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The Story of the Romans by  H. A. Guerber

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POMPEY'S CONQUESTS

AS Pompey had claimed all the credit of the victory over the revolted slaves, you can readily understand that Crassus did not love him very much. Both of these men were ambitious, and they both strove to win the favor of the Romans. They made use of different means, however; for Pompey tried to buy their affections by winning many victories, while Crassus strove to do the same by spending his money very freely.

Crassus was at this time a very rich man. He gave magnificent banquets, kept open house, and is said to have entertained the Romans at ten thousand public tables, which were all richly spread. He also made generous gifts of grain to all the poor, and supplied them with food for several months at a time.

In spite of this liberality, the people seemed to prefer Pompey, who, soon after defeating the slaves, made war against the pirates that infested the Mediterranean Sea. These pirates had grown very numerous, and were so bold that they attacked even the largest ships. They ruthlessly butchered all their common prisoners, but they made believe to treat the Roman citizens with the greatest respect.

[171] If one of their captives said that he was a Roman, they immediately began to make apologies for having taken him. Then they stretched a plank from the side of the ship to the water, and politely forced the Roman to step out of the vessel and into the sea.

The pirates also robbed all the provision ships on their way from Sicily to Rome; and, as a famine threatened, the Romans sent Pompey to put an end to these robberies. Pompey obeyed these orders so well that four months later all the pirate ships were either captured or sunk, and their crews made prisoners or slain.

Pompey knew that the pirates were enterprising men, so he advised the senate to send them out to form new colonies. This good advice was followed, and many of these men became in time good and respectable citizens in their new homes.

As Pompey had been so successful in all his campaigns, the Romans asked him to take command of their armies when a third war broke out with their old enemy Mithridates, King of Pontus in Asia Minor.

With his usual good fortune, Pompey reached the scene of conflict just in time to win the final battles, and to reap all the honors of the war. We are told that he won a glorious victory by taking advantage of the moonlight, and placing his soldiers in such a way that their shadows stretched far over the sand in front of them. The soldiers of Mithridates, roused from sound slumbers, fancied that giants were coming to attack them, and fled in terror.

As for Mithridates, he preferred death to captivity, and killed himself so that he would not be obliged to appear in his conqueror's triumph.

[172] Pompey next subdued Syria, Phœnicia, and Judea, and entered Jerusalem. Here some of the Jews held out in their temple, which was taken only after a siege of three months. In spite of their entreaties, Pompey went into the Holy of Holies,—a place where even the high priest ventured only once a year; and we are told that he was punished for this sacrilege by a rapid decline of his power.

All the western part of Asia was now under Roman rule; and, when Pompey came back to Rome, he brought with him more than three million dollars' worth of spoil.

Wealth of all kinds had been pouring into Rome for so many years that it now seemed as if these riches would soon cause the ruin of the people. The rich citizens formed a large class of idlers and pleasure seekers, and they soon became so wicked that they were always doing something wrong.


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