This project investigates the role the sea played in the representation and legitimation of Sextus Pompeius and explores the importance of such representation- and legitimation-patterns in the wake of the war between Sextus Pompeius and Octavian. Thus, the research project also explores the adoption of such patterns by the first princeps Augustus. The aim of this project is to shed light on the genesis of the notion of imperial maritime domination.


The first part deals with the figure of Sextus Pompeius referring primarily to numismatic and historiographical sources in an attempt to understand the function of maritime depictions and the claim of his specific relation to the sea, expressed by his special connection to Neptune. In order to investigate the figure of Sextus Pompeius, it is necessary to understand the role he played within the various historiographical narratives, thus the research broadens the perspective examining the description of political change and transformation during the civil war and during the period when the principate was being formed within the different historiographical narratives (e.g. Appian and Cassius Dio).

Secondly, by looking at the bellum Siculum the research project focuses not only on the military conflict between Sextus Pompeius and Octavian, but also on the pictorial rivalry and the description of this war in historiography, showing how special images and themes were shaped during this war.

The third part deals with Augustus and the role the notion of the domination of the sea played within his principate, taking into account the presence of themes and images, shaped within the bellum Siculum, writings on Sextus Pompeius and on the rule of the princeps over water in general during the time of Augustus.

By investigating this formation, it will be shown how important Sextus Pompeius, a frequently underestimated figure within the period of the civil war, is to understand the princeps’ claim to dominate the sea during the Roman Empire. Establishing Sextus Pompeius as the crucial link in understanding this claim might also help to shed light on the genesis of the princeps’ legitimation.

This Ph.D. thesis is being written within the program Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).