Formal Debate Challenge - Pompey v Caesar

Jul 2017
2,247
Australia
#1
I've recently been doing a lot of research on Pompey, and it seems to be that he's grossly underestimated, even in most of modern scholarship. In order to solidify my knowledge on Pompey, to provide a challenge and some insightful information for everyone, I've decided to start up a debate/discussion for Pompey against Caesar as generals.

I have not yet decided whether this debate/discussion will be a formal or informal discussion. If formal, I would assume it is okay for myself to debate against one, two or even three people. I will be taking up the position of Pompey to challenge myself. At the very minimum, I feel like a solid case can be made that Pompey is grossly underestimated and shunned, especially for his last campaign against Caesar. I also feel like I can present a very solid challenge to anyone who wishes to participate on behalf of Caesar.

After interest and participation is gauged a bit, I will either post my opening points/remarks on this thread or, more likely, if it's a more formal debate, I will create a new thread. I'd really like to see people come in with an open mind and at least give Pompey a chance when it comes to measuring his generalship, which is typically overlooked by many.
 
Jul 2017
2,247
Australia
#3
Can we know what books or sources you have read recently about him, so we can have an idea about the starting point?
I've been reading mostly direct from the sources, i.e. Plutarch, Appian and Livy. I'll add a selected bibliography of books that I've read recently that talk about Pompey:

-Hillman, Thomas P. "Cinna, Strabo's Army, and Strabo's Death in 87 B.C." L'Antiquité Classique 65 (1996).

-Robin Seager, Pompey the Great

-Cambridge Ancient History Vol IX

-Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar's Civil War 49-44 BC

-Si Sheppard, Pharsalus 48 BC: Caesar and Pompey - Clash of the Titans

-Brunt, Italian Manpower

-Philip Spann, Quintus Sertorius and the Legacy of Sulla

-Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain

-Hans Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity

That's a very concise collection of books I've read recently on the period. There's probably half a dozen more that I can't bring to my head, though I can assure you that none of the ideas I have for this discussion stem solely or even fundamentally from one book here. It's more a synthesis of my own thoughts and knowledge on the matter. Also, once one or more people display interest I'll be posting my main points, I won't be leaving people to begin the conversation, since the burden of proof naturally falls on me.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,875
Portugal
#4
I've been reading mostly direct from the sources, i.e. Plutarch, Appian and Livy. I'll add a selected bibliography of books that I've read recently that talk about Pompey:

-Hillman, Thomas P. "Cinna, Strabo's Army, and Strabo's Death in 87 B.C." L'Antiquité Classique 65 (1996).

-Robin Seager, Pompey the Great

-Cambridge Ancient History Vol IX

-Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar's Civil War 49-44 BC

-Si Sheppard, Pharsalus 48 BC: Caesar and Pompey - Clash of the Titans

-Brunt, Italian Manpower

-Philip Spann, Quintus Sertorius and the Legacy of Sulla

-Philip Matyszak, Sertorius and the Struggle for Spain

-Hans Delbruck, Warfare in Antiquity

That's a very concise collection of books I've read recently on the period. There's probably half a dozen more that I can't bring to my head, though I can assure you that none of the ideas I have for this discussion stem solely or even fundamentally from one book here. It's more a synthesis of my own thoughts and knowledge on the matter. Also, once one or more people display interest I'll be posting my main points, I won't be leaving people to begin the conversation, since the burden of proof naturally falls on me.
Ok, interesting set of books, thanks.
 
May 2018
589
Michigan
#5
I've recently been doing a lot of research on Pompey, and it seems to be that he's grossly underestimated, even in most of modern scholarship. In order to solidify my knowledge on Pompey, to provide a challenge and some insightful information for everyone, I've decided to start up a debate/discussion for Pompey against Caesar as generals.

I have not yet decided whether this debate/discussion will be a formal or informal discussion. If formal, I would assume it is okay for myself to debate against one, two or even three people. I will be taking up the position of Pompey to challenge myself. At the very minimum, I feel like a solid case can be made that Pompey is grossly underestimated and shunned, especially for his last campaign against Caesar. I also feel like I can present a very solid challenge to anyone who wishes to participate on behalf of Caesar.

