Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Pompey
Text by Thomas North
Study Guide by Anne White
Pompey (106-48 B.C.)
The study of Pompey extends over two terms. If you prefer, you could start the year with Themistocles (since it's shorter), and then read Pompey over the remaining months.
"But Pompey . . . was for many occasions beloved. As, for temperance of life, aptness to arms, eloquence of tongue, faithfulness of word, and courtesy in conversation: so that there was never man that requested anything with less ill will than he, nor that more willingly did pleasure any man when he was requested. For he gave without disdain, and took with great honour."
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (usually called Pompey in English) was a statesman and general in the first century B.C., during the years that Rome was shifting from a Republic to an Empire. It was a period of both economic and military upheaval. Overseas conquests had brought many captives into Italy, and small, family-run farms now competed with larger operations based on slave labour. Less opportunity for small land owners meant that many from the lower social classes joined the army instead, and expected to be paid for it. The loyalty of these soldiers was to their general, perhaps more than to Rome itself. Pompey grew up as the son of a military commander, but, as his father was somewhat unsatisfactory as a model of character, he took Alexander the Great as his lifelong hero.
Rome could also be a dangerous place in those years. In Pompey's early life, power shifted back and forth between Gaius Marius and his former lieutenant Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and their "enemies" were repeatedly punished by proscription: confiscation of property and a death warrant, or exile if they could escape. Early success in battle allowed Pompey to become consul (the first time of three) without meeting the usual age requirement. In his later years, he himself was the center of a similar struggle, as he became first an ally, and then a mortal enemy, of the rising Roman superstar Julius Caesar.
The Government of the Roman Republic
Commonwealth is a general term referring to a country or city/state (like Rome), and its colonies or associated territories or countries. There are also references in this story to the Roman empire. The Roman Empire did not formally exist until Octavian (Caesar Augustus) became Emperor in 27 B.C. However, though it was still the era of the Roman Republic, Rome did have an empire because of the large amount of foreign territory it was acquiring. For clarity, we will call it the small-e empire.
There were two different types of class divisions in ancient Rome. The first was family-based, between the patricians (the nobility) and the plebeians (common people).
The second type were property -- or wealth-based classes such as the senatores, the wealthiest citizens, who owned large amounts of land. The next level down, the equestrian class (in North's translation, the knights of Rome), was a "business class," made up of those who could afford horses and who made up the cavalry, or soldiers on horseback, in times of war. Besides the equestrian class, there were three classes of property owners; and then, lowest of all, the proletarii.
Were the senatores the same as the senators?
Often, but the two were not identical. Over the centuries, both the size of the Senate and the personal requirements for membership (age, wealth) changed. Some plebeians became senators along with the patricians. Those elected to magistracies (see below) were also included in the Senate.
What was an aedile, a quaestor, a consul?
The elected positions, or magistracies, in Rome were (starting at the bottom): quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. (The office of tribune was a separate position, explained below.) There were various numbers of each of these: for example, two consuls were elected each year. Ex-consuls could become censors; and a consul could become dictator if the need (usually a great emergency) arose.
Who were the tribunes?
The duty of a non-military tribune (sometimes called a tribune of the plebeians, or plebs; or a "tribune of the people") was to protect the liberties of the common people from any individual or group (such as the nobles) who might take advantage of them or suppress their rights. This position was not part of the junior-senior ranking of magistrates such as quaestor and consul; it was an office voted on by the common people (plebeians), who themselves were bound by oath to protect the tribunes from harm.
What were the bundles of rods, or rods and axes? What did it mean to "carry the axes?"
The fasces was a bundle of rods, usually with an axe head protruding from its side or top. It was carried before magistrates, as a symbol of power and authority in Rome. (It may have occasionally put to practical use as well.) Its use led to the political term fascism.
Is "valiantness" a word?
In this and other Lives, the English word used to describe one who is valiant is valiantness. Today we might prefer the word valour (or valor in American spelling). However, valiantness is still accepted by dictionaries, so I have left it as is.
Antistia, Pompey's first wife, the daughter of Antistius
Aemilia Scaura, his second wife, the stepdaughter of Sulla
Mucia (or Mutia) Tertia, his third wife, the mother of three children: Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey the Younger), Pompeia Magna, and Sextus Pompeius. They were divorced because of her alleged unfaithfulness.
Julia, his fourth wife, daughter of Julius Caesar
Cornelia Metella, his fifth wife, daughter of Metellus Scipio (#2)
A confusion of names
There are several people in this Life named Brutus, Domitius, Lepidus, Metellus, Piso, and Scipio; not to mention Metellus Scipio. I have tried to keep them straight by numbering them as they appear.
Top Ten Vocabulary Terms in the Life of Pompey
If you recognize these words, you have a head start on Plutarch's vocabulary. These definitions are not repeated in the lessons.
1. abroad: for us this usually means "out of the country"; but it can also mean "out of one's house," or simply "out there."
2. barbarous: foreign, not Roman. It is not meant to be an insult (or perhaps just a slight one).
3. divers: separate OR several
4. familiar: close friend, companion
5. levy: collect, gather together
6. practice, practise: plan, plot, scheme. British/Canadian spelling differentiates between the noun and the verb; Americans use practice for both.
7. spoil: rob, loot (spoils are treasures, loot)
8. stay: can mean to stop or hinder someone; sometimes means to hesitate, wait, or delay either them or yourself rather than stopping altogether. (Watch out for an opposite use in Lesson Three.)
9. suffer: allow
10. To tarry also means to delay, but it can also mean to wait, often to wait for someone.
Bonus Word: victuals: food or other supplies. Pronounced "vittles."
On the Map
Place names are listed under this heading. For consistency, I have used Dryden's spelling for places instead of North's. Charlotte Mason suggested using resources such as Dent's Atlas of Ancient & Classical Geography, which can be found online. A newer resource I have used is the Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome by Nick Constable (Checkmark Books/Thalamus Publishing, 2003).
The Pompey Podcast
For those looking for an extended narration activity, and/or one that can be used in group situations, we suggest creating a short, in-class "podcast," done either a) as if it were Pompey's era, or b) with Plutarch as commentator, looking back on history. This could include interviews, storytellers, or any other appropriate content.
Plutarch himself offers the best introduction to this lesson.
"Like as of a wrestler, who hath been counted very strong, and the chiefest in all games, having ever borne the prize away where he hath wrestled, they never record among them his childish victories and wrestlings, as things of no account: even so I am afraid to speak of the wonderful deeds that Pompey did in his youth, because they are obscured in respect of the infinite great wars and battles which he had won afterwards. For I am afraid that lest I should attempt particularly to acquaint you with his first beginnings, I should too lightly pass over his chiefest acts and most notable enterprises, which do best declare his natural disposition and singular wit."
However, he does open by describing Pompey's "first beginnings."
tragedy by Aeschylus: a Greek play
for many occasions: for many reasons
temperance: moderateness; restraint from extremes
being come to man's estate: as an adult
in the field: on the battlefield
against Cinna: see note in People
captain: Dryden translates it "general"; both refer to Strabo
discomposure: being disturbed
betaking themselves to their arms: grabbing their weapons
mutinous: refusing to obey orders
flatling: on his face
being his heir . . . : according to the law, he could be prosecuted for Strabo's crime
liked of the match: approved of the marriage
the parties were secretly assured: those involved agreed to the terms
discernible: obvious, visible
Marius, Sulla, Cinna: In 87 B.C., Marius and Cinna were leading troops to try to re-take the city of Rome from Sulla. The Senate requested the help of Strabo's army to try to stop them. A note on the spelling of Sulla: North and Dryden spell this name "Sylla," although other sources spell it "Sulla." The reason is that Plutarch wrote in Greek, and "Sylla" was his Greek version of the Latin name.
Strabo: Pompey's father
King Alexander: Alexander the Great
Antistius: a praetor who became Pompey's father-in-law
157 B.C.: Birth of Marius
138 B.C.: Birth of Sulla
115 B.C.: Birth of Crassus
106 B.C.: Birth of Pompey
100 B.C.: Birth of Julius Caesar
91-89 B.C.: The Social War, which was an internal revolt based on the issue of offering Roman citizenship to allied nations. Coincidentally, the uprising broke out in Picenum, the home region of Pompey.
88-85 B.C.: First Mithridatic War
87-84 B.C.: Cinna was elected consul four years in a row
87 B.C.: Beginning of the campaign against Cinna
87 B.C.: Death of Strabo
86 B.C.: Death of Marius
86 B.C.: Pompey married Antistia
On the Map
A map of Italy and the lands and seas around it, showing the era from approximately 90 to 80 B.C., would be helpful. If you are using Constable's Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome, there is such a map on pages 52-53, and, for comparison, another on pages 64-65.
The Romans seem to have loved Pompey from his childhood, with the same affection that Prometheus, in the tragedy by Aeschylus, expresses for Hercules, when he says,
So great a hate I bare not to the father,
But that I love the son of him much rather.
For the Romans never showed more bitter hate against any other captain than they did unto Strabo, Pompey's father. Contrarywise, never any other Roman but Pompey had the people's earnest goodwill so soon, nor that in prosperity and adversity continued longer constant than unto Pompey.
In Strabo, there was one great cause of their hatred, and that was his insatiable and greedy desire of money. But Pompey, his son, was for many occasions beloved: his temperance of life, aptness to arms, eloquence of tongue, faithfulness of word, and courtesy in conversation: so that there was never man that requested anything with less offense than he, nor that more willingly did pleasure any man when he was requested. For he gave without disdain; and took with great honour. Furthermore, being but a child, he had a certain grace in his look that won men's goodwill before he spoke: for his countenance was sweet, mixed with gravity; and being come to man's estate, there appeared in his gesture and behaviour a grave and princely majesty. His hair also stood a little upright, and the cast and soft moving of his eyes had a certain resemblance (as they said) of the statues and images of King Alexander. And because every man gave him that name, he did not refuse it himself: insomuch as there were some which sporting-wise did openly call him "Alexander."
[omission for mature content]
Now Pompey being a young man, and in the field with his father, that was in arms against Cinna: there was a companion of his, called Lucius Terentius, who being bribed with money, had promised Cinna to kill him (Pompey); and other confederates also had promised to set their captain's tent afire. This conspiracy was revealed unto Pompey as he sat at supper, he showed no discomposure at it, but he drank freely, and was merrier with Terentius than of custom. So, when it was bedtime, he stole out of his own tent, and went unto his father to provide for his safety. Terentius, thinking the hour come to attempt his enterprise, rose with his sword in his hand, and went to Pompey's bed where he was wont to lie, and gave many a thrust into the mattress. After he had done that, all the camp straight was in an uproar ; and the soldiers in all haste would needs have gone and yielded to their enemy, all tearing down their tents and betaking themselves to their arms. Strabo, for fear of this tumult, dared not come out of his tent: notwithstanding Pompey his son ran amongst the mutinous soldiers, and humbly besought them with the tears in his eyes, not to do their captain this villainy, and in fine threw himself flatling to the ground across the gate of the camp, bidding them march over him if they had such a desire to be gone. The soldiers, being ashamed of their folly, returned again to their lodging, and changing their minds, reconciled themselves with their captain, eight hundred only excepted, which departed.
