Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Pompey

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

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Pompey (106-48 B.C.) Part 2

Continued from Part One, which is here. Note that these Lessons are numbered One to Twelve for the term, but also include (13-24) numbers to match Anne White's book which numbers them 1-24.

Lesson One (or 13)


This lesson describes Pompey's third triumph in some detail. It also introduces a more questionable side of Pompey's character: his willingness to commit bribery on others' behalf.


defer: postpone

prefer: propose, support

certain money: that is, bribes

would have served . . . : Pompey had enough armour, treasure, and prisoners to have continued longer than the two days allotted.

tables: large placards or signs

replenishment: Dryden says Pompey "founded" these towns, but North says he "replenished" them, by settling people there

sundry: various

under four-and-thirty years of age: Alexander the Great died at 32 years of age. Plutarch says that Pompey was almost 40 at this time; but, according to his birthdate of 106 B.C., he was closer to 45.


Piso (#2): Marcus Pupius Piso Frugi Calpurnianus, Pompey's lieutenant

Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, the subject of Plutarch's Life of Cato the Younger; a statesman known for his moral integrity

Afranius: see Lesson Twelve from Part 1

Commagenians: those of the Armenian kingdom of Commagene

Historic Occasions

63 B.C.: Lucullus had his long-delayed triumph in Rome

61 B.C.: Piso (#2) was consul

61 B.C.: Pompey's third triumph

On the Map

As you begin the second half of the study, you may wish to review some of the places mentioned previously. This lesson provides an extra opportunity by listing many places which became part of the Roman empire. How many can you find on a map?


Part One

In those days there was a law that no man should enter into Rome before his triumph: whereupon Pompey sent to the Senate, to pray them to defer the choosing of consuls for a few days, because he might be present to support Piso (#2), who sued for the consulship that year. They denied him his request, by Cato's means that hindered it. Pompey, marvelling to hear of Cato's boldness and plain speech, had a marvellous desire to win him, and to make him his friend. So Cato having two nieces, Pompey desired to marry the one himself, and take the other for his son. But Cato, mistrusting this desire of Pompey's and believing that it was a scheme only to win and corrupt him: denied him flatly. His wife and sister, on the other side, were angry with him for refusing to make alliance with Pompey the Great.

About that time it chanced that Pompey, being very desirous to prefer Afranius to be consul, gave a sum of money among the tribes for their votes, and people came and received it in his own gardens. This thing being reported abroad in the city, every man spoke ill of Pompey: that he put the consulship to sale for money, unto those that could not deserve it by virtue; since he himself only had obtained it by "purchase," by many a noble and worthy deed.

Then said Cato to his wife and sister: "Lo now, we would have been partakers of this fault too, had we matched with Pompey." When they heard it, they confessed he had reason to refuse the match, for equity and his honour.

Part Two

But now to Pompey's triumph. For the stateliness and magnificence thereof, although he had two days' space to show it, yet he lacked time: for there were many things prepared for the show, that were not seen, which would have served to have set out another triumph.

First there were tables carried, whereon were written the names and titles of all the people and nations for the which he triumphed, as these that follow. The kingdoms of Pontus, Armenia, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Media, Colchis, Iberia, Albania, Syria, Cilicia, and Mesopotamia; and furthermore, the people that dwell about Phoenicia and Palestine, Judea, and Arabia: and all the pirates which he had overcome both by sea and by land, in all parts of the world. And in these different countries there appeared the capture of no less than one thousand fortified places, nor much less than nine hundred cities, together with eight hundred ships of the pirates, and the replenishment of thirty-nine towns.

Moreover, these tables declared that the revenue of the commonwealth of Rome, before these conquests he made, amounted yearly but to five thousand miriades; and that from thenceforth with the sums he had added unto the former revenue, they should now receive eight thousand and five hundred miriades: and that he brought presently in ready gold and silver, and in plate and jewels, to put into the common treasury, the value of twenty thousand talents, besides that which had been distributed already amongst the soldiers: of the which, he that had left for his share, had fifteen hundred drachmas.

The prisoners that were led in the show of this triumph, besides the captains of the pirates, were these that follow: the son of Tigranes, King of Armenia, with his wife and daughter; the wife of king Tigranes himself, called Zosime; Aristobulus, King of Judea; Mithridates' sister, with five sons of hers; and some ladies of Scythia; the hostages also of the Iberians and the Albanians, and also of the kings of the Commagenians; over and besides a great number of other marks of triumphs which himself or his lieutenants had won at sundry battles in divers places.

But the greatest honour that ever he won, and which never any other consul of the Romans but himself obtained, was this: that he made his third triumph of the three parts of the world. Divers other Romans had triumphed thrice before him: howbeit, he first triumphed of Africa, the second time of Europe, the third time of Asia. So that it appeared by these three triumphs that he had triumphed in manner of all the land that is inhabited, being at that time (as it is reported by them which compare his doings unto Alexander the Great) under four-and-thirty years of age (though in truth at that time he was near forty). O, happy would it have been for him if he had died when he had Alexander's fortune: for all his life afterwards made his prosperity hateful, or his adversity miserable. Employing the honour and authority he had gotten by his valiantness, favouring men's unjust causes: the more he furthered them, the more he lessened his honour, and unawares brought his greatness to nothing.

For like as when the strongest places of a city, which receiving their enemies into them, do give them the benefit of their own strength: even so, through Pompey's power, Caesar, growing to be great, overthrew him in the end with the selfsame means he employed to the overthrow of others. And thus it fortuned.

Narration and Discussion

Pompey might have justified bribery as generosity and friendship. Cato obviously didn't agree. Which side would you have taken?

For older students: "O, happy would it have been for him if he had died…" Is Plutarch's reason for saying this clear yet, or is it something to consider as the second half of the story unfolds?

Lesson Two (or 14)


Lucullus, although he had returned to Rome somewhat in disgrace, had nevertheless come back with a great deal of wealth, and had eventually been granted his triumph. He also seemed to have regained some support in the Senate, especially from those who did not care for Pompey.


uncourteously used him: treated him disrespectfully

finding he had such a repulse . . . : Pompey was getting little support from the senators, so he turned to others such as the tribunes

recompense: reward

in danger of law: Cicero was accused of putting conspirators to death without a proper trial.

sue for his first consulship: Caesar was elected consul for 59 B.C., along with Bibulus

pestilent device: nasty scheme

subtle practice: sneaky trick

lowering the dignity . . . : It was not so much that the consul (or chief magistrate) could not perform a compassionate act, but rather that others (such as tribunes) were responsible for such matters.

upon the hustings: before the people

approbation: approval, agreement

buckler: Dryden's word for shield

affianced, or made sure before: engaged, betrothed


Clodius: Publius Clodius Pulcher. The long-running strife between Clodius and Cicero is described in the Life of Cicero.

Cicero: Marcus Tullius Cicero, an orator who was the subject of Plutarch's Life of Cicero

Bibulus: Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus

Historic Occasions

60 B.C.: Caesar's return to Rome

60 or 59 B.C. to 53 B.C.: First Triumvirate, an alliance between Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Crassus

59 B.C.: Julius Caesar was consul (with Bibulus)

59 B.C.: Pompey married Julia (fourth wife)

58-57 B.C.: Exile of Cicero


Part One

Lucullus, at his return out of Asia (where Pompey had uncourteously used him) was then very well taken of the Senate, and much more when Pompey was also come to Rome. For the Senate did counsel and encourage him to deal in the affairs of the state, seeing him given too much to his ease and pleasure, by reason of his great wealth he had gotten. So when Pompey was come, he (Lucullus) began to speak against him, and through the friendship and assistance of Cato, confirmed all his doings in Asia which Pompey had broken and rejected.

Pompey, finding he had such a repulse of the Senate, was driven to have recourse unto the tribunes of the people, and to fall in friendship with light young men. Of the tribunes, the most impudent and vilest person was Clodius: who received him, and made him a prey unto the people. For he had Pompey ever at his elbow, and against his honour carried him up and down the Forum after him, to speak as the occasion served to confirm any matter or device which he preferred unto him to flatter the common people. And further, for recompense of his goodwill, he craved of Pompey (not as a thing dishonourable, but beneficial for him) that he would forsake Cicero, who was his friend, and had done much for him in matters of commonwealth. Pompey granted his request. Thereupon Cicero being brought in danger of law, and requiring Pompey's friendship to help him, Pompey shut his door against them that came to speak in his behalf, and went out himself at another back door. Cicero thereupon, fearing the extremity of law, willingly forsook Rome.

Part Two

At that time, Julius Caesar returning home from his praetorship out of Spain, began to lay such a plot that presently brought him into great favour, and afterwards much increased his power, but otherwise utterly undid Pompey and the commonwealth.

Now he was to sue for his first consulship, and considering the enmity betwixt Pompey and Crassus: if he joined with the one, he made the other his enemy: so he devised to make them friends, a thing seeming of great honesty at the first sight, but yet a pestilent device, and as subtle a practice as could be. For he well knew that opposite parties or factions in a commonwealth, like passengers in a boat, serve to trim and balance the unsteady motions of power there; whereas if they combine and come all over to one side, they cause a shock which will be sure to overset the vessel and carry down everything.

Whereupon, Cato wisely told them afterwards that the civil wars betwixt Pompey and Caesar had caused the destruction of the commonwealth; but that their enmity and discord was not the chief original cause of this misery, but rather their friendship and agreement.

Part Three

Caesar, being thus elected consul, began at once to make an interest with the poor and meaner sort, by preferring and establishing laws for planting colonies and dividing lands, lowering the dignity of his office, and turning his consulship into a sort of tribuneship rather. And when Bibulus, his colleague, opposed him (and Cato was prepared to second Bibulus, and assist him vigorously); Caesar brought Pompey upon the hustings, and addressing him in the sight of the people, demanded his opinion upon the laws that were proposed. Pompey gave his approbation. "Then," said Caesar, "in case any man should offer violence to these laws, will you be ready to give assistance to the people?" "Yes," replied Pompey, "I shall be ready, and against those that threaten the sword, I will appear with sword and buckler."

Pompey in all his life never did nor spoke anything that men more misliked, than that which he said at that time. His friends excused him, and said it was a word passed his mouth before he was aware: but his deeds afterwards showed, that he was altogether at Caesar's commandment. For not many days after, he married Julia the daughter of Caesar, which was affianced, or made sure before, unto Servilius Caepio when no man thought of it; and to pacify Caepio's anger, he gave him his own daughter in marriage, whom he had also promised before unto Faustus the son of Sulla; and Caesar also married Calpurnia, the daughter of Piso (#3).

Narration and Discussion

How did Pompey's previous treatment of Lucullus come back against him now?

The theme of friendship (genuine or contrived, positive or negative) runs through this lesson. For example:

The condition of Pompey's new friendship with Clodius was that he had to end his old friendship with Cicero. Have you ever been in such a situation? What would you do?

