Marcus Licinius Crassus

Marcus Licinius Crassus was once one of the most powerful men in Rome. A canny business man who had built himself a fortune through the slave trade and "real estate" (setting fire to buildings, then buying them, repairing them and selling them), he was so wealthy that he was a money lender to many of Romes top politicians and military leaders, including Julius Caesar. He was also promising commander, having saved Rome from the slave rebellion lead by Spartacus in 73 BC, however the triumph was instead given to the general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey) who had arrived with reinforcements as the battle was finishing.

Crassus had been able to seize a great deal of power in the aftermath of the 'Social war' and Sulla's civil war, using his wealth to lean on the Senate and influence the Consuls of the day. However he was not the only one to gain power, Pompey had gained fame and wealth campaigning against the pirates that terrorized the ancient Mediterranean and in the Middle East. Also Julius Caesar had begun his rise to fame with his conquest of Gaul. In an attempt to avoid a second civil war, these three formed the "Triumvirate", an alliance in order to keep the peace.

Jealous of the popularity his rivals had gained through their conquests, Crassus decided that the best bet on his success was an attack on the Parthian Empire. With its vast wealth from trade with the east, Parthia was a rival to the Roman Republic for influence in the Middle East. A victory over them would have cemented support for Crassus amongst the citizens of the Republic, and would have also secured loyalty from the troops whom he lead, giving him a base from which to challenge Pompey and Caesar.

Crassus used his governing of Syria as a springboard for invading Parthia. He recruited some 40,000 men, including many veterans from Caesar's campaigns and had the support of the Armenian king, Artavasdes, who offered him 16,000 mounted troops to add to his own 4,000 and 30,000 infantry, but only if he invaded Parthia through Armenia. He foolishly refused the allied support, believing that the quicker advance along the Euphrates would succeed. This would prove to be Crassus' downfall, after an exhausting march through the inhospitable terrain of Mesopotamia, he was set upon by much smaller Parthian force at Carrhae, the battle was a devastating loss for Rome, with Crassus' son Publius being killed, and Crassus being captured and executed (by having molten gold poured down his throat some believe).

But what if Crassus had not been so pig-headed? What if he had taken the advice from his officers and allies, instead of acting on his own accord? This alternate history investigates this possibility, the consequences it would have on the Roman Empire, and the modern world.

Crassus in Parthia

Autumn, 55 BC: Crassus arrives in Syria and immediately begins recruiting and training mercenaries.

Spring, 53 BC: Crassus leads his newly trained legions north to Armenia in order to pick up the reinforcements promised by King Artavasdes.

Winter, 53 BC: Whilst wintering in the Armenian town of Tigranocerta, the commander of the Armenian reinforcements suggests to Crassus that his legionnaires may be ill equipped to face the Parthians. Demonstrating how the compound bow, used by most eastern peoples, can penetrate the Roman shields with ease. Crassus rectifies the problem by purchasing a several huge quantities of silk from the local traders and having his soldiers wrap their shields in several layers, making them practically arrow proof.

Summer, 52 BC: Battle of Ashur, a devastating victory for Crassus over the numerically larger Parthian force. Whilst the Parthian king, Orodes II commanded his huge force personally, Crassus appointed his legate, Caius Cassius Longinus, as his second-in-command, he acted on his advice throughout the battle. He also allowed his son, Publius to command the Roman cavalry. Publius then goes on to kill the Parthian general Surena.

Winter, 52 BC: Battle of Al Anba, a second Roman victory, slightly more casualties this time as a competent Parthian general was in command. Orodes had retreated with his capital to Hamadan.

Spring, 51 BC: Romans capture the former Parthian capital, Seleucia. Some legionnaires are annoyed at the lack of the riches that Crassus had promised, but the moral victory is enough for most. Several thousand men, women and children are transported back to Syria as slaves. Cassius is appointed governor of Mesopotamia and left to hold down the region with two legions. Crassus and Publius head south with the remainder of the force to secure rich ports of the Persian Sea.

Autumn, 51 BC: Orodes murdered by his son, Phraates. Phraates declares himself king and negotiates a peace with Crassus. He agreed to send a tribute of 10,000 gold coins and 500 cataphracts to the governor of Mesopotamia every year for the next 50 years. In exchange the Roman Republic and Parthian Empire would abstain from hostility for the next 500 years and Parthian trade goods would only be lightly taxed.

Summer, 50 BC: Crassus gets the triumph he had craved for since defeating Spartacus. Thousands lined the streets of the city to celebrate his glorious victory, with a procession of several thousand slaves, his most distinguished legionnaires and and riches sacked from the Parthian cities and temples (he also attacked Damascus and Jerusalem for a bit of filler.) Pompey had tried hard to prevent the triumph, but Crassus' support in the Senate was enough that it was granted, he refused to attend. Caesar also felt confident enough to return to Rome and greet his ally. After the triumph, the two met in Crassus' mansion to discuss the current political system in Rome, confirming that Caesar's proconsulship was to end in a few months and that after this Pompey was likely to seize power and become sole consul. They decided that the only realistic option is to seize power themselves.

The Great Roman Civl War

10th January, 49 BC: Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon whilst commanding the XIII Gemina Legion, declaring war on the Republic.

Spring, 49 BC: Crassus travels to southern Italia in order to levy his former legionnaires. Around 4,000 arrive, some bringing friends and family members to join. Cassius Longinus also responds to the request, having ended his governing of Mesopotamia several months ago, leaving Pubilus in charge. With Caesar advancing in from the north and Crassus spreading chaos in the south, Pompey attempts to retreat to Greece with his two legions. Crassus surrounds his forces at Brundisium and Pompey flees with a few of his political allies and officers. Left leaderless the legions promptly surrender to Crassus and swear allegiance to him, considering that a Roman general was a Roman general to Greece. Ceaser marched on Rome with his one legion, forcing the remaining senators to declare him Dictator for the duration of the civil war. Crassus arrived several days later and was declared "Consulo Prime" in a hasty Senate election.

Summer, 49 BC: As Crassus cements his position and begins crushing the remaining Pompeian supporters in Rome, Cassius is sent to Hispania commanding six legions, he defeats the Pompeian forces at the Battle of Ilerda and installs himself as Governor of the province. Meanwhile Caesar assembles a force of 15,000 men and sails across the Adriatic after Pompey. He is defeated at the Battle of Dyrrhachium but is victorious at the Battle of Pharscalus, this defeat causes Pompey to flee once again, this time to Egypt.

Autumn, 49 BC: Upon his arrival in Egypt, Caesar discovers that Pompey has been assassinated on orders of the Pharaoh, Ptolemy XIIII. Caesar is bereft with grief (he had intended to spare his former friend).

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