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Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo

(135 - 87 BCE)

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Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo was probably born in 135 BCE, and grew up in a typical rural region of Picenum in northern Italy, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. He was a Roman commander and politician and father of Pompey the Great, later great leader, and Pompey. We don’t know his wife by name. His nickname (cognomen) – Strabo – means “cross-eyed”.

He came from nobilitas with gens Pompeia. His paternal grandfather was Gnaeus Pompey, and his father was Sextus Pompey. He had siblings: an older brother, Sextus Pompey, and a sister, Pompeii.

Although his greatest political influence was in Picenum, he probably did not come from there, as the tribus to which gens Pompeia, Clustumnia belonged, did not perform in that area.
Starbo became the first of the gens Pompey branch to obtain senatorial status in Rome, despite the senate’s anti-rural bias. After proving his outstanding military talent, Strabo passed cursus honourum starting his career as a quaestor in Sardinia in 104 BCE, then appointed to pro magistrate in Sicily in 93 BCE, he became praetor in 92 BCE, then he was also governor of Macedonia. Eventually, he was elected consul for 89 BCE, during the war with allies (91-88 BCE).

Strabo commanded the Roman forces in northern Italy. Initially, in 90 BCE, he served as the legate of consul Rutilius Rufus. He was then beaten by Vidacilius, Titus Lafrenius and Publius Vettius in the battle near Mount Falernus. Forced to retreat, he took refuge in the walls of Firmum, where he was besieged by Lafrenius. Thanks to reinforcements and a blow from both sides, he managed to break free from the siege, and Mars, beaten in the field, escaped and took refuge in Askulum, which Strabo then besieged and captured. For this victory, he was blessed with triumph on December 25, 89 BCE. Under his command, during the victorious conflict, he had three legions that played a significant role.

After the end of the consulate and the war, he retired (as a proconsul) and returned to Picenum with the veterans. The optimists handed over his army to Pompey Rufus – the new consul – who was soon murdered by Strabo’s soldiers.
Strabo remained in Picenum until 87 BCE when war broke out between the party Sulla led by consul Gnaeus Octavius, and the popular populations led by Marius and Cinna. Strabo entered Latium, but he did not join the actions, only observing the situation. It was then that Rutilius Rufus called him “the vilest man alive”.

Only an explicit order from the senate prompted Strabo to act. He stood outside Rome, near Porta Collina, and helped Consul Gnaeus Octavius ​​in driving Marius out of Rome. At the same time, he persuaded the senate to talk with his opponent.


Strabo died in 87 BCE. There are many versions of his death. It is very likely that he died infected with the disease. According to other sources, he was killed by a lightning bolt.
His greed and brutality towards the end of his life made him hated by his soldiers. After his death, his body was mutilated and dragged through the streets of the city. Cicero describes that Strabo “is worthy of hatred for his cruelty, greed and betrayal”.

After Gnaeus’ death, Pompey directed his father’s legions to Picenum.

  • Smith William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

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