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Julius Caesar by  Jacob Abbott


 

 

POMPEY

[107]

W
HILE Cæsar had thus been rising to so high an elevation, there was another Roman general who had been, for nearly the same period, engaged, in various other quarters of the world, in acquiring, by very similar means, an almost equal renown. This general was Pompey. He became, in the end, Cæsar's great and formidable rival. In order that the reader may understand clearly the nature of the great contest which sprung up at last between these heroes, we must now go back and relate some of the particulars of Pompey's individual history down to the time of the completion of Cæsar's conquests in Gaul.

Pompey was a few years older than Cæsar, having been born in 106 B.C. His father was a Roman general, and the young Pompey was brought up in camp. He was a young man of very handsome figure and countenance, and of very agreeable manners. His hair curled slightly over his forehead, and he had a dark [108] and intelligent eye, full of vivacity and meaning. There was, besides, in the expression of his face, and in his air and address, a certain indescribable charm, which prepossessed every one strongly in his favor, and gave him, from his earliest years, a great personal ascendency over all who knew him.

Notwithstanding this popularity, however, Pompey did not escape, even in very early life, incurring his share of the dangers which seemed to environ the path of every public man in those distracted times. It will be recollected that, in the contests between Marius and Sylla, Cæsar had joined the Marian faction. Pompey's father, on the other hand, had connected himself with that of Sylla. At one time, in the midst of these wars, when Pompey was very young, a conspiracy was formed to assassinate his father by burning him in his tent, and Pompey's comrade, named Terentius, who slept in the same tent with him, had been bribed to kill Pompey himself at the same time, by stabbing him in his bed. Pompey contrived to discover this plan, but, instead of being at all discomposed by it, he made arrangements for a guard about his father's tent and then went to supper as usual with Terentius, conversing with him [109] all the time in even a more free and friendly manner than usual. That night he arranged his bed so as to make it appear as if he was in it, and then stole away. When the appointed hour arrived, Terentius came into the tent, and, approaching the couch where he supposed Pompey was lying asleep, stabbed it again and again, piercing the coverlets in many places, but doing no harm, of course, to his intended victim.

In the course of the wars between Marius and Sylla, Pompey passed through a great variety of scenes, and met with many extraordinary adventures and narrow escapes, which, however, can not be here particularly detailed. His father, who was as much hated by his soldiers as the son was beloved, was at last, one day, struck by lightning in his tent. The soldiers were inspired with such a hatred for his memory, in consequence, probably, of the cruelties and oppressions which they had suffered from him, that they would not allow his body to be honored with the ordinary funeral obsequies. They pulled it off from the bier on which it was to have been borne to the funeral pile, and dragged it ignominiously away. Pompey's father was accused, too, after his death, of having converted some public moneys which [110] had been committed to his charge to his own use, and Pompey appeared in the Roman Forum as an advocate to defend him from the charge and to vindicate his memory. He was very successful in this defense. All who heard it were, in the first instance, very deeply interested in favor of the speaker, on account of his extreme youth and his personal beauty; and, as he proceeded with his plea, he argued with so much eloquence and power as to win universal applause. One of the chief officers of the government in the city was so much pleased with his appearance, and with the promise of future greatness which the circumstances indicated, that he offered him his daughter in marriage. Pompey accepted the offer, and married the lady. Her name was Antistia.

Pompey rose rapidly to higher and higher degrees of distinction, until he obtained the command of an army, which he had, in fact, in a great measure raised and organized himself, and he fought at the head of it with great energy and success against the enemies of Sylla. At length he was hemmed in on the eastern coast of Italy by three separate armies, which were gradually advancing against him, with a certainty, as they thought, of effecting his destruc- [111] tion. Sylla, hearing of Pompey's danger, made great efforts to march to his rescue. Before he reached the place, however, Pompey had met and defeated one after another of the armies of his enemies, so that, when Sylla approached, Pompey marched out to meet him with his army drawn up in magnificent array, trumpets sounding and banners flying, and with large bodies of disarmed troops, the prisoners that he had taken, in the rear. Sylla was struck with surprise and admiration; and when Pompey saluted him with the title of Imperator, which was the highest title known to the Roman constitution, and the one which Sylla's lofty rank and unbounded power might properly claim, Sylla returned the compliment by conferring this great mark of distinction on him.

