Marcus Licinius Crassus (/ˈkræsəs/; 115 – 53 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He is often called “the richest man in Rome”.
Crassus began his public career as a military commander under Lucius Cornelius Sulla during his civil war. Following Sulla’s assumption of the dictatorship, Crassus amassed an enormous fortune through real estate speculation. Crassus rose to political prominence following his victory over the slave revolt led by Spartacus, sharing the consulship with his rival Pompey the Great.
A political and financial patron of Julius Caesar, Crassus joined Caesar and Pompey in the unofficial political alliance known as the First Triumvirate. Together, the three men dominated the Roman political system, but the alliance did not last long, due to the ambitions, egos, and jealousies of the three men. While Caesar and Crassus were lifelong allies, Crassus and Pompey disliked each other and Pompey grew increasingly envious of Caesar’s spectacular successes in the Gallic Wars. The alliance was restabilized at the Luca Conference in 56 BC, after which Crassus and Pompey again served jointly as consuls. Following his second consulship, Crassus was appointed as the governor of Roman Syria. Crassus used Syria as the launchpad for a military campaign against the Parthian Empire, Rome’s long-time eastern enemy. Crassus’ campaign was a disastrous failure, ending in his defeat and death at the Battle of Carrhae.
Crassus’ death permanently unraveled the alliance between Caesar and Pompey, since his political influence and wealth had been a counterbalance to the two greater militarists. Within four years of Crassus’ death, Caesar crossed the Rubicon and began a civil war against Pompey and the optimates.