Roman Republic (Imperatorial Period)

Sextus Pompey, General 42 BC

Crawford 511/1; HCRI 332; Sydenham 1346A corr.; Bahrfeldt 87.1 corr.; Calicó 71, Superb Extremely Fine

Sicilian mint. Bare head of Sextus Pompey right; all within oak wreath / Bare heads of Pompey the Great right and Cnaeus Pompey Junior left, confronted; lituus to left, tripod to right.

Although Pompey the Great had been ignominiously killed in Egypt in 48 BC and his adherents were crushed at the end of Caesar’s civil war (49-45 BC) the ghost of his opposition to Julius Caesar and his heirs lived on in the person of Pompey’s son, Sextus. Whereas his brother had been captured and executed following Caesar’s victory at the battle of Munda (45 BC), Sextus Pompeus escaped to Sicily where he built up a formidable naval and military force. After Caesar’s assassination, he wielded it to challenge Octavian in Sicily, Sardinia, and southern Italy. Sextus Pompeius defeated the fleet of Octavian at the battle of Messina in 37 BC, but had little time to savor the victory. In the following year, he was crushed by Octavian’s skilled naval commander, M. Vipsanius Agraippa and an invasion of Sicily mounted by Octavian’s fellow triumvir, M. Aemilius Lepidus. Sextus Pompeius fled to Asia Minor but was captured at Miletus and executed in 35 BC. While he lived Pompeius had been a great thorn in the side of Octavian, but in the true manner of a tyrant, Octavian (as Augustus) would later describe him in the Res Gestae as a mere pirate.