“ He is the man with the Golden Toga and Silver Sandals. Money is no object if money itself is required. Marcus Licinius Crassus , a Roman Wealth Creator and proto-capitalist , you deserve your own golden statue ”
Money made the Roman World go round in the same way as it does today. Marcus Licinius Crassus knew that fact back in 60 BC. That it is why it is he and not Adam Smith or Granny Smith who should be (dis)honoured as the true founder of Capitalism. Without Crassus's money, Julius Caesar would have wasted a career plucking his lyre and sexually servicing a succession of priapic Greek kings in Asia Minor.
Money! Money!! Money!!! : Who Were the Crassi?
The Crassus family liked to trace their fortune to the activities of Publius 'Lucre' Crassus 'the dirty diver', an uppity plebian who had managed to wrangle a good deal on the re-sale of Corinth's population when the city was sacked in 147 BC. Publius then went on to forge a business deal with the giant gold , silver and slave Importer-Exporters 'Croesus-Midas Investments' in Asia Minor. So successful was he that he later became a partner and added his own family name to the company.
Lucre Crassus set up business in Rome where his ruthless business skills and out and out thuggery gained him many admirers. Despite their huge wealth - the family preferred to live in a 'modest' house in down town Rome . Many Romans were convinced the Crassi were hiding their money in vaults underneath the property and dug a lot of tunnels looking for it. These later became known as the catacombs.
His son Publius Crassus Junior increased the family wealth by buying up a lot of real estate in Rome and in the colonies in Marseilles and Spain. He even got the job of governor there which helped to fill up the family coffers. However Publius was less modest than his father and liked to boast of his wealth to other Romans . He would also complain about the 'poor quality of his slaves' and wondered how other people could live without hot or cold running water. These insensitive remarks became known as 'Crassisms' - hence leading to the adjective 'crassic' or 'crass' for such comments. Publius preferred to call it 'Capitolism' (the original spelling) in honour of the Capitoline Hill where Croesus-Midas-Crassus Investments built their Temple-and-Entrails Examination Office complex.
He also became a close friend of Sulla and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Optiates or Republican Party in the Senate. Crassus is said to have given all those who supported the party tiny fake gold elephant amulets to proudly display their partisanship.
A Prodigious Firestarter
Marcus Licinius Crassus was born in 115BC. He was the youngest son of 'Young Filthy Lucre' as his father was called by the family's political opponents - the 'Jackass Democrats' . His elder brothers Publius 'Small Change' and Lucius 'the rent enforcer' were expected to inherit the running of Croesus-Midas-Crassus Investments (CMCI for short) - so Marcus had to look for his own fortune first.
His first idea was to make free sex illegal - considering procreation should be taxed a source and to prevent Rome being overrun by the 'vulgars' . When this idea didn't go very far - Crassus came up with a clever insurance scam. He decided to buy the emergency services in Rome .
Crassus secretly employed a team of incendiaries to get to work . Those who were unfortunate to have houses next door were 'encouraged' to sell their properties at knock down prices otherwise the fire brigade would stand and watch as your house burnt down. Remarkably this wasn't against Roman law so Crassus quickly became the landlord for most of Rome.
A Financial (and Family) Set Back
Marcus Crassus's youthful business opportunism received a set back when the Popular-Democrats came back into power in 93bc under their leaders Marius and Cinna . Preaching 'equality' and 'redistribution' - the Democrats sacked the houses of all the leading Republicans including Sulla's house. However Marius grabbed hold of the Crassi villa and sent his own men to start digging up the garden looking for treasure.
The Democrats were not long in power before Sulla returned with his army and chased Marius and Cinna out of town. The few democrats who were too slow , fat or stupid to flee were sold into slavery by CMCI . Sulla then appointed Octavian 'Useless' Octavius (grandfather of Augustus) to look after the city as he headed back out east to replenish his starving bank account.
Octavius turned out to be a very ineffective leader of the Roman Republic. His fellow Republicans asked for tax cuts - or even better still - no taxes at all. This incensed the local mob and they opened the gates for the return of Marius and his mate Cinna. Unsure what to do - Octavius stayed in his seat in the senate until soldiers arrived and hacked him (and the chair) to bits.
