Pharsalus Battlefield - History and Facts | History Hit

Pharsalus Battlefield

Thessaly - Central Greece, Thessaly - Central Greece, Greece

Pharsalus Battlefield was the setting for the most decisive battle of Caesar’s civil war and saw the final defeat of Pompey the Great.

Peta Stamper

18 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Pharsalus Battlefield

Pharsalus Battlefield in Greece was the setting for one of the most decisive and important battles of ancient Rome – the defeat of Pompey the Great by Julius Caesar on 9 August, 48 BC. In this battle Caesar won against the odds, all but confirming his position as ruler of Rome, a key moment in the transition from Republic to Empire.

The site of Pharsalus Battlefield continues to be a topic of discussion but it is generally accepted that the battle happened close to the ancient city of Pharsalos or Pharsalus, today known as Farsala. Those seeking to retrace the battle will find no markers and should head for the general area of the Plain of Pharsalus along the Enipeus River.

Pharsalus Battlefield history

During the early 1st century BC, political power in Rome grew ever more concentrated into the hands of a few influential families. From around 70 BC, Julius Caesar, Marcus Crassus and Gnaeus Pompey essentially ran the republic. However, this delicate balance of egos would only last so long.

The civil war between Caesar and his senatorial enemies had been underway for over a year when the decisive clash at Pharsalus took place. Caesar had followed the senatorial armies, led by Pompey, to Greece and had generally come off second best in the sparring which had taken place since crossing the Adriatic.

Caesar had suffered a defeat at the Battle of Dyrrhachium; his forces were slowly being hemmed in and stripped of supplies by the far larger senatorial army. While Pompey was in favour of starving Caesar out, his compatriots from the senate favoured a decisive engagement. Against his better judgement, Pompey relented.

The Battle of Pharsalus took place on the 9th August 48 BC and saw Pompey’s army decisively defeated. Pompey himself fled the battlefield and was later killed while attempting to find sanctuary in Egypt.

Pharsalus Battlefield today

The exact location of Pharsalus Battlefield has been the subject of much debate and there is no definitive setting which is universally accepted. Likewise, today there are no monuments to the battle and there is nothing to see at the most accepted location, marked on the map, which is just outside the modern Greek city of Farsala.

The prevailing thought places the battlefield at the north bank of the Enipeus River, around 10 miles northwest of the modern town. You can visit without cost, letting your imagination play out the decisive battle across the plains and low hills of the area.

Getting to Pharsalus Battlefield

From Athens, Farsala is a 3 and a half hour drive via the A1 and E75. From the more central city of Lamia, the drive is only 1 hour up the EO3. Otherwise, Farsala’s nearest train station is Palaeofarsalos, a 12 minute drive from the town centre, connected to other towns throughout Thessaly.

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