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Monday, May 25, 2020

Marcus Licinius Crassus: Overcompensation for deprivation

Everyone would rather be courted by his children as a man of means than beg of them as a needy person.  Lysias.  On The Property of Aristophanes.  Speech 19.  Section 37.


Image: Alexander the Great's sack of Thebes by the late Angus McBride. 

This image of Alexander the Great's sack of Thebes reminded me of Marcus Licinius Crassus and his money-making firefighters who he withheld until the landowner agreed to sell his burning property for a pittance.  Crassus' motivations, however, should be viewed in light of his earlier deprivations.  Marcus Licinius Crassus was a member of the gens Licinia, an old, financially modest, but highly respected plebeian family in Rome. He was the second of three sons born to the eminent senator and vir triumphalis Publius Licinius Crassus Dives (consul 97, censor 89 BCE).  His father  supported Sulla during the civil wars between Sulla and Gaius Marius.  The supporters of Gaius Marius hunted down his father and younger brother, who took their own lives, leaving Crassus to flee to Hispania where he struggled to survive from 87-84 BCE.  He eventually was able to recruit 2500 of his father's old clients and join Sulla's army. During Sulla's second civil war,  Crassus essentially rescued Sulla's main force during the decisive battle outside the Colline Gate and was thus instrumental in Sulla's quest to become master of Rome.  Then Crassus began to rebuild his family's lost fortune begining with the acquisition of property during Sulla's proscriptions. By the time Crassus became one of the First Triumvirate, he was the richest man in Rome.

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