Pompey proceeded to Rome, and the fame of his exploits, the singular fascination of his person and manners, and the great favor with Sylla that he enjoyed, raised him to a high degree of distinction. He was not, however, elated with the pride and vanity which so young a man would be naturally expected to exhibit under such circumstances. He was, on the contrary, modest and unassuming, and he acted in all respects in such a manner as to gain the appro- [112] bation and the kind regard of all who knew him, as well as to excite their applause. There was an old general at this time in Gaul—for all these events took place long before the time of Cæsar's campaigns in that country, and, in fact, before the commencement of his successful career in Rome—whose name was Metellus, and who, either on account of his advancing age, or for some other reason, was very inefficient and unsuccessful in his government. Sylla proposed to supersede him by sending Pompey to take his place. Pompey replied that it was not right to take the command from a man who was so much his superior in age and character, but that, if Metellus wished for his assistance in the management of his command, he would proceed to Gaul and render him every service in his power. When this answer was reported to Metellus, he wrote to Pompey to come. Pompey accordingly went to Gaul, where he obtained new victories, and gained new and higher honors than before.

These, and various anecdotes which the ancient historians relate, would lead us to form very favorable ideas of Pompey's character. Some other circumstances, however, which occurred, seem to furnish different indications. [113] For example, on his return to Rome, some time after the events above related, Sylla, whose estimation of Pompey's character and of the importance of his services seemed continually to increase, wished to connect him with his own family by marriage. He accordingly proposed that Pompey should divorce his wife Antistia, and marry Æmilia, the daughter-in-law of Sylla. Æmilia was already the wife of another man, from whom she would have to be taken away to make her the wife of Pompey. This, however, does not seem to have been thought a very serious difficulty in the way of the arrangement. Pompey's wife was put away, and the wife of another man taken in her place. Such a deed was a gross violation not merely of revealed and written law, but of those universal instincts of right and wrong which are implanted indelibly in all human hearts. It ended, as might have been expected, most disastrously. Antistia was plunged, of course, into the deepest distress. Her father had recently lost his life on account of his supposed attachment to Pompey. Her mother killed herself in the anguish and despair produced by the misfortunes of her family; and Æmilia the new wife, died suddenly, on the occasion [114] of the birth of a child, a very short time after her marriage with Pompey.

These domestic troubles did not, however, interpose any serious obstacle to Pompey's progress in his career of greatness and glory. Sylla sent him on one great enterprise after another, in all of which Pompey acquitted himself in an admirable manner. Among his other campaigns, he served for some time in Africa with great success. He returned in due time from this expedition, loaded with military honors. His soldiers had become so much attached to him that there was almost a mutiny in the army when he was ordered home. They were determined to submit to no authority but that of Pompey. Pompey at length succeeded, by great efforts, in subduing this spirit, and bringing back the army to their duty. A false account of the affair, however, went to Rome. It was reported to Sylla that there was a revolt in the army of Africa, headed by Pompey himself, who was determined not to resign his command. Sylla was at first very indignant that his authority should be despised and his power braved, as he expressed it, by "such a boy;" for Pompey was still, at this time, very young. When, however, he learned the truth, he con- [115] ceived a higher admiration for the young general than ever. He went out to meet him as he approached the city, and, in accosting him, he called him Pompey the Great. Pompey has continued to bear the title thus given him to the present day.

