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Fish at Octavian’s feet

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fish on the Roman mosaic
Fish on the Roman mosaic

Pliny the Elder tells us in his work “Natural History” an interesting story that was to herald Octavian’s victory in the war against Sextus Pompey, son of the great leader Pompey the Great.

After Julius Caesar’s death in 44 BCE Sextus Pompey, who had been hiding in northern Spain, managed, together with his faithful soldiers, to take over Sicily, which became his “fortress” during the political destabilization of Rome. Over the years, none of the triumvirs was able to defeat the son of Pompey the Great, who had a powerful naval fleet and regularly blocked grain deliveries to the capital. Octavian exercising real power in Rome in the 30s of the 1st century BCE had big problems with Sextus Pompey which he couldn’t overcome.

According to Pliny, one time, while walking along the beach, a fish jumped at Octavian’s feet. This event was perceived as the future fall of Pompey, who would fall before Octavian. It should be mentioned that Sextus Pompey, proud of his flotilla, considered himself the incarnation of Neptune’s son, hence the translation of the story. As it turned out, the expansion of the fleet by Marcus Agrippa, Octavian’s faithful companion and eminent commander, made it possible in 36 BCE to defeat Pompey in the Bay of Naulochus. A year later he was captured and killed at the hands of Mark Antony.

  • Pliny the Elder, Natural history, IX.16.55

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