July 10, 2018

Crassus Ransacks the Temple of Jerusalem, by Giovanni Battista Pittoni 1743

With Sulla firmly in charge of Rome, Crassus sought to build his fortune. To do this, Crassus used a simple principal of investment that is still utilized today: buy low - sell high.   The initial process was effective, yet morbid: As Sulla was eliminating his political enemies or “potential” enemies; Crassus would buy their estates for pennies on the dollar. These estates were usually left over property and assets (usually slaves and animals).

In terms of property, we don’t know the specifics of his business dealings, but it most likely he sold the bulk of his newly acquired properties to other rich Roman citizens. Plus, Crassus made his fortune even larger with his own sort of “Cash for Clunkers” program but with property instead of cars. Again, this program inherently simple: when a fire would strike a building, Crassus would dispatch a team of men armed with buckets of water and offer the owner of the property money to buy the burning building from them on the spot. If they accepted, Crassus would pay the agreed upon sum, put the fire out and then set his team of highly skilled slaves to rebuilding the property. Then he’d rent out the property or sell it at a profit. Stories about the devious lengths Crassus would go to get cheap properties were numerous even during the time of his life. Some Romans admired it while others held him in contempt for being so greedy.

At his height Crassus had amassed a fortune that rivaled the treasuries of Rome itself. Before Crassus left for his last military expedition his personal treasury was around 7.4 million troy ounces of gold - estimated at around 9 billion USD today.

Crassus wasn’t happy with just a massive fortune; he sought political power and military glory. Unfortunately for Crassus every political move he tried to make was constantly out maneuvered by his rival Gneaus Pompey Magnus. Both men had fought under Sulla and both men were well connected, but it seemed every time a military assignment came up, Crassus was glossed over. 
Pompey was often chosen to deal with the issues and situations in the Roman territories: Uprising in Africa? Pompey was chosen. Unrest and small-scale war in Spain? Pompey was chosen. And with victory after victory the Senate knew they could always bet on him to get the job done. Pompey was given a Triumph in Rome and people in the streets would call him “Pompey The Great”. While all Crassus was known for was being the Rich guy who would buy your house when it burned down. Eventually political luck would sway towards Crassus, when a slave by the name of Spartacus started a small rebellion in Capua and was gaining victory after victory against any army the Roman Republic would throw at him…

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