Why did Caesar want to make peace between Pompey and Crassus?

Cato later said that "the enmity and discord between Pompey and Caesar was not the chief original cause of this misery the civil war in Rome, but rather their friendship . . . " What did he mean?

Lesson Three (or 15)


Pompey was now one of the most powerful men in Rome: perhaps by his own merit, or perhaps because he had attached himself to the rising star of Julius Caesar. Plutarch says later that Pompey grew to have "pride and a glorious conceit of himself." At this time, however, he received a sharp reminder that not everyone felt the same way.


taken with this bait: pleased with the generous land grants

bills: written statements to hand out or post publicly

lay still and took his pleasure: retired and relaxed (see Lesson Seven from Part 1)

doted of: in love with

seditious attempts: uprisings

had sent away Cato to make wars in Cyprus: This story is told in the Life of Cato the Younger.

pretense: excuse

a warm dispute: a heated battle

Word Trivia

dissolute: immoral, without principle. It is related to the word "dissolve," and comes from words meaning "disconnected, loose." Without solid principles, morals have nothing to stick themselves to.


Piso (#3): Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, consul in 58 B.C.

Gabinius: see Lesson Eight from Part 1

Historic Occasions

58 B.C.: Rome acquired the country of Cyprus; Cato was sent there to negotiate, but mostly to get him out of the way

On the Map

Julius Caesar was made the governor of Gaul and Illyria. Illyria is the region on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea, north of Greece and west of Macedon. (If you are using Constable's Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome, look at the maps on pages 55 and 75.)

Cyprus: an island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great and then claimed by the rulers of Egypt, before becoming part of the Roman empire.


Part One

After this, Pompey, filling all Rome with soldiers, did what he would by force. For as the consul Bibulus came into the Forum accompanied with Lucullus and Cato, they suddenly set upon him, and broke the bundles of rods which his officers carried before him; and someone, whatsoever he was, cast a basket of horse dung upon his head. Moreover, the two tribunes that were in his company were also very sore hurt. By this means, having cleared the Forum of all their enemies, they passed the law for division of lands, as they wished it themselves. The people being taken with this bait, were contented to be ruled by them as they would; and would never stick at any matter that they would have passed. So were all Pompey's matters confirmed, which Lucullus was against; and they appointed unto Caesar also the government of the Gauls on this side and beyond the Alps; and Illyria for five years' space, with four whole legions.

The next year following were appointed as consuls Piso (#3), Caesar's father-in-law; and Gabinius, the greatest flatterer Pompey had about him. But for now, while things stood in these terms, Bibulus, though he were consul, kept himself close in his house for eight months space, and only sent out bills, and set them up on every post in open places, accusing Pompey and Caesar. Cato, on the other side, as if he had been inspired with the spirit of prophecy, told openly in the Senate house what would become of the commonwealth and Pompey.

Lucullus growing old, lay still and took his pleasure, and would no more meddle in the commonwealth. At that time it was that Pompey said that it was more unseasonable for an old man to follow his pleasure than to attend matters of the commonwealth. Yet he himself shortly after was so doted of his young wife, that he would follow her up and down in the country, and in his gardens, and leave all affairs of weight aside.

Part Two

Whereupon Clodius, being then tribune of the people, despised Pompey, and began to enter into seditious attempts. For when he had driven Cicero out of Rome, and had sent away Cato to make wars in Cyprus (Caesar was likewise occupied in Gaul); and finding that the people in like case were at his commandment, because to flatter them he did what they would have him: he attempted to undo some things that Pompey had established. Amongst other things, he took King Tigranes out of prison, and ever carried him up and down with him wheresoever he went; and continually picked quarrels unto Pompey's friends, to try what credit he had.

In the end, Pompey coming abroad one day into the common assembly, to hear how a matter of his was handled: this Clodius having a company of vagabonds and desperate men about him, that cared not what they did: he sitting in a place where he might be seen from the rest, began to ask rude questions out aloud, such as "Who is the dissolute general?" They, like a company of dancers or singers, when he spoke and clapped his hands on his gown, answered him straight aloud to every question, that it was "Pompey." This went to Pompey's heart, that was not wont to hear himself so ill spoken of openly, neither was acquainted with any such kind of sight: but yet it made him bite the lip more, when he saw the Senate glad to see him thus shamed and reproved, as a just revenge and punishment for his vile betraying and forsaking of Cicero.

So, great stir and uproar being made upon this in the Forum, and many men sore hurt; and one of Clodius' bondmen being taken also in the press of the people with a sword in his hand, very near unto Pompey: Pompey laid hold of this pretense, though perhaps otherwise apprehensive of Clodius' insolence and bad language, and he would never after come into the Forum, as long as Clodius was tribune; but kept at home still, consulting with his friends what way he should take to appease the anger of the Senate against him.

Thereupon, one of his friends, called Culleo, advised him to put away his wife Julia, and utterly to refuse Caesar's friendship to gain that of the Senate: this he would not hearken to. Notwithstanding he was contented to hearken unto them that gave him counsel to call Cicero home again, who was Clodius' mortal enemy, and in great favour with the Senate. Thereupon, he brought Cicero's brother into the Forum, to move the matter to the people: where, after a warm dispute, in which several were wounded and some slain, he got the victory over Clodius.

Narration and Discussion

Why did Bibulus spend most of the year hiding in his house?

What happened to Pompey's friendship with Clodius?

For older students: It is said that "power corrupts." Is it possible for anyone to use great power prudently?

Lesson Four (or 16)


At this time Rome was experiencing severe grain shortages, which caused people (especially the poorer ones) to be unhappy with the government. Cicero, newly returned from exile, proposed making Pompey the person to oversee the food supply, which would mean traveling to places like Sardinia, Sicily, and Africa to bring back grain. That suggestion was met with two different negative responses: some said that the whole shortage was just an invention to increase Pompey's popularity, which seemed to be slipping; others suggested that it was just a way to keep him busy so that he wouldn't involve himself in Egyptian issues. However, the motion passed, and Pompey's mission was successful.

But that was only the beginning of many power-seeking games in Rome.


corn: grain, such as wheat or barley

trade of merchandise and tillage: agriculture and grocery business

into his kingdom: see note about King Ptolemy

cast it out: refused to pass the motion; threw it out

hazard his person: risk his safety

set him aloft: raise him to great power

Englishmen: the tribes living in what is now England

he did harden . . . : Caesar was training his troops for battle.

nothing the more . . . : that is, no more honestly or uprightly than the way in which they had become consuls in the first place

falsely alleging that he had noted certain ill signs: Pompey is said to have cried out that it was thundering (the Romans believed thunder to be a bad omen).

for five years more; authorizing Caesar's charge for five years longer: Why was Caesar so eager to prolong his time as governor? One practical reason is that while he held public office (such as consul or proconsul), he was immune from private lawsuits; but as soon as he stepped down (or became private), he would have to deal with them (and there were, apparently, a number of them).

peradventure: perhaps

cast (him) in the teeth: upbraid or reproach

not to desist: not to back down from the race

charge: territory for which he was responsible

Word Trivia

specious: misleading, especially misleadingly attractive; appearing to be true but not really so. Its roots come from words meaning "fair" or "beautiful." We see this idea used in the expression "a pretty argument," which is not to be confused with "a petty argument."


Lentulus Spinther: consul for 57 B.C.

King Ptolemy of Egypt: Sometimes spelled Ptolomy. Ptolemy XII reigned 80-58 and 55-51 B.C. (Between 58-55 B.C., he was exiled in Rome.) After his death, his son Ptolemy XIII reigned from 51-47 B.C., along with Cleopatra (sister of Ptolemy XIII).

Domitius (#2): consul in 54 B.C.; the brother-in-law of Cato

Historic Occasions

58 B.C.: Pompey chosen to remedy grain shortages

56 B.C.: Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey met at Luca

56 B.C.: Pompey's fiftieth birthday

55 B.C.: Pompey's second consulship (with Crassus)

On the Map

Luca: The southernmost town in Cisalpine Gaul (or northern Italy); now spelled Lucca.

Parthia: a region of ancient Iran, known for its military strength


Part One

No sooner was Cicero returned home upon this decree, but immediately he used his efforts to reconcile the Senate to Pompey; and by speaking in favour of the law upon the importations of corn, did again, in effect, make Pompey sovereign lord of all the Roman possessions by sea and land. For all the havens, marts and fairs, and all storehouses for corn, yea moreover all the trade of merchandise and tillage, came under Pompey's hands. Then Clodius accusing him, said that the Senate had not made this law because of the scarcity of victuals, but that they made the scarcity of victuals; because the law should pass only to revive Pompey's power and authority again. Others say that this was a device of Lentulus Spinther the consul, who gave Pompey the greater authority, because he might be sent to put the elder King Ptolemy again into his kingdom.

This notwithstanding, Canidius the tribune proposed another law to send Pompey, without an army (with two sergeants only to carry the axes before him), to bring Ptolemy in favour again with the Alexandrians. Neither did this proposal seem unacceptable to Pompey, though the Senate cast it out upon the specious pretense that they were unwilling to hazard his person. Nevertheless, little papers were found thrown about the Forum and the Senate house, declaring that Ptolemy desired that Pompey might come to aid him instead of Spinther.

So, Pompey having now full authority to cause corn to be brought to Rome, he sent then his lieutenants and friends abroad, and he himself in person went into Sicily.

Now being ready to return again, there rose such a storm of wind in the sea, that the mariners were in doubt to weigh their anchors. But he himself first embarked, and commanded them straight to hoist sail, crying out aloud, "It is of necessity I must go, but not to live." So, through his boldness and good spirit, using the good fortune he had, he filled all the markets with corn, and all the sea besides with ships: insomuch, the plenty he brought did not only furnish the city of Rome; but all their neighbours also about them, and it came like a lively spring that dispersed itself through all Italy.

Part Two

About that time, the great conquests that Caesar made in Gaul did set him aloft. For when they thought that he was occupied in wars far from Rome (with the Belgians, Swiss, and Englishmen), he, by secret plotting, was in the midst among the people at Rome; and most against Pompey in the weightiest affairs of the commonwealth. For he had the power of an army about his person, which he did harden with pains and continual practice, not with intent to fight only against the barbarous people: for the battles he had with them were in manner but as a hunting sport, by the which he made himself invincible, and dreadful to the world. But furthermore, by the infinite gold and silver, and the incredible spoils and treasure which he won upon the enemies whom he had overcome; and by sending great presents also to Rome, to the aediles, praetors, consuls, and their wives, he purchased himself many friends.

Therefore, after he had passed over the Alps again, and was come to winter in the city of Luca: a world of people (both men and women), and of the Senate themselves almost two hundred persons (amongst them Crassus and Pompey), went out of Rome unto him. Furthermore, there were seen at Caesar's gate six score sergeants carrying axes before praetors, or proconsuls. So Caesar sent every one of them back again either full of money or good words: but with Pompey and Crassus, he made a match that they two together should sue to be consuls; and that he himself would send them good aid to Rome, at the day of election, to give their voices. And if they were chosen, that they should then practise, by decree of the people, to have the governments of some new provinces and armies assigned them: and withal, that they should confirm the government of those provinces he had himself, for five years more.

