: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Julia, Lucan, Pharsalia, Roman Civil war, Roman republic


The title of the article is ‘The Causes of the Roman Civil War, 49 B.C.: Julia and Crassus’. The purpose of the article was to examine the theory, provided by ancient writers, according to which deaths of Julia and Marcus Licinius Crassus are interpreted as one of the causes of the Roman Civil war in 49 B.C. This theory wasn’t an object of the special research and many modern scholars take on trust accounts of the ancient writers, following Mommsen’s view. According to the sources, Julia was the «pledge of consent» between Pompey and Caesar, while Crassus was their mediator. In contrast, E. Gruen believed, that the deaths of Julia and Crassus had not been so ruinous for relations of Pompey and Caesar. For example, Julia had died in 54 B.C., but the Civil war started in 49 B.C. – according to the sources, it should have been started immediately after Julia’s death. The study tested, that the main source of such interpretation of Julia’s and Crassus’ deaths was Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia’. Such characterization of those is the most full in his poem. Textual analysis proves, that Lucan’s poem was a source of this theory for many other ancient writers. For example, Plutarch’s and Appian’s characterizations of Julia and Crassus are the same, as in ‘Pharsalia’, considering the translation from Latin to Greek. Further examination established that Lucan was the main propagandist of such characterization, but he wasn’t its author. Julia was described as the «pledge of consent» in writings of Velleius Paterculus and Valerius Maximus that had been written in a few decades before ‘Pharsalia’. However, there is no such characterization in writings of Cicero and Livius, who were the eyewitnesses of the Civil war. As a result, it was concluded, that such characterization had been formed among Roman writers of the early principate and retailed by Lucan. As a conclusion it must be emphasized, that close study of the ancient sources confirmed an idea that had been expressed by E. Gruen.

Author Biography

A. P. Koval, T. Shevchenko national university of Kyiv


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How to Cite
Koval, A. P. (2016). The causes of the Roman civil war, 49 B.C.: Julia and Crassus. Grani, 19(4), 129-135.