Pompey began, it seems, now to experience, in some degree, the usual effects produced upon the human heart by celebrity and praise. He demanded a triumph. A triumph was a great and splendid ceremony, by which victorious generals, who were of advanced age and high civil or military rank, were received into the city when returning from any specially glorious campaign. There was a grand procession formed on these occasions, in which various emblems and insignia, and trophies of victory, and captives taken by the conqueror, were displayed. This great procession entered the city with bands of music accompanying it, and flags and banners flying, passing under triumphal arches erected along the way. Triumphs were usually decreed by a vote of the Senate, in cases where they were deserved; but, in this case, Sylla's power as dictator was supreme, and Pompey's demand for a triumph seems to have been addressed accordingly to him.

[116] Sylla refused it. Pompey's performances in the African campaign had been, he admitted, very creditable to him, but he had neither the age nor the rank to justify the granting him a triumph. To bestow such an honor upon one so young and in such a station, would only bring the honor itself, he said, into disrepute, and degrade, also, his dictatorship for suffering it.

To this Pompey replied, speaking, however, in an under tone to those around him in the assembly, that Sylla need not fear that the triumph would be unpopular, for people were much more disposed to worship a rising than a setting sun. Sylla did not hear this remark, but, perceiving by the countenances of the by-standers that Pompey had said something which seemed to please them, he asked what it was. When the remark was repeated to him, he seemed pleased himself with its justness or with its wit, and said, "Let him have his triumph."

The arrangements were accordingly made, Pompey ordering every thing necessary to be prepared for a most magnificent procession. He learned that some persons in the city, envious at his early renown, were displeased with his triumph; this only awakened in him a determ- [117] ination to make it still more splendid and imposing. He had brought some elephants with him from Africa, and he formed a plan for having the car in which he was to ride in the procession drawn by four of these huge beasts as it entered the city; but, on measuring the gate, it was found not wide enough to admit such a team, and the plan was accordingly abandoned. The conqueror's car was drawn by horses in the usual manner, and the elephants followed singly, with the other trophies, to grace the train.

Pompey remained some time after this in Rome, sustaining from time to time various offices of dignity and honor. His services were often called for to plead causes in the Forum, and he performed this duty, whenever he undertook it, with great success. He, however, seemed generally inclined to retire somewhat from intimate intercourse with the mass of the community, knowing very well that if he was engaged often in the discussion of common questions with ordinary men, he should soon descend in public estimation from the high position to which his military renown had raised him. He accordingly accustomed himself to appear but little in public, and, when he did so [118] appear, he was generally accompanied by a large retinue of armed attendants, at the head of which he moved about the city in great state, more like a victorious general in a conquered province than like a peaceful citizen exercising ordinary official functions in a community governed by law. This was a very sagacious course, so far as concerned the attainment of the great objects of future ambition. Pompey knew very well that occasions would probably arise in which he could act far more effectually for the promotion of his own greatness and fame than by mingling in the ordinary municipal contests of the city.

At length, in fact, an occasion came. In the year B.C. 67, which was about the time that Cæsar commenced his successful career in rising to public office in Rome, as is described in the third chapter of this volume, the Cilician pirates, of whose desperate character and bold exploits something has already been said, had become so powerful, and were increasing so rapidly in the extent of their depredations, that the Roman people felt compelled to adopt some very vigorous measures for suppressing them. The pirates had increased in numbers during the wars between Marius and Sylla in a very [119] alarming degree. They had built, equipped, and organized whole fleets. They had various fortresses, arsenals, ports, and watch-towers all along the coasts of the Mediterranean. They had also extensive warehouses, built in secure and secluded places, where they stored their plunder. Their fleets were well manned, and provided with skillful pilots, and with ample supplies of every kind; and they were so well constructed, both for speed and safety, that no other ships could be made to surpass them. Many of them, too, were adorned and decorated in the most sumptuous manner, with gilded sterns, purple awnings, and silver-mounted oars. The number of their galleys was said to be a thousand. With this force they made themselves almost complete masters of the sea. They attacked not only separate ships, but whole fleets of merchantmen sailing under convoy; and they increased the difficulty and expense of bringing grain to Rome so much, by intercepting the supplies, as very materially to enhance the price and to threaten a scarcity. They made themselves masters of many islands and of various maritime towns along the coast, until they had four hundred ports and cities in their possession. In fact, they had [120] gone so far toward forming themselves into a regular maritime power, under a systematic and legitimate government, that very respectable young men from other countries began to enter their service, as one opening honorable avenues to wealth and fame.

