The Battle of Pharsalus was a decisive battle of Caesar's Civil War. On August 9, 48 BC, the battle was fought at Pharsalus in central Greece between forces of the Populares faction and forces of the Optimates faction. Both factions fielded armies from the Roman Republic. The Populares were led by Gaius Julius Caesar (Caesar) and the Optimates were led by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey). In addition to Pompey, the Optimates faction included most of the Roman Senate. The victory of Caesar weakened the Senatorial forces and solidified his control over the Republic.
Pompey did not immediately follow up on his success. An indecisive winter (49–48 BC) of blockade and siege followed. Pompey eventually pushed Caesar into Thessaly and urged on by his senatorial allies, he confronted Caesar near Pharsalus. Caesar began the battle with a smaller, but veteran, force. Pompey's troops were more numerous, but far less experienced. Moreover, Pompey's senatorial allies disagreed with Pompey over whether to fight at Pharsalus, and pushed Pompey, who wanted to starve Caesar's soldiers, into a quick decision.
Caesar had the following legions with him:
However, all of these legions were 'short', and did not have the requisite numbers of troops. Some only had about a thousand men at the time of Pharsalus, due partly to losses at Dyrrhachium and partly to Caesar's wish to rapidly advance with a picked body as opposed to a ponderous movement with a large army.
When the two generals had finished deploying their troops, the infantry began to close. Pompey ordered his soldiers not to charge (against the standards of the day) having a plan of tiring the enemy out. This tactic backfired as Caesar's veteran centurions, foreseeing Pompey's trap, stopped halfway on their charge, and allowed their lines to rest.
By the river, the light infantry skirmished, before the heavy infantry closed. Titus Labienus led a cavalry charge, and succeeded in pushing back Caesar's cavalry and light infantry. However, when confronted by Caesar's fourth line of heavy infantry, made from one cohort of the last line of every legion, Labienus' charge was pushed back (Caesar had told his legionaries to thrust their pila (plural of pilum) into the enemy cavalrymen's faces instead of throwing them), and the light infantry and cavalry of Pompey's right were pushed into the foothills of Mount Dogandzis. Caesar's fourth battle line wheeled into Pompey's rear at the same moment when Caesar pushed a fresh line of troops into battle. Now facing Caesar's fresh third line at the center of the battle and the attack from behind from Caesar's fourth line, Pompey saw that his defeat was at hand. Pompey fled the battle while his troops were defeated under pressure. Caesar ransacked Pompey's camp, and took control of the remainder of Pompey's army.
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