Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo (135–87 BC) was a Roman general and politician, who served as consul in 89 BC. He is often referred to in English as Pompey Strabo, to distinguish him from his son, the famous Pompey the Great, or from Strabo the geographer.
Strabo's cognomen means "cross eyed". He lived in the Roman Republic and was born and raised into a noble family in Picenum (in the south and the north of the modern regions of Marche and Abruzzo respectively) in Central Italy, on the Adriatic Coast. Strabo’s mother was called Lucilia. Lucilia’s family originated from Suessa Aurunca (modern Sessa Aurunca) and she was a sister of satiric poet Gaius Lucilius. Lucilius was a friend of Roman general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus. Strabo’s paternal grandfather was Gnaeus Pompeius, while his father was Sextus Pompeius. His elder brother was Sextus Pompeius and his sister was Pompeia.
Strabo became the first of his branch of the gens Pompeia to achieve senatorial status in Rome, despite the anti-rural prejudice of the Roman Senate. After proving his military talent, Strabo climbed the cursus honorum and became promagistrate in Sicily 93 BC and consul in the year 89 BC, in the midst of the Social War.
Strabo commanded Roman forces against the Italian Allies in the northern part of Italy. He recruited three / four legions in his native area of Picenum. These legions were instrumental in Rome's victory. In 90 BC Pompeius Strabo was marching his legions south through Picentum when he was suddenly attacked by a large force of Picentes, Vestini and Marsi. Although the battle favoured neither side Pompeius Strabo was heavily outnumbered and he decided to withdraw. Eventually he found himself blockade in his native Picenum but in the Autumn of 89 he had launched two sorties that successfully caught his enemies in a pincer attack. The remnants of the enemy army had retreated to Asculum which Strabo decided to starve into submission. The exact details of the siege of Asculum and the reduction of the neighbouring tribes are unkown. A vain attempt by the confederate army to raise the siege resulted in a battle which Strabo won. In the end the town fell and Pompeius Strabo was victorious. He whipped and executed the rebel leaders and auctioned of all of their belongings. He kept the proceeds of these sales, a fact which might explain his reputation for greed. At the end of his term as consul, Strabo apparently sought a second immediate consulship for the year 88 BC – an act that was not illegal, as the case of Gaius Marius demonstrates in the late second century, but highly irregular nonetheless. Strabo evidently failed in his attempt, as Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Quintus Pompeius Rufus were elected consuls.
Strabo celebrated a triumph for his Italian victories on 27 December 89. After his consulship expired a few days later, he retired to Picenum with all of his veteran soldiers. The Senate soon transferred command of his army to Quintus Pompeius Rufus, one of the new consuls. However, when Pompeius Rufus arrived, he was murdered by Strabo’s soldiers. Strabo remained there until 87 BC, when he responded to the Senate's request for help against the forces of Marius and Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Strabo took his army to Rome; however, he did not decisively commit to either side, instead playing both against the other. For this, Rutilius Rufus referred to him as "the vilest man alive". When negotiations with the Marians fell through he did, however, attack Sertorius, one of Cinna's commanders, who was positioned north of the city, but the attack was without success.
In 87 BC Strabo was killed by a disease that had broken out in his army. His avarice and cruelty had made him hated by the soldiers to such a degree that they tore his corpse from the bier and dragged it through the streets. His son, Pompey the Great, took the legions back to Picenum once again.
Strabo married an unnamed Roman woman. He had at least two children: a son, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey the Great, who married Julia (the daughter of dictator Gaius Julius Caesar) as his fourth wife; and a daughter called Pompeia.
- Lynda Telford, Sulla: A Dictator Reconsidered, p. 86.
- Tom Holland, Rubicon, p. 58.
- John Leach, Pompey the Great, p.15; Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana, II. 21.
- Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain, p.27.
Lucius Julius Caesar III and Publius Rutilius Lupus
| Consul of the Roman Republic
with Lucius Porcius Cato
Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Quintus Pompeius Rufus