Immediately upon the death of Strabo, Pompey being his heir, was accused for the father of robbing the common treasure. Howbeit he confessed, and avowed, that it was Alexander, a freed slave of his father's, that had stolen the most part of it; and he proved before the judges that he (Alexander) had been the appropriator. But he himself was accused of having in his possession some hunting tackle, and books, that were taken at Asculum. He confessed to having them, and said that his father gave him them when the city was taken; howbeit that he had lost them since, when Cinna returned unto Rome with his soldiers; who, breaking into his house by force, spoiled him of all that he had.
His matter had many days of hearing before definitive sentence, in which time Pompey showed himself of good spirit and understanding, more than was looked for in one of his years: insomuch he won such fame and favour by it, that Antistius, being praetor at that time, and judge of his matter, fell into such a liking with him, that secretly he offered him his daughter in marriage. Then that matter being by friends broken to Pompey, he liked of the match, and the parties were secretly assured. However, the secret was not so closely kept as to escape the multitude, but it was discernible enough, from the favour shown him by Antistius in his cause. Insomuch, when the judges gave judgement, and cleared him: all the people together, as if they had been agreed, cried out with one voice, "Talassio, Talassio," it being the usual and common cry they used of old time at marriages in Rome.
[omission for mature content]
Narration and Discussion
What were some of Pompey's early "life lessons?"
Plutarch gives a list of five reasons that Pompey was "beloved." Which of those talents and character qualities would you most like to be known for?
How did Pompey show intelligence and courage a) when he heard that there was a plot on his life, and b) when he was accused because of his father's wrongdoing?
For older students: There is a recurring theme in this lesson about leaders, loyalty, and the respect due to those in authority. Do all leaders deserve respect, or only those who are "virtuous?"
Creative narration #1: See "The Pompey Podcast" in the introductory notes for this study. This may be done regularly, or only when it seems to suit the lesson.
Marius died in 86 B.C., and his chief ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna was killed two years later. Sulla's enemy Carbo had been co-consul with Cinna, and he now took full control over Rome. (Plutarch describes him as a senseless tyrant.) Sulla gathered a large number of troops (with the help of supporters such as Pompey), and headed back to Rome.
After that: Cinna's death was in 84 B.C., so this was some time after the events of Lesson One
somewhat: something or other
did set upon him . . . : took the opportunity to attack him
slew him presently: Plutarch's version of Cinna's death, involving the disappearance of Pompey, differs from others. What is known is that Cinna was killed in a mutiny or fight by his own soldiers.
felt the goodwill: inquired to see if there was support
which came from school . . . : who had barely left his school days
tribunal: place of judgement, or, in this case, more of an army recruitment center
yielded unto him: joined his army
three several places: there were three battles fought
centurions: officers commanding a hundred men. But only eighty of those were counted as soldiers: the rest were auxiliary officers.
legion: approximately five thousand soldiers and their officers
Carbo: Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, co-consul with Cinna at the time of his death. He was elected consul again two years later, along with Marius the Younger. Carbo continued to fight against Sulla (and Pompey); but in 81 B.C. he was arrested and sentenced to death.
Marius the Younger: the son of Gaius Marius, who tried to carry on his father's legacy until his own defeat and death in 82 B.C.
Carinna, Caelius, and Brutus (#1): Gaius Carrinas, Gaius Coelius Caldus, and Brutus Damasippus, supporters of Marius
Scipio the consul (#1): Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus, consul in 83 B.C.; a supporter of Marius. He was exiled after Sulla's victory.
84 B.C.: death of Marius' ally Lucius Cornelius Cinna
84 B.C.: Sulla returned to Italy after the First Mithridatic War. He landed first at Brundisium, and there gathered additional troops (including those led by Pompey). He eventually marched on Rome, where he was declared dictator in 81 B.C.
83-81 B.C.: Second Mithridatic War
82 B.C.: Battle(s) of the Aesis River. The historian Appian gives a different account of the battle than Plutarch; but it is enough to know that Carbo surrendered and that Pompey got the credit.
On the Map
Picenum: home region of Pompey
Auximum: Vetus Auximum, a colony and city in Italy
Gaul: a northern territory which included parts of France, Germany, and northern Italy
River Aesis: the northern boundary of Picenum. (Note: Plutarch's text says the River Arsis (or Arsia), which causes confusion.)
After that, going unto Cinna's camp, they wrongfully accused him (Pompey) for somewhat; whereupon he, being afraid, secretly stole away. Now when they could not find him in Cinna's camp, there ran straight a rumour abroad that Cinna had put him to death. Thereupon, they that of long time had maliced Cinna did set upon him for this occasion. But he (Cinna), thinking to save himself by fleeing, was straight overtaken by a private captain that followed him with his sword drawn in his hand. Cinna seeing him, fell down on his knees before him, and took his seal from his finger wherewith he sealed his letters, which was of great price, and offered it to him. "Tush," said the captain, "I come not to seal any covenant, but to chastise a villainous and cruel tyrant." And therewithal he thrust his sword through him, and slew him presently.
Thus Cinna being slain, Carbo, a tyrant yet more senseless than he, took the command and exercised it; while Sulla, meantime, was approaching, much to the joy and satisfaction of most people, who in their present evils were ready to find some comfort if it were but in the exchange of a master. For the city was brought to that pass by oppression and calamities that, being utterly in despair of liberty, men were only anxious for the mildest and most tolerable bondage.
At that time Pompey was in Picenum in Italy, where he spent some time amusing himself, as he had estates in the country there, though the chief motive of his stay was the liking he felt for the towns of that district, which all regarded him with hereditary feelings of kindness and attachment. He saw that the noblest men of Rome forsook their houses and goods to flee from all parts unto Sulla's camp, as unto a place of safety; but he would not go to him as a fugitive and cast away to save himself, without bringing him (Sulla) some power to increase his army. So he felt the goodwill of the Picentines, who willingly took his part, and rejected the messengers sent from Carbo. Among them there was one Vindius, that stepping forth, said: that Pompey which came from school the last day, must now in haste be a captain. But they were so offended with his speech, that they fell forthwith upon this Vindius and killed him.
After that time, Pompey being but three and twenty years old, tarrying to receive no authority from any man, took it upon him himself; and, causing a tribunal to be set up in the midst of the marketplace of Auximum, a great populous city he expelled two of their principal men, brothers of the name of Ventidius, who were acting against him in Carbo's interest; commanding them by a public edict to depart the city; he so began to levy men, and to appoint captains, sergeants of bands, centurions, and such other officers, according to the form of military discipline. Then he went to all the other cities of the same district and did the like. They that took part with Carbo fled, every man; and all the rest willingly yielded unto him; whereby in short space he had gotten three whole legions together, and provisions, carts, and all manner of beasts for carriage. In this sort he took his journey towards Sulla: not in haste, or desirous of escaping observation, but by small journeys, staying still where he might hurt his enemy, causing the cities everywhere as he came to revolt from Carbo.
Three commanders of the enemy encountered him at once, Carinna, Cloelius, and Brutus (#1); and drew up their forces, not all in the front, not yet together on any one part, but in three several places they compassed him with their armies, thinking to have made him sure at the first onset. This nothing amazed Pompey, but putting his force together in one place, he first marched against Brutus, having placed his horsemen (among the which he was himself in person) before the battle of his footmen. Now the men-at-arms of the enemy, which were Gauls, coming to give charge upon him, he ran one of the chiefest among them through with his lance, and slew him. The other Gauls, seeing him slain, turned their backs and broke their ranks: so that at length they all fled for life. Thereupon the captains fell out among themselves, and some fled one way, some another way, the best they could. Then the towns round about, thinking that they were dispersed for fear, all came to Pompey, and yielded themselves.
Afterwards Scipio (#1) the consul, coming against Pompey to fight with him, when both armies were in manner ready to join: before they came to throwing of their darts, Scipio's soldiers saluted Pompey's men, and went on their side. So Scipio himself was driven to flee. And finally, Carbo himself having sent after him divers troops of horsemen by the River Aesis: Pompey made towards them, and did so fiercely assail them that he drove them into such places as was almost impossible for horsemen to come into. Whereupon they, seeing no way to escape, yielded themselves, horse and armour, all to his mercy.
Narration and Discussion
How did Pompey plan to impress Sulla?
Why were the Romans willing to accept forced rule by Sulla? Do you think they might regret this decision later on?
Pompey was a rising star, saluted even by Sulla; but according to Plutarch, he still did not "glory in himself." However, he was less bashful about the power he held by the sword of Rome.
lighted afoot: got off his horse and walked, as a sign of respect
resaluted: paid him the same respect
faction: political party
put away: divorce
adverse party: opposition, enemy
For when they protested: The Mamertines had been exempted from direct Roman rule; but the new rulers did not honour the old treaty.
prattle: chatter, talk meaninglessly
Emperor, or Sovereign Prince: North adds this translation of Imperator, but Dryden does not. Imperator comes from the word imperare, to command. Sulla seems to have been greeting Pompey as "Commander" or "Captain" rather than giving him royal status.
stay: A stay usually means a hindrance, but it can also mean something or someone stable, to be depended on; this seems to be what is meant here. (Those familiar with the hymn "My Hope is Built" will recognize the phrase "He then is all my hope and stay.")
Metellus (#1): Metellus Pius, or Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica (c. 130 BC-63 BC), Roman general. He was the adoptive father (and uncle by marriage) of Metellus Scipio (#2).
Perpenna: Roman general and supporter of Marius; executed in 72 B.C.
Domitius (#1): Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, a Roman politician and supporter of Marius; Cinna's son-in-law; died in 81 B.C.
