Marcus Licinius Crassus (quaestor)

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Marcus Licinius Crassus (86 or 85 BC–ca. 49 BC[1]) was a quaestor of the Roman Republic in 54 BC. He was the elder son of the Marcus Crassus who formed the political alliance known as the "First Triumvirate" with Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great") and Julius Caesar. His mother was Tertulla, the daughter of Marcus Varro Lucullus.[2] Crassus and his younger son, Publius, died at the Battle of Carrhae in 53, after which time Marcus continued to be a partisan of Caesar.

Marcus served under Caesar in the Gallic Wars, first as quaestor, then as proquaestor in 53. He is attested as a lieutenant (legatus) under Caesar in 49. He was also a pontifex of Roman state religion, probably as early as 60 BC.[3]

Early life[edit]

Scholarly opinion is divided as to whether Marcus or Publius was the elder, but with Roman naming conventions, the eldest son almost always carries on his father's name, including the praenomen, or first name, while younger sons are named for a grandfather or uncle.[4] The achievements of Publius, named after his grandfather (consul in 97 BC) and uncle, eclipse those of his brother to such an extent that some have questioned the traditional birth order.[5] Both Ronald Syme and Elizabeth Rawson, however, have argued vigorously for a family dynamic that casts Marcus as the older but Publius as the more talented younger brother.[6]

Military career[edit]

In January 54 BC, Cicero mentions that Marcus was in Rome, but later that year he began his quaestorship in Gaul.[7] If he took part in the invasion of Britannia, Caesar omitted mentioning him. When arrangements for winter quarters were made at the end of the campaigning season, Marcus is noted as in charge of a legion. He continued with this command the next spring in actions against the Menapii in Belgic Gaul.[8] Marcus Crassus is the only quaestor other than Marcus Antonius (the famous Mark Antony) to be named by Caesar in his account of the Gallic Wars,[7] but Marcus's service record is undistinguished.[9] Between 53 and 49, Marcus is mentioned only in passing, for remaining loyal to Caesar.[10]

In 49 BC, Caesar as dictator appointed Marcus governor of Cisalpine Gaul, the ethnically Celtic north of Italy.[11] He appears to have remained a loyal partisan of Caesar. The Augustan historian Pompeius Trogus, of the Celtic Vocontii, said that the Parthians feared especially harsh retribution in any war won against them by Caesar, because the surviving son of Crassus would be among the Roman forces, seeking revenge for the deaths of his father and brother.[12]


Inscription from the tomb of Caecilia Metella, identifying her as the wife of Marcus Crassus (Crassi)

Marcus married a Caecilia Metella, the daughter of Metellus Creticus (consul 69 BC). Her tomb commemorates their marriage. Their son, the Marcus Licinius Crassus who was consul in 30 BC, seems in his ambition and ability to have resembled his uncle Publius more than his father.[7]


  1. ^ Ronald Syme, “The Sons of Crassus,” Latomus 39 (1980) 403-408, reprinted in Roman Papers, vol. 3, edited by Anthony R. Birley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984)
  2. ^ Smith, William (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 2. , p.831
  3. ^ T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1952), vol. 2, pp. 186–187, 579. The list of pontifices for 60 is based on Macrobius, Saturnalia 3.13.11, and Cicero, De Haruspicum Responsis 12 and De Domo Sua 118. The M. Licinius Crassus so listed could also be the father.
  4. ^ Lawrence Keppie, Understanding Roman Inscriptions (Routledge, 1991), p. 19.
  5. ^ G.V. Sumner, The Orators in Cicero’s “Brutus” (University of Toronto Press, 1973) and Allen Ward, Marcus Crassus and the Late Roman Republic (University of Missouri Press, 1977).
  6. ^ Syme, “The Sons of Crassus"; Elizabeth Rawson, “Crassorum funera,” Latomus 41 (1982) 540–549. Broughton accepts the argument for Marcus as elder in The Magistrates of the Roman Republic (American Philological Association, 1986), vol. 3, p. 119.
  7. ^ a b c Syme, “The Sons of Crassus".
  8. ^ Caesar, Bellum Gallicum v 24, 3; 46, 1; vi 6, 1, as cited by Syme, "The Sons of Crassus".
  9. ^ Caesar, Bellum Gallicum 5.24.3 and 46, 1; 6.6.1; Ronald Syme, The Augustan Aristocracy (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 272, and “The Sons of Crassus” (reprint version), p. 1222ff.
  10. ^ Syme, "The Sons of Crassus", citing Appian, BC ii, 41, 165.
  11. ^ Appian, Bellum Civile, 2.41.165.
  12. ^ Pompeius Trogus, in the epitome of Justin, 42.4.6.