The Battle of Pharsalus (48 BC)

By Hannah Killingsworth and Stone Shulsky


Julius Caesar’s civil war versus Pompey the Great was still going on at this time. Pompey, having the support of the Senate, made battle with Caesar many times during this war.

This battle took place after Caesar received aid from Mark Antony’s army, but suffered a defeat to Pompey’s army at Dyrrhachium. However, Pompey did not act upon his triumph, and Caesar was able to regroup.

Caesar's Army and Tactics

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Caesar’s army and base were positioned in the Enipeus Valley, while Pompey’s were resting on the slopes of Mount Dogantzes above. Pompey’s primary intentions were to starve out Caesar’s army into submission, but the Senate urged him to fight. Eventually Pompey did, and the two armies clashed.

Caesar’s army was roughly around 22,000 men, compared to Pompey’s approximate 45,000. However, Caesar’s army was made up of veterans, hardened by years of battle, while Pompey’s were mostly new recruits.

When the two armies began to fight, Pompey put his main force into the left wing, with the intention of defeating Caesar’s smaller right wing, which was a band of mixed cavalry and infantry. However, Caesar saw this coming, and put his best legions in the right wing. They were able to hold off Pompey’s left wing while others in Caesar’s army flanked the now trapped left wing.

Caesar eventually won the battle, making Pompey flee the scene, leaving his army to perish alone.

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Map of Pharsalus, and Mount Dogantzes in the Enipeus Valley. The battle took place August 8th, 48 BCE.


After Caesar won the battle, his army decimated the remainders of Pompey’s army. They took as many as 23,000 prisoner, and killed approximately 4,000-9,000 men. His army suffered less than 250 casualties.

Pompey had retreated to Egypt, but he eventually died there, effectively ending the Roman Republic and leaving Caesar as the sole dictator of Rome. While he had the support of the people and the army, Caesar was plotted against by the Senate. They silently planned and schemed, waiting for the day that Julius Caesar was to die.


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