Lucius Afranius, d.46 BC

Lucius Afranius (d.46 BC) was a supporter of Pompey the Great who was defeated by Caesar in the first major battle of the Great Roman Civil War at Ilerda (49 BC), and who survived to be present at the battles of Dyrrhacium, Pharsalia and Thapsus, being killed soon after the last battle.

Afranius was probably a 'new man', someone who rose to prominence despite not coming from an established aristocratic family. He owed his rise to Pompey the Great, serving as one of his legates during the war against Serturius in Spain (from 77 BC), commanding the left wing of Pompey's army during a clash with Sertorius on the Sucro River, defeating the forces directly facing him, while Pompey was suffering defeat on the other wing.

Afranius continued to serve as one of Pompey's legates during the Third Mithridatic War (75-76 BC). By the time Pompey reached the scene of battle the war had already effectively been won by Lucullus, but Pompey gained much of the prestige. Afranius was left in charge of Armenia while Pompey invaded Pontus, defeating an raiding force led by the Parthian king, who was attempting to take advantage of the weakness of Armenia. Afranius served under Pompey yet against during his command in the East in 65-61 BC, defeating the Arabians around Amanus.

This military success was followed by a political triumph, when Pompey's bribes convinced the Roman electorate to elect Afranius as one the Consuls for 60 BC. He was not a particularly impressive Consul, but his year did earn him a province, and in 59 BC he served as governor of Cisalpine Gaul. During this year he may have won a victory over the Gauls, for Cicero records him as having been awarded a Triumph.

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

In 55 BC Pompey was awarded the province of the two Spains after his second consulship, but he had no intention of leaving Rome. Instead Afranius and M. Patreius were sent to Spain to rule in his place. The two men were still in power in Spain at the start of the Great Roman Civil War in 49 BC. Afranius was unable to prevent Caesar's men from crossing the Pyrenees. In the campaign of Ilerda he and Patreius were unable to take advantage of their superior numbers, their local support or even some natural assistance, and at the start of July 49 BC they were forced to surrender. Caesar ordered them to disband their armies, and then let them go.

Afranius made his way across the Mediterranean and joined Pompey at Dyrrhacium, on the Adriatic. In the aftermath of Pompey's victory at Dyrrhacium Afranius argued that the army should cross back to Italy, recapture Rome and leaving Caesar as the general isolated in the provinces. This advance was ignored, and instead Pompey chose to pursue Caesar east into Thessaly, where he suffered defeat at Pharsalus (9 August 48 BC). Afranus commanded the Pompeian camp during the battle, and in the aftermath of the defeat was able to escape to Africa, where he joined the main remaining Pompeian army under Cato and Scipio.

Afranius was present at the battle of Thapsus (46 BC), the final defeat of the Pompeian cause in North Africa. In the aftermath of the battle Afranius attempted to escape to Mauritania (along with Faustus Sulla). Their party was captured by P. Sittius, a Roman mercenary general who had made his fortune in North Africa before throwing his support behind Caesar. Afranius was killed a few days after being captured, possibly without Caesar's knowledge. 

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 December 2010), Lucius Afranius, d.46 BC ,

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