Roman Empire > History >The Roman Empire Online
THE CAREER OF POMPEIUS.
Cnæus Pompeius Magnus and Lucius Licinius Crassus Dives were consuls
together in the year 70; but Crassus, though he feasted the people at
10,000 tables, was envied and disliked, and would never have been
elected but for Pompeius, who was a great favorite with the people, and
so much trusted, both by them and the nobles, that it seems to have
filled him with pride, for he gave himself great airs, and did not treat
his fellow-consul as an equal.
When his term of office was over, the most pressing thing to be done was
to put down the Cilician pirates. In the angle formed between Asia Minor
and Syria, with plenty of harbors formed by the spurs of Mount Taurus,
there had dwelt for ages past a horde of sea robbers, whose swift
galleys darted on the merchant ships of Tyre and Alexandria; and now,
after the ruin of the Syrian kingdom, they had grown so rich that their
state galleys had silken sails, oars inlaid with ivory and silver, and
bronze prows. They robbed the old Greek temples and the Eastern shrines,
and even made descents on the Italian cities, besides stopping the ships
which brought wheat from Sicily and Alexandria to feed the Romans.
To enable Pompeius to crush them, authority was given him for three
years over all the Mediterranean and fifty miles inland all round, which
was nearly the same thing as the whole empire. He divided the sea into
thirteen commands, and sent a party to fight the pirates in each; and
this was done so effectually, that in forty days they were all hunted
out of the west end of the gulf, whither he pursued them with his whole
force, beat them in a sea-fight, and then besieged them; but, as he was
known to be a just and merciful man, they came to terms with him, and he
scattered them about in small colonies in distant cities, so that they
might cease to be mischievous.
COAST OF TYRE.
In the meantime, the war with Mithridates had broken out again, and
Lucius Lucullus, who had been consul after Pompeius, was fighting with
him in the East; but Lucullus did not please the Romans, though he met
with good success, and had pushed Mithridates so hard that there was
nothing left for Pompeius but to complete the conquest, and he drove the
old king beyond Caucasus, and then marched into Syria, where he
overthrew the last of the Seleucian kings, Antiochus, and gave him the
little kingdom of Commagene to spend the remainder of his life in, while
Syria and Phoenicia were made into a great Roman province.
Under the Maccabees, Palestine had struggled into being independent of
Syria, but only by the help of the Romans, who, as usual, tried to ally
themselves with small states in order to make an excuse for making war
on large ones. There was now a great quarrel between two brothers of the
Maccabean family, and one of them, Hyrcanus, came to ask the aid of
Pompeius. The Roman army marched into the Holy Land, and, after seizing
the whole country, was three months besieging Jerusalem, which, after
all, it only took by an attack when the Jews were resting on the Sabbath
day. Pompeius insisted on forcing his way into the Holy of Holies, and
was very much disappointed to find it empty and dark. He did not
plunder the treasury of the Temple, but the Jews remarked that, from the
time of this daring entrance, his prosperity seemed to fail him. Before
he left the East, however, old Mithridates, who had taken refuge in the
Crimea, had been attacked by his own favorite son, and, finding that his
power was gone, had taken poison; but, as his constitution was so
fortified by antidotes that it took no effect, he caused one of his
slaves to kill him.
The son submitted to the Romans, and was allowed to reign on the
Bosphorus; but Pompeius had extended the Roman Empire as far as the
Euphrates; for though a few small kings still remained, it was only by
suffrance from the Romans, who had gained thirty-nine great cities.
Egypt, the Parthian kingdom on the Tigris, and Armenia in the mountains,
alone remained free.
While all this was going on in the East, there was a very dangerous plot
contrived at Rome by a man named Lucius Sergius Catilina, and seven
other good-for-nothing nobles, for arming the mob, even the slaves and
gladiators, overthrowing the government, seizing all the offices of
state, and murdering all their opponents, after the example first set by
Marius and Cinna.
MOUNTAINS OF ARMENIA.
Happily such secrets are seldom kept; one of the plotters told the
woman he was in love with, and she told one of the consuls, Marcus
Tullius Cicero. Cicero was one of the wisest and best men in Rome, and
the one whom we really know the best, for he left a great number of
letters to his friends, which show us the real mind of the man. He was
of the order of the knights, and had been bred up to be a lawyer and
orator, and his speeches came to be the great models of Roman eloquence.
He was a man of real conscience, and he most deeply loved Rome and her
honor; and though he was both vain and timid, he could put these
weaknesses aside for the public good. Before all the Senate he impeached
Catilina, showing how fully he knew all that he intended. Nothing could
be done to him by law till he had actually committed his crime, and
Cicero wanted to show him that all was known, so as to cause him to flee
and join his friends outside. Catilina tried to face it out, but all the
senators began to cry out against him, and he dashed away in terror, and
left the city at night. Cicero announced it the next day in a famous
speech, beginning, "He is gone; he has rushed away; he has burst forth."
Some of his followers in guilt were left at Rome, and just then some
letters were brought to Cicero by some of a tribe of Gauls whom they
had invited to help them in the ruin of the Senate. This was positive
proof, and Cicero caused the nine worst to be seized, and, having proved
their guilt, there was a consultation in the Senate as to their fate.
Julius Cæsar wanted to keep them prisoners for life, which he said was
worse than death, as that, he believed, would end everything; but all
the rest of the Senate were for their death, and they were all
strangled, without giving them a chance of defending themselves or
appealing to the people. Cicero beheld the execution himself, and then
went forth to the crowd, merely saying, "They have lived."
Catilina, meantime, had collected 20,000 men in Italy, but they were not
half-armed, and the newly-returned proconsul, Metellus, made head
against him; while the other consul, Caius Antonius, was recalled from
Macedonia with his army. As he was a friend of Catilina, he did not
choose to fight with him, and gave up the command to his lieutenant, by
whom the wretch was defeated and slain. His head was cut off and sent to
COLOSSAL STATUE OF POMPEIUS OF THE PALAZZO SPADA AT ROME.