82 B.C.: Pompey married Aemilia Scaura (second wife)
82-81 B.C.: Pompey overcame Marian rebels in Sicily
On the Map
Sicily: the large island at the toe of Italy's "boot"
Messina: a city in the northeastern corner of Sicily
Sulla, all this while, heard no news of these overthrows; but as soon as he understood of it, fearing least Pompey should miscarry, being environed with so many captains of his enemies, he made haste to march towards him, to aid him. Pompey, understanding of his approach, commanded his captains to arm their men and to put them in battle array, that their general might see them bravely appointed when he should present them unto him: for he looked that Sulla would do him great honour; and indeed he did him more honour than Pompey looked for. For when Sulla saw him afar off, coming towards him, and his army marshalled in so good order of battle, and such goodly men that so bravely advanced themselves, being courageous for the victory they had obtained of their enemies: he lighted afoot. When Pompey also came to do his duty to him, and called him Imperator (as much as "=Emperor, or Sovereign Prince"), Sulla resaluted him with the same name, beyond all men's expectation present, little thinking that he would have given so honourable a name unto so young a man as Pompey, who had not yet been senator; and considering that he himself did contend for that title and dignity with the faction of Marius and Scipio (#1). Furthermore, the entertainment that Sulla gave him every way was answerable to his first kindness offered him. For when Pompey came before him, he (Sulla) would rise and put off his cap to him, which he did not unto many other noblemen about him. All this notwithstanding, Pompey gloried nothing the more in himself.
[omission for length]
Now when Sulla had overcome all Italy, and was proclaimed dictator, he did reward all his lieutenants and captains that had taken his part, and did advance them to honourable place and dignity in the commonwealth, frankly granting them all that they requested of him. But for Pompey: Sulla reverencing him for his valiantness, and thinking that he (Pompey) would be a great stay to him in all his wars: he sought by some means to ally himself to him. Metella, his wife, being of his opinion, they both persuaded Pompey to put away his first wife Antistia, and to marry Aemilia, the daughter of Metella and of her first husband. (But Aemilia also was another man's wife, and with child by her husband.)
[omission for content]
This marriage fell out into a miserable tragedy, by means of the death of Aemilia, who shortly after miserably died in childbirth.
Then came news to Sulla that Perpenna was fortifying himself in Sicily, that the island was now become a refuge and receptacle for the relics of the adverse party; that Carbo also kept the sea thereabouts with a certain number of ships: that Domitius (#1) also was gone into Africa: and divers other noblemen that were banished, that had escaped his proscriptions, were also in those parts. Against them was Pompey sent with a great army. Howbeit he no sooner arrived in Sicily, but Perpenna left him the whole island, and went his way. Pompey favourably dealt with all the cities which had survived great trouble and misery; and set them again at liberty, the Mamertines only excepted, which dwelt in the city of Messina. For when they protested against his court and jurisdiction, alleging their privilege and exemption founded upon an ancient charter or grant of the Romans, he replied sharply, "What do ye prattle to us of your law, that have our swords by our sides?"
[omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
When Pompey went to re-take Sicily for Sulla, he is said to have dealt with the people there graciously and "favourably," except for those who objected! How was his response typical of Roman rule?
In Lesson One, Plutarch listed reasons that Pompey was "beloved" or admired: "his temperance of life, aptness to arms, eloquence of tongue, faithfulness of word, and courtesy in conversation." Have you seen examples of this in the story so far?
Pompey had shown his bravery in battle, and his toughness with Sicilian holdouts; so he was now ordered to quench a rebellion in Africa, led by Cinna's son-in-law Domitius.
galleys: ships powered mainly by oars
engines of battery: war machines
craggy: rocky, rough
torrent: rushing water
discern one another: tell each other apart
Domitius (#1): see Lesson Three
Memmius: Gaius Memmius, one of Pompey's commanders, and also his brother-in-law. He was killed in battle in 75 B.C. (A cousin of Gaius Memmius the poet and tribune who later opposed the triumph of Lucullus; see Plutarch's Lucullus and Cato the Younger.)
82-81 B.C.: Pompey's campaign in Africa
On the Map
Utica, Carthage: cities in northern Africa. Utica was the capital city of the Roman province called Africa.
Pompey, being busy about these matters in Sicily, received orders to go immediately into Africa and to make war upon Domitius (#1). Domitius had already levied more men of war than Marius had, not long before, when he came out of Africa into Italy; and when he caused a revolution in Rome, and himself from a fugitive outlaw became a tyrant. Pompey thereupon having speedily put himself in readiness to take the seas, left Memmius, his sister's husband, as governor of Sicily; and so he himself embarked, and hoisted sail with six score galleys, and eight hundred other vessels to transport their victuals, munition, money, engines of battery, and all other carriage whatsoever.
After he was landed with all his fleet, part at Utica and part at Carthage, there straight came to him seven thousand soldiers from the enemy, and yielded themselves, besides seven whole legions that he brought with him. They say moreover, that at his arrival he had a pleasant chance happened unto him to be laughed at: for it is reported that certain of his soldiers stumbled on a treasure by chance and got thereby a great mass of money. The residue of the army hearing that, thought sure that the field where this treasure was found, was full of gold and silver, which the Carthaginians had hidden there long before in time of their calamity. Pompey hereupon, for many days after, could have no rule of his soldiers; neither could he choose but laugh, to see so many thousand men digging the ground, and turning up the field: until in the end they wearied themselves, and came and prayed him then to lead them where he thought good, for they had paid well for their folly.
By this time Domitius had prepared himself and drawn out his army in array against Pompey; but there was a watercourse betwixt them, craggy, and difficult to pass over; and this, together with a great storm of wind and rain pouring down even from break of day, seemed to leave but little possibility of their coming together; so that Domitius, not expecting any engagement that day, commanded his forces to draw off and retire to the camp. Now Pompey, who was watchful upon every occasion, making use of the opportunity, ordered a march forthwith; and having passed over the torrent, fell in immediately upon their quarters. The enemy was in great disorder and tumult, and in that confusion attempted a resistance; but they neither were all there, nor supported one another; besides, the wind having veered about beat the rain full in their faces. Neither indeed was the storm less troublesome to the Romans, for that they could not clearly discern one another, insomuch that even Pompey himself, being unknown, escaped narrowly; for when one of his soldiers demanded of him the word of battle, it happened that he was somewhat slow in his answer, which might have cost him his life.
In fine, when he had overthrown his enemies with great slaughter (for they say, that of twenty thousand of them, there were but three thousand saved), Pompey's soldiers saluted him by the name of Imperator. But he answered them that he would not accept the honour of that name so long as he saw his enemies' camp yet standing; and therefore, if they thought him worthy of that name, that first they should overthrow the trench and fort of the enemies, wherein they had entrenched their camp. The soldiers when they heard him say so, went presently to assault it. There Pompey fought bareheaded, to avoid the like danger he was in before. By this means they took the camp by force, and in it slew Domitius.
After that overthrow, the cities in that country came and yielded themselves, some willingly, and others taken by force. But Pompey, being desirous further to employ his power, and the good fortune of his army, went many days' journey into the mainland; and still conquered all where he came, making the power of the Romans dreadful unto all the barbarous people of that country, the which made but small account of them at that time. He said moreover, that the wild beasts of Africa also should feel the force and good success of the Romans: and thereupon he bestowed a few days in hunting of lions and elephants. For it is reported, that in forty days' space at the uttermost, he had overcome his enemies, subdued Africa, and had established the affairs of the kings and kingdoms of all that country, being then but four-and-twenty years old.
Narration and Discussion
List some of the ways Pompey showed courage and skill in leadership.
Creative narration: Tell the story of the men who "stumbled on a treasure," and its aftermath.
When Pompey was ordered to disband his army and return to Rome, his soldiers tried to force him to start his own revolution. Pompey was unswerving in his loyalty to Sulla; and as a reward he was given a particularly honourable nickname. He also believed he had earned a triumph, although he had to do some negotiating to make it happen.
appease: do something to restore goodwill
required the honour of triumph: requested an official victory parade
through his young years . . . : Senators at that time had to be at least 32 years old.
blanked: daunted, bothered
Roman knights: see introductory notes
brought Lepidus to be consul: see note below
importunate: persistent and annoying. Something "opportune" is convenient and useful (like a harbour or portus); "importunate" is the opposite. To "importune" someone usually means to harass them.
Scipio (#3): Scipio Africanus, also called Scipio the Great, who fought against Hannibal in 202 B.C.
Lepidus (#1): Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, father of Lepidus (#2) (Lesson 24), and Paullus (Lesson 19); elected consul with the support of Pompey. Sulla warned that Lepidus would cause trouble.
81 B.C.: Sulla declared dictator in Rome
81 B.C.: Pompey's first triumph, at the age of 25
80 B.C.: Pompey married Mucia (third wife)
79 B.C.: Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (#1) and Quintus Lutatius Catulus elected consuls for 78 B.C.
79 B.C.: Pompey fought against Lepidus
78 B.C.: death of Sulla at the age of 60
On the Map
Spain: Spain, at this time, was a Roman province called Hispania. It was divided into two provinces, "Nearer Spain" and "Farther Spain."
So when he returned unto the city of Utica, letters were brought from Sulla, willing him to discharge all his army, and to remain there with one legion only, tarrying the coming of another captain that should be sent to succeed him in the government of that country. This commandment grieved him not a little, though he made no show of it at all: but his soldiers showed plainly that they were offended. For when Pompey prayed them to depart, they began to give out broad speeches against Sulla, and told directly that they were not determined (whatsoever became of them) to forsake him, and they refused that he should trust unto a tyrant. Pompey, seeing that he could not persuade them by any reason to be quiet, rose out of his chair, and retired into his tent, weeping.
But the soldiers followed him, and brought him again to his chair of state, where he spent a great part of the day, they entreating him to remain there and command them; and he, desiring them to obey Sulla, and leave their mutinies. But in fine, seeing them importunate to press him to it, he swore he would kill himself rather than they should compel him, and scarcely even thus appeased them.
Hereupon it was reported unto Sulla, that Pompey was rebelled against him. Sulla, when he heard that, said to his friends: "Well, then I see it is my destiny, in mine old days to fight with children." He meant so, because of Marius the Younger, who had done him much mischief, and had besides put him in great danger.
[Plutarch jumps quickly to Pompey's arrival at the gates of Rome.]
But afterwards understanding the truth, and hearing that all generally in Rome were determined to go and meet Pompey, and to receive him with all the honour they could: because he would go beyond them all in showing goodwill, he went out of his house to meet him, and embracing him with great affection, welcomed him home, and called him Magnus, that is to say, "Great"; and commanded all them that were present to give him that name also. This notwithstanding, some say, that it was in Africa this name was first given him by a common cry of all his whole army, and that afterwards it was confirmed by Sulla.
Indeed it is true that Pompey himself, being sent proconsul into Spain a long time after that, was the last that signed all his letters and commissions with the name of Pompey the Great: for this name then was so commonly known and accepted, as no man did envy it.
[omission for length]
After that, Pompey required the honour of triumph, but Sulla denied it, alleging that none could enter in triumph into Rome but consuls or praetors. For since Scipio (#3), the first who in Spain had overcome the Carthaginians, never desired this honour of triumph, being neither consul nor praetor: much less should he (Pompey) stand upon demand of triumph into Rome, when that through his young years he was not yet a senator: and besides, it would purchase him envy of his honour and greatness. These reasons did Sulla allege against Pompey, and told him plainly that if he were bent to stand in it, he would resist him.
