Battle of Pharsalus

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The Battle of Pharsalus was a decisive battle of Caesar's Civil War. On 9 August 48 BC at Pharsalus in central Greece, Gaius Julius Caesar and his allies formed up opposite the army of the republic under the command of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great"). Pompey had the backing of a majority of senators, of whom many were optimates, and his army significantly outnumbered the veteran Caesarian legions.

Contents

Prelude

Pompey and much of the Roman Senate fled Italy in 49 BC to prepare an army. Caesar, lacking a fleet, solidified his control over the western Mediterranean — Spain specifically — before assembling ships to follow Pompey. Pompey had appointed Bibulus to look after his fleet - ordering him to destroy any of Caesar's ships that he came across. However, before this plan could be implemented, Bibulus died of fever. This allowed Julius Caesar to land his troops at Pharsalus. Caesar thereafter marched overland through southern Gaul, blockading Massilia (present-day Marseille), and managed to assemble a small fleet. After crushing Pompey's forces in Spain, Caesar focused once again on Pompey and his troops in Greece. Pompey had a large fleet, as well as much support from all Roman provinces and client states east of Italy. Caesar, however, managed to cross the Adriatic in the winter, with Mark Antony following a little later because Caesar lacked sufficient ships. Although Pompey had a larger army, he recognized that Caesar's troops were more experienced, and could prove victorious in a pitched battle. Instead, Pompey waited Caesar's troops out, attempting to starve them by cutting off Caesar's supply lines. Caesar made a near disastrous attack on Pompey's camp at Dyrrhachium and was forced to pull away.

Pompey did not immediately follow up on his success. An indecisive winter (49–48 BC) of blockade and siege followed. Pompey eventually pushed Caesar into Thessaly and urged on by his senatorial allies, he confronted Caesar near Pharsalus. Caesar began the battle with a smaller, but veteran, force. Moreover, Pompey's senatorial allies disagreed with Pompey over whether to fight at Pharsalus, and pushed Pompey, who wanted to starve Caesar's soldiers, into a quick decision.

Caesar had the following legions with him:

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