Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman entrepreneur during the time of the Roman Empire. By today’s standards, he would be comparable with Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Lord Alan Sugar. However, his world of industry and commerce was dreadfully different from the world we know today. Industry and commerce were run by slave power including entertainment which involved slaves taken from conquered tribes of the Roman Empire. Wealth was gained by military might and slave ownership. It was the world where brutal people were hardened with complete conviction of vanity – a belief of their own self-righteous ways and existence to be better than hordes of others. This is not a condemnation. It was a fact of the type of world that early civilisations and empires were. Before and well after the Roman Empire. Marcus Licinius Crassus was no exception to this rule and excelled within the Roman doctrines of this world.
He was born into this world from a wealthy family in 115 BC during the time of the Roman Republic. He would see many things and be part of the early shift and change from the Roman Republic to Roman Empire. Though he would die before the empire took over the republic. He was also instrumental in defeating the slave leader Spartacus during the great slave rebellion. In fact, Crassus is probably most well known as the wealthy general who led his army to the slave revolt, after Spartacus had defeated several armed forces sent against his rebellious slave force.
Crassus’ family fortune was lost during civil strife and political upheaval when lands and other wealth were confiscated from his relatives. Crassus managed to regain his prosperity through trafficking slaves in vast amounts. Among such slaves, he was able to pick out those with a skilled trade. He also got involved in silver mines and types of wreckage acquirement. If buildings were destroyed by fire, he had armies of slave builders who could make good lands or estate that had suffered building catastrophe, like fire or subsidence. He would acquire the lands cheaply and then redevelop at prophet. I suppose one might say a property developer, and insurance auditor all rolled into one.
At his peak of wealth, he was worth an equivalent of over $8 million US or £10 million UK. Not small potatoes by any stretch of the imagination. With all this wealth he acquired his own army and was also granted control of other armies by the senate in times of emergency. The slave revolt of Spartacus being the most notable.
One of Crassus’ great rivals was Pompey – another influential Roman who had won renown in Spain, campaigning for the Roman Empire. He had also been requested by the Roman Senate to confront the slave rebellion of Spartacus. There is believed to have been some competition between the two concerning who would win the credit for defeating Spartacus and his army of slaves. History favoured Crassus in the end.
Crassus would later become a patron of a young up and coming Roman called Julius Caesar – a Roman who echoes throughout history. He would go some way to building a bridge between Crassus and Pompey as young Caesar advanced and matured.
Marcus Licinius Crassus gained Syria as a province of rule and it was here that he was consumed by his daring ambitions. With his armies, he decided upon further opportunities to increase the vast wealth he had already gained. He looked further and decided upon a campaign of conquest against the neighbouring Parthian Empire. It is also believed that he wanted to emulate Pompey and Julius Caesar who were winning recognition for military victories elsewhere in Rome’s grand empire. Perhaps he felt overshadowed. A victory in the Parthian Empire would be more worthy of victories in Gaul or Spain.
|Crassus' invasion of Parthian Empire|
Crassus led his Roman army across the Euphrates and met the Parthian forces who came forth to confront the invaders. The year was 53 BC and Crassus was 62 years old. Behind was a lifetime of acquisition, which had brought fame and fortune. This would become another monumental gain for his fame and fortune, or so he thought.
Now he faced the Pathan's who had mounted archers that were swift and could fire arrows skilfully and accurately. The horseman would ride around the infantry of the Roman legions and loose arrows from a distance then retreat and return - continuously. The casualties began to mount and the Romans began to despair. Usually, Romans had formations that could deal with such attacks. Their famous shield protective manoeuvres were legendary and do not seem to have worked or been deployed. It is not known why? What happened after a time, was the Roman soldiers became mutinous with Crassus demanding that their leader talks with the Parthians and get a truce. It does seem strange because Crassus had lost his son Publius during the battle. Perhaps the situation had become so dire that he realised there was no other way forward but to try and gain some sort of truce.
When Crassus went out with his group, to meet the Parthian envoy, things did not go to plan. The Parthians overpowered the Roman group and killed all, including Crassus. Some reports say that he was held down and had molten gold tipped down his throat. This was because of his greed for wealth. It is also rumoured that Crassus had his head taken before the Parthian king, who was attending the wedding of his son and heir. It was displayed at the marriage ceremony to the delight of all. How true this is, one cannot say, but it was a cruel time and Crassus lived by the sword and died by it.
Back in Rome Caesar would return and cause upheaval and bring about the fall of the Roman Republic into an Empire ruled by Emperors. Pompey would also perish during these new civil wars. The downfall of Marcus Licinius Crassus would become obscured by these events.