When these arrangements came to be generally known, great indignation was excited among the chief men in Rome. Whereupon Marcellinus at an open assembly of the people, did ask them both if they would sue for the consulship at the next election. So they being urged by the people to make answer, Pompey spoke first, and said: peradventure he would, peradventure not. Crassus answered more gently, that he would do that which should be best for the commonwealth. Then Marcellinus sharply inveighing against Pompey: Pompey angrily again cast him in the teeth, and said that Marcellinus was the rankest churl, and the unthankfullest beast in the world: for that of a poorly-spoken man, he had made him eloquent, and being in manner starved and famished, many a time he had filled his belly.

This notwithstanding, divers that before were determined to sue for the consulship went no further in it. Cato alone persuaded and encouraged Lucius Domitius (#2) not to desist. "For," said he, "thou dost not contend for the consulship, but to defend the common liberty of thy country against two tyrants." Pompey therefore fearing Cato's party, lest that having all the Senate's goodwills, he should draw also the best part of the people after him: he thought it not good to suffer Domitius (#2) to come into the Forum. To this end therefore, he sent men armed against him, who at the first onset, slew the torchbearer that carried the torch before him, and made all the rest flee: amongst whom also Cato was the last man that retired, who was hurt in his elbow defending of Domitius.

Part Three

Pompey and Crassus having become consuls after this sort, they ordered themselves nothing the more temperately, nor honestly. For first of all, the people being about to choose Cato praetor: Pompey, being at the assembly of the election, perceiving that they would choose him, broke up the assembly, falsely alleging that he had noted certain ill signs; and afterwards, the tribes of the people being bribed and corrupted with money, they chose Antias and Vatinius praetors.

After that, by Trebonius, tribune of the people, they published edicts, authorizing Caesar's charge for five years longer, according to the agreement they had made with Caesar. Unto Crassus also they had appointed Syria, and the war against the Parthians. Unto Pompey in like case, all Africa, and both Spains, with four legions besides: of the which, at Caesar's desire, he lent him two legions to help him in his war in Gaul.

Narration and Discussion

In Lesson One from Part 1, Plutarch said that the Romans hated Pompey's father for his greed, but that Pompey's character was quite different. Pompey may not have been greedy for money, but there were certain other things he was determined to have, at almost any cost. Can you explain?

What were some signs that Julius Caesar was readying himself to take control of Rome?

"When these arrangements came to be generally known, great indignation was excited among the chief men in Rome." How did Pompey and Crassus get away with dishonesty (and even violence)?

Creative narration: Expand on the conversation between Cato and Domitius, and the scene with the torchbearer. How might Shakespeare have dramatized this?

Lesson Five (or 17)


Pompey and Crassus had both been granted the government of overseas provinces; but while Crassus left to fight against the Parthians, Pompey remained in Rome to dedicate his Theatre and (to the annoyance of many) to spend time with his wife. However, this period of seeming good fortune quickly came to an end, as Pompey had to deal with both personal tragedy and the increasing power of his former Triumvirate ally, Julius Caesar.


expiration: end

theatre: The Theatre of Pompey, the first permanent theatre to be built in Rome, was begun around 61 B.C. and completed in 55 B.C. The Theatre included a whole complex of buildings, including space used for political meetings. To get around "zoning" problems, Pompey had the complex built just over the city boundary line; and to further legitimize the project, he included a temple to Venus, and said that the theatre seats were steps leading up to the temple.

defrayed: paid for

continency: faithfulness

great with child: pregnant

was delivered: had the baby

death had put an end to that relation: Pompey and Caesar had been on good terms while Pompey was married to Julia; but now that she was gone, there was no motivation to continue the relationship.

covetousness: wanting to possess what one does not have. One of the Ten Commandments, in older English translations, says "Thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:17).

because the citizens that made the elections . . . : ironically, Pompey was kept out of office because of the same bribery tactics he had previously used himself

dictator: Rome was usually governed by two consuls, but in times of emergency one sole leader, called the dictator, could be appointed.

commended: praised

death of one of the consuls: Neither Domitius (#2) nor Messalla appears to have died in office, so it is not clear what is meant here. It may refer to the murder of Clodius at the hands of Milo, who was one of the candidates for consul.

consul alone: that is, without any co-consul

in respect of him that spoke it: considering how Bibulus had been mistreated while he was consul

Word Trivia

theatre: Our use of the word "theatre" (or "theater" in the U.S.) as mainly a place where plays (and now movies) are shown dates back only to Shakespeare's lifetime. The word comes from a Greek word meaning "something to see," in the same sense as the English term "a spectacle." The "spectacles" at Pompey's theatre included music, combat, and gymnastic events.

hurly-burly: hubbub or commotion. The first known use of hurly-burly was in 1539.


Domitius (#3) and Messalla: Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus and Marcus Valerius Messalla Rufus, consuls for 53 B.C. Domitius (#3) is described more fully in Lesson 9 (of Part 2).

Historic Occasions

55 B.C.: dedication of Pompey's Theatre

54 B.C.: death of Pompey's wife Julia

53 B.C.: death of Crassus and his son at the Battle of Carrhae in Parthia

53 B.C.: Domitius and Messalla were consuls

52 B.C.: Pompey chosen as sole consul until reasonable order could be restored in Rome. He then partnered with Metellus Scipio (#2, see next lesson) for the rest of the year.


Part One

These things done, Crassus departed to his province, at the expiration of his consulship; and Pompey remained at Rome about the dedicating of his theatre, where he treated the people with all sorts of games, shows, in exercises, in gymnastics alike and in music. There was likewise the hunting or baiting of wild beasts, and combats with them, in which five hundred lions were slain; but above all, the battle of elephants was a spectacle full of horror and amazement. This great charge and bountiful expense, defrayed by Pompey, to show the people pastime and pleasure, made him again to be very much esteemed of and beloved amongst the people. But on the other side, he won himself as much ill-will and envy, in committing the government of his provinces and legions into the hands of his lieutenants, whilst he himself roamed up and down the pleasant places of Italy, with his wife at his pleasure: either because he was far in love with her, or else for that she loved him so dearly that he could not find in his heart to leave her company.

It was reported of her, (being known of many) that this young lady Julia loved her husband more dearly, not for Pompey's flourishing age, but for his assured continency, knowing no other woman but her: besides also, he was no solemn man, but pleasant of conversation, which made women love him marvellously. It is certain, that at an election of the aediles, men rising suddenly in hurly-burly, drew their swords, and many were slain about Pompey: insomuch as his clothes being bloodied, he sent his men home in haste to fetch him other to change him. His young wife that was great with child, seeing his clothes bloody, took such a flight upon it, that she fell down in a swoon before them, and they had much ado to recover her; and yet she fell straight in labour upon it, and was delivered. So that they themselves, which blamed him most for his good will he bare unto Caesar, could not reprove the love he bare unto his wife. Another time after that, she was great with child again, whereof she died; and the child lived not many days after the mother.

[omission for length]

Part Two

For the city now at once began to roll and swell, so to say, with the stir of the coming storm. Things everywhere were in a state of agitation, and everybody's discourse tended to division, now that death had put an end to that relation which hitherto had been a disguise rather than restraint to the ambition of these men. Not long after that also came news that Crassus was overthrown and slain in Parthia: he had been a safeguard to keep the two from civil wars, for that they both feared him, and therefore kept themselves in a reasonable sort together. But Fortune had taken away this third champion, who could have withstood the better of them both that had overcome the other. So little can Fortune prevail against nature, having no power to stop covetousness: since so large and great an empire, and such a wide country besides, could not contain the covetous desire of these two men. But though they had often both heard and read,

"Among the gods themselves all things by lot divided are,
And none of them intrudes himself within his neighbour's share,"

yet they thought not that the empire of Rome was enough for them, which were but two.

But Pompey spoke openly in an oration he made unto the people, that he ever came to office before he looked for it; and also left it sooner than they thought he would have done: and that he witnessed by discharging his army so soon. Then, thinking that Caesar would not discharge his army, he sought to make himself strong against him by procuring offices of the city, without any other alteration. Neither would he seem to mistrust him; but he plainly shewed that he did despise and contemn him. But when he saw that he could not obtain the offices of the city as he would, because the citizens that made the elections were bribed with money: he then left it without a magistrate, so that there was none either to command, or that the people should obey.

Hereupon there was mention straightway made of appointing a dictator. The first man that propounded it was Lucilius, tribune of the people, who persuaded them to choose Pompey. But Cato stuck so stoutly against it, that the tribune had like to have lost his office, even in the Forum. But then many of Pompey's friends stepped up, and excused him, saying that he neither sought, nor would have the dictatorship. Then Cato commended him much, and praying him to see good order kept in the commonwealth: Pompey being ashamed to deny so reasonable a request, was careful of it.

Thereupon two consuls were chosen, Domitius and Messalla.

But shortly afterwards, when the state began to change again by the death of one of the consuls; and that many were more earnestly bent to have a dictator than before; Cato, fearing it would break out with fury, determined to give Pompey some office of reasonable authority, to keep him from the other which would be more tyrannical. Insomuch, Bibulus himself being chief of the Senate, and Pompey's enemy, was the first that moved that Pompey might be chosen consul alone: for, said he, by this means, either the commonwealth shall be rid of the present trouble, or else it shall be in bondage to an honest man. This opinion was marvelled at, in respect of him that spoke it.

Whereupon, Cato standing up, it was thought straight he would have spoken against him. But silence being made him, he plainly told them, that for his own part he would not have been the first man to have propounded that which was spoken: but since it was spoken by another, that he thought it reasonable and meet to be followed. And therefore, said he, it is better to have an officer to command, whatsoever he be, rather than none: and that he saw no man fitter to command than Pompey, in so troublesome a time.

All the Senate liked his opinion, and ordained that Pompey should be chosen sole consul; and that if he saw, in his discretion, that he should need the assistance of another companion, he might name any whom he thought good, but not till two months were past. Thus was Pompey made consul alone (by Sulpitius, regent for that day).

Then Pompey made very friendly countenance unto Cato; and thanked him for the honour he had done him, praying him privately to assist him with his counsel in the consulship. Cato answered him, that there was no cause why he should thank him, for he had spoken nothing for his sake, but for respect of the commonwealth only: and for his counsel, if he would ask it, he should privately have it; if not, yet that he would openly say that which he thought. Such a man was Cato in all his doings.

Narration and Discussion

How was it that the Roman empire (the largest the world had ever seen) still did not seem large enough to contain the "covetous desires" of both Pompey and Caesar?

Why was it so surprising that Bibulus and Cato supported the idea of making Pompey sole consul? Why do you think they did so?

