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THE HISTORY OF OLD ROME

V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson


The History of Old Rome

Chapter X - Brundisium, Ilerda, Pharsalus, and Thapsus

ELPENOR EDITIONS IN PRINT

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Page 54

Caesar's Fleet and Army in Illyricum Destroyed

But the expected attack was long in coming. It was not till the height of summer that the conflict began in Illyria. There Caesar's lieutenant Gaius Antonius with his two legions lay in the island of Curicta (Veglia in the gulf of Quarnero), and Caesar's admiral Publius Dolabella with forty ships lay in the narrow arm of the sea between this island and the mainland. The admirals of Pompeius in the Adriatic, Marcus Octavius with the Greek, Lucius Scribonius Libo with the Illyrian division of the fleet, attacked the squadron of Dolabella, destroyed all his ships, and cut off Antonius on his island. To rescue him, a corps under Basilus and Sallustius came from Italy and the squadron of Hortensius from the Tyrrhene Sea; but neither the former nor the latter were able to effect anything in presence of the far superior fleet of the enemy.

The legions of Antonius had to be abandoned to their fate. Provisions came to an end, the troops became troublesome and mutinous; with the exception of a few divisions, which succeeded in reaching the mainland on rafts, the corps, still fifteen cohorts strong, laid down their arms and were conveyed in the vessels of Libo to Macedonia to be there incorporated with the Pompeian army, while Octavius was left to complete the subjugation of the Illyrian coast now denuded of troops. The Dalmatae, now far the most powerful tribe in these regions,(22) the important insular town of Issa (Lissa), and other townships, embraced the party of Pompeius; but the adherents of Caesar maintained themselves in Salonae (Spalato) and Lissus (Alessio), and in the former town not merely sustained with courage a siege, but when they were reduced to extremities, made a sally with such effect that Octavius raised the siege and sailed off to Dyrrhachium to pass the winter there.

22. Cf. V. VII. Illyria

Result of the Campaign as a Whole

The success achieved in Illyricum by the Pompeian fleet, although of itself not inconsiderable, had yet but little influence on the issue of the campaign as a whole; and it appears miserably small, when we consider that the performances of the land and naval' forces under the supreme command of Pompeius during the whole eventful year 705 were confined to this single feat of arms, and that from the east, where the general, the senate, the second great army, the principal fleet, the immense military and still more extensive financial resources of the antagonists of Caesar were united, no intervention at all took place where it was needed in that all-decisive struggle in the west.

The scattered condition of the forces in the eastern half of the empire, the method of the general never to operate except with superior masses, his cumbrous and tedious movements, and the discord of the coalition may perhaps explain in some measure, though not excuse, the inactivity of the land-force; but that the fleet, which commanded the Mediterranean without a rival, should have thus done nothing to influence the course of affairs--nothing for Spain, next to nothing for the faithful Massiliots, nothing to defend Sardinia, Sicily, Africa, or, if not to reoccupy Italy, at least to obstruct its supplies-- this makes demands on our ideas of the confusion and perversity prevailing in the Pompeian camp, which we can only with difficulty meet.

The aggregate result of this campaign was corresponding. Caesar's double aggressive movement, against Spain and against Sicily and Africa, was successful, in the former case completely, in the latter at least partially; while Pompeius' plan of starving Italy was thwarted in the main by the taking away of Sicily, and his general plan of campaign was frustrated completely by the destruction of the Spanish army; and in Italy only a very small portion of Caesar's defensive arrangements had come to be applied. Notwithstanding the painfully-felt losses in Africa and Illyria, Caesar came forth from this first year of the war in the most decided and most decisive manner as victor.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/rome/5-10-brundisium-pharsalus-thapsus.asp?pg=54