Crassus's brothers and father initially 'supported' the Democrats in exchange for their old business arrangements. Marius seemed to agree at first but then died suddenly. His colleague Cinna blamed the Crassus family and ordered they be hunted down like dangerous dogs. Crassus's father killed himself with a golden sword whilst Publius and Lucius were thrown off the Tarpien or Tarpaulin Rock, a place where Rome executed her traitors. Only Marcus Crassus survived . He had been dating a vestal virgin called Licinia (an unusual insurance policy taken out by the vestals against unexpected fires) and hid in their temple before escaping out of Rome and taking ship to Spain.
Sex in a Cave
Crassus arrived in Spain with coins sewn in his tunic and promise to anyone that if they helped him, they would be 'richly rewarded by the Gods..and me'. His father's old contacts eventually agreed to house Crassus in a local cave and gave him enough food to survive alone for a month. However Crassus was a man of more basic needs - and asked for two female slaves to help make his rock home more bearable. They agreed and Crassus was able to stay a happy exile until he got news that Sulla was on his way back to Rome after a successful tour of the Middle East.
Without apparent little difficulty, Crassus recruited his army of mercenaries and landed in Rome to take part in Sulla's campaign to retake Rome. It was a success and Crassus now headed back into the Roman forum with Sulla and another Roman general , a fat waddling boyish looking man known as Pompey the Great. Those of their enemies who hadn't already died or escaped were rounded up and executed in job lots.
Crassus who was also good at accounts asked Sulla if he could ' due process the law' against the Democrat leaders and happily added a few more enemies including his next door neighbour who had refused to return a borrowed lawn mower . The loser's families also lost their estates , houses, washing machines, cuddily toys, toga press...in fact everything. Sulla took some of the fine money but the majority ended up with Crassus after he employed a team of devious Roman lawyers 'Fuue te Ipsum' to grab the lion's share. These sharp practices also gave Crassus the extra nickname 'Dives' as he liked to conduct business in dingy nightclubs but 'goldenballs' didn't care. He was happy to proclaim I Am Rome and Rome is Me.
Mayor of Rome
Now that he financially owned most of Rome , Crassus realised that to keep his loot and to prevent others having another grab at it , he needed to gain political office. He cleverly waited until Sulla retired to play with actors and acrobats at his villa then Crassus put forward his name for the vacant office of Mayor of Rome. The Republicans wanted to choose Sulla's son Sulla 'Sullen Junior' so Crassus in a dramatic piece of political opportunism ran as a 'Popular Democrat' and made sure of his election by posting everyone a little gold coin. This gave Crassus the new nickname 'Goldie Brawn' and he celebrated his success by replacing a tooth with a shiny golden molar.
Crassus's political change of allegiance was also in part to his friendship of Julius Caesar who as the leader of the Popular Democrats , was in exile as a 'fan boy' for King Nicomedes of Bythinia. In fact this was the exact job description of Caesar . He was one of the very few Democrat leaders who had escaped death from Sulla but had been obliged to take up his this humiliating job as Cleaner of the Nicomedes's Sex Toys - which apparently also included himself. Crassus paid off Nicomedes and booked Caesar's boat trip back to Rome. The pair celebrated a private triumph in Crassus's new palace in Rome 'The Golden Vanilla'. Caesar was now his ally and he hoped to use him against the ambitious Pompey.
The Republicans were naturally appalled but then their attention was drawn to southern Italy where a slave revolt had broken lead by a leather tunic loving gladiator known as Spartacus. As their villas went up in smoke (Crassus's Country Fire Prevention Service kept to same the rules as the urban ones) - Crassus said he would find the 'right Romans' to deal with it.
Spartacus timed his rebellion well. Rome's best generals like Pompey and Caesar were out of Italy looking for more places to loot in the name of the 'republic'. This left Crassus to deal with Spartacus but he bungled the operation - letting a succession of piss-poor friends commmand troops to take on the slave army. Crassus said he didn't want to 'dirty his toga' on what he thought were 'offal of humanity' and held back. The Republicans in the senate got even angrier as they saw their prize villas - and assorted love nests - go up in flames and blamed Crassus.
So far Crassus hadn't shown much skill as a general and was worried that Spartacus would be able to beat him open battle. He blamed the Senate for 'appointing crap generals' (actually his friends) and offered to equip his own army again to take on the slave army. The senate then sent a message to Pompey to stop sunning his fat stomach on a Spanish beach and to come back to crush Spartacus.
News that Pompey was coming back finally persuaded Crassus to go out and take on the 'communists' as he called Spartacus and promised he would crucify the lot of them. Finally in a battle near Naples, Spartacus's army was cornered near Pompeii and climbed up a mountain known as Vesuvius to fight it to the last. They lost . Many expected that the notorious money grabbing Crassus would simply sell them again as slaves but Crassus this time kept to his word and killed all of them and crucified their bodies all along the main road between there and Rome.
