(c. 115 bc — 153 ad) Roman politician

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Son of Publius Licinius Crassus (consul 97 bc, escaped from Cinna to Spain, joined Sulla after Cinna's death, played a prominent part in regaining Italy for him, and made a fortune in Sulla's proscriptions. After his praetorship he defeated Spartacus (72–71bc), but Pompey, after crucifying many fugitives, claimed credit for the victory, deeply offending Crassus. Formally reconciled, they were made consuls 70 and presided over the abolition of Sulla's political settlement, though his administrative reforms were retained. During the next few years Crassus further increased his fortune and, relying on his connections, financial power, and astuteness, gained considerable influence. After 67, overshadowed by Pompey's commands (which he had opposed), he is associated by our sources with various schemes to expand his power and perhaps gain a military command. As censor 65, he tried to enrol the Transpadanes as citizens and to have Egypt annexed; he was foiled by his colleague Quintus Lutatius Catulus (2) and their quarrel forced both to abdicate. Always ready to help eminent or promising men in need of aid, he shielded the suspects in the ‘first conspiracy’ of Catiline and supported Catiline until the latter turned to revolution and a programme of cancelling debts. He may have supported the law of Publius Servilius Rullus. A patron of Julius Caesar (without, however, detaching him from Pompey), he enabled him to leave for his province in 62 by standing surety for part of his debts. On Caesar's return, he was persuaded by him to give up his opposition to Pompey, which during 62–60 had prevented both of them from gaining their political objectives, and to join Pompey in supporting Caesar's candidacy for the consulship. As consul (59), Caesar satisfied him by passing legislation to secure remission of one third of the sum owed by the publicani of Asia for their contract (Crassus presumably had an interest in their companies), and he now joined Pompey and Caesar in an open political alliance. After Caesar's departure for Gaul he supported Clodius, who soon proved to be too ambitious to make a reliable ally and tried to embroil him with Pompey and Cicero. He welcomed Cicero on his return from exile, but in 56 alerted Caesar to the attempts by Cicero and others to recall him and attach Pompey to the optimates (lit. ‘the best men’, the office-holding upper class). Caesar and Crassus met at Ravenna and Pompey was persuaded to meet them at Luca and renew their alliance. The dynasts' plans were kept secret, but it soon became clear that Pompey and Crassus were to become consuls for a second time by whatever means proved necessary and to have special commands in Spain and Syria respectively assigned to them for five years, while they renewed Caesar's command for five years.

Late in 55, ignoring the solemn curses of the tribune Gaius Ateius Capito, Crassus left for Syria, determined on a war of conquest against Parthia. He won some early successes in 54 and completed financial preparations by extorting huge sums in his province. In 53 he crossed the Euphrates, relying on his long neglected military skills and the recent ones of his son Publius Licinius Crassus. Although deserted by Artavasdes of Armenia and the king of Osroëne, he continued his advance into unfamiliar territory. After Publius died in a rash action, he himself was caught in Surenas (the Parthian king's hereditary commander) near Carrhae and, trying to extricate himself, died fighting.


Subjects: Classical Studies.

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