“Now, the Romans say that the many good qualities of Crassus were obscured by one vice, avarice…”
Plutarch, Crassus 2
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a political patron and partner in power with Julius Caesar, but he is best remembered as the Roman Republic’s wealthiest man and for the not unrelated manner of his death. Crassus lost his life in battle with the Parthian Empire in 53 BC, but his story did not end there. The victorious Parthians, to mock Crassus’ unquenchable thirst for wealth, proceeded to desecrate his corpse by pouring molten gold down his throat. Sigmund Freud even included the tragic scene in his classic work, The Interpretation of Dreams, and has a Queen of Parthia state to Crassus’ corpse, “Now hast thou what thou hast longed for.” But buried deep beneath the lurid tales of Crassus’ extraordinary life and gruesome death hides entrepreneurial genius. For the enigmatic Crassus time and again reveals himself as a financial wizard, who through his risk-taking and shrewd investments, reached the pinnacle of power in the Late Roman Republic.
This book examines the many similarities between the wealth accumulation methods of this ancient businessman (be they good, bad or ugly) and the greatest entrepreneurs of America’s Gilded Age—the men better known today as the robber barons. In the late nineteenth century, the term robber baron came into use to describe businesspersons who made great fortunes through aggressive, exploitive, and ruthless business practices as well as their ability to innovate on a grand scale. These same traits can also be clearly discerned in Marcus Crassus, who lived over 2,000 years ago. Although the author shows there is little to admire in Crassus’ character, there is still much to learn from his entrepreneurial thinking.