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Marcus Licinius Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus (c. 112 BC-53 BC) was a powerful figure in Roman politics on account of his great wealth (he was nicknamed Dives, meaning "richest"). He acquired this wealth through traffic in slaves, the working of silver mines, and judicious purchases of lands and houses, especially those of proscribed citizens. Most famous was his acquisition of burning houses: when he received word that a house was on fire, he would arrive and purchase the (apparently lost) property for a modest sum, and then employ his army of 500 clients to put the fire out before much damage had been done.

The proscription of Cinna forced him to flee to Spain. After Cinna's death he passed into Africa, and then to Italy, where he ingratiated himself with Sulla.

Sent into battle against Spartacus, he gained a decisive victory, and was honored with a minor triumph. Soon afterwards he was elected consul with Pompey, and (70 BC) displayed his wealth by entertaining the populace at 10,000 tables, and distributing sufficient grain to last each family three months. In 65 he was censor, and in 60 he joined Pompey and Caesar in the coalition known as the First Triumvirate. In 55 he was again consul with Pompey, and a law was passed, assigning the provinces of the two Spains and Syria to the two consuls for five years.

Crassus received Syria as his province, which promised to be an inexhaustible source of wealth. However he also sought military glory, and crossed the Euphrates in an attempt to conquer Parthia only to be defeated at Carrhae in 53 BC (now called Harran, Turkey), and taken prisoner by Surenas, the Parthian general, who put him to death by pouring molten gold down his throat. His head was cut off and sent to Orodes II, the Parthian king.