All this blanked not Pompey, who told him frankly again how men did honour the rising, not the setting of the sun: meaning thereby, how his own honour increased, and Sulla's diminished. Sulla heard him not very perfectly what he said, but perceiving by their countenances that stood by, that they wondered at it, he asked what it was he said. When it was told him, he marvelled at the boldness of so young a man, and then cried out twice together, "Let him triumph."
Many being offended therewith: Pompey (as it is reported) to anger them more, designed to have his triumphant chariot drawn with four elephants: for he had taken many of them from those kings and princes which he had subdued. Howbeit the gate of the city being too narrow, he was driven to leave the elephants, and was contented to be drawn in with horses.
[omission for length: further controversy over Pompey's triumph]
Pompey won much favour and goodwill amongst the common people: for they were glad when after his triumph they saw him in company amongst the Roman knights. On the other side it spited Sulla to see him come so fast forward, and to rise to so great credit: notwithstanding, being ashamed to hinder him, he was contented to keep it to himself; until that Pompey, by force and against Sulla's will, had brought Lepidus (#1) to be consul, by the help and good will of the people that furthered his desire.
[omission for length: the death of Sulla. Although the Lepidus incident had cooled Sulla's friendship for Pompey, to the point of leaving him entirely out of his will, it was Pompey that arranged an honourable burial for him.]
Narration and Discussion
Why was it so important to Sulla to outdo everyone else in praising Pompey? Why did he select that particular nickname?
Sulla once counted Pompey among his most loyal supporters. What changed their relationship?
After having had such a powerful ruler as Sulla, the Roman citizens seemed unsure how to move forward after his death. Wealthy families and the "mob" (those of the lower classes who could be bribed or simply excited into committing violence) fought with and against each other, and largely ignored a series of weak elected leaders.
Pompey saw an opportunity, in such troubled times, to live up to his nickname "The Great." Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one with such plans. The Marian party had not entirely disappeared, and the new consul Lepidus (#1) intended to support those who were left.
exigency: urgent need
new devices: new plans, new tricks
proconsul: proconsul was the word for governor, but it could also be a pun with "for consul"
Fortune: Fortune was the Roman goddess of luck.
shut him in: besiege him
that he might have one alone . . . : because he wanted to beat Sertorius by himself
caparison: an ornamental covering for a horse
by colour of: a phrase often meaning "using the excuse of" or "under cover of"; here it seems to mean "by means of"
Catulus: Quintus Lutatius Catulus, consul for 78 B.C. with Lepidus (#1)
Brutus (#2): Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder, put to death in 77 B.C.
"that Brutus" (#3): Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger
Sertorius: Quintus Sertorius, instigator of the Sertorian War
Metellus Pius (#1): see previous lesson
78 B.C.: Lepidus (#1) led an uprising of the Marians and attempted to take over Rome
76-71 B.C.: War in Spain against Sertorius
75 B.C.: Battle of Sucro
On the Map
Gallia Cisalpina: or Cisalpine Gaul; the closest part of Gaul to Italy
Mutina: the area around the present-day city of Modena
Sardinia: an island in the Mediterranean
Look up the Roman province of Spain (Hispania). Can you find the cities of Lauron and Valentia?
Sucro: the present-day Spanish municipality of Albalat de la Rivera
Shortly after Sulla's death, his words of prophecy unto Pompey concerning Lepidus (#1) proved true. For Lepidus openly entered straight in arms, stirring up again those of Marius' faction whom Sulla could not be revenged of; and which lay lurking a long time, spying for occasion to rise again. True it is that his colleague and fellow consul Catulus (whom the best and soundest part of the people followed) was thought a marvellous honest man, both just and modest: howbeit, a better governor in peace than a good man of war, insomuch as this exigency required Pompey's skill and experience. So Pompey stood not doubtful which way he would dispose himself, but took part straight with the nobility and the most honest men; and was presently chosen captain of their army against Lepidus.
Lepidus had already won the greatest part of Italy, and with an army under the command of Brutus (#2), kept Gaul on this side of the mountains, called Gallia Cisalpina. And for the rest, Pompey easily overcame it: howbeit he lay a long time before Mutina, besieging of Brutus.
In the meantime Lepidus marched in all haste against Rome; and, being hard at the walls, demanding the second consulship, made them afraid in the city with the great numbers of men he had about him, gathered together of all sorts. Howbeit this fear was cooled straight by a letter which Pompey wrote to Rome, advertising how he had ended this war without any bloodshed. For Brutus, either betraying his army, or being betrayed of it, yielded himself unto Pompey, who gave him a certain number of horsemen that conducted him to a little town upon the Po River: where the next day after, Geminius, being sent by Pompey, slew him. But hereof Pompey was greatly blamed, for that he had written letters to the Senate from the beginning of the change, how Brutus had put himself into his hands: and afterwards wrote letters to the contrary, which burdened him for putting of him to death. (This Brutus was father of "that Brutus" (#3) which afterwards with the help of Cassius slew Julius Caesar: howbeit the son shewed not himself so like a coward, neither in wars nor in his death, as his father did; as we have declared more at large in his Life.)
Furthermore, Lepidus, being driven to forsake Italy, fled into Sardinia, where he died.
There remained at that time Sertorius in Spain, who was another manner of warrior than Lepidus, and one that kept the Romans in great awe: for that all the fugitives of the recent civil wars were fled to him, as if from the last disease of the wars. He had already overthrown many inferior captains, and was now wrestling with Metellus Pius (#1), who in his youth had been a noble soldier, but now being old, made wars but slowly; and who would not courageously take present occasions offered him, which Sertorius by his nimbleness and dexterity took out of his hands. For he (Sertorius) would ever hover about him (Metellus), when he thought least of him, like a captain rather of thieves than of soldiers; and (Sertorius) would lay ambushes in every corner, and round about him: whereas the good old man Metellus had learned to fight in battle array, his men being heavy armed.
Hereupon Pompey, keeping his army always together, practised at Rome that he might be sent into Spain to aid Metellus. Although Catulus had commanded him to disperse his army, Pompey still kept them together by colour of new devices, and was continually about Rome in arms, until that by Lucius Philippus' means he had obtained the government of that province. They say that one of the senators, marvelling to hear Philip Lucius Philippus propound that matter to the Senate, asked him: ‘How now Philip, dost thou then think it meet to send Pompey as proconsul (to say, "for a consul") into Spain?" "No, truly" said Philip, "not proconsul only, but pro consulibus" (to say, "for both the consuls" or "as good as two consuls"): meaning that both the consuls for that year were men of no value.
Now when Pompey was arrived in Spain, men began straight to be carried away (as the manner is commonly where new governors be) with the hope of a thing that they had not before. Thereupon Sertorius gave out proud, bitter words against Pompey, saying in mockery, he would have no other weapon but rods to whip this young boy, if he were not afraid of this old woman (meaning Metellus, the old man).
[omission for length]
In this war Fortune changed diversely, as it is commonly seen in wars: but nothing grieved Pompey more than Sertorius' winning of the city of Lauron. For he, thinking to have shut him (Sertorius) in, and having given out some glorious words of the matter: he wondered, when he (Pompey) saw himself straight compassed in so that he could not stir out of the camp where he lay; and was driven besides to see the city burnt before his face. But afterwards, at a set battle by the city of Valentia, he slew Herennius and Perpenna, both notable soldiers and Sertorius' lieutenants, and with them ten thousand men.
This victory so encouraged Pompey, that he made haste to fight with Sertorius alone, because Metellus should have no part of the honour of the victory. So they both met by the river of Sucro, about sunset, both being in fear lest Metellus should come: Pompey, that he might have one alone to engage with.
The issue of the battle proved doubtful, for a wing of each side had the better; but of the generals, Sertorius had the greater honour, for that he maintained his post, having put to flight the entire division that was opposed to him; whereas Pompey was himself almost made a prisoner; for being set upon by a strong man-at-arms that fought on foot (he being on horseback), as they were closely engaged hand to hand the strokes of their swords chanced to light upon their hands, but with a different success; for Pompey's was a slight wound only, whereas he cut off the other's hand. However, it so happened that, many now falling upon Pompey together, and his own forces there being put to the rout, he made his escape beyond expectation, by quitting his horse and turning him out among the enemy. For the horse being richly adorned with golden trappings, and having a caparison of great value, the soldiers quarrelled among themselves for the booty, so that while they were fighting with one another, and dividing the spoil, Pompey made his escape.
The next morning by break of day, both of them again brought their bands into the field, to confirm the victory, which either of them supposed they had gotten. But Metellus came to Pompey at that present time; whereupon Sertorius went his way, and dispersed his army. When Metellus came near, Pompey commanded his sergeants and officers to put down their bundle of rods and axes which they carried before him, to honour Metellus withal, who was a better man than himself. But Metellus would not suffer them, but showed himself equal with him in that, and in all things else, not respecting his seniority, nor that he had been consul, and Pompey not (saving when they camped together, Metellus gave the watchword to all the camp).
[omission for length]
Narration and Discussion
How did Pompey attempt to show honour to Metellus after the Battle of Sucro?
How did his understanding of human nature help him escape from a tight spot? (Look up Luke 12:15.) What previous event might have inspired this "Trojan horse" strategy? (Hint: see Lesson Four.)
Through slave rebellions and military triumphs, we see Pompey's increasing maturity and power.
procure: obtain or arrange something
cohort: about 500 soldiers
disperse themselves abroad: spread themselves out
sedition and stir: uprisings
even in sport: even as a joke
tribuneship . . . office of the tribune: See introductory notes
Knights of Rome: see introductory notes to this study
Pompey's goodwill: Pompey's backing in the election (Pompey planned to run for one consul seat, and he wanted the other one)
pulpit for orations: place to make speeches
give place (to someone): to take second place behind someone. In this case it seems to mean "be the one to give up first."
the war of the bondmen and fencers . . . : an uprising of slaves led by Spartacus. Bondmen were slaves; enfranchised bondmen were something like serfs, those who were free-but-not-free. Fencers were gladiators, forced to fight for public entertainment.
Lucullus: Lucius Lucinius Lucullus, a Roman general who had been a confederate of Sulla; the subject of Plutarch's Life of Lucullus. Lucullus was known for his love of lavish banquets, so that the word lucullan is used to mean luxurious or gourmet. There is a story that Pompey, unable at one point to stomach common kinds of meat, was advised by a physician to eat a thrush (a small songbird). Thrushes were out of season, but it turned out that Lucullus bred them year-round for his table. Pompey mocked such luxury and said he would get by with common food.
