Far more than a simple grammarian
, Sextus Pompeius was the son
of Pompey the Great
, or Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus
, and the last refuge
against the autocratic
forces of Octavian
In 48 B.C. Pompey was assassinated when he fled to Egypt, and the Pompeiian forces fell into the leadership of Scipio and Juba in Africa, but the rest fled to join Sextus in the Meditterranean. In that same year Caesar crushed Scipio and Juba, and the surviving republicans also fled to join Sextus. Sextus was now the last stronghold against autocracy. Luckily for him, Caesar was too busy in Italy to bother with Sextus, thus allowing him to muster a large navy, but as Sextus began to blockade Rome, seize Meditterannean islands and make unacceptable demands for official governance of this islands, he was taken notice of.
Caesar had died in 44, and now Octavian, Antonius and Lepidus controlled Rome with the autocratic powers of the Second Triumvirate. Sextus was both a nuisance and a republican, and thus the triumvirs needed to take action. In 39 they signed the Treaty of Misenium with Sextus, granting him five year governance of Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and Archaea, and thereafter granting him the consulship. The treaty was spurios, however, and when Sextus' governor of Corsica betrayed him the following year, offering the province and three legions to Octavian, Octavian occupied it, hence breaking the treaty.
Sextus was enraged, and he took to the sea with his overwhelming navy, decimating Octavian's navy and declaring himself divine, the "son of Neptune", due to his naval prowess. He was unable to regain Corsica, but he had driven back any naval threat, and shamed Octavian. Octavian returned in 37 with a rebuilt navy, this time with Marcus Agrippa replacing his incompetent Admiral of past. He split his forces into two, half coming to attack Sicily from north east, half from north west, and Lepidus approaching from Africa in the south. Sextus saw imminent defat, but by almost divine intervention a raging storm held back Octavian's forces. Only Lepidus arrived, and his legions could not get past Sextus' legions without the aid of Octavian's forces.
A month later Octavian returned once more, both his forces reaching the island without any event. As he was landing his troops, however, Sextus surpised him with a naval attack, and many ships were lost, including some troops before they had the chance to land. Agrippa had landed safely, however, and he brought his legions and navy to meet Octavian's. Sextus realised that the island was lost and retreated to Sardinia. The Pompeians and Republicans were not so willing to relinquish control of the island, however, and Octavian was tied down subjugating the island until 36.
The stage for the final battle was now set, and Octavian sailed out to meet Sextus' navy in the straits between the Italian peninsular and Corsica. The battle was long and brutal, and Sextus fought valiantly, but could not stand up to Agrippa. Agrippa also invented the Harpax, a grapnel shot from a catapult, therefore only 16 of Sextus' ships escaped. Sextus was not finished yet, but he had lost all of his provinces, and most of the Pompeians and Republicans were either dead or defected. Over the next year Octavian cleaned up his remnants, eliminating him in 35 B.C.