Julius Caesar Owes Me a Lotto of Loot
Crassus was re-elected as Mayor of Rome but now he was worried about Pompey who somehow took the credit for the crushing the slave rebellion - and even had the cheek to say he was 'now a Democrat'. So Crassus made Caesar his 'best mate' and the two would spend long hours in the Roman Baths together. They said it was for 'politics' but others whispered of strange 'moans' and 'cries' from their changing cubicles.
After the turmoil of the 70s BC - the 60s BC was a chance for Romans to let it all 'hang out'. Even the stern Crassus grew his hair long , smoked Mauretanian weed and played the lyre for awhile. Money was flowing into Rome and also into Crassus's company CMCI. Julius Caesar was meantime adding to his reputation as a soldier and a gigolo for rich Roman ladies but Crassus didn't seem to mind . He remained fixated on his hatred for 'Pompous Boy' Pompey who was busy conquering and acquiring riches from Asia Minor and the near East.
So life was sweet - at least for rich Romans. But Crassus now had a new greed - military glory. Money in the end was just not enough for him and he realised that Caesar was outgrowing his patron and now promoting his own interests.
The First Triumvirate
The Republicans had managed to regain control of the Senate and decided to turn the republic back into their own private milking cow. This lead to Conspiracy known as the 'Catomeat Grinder' as the would be assassins wanted to turn the senators (including Cato) into lion munchies. However they were denounced by Cicero and executed. Some suspected Crassus was involved somehow on behalf of the Popular-Democrats and voted him out of office as Mayor of Rome.
Now out of power , Crassus swallowed his pride for once and came up with a policy to 'cleanse the Roman Body Politic' with a 'new broom team' : These 'virtuous' reformers would be er..Crassus, his bathing mate Caesar and Pompey 'Who Ate All the Veal Pies ?' the Great.
Meeting in secret outside Rome , Crassus, Caesar and Pompey then strode into the Senate with their soldiers and announced :
“For the sake of Republic it needs the smack of firm Roman governance on its plump ,chubby arse .”
The three men then appointed themselves as 'Triumvirs' to administer the state whilst the clean up was undertaken. The Republican leaders shouted 'tyranny' , 'chicanery' and 'Cheney' but their rivals the Democrats clapped and applauded the announcement led by the Senator B.Clintonius Fellare.
The Triumvirate said they would not take salaries for their nobile effort to 'reform' the republic. Pompey agreed to stay in Rome whilst Caesar headed north to see if there were interesting investment possibilities in Gaul. For Crassus , Pompey gave him the keys to the temples of the east and told him the combinations to take his 'fill of Eastern Gold'. Crassus agreed and headed East. He also decided to take along his son Publius , a young man who was the 'fruit of his Roman loins' with his former vestal virgin girlfriend and wife Licinia.
Fatso Took The Lot!
Packing up his best valuables and slaves and a well equipped army, Crassus and Publius left Italy and headed off towards Syria. Along the way they helped themselves to important 'expenses' and did numerous shakedowns when the locals refused to provide 'marching costs' to Crassus's army.
Once he got to Antioch, Crassus wanted show everyone that he wasn't such a gold grabber and held a party there for all the rich Romans and Greeks out there to come out and 'meet him'. This money raising dinner didn't go down too well and Crassus quickly realised that Pompey and his mates had thoroughly cleaned out the province when it came to his favourite metal.
Crassus now considered returning to Rome and giving Pompey a ' thorough face job' for landing him with a financial lemon. However Crassus's Roman army was eager for looting/collecting opportunities. Publius suggested heading down to Judea and Egypt but then Crassus received a letter from a the King of Armenia (an ally of Rome) that the Parthian Empire was in a 'bad shape' and suggested they go on a joint 'debt collecting mission'. Crassus thought that was a very good idea , It would also help him get even as regard military victories with Pompey - and also his back scrubbing protege Julius Caesar who had just bashed the Gauls into accepting Roman Civilization.