King Mithridates: Mithridates VI of Pontus. See also Lesson 10.
Perpenna: see Lesson Four
Crassus: Marcius Licinius Crassus, the subject of Plutarch's Life of Crassus. Pompey and Crassus were co-consuls for the year 70 B.C.
75-63 B.C.: Third (and final) Mithridatic War. The Roman army was led by Lucius Licinius Lucullus (see above note), and then by Pompey during the final four years (see Lesson Ten).
74 B.C.: Lucullus was consul along with Marcus Aurelius Cotta, the uncle of Julius Caesar.
73-71 B.C.: Rebellion of slaves, called the Third Servile War
71 B.C.: Pompey's second triumph, at the age of 35
70 B.C.: Pompey's first consulship (with Crassus)
Pompey, having spent the most part of his goods in this war, sent to Rome for money to pay his soldiers, threatening the Senate that if they sent him no money, he would return with his army into Italy. Lucullus then being consul, though Pompey's enemy, procured they should send him money: for he (Lucullus) practised to be sent captain against King Mithridates; and therefore he was afraid to give Pompey any occasion to return (who desired nothing more than to leave Sertorius, to bend his force against Mithridates, whose overthrow should be more honourable to him, and also less dangerous).
In the mean space, Sertorius died, being betrayed by those whom he thought his friends, among the which Perpenna was the chief man. Pompey therefore marching directly towards him; and finding how ignorant Perpenna was in his affairs: he laid a bait for him of ten cohorts, with orders to range up and down and disperse themselves abroad. The bait took accordingly, and no sooner had Perpenna turned upon the prey and had them in chase, but Pompey appeared suddenly with all his army, and joining battle, gave him a total overthrow. Most of his officers were slain in the field, and he himself, being brought prisoner to Pompey, was by his order put to death.
But herein Pompey was not to be condemned of ingratitude nor oblivion (as some do burden him) of Perpenna's friendship which was shown to him in Sicily; but rather he deserved praise to have determined so wisely for the benefit of the commonwealth. For Perpenna had in his custody all Sertorius' writings (letters from the greatest noblemen of Rome, which were desirous of change of government), willing him to return into Italy. Pompey, upon sight of these letters, fearing least they would breed greater sedition and stir in Rome than that which was already pacified, put Perpenna to death as soon as he could; and burnt all his papers and writings, not reading any letter of them.
Pompey remained in Spain a certain time, till he had pacified all commotions and tumults.
He then brought his army back again into Italy; and arrived there when the war of the bondmen and fencers, led by Spartacus, was in greatest fury. Upon his coming therefore, Crassus being sent captain against these bondmen, made haste to give them battle, which he won, and slew 12,300 of these fugitive slaves. Notwithstanding, Fortune seemed determined to give Pompey some part of this honour: five thousand of these bondmen, escaping from the battle, fell into his hands. Whereupon he, having overcome them, wrote unto the Senate that Crassus had overcome the fencers in battle, but that he himself had plucked up this war by the roots. The Romans receiving Pompey's letters, were very glad of this news for the love they bare him. But as for the winning of Spain again, and the overthrow of Sertorius, there was no man, even in sport, that ever gave any man else the honour, but unto Pompey only.
For all this great honour and love they bare unto Pompey, yet they did suspect him, and were afraid of him, because he did not disperse his army, that he would follow Sulla's steps, to rule alone by plain force.
Hereupon, there were as many went to meet him for fear, as there were that went for goodwill they bare him. But after he had put this suspicion quite out of their heads, telling them that he would discharge his army after he had triumphed: then his ill-willers could blame him for nothing else but that he was more inclined to the people than to the nobility; and that he had a desire to restore the tribuneship of the people, which Sulla had put down, only to gratify the common people in all he could: the which indeed was true. For the common people at Rome never longed for anything more, than they did to see the office of the tribune set up again. Yea, Pompey himself thought it the happiest turn that ever came to him, to light in such a time, to do such an act. For, had any other man prevented him of that, he could never have found the like occasion possibly to have requited the people's goodwill unto him, so much as in that.
Now therefore, his second triumph and first consulship being decreed by the Senate: that made him nothing the greater, or better man. And yet was it a shew and signification of his greatness, the which Crassus (the richest man, the most eloquent and greatest person of all them that at that time dealt in matters of state, and made more estimation of himself than of Pompey and all the rest) never durst once demand, before he had craved Pompey's goodwill. Pompey was very glad of his request, and had sought occasion of long time to please him: and thereupon made earnest suit unto the people for him, assuring them he would as much thank them for making Crassus his colleague and fellow consul, as he would for making himself consul.
All this notwithstanding, when they were created consuls, they were in all things contrary one to another, and never agreed in any one thing while they were consuls together. Crassus had more authority with the Senate, but Pompey had more credit with the people. For he restored to them the office of the tribune; and passed by edict that the knights of Rome should have full power again to judge causes both civil and criminal.
[omission for length]
At the end of their consulship, when misliking increased further betwixt Pompey and Crassus, there was one Gaius Aurelius, of the order of knighthood, who till that time never spoke in open assembly; but he then got up into the pulpit for orations, and told the people openly how Jupiter had appeared to him in the night, and had commanded him to tell both the consuls, from him, that they should not leave their charge and office before they were reconciled together.
For all these words Pompey stirred not. But Crassus first took him by the hand, and spoke openly to him before the people: "My lords, I think not myself dishonoured to give place to Pompey, since you yourselves have thought him worthy to be called ‘The Great,' before he had any hair on his face; and unto whom you granted the honour of two triumphs before he came to be senator."
When he had said his mind, they were made friends together, and so surrendered up their office.
Narration and Discussion
In Lesson One, Plutarch listed reasons that Pompey was "beloved" or admired: "his temperance of life, aptness to arms, eloquence of tongue, faithfulness of word, and courtesy in conversation." Does one or another of these stand out at this point in his life?
How much credit should Pompey have taken for ending the slave rebellion?
Creative narration: Act out or retell the scene where Crassus and Pompey received "divine orders" to put aside their differences.
After so much excitement and attention, Pompey found life "in the robe of peace" somewhat boring. However, he was about to be offered a new challenge.
gave over to plead men's causes: stopped taking on legal cases
mean persons: common people
obscure and depress him: decrease his power, put him down
arsenals: storehouses for weapons
havens and beacons: harbours and signal lights
iniquity: sin, crimes
insolent parts: rude acts
houses of pleasure: vacation homes of the wealthy
their bellies full: till they were satisfied
edict: proclamation, decree
lost his labour: lost his case
furlong: 1/8 of a mile; 220 yards; about 201 meters. The word comes from a "furrow long," and it was originally used to measure the distance a team of oxen could plow without resting.
Gabinius: Aulus Gabinius, a tribune
Caesar: Julius Caesar, Roman politician and general
102 B.C.: Romans first began fighting back against Mediterranean pirates (often called Cilician Pirates)
78-74 B.C.: Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus led an intensive campaign against the pirates
75 B.C.: Julius Caesar kidnapped by pirates (see the Life of Julius Caesar)
67 B.C.: Gabinius proposed that Pompey be sent against the pirates
On the Map
Cilicia: a Roman province in what is now the southern part of Turkey
Hercules' Pillars: the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar
Now for Crassus, he held on his former manner of life which he had begun; but Pompey, as near as he could, gave over to plead men's causes anymore; and began little and little to withdraw himself from frequenting the Forum, and matters of judgement; coming seldom abroad, and when he did, he had always a great train following him. It was a rare thing also to see him anymore come out of his house, or talk with any man, without being accompanied with a great number; and he rejoiced to himself, to see that he had always such a train with him: for that made him to be honoured the more, and gave him greater countenance to see himself thus courted, thinking it a dishonour to him to be familiar with mean persons.
And life in the robe of peace is only too apt to lower the reputation of men that have grown great by arms, who naturally find difficulty in adapting themselves to the habits of civil equality. They expect to be treated as the first in the city, even as they were in the camp; and on the other hand, men who in war were nobody think it intolerable if in the city at any rate they are not to take the lead. And so when a warrior renowned for victories and triumphs shall turn advocate and appear among them in the Forum, they endeavor their utmost to obscure and depress him; whereas, if he gives up any pretensions here and retires, they will maintain his military honour and authority beyond the reach of envy. Events themselves not long after showed the truth of this.
By such an occasion, the power of pirates on the sea began in the country of Cilicia; which was not reckoned of at the first, because it was not perceived, until they grew bold and venturous in King Mithridates' wars, being hired to do him service. And afterwards, the Romans being troubled with civil wars, one fighting with another even at Rome's gates, the sea not being looked to all this while; and by degrees enticed and drew them on not only to seize upon and spoil the merchants and ships upon the seas, but also to lay waste the islands and seaport towns. So that now there embarked, with these pirates, men of wealth and noble birth and superior abilities, as if it had been a natural occupation to gain distinction in.
Now they had set up arsenals or storehouses in sundry places; they had sundry havens and beacons on the land, to give warning by fire all along the sea coast; and fleets were here received that were well manned with the finest mariners, and well served with expert pilots, and composed of swift-sailing and light-built vessels adapted for their special purpose. They were so gloriously set out that men hated their excess as much as they feared their force. Their ships had gilded masts at their stems; the sails woven of purple, and the oars plated with silver as if their delight were to glory in their iniquity. All the seacoast over, there was no sight of anything but music, singing, banqueting, and rioting. Their ships were about a thousand in number, and they had taken above four hundred towns. They had spoiled and destroyed many holy temples that had never been touched before. They had also many strange sacrifices and certain ceremonies of religion amongst themselves: among others, the Mystery of Mithres, which is the sun.
But besides all these insolent parts and injuries they did the Romans upon the sea, they went a-land; and where they found any houses of pleasure upon the seacoast, they spoiled and destroyed them; and on a time they took two Roman praetors, Sextilius and Bellinus, being in their purple robes, with their sergeants and officers attending on them, and carried them quite away. Another time also they stole away the daughter of Antonius (a man that had received honour of triumph) as she went a-walking abroad in the fields, and she was redeemed for a great sum of money.
But yet the greatest spite and mockery they used to the Romans, was this: that when they had taken any of them and that he cried he was a citizen of Rome, and named his name, then they made as though they had been amazed, and afraid of what they had done. For they clapped their hands on their thighs, and fell down on their knees before him, praying him to forgive them. The poor prisoner thought they had done it in good earnest, seeing they humbled themselves as though they seemed fearful. For some of them came unto him, and put shoes on his feet: others clapped a gown on the back of him after the Roman fashion, for fear (said they) lest he should be mistaken another time. When they had played all this pageant, and mocked him their bellies full: at the last they cast out one of their ship ladders, and put him on it, and bade him go his way, he should have no hurt: and if he would not go of himself, then they would cast him overboard by force. These rovers and sea pirates had all the Mediterranean Sea at their commandment: insomuch there durst not a merchant look out, nor once traffic that sea.