Under these circumstances, it was obvious that something decisive must be done. A friend of Pompey's brought forward a plan for commissioning some one, he did not say whom, but every one understood that Pompey was intended, to be sent forth against the pirates, with extraordinary powers, such as should be amply sufficient to enable him to bring their dominion to an end. He was to have supreme command upon the sea, and also upon the land for fifty miles from the shore. He was, moreover, to be empowered to raise as large a force, both of ships and men, as he should think required, and to draw from the treasury whatever funds were necessary to defray the enormous expenses which so vast an undertaking would involve. If the law should pass creating this office, and a person be designated to fill it, it is plain that such a commander would be clothed with enormous powers; but then he would incur, on the other hand, a vast and commensu- [121] rate responsibility, as the Roman people would hold him rigidly accountable for the full and perfect accomplishment of the work he undertook, after they had thus surrendered every possible power necessary to accomplish it so unconditionally into his hands.

There was a great deal of maneuvering, management, and debate on the one hand to effect the passage of this law, and, on the other, to defeat it. Cæsar, who, though not so prominent yet as Pompey, was now rising rapidly to influence and power, was in favor of the measure, because, as is said, he perceived that the people were pleased with it. It was at length adopted. Pompey was then designated to fill the office which the law created. He accepted the trust, and began to prepare for the vast undertaking. The price of grain fell immediately in Rome, as soon as the appointment of Pompey was made known, as the merchants, who had large supplies in the granaries there, were now eager to sell, even at a reduction, feeling confident that Pompey's measures would result in bringing in abundant supplies. The people, surprised at this sudden relaxation of the pressure of their burdens, said that the very name of Pompey had put an end to the war.

[122] They were not mistaken in their anticipations of Pompey's success. He freed the Mediterranean from pirates in three months, by one systematic and simple operation, which affords one of the most striking examples of the power of united and organized effort, planned and conducted by one single master mind, which the history of ancient or modern times has recorded. The manner in which this work was effected was this:

Pompey raised and equipped a vast number of galleys, and divided them into separate fleets, putting each one under the command of a lieutenant. He then divided the Mediterranean Sea into thirteen districts, and appointed a lieutenant and his fleet for each one of them as a guard. After sending these detachments forth to their respective stations, he set out from the city himself to take charge of the operations which he was to conduct in person. The people followed him, as he went to the place where he was to embark, in great crowds, and with long and loud acclamations.

Beginning at the Straits of Gibraltar, Pompey cruised with a powerful fleet toward the east, driving the pirates before him, the lieutenants, who were stationed along the coast [123] being on the alert to prevent them from finding any places of retreat or refuge. Some of the pirates' ships were surrounded and taken. Others fled, and were followed by Pompey's ships until they had passed beyond the coasts of Sicily, and the seas between the Italian and African shores. The communication was now open again to the grain-growing countries south of Rome, and large supplies of food were immediately poured into the city. The whole population was, of course, filled with exultation and joy at receiving such welcome proofs that Pompey was successfully accomplishing the work they had assigned him.

The Italian peninsula and the island of Sicily, which are, in fact, a projection from the northern shores of the Mediterranean, with a salient angle of the coast nearly opposite to them on the African side, form a sort of strait which divides this great sea into two separate bodies of water, and the pirates were now driven entirely out of the western division. Pompey sent his principal fleet after them, with orders to pass around the island of Sicily and the southern part of Italy to Brundusium, which was the great port on the western side of Italy. He himself was to cross the peninsula by land, tak- [124] ing Rome in his way, and afterward to join the fleet at Brundusium. The pirates, in the mean time, so far as they had escaped Pompey's cruisers, had retreated to the seas in the neighborhood of Cilicia, and were concentrating their forces there in preparation for the final struggle.

