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Encyclopedia > Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives (c. 115 BC-53 BC) was a Roman who defeated Spartacus, and entered into a pact, known as the First Triumvirate with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar.

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Marcus Licinius Crassus

He was known as one of the richest men of the era, and after a defeat at Carrhae, was killed.


Chronology

Biography


Marcus Licinius Crassus was a powerful figure in Roman politics on account of his great wealth (he was nicknamed Dives, meaning "richest"). He acquired this wealth through traffic in slaves, the working of silver mines, and judicious purchases of lands and houses, especially those of proscribed citizens. Most famous was his acquisition of burning houses: when he received word that a house was on fire, he would arrive and purchase the (apparently lost) property for a modest sum, and then employ his army of 500 clients to put the fire out before much damage had been done.


The proscription of Cinna forced him to flee to Spain. After Cinna's death he passed into Africa, and then to Italy, where he ingratiated himself with Sulla.


Sent into battle against Spartacus, he gained a decisive victory, and was honored with a minor triumph (ovatio). The six thousand captured slaves who had rebelled under Spartacus were crucified along the Via Appia by his orders. Soon afterwards he was elected consul with Pompey, and (70 BC) displayed his wealth by entertaining the populace at 10,000 tables, and distributing sufficient grain to last each family three months. In 65 he was censor, and in 60 he joined Pompey and Caesar in the coalition known as the First Triumvirate. In 55 he was again consul with Pompey, and a law was passed, assigning the provinces of the two Spains and Syria to the two consuls for five years.


Crassus received Syria as his province, which promised to be an inexhaustible source of wealth. It would have been - however he also sought military glory, and crossed the Euphrates in an attempt to conquer Parthia only to be defeated at Carrhae in 53 BC (now called Harran, Turkey), and taken prisoner by Surena, the Parthian general, who put him to death by pouring molten gold down his throat. He received his wealth in the end, but not in the way that he had hoped.


His head was cut off and sent to Orodes II, the Parthian king. According to some sources, his head was revealed to the king in a particularly dramatic fashion: the king was watching a performance of the The Bacchae of Euripides, and Crassus' head was used as a prop, standing in for Pentheus' head in the final scene.


References

  • Hennessy, Dianne. (1990). Studies in Ancient Rome. Thomas Nelson Australia. ISBN 0-17-007413-7.

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Lucius Licinius Crassus (140-91 B.c.), the orator, of unknown parentage.
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