Parthian Golden Hello and Goodbye
To announce his new military campaign , Crassus made this following speech to whip up a war with the Parthians:
Romans, Greeks , assorted riff-raff. I , Marcus Licinius Crassus , Triumvir of the Roman Republic . pledge here to you all that we are going to take the Parthians to the cleaners. To you Greeks - remember the glory days of Alexander the Great and the Seleucid dynasty who once ruled Persia up to the borders of India. Once again Greco-Roman culture and wrestling will stretch from here to eternity and those oppressed peoples in Mesopotamia will enjoy the fruits of Democracy ! So sign up , send us money and I can promise you this imperial expansion/investment opportunity will be one gravy boat you will not want to miss !
The army immediately marched to the Romano-Parthian border and smashed up the customs house and duty free shop. However Crassus had decided that he was going to do without the Armenians as he wanted all the glory to go to him. But to Crassus's dismay the Parthians refused to fight the Roman army on a level playing battlefield and instead preferred to fire arrows at a distance and then flee back into the desert.
Despite warnings from his more senior offices about plunging in deeper into Mesopotamia, Crassus and Publius ignored their advice and then got stuck outside Carrhae in a 20 chariot pile up. There the Parthians sneaked up behind the Roman army and in a fight Publius was killed. Now his soldiers were really pissed off as Crassus in his fury scattered his army hunting for his son's killers. They demanded a halt to the invasion and were then surprised when a delegation of Parthians offered to 'have a nice little chat with them' with the promise of a big bribe if the Romans just 'sodded off out of here'.
Crassus was now in a real bad position. How he wished he was back in Rome just doing his usual money collecting scams. Going to war wasn't really much fun after all. So he decided to take the Parthians up on their offer and headed over with a few officers to their camp across the Euphrates.
Your Macho Wasn't Mucho Crassus
The Roman party eventually arrived at a large tent where they were greeted by the Parthian general Sinitta. Surprised to see that they had been beaten by an old girlfriend of Simon Cowell, Crassus is said to have had one of those 'foreboding moments' and saw his life flash past him faster than a speeding Ferrari.
My Name is Marcus Licinius Crassus. Triumvir of Rome, Former Mayor and a Master of the Known Financial Universe. I come here to see what are your terms for asking us to leave Parthia.
Sinitta is said to have looked at Crassus and motioned to four servants who were holding a red hot cup of something that seemed very familiar to Crassus.
Marcus Licinius Crassus.. began Sinitta, The man with the golden toga and silver tongue. The chief executive of Croesus-Midas-Crassus Investments , the first Capitalist of Rome, the deflowerer of Vestal Virgins, the lather boy lover of Julius Caesar.. Crassus it is said was growing nervous - not sure where all this damning with faint praise was going. I Sinitta, Chief Warbleler to King Simon Cowell of Parthia.... I have a drink for you.
At this signal, Crassus was grabbed by the Parthians and strapped down into a chair. Sinitta then ordered a servant to pick up the red hot goblet with a pair of tongs as Crassus's mouth was forced open.
Marcus Licinius Crassus..You Are So Not Macho, not to turn me on she began to sing . You have lived your whole life with a lust for gold. It is only fitting that you now drink what you so much so desire. And with that the deadly 'amber nectar' was poured into the hapless Roman's mouth until he died . Sinitta then ordered his head be cut off and sent to King Simon to show the Parthian's victory over the stupid Roman.
So died Crassus - and with him the family name as well. The news of his death reached Rome a few months later. Neither Caesar or Pompey chose to make much mention of it and Crassus's company was flogged off to new owners. Only his reputation as 'the first capitalist' and his love for gold would make anyone now think about Crassus for about five seconds before they felt they had swallowed something horrible and then spat it out.
- Crassus's business career is now on the syllabus of the Harvard Business School.
- The catacombs were later taken over by the Christians to avoid paying taxes.
- According to Sallust, Crassus spoke in a very refined latin accent and drank tea in the afternoon.
- Crassus's decision to 'go democrat' was purely for political advantage. He was a rich snob but thought the Republicans had 'diddled' him out of a triumph as regards the slave rebellion.
- Caesar is said to have also seduced Crassus's wife Licinia and that Publius Crassus was possibly his son.
- See Livy for further details of the songs Crassus composed in his hippy days.
- Livy records a rhyme about Crassus designed to scare rich people: "One, two, Crassus's coming for you / Three, four, better pretend to be poor / Five, six, hide your gold bricks / Seven, eight, put on your breastplate / Nine, ten, never make money again"
- The Triumvirate was originally going to be known as The Three Goodfellas.
- Crassus's head and body were apparently made into a full dining service by the Parthians who then gave this 'gift' to some of their own barbarian neighbours as a royal gift.
Pompey the Great