After interest and participation is gauged a bit, I will either post my opening points/remarks on this thread or, more likely, if it's a more formal debate, I will create a new thread. I'd really like to see people come in with an open mind and at least give Pompey a chance when it comes to measuring his generalship, which is typically overlooked by many.
Unfortunately, I agree with you. The only general he was decisively defeated by was Julius Caesar. He had great difficulty in Spain, but nearly beat Caesar at Dyrrachium. All too often, histories of Rome give a brief blurb about "The campaign and victory against the Illyrian Pirates" and quickly goes back to talking about Julius Caesar or Crassus. Or Cicero. Or even Spartacus.

The general feeling in Rome was that a war against the Ilyrian Pirates would be a Roman Vietnam or Russo-Afghan War: a quagmire requiring years of effort and immense resources. IIRC, Pompey resolved the war in less than a year. Imagine if in 2003 Iraq suddenly did become a functional western democracy...

This is in addition to raising his own army during the Sulla/Marian Civil War at about the age of 23. This was matched by Caesar against Mithridates, and puts Pompey in the company of people like Octavian, Oliver Cromwell and Nathan Bedford Forest (all young commanders who raised large forces).

If Pompey's generalship could be described as "effective, but not particularly imaginative", "Aloof, but commanding respect", "strategist and organizer who who often chose simple-but-effective tactical solutions", "defensive, but capable of acting swiftly", "not aggressive, but gradually pushed his enemies into desperate situations", "employed non-spectacular strategies of defeating junior officers" he is in good company with another mis-understood general: the Duke of Wellington.

Unlike Antony, there wasn't a propaganda campaign against Pompey. We can't blame ancient Romans for selling him short on historical credit. It's basically our fault for being charmed by Caesar, who was far superior at Public Relations. If Pompey had written his own account of the Illyrian Pirate Wars with a mastery of the Latin prose that Caesar possessed, we might look upon him differently.


IMO, I would not frame the debate as "Pompey vs Caesar." Not only has "Pompey vs Caesar" already been wargamed, but such debates need to have quantifiable areas of military leadership that need to be defined and argued: why was Pompey superior to Caesar at tactics, diplomacy, intelligence, strategy, politics and logistics? I would volunteer to moderate such a debate, as neither debater should be able to set the goalposts of the contest.
 
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Jul 2017
2,247
Australia
#6
Unfortunately, I agree with you. The only general he was decisively defeated by was Julius Caesar. He had great difficulty in Spain, but nearly beat Caesar at Dyrrachium. All too often, histories of Rome give a brief blurb about "The campaign and victory against the Illyrian Pirates" and quickly goes back to talking about Julius Caesar or Crassus. Or Cicero. Or even Spartacus.
Correction: he won in Spain, and conducted an excellent land and sea assault on Caesar's lines at Dyrrachium. Caesar himself notes in his commentaries that him sieging Pompey was a desperate attempt, and he lucked out when Pompey (probably for good reasons at the time) didn't pursue Caesar's routing army straight away.

Pompey's eastern campaign was also pretty impressive. He diplomatically outmaneuvered Mithridates straight away, then chased him out of Pontus after killing half of his troops.

The general feeling in Rome was that a war against the Ilyrian Pirates would be a Roman Vietnam or Russo-Afghan War: a quagmire requiring years of effort and immense resources. IIRC, Pompey resolved the war in less than a year. Imagine if in 2003 Iraq suddenly did become a functional western democracy...
Pompey actually did it in three months.

This is in addition to raising his own army during the Sulla/Marian Civil War at about the age of 23. This was matched by Caesar against Mithridates, and puts Pompey in the company of people like Octavian, Oliver Cromwell and Nathan Bedford Forest (all young commanders who raised large forces).
Caesar hardly had such experience in his younger years, which is one of the reasons why Pompey goes uncredited. In his early twenties Pompey was defeating other Roman armies and generals with great success.