For older students: How was Cato the opposite of one with "covetous desires?" (Look up Proverbs 11:23; James 3:13.)

Lesson Six (or 18)


Pompey, now in his fifties, married a woman who was much younger but who seemed to be his equal in intellect. (We will hear more about her later.) On the political front, tensions were building with Julius Caesar; but Pompey, riding a wave of public affection after recovering from an illness, seemed oblivious to the idea that his time in power might be running out.


maiden: unmarried woman

the remedy to redress the same: they expected Pompey (in Dryden's words, like a physician) to be the cure for their ills

disposed upon him against the law . . . : outside of the usual rule of having two consuls, because Rome was in a crisis state

let fall his suit: dropped the case

crave recompense: seek reward

nosegays: small bouquets

Word Trivia

private man: without any official (public) position, and (especially) without an army. Traced back to its first Latin roots, the word "private" (for one person, or owned by one person) comes from privus, meaning "single, individual." The opposite would be "public," meaning "of the people" (like Publicola).


Metellus Scipio (#2): Pompey's father-in-law, the father of Cornelia, and his co-consul for part of 52 B.C. Later he became the governor of Syria, and Pompey's lieutenant against Caesar. He was the adopted son of Metellus Pius (#1), which is why their names are so similar.

Cornelia: Cornelia Metella, the fifth (and last) wife of Pompey

Appius: Appius Claudius Pulcher, a Roman general; the head of a powerful family; brother of Clodius; consul for 54 B.C. along with Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (#2). (His election was likely aided by the fact that his daughter had recently married Pompey's son)

Historic Occasions

52 B.C.: Pompey married Cornelia Metella (fifth wife), at the age of 54

50 B.C.: Paullus was consul, along with Marcellus Minor (#1). His cousin Marcellus Maior (#2) was elected consul for the next year, 49 B.C. The nicknames were given to keep them straight.

50 B.C.: Pompey's illness

On the Map

Naples: a city in southern Italy with a large harbour


Part One

Now Pompey returning into the city, married Cornelia, the daughter of Metellus Scipio (#2); not a maiden, but late the widow of Publius Crassus the son, that was slain in Parthia. This lady had excellent gifts to be beloved besides her beauty. For she was properly learned, could play well on the harp, was skillful in music and geometry, and took great pleasure also in philosophy, and not vainly without some profit. For she was very modest and sober of behaviour, without brawling and foolish curiosity, which commonly young women have, that are endowed with such singular gifts. Her father also, was a nobleman, both in blood, and life.

Notwithstanding, these unlike marriages did not please some: for Cornelia was young enough to have been his son's wife. Now the best citizens thought that therein he regarded not the care of the commonwealth, being in such a troublesome time, which had chosen him only as the remedy to redress the same; and that he in the meantime gave himself over to marrying and feasting, where rather he should have been careful of his consulship, which was disposed upon him against the law, for common calamity's sake, that otherwise he had not have come by, if all had been quiet. Furthermore, he sharply proceeded against them which by bribery and unlawful means came to office: and having made laws and ordinances for the administration of justice otherwise, he dealt justly and uprightly in all things, giving safety, order, silence and gravity to matters of judgement, with force of arms, himself being present: saving that when his father-in-law was also accused among others, he sent for the three hundred and sixty judges home to his house, praying them to help him. Whereupon, when the accuser saw Scipio accompanied by the judges themselves, returning into the Forum, he let fall his suit.

[omission for length]

This inconstancy was much reproved in Pompey. Howbeit, otherwise he set all things in good order; and chose his father-in-law Scipio (#2) for his colleague and fellow in the consulship, for the five last months.

[Cato, as he had agreed, gave Pompey political advice (but in private). Among his concerns was that Caesar, understanding the power of money to buy more power, was building up support for himself. Cato was disappointed by Pompey's lack of action, so he ran for consul himself in the next election, but was not successful.]

Part Two

After that, Pompey caused the government of his provinces to be appointed to himself for four years more, with commission to take yearly out of the treasury a thousand talents to defray the charges of this war. Caesar's friends, seeing that Pompey was being so rewarded, prayed that there might also be had some consideration of him (Caesar) that had likewise won great wars for the empire of Rome; saying that his good service deserved either that they should make him consul again, or else that they should prolong his charge and government, so as he might yet peaceably enjoy the honour to command that which he had conquered, to the end that no other successor might reap the fruit of his labour.

There arising some debate about this, Pompey took it upon himself, as it were out of kindness to Caesar, to plead his cause and allay any jealousy that was conceived against him; telling them that he had letters from Caesar, expressing his desire for a successor, and his own discharge from the command; but it would be only right that they should give him leave to stand for the consulship though in his absence. Which Cato stoutly withstood, saying that Caesar must return home as a private man, and, leaving his army, should come in person to crave recompense of his country. But because Pompey made no reply nor answer to the contrary, men suspected straight that he had no great good liking of Caesar; and the rather, because he had sent unto him for the two legions which he had lent him, under colour of his war against the Parthians. However, Caesar, though he well knew why they were asked for, sent them home very liberally rewarded.

Part Three

About that time, Pompey fell sick at Naples of a dangerous disease, whereof, notwithstanding, he recovered again. The Neapolitans thereupon, by persuasion of Praxagoras, one of the chiefest men of their city, did sacrifice to the gods for his recovery. The like did also their neighbours round about: and in fine, it ran so generally through all Italy, that there was no city or town (great or small) but made open feast and rejoicing for many days together. Besides, the infinite number of people was such, that went to meet him out of all parts, that there was not place enough for them all; but the highways, cities, towns and ports of the sea were all full of people, feasting and sacrificing to the gods, and rejoicing for his recovery. Divers also went to meet him, crowned with garlands, and so did attend on him, casting nosegays and flowers upon him.

Thus was his journey the noblest sight that ever was, all the way as he came: howbeit men thought also, that this was the chiefest cause of the beginning of the civil wars. For he fell into such a pride, and glorious conceit of himself, with the exceeding joy he took to see himself thus honoured: that forgetting his orderly government, which made all his former doings to prosper, he grew too bold in despising of Caesar's power, as though he stood in no need of other power or care to withstand him, but that he could overcome him as he would, far more easily than he could have done before.

Besides this, Appius, under whose command those legions which Pompey lent to Caesar were returned, coming lately out of Gaul, spoke slightingly of Caesar's actions there, and spread scandalous reports about him. For he said that Pompey knew not his own strength and authority, that would seek to make himself strong, by other power against him: considering that he (Pompey) might overcome him (Caesar) with his own legions he should bring with him, so soon as they saw but Pompey in the face, such ill-will did Caesar's own soldiers bear him, and were marvellous desirous besides to see himself.

These flattering tales so puffed up Pompey, and brought him into such a security and trust of himself, that he mocked them to scorn which were afraid of wars. And to those also which said, that if Caesar came to Rome, they saw not how they could resist his power: he smilingly answered them again, and bade them take no thought for that: "For as oft," said he, "as I do but stamp my foot upon the ground of Italy, I shall bring men enough out of every corner, both footmen and horsemen."

Narration and Discussion

Why was Pompey's new marriage criticized, even though Cornelia was an admirable individual (and perhaps a good influence)?

Do you think Pompey had changed his mind about the morality of bribes and similar means of persuasion?

Plutarch says that the extreme love and praise shown to Pompey gave him "pride and a glorious conceit of himself." How did that influence his decision to fight against Caesar?

Creative narration: This would be a good lesson in which to do a "Pompey Podcast" or some on-the-street interviewing.

Lesson Seven (or 19)


In 50 B.C., the big debate in the Roman Senate was how serious a problem it was to have two competing rulers, each with an army, and each army (technically) outside of Rome (so still legal). Would it work for Pompey and Caesar each to have a small army (say one legion), and to promise to "play nice?" Or was complete dismissal of all troops the only answer? The events of early 49 B.C. made it clear that such arguments were a waste of time: a civil war had already begun.


nearer unto Italy: that is, from Gaul

won with money: bribed, bought off

tended to this end: seemed to be going in the same direction

read a letter unto the people: see note under Mark Antony

to be provided: to gather what they needed (such as weapons)

ambassadors: those sent to negotiate or capitulate (rather than fight)

Cato immediately departed into Sicily: The Life of Cato says that he went there to secure food supplies for Pompey's army.

Word Trivia

garboil: confusion and disturbance. It comes from French, Italian, and Latin words that meant to boil and seethe.


Paullus: Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus; son of Lepidus (#1); brother to Lepidus #2; consul for 50 B.C. with Marcellus Minor (#1) (see note in previous lesson)

Curio: Gaius Scribonius Curio Burbulieus, a statesman and orator, elected tribune of the people for 50 B.C. He began to support Julius Caesar at that time, apparently because Caesar paid off his debts. At the end of his year as tribune, he travelled to meet with Caesar, and brought back the document which was read soon after in the Senate. After fleeing Rome (see Mark Antony), he became a commander in Caesar's army, and died in battle later that same year.

Mark Antony or Antony: Marcus Antonius, Roman general, supporter of Caesar; later part of the Second Triumvirate. He also took over the position of tribune which Curio had held in the previous year, and began on January 1st by reading the document with Caesar's demands. However, this did not go as well as hoped, and he, along with Curio and others, fled from Rome to join Caesar's camp.

Marcellus Maior (#2): cousin to Marcellus Minor (#1); consul for 49 B.C. He took office on January 1 along with Lentulus Crus (not to be confused with Lepidus) and was immediately notified that Julius Caesar was declaring war on Rome.

Tullus: Lucius Volcatius Tullus, a Roman politician who had been consul in 66 B.C.

Phaonius: or Favonius

Historic Occasions

January 10, 49 B.C.: Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army, an act of defiance which was also a declaration of war

On the Map

Rubicon River: the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. (The Rubicon in present-day Italy is believed to be the same river.)


Part One

In the meantime, Caesar gathered force still unto him, and thenceforth drew nearer unto Italy. He sent of his soldiers daily to Rome to be present at the election of the magistrates, and many of them that were in office, he won with money: amongst whom was Paullus, one of the consuls, whom he won of his side by means of a thousand five hundred talents; and Curio, the tribune of the people, whom he discharged of an infinite debt he owed; together with Mark Antony, who, out of friendship to Curio, had become bound with him in the same obligations for them all. Furthermore, it was found that a captain or centurion sent from Caesar, being near unto the Senate, understanding that the council would not prolong Caesar's government which he required, clapping his hand upon the handle of his sword: "Well," said he, "this shall give it him."

So, to be short, all that was done and said tended to this end.

Notwithstanding, the petitions and requests that Curio made on Caesar's behalf seemed somewhat more reasonable for the people: for he requested one of two things: either to make Pompey to put down his army, or else to permit Caesar to have his army as well as he. For, either being both made private men, they would fall to agreement of themselves: or else being both of like strength, neither of both would seek any alteration, fearing one another, but would content themselves either of them with their own. Or otherwise, he that should weaken the one and strengthen the other should double his power whom he feared. Thereto very hotly replied the consul Marcellus (probably #1), calling Caesar a thief; and said that he should be proclaimed an open enemy to Rome if he did not disperse his army.