And this was the only cause that moved the Romans (fearing scarcity of victuals) to send Pompey to recover the seignory again of the sea from these pirates.
Gabinius, Pompey's friend, was the first man that moved that Pompey should not be only admiral, or general-by-sea, but should have absolute power to command all manner of persons as he thought good, without any account to be made of his doings in his charge. The sum of this decree gave him full power and absolute authority of all the sea from Hercules' Pillars; and of the mainland, the space of four hundred furlongs from the sea. (For the Roman dominions at that time in few places went further than that: notwithstanding, within that compass were many great nations and mighty kings.) Furthermore, it gave him power to choose of the Senate fifteen lieutenants, to give unto every one of them several provinces in charge, according to his discretion: and also to take money out of the treasury to defray the charges of a fleet of two hundred sail, with full power besides to levy what men of war he thought good, and as many ships and mariners as he desired.
This law, when it had been read once over among them, the people confirmed it with very good will. Yet the noblemen and chief of the Senate thought that this authority did not only exceed all envy, but also that it gave them apparent cause of fear, to give such absolute power unto a private person. Whereupon, they were all against it but Caesar, who favoured the decree: not so much to pleasure Pompey as the people, whose favour he sought.
Finally, Catulus stood up to speak against this edict. The people at the first heard him quietly, because he was a worthy man. Then he began, without any shew of envy, to speak many goodly things in the praise of Pompey; and, in fine, advised the people to spare him, and not to venture in such dangerous wars (one after another) a man of so great account, as they ought to make of him. "If ye chance to lose him," said he, "whom have you then to put in his place?"
The people then cried out: "Yourself." Then perceiving that he lost his labour, seeking to turn the people from their determination: he left it there, and said no more.
Roscius rose next after him to speak, but he could have no audience. When he saw that he could not be heard, he made a sign with his fingers, that they should not give Pompey alone this authority, but join another with him. The people being offended withal made such an outcry upon it, that a crow flying over the marketplace at that instant was stricken blind and fell down amongst the people. Whereby it appeareth, that fowl falling out of the air to the ground do not fall because the air is broken or pierced with any force or fury; but because the very breath of the voice (when it cometh with such a violence, as it maketh a very tempest in the air) doth strike and overcome them.
Thus for that day, the assembly broke up, and nothing was passed; and at the day appointed when this decree should pass by voices of the people, Pompey went abroad into the country. There being advertised that the decree was passed for the confirmation of his charge, he returned again that night into the city, because he would avoid the envy they would have borne him to have seen them run out of all parts of the city unto him, to have waited on him home.
Narration and Discussion
Why is it hard for heroes to return to civilian life?
What were the arguments for and against sending Pompey against the pirates? What was the deciding point?
Creative narration: Act out the role of a "pirate employment counselor," assisting someone who is looking for a change of career.
The pirate story continues.
taking infinite pains: doing something very thoroughly and carefully
change of victuals unlooked for: their markets were suddenly full of things to buy, since their town was the base for naval operations
deprived of his consulship: Piso (#1) was accused of hindering preparations for the campaign against the pirates, which would be grounds to have him put out of office.
manuring the ground: growing food
shoals: Dryden uses the amusing metaphor here of a shoal, which usually refers to a large number of fish.
Piso (#1): Gaius Calpurnius Piso, consul for 67 B.C.
On the Map
Brundisium: Brindisi, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea
Athens: the capital city of Greece. In 88 B.C., Athens and other Greek city-states revolted against Rome, but their rebellion was put down by Sulla. The Roman civil wars caused damage and economic hardship in Greece.
Mount Taurus: the Taurus Mountains are in southern Turkey
Coracesium: now called Alanya, in southern Turkey
Armenia: a kingdom of western Asia, ruled at that time by Tigranes the Great
Achaea: a region of Greece, which later (22 B.C.) became a Roman province with Corinth as its capital. (Bible History: In 51/52 A.D., Paul was tried in Corinth under the Roman proconsul Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus.)
The next morning, Pompey came abroad, and sacrificed to the gods; and, audience being given him at an open assembly, he handled the matter so well, that they gave him many things besides to enlarge his power, almost doubling the preparation set down and appointed at the first decree. For he ordained that the commonwealth should arm him five hundred ships; and they levied for him six score thousand footmen, and five thousand horsemen; and chose besides four-and-twenty senators, which had every one of them been generals of armies; and two general treasurers also. Now it happened within this time that the prices of provisions were much reduced, which gave an occasion to the joyful people of saying that the very name of Pompey had ended the war. However, Pompey, in pursuance of his charge, divided all the seas and the whole Mediterranean into thirteen parts, allotting a squadron to each,, under the command of his officers; and having thus dispersed his power into all quarters, and encompassed the pirates everywhere, they began to fall into his hands by whole shoals, which he seized and brought into his harbours.
Now for them that had dispersed themselves betimes, or that otherwise could escape his general chase: they fled all into Cilicia, as bees into the beehive, against whom he would needs go himself in person with three score of his best ships. Howbeit he went not before he had scoured all the coasts of Libya, Sardinia, Sicily, and of Corsica of all the thieves which were wont to keep thereabouts: and this he did within forty days' space, taking infinite pains, both himself and his lieutenants.
Pompey met with some interruption in Rome, through the malice and envy of Piso (#1), the consul, who had given some check to his proceedings by withholding his stores and discharging his sailors; whereupon he sent his fleet round to Brundisium, himself going the nearest way by land through Tuscany to Rome; which was no sooner known by the people than they all flocked out to meet him upon the way as if they had not sent him out but a few days before. That which made the people more joyful to see him, was the sudden change of victuals unlooked for, that daily came to the town out of all parts. Piso was nearly deprived of his consulship because of this interference: for Gabinius had the decree written, and ready to present to the people. But Pompey would not suffer it.
So, having brought all to pass as he desired, he went unto the city of Brundisium, and there took sea, and hoisted sail.
Now though his hasty voyage, and shortness of time made him pass many good cities without coming into them: notwithstanding, he would not so pass by the city of Athens, but landed there, and after he had sacrificed to the gods, returned to embark again. At his going out of the city, he read two writings that were made in his praise, the one within the gate which said thus:
The humblier that thou dost thyself as man behave.
The more thou dost deserve the name of god to have.
And the other writing was without the gate, which said:
We wished for thee, we wait for thee,
We worship thee, we wait on thee.
Now because Pompey having taken certain of these rovers by sea that kept together, did use them gently when they required pardon, and having their ships and bodies in his power, did them no hurt at all: their other companions being in good hope of his mercy, fled from his other captains and lieutenants, and went and yielded themselves, their wives and children into his hands. Pompey pardoned all them that came in of themselves, and by that means he came to have knowledge of the rest, and to follow them where they went, whom he took in the end: but knowing that they deserved no pardon, they hid themselves. Yet the richest of the pirates had conveyed their wives, children and goods, and all others of their families unmeet for wars, into strong castles and little towns upon Mount Taurus; and such as were able to carry weapons embarked, and lay before the city of Coracesium; where they tarried Pompey, and gave him battle, first by sea, and there were overcome; and afterwards they were besieged by land. Howbeit shortly after, they prayed they might be received to mercy; and thereupon yielded their bodies, towns, and islands. Thus was this war ended, and all the pirates in less than three months driven from the sea wheresoever they were.
Pompey, believing that man by nature is not born a wild or savage beast, but contrarily becometh a brute beast when he falleth to vice: and again is made tame and civil in time, changing place and manner of life: (as brute beasts that being wild by nature do also become gentle and tractable, with gentler usage by continuance) he determined to draw these pirates from the sea into the upland, and to make them feel the true and innocent life, by dwelling in towns, and manuring the ground. Some of them therefore he placed in certain small towns of the Cilicians, that were scant inhabited, and were very glad of them, giving them land to keep them with. The city of the Solians, also in Anatolia, that not long before had been destroyed by Tigranes the king of Armenia: being desirous to replenish that again, he placed many of them there. He bestowed divers also in the country of Achaea, which at that time lacked inhabitants, and had great store of very good land.
[omission for length: the official end of the war of the pirates]
Narration and Discussion
What were the results of the victory over the pirates? Did anything surprise you?
The story about Pompey's visit to Athens may seem like a sidebar to more interesting events. Why might Plutarch have included it here?
Manius Acilius Glabrio was the new replacement for Lucullus (see Lesson Seven), who had been fighting Mithridates VI of Pontus and Tigranes the Great of Armenia in the Third Mithridatic War. Mithridates had won back some territory, but neither Lucullus nor Glabrio had done much to counter him (and Glabrio was, apparently, avoiding responsibility by staying in Bithynia); so Pompey was sent in to take command.
tribune of the people: see introductory notes
stuck not so much: were not so unhappy
too manifest an injury: too great an insult
inveigh: to speak with hostility
knit his brows: frowned, seemed irritated
one in the neck of another: one right after another
within precinct of his charge: within his jurisdiction
the penalties enjoined them: fines or other financial punishments
finding himself hardly handled: resenting this treatment
ado: trouble, fuss
buzzard: a bird of prey, vulture
Glabrio: see Introduction
74 B.C.: Rome acquired Bithynia as a legacy from its former king (in the hope that Rome would protect it from its enemy Pontus)
73-63 B.C.: Third Mithridatic War
69 B.C.: Lucullus won control of Syria
69 B.C.: The kingdoms of Pontus and Colchis rebelled against Rome
67 B.C.: Pompey sent to fight against Tigranes and Mithridates
67 B.C.: Battle of Zela (the Roman army was led by Lucullus, before the arrival of Pompey)
On the Map
Bithynia: kingdom and Roman province, located in present-day Turkey
Galatia: a region bordering on Bithynia and Pontus
When news came to Rome that the pirates' war was brought to good end, and that Pompey, having no other service in hand, went visiting the cities up and down: one Manilius, a tribune of the people, put forth another decree unto them of this effect:
That Pompey, taking all the army Lucullus had, and the provinces under his government; with all Bithynia (which was under the command of Glabrio); should go make war upon the two kings, Tigranes and Mithridates, keeping in his hands notwithstanding all his jurisdiction and army by sea, in as royal manner as he had it before.
