L. Calpurnius Bibulus, d.48 BC

L. Calpumius Bibulus (d.48 BC) was a political opponent of Caesar's who was unable to stop his fleets crossing the Adriatic in 49 BC, and who died of a fever while isolated on his fleet. He married Porcia, the daughter of M. Porcius Cato, one of Caesar's most determined political opponents.

Bibulus was a direct political contemporary of Caesar, holding each of the main offices of state in the same year - curule aedile in 65 BC, praetor in 62 BC and consul in 59 BC. Bibulus was invariably overshadowed by his more prominent colleague, and a personal loathing was added to his political disagreement with Caesar.

He was chosen as the aristocratic party's candidate for consul in 59 BC to provide a counterweight to Caesar, who was clearly going to win one of the two posts. He was an ineffective Consul, failing to prevent Caesar's land reforms from passing into law, and being humiliated in the process. For most of the rest of the year Bibulus remained in his house, refusing to work with his fellow consul and casting something of a shadow over all of Caesar's actions. At the end of his year as Consul Bibulus was not rewarded with a province, the normal next step in the career of a Roman aristocrat.

In 52 BC, as Rome plunged into chaos and street battles broke out between rival politician's gangs, it was Bibulus's motion that invited Pompey to be sole Consul for the year, with the job of restoring order.

He was rewarded for his support of Pompey with the province of Syria for 51 BC. His neighbour in Cilicia was Cicero, who was infuriated when Bibulus took some of the credit for C. Cassius's victory of an invading Parthian army.

Battles of the Great Roman Civil War, 49-45 BC
Battles of the
Great Roman Civil War,
49-45 BC

Bibulus returned from the east in 49 BC with his reputation enhanced, just as the Civil War broke out in Rome. Pompey appointed him commander-in-chief of his powerful fleets, with the vital job of preventing Caesar from crossing the Adriatic from Italy into the Balkans.

At the start of 48 BC Bibulus had a fleet of 110 ships and was based at Corcyra, while detachments were posted along the coast. Despite the size of his fleet Bibulus was unable to stop Caesar from slipping across from Brundisium to the west coast of Greece. Bibulus arrived in time to capture thirty of Caesar's ships as they made the return journey, burning the ships with their masters and crews still on board in an attempt to deter other sailors from helping Caesar. He then posted his fleet in every harbour on the coast, and prepared to spend the winter onboard his ship.

Bibulus was able to maintain control of the seas, preventing Mark Anthony from crossing from Italy with reinforcements for Caesar, but Pompey was less successful at keeping control of the coast. Bibulus soon found himself without any shore bases near the main theatre of operations, and had to use Corcyra as a supply base. He attempted to gain time to get supplies by requesting a meeting with Caesar, but then sent his deputies to the proposed conference. Soon after this he went down with a violent fever. He was unwilling to be taken onshore for treatment, and died at sea. Command of the fleet was split between a number of commanders, and eventually Caesar and Antony were able to get reinforcements into Greece.  

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (15 December 2010), L. Calpurnius Bibulus, d.48 BC, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_l_calpurnius_bibulus.html

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