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Historical Article

Pompey the Great and his Family



Sextus Pompey, the younger son of Pompey the Great, inherited his father's vast influence and personal following. He first established himself in Spain in 44 BC as the successful leader of the anti-Caesarian forces and following the death of Caesar, the Senate, believing itself freed from the domination of the Caesarians, bestowed on Sextus the title of praefectus classis et orae maritimae (Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet and of the Sea Coasts). But, four months later the Senate was forced by Octavian and the second triumvirate to rescind this title and Sextus was proscribed. Upon receiving word of the Senate's abrogation of his commission and seeing the hostilities the Caesarians were exacting on the leading figures in Rome, Sextus set sail from Massilia in Gaul and headed for Sicily. Here he would established a powerful base from which he could blockade Italy and provide a safe haven for those fleeing the proscriptions. Alarmed at the developements, Octavian sent a naval squadron under the command of Salvidienus Rufus to handle the situation, but Salvidienus was defeated off the coast of Rhegium. Following this battle, Sextus took the title of imperator iterum. Sextus would continue the republican struggle against the second triumvirate until his death in 36 BC. ∏This remarkable dynastic aureus provides us with the most life-like portraits of Pompey's two sons and records many of the events of 43-42 BC. The oak wreath (corona civica) and the title IMP ITER on the obverse commemorate Sextus' defeat of Salvidienus, while the reverse legend records the title bestowed on him by the Senate in 43 BC. The lituus behind Pompey's head signifies Pompey's membership in the college of augurs, while the tripod behind Cnaeus' head represents his affiliation with the quindecimviri sacris faciundis.

SEXTUS POMPEY. 42 BC. AV Aureus (8.20 g, 8h). Mint in Sicily. MAG. PIVS. behind, IMP. ITER. before, bare head of Sextus Pompey right; all within oak wreath / PRÆF above, CLAS. ET. ORÆ/[MA]RIT. EX. S.C below in two lines, bare heads of Pompey the Great right and Cnaeus Pompey Junior left, face to face; lituus to left, tripod to right. Crawford 511/1; CRI 332; Sydenham 1346; Kent-Hirmer 102 (same obverse die); Kestner -; BMCRR Sicily 13; Sydenham 1346; Bahrfeldt 87; Calicó 71a.