If Pompey's generalship could be described as "effective, but not particularly imaginative", "Aloof, but commanding respect", "strategist and organizer who who often chose simple-but-effective tactical solutions", "defensive, but capable of acting swiftly", "not aggressive, but gradually pushed his enemies into desperate situations", "employed non-spectacular strategies of defeating junior officers" he is in good company with another mis-understood general: the Duke of Wellington.
The problem is we don't know a lot of details about most of his campaigns, in contrast with Caesar of whom we have his own word.

IMO, I would not frame the debate as "Pompey vs Caesar." Not only has "Pompey vs Caesar" already been wargamed, but such debates need to have quantifiable areas of military leadership that need to be defined and argued: why was Pompey superior to Caesar at tactics, diplomacy, intelligence, strategy, politics and logistics? I would volunteer to moderate such a debate, as neither debater should be able to set the goalposts of the contest.
If you want to moderate, so be it. If you like, you can choose the rough areas or criteria, such as tactics, strategy, operations etc.
 
May 2018
589
Michigan
#7
Correction: he won in Spain, and conducted an excellent land and sea assault on Caesar's lines at Dyrrachium. Caesar himself notes in his commentaries that him sieging Pompey was a desperate attempt, and he lucked out when Pompey (probably for good reasons at the time) didn't pursue Caesar's routing army straight away.
IIRC, he faced Sertorious, who, like Suvorov, is on the "Who's That? Of Great Generals."

I recall Caesar saying (once again, Caesarian bias...) that his opponent could have won if there had been a general with the will to win.

IMO, this is selling Pompey a little short: his suspicion that Caesar was setting a trap was not an irrational fear.
 
Jul 2017
2,247
Australia
#8
IIRC, he faced Sertorious, who, like Suvorov, is on the "Who's That? Of Great Generals."
The thing about Sertorius, is that the people who actually do know about him overestimate his generalship to stellar levels. In fact, it seems like it was Sertorius who had the superiority in Spain, not the other way around. Pompey and Pius had to deal with a war-torn land lacking in supplies as well as pirates blocking their coastal cities, limited demoralised legions to work with and an enemy who had soldiers trained to make constant raids and ambushes in tough terrain. That Pompey and Pius were able to initially survive and then make headway against Sertorius is as much a testament to their skill as it is for Sertorius.

I recall Caesar saying (once again, Caesarian bias...) that his opponent could have won if there had been a general with the will to win.

IMO, this is selling Pompey a little short: his suspicion that Caesar was setting a trap was not an irrational fear.
Indeed, it's easy to look at things in hindsight and criticise. I feel that Pompey was probably a bit too matured from his experience in the Sertorian War for flamboyant tactics and operations. In this sense, he probably saw Caesar as a sort of parallel of Sertorius, and wasn't interested in falling into a trap and getting embarrassed like what happened at Lauron.
 
May 2018
589
Michigan
#9
The thing about Sertorius, is that the people who actually do know about him overestimate his generalship to stellar levels. In fact, it seems like it was Sertorius who had the superiority in Spain, not the other way around. Pompey and Pius had to deal with a war-torn land lacking in supplies as well as pirates blocking their coastal cities, limited demoralised legions to work with and an enemy who had soldiers trained to make constant raids and ambushes in tough terrain. That Pompey and Pius were able to initially survive and then make headway against Sertorius is as much a testament to their skill as it is for Sertorius.



Indeed, it's easy to look at things in hindsight and criticise. I feel that Pompey was probably a bit too matured from his experience in the Sertorian War for flamboyant tactics and operations. In this sense, he probably saw Caesar as a sort of parallel of Sertorius, and wasn't interested in falling into a trap and getting embarrassed like what happened at Lauron.
Pompey's situation in Spain reminds me of Scipio's: in hostile country, with a demoralized army that had suffered recent ignimonious defeat. Scipio had an advantage in control of the sea, and a disadvantage in terrain: Spain is not the best ground for inftantry that performs best on a flat plain. Pompey's had the advantage of fighting other Romans, who had the same disadvantage. And if Sertorious trained his legions in local tactics, he was at further disadvantage.

I haven't read much on Pompey's Spanish Campaign.l, but I've studied Scipio's and Wellington's extensively. IIRC, they called Sertorious "the new Hannibal.". I'm guessing Sertorious had an advantage in local levies. Neither Scipio or Wellington could be successful without local support. If Pompey was able to overcome a guy called "the new Hannibal', that would be a "Scipio-an" level of diplomacy, and IMO, Scipio was Superior to Caesar.

Of course, "the new Hannibal' could mean another thing: the Carthagians notoriously treated rue Iberian tribes poorly, in a way that mirrors French conduct 2,000 years later. Scipio won the Iberians by not being an *******.
 
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May 2018
589
Michigan
#10
This is a proposal. If participants have any suggestions, do not hesitate to speak.


Caesar and Pompey: The Great Debate

HONORED CONSCRIPT FATHERS!

Long-time Historum member Duke Valentino, through scholarship, analysis and likely no small amount of Red Bull, has taken up the cause of rehabilitating the historical reputation of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, better known as Pompey the Great. He has his work cut out for him, just as did author David McCullough, whose 1992 biography of Harry S Truman did much to rehabilitate the reputation of the 33rd President of the United States.

User Duke Valentino believes that, at minimum, Pompey is "grossly underestimated and shunned, particularly for his last campaign against Caesar."

The opposition has yet to formally declare itself. Upon such declaration, pronouncements shall be made editing this post in The Forum.

User FrogofWar has volunteered to moderate the debate, and proposes the following format, structure and rules.

This is a debate about the military skill of two famous generals. A general must master these basic skills: tactics, strategy, politics, diplomacy, intelligence, leadership and logistics.

TACTICS - This is the stuff of legend. Hannibal's masterful double envelopment at Cannae, and Scipio's clever feint at Ilipa are but two examples. Formally, tactics are the use of armed forces in a particular battle.

STRATEGY - The stuff of history lessons. Honored Fabius, by delaying after Lake Trasimaine, employed his famous strategy to blunt Hannibal's momentum. Formally, strategy is the doctrine of the use of available military assets for the purposes of war.

Addendum: While the scope of this debate is limited to the military reputations of Pompey and Caesar, one should consider how their strategies were conducive to long-term peace. The goal in any war, as it is in peace, is a more perfect peace. For some, this more perfect peace is gold, and for others it is mere survival. A wise man once said, "Many are stubborn in the pursuit of the path, few in the pursuit of the goal." (Neitchze)

POLITICS - No Consul, Praetor or General of any age can be aloof of both internal and external political developments. This counts double in the late Republic: the duty to lead the glorious legions of Rome was a civic duty. Woe to the Senator who does not manage his auctoritas, comitas, clementia and dignitas as a true Roman should. As we are comparing two Romans who were contemporary of one another, I believe that these Roman Virtues form at least part of why a general's political acument was superior to another.

INTELLIGENCE (INCLUDES SCOUTING) - Rome paid a heavy price for neglecting intelligence when Hannibal was at the gates. Scipio's spy network in Iberia was a crucial part of his campaign. Formally, intelligence has three elements: the ability to gather information about your opponent that they would wish to conceal, the ability to conceal your own information, and the ability to analyze that information into actionable intelligence.

DIPLOMACY - When Mark Antony prepared for his Parthian campaign, he first launched a diplomatic campaign to both secure allies and isolate Parthia as much as possible. Only a foolish general believes diplomacy to be outside his purview: by diplomatically isolating Macedonia from the rest of Greece, Rome's war against Phillip V was significantly less complicated. A General must be aware of how his actions will be received by his allies and even his enemies: Flamininus did not completely destroy Phillip V or unnecessarily molest his troops or people. Phillip later became a useful ally against Antiochus.

LOGISTICS - If Scipio did in fact march from Tarraco to Carthago Nova, a distance of 300 miles, in ten days, it was a brilliant logistical coup. An army needs food, ammunition, weapons, other military equipment, and fodder for the thousands of pack animals that will carry it all. Not to mention how perishable supplies be replenished. A General who neglects logistics lowers the combat effectiveness of his army, thus doing his opponent's job for him. In this case, logistics also include administration and paperwork when relevant.

LEADERSHIP - Many good Romans would allege that Marcus Claudius Marcellus was a better leader than a strategist or tactician. Regardless, on the third day of Canusium, nearly all of Marcellus's men were wounded after a bad mauling the previous day. Most other generals would have withdrawn, and perhaps a dozen generals in history could motivate such a demoralized force to fight again. Yet The Sword of Rome rallied his men and won a tactical victory that was a strategic defeat. Formally, leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction and motivation.

The debate will consist of 9 rounds (one for each skill a general must master, opening statement and summation) + a "bonus" round where the moderator (FrogsofWar) will ask each side to clarify any previous statements and ask follow-up questions about the generalship of the individual they are defending.

I propose the following:

OPTION 1: FORUM DEBATE

Opening statement: A summary of your case. This should include a statement of intent.

Example: "FitzRoy Sommerset, 1st Baron Raglan, was certainly not one of the great generals of history. But he is unfairly maligned by Anglophobic propaganda and authors such as Lytton Strachey. He was in fact an above-average general whose battle record was 3-1-1 and his strategic proposals were generally correct, but often overruled by Allied officers."

Summation: A summary of the arguments your presented, and how you countered your opponents arguments.

Example: "Over the course of this debate, I have shown that Lord Raglan acted correctly in the lead-up to Alma and the failure to follow up the victory was due to the fact that the French under St. Arnaud (who was in even worse health than Raglan) left their packs on the near side of the river. Balaclava is an arguable British victory, and many who do not look as favorably as I upon Raglan allege that Balaclava was won by the Allies. My opponent alleges that the famous 'Charge of the Light Brigade' was an inexcusable error on Raglan's part. Indeed, as overall commander, he bears ultimate responsibility for whatever his army does, or fails to do. However, if The Charge was a failure, it was a team effort: from Raglan's unclear order, to Lucan's Grouchy-like dereliction of duty, to Nolan's thirst for glory to Cardigan's general incompetence. Like Balaclava itself, there is a strong argument that The Charge, however unintentional, was not a complete tactical waste. My opponent also brings up the inexcusable supply situation during the Siege of Sebastapol. I do not disagree: I only allege that Raglan was above-average, and certainly no Moltke or Campbell. As a general who was the protege of a man who was meticulous with supply, Raglan's only meager excuse might be 'those good gentlemen in Whitehall' to whom Wellington penned a famously cheeky letter."


A round consists of: Statement - Rebuttal - Closing - (last words) and will last for three (3) days. Failure to post without notifying me ahead of time will be construed as a desire to stay silent.

Both sides will post their initial statement, have the opportunity to rebut their opponent's statement, and close their argument.

Each side gets two (2) "last words" that can be used in any round they wish. If you just have to rebut your opponent's closing (example: they said something blatantly untrue), use your "last words."

OPTION 2: TWITCH/DISCORD VIDEO DEBATE

We would follow the same rules as the U.S. Presidential debate. I think this would be fun, and I moderated a few skype debates on a government sim I was part of many, many years ago. Time zone is a factor: the sim was mostly American, and Historum's membership is globally diverse.

An audio or video debate adds the element of personal charisma to the table. Like the Kennedy/Nixon debate of 1960, it could affect the outcome.


RULES OF DECORUM

1. While the debate should have a scholarly tone, I encourage Roman flair! How much more interesting did Cicero make lifeless bureaucracy with classics such as “Politicians are not born; they are excreted.”

2. Any discussion with scholastic ideals should be based upon truth. While I don't believe participants would outright attempt to lie, we can assume each side will present information in the most favorable way possible to their own ends. Taking quotes out of context or examining events in a microcosm will likely occur. In this case, it is the opposition's responsibility to challenge. Powerful rhetoric that might be used by individuals such as Cicero, Saul Alinsky, Otto von Bismarck or Henry Kissinger is fair game.

3. Generally, don't let things get personal. Sometimes you kill the Gaul, sometimes the Gaul kills you.

4. CITE YOUR SOURCES. This does not have to be formal, but at least say, "Caesar writes in his Commentaries in Book 7..."

5. My overall duties will be to address points of order, address issues of clarity, open/close rounds, and post a poll at the end where members can vote. I will also post a poll before the debate. Unless the mods allow me to make the poll "open ballot", I won't use the polls to declare a winner, or declare a winner at all.
 
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