Octavian’s War against Pompey (40–36 B.C.E.)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Octavian vs. Pompey the
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Sicily and Sardinia
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: At issue was control of
Sardinia and Sicily in an effort to secure a reliable supply
of grain for Rome.
OUTCOME: Octavian ultimately prevailed, capturing both
Sardinia and Sicily and ensuring the free passage of grain
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Unknown; Octavian dispatched a fleet of 120 vessels
against Pompey’s smaller fleet.
TREATIES: Treaty of Misenium, 39 B.C.E.
Following the death of Pompey the Great (106–48 B.C.E.)
in the Great ROMAN CIVIL WAR (50–49 B.C.E.), his son
Pompey the Younger (Sextus Pompeius Magnus) (75–35
B.C.E.) fled to Egypt and then to Spain, where he continued
to oppose the forces of Julius Caesar (100–44 B.C.E.)
and his successors. Pompey the Younger captured Sicily
and, operating from there, blockaded shipments of grain
to Rome. From there, too, he launched an attack on Sardinia,
which he seized from Octavian (63 B.C.E.–14 C.E.)
in 40 B.C.E. This prompted Octavian and Mark Antony (c.
83–30 B.C.E.) to conclude the Treaty of Misenium with
Pompey the Younger, by which Pompey was made governor
of Sicily and Sardinia and was compensated for property
seized from Pompey the Great. In return, Pompey the
Younger agreed to transport grain to Rome.
The treaty did not long endure. In 38, Octavian
regained Sardinia, but when he attempted to capture Sicily
as well, his fleet fell victim to a combination of Pompey’s
sailors and a severe storm.
In 36, Octavian launched a new naval attack against
Pompey’s Sicily, sending against him 120 ships under Marcus
Vipsanius Agrippa (63–12 B.C.E.). At the naval Battle
of Naulochus, Pompey’s fleet was defeated. Pompey himself
escaped to Asia Minor, but was captured in 35 by
Mark Antony and was subsequently killed. Rome never
again suffered a threat to its supply of grain.
See also OCTAVIAN’S WAR AGAINST ANTONY; ROMAN
CIVIL WAR (43–31 B.C.E.).