Pompey was received at Rome with the utmost enthusiasm. The people came out in throngs to meet him as he approached the city, and welcomed him with loud acclamations. He did not, however, remain in the city to enjoy these honors. He procured, as soon as possible, what was necessary for the further prosecution of his work, and went on. He found his fleet at Brundusium, and, immediately embarking, he put to sea.

Pompey went on to the completion of his work with the same vigor and decision which he had displayed in the commencement of it. Some of the pirates, finding themselves hemmed in within narrower and narrower limits, gave up the contest, and came and surrendered. Pompey, instead of punishing them severely for their crimes, treated them, and their wives and children, who fell likewise into his power, with great humanity. This induced many others to follow their example, so that the number that remained [125] resisting to the end was greatly reduced. There were, however, after all these submissions, a body of stern and indomitable desperadoes left, who were incapable of yielding. These retreated, with all the forces which they could retain, to their strong-holds on the Silician shores, sending their wives and children back to still securer retreats among the fastnesses of the mountains.

Pompey followed them, hemming them in with the squadrons of armed galleys which he brought up around them, thus cutting off from them all possibility of escape. Here, at length, a great final battle was fought, and the dominion of the pirates was ended forever. Pompey destroyed their ships, dismantled their fortifications, restored the harbors and towns which they had seized to their rightful owners, and sent the pirates themselves, with their wives and children, far into the interior of the country, and established them as agriculturists and herdsmen there, in a territory which he set apart for the purpose, where they might live in peace on the fruits of their own industry, without the possibility of again disturbing the commerce of the seas.

Instead of returning to Rome after these ex- [126] ploits, Pompey obtained new powers from the government of the city, and pushed his way into Asia Minor, where he remained several years, pursuing a similar career of conquest to that of Cæsar in Gaul. At length he returned to Rome, his entrance into the city being signalized by a most magnificent triumph. The procession for displaying the trophies, the captives, and the other emblems of victory, and for conveying the vast accumulation of treasures and spoils, was two days in passing into the city; and enough was left after all for another triumph. Pompey was, in a word, on the very summit of human grandeur and renown.

He found, however, an old enemy and rival at Rome. This was Crassus, who had been Pompey's opponent in earlier times, and who now renewed his hostility. In the contest that ensued, Pompey relied on his renown, Crassus on his wealth. Pompey attempted to please the people by combats of lions and of elephants which he had brought home from his foreign campaigns; Crassus courted their favor by distributing corn among them, and inviting them to public feasts on great occasions. He spread for them, at one time, it was said, ten thousand tables. All Rome was filled with the feuds of [127] these great political foes. It was at this time that Cæsar returned from Spain, and had the adroitness, as has already been explained, to extinguish these feuds, and reconcile these apparently implacable foes. He united them together, and joined them with himself in a triple league, which is celebrated in Roman history as the first triumvirate. The rivalry, however, of these great aspirants for power was only suppressed and concealed, without being at all weakened or changed. The death of Crassus soon removed him from the stage. Cæsar and Pompey continued afterward, for some time, an ostensible alliance. Cæsar attempted to strengthen this bond by giving Pompey his daughter Julia for his wife. Julia, though so young—even her father was six years younger than Pompey—was devotedly attached to her husband, and he was equally fond of her. She formed, in fact, a strong bond of union between the two great conquerors as long as she lived. One day, however, there was a riot at an election, and men were killed so near to Pompey that his robe was covered with blood. He changed it; the servants carried home the bloody garment which he had taken off, and Julia was so terrified at the sight, thinking that [128] her husband had been killed, that she fainted, and her constitution suffered very severely by the shock. She lived some time afterward, but finally died under circumstances which indicate that this occurrence was the cause. Pompey and Cæsar now soon became open enemies. The ambitious aspirations which each of them cherished were so vast, that the world was not wide enough for them both to be satisfied. They had assisted each other up the ascent which they had been so many years in climbing, but now they had reached very near to the summit, and the question was to be decided which of the two should have his station there.


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