This notwithstanding, in fine Curio, with the assistance of Antony and Piso, procured that the Senate should decide the matter. "For," said he, "all those that would have Caesar leave his army, and Pompey to keep his, let them stand on the one side." Thereupon the most part of them stood at one side. Then he bade them again come away from them, that would have them both leave their armies. Then there remained only but two and twenty that stood for Pompey: and all the rest went to Curio's side. Then Curio, looking aloft for joy at the victory, went into the Forum, and there was received of his tribune faction with shouts of joy and clapping of hands, and infinite nosegays and garlands of flowers thrown upon him.

Pompey was not then present to see the Senators' good will towards him: because by the law, such as have commandment over soldiers cannot enter into Rome. Notwithstanding, Marcellus, standing up, said that he would not stand trifling hearing of orations and arguments, when he knew that ten legions were already passed over the Alps, intending to come in arms against them; and that he would send a man unto them that should defend their country well enough.

Upon this the city went into mourning, as in a public calamity, and Marcellus, accompanied by the Senate, went solemnly through the Forum to meet Pompey, and made him this address: "Pompey, I command thee to help thy country with that army thou hast already, and also to levy more to aid thee."

[omission for length]

Part Two

Now when Pompey thought to levy soldiers in Rome, some would not obey him; a few others went unwillingly to him with heavy hearts; and the most of them cried, "Peace, peace." Antony also, against the Senate's mind, read a letter unto the people, sent from Caesar and containing certain offers and reasonable requests, and Antony did this to draw the common people's affection towards him (Caesar). For Caesar's request was that Pompey and he should, both of them, resign their governments, and should dismiss their armies to make all well, referring themselves wholly to the judgement of the people, and to deliver up account unto them of their doings.

Lentulus, being now entered into his consulship for 49 B.C., along with Marcellus #2, did not assemble the Senate. But Cicero, lately returned out of Cilicia, tried to bring them to agreement, proposing that Caesar should leave Gaul, and all the rest of his army; reserving only two legions together with the government of Illyria; and should thus be put in nomination for a second consulship. Pompey liked not this motion, but Caesar's friends were contented to grant that he should have but one of his legions. But Lentulus still opposed it, and Cato cried out on the other side also, that Pompey did ill to be deceived again. So all treaty of peace was cut off.

Part Three

In the meantime, news came to Rome that Caesar had won Ariminum, a fair great city of Italy, and that he came directly to Rome with a great power. But that was not true. For he came but with three hundred horse soldiers, and five thousand footmen, and would not tarry for the rest of his army that was yet on the other side of the mountains in Gaul, but made haste rather to surprise his enemies upon the sudden, with them being afraid and in garboil, not looking for him so soon; rather than to give them time to be provided, and to fight with him when they were ready.

[omission for length: Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon, which has been described elsewhere]

Now the news of Caesar's coming being carried to Rome, they were in such a marvellous fear as the like was never seen. For all the Senate ran immediately unto Pompey, and all the other magistrates of the city fled unto him also. Tullus, asking Pompey what power he had to resist them: he answered him, faltering somewhat in his speech, that he had the two legions ready which Caesar sent back; and that he thought with the number of them which he had levied in haste, he should make up the number of thirty thousand fighting men. Then Tullus cried out openly: "Ah, thou hast mocked us, Pompey"; and thereupon gave order they should send ambassadors unto Caesar. There was one Phaonius in the company, who bade Pompey then stamp his foot upon the ground and make those soldiers come which he had promised them.

Pompey gently bore with Phaonius' mock. But when Cato told him also what he had prophesied beforehand of Caesar, he answered him again: "Indeed thou hast prophesied more truly than I, but I have dealt more friendly than he." Then Cato thought good that they should make Pompey lieutenant general of Rome with full and absolute power to command all, saying that the selfsame men which do the greatest mischief know best also how to remedy the same.

So Cato immediately departed into Sicily, having the charge and government of that country: and also every one of the other senators went unto the charge they were appointed.

Narration and Discussion

Did Caesar really intend to disband his army, or were his proposals only a deception, as Cato said?

What did Cato mean when he said that "the selfsame men which do the greatest mischief know best also how to remedy the same?"

Lesson Eight (or 20)


"All the Senate ran immediately unto Pompey." Pompey's leadership was still sought in a crisis: so he would be the one to defend Rome against a threatened takeover by Julius Caesar.

Plutarch's chronology for this part of the story is a bit confusing, and he may have left out some details that he thought his readers would already know. These are the basic events: when Pompey and many of the senators fled from Rome (Part One), they did not intend to fight with Caesar (although they did have a sizeable army with them). Caesar went briefly to Rome; "possessed the city" (partly so that he could help himself to the funds to pay his soldiers); and then did pursue Pompey, but changed his tactics and went to Spain to capture Pompey's lieutenants (Part Two).

Knowing the real battles were still ahead, Pompey put his men into a program of intensive military and physical training (Part Three).


credit: believe

Caesar's friends: that is, traitors

excepting only two vessels: Caesar did capture those two ships

liburnian: a type of small galley

sack: destroy and rob

part: side, position; used in the sense of "take someone's part"

Historic Occasions

49-45 B.C.: The Great Roman Civil War, also called Caesar's Civil War

49 B.C.: Caesar appointed Dictator, but resigned after eleven days

On the Map

Brundisium: see Lesson Nine from Part 1. This was the main port for crossing into Greece, where Pompey planned to collect his forces and prepare for war. He apparently did not expect Caesar to follow them so quickly; and Caesar seems to have been hesitant to attack Brundisium, as it is said that he first sent Pompey's friend Numerius to negotiate peace terms. When Pompey refused, he did attack the city, and Pompey was forced to escape by sea (along with Numerius).

Dyrrhachium (sometimes Dyrrachium): a city located in what is now Albania. Pompey used Dyrrhachium as a storage site for supplies such as food; so Caesar hoped that if Pompey could be drawn away to fight elsewhere, his army might be cut off from those supplies.

Beroea: a town in Macedonia


Part One

Thus all Italy being in arms, no man knew what was best to be done.

For they that were outside of Rome came flying thither from all parts; and those, on the other side, that were within Rome, went out as fast, and forsook the city in this trouble and disorder. Those which might serve, being willing to obey, were found very weak; and those, on the other side, which by disobedience did hurt, were too strong and ill to be governed by the magistrates, having law to command. For there was no possibility to pacify their fear; neither would they suffer Pompey to offer things as he would; but every man followed his own fancy, even as he found himself grieved, afraid, or in doubt; so that even in the same day quite contrary counsels were acted upon. Pompey could hear nothing of certainty of his enemies. For someone would bring him news one way, and then someone else again another way: and then if he would not credit them, they were angry with him.

At the length, when he saw the tumult and confusion so great at Rome as there was no means to pacify it, he commanded all the senators to follow him; telling all them that remained behind that he would take them for Caesar's friends; and so at night departed out of the city. Then the two consuls fled also, without doing any sacrifice to the gods, as they were wont to do before they went to make any wars.

So Pompey, even in his greatest trouble and most danger, might think himself happy to have every man's goodwill as he had. For, though divers misliked the cause of this war, yet no man hated the captain: but there were more found that could not forsake Pompey for the love they bare him, than there were that followed him to fight for their liberty.

Part Two

Shortly after Pompey was gone out of Rome, Caesar was come to Rome: who, possessing the city, spoke very gently unto all them he found there, and pacified their fear; saving that he threatened Metellus (#3), one of the tribunes of the people, to put him to death, because he (Metellus) would not suffer him (Caesar) to take any of the treasure of the commonwealth. Unto that cruel threat he added a more bitter speech also, saying that it was not so hard a thing for him to do it, as to speak it. By this means removing Metellus, and taking what moneys were of use for his occasions, he set forward in pursuit of Pompey, endeavouring with all speed to drive him out of Italy before his army, that was in Spain, could join him.

But Pompey arriving at Brundisium, and having gotten some ships together, he made the two consuls presently embark with thirty ensigns of footmen, which he sent beyond the sea before unto Dyrrhachium. And immediately after that, he sent his father-in-law Scipio (#2) and his son Gnaeus Pompey into Syria, to provide him ships. Himself, on the other side, fortified the ramparts of the city, and placed the lightest soldiers he had upon the walls, and commanded the Brundisians not to stir out of their houses; and further, he cast trenches within the city, at the end of the streets in divers places, and filled those trenches with sharp pointed stakes, saving two streets only, which went unto the harbour. Then the third day after, having embarked all the rest of his soldiers at his pleasure, he suddenly lifting up a sign into the air, to give them warning which he had left to guard the ramparts: they straight ran to him with speed, and quickly receiving them into his ships, he weighed anchor, and hoisted sail.

Caesar meantime perceiving their departure by seeing the walls unguarded, hastened after, and in the heat of pursuit was all but entangled himself among the stakes and trenches. But the Brundisians discovering the danger to him, and showing him the way, he wheeled about, and taking a circuit round the city, made towards the haven, where he found all the ships on their way excepting only two vessels that had but a few soldiers aboard. Some think that this departure of Pompey was one of the best stratagems of war that ever he used. Notwithstanding, Caesar marvelled much that Pompey, being in a strong city, and looking for his army to come out of Spain, and being master of the sea besides, would ever forsake Italy. However, it appeared plainly, and Caesar showed it by his actions, that he was in great fear of delay; for when he had taken Numerius (a friend of Pompey's) prisoner, he sent him as an ambassador to Brundisium, with offers of peace and reconciliation upon equal terms; but Numerius sailed away with Pompey.

Part Three

And now Caesar having become master of all Italy in sixty days, without a drop of blood shed, had a great desire forthwith to follow Pompey. But because he had no ships ready, he let him go, and hasted towards Spain, to join Pompey's army there unto his.

Now Pompey in the mean space, had gotten a marvellous great power together both by sea and by land. His army by sea was wonderful. For he had five hundred good ships of war, and of light vessels, liburnians, and others, an infinite number. By land, he had all the flower of the horsemen of Rome, and of all Italy, to the number of seven thousand horse, all rich men, of great houses, and valiant minds. But his footmen, they were men of all sorts, and raw soldiers untrained, whom Pompey continually exercised, lying at the city of Beroea, not sitting idly, but performing exercises as if he had been in the prime of his youth. Which was to great purpose to encourage others, seeing Pompey, being eight and fifty years old, able to fight afoot, armed at all pieces; and then a-horseback, quickly to draw out his sword while his horse was in his full career, and easily to put it up again; and to throw his dart from him, not only with such agility to hit point blank, but also with strength to cast it such a way from him, that few young men could do the like.