In fine, this was even to make one man monarch and absolute prince of all the Roman empire. For by this second decree, Pompey had all these countries not named in his former commission (Phrygia, Lycaonia, Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, high Colchida, and Armenia) added to amplify his authority; along with all the armies and forces with which he already had; to overcome those two mighty kings. Then the Senate stuck not so much at the injury that was offered unto Lucullus, depriving him of the honour of his doings, to give it to another, that should rather succeed him in honour of triumph than in danger of wars, knowing that they did him too manifest an injury, and shewed themselves too unthankful: but that which most grieved them was to see Pompey's power established in a plain tyranny.
Hereupon therefore, the senators persuaded and encouraged each other stoutly to withstand this edict, and not to suffer their liberty to be lost in this sort. Notwithstanding, when the day came that the decree should pass, they were so afraid to anger the people, that their hearts failed them, and none durst speak against it but Catulus only: he earnestly inveighed against the passing of it a long time together, and greatly blamed the people. At the length, perceiving he had won never a man to take his part, he oftentimes cried out to the Senate, that they should look to seek out some mountain or high rock to retire safely unto, to defend their liberty, as their ancestors had done in old time before them. All this prevailed not, for the decree passed by the voices of all the tribes, as it is reported.
And thus was Pompey in his absence made lord almost of all that which Sulla, by force of arms and great effusion of blood (having made himself lord of Rome), had before in his power.
When Pompey had received letters from Rome, advertising him what the people had passed in his behalf: some say that at the receipt of them (in the presence of his familiar friends that were about him, and rejoiced with him for congratulation) he knit his brows, and clapped on his thigh, as though it grieved him marvellously to have such great offices and charge laid upon him, one in the neck of another, and burst forth in these words:
"O gods, shall I never see an end of such a world of troubles as I have? Had it not been better for me to have been a mean man born and unknown, than thus continually to be in war with armour on my back? What, shall I never see the time, that breaking the necks of spite and envy against me, I may yet once in my life live quietly at home in my country, with my wife and children?"
But all this was looked upon as mere trifling, neither indeed could the best of his friends call it anything else, well knowing that his enmity with Lucullus, setting a flame just now to his natural passion for glory and empire, made him feel more than usually gratified. For he presently sent out proclamations into every quarter, commanding all sorts of soldiers to come to him immediately, and made also all the princes and kings within precinct of his charge to come unto him; and going through the countries, altered and changed all that Lucullus had established before.
Furthermore, he did release the penalties enjoined them, and took from them also the gifts that Lucullus bestowed of them. In fine, this was all his purpose and desire: to make them that honoured Lucullus know that he had no further power and authority to do anything: Lucullus finding himself hardly handled by Pompey, the friends of either side thought good they should meet and talk together: which came so to pass, for they met in the country of Galatia.
And because they both were great captains of the Roman armies, and had done many famous acts, they had their sergeants and officers that carried the bundles of rods before them, wreathed about with laurel boughs. When they met, Lucullus came out of a close and woody country, all covered with green trees, and Pompey on the other side had passed through a great sandy plain, where no tree was growing. Thereupon Lucullus' sergeants seeing the laurel boughs dry and withered away, which Pompey's sergeants carried, they gave them of their green and fresh boughs to beautify the rods and axes. This was a plain token that Pompey came to take Lucullus' honour from him. In truth Lucullus had been consul before Pompey, and so was he also an older man than he; yet the dignity of Pompey was greater, because he had triumphed twice.
At their first meeting, their entertainment and discourse was with great ceremony and courtesy as might be, one highly praising the other's deeds, rejoicing at each other's good success: but at parting, they fell to hot words together, Pompey upbraiding Lucullus' avarice, and Lucullus Pompey's ambition; so that their friends had much ado to part them.
Lucullus departing thence, divided the lands in Galatia which he had conquered; and bestowed them, and other gifts, on such as he thought good. Pompey, on the other side, camping near him, specially commanded the people in every part to obey him in nothing whatsoever he did: and besides, he took all his soldiers from him, leaving him only sixteen hundred, which he supposed were such, as for disdain and ill will they bare him, would do him but small service. Furthermore, to blemish the glory of his doings, he told everybody Lucullus had fought with the pomp and shadow only of these two kings, and that he had left him to fight with all their whole force and power, Mithridates being then prepared for wars, with shields, swords, and horses.
Lucullus, for revenge on the other side, said that Pompey went to fight but with a shadow of war; and that he was like a cowardly buzzard that preyeth upon dead bodies, which others have slain.
[Footnote: The Roman writer Pliny said that, on the other hand, Pompey called Lucullus "Xerxes in a toga."]
Narration and Discussion
Why were the Senators at first reluctant to offer Pompey such a powerful new command? Why was the proposal finally passed?
How did Pompey's actions show that he was not really as reluctant as he pretended to be?
Describe the "friendly meeting" between Pompey and Lucullus. (Christian students might consider 1 Corinthians 3:8-10; 22-23.)
The war against Mithridates and Tigranes finally came to an end.
choice of his army: best soldiers
no shift: no other choice
embased: lowered, humiliated
minas, talents: units of money. Other money words used later in the story: miriades, drachmas.
Hypsicratea: the sixth wife of Mithridates
66 B.C.: Lucullus returned to Rome, but was initially refused a triumph, and was allowed only limited involvement in state matters.
66 B.C.: Mithridates defeated at the Battle of the Lycus
66 B.C.: Surrender of Tigranes
On the Map
Phoenicia: a kingdom which had flourished in ancient times, but which had declined in power and which was now part of Syria
Bosporus: or Bosphorus. Now part of Turkey.
Euphrates River: a major river in the Middle East
Colchis: a region on the coast of the Black Sea; the legendary destination of the Argonauts
Sophene: a region of Armenia
Lucullus being now gone on his way, Pompey placed his whole navy in guard upon the sea, from the province of Phoenicia unto the realm of Bosporus. That done, he took his journey by land towards Mithridates; who had in his camp thirty thousand footmen, and two thousand horsemen, and yet durst not offer battle, but camped first upon a mountain of great strength, and hard to get up on: notwithstanding shortly after, he forsook it for lack of water. He was no sooner gone thence, but forthwith Pompey took it. Who, conjecturing by the nature of the plants and trees in that place which were very green, and also by divers holes he found, for that reason thereabouts should be some springs: he commanded them to dig wells in every corner, so that in a very short time all his camp had water enough; and he wondered at Mithridates, that he could not find that out in all the time he lay there.
In the end, he went and camped round about Mithridates, and entrenched him with a wall within his own camp: who, after he had abidden the siege five and forty days, fled away with all the choice of his army, unknown to Pompey; having first slain all the sick and impotent persons within his camp. After that, Pompey found him another time by the Euphrates River, and went and lodged hard by him. But fearing that Mithridates would pass over the river before he could prevent him in time, he raised his camp again, and marched away at midnight.
[omission for length: Mithridates dreamed about being on a sinking ship]
As Mithridates was troubled with his ill-favoured dream, certain of his familiars came to him and told him that Pompey was come so near, that there was no shift but they must needs fight to defend their camp. Thereupon, his captains straight began to put his men in battle array, ready to fight. Pompey understanding they prepared to make defense, was in doubt to venture his men to fight in the dark, thinking it better to compass the enemy in to keep them from fleeing, and then in the morning to set upon them more easily, his men being the better soldiers. But Pompey's old captains were so earnestly in hand with him to persuade him they might fight, that in the end he was contented they should give charge.
Now it was not so dark but they could somewhat see, for the moon that was very low and. upon her setting, gave light enough to discern the body of a man: yet because the moon was very low, the shadow which gave out further far than their bodies, came almost even to their very enemies, which did let them that they could not certainly judge what space of ground was between them, but imagining that they were hard by them, they cast their darts at the Romans, but they hurt never a man, for their bodies were a great way from them.
The Romans perceiving that, ran upon them with great cries. But the barbarous people durst not abide their charge, they were so afraid; but turned their backs, and ran away for life, so that they were slain down right. Thus were there ten thousand of the barbarous people slain and more, and their camp also taken.
As for Mithridates himself, he at the beginning of the onset, with a body of eight hundred horse, charged through the Roman army, and made his escape. But before long all the rest dispersed, some one way, some another; and he was left only with three persons only, whereof Hypsicratea was one of the number, which had ever been valiant and had a man's heart: whereupon for that cause Mithridates called her "Hypsicrates." She at that time being arrayed like a man-of-arms of Persia, and mounted also on a horse after the Persian manner, was never weary with any long journey the king made, nor never left to wait upon his person, and to look to his horse: until such time as the king came to a strong castle called Inora, where was great store of gold and silver, and the king's chiefest treasure. Then Mithridates took of his richest apparel he had there, and gave it amongst them that were about him at that time, and a deadly poison besides to every one of his friends to carry about them, because they should not (unless they would themselves) fall into their enemies' hands alive.
From thence he thought to take his journey into Armenia, unto King Tigranes. Howbeit Tigranes sent to prevent him; and further proclaimed by trumpet, that he would give a hundred talents to anyone that could kill him. Thereupon, passing by the head of the river of Euphrates, Mithridates fled through the country of Colchis.
In the meantime, Pompey invaded the country of Armenia, at the request of Tigranes the Younger, who had revolted against his father, and who went to meet with Pompey at the River of Araxes, which hath its beginning almost about the head of the Euphrates: but it runneth towards the east, and falleth into the Caspian Sea.
So they both together marched on further into the country, receiving such towns as yielded unto them. But King Tigranes (that not long before had been consumed and destroyed by Lucullus) understanding that Pompey was of a mild and gentle nature, he admitted Roman troops into his strongest forts and royal houses, and went himself with his friends and kinsmen to meet Pompey, and to yield himself unto him. When he came near to his camp, being a-horseback, there came out two sergeants of Pompey's, who commanded him to alight and go in afoot, for there was never man seen a-horseback within the Romans' camp. Tigranes did not only obey them, but further plucked off his sword and gave it them: and in fine, when he came almost to Pompey, taking of his royal hat from his head, he would have laid it at Pompey's feet, and falling down most shamefully on the ground, embased himself to embrace Pompey's knees. But Pompey himself prevented him, and taking him by the hand, made him to sit down by him on the one side of him, and his son on the other. Then he said unto them both: "As for the other losses you have sustained heretofore, you must thank Lucullus for them, who hath taken from you Syria, Phoenicia, Cilicia, Galatia, and Sophene; but for that you have left you till my coming, I will let you enjoy it, paying to the Romans a fine of six thousand talents for the injury you had done them; provided also that your son have the kingdom of Sophene for his part."
Tigranes accepted the conditions of peace. The Romans then saluted him king. He was so glad thereof that he promised to give every soldier half a mina, to every centurion ten minas, and to every colonel of a thousand men, a talent. His son was very angry withal: insomuch as Pompey sending for him to come to supper to him, he answered again, that was not the friendship he looked for at Pompey's hands, for he should find many other Romans that would offer him that courtesy. Pompey, for his answer, clapped him up as a prisoner, and kept him to be led in triumph at Rome.
