Who was the better general, Caesar or Pompey? Most would agree that

Caesar was by far the better general, simply based upon the outcome of the

Roman Civil War of 49 BC to 46 BC. Two of Rome’s finest generals,

Caesar and Pompey, were pitted against each other, with Caesar emerging
victorious after one of Rome’s most devastating civil wars. Caesar first
discovered his military prowess while campaigning in Spain and honed his
expertise during his ten year conquest of Gaul. Pompey had proven himself,
with the defeat of Spratacus, in the slave revolt. And against Mithridates in
the glamorous Eastern Command, but was Pompey deserving of the fame and
recognition he gained? The civil war began with Caesar’s crossing of the

Rubicon, he committed the first act of war by bringing his army onto Italian
soil and was declared an enemy of the state by the Senate. Pompey was
given the ominous duty of defeating Caesar and his legions, at first glance it
appeared that Pompey had the upper hand, he had the awesome might of

Rome behind him and had a vastly larger army than Caesar. Why then was

Caesar able to defeat Pompey? Caesar won the war by using masterful
techniques of diplomacy, his genius in military strategy, and Pompey’s
ineptness as a military commander. These factors all contributed to Caesar’s
victory over Pompey and his eventual rise to supreme power, which changed

Roman politics until the collapse of the Empire some 500 years later.

Caesar was a master in the art of diplomacy and was able to use these
skills to alter the tide during the course of the war. From the beginning of

Caesar’s career with help from Crassus, he held large circus’s for the mobs,
this made him very popular with people of Rome. With his triumphant
conquering of Gaul, he was hailed as a hero by the mob, and enjoyed popular
support entering the civil war. Caesar was far outnumbered at the onset of
the war, and had to increase the size of his army. To solve this dilemma

Caesar granted amnesty to all defeated armies, by doing this Caesar was able
to simply absorb surrendered armies into his own. Armies of the day were
filled with professional soldier’s who cared more about their salary, then the
cause they were fighting for. Caesar also declared that he would not attack
any Roman citizen if they did not bear arms against him. Thus, Pompey's
legionnaires were faced with guaranteed amnesty if they surrendered to

Caesar or deserted from Pompey. The morale in Pompey's camp would be
severely affected by this act.1 In another act of diplomacy, in 49 BC Caesar
granted Roman citizenship to the Gauls who had fought for him during his
conquering of Gaul. This made the Gauls fiercely loyal to Caesar.2 Caesar
was easily able to tip the scales of power in the war by using diplomacy to his

Caesar was also able to take the upper hand in the conflict, by being
the superior general. It is no stretch of the imagination to declare Caesar as
the best general that ever lived, and if not the greatest, he is most certainly at
par with the likes of Alexander, Hannibal, and Napoleon. Caesar was known
for acting swiftly and decisively in battle, he deployed this rapid action
strategy perfectly against Pompey. Once he crossed the Rubicon, he marched
his army towards Rome on such a pace that made Pompey first flee Rome,
then Italy all together. This gave Caesar control of the centre of the Roman
universe and now he had all of Rome’s riches behind him. Caesar was able
to use this strategy to take the advantage in the war, with out fighting a single
battle. Another reason for Caesar’s success as a General was that he was
beloved by his troops, they were fiercely loyal to him and would easily put
their life on the line for their commander. Caesar did this by leading by
example, as seen with his relentless pursuit of Pompey.

He marched so fast that he left all his army behind
him, except six hundred chosen horse and five
legions, with which he put to sea in the very middle
of winter, about the beginning of the month of

January (which corresponds pretty nearly with the

Athenian month Posideon),