[omission for length: some military details]

Pompey's officers sat in council, and following Cato's opinion, decreed that they should put no citizen of Rome to death but in battle; and that they should sack no city that was subject to the empire of Rome: the which made Pompey's part the better liked. For they that had nothing to do with the wars, either because they dwelt far off, or else for that they were so poor, as otherwise they were not regarded: did yet both in deed and word favour Pompey's part, thinking anyone an enemy both to the gods and men that wished not Pompey victory.

Narration and Discussion

In Part One, why did Pompey and the senators leave Rome? Should they not have stayed to defend it?

Describe Pompey's training camp at Beroea.

For older students: Plutarch suggests that Pompey's soldiers followed him more out of loyalty than they did out of concern for their liberty. Did their motivation really matter?

Lesson Nine (or 21)


In July of 48 B.C. the two armies fought the Battle of Dyrrhachium, and Caesar's army barely missed being destroyed by Pompey's forces. Pompey then followed Caesar into Thessaly, hoping to besiege him or exhaust his resources; but the stage was already set for their final battle.


Pompey's army that was in Spain: Caesar's march to Spain and his capture of Pompey's troops is detailed in other histories. With this additional military power, he then returned to Italy, crossed the Adriatic Sea, and quickly took the port of Oricum.

commodious: large enough

Once only: that is, at the Battle of Dyrrhachium

This victory: This was a victory for Pompey's side, in spite of Caesar's remark that they lacked a "victor." However, Pompey realized he was not really in a position to continue to fight against Caesar.

they would needs hazard battle: they were in the mood to fight

bickering: skirmish, bit of fighting

bridle: restrain

marched forward to follow Caesar: see On the Map, below

determined not to give him battle: see Discussion Questions

straight: immediately

imputations: insinuations, hints

Time Trivia

Julius Caesar held the special position of Pontifex Maximus in Rome, which included the responsibility for adjusting the calendar at the end of each year, since the Roman calendar did not line up properly with the rotation of the Earth around the sun. However, Caesar had been so busy with other things that he had forgotten to change the calendar. His arrival at Oricum took Bibulus by surprise, because Bibulus thought it was already winter, and he didn't expect anyone to risk the crossing. Caesar's absent-mindedness unexpectedly paid off.


Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus: (102 B.C.-48 B.C.), the same Bibulus who had been consul with Caesar. He was assigned to keep Caesar's forces from crossing from Italy, but was surprised by their untimely arrival at Oricum (see Time Trivia, above), and failed to stop their occupation of the port. He died soon afterwards. (More trivia: Bibulus was the first husband of Porcia (or Portia) who later married Brutus (#3).)

Labienus, general of the horsemen: Titus Labienus, who had been a lieutenant under Caesar but who now opposed him

Phaonius: see Lesson 8 of Part 2

Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, or Domitius Calvinus (Domitius #3): Roman general, senator, and consul; lieutenant in Caesar's army.

Metellus Scipio (#2): see Lesson 6 of Part 2.

Historic Occasions

48 B.C.: Caesar captured Oricum

48 B.C.: Caesar reappointed Dictator

July, 48 B.C.: Battle of Dyrrhachium

On the Map

Oricum: a port in Epirus, the region west of Macedonia

Dyrrhachium: see Lesson 8 of Part 2

Thessaly: a region of Greece


Part One

Caesar also showed himself very merciful and courteous, where he overcame. For when he had won all Pompey's army that was in Spain, he allowed the captains that were taken to go at liberty, and only reserved the soldiers. Then coming over the Alps again, he passed through all Italy, and came to the city of Brundisium in the winter quarter; and there passing over the sea, he went unto the city of Oricum, and landed there. And having Jubius, an intimate friend of Pompey's, with him as his prisoner, he dispatched him to Pompey with an invitation that they, meeting together in a conference, should disband their armies within three days, and renewing their former friendship with solemn oaths, should return together into Italy.

Pompey looked upon this again as some new stratagem, and therefore marching down in all haste to the seacoast, possessed himself of all forts and places of strength suitable to encamp in; and to secure his land-forces, as likewise of all ports and harbours commodious to receive any that came by sea: so that what wind soever blew on the sky, it served his turn, to bring him either men, victuals, or money. Caesar, on the other side, was so hemmed in both by sea and land that he was forced to desire battle, daily provoking the enemy, and assailing them in their very forts; and in these light skirmishes for the most part had the better.

[Both sides suffered shortages of food, but it appeared that Caesar's side would soon have the advantage of the coming grain harvest. Pompey needed to act quickly.]

Part Two

Once only Caesar was dangerously overthrown, and was within a little of losing his whole army, Pompey having fought nobly, routing the whole force and killing two thousand on the spot. But either he was not able, or was afraid, to go on and force his way into their camp with them; so that Caesar made the remark that "Today the victory had been the enemy's, had there been anyone among them to gain it."

This victory at Dyrrhachium put Pompey's men in such courage, that they would needs hazard battle. And Pompey himself also, though he wrote letters unto strange kings, captains, and cities of his confederacy, as if he had already won all: he was yet afraid to fight another battle, choosing rather by delays and distress of provisions to tire out a body of men who had never yet been conquered by force of arms, and who had long been used to fight and conquer together; while their time of life, now an advanced one, which made them quickly weary of those other hardships of war, such as were long marches and frequent decamping, making trenches, and building fortifications, made them eager to come to close combat and venture a battle with all speed.

But notwithstanding that Pompey had before persuaded his men to be quiet, and not to stir (perceiving that, after this last bickering, Caesar, being short of victuals, raised his camp, and departed thence to go into Thessaly, through the country of the Athamanians). Then Pompey could no more bridle the glory and courage of those who cried, "Caesar is fled, let us follow him." But others said, "Let us return home again into Italy."


Part Three

Thereupon, assembling Pompey's war council, Afranius thought it best to win Italy, for that was the chiefest mark to be shot at in this war: for whosoever obtained that, had straight all Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Spain, and Gaul at commandment. Furthermore, that it was a dishonour to Pompey (which in reason should touch him above all things) to suffer their own country to be in such cruel bondage and subjection unto slaves and flatterers of tyrants, offering itself as it were into their hands.

But Pompey neither thought it honourable for him once again to flee from Caesar, and to make him follow him, since Fortune had given him opportunity to have Caesar in chase; nor lawful also, before the gods, to forsake his father-in-law Scipio (#2), and many others also that had been consuls, dispersed abroad in Greece and Thessaly; which should immediately fall into Caesar's hands, with all their riches and armies they had. Furthermore, he said, that they had care enough for the city of Rome, which drew the wars farthest off from them: so as, they remaining safe and quiet at home, (neither hearing nor feeling the misery of wars) might, in the end, peaceably receive and welcome him home that remained conqueror.


What did Caesar do after the Battle of Dyrrhachium? Pompey chased Caesar for about four days, while Caesar took care of necessary tasks such as getting care for wounded men and paying his soldiers. He was also trying to get to his lieutenant Domitius (#3) before Pompey did. Caesar continued to have food supply problems which were caused partly because most of the local inhabitants supported Pompey; and Pompey, knowing this, was hopeful that Caesar would surrender out of frustration. However, all this changed with the arrival of Mark Antony's troops from Italy.

Part Four

With this determination, he marched forward to follow Caesar, being determined not to give him battle, but to besiege him, and only to compass him in still being near unto him, and so to cut him off from victuals. There was also another reason that made him to follow that determination. For it was reported to him, that there was a speech given out among the Roman knights, that so soon as ever they had overcome Caesar, they must also bring Pompey to be a private man again. Some say therefore, that Pompey would never afterwards employ Cato in any greater matters of weight in all this war, but when he followed Caesar, he left him captain of his army to keep his carriage by sea, fearing that so soon as Caesar were once overcome, Cato would make him straight also resign his authority.

While he was thus slowly attending the motions of the enemy, he was exposed on all sides to outcries and imputations of using his own generalship to defeat, not Caesar, but his country and the Senate, that he might always continue in authority, and never cease to keep those for his guards and servants who themselves claimed to govern the world.

[The following section contains several omissions for length.]

The persuasions and mocking speech of others compelled Pompey in the end (who could not abide to be ill spoken of, and would not deny his friends anything) to follow their vain hope and desires, and to forsake his own wise determination: the which thing, no good shipmaster, and much less a chief and sovereign captain, over so many nations and so great armies, should have suffered, and consented unto.

All this notwithstanding, they of Pompey's side still being importunate of him, and troubling him in this sort: in fine, when they were come into the fields of Pharsalus, they compelled Pompey to call a council. There Labienus, general of the horsemen, standing up, swore before them all that he would not return from the battle, before he had made his enemies to flee. The like oath all the rest did take.

Narration and Discussion

Pompey hoped to avoid outright battle with Caesar by, perhaps, besieging him somewhere and forcing him to surrender. He at first refused to allow his troops to be drawn into battle; for instance, by placing them on uneven ground where he knew it would be difficult to engage. However, the arguments of others finally convinced him to fight. Was this the right choice? (Did he have any other?)

Lesson Ten (or 22)


At the short Battle of Pharsalus in August, Caesar was the unquestioned winner. Pompey, stunned by this defeat, escaped, as they say, "with his life."


raise his camp: Caesar had planned to break camp and go to Scotussa, until he heard that Pompey's troops were preparing to fight.

voward: those troops in the front

straitly: strictly

six cohorts . . . : about 3,000 fighting men, counting 500 in a cohort

mistrusting: suspecting


Gaius Crassinius: captain in Caesar's army

Historic Occasions

August, 48 B.C.: Battle of Pharsalus

On the Map

Pharsalus: the exact location of the battle appears to be uncertain. Caesar called it "the battle in Thessalia," so for our purposes, locating that region should be enough.


Part One

At the break of the day, Caesar determined to raise his camp, and to go to Scotussa, a city in Thessaly. As his soldiers were busy about overthrowing of their tents, and sending away their bags and baggage, there came scouts unto him that brought him word they saw a great deal of armour and weapons carried to and fro in their enemies' camp; and heard a noise and bustling besides, as of men that were preparing to fight. After these came in other scouts, that brought word also that Pompey's voward was already set in battle array. Then Caesar said that the day was now come they had longed for so sore; and that they should now fight with men, not with hunger: and he instantly gave orders for the red colours to be set up before his tent, which was the sign all the Romans used to show that they would fight. The soldiers, seeing that, left their carriage and tents; and with great shouts of joy ran to arm themselves. The captains of every band, also, bestowed every man in such place as he should fight; and so they conveyed themselves into battle array, without any tumult or disorder, as quietly as if they should have entered into a dance.

Pompey himself led the right wing of his army against Antony. The middle of the battle he gave unto Scipio his father-in-law, being right against Domitius Calvinus (#3). The left wing also was led by Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (#2), the which was guarded with men of arms. For all the horsemen were placed on that side, to distress Caesar if they could, that was directly against them; and to overthrow the Tenth Legion that was so much accounted of, being the most valiant soldiers the enemy had in all his army, amongst the which Caesar did ever use to fight in person.

Pompey being a-horseback, rode up and down to consider the ordinance of both battles: and perceiving that his enemies stood still in their ranks, looking for the signal of battle, and that his own battle array on the other side waved up and down disorderly, as men unskillful in wars: he was afraid they would flee before they were charged. Thereupon he straitly commanded those at the front that they should steadily keep their ranks, and standing close together should so defend themselves, receiving the charge of the enemy.

In Caesar's army, there were about two and twenty thousand fighting men; and in Pompey's army, somewhat above twice as many. Most men, of course, were fully occupied with their own matters; only some few of the noblest Romans, together with certain Greeks there present, standing as spectators, without the battle, seeing the armies now ready to join, began to bethink them to what pass the ambition and willful contention between these two men had brought the state of Rome. For the weapons of kinsmen, the bands of brethren, the ensigns all alike, the flower of so many valiant men of one city, did serve for a notable example to shew how man's nature pricked forward with covetousness, is quite blind and without reason. For if they could have been contented quietly to have governed that which they had conquered: the greatest, and best part of the world, both by sea and by land, was subject unto them. Or otherwise, if they could not have quenched their insatiable desire of victory and triumph, they had occasion of war enough offered them against the Parthians and Germans. Furthermore, they had enough to do besides to conquer Scythia, and the Indians: and withal, they had had an honest colour to have cloaked their ambitious desires, if it had been but to have brought the barbarous people to a civil life. For what horsemen of Scythia, or arrows of Parthia, or riches of Indians, could have abidden the power of three score and ten thousand Roman soldiers, and specially being led by two so famous captains as Pompey and Caesar—whose names these strange and far nations understood, long before the name of the Romans: so great were their victories, having conquered so many wild and barbarous people. They both being then in arms the one against the other, not regarding their honour, which made them so ambitious: did not spare their own country, who had until that time remained invincible, both in fame and prowess. For the alliance that was made between them, the love of Julia, and marrying with her, was suspected from the beginning to be but a deceit, and a pledge as it were of a conspiracy made between them, for a private benefit, more than for any true friendship.

Part Two

Now, when the fields of Pharsalus were covered over with men, with horses and armour; and the signal of battle was given on either side: the first man of Caesar's army that advanced forward to give charge was Gaius Crassinius, captain of six score and five men, to perform a great promise which he had made unto Caesar. For Caesar, when he came out of his tent in the morning, seeing him, called him to him by his name, and asked him what he thought of the success of this battle. Crassinius holding out his right hand unto him, courageously cried: "Oh Caesar, thine is the victory, and this day thou shalt commend me either alive or dead." Then remembering these words, he broke out of the ranks; and many following after him, he ran amongst the midst of his enemies. Straight they came to the sword, and made great slaughter. But he pressing forward still, one with a thrust ran him through the mouth, that the sword's point came through at his neck. Thereupon Crassinius being slain, the battle was equal.

Pompey did not make his left wing march over suddenly, but stayed, and cast his eyes abroad to see what his horsemen would do, the which had already divided their companies, meaning to compass in Caesar, and to make the small number of horsemen which he had before him to give back upon the squadron of his footmen. On the other side, as soon as Caesar had given the signal of battle, his horsemen retired back a little, and the six cohorts which he had placed secretly behind them (being three thousand fighting men) ran suddenly to assail the enemy upon the flank; and when they came near unto the horsemen, they threw the points of their darts upwards according to Caesar's commandment, and hit the young gentlemen full in their faces. They being utterly unskillful to fight, and least of all looking for such manner of fight, had not the hearts to defend themselves, nor to abide to be hurt as they were in their faces; but turning their heads, and clapping their hands on their faces, shamefully fled.

Caesar's men, however, did not follow them, but marched upon the foot, and attacked the wing, which the flight of the cavalry had left unprotected, and liable to be turned and taken in the ear; so that this wing now being attacked in the flank by these, and charged in the front by the Tenth Legion, was not able to abide the charge, or make any longer resistance, especially when they saw themselves surrounded and circumvented in the very way in which they had designed to surround the enemy. Thus these being likewise routed and put to flight, when Pompey, by the dust flying in the air, conjectured the fate of his horse, it were very hard to say what his thoughts or intentions were; but looking like one distracted and beside himself, and without any recollection or reflection that he was Pompey the Great, he retired slowly towards his camp, without speaking a word to any man, exactly according to the description in Homer's verses:

But mighty Jove who sits aloft in ivory chariot high,
Struck Ajax with so great a fear that Ajax by and by
Let fall his leathern target made of tough ox hide sevenfold.
And ran away, not looking back, for all he was so bold.

In this state Pompey entered into his tent, and sat him down there a great while; and spoke never a word: until such time as many of the enemies burst into the camp. And then, he said no more than, "What, even into our camp?" And so rising up, he put a gown on his back, even fit for his misfortune, and secretly stole out of the camp. The other legions also fled; and great slaughter was made of the tent-keepers, and their servants that guarded the camp.

[omission for length]

Part Three

When Pompey was gone a little way from his camp, he forsook his horse, having a very few with him: and perceiving that no man pursued him, he went afoot fair and softly, his head full of such thoughts and imaginations, as might be supposed a man of his like calling might have, who for four-and-thirty years' space together was wont continually to carry victory away; and began then even in his last cast, to prove what it was to flee, and to be overcome: and who thought then, with himself, how in one hour's space he had lost the honour and riches which he had gotten in so many battles; whereby he was not long before followed and obeyed of so many thousand men of war, of so many horsemen, and of such a great fleet of ships on the sea, and then to go as he did in such poor estate, and with so small a train, that his very enemies who sought him, knew him not.

Thus when he was passed the city of Larissa, and coming to the Valley of Tempe: there being thirsty, he fell down on his belly, and drank of the river. Then rising up again, he went his way thence, and came to the sea side, and took a fisher's cottage where he lay all night. The next morning by break of the day, he went into a little boat upon the river, and took the freemen with him that were about him: and as for the slaves, he sent them back again, and did counsel them boldly to go to Caesar, and not to be afraid. Thus, rowing up and down the shore side in this little boat, he spied a great ship of burden in the main sea, riding at anchor, which was ready to weigh anchor, and to sail away. The master of the ship was a Roman named Peticius, who, though he was not familiarly acquainted with Pompey, yet knew him by sight very well.

[omission for length]

Clapping his head for anger, he commanded his mariners to let down his boat, and gave him his hand, calling him Pompey by his name, mistrusting (seeing him in that estate) what misfortune had happened to him. Thereupon, not looking to be entreated, nor that he should tell him of his mishap, he received him into his ship, and all those he would have with him: and then hoisted sail.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

Why does Plutarch call the Battle of Pharsalus needless and wasteful?

Plutarch compares Pompey's defeat and "running away" to that of Ajax (The Iliad, Book XI). Alfred J. Church, in the chapter "The Wounding of the Chiefs" of The Iliad for Boys and Girls, describes the scene this way:

"Then Zeus put fear into the heart of the great Ajax himself. He would not fly, but he turned round, throwing his great shield over his shoulder, and moved towards the ships slowly, step by step. It was as when a donkey breaks into a field and eats the standing corn, and the children of the village beat him with sticks. Their arms are weak, and the sticks are broken on the beast's back, for he is slow in going, nor do they drive him out till he has eaten his fill."

Do you agree with this comparison?

Lesson Eleven (or 23)


After the Battle of Pharsalus, Julius Caesar returned to Rome and was given parades of triumph for his victories overseas (though his defeat of Pompey was underplayed).


family: Dryden says "servants"

late: recent

clemency: see Lesson Four from Part 1

his own near connection: Caesar had been his father-in-law

designed towards Euphrates: Pompey had considered seeking refuge in Parthia, which was associated with the Euphrates River

The residue of his train: his remaining supporters


Cratippus: Cratippus of Pergamon, a friend of Cicero

King Juba: Juba I of Numidia

King Ptolemy: the new king of Egypt, co-ruler with Cleopatra (although she had been deposed and was at war with her brother)

Arsaces: Arsaces of Pontus

On the Map

Mytilene: a city on the Greek island of Lesbos

Pamphylia: a region of what was called Asia Minor, between Lycia and Cilicia, in present-day Turkey.

Seleucia: a city on the Tigris River, in present-day Iraq


Part One

Pompey passing then by the city of Amphipolis, crossed over from thence into the isle of Lesbos, to go fetch his wife Cornelia and his son, who were then in the city of Mytilene. As soon as he arrived at the port in that island, he dispatched a messenger into the city, with news very different from Cornelia's expectation. For she, by all the former messages and letters sent to please her, had been put in hopes that the war was ended at Dyrrhachium, and that there was nothing more remaining for Pompey but the pursuit of Caesar.

This messenger now finding her in this hope, had not the heart so much as to salute her, but, letting her understand rather by his tears than words the great misfortune Pompey had, told her she must dispatch quickly, if she would see Pompey with one ship only, and none of his, but borrowed. The young lady, hearing this news, fell down in a swoon before him, and neither spoke nor stirred of long time; but after she was come to herself, remembering that it was no time to weep and lament, she went with speed through the city unto the seaside. There Pompey, meeting her, took her in his arms, and embraced her. But she, sinking under him, fell down, and said:

"This woe is from my hard fortune, not thine, good husband; that I see thee now brought to one poor ship, who before thou married thy unfortunate Cornelia, were wont to sail these seas with five hundred ships. Alas, why art thou come to see me, and why didst thou not leave me to cursed fate and my wicked destiny: since myself am cause of all this thy evil? Alas, how happy a woman had I been, if I had been dead before I heard of the death of my first husband Publius Crassus, whom the wretched Parthians slew!"

It is reported that Cornelia spoke these words, and that Pompey also answered her in this manner:

"Peradventure, Cornelia mine, thou hast known a better Fortune, which hath also deceived thee, because she hath continued longer with me than her manner is. But since we are born mortal, we must patiently bear these troubles, and prove Fortune again. Neither is it any less possible to recover our former state than it was to fall from that into this."

When Cornelia heard him say so, she sent back into the city for her baggage and family.

Part Two

The Mytilenians also came openly to salute Pompey, and prayed him to come into the city, and to refresh himself: but Pompey would not, and gave them counsel to obey the conqueror, and not to fear anything; for Caesar was a just man, and of a courteous nature. Then Pompey, turning unto Cratippus the philosopher, who came among the citizens also to see him, made his complaint unto him and reasoned a little with him about divine Providence. Cratippus courteously yielded unto him, putting him still in better hope, fearing lest he would have grown too hot and troublesome if he had opposed him.

[Plutarch imagines the conversation that might have taken place if Cratippus had been inclined to argue with Pompey.]

For Pompey at the length might have asked him what providence of the gods there had been in his doings. And Cratippus might have answered him that, for the ill government of the commonwealth at Rome, it was of necessity that it should fall into the hands of a sovereign prince.