[omission for length: Pompey's other victories in that region]
Narration and Discussion
Contrast the reactions of Tigranes and his son over surrendering to the Romans. Do you think one or the other showed more honour?
For older students or further study: Tigranes had another son, Artavasdes II (or Artabazes), who reigned in Armenia from 55 to 34 B.C., and who appears several times in the Life of Crassus. He has been contrasted in character to his brother Tigranes the Younger. What else can you find out about him?
Lesson Twelve and Examination Questions
After claiming additional territory for the empire (including Judea), and attempting to settle disputes in those places, Pompey prepared to return to Italy himself. Some feared that he would enter Rome with an army and establish himself as dictator. He sent his soldiers home, however, with a reminder: "Come back for the triumph."
in the flank: Dryden says "into the joints of his breastplate."
arbitration: working out terms of agreement between those having conflict. One who manages such negotiations is an arbitrator.
importunate: persistent (see Lesson Five)
turves: also spelled turfs. These are cut-out sections of earth and vegetation, which could be piled up to stand on, or even used to build a wall (such as the early versions of Hadrian's Wall).
Oroeses: king of the Caucasian Albanians
Afranius: Lucius Afranius, who had served in Pompey's army, and was elected consul for the year 60 B.C. (probably due to bribes).
King Aristobulus: Aristobulus II, Jewish High Priest and King of Judea from 66 B.C. to 63 B.C.; the younger brother of Hyrcanus II, who had become king in 67 B.C. but surrendered to Aristobulus after a civil war. This did not end the strife in Judea, however, and allies of Hyrcanus besieged Jerusalem for months. Pompey's deputy in that region, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, was offered (and may have accepted) bribes to help Aristobulus hold on to the throne; but when the matter came before Pompey, he decided in favour of Hyrcanus (perhaps seeing him as weaker and more likely to cooperate with Rome). Aristobulus was imprisoned, but later escaped and led an insurrection against Rome. He died by suicide in 49 B.C.
Scaurus: See above. As a footnote, it seems that money was an ongoing temptation for him; and in later life he was exiled from Rome as punishment for taking bribes. (He also married Pompey's former wife Mucia.)
65 B.C.: Phoenicia became part of the new Roman province of Syria
63 B.C.: Judea captured by Rome after the Siege of Jerusalem
63 B.C.: death of Mithridates
On the Map
Maeotian Sea: now called the Sea of Azov; connected to the Black Sea by the Strait of Kerch
Cyrnus River: or Cyrus; now called the Kura. It runs through Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Judea: the southern part of Palestine. You will also want to locate Syria.
Petra: a historic city in southern Jordan
The pursuit of Mithridates, who had thrown himself among the tribes inhabiting Bosporus and the shores of the Maeotian Sea, presented great difficulties. Furthermore also, he had news that the Albanians were rebelled again, which drew him back to be revenged of them. Thereupon he passed again over the Cyrnus River, with great pain and danger, because the barbarous people had made a strong defense a great way along the riverside, with a marvellous number of great trees, felled and laid across one over another. Furthermore, when he had with great difficulty passed through them, he fell into an evil-favoured country, where he should travel a great way before he could come to any water. Thereupon he caused ten thousand goatskins to be filled with water, and so went forward to meet with his enemies : being six score thousand footmen, and twelve thousand horsemen, but all (or the most of them) ill armed with wild beasts' skins. Their chieftain was a brother of Oroeses named Cosis. He, when the battle was begun, flew upon Pompey, and threw a dart at him, and hurt him in the flank. Pompey on the other side, ran Cosis through with his lance on both sides, and slew him stark dead.
[omission for length/content]
He had a wonderful great desire to win Syria, and to go through the country of Arabia, even unto the Red Sea, specially because he saw Mithridates so ill to follow, and worse to overcome by force when he fled, than when he fought any battle; and that made him say that he would leave a sharper enemy behind him than himself (and by that he meant famine).
[omission for length]
Pompey now having by Afranius subdued the Arabians dwelling about Mount Amanus, he went himself in person into Syria, and made a government and province of it, being won to the Roman empire, for that it lacked a lawful king; and he conquered all Judea also, where he took King Aristobulus; and built certain cities there, and delivered others also from bondage, which by tyrants were forcibly kept, whom he chastised well enough. Howbeit he spent the most part of his time there deciding controversies, pacifying contentions and quarrels by arbitration, which fell out betwixt the free cities, princes and kings; and sent of his friends into those places where he could not come himself.
[omission for content]
Now, the king of the Arabians, that dwelt about the castle called Petra, having never until that time made any account of the Roman army, was then greatly afraid of them, and wrote unto Pompey that he was at his devotion, to do what he would command him. Pompey thereupon to prove him, whether he meant as he spoke: brought his army before this castle of Petra. Howbeit this voyage was not liked of many men, because they saw it as an excuse to stop following Mithridates, against whom they would have preferred Pompey to use his force, being an ancient enemy to Rome; and that began to gather strength again, and prepared (as they heard say) to lead a great army through Scythia and Pannonia into Italy. But Pompey thinking he should sooner diminish Mithridates' power by suffering him to go on with wars, than that he should otherwise be able to take him flying: would not toil to follow him in vain. And for these causes he would needs make wars in other places, and linger time so long, that in the end he was put by his hope.
When he was not far from Petra, and had lodged his camp for that day: as he was riding and managing his horse up and down the camp, posts came flinging to him from the realm of Pontus, and brought him good news, as was easily to be discerned afar off by the heads of their javelins, which were wreathed about with laurel boughs. The soldiers, perceiving that, flocked straight about him; but Pompey would make an end of his riding first, before he read these letters. Howbeit they crying to him, and being importunate with him, he lighted from his horse, and returned into his camp, where there was no stone high enough for him to stand upon to speak unto them, and again, the soldiers would not tarry the making of one after the manner of their camp, which men of war do make themselves, with great turves of earth, laying one of them upon another: but for haste and earnest desire they had to hear what news there was in the letters, they laid together a heap of saddles one upon another, and Pompey getting up on them, told how Mithridates was dead, and had killed himself with his own hands, because his son Pharnaces did rebel against him, and had won all that which his father possessed: writing unto him that he "kept it for himself and the Romans."
Upon this news, all the camp ye may imagine, made wonderful joy, and did sacrifice to the gods, giving them thanks, and were as merry, as if in Mithridates' person alone, there had died an infinite number of their enemies.
Pompey by this occasion, having brought this war more easily to pass than he hoped for, departed presently out of Arabia, and having speedily in few days passed through the countries lying by the way, he came at length to the city of Amisus. There he found great presents that were brought unto him from Pharnaces, and many dead bodies of the king's blood, and amongst the rest, Mithridates' corpse. Pompey having ordered all things and established that province, went on his journey homewards with great pomp and glory.
[omission for length and content]
So he thought at his return home into Italy, to have been very honourably received; and he longed to be at home, to see his wife and children, thinking also that they long looked for him; but the god that hath the charge given him, to mingle Fortune's prosperity with some bitter sop of adversity, laid a block in his way at home in his own house, to make his return more sorrowful.
[omission: the end of Pompey's marriage to Mucia]
Furthermore, there were rumours run abroad in Rome which troubled them sore, being given out that he would bring his army straight to Rome, and make himself absolute lord of all the Roman empire. Crassus thereupon, either for that he believed it indeed to be true, or (as it was thought) to make the accusation true, and the envy towards Pompey the greater: conveyed himself, his family, and goods, suddenly out of Rome.
So Pompey when he came into Italy, called all his soldiers together, and after he had made an oration unto them, as time and occasion required, he commanded them to sever themselves, and every man to repair home to apply his business (remembering to meet at Rome together at the day of his triumph). His army being thus dispersed, and straight reported abroad for news: a marvellous thing happened unto him. The cities seeing Pompey the Great without soldiers, having but a small train about him of his familiar friends only: they went all of them to meet him, not as though he were returned home from his great conquests, but from some journey taken for his pleasure. Such was the love of the people to him that they accompanied him to Rome, whether he would or not, with a greater power than that he had brought into Italy: so that if he had been disposed to have made any innovation in the commonwealth, he had not needed his army.
Narration and Discussion
How was Pompey's return to Rome both worse and better than he expected?
For older students: In an omitted passage, Plutarch makes this comment: "If Pompey's fame and renown were great, no less was his virtue, justice, and liberality, which indeed did hide many faults his friends and familiars about him did commit. For truly he was of so gentle a nature, that he could neither keep them from offending, nor yet punish them when they had offended. Notwithstanding, he did use them so well that complained unto him, or that had to deal with him in any matter, that he made them contented patiently to bear their covetousness and straight dealing." Pompey's general reputation in war and politics might not seem to agree with calling him "gentle," yet Plutarch makes the point that, with those he called friends, he could forgive much—even, perhaps, overmuch. When is it a virtue to "hide" the faults or sins of others, and when is it dishonest or conniving? See Proverbs 10:12, 12:22-23, and 17:9.
For older students or further study: What can you find out about the Siege of Jerusalem?
Examination Questions for Part One
1. "Pompey was for many occasions beloved." Describe two of the reasons he was beloved (or admired). Also, tell anything you know about his personal appearance.
1. Describe the occasion when Pompey and Sulla each saluted the other as "Imperator." How did Pompey later make an enemy of Sulla?
2. (For high school) Why did the Romans make Pompey general by sea? Describe the scene that followed the decree, and Pompey's treatment of the pirates.
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.
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
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
Commagenians: those of the Armenian kingdom of Commagene
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?
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.
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?
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
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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)
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.
a warm dispute: a heated battle
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
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.
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.
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?
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
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, 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?
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.
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
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.
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
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 21.
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.
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]
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.)
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
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)
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
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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
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.)
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]
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.
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?"
"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).
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"
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. 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
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.
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.
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?
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
marched forward to follow Caesar: see On the Map, below
determined not to give him battle: see Discussion Questions
imputations: insinuations, hints
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 20
Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, or Domitius Calvinus (Domitius #3): Roman general, senator, and consul; lieutenant in Caesar's army.
Metellus Scipio (#2): see Lesson 18.
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 20
Thessaly: a region of Greece
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.]
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."
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.
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?)
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
six cohorts . . . : about 3,000 fighting men, counting 500 in a cohort
Gaius Crassinius: captain in Caesar's army
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.
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.
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]
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?
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"
clemency: see Lesson Four
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
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.
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.
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 24 and Examination Questions
By seeking refuge in Egypt, Pompey signed his own death warrant.
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
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).
[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.
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.
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."
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. Revised by Arthur Hugh Clough, Volume 2. London: J.M. Dent, 1910 (Pompey)
AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus