Lucca Conference

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Lucca Conference on Wikipedia

First Triumvirate
Gaius Julius Caesar
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
Roman GovernmentPolitical institutions
Social classesPatrician, Senatorial class, Equestrian class, Plebeian, Freedman
The first triumvirate catalyzed the end of the Roman Republic.

At the Luca Conference, in 56 BC, (named for the town of Luca — modern Lucca — in Cisalpine Gaul) Caesar met with his political partners, Pompey and Crassus. Rome was in turmoil. Clodius's populist campaigns had been undermining relations between Crassus and Pompey, and neither Crassus nor Pompey were comfortable with the glory Caesar was winning in his Gallic campaign. By 56 BC, the bonds between the three men were fraying.[1]

Caesar first invited Crassus, then Pompey, to a meeting in the northern Italian town of Luca, the southernmost city in Caesar's province of Cisalpine Gaul, to rethink their joint political strategy. The meeting renewed their political alliance known as the First Triumvirate. They agreed that Pompey and Crassus would again stand for the consulship in 55 BC. Once elected, they would extend Caesar's command in Gaul by five years. At the end of their joint consular year, Crassus would get the influential and lucrative governorship of Syria, to use as a base for a grand campaign to conquer Parthia. Pompey would keep Hispania in absentia.[2] [3]

Plutarch described the meeting:

Plutarch, Caesar 21

Caesar himself, after settling matters in Gaul, again spent the winter in the regions along the Po, carrying out his plans at Rome. For not only did the candidates for office there enjoy his assistance, and win their elections by corrupting the people with money from him, and do everything which was likely to enhance his power, but also most of the men of highest rank and greatest influence came to see him at Luca, including Pompey, Crassus, Appius the governor of Sardinia, and Nepos the proconsul of Spain, so that there were a hundred and twenty lictors in the place and more than two hundred senators. They held a council and settled matters on the following basis. Pompey and Crassus were to be elected consuls for the ensuing year, and Caesar was to have money voted him, besides another five years in his provincial command. This seemed very strange to men of understanding. For those who were getting so much money from Caesar urged the senate to give him money as if he had none, nay rather, they forced it to do so, though it groaned over its own decrees. Cato, indeed, was not there, for he had purposely been sent out of the way on a mission to Cyprus, and Favonius, who was an ardent follower of Cato, finding himself unable to accomplish anything by his opposition, bounded out of doors and clamoured to the populace. But no one gave heed to him, for some were in awe of Pompey and Crassus, and most wanted to please Caesar, lived in hopes of his favours, and so kept quiet.[4]

Plutarch, Crassus 14-5

Now Pompey did all this from an unbounded love of power; but to that ancient infirmity of Crassus, his avarice, there was now added a fresh and ardent passion, in view of the glorious exploits of Caesar, for trophies and triumphs. In these alone he thought himself inferior to Caesar, but superior in everything else. And his passion gave him no rest nor peace until it ended in an inglorious death and public calamities. For when Caesar came down to the city of Lucca from Gaul, many Romans came thither to meet him, and among them Pompey and Crassus. These held private conferences with Caesar, and the three determined to carry matters with a higher hand, and to make themselves sole masters of the state. Caesar was to remain in his command, while Pompey and Crassus were to take other provinces and armies. But the only way to secure this end was by soliciting a second consulship. Since Pompey and Crassus were candidates for this, Caesar was to co-operate with them by writing letters to his friends and by sending many of his soldiers home to support them at the elections.

With this understanding, Crassus and Pompey returned to Rome, and were at once objects of suspicion; report was rife through the whole city that their meeting with Caesar had been for no good purpose. In the senate, also, when Marcellinus and Domitius asked Pompey if he was going to be a candidate for the consulship, he replied that perhaps he was, and perhaps he was not; and when asked the question again, he said he should solicit the votes of the good citizens, but not those of the bad. Since his answers were thought to have been made in pride and arrogance, Crassus said, more modestly, when the question was put to him, that if it was for the interest of the city, he would be a candidate for the office, but otherwise he would desist. For this reason divers persons were emboldened to sue for the consulship, one of whom was Domitius. When, however, Pompey and Crassus openly announced their candidature, the rest took fright and withdrew from the contest; but Cato encouraged Domitius, who was a kinsman and friend of his, to proceed, urging and inciting him to cling to his hopes, assured that he would do battle for the common freedom. For it was not the consulate, he said, which Crassus and Pompey wanted, but a tyranny, nor did their course of action mean simply a canvass for office, but rather a seizure of provinces and armies.

With such words and such sentiments Cato all but forced Domitius to go down into the forum as a candidate, and many joined their party. Many, too, voiced their amazement thus: "Why, pray, should these men want a second consulship? And why once more together? Why not have other colleagues? Surely there are many men among us who are not unworthy to be colleagues of Pompey and Crassus!" Alarmed at this, the partizans of Crassus and Pompey abstained from no disorder or violence, however extreme, and capped the climax by waylaying Domitius, as he was coming down into the forum before day-break with his followers, killing his torch-bearer, and wounding many, among whom was Cato. After routing their opponents and shutting them up at home, they had themselves proclaimed consuls, and a short time afterwards they once more surrounded the rostra with armed men, cast Cato out of the forum, slew several who made resistance, and then had another five years added to the proconsulship of Caesar in Gaul, and the provinces of Syria and both Spains voted to themselves. When the lot was cast, Syria fell to Crassus, and the Spains to Pompey.[5]

Plutarch, Pompey 51

Meanwhile, his Gallic wars raised Caesar to greatness; and though he was thought to be very far removed from Rome, and to be occupied with Belgae, Suevi, and Britanni, he secretly and cleverly contrived to thwart Pompey's designs in the heart of the city and in the most important matters. For he himself, with his military force clothing him as the body does soul, was carefully training it, not against the Barbarians merely, nay, he used its combats with these only to give it exercise, as if in hunting and the chase, — and was making it invincible and terrible; but all the while he was sending back to Rome gold and silver and the other spoils and the rest of the wealth which came to him in abundance from his numerous wars, and by tempting people with his bribes, and contributing to the expenses of aediles, praetors, consuls, and their wives, he was winning many to his side. Therefore when he crossed the Alps and spent the winter in Luca, a great crowd of ordinary men and women gathered there in eager haste to see him, while two hundred men of senatorial rank, among whom were Pompey and Crassus, and a hundred and twenty fasces of proconsuls and praetors were seen at Caesar's door. Accordingly, he filled all the rest with hopes and loaded them with money, and sent them away; but between himself, Pompey, and Crassus the following compact was made: these two were to stand for the consulship, and Caesar was to assist their candidacy by sending large numbers of his soldiers home to vote for them; as soon as they were elected, they were to secure for themselves commands of provinces and armies, and to confirm Caesar's present provinces to him for another term of five years.[6]


  1. Boak, "History of Rome", pg. 169.
  2. Cicero, Letters to his brother Quintus 2.3; Suetonius, Julius 24; Plutarch, Caesar 21, Crassus 14–15, Pompey 51
  3. Boatwright, Mary et al. The Romans: From Village to Empire, pg 229.
  4. Plutarch, Caesar 21
  5. Plutarch, Crassus 14–15
  6. Plutarch, Pompey 51