Peradventure Cratippus might then have asked him, "How and whereby, Pompey, wouldst thou make us believe, if thou hadst overcome Caesar, that thou wouldst have used thy good fortune better than he?"

But we must leave the divine power to act as we find it to do.

Part Three

Pompey having taken his wife and friends aboard, set sail, making no port, or touching anywhere, but when he was necessitated to take in provisions or fresh water. The first city he came unto was Attalia in the country of Pamphylia. Thither came to him certain galleys out of Cilicia, and many soldiers also, insomuch he had three score senators of Rome again in his company. Then, understanding that his army by sea was yet whole; and that Cato had gathered together a great number of his soldiers after the overthrow, whom he had transported with him into Africa: he lamented and complained unto his friends that they had compelled him to fight by land, and not suffered him to help himself with his other force (wherein he was the stronger): and that he kept not still near unto his army by sea, that if fortune failed him by land, he might yet presently have repaired to his power ready by sea, to have resisted his enemy. To confess a truth, Pompey committed not so great a fault in all this war, neither did Caesar put forth a better device, than to make his enemy fight far from his army by sea.

Thus, Pompey being driven to attempt somewhat according to his small ability, he sent ambassadors unto the cities. To others, he went himself in person also to require money, wherewith he manned and armed some ships. This notwithstanding, fearing the sudden approach of his enemy, lest he (Caesar) should prevent before he could put any reasonable force in readiness for to resist him: he bethought himself what place he might best retire unto for his most safety. When he had considered of it, he thought that there was never a province of the Romans that could save and defend them. And for other strange realms, he thought Parthia, above all others, was the best place to receive them into at that present time, having so small power as they had.

Others of his council were of mind to go into Africa, unto King Juba. But his friend Theophanes said he thought it a great folly to leave Egypt which was but three days sailing from thence, and King Ptolemy (being but lately come to man's estate, and bound unto Pompey for the late friendship and favour his father found of him); and to go put himself into the hands of the Parthians, the vilest and unfaithfullest nation in the world; and not to make any trial of the clemency of a Roman, and his own near connection, to whom if he would but yield to be second he might be the first and chief over all the rest, to go and place himself at the mercy of Arsaces, which even Crassus had not submitted to while alive. Further, he thought it an ill part also for him to go carry his young wife, of the noble house of Scipio, amongst the barbarous people who might injure her.

This argument alone, they say, was persuasive enough to divert his course, that was designed towards Euphrates, if it were so indeed that any counsel of Pompey's, and not some superior power, made him take this other way. Being determined therefore to flee into Egypt, he departed out of Cyprus in a galley of Seleucia with his wife Cornelia. The residue of his train embarked also, some into galleys, and others into merchant ships of great burden, and so safely passed the sea without danger.

Narration and Discussion

Why was it a mistake for Pompey to try to fight far from the land?

Try to put the conversation between Cornelia and Pompey into your own words. How did Pompey try to reassure her that they could "weather the storm" together?

For older students: Discuss the imagined conversation between Pompey and Cratippus. How might Pompey have answered Cratippus' final question?

Lesson Twelve (or 24) and Examination Questions


By seeking refuge in Egypt, Pompey signed his own death warrant.


meanness: shabbiness

his galley should have no water to bring him in: the water was too shallow for Pompey's men to bring their galley near the shore

slaves enfranchised: freed men

nine and fifty years old: Using the dates we have, Pompey would have turned 58 on his birthday (either just before or just after his death).

their bellies full: to their satisfaction

good hap: good fortune

Historic Occasions

September, 48 B.C.: death of Pompey at the age of 58

46 B.C.: Caesar and Lepidus (#2) were consuls. Lepidus was a strong supporter of Julius Caesar. He was later part of the Second Triumvirate with Octavian (Caesar Augustus) and Mark Antony.

45 B.C.: Caesar was sole consul

44 B.C.: death of Julius Caesar at the age of 55

On the Map

Egypt, the Nile, etc.: Most students will have some knowledge of Egypt, but it is worthwhile looking again at a map, such as that on pages 84-85 of Constable's Atlas of Ancient Rome.

Pelusium: a city in the Nile Delta

at his country house near Alba: Pompey had also intended to bury Julia there, but the Roman people insisted on giving her a public funeral and placing her urn in the Campus Martius (Field of Mars).


Part One

[Pompey sent a request for refuge to King Ptolemy of Egypt, who was then in the city of Pelusium. Ptolemy was still quite young and under the influence of his tutor and other advisors. The dilemma they faced was whether they should risk either being ruled by Pompey and angering Caesar; or letting Pompey escape and angering Caesar. After discussing the matter, the council decided that the practical solution was to send someone to kill him.]

They, being determined of this among themselves, gave Achillas commission to do it. He taking with him Septimius (who had charge aforetime under Pompey) and Salvius, another centurion, also, with three or four soldiers besides, they made towards Pompey's galley. In the meantime, all the chiefest of those who accompanied Pompey in this voyage were come into his ship to learn the event of their embassy. But when they saw the manner of their reception, that in appearance it was neither princely nor honourable, nor indeed in any way answerable to the hopes of Theophanes, or their expectation (for there came but a few men in a fisher's boat to meet them), they began to suspect the meanness of their entertainment, and gave warning to Pompey that he should row back his galley, whilst he was out of their reach, and make for the sea.

In the meantime, the boat drew near, and Septimius rose, and saluted Pompey in the Roman tongue, by the name of Imperator, as much as "Sovereign Captain"; and Achillas also spoke to him in the Greek tongue, and bade him come into his boat; because that by the shoreside, there was a great deal of mud and sandbanks, so that his galley should have no water to bring him in. At the very same time, they saw, afar off, divers of the king's galleys, which were arming with all speed possible; and all the shore besides full of soldiers.

Thus, though Pompey and his company would have altered their minds, they could not have told how to have escaped: and furthermore, if they had shown that they mistrusted the Egyptians, then they would have given the murderer occasion to have executed his cruelty. So, taking his leave of his wife Cornelia (who lamented his death before it came), he commanded two centurions to go down before him into the Egyptians' boat, and Philip one of his slaves enfranchised, with another slave called Scynes.

When Achillas reached out his hand to receive him into his boat, Pompey turned him to his wife and son, and said these verses of Sophocles unto them:

He that once enters at a tyrant's door
Becomes a slave, though he were free before.

These were the last words he spoke unto his people, when he left his own galley, and went into the Egyptians' boat.

Part Two

The land being a great way off from his galley, when he saw never a man in the boat speak friendly unto him: beholding Septimius, he said unto him: "Methinks, my friend, I should know thee, for that thou hast served with me heretofore." The other nodded with his head that it was true, but gave him no answer, nor shewed him any courtesy. Pompey seeing that no man spoke to him, took a little book he had in his hand, in the which he had written an oration that he meant to make unto King Ptolemy, and began to read it.

When they came near the shore, Cornelia with her servants and friends about her, stood up in her ship in great fear, to see what should become of Pompey. So, she hoped well, when she saw many of the king's people on the shore, coming towards Pompey at his landing, as it were to receive and honour him. But even as Pompey took Philip his hand to arise more easily, Septimus came first behind him and thrust him through with his sword. Next unto him also, Salvius and Achillas drew out their swords in like manner. Pompey then did no more but took up his gown with his hands, and hid his face, and manly abided the wounds they gave him, only sighing a little.

Thus, being nine and fifty years old, he ended his life the next day after the day of his birth.

Part Three

They that rode at anchor in their ships, when they saw him murdered, gave such a fearful cry that it was heard to the shore: then weighing up their anchors with speed, they hoisted sail, and departed their way, having wind at will that blew a lusty gale as soon as they had gotten the main sea. The Egyptians which prepared to row after them, when they saw they were past their reach, and impossible to be overtaken, they let them go. Then, having stricken off Pompey's head, they threw his body overboard, for a miserable spectacle to all those that were desirous to see him. Philip his enfranchised bondman remained ever by it, until such time as the Egyptians had seen it their bellies full.

Then having washed his body with salt water, and wrapped it up in an old shirt of his, because he had no other shift to lay it in. Then seeking up and down about the sands, at last he found some rotten plans of a little fisher-boat, not much, but yet enough to make up a funeral pile for a naked body, and that not quite entire. As he was busy gathering the broken pieces of this boat together, thither came unto him an old Roman, who in his youth had served under Pompey, and said unto him: "O friend, what art thou that preparest the funerals of Pompey the Great?" Philip answered, that he was a bondman of his, enfranchised. "Well," said he, "thou shalt not have all this honour alone, I pray thee yet let me accompany thee in so devout a deed, that I may not altogether repent me to have dwelt so long in a strange country, where I have abidden such misery and trouble: but that to recompense me withal, I may have this good hap with mine own hands to touch Pompey's body, and to help to bury the only and most famous captain of the Romans."

[omission for length]


Not long after, Caesar also came into Egypt, that was in great wars, where Pompey's head was presented unto him: but he turned his head aside, and would not see it, and abhorred him that brought it, as a detestable murderer. Then taking Pompey's ring, his ring wherewith he sealed his letters, whereupon was graven a lion holding a sword: he burst out a-weeping.

Achillas and Pothinus he put to death. King Ptolemy himself also, being overthrown in battle by the River Nile, vanished away, and was never heard of after.

The ashes of Pompey's body were afterwards brought unto his wife Cornelia, who buried them at his country house near Alba.

Narration and Discussion

Tell how Pompey faced his probable death with courage.

How did Philip show more loyalty and compassion than most of Pompey's friends?

Art History: "Pompey's Head," though a grisly topic, has inspired a few works of art over the years, and some students may be interested in researching this further. One example is Caesar Contemplating the Head of Pompey, by Giovanni (Giambattista) Tiepolo (1696-1770).

Creative narration: If you have been doing regular or occasional Pompey Podcasts, or even if you haven't, this would be a good time to gather material together for a "tribute" episode.

Examination Questions for Part Two

1. Younger Students: Tell a story to show how Pompey "fell into such a pride and glorious conceit of himself."

2. Describe how Pompey ran away, "not looking back for all he was so bold."

Older Students:

1. Describe the third triumph of Pompey. Why does Plutarch say, "O, happy would it have been for him if he had died when he had Alexander's fortune?"

2. (For high school students) "So great an empire…could not contain the covetous desire of these two men." Give some account of Pompey and Caesar in this connection.


Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Englished by Sir Thomas North. With an introduction by George Wyndham. First Volume. London: Dent, 1894. (Themistocles)

Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. Englished by Sir Thomas North. With an introduction by George Wyndham. Fourth Volume. London: Dent, 1894. (Pompeius)

Plutarch's Lives: The Dryden Plutarch. Revised by Arthur Hugh Clough, Volume 1. London: J.M. Dent, 1910. (Themistocles)

Plutarch's Lives: The Dryden Plutarch. RevisedAmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

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