| Famous Men of Rome|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
POMPEY THE GREAT
 NOT long after the death of Sulla, a new enemy to Rome appeared upon the
Mediterranean Sea. A large number of people who lived on the coasts of Asia
Minor built and armed fleets of ships, sailed along the shores of Italy, and
attacked and plundered Roman vessels.
The sea-rovers, or pirates, as the Romans called them, had more than a
thousand well-built, fast-sailing ships. Many of them were adorned with
richly gilded bows and sterns, purple sails, and silver-mounted oars. They
seized trading-vessels, robbed them, and killed every person on board.
Often, too, the pirates committed robberies on land. A boat's crew from a
pirate ship would go ashore, put to death all the farmers in the
neighborhood, and lay waste their farms. So in a short time the pirates
made themselves masters of the Italian coasts, and kept the people in
constant excitement and terror.
 But at last the Romans resolved to make war upon the robbers, and selected a
very popular young man named Cneius Pompey to be the general. The people
had great confidence in Pompey. They said that he was the only one who
could put down the Mediterranean pirates, and demanded that he should be
sent to do the work.
Pompey was a fine-looking man, with very pleasant manners. He had made
himself famous as a soldier by brave deeds in wars in Spain and Africa, and
was generally called Pompey the Great. His father had been a great
commander, and the boy had lived in camps and taken part in wars almost from
childhood. He had had many adventures during his army life and had always
shown the qualities of a hero. He fought on the side of Sulla in many
battles against the Marians, and he was thought to be one of Sulla's
The Roman Senate, therefore, yielded to the demand of the people and
appointed Pompey to go forth against the pirates. He accepted the command
and promptly set to work to carry out the important undertaking.
He gathered fourteen powerful fleets. He kept one of them for himself and
put the others under the command of good officers. Then he divided the
 Mediterranean into thirteen districts, and sent a fleet to each district to
hunt the pirates.
A ROMAN SEAPORT
With his own fleet he sailed as far as the Strait of Gibraltar and then
turned back towards Italy. On the way he chased the pirate vessels before
him as he met them, until they were stopped and seized by some of the
thirteen fleets stationed here and there all over the Mediterranean. The
pirates were thus caught in a trap. Thousands of them were killed in
battles with the different fleets, and their vessels were burned. The
remainder soon surrendered to the Romans, and in three months the sea was
cleared of pirates.
 Pompey was much praised for this great work, and the people said he was just
the man to take charge of the war against Mithridates. This king had again
attacked a Roman province in Asia, and the Romans resolved to punish him.
But Mithridates was a very powerful man. He had great armies; he was a
skillful general, and he defeated the Romans in many battles. The Roman
people, therefore, resolved to send Pompey against him. Pompey was much
pleased to be placed in command of a great army, and he proudly started off
with his soldiers for the eastern lands.
POMPEY remained in Asia several years and won many great victories. He
conquered a number of countries and put Roman governors over them. Then he
came back to Rome, bringing kings and princes as prisoners, and an enormous
amount of gold and silver and other valuable things to enrich the Republic
and himself. He was welcomed in a magnificent manner and he had a Triumph
such as was given to great and victorious generals.
But Pompey now began to think of making himself master of Rome during his
life-time. He had greatly pleased the people by his victories in war,
 and they were praising him on every side. How to keep their favor, and by
it to get power was what now occupied his mind. He had been consul before,
but he was now elected again, and then he set about providing various sorts
of amusements for the people. He believed that if the people were amused
they would be less likely to object to his taking the powers of the
government entirely into his own hands.
He built a theatre large enough to seat forty thousand persons. This was
the first great theatre erected in Rome. It was of stone and very strongly
made. It had no roof, and the rows of seats rose one above another in a
half circle. At one end there was an immense stage on which all the
performances took place.
In this grand theatre Pompey gave some very wonderful exhibitions from time
to time. He had lions, elephants, and other wild animals brought from Asia
and Africa at a great expense. These animals were let loose upon the stage
and gladiators fought them in full view of the people in the theatre.
There were also thrilling combats in the theatres between the gladiators
themselves. They fought each other savagely until one was wounded and fell
upon the stage. Then the victor would turn towards the audience to find
whether they wished
 him to kill the wounded man. If the people wanted this they would stretch
out their hands with the thumbs down; if they did not want him killed they
would hold their thumbs upward. If he had shown skill and courage and
fought well they would give the sign to let him live, but if he had not made
a brave fight they would turn down their thumbs and the unfortunate man
would be instantly killed.
THE GLADIATOR CONDEMNED
Slaves and prisoners taken in war were taught to be gladiators in schools
established for the purpose. There were hundreds of these trained fighters
always ready for the combats. The Romans were very fond of such amusements,
and great crowds of men, and women too, attended the theatre whenever there
was a fight of gladiators.
By giving the people a great deal of amusement of this kind on a grand
scale, Pompey became the great popular favorite in Rome, and while the
people were entertained at his theatre he managed the government to suit
AT this time the Romans ruled a vast territory, which included not only all
Italy, but Greece, Spain, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Switzerland, and parts
 of France and Germany. Country after country had been conquered during a
long series of years, and millions of people of different races and
languages were subjects of Rome.
Rome itself was a city with a population of about half a million. It
covered a very large area, including the famous seven hills. Its streets
were narrow and crooked, but well-paved and clean. In the centre of the
city were a number of large squares in which there were handsome buildings.
There were magnificent temples and baths, and the houses of the nobles and
wealthy plebeians were very large and splendid. Many of the fine houses
were built of marble, with great pillars in front. Elegant furniture and
handsome carpets and rugs filled the rooms.
There were many rich men in Rome at this time. Most of them had obtained
the greater part of their wealth by plundering the conquered countries.
They lived in a very magnificent manner, gave splendid dinners and
entertainments, and had hundreds of slaves to attend upon them.
The slaves were a large class who were brought to Rome from many nations
conquered in war. Many of them belonged to high families in their own
country, and were well educated. Some of them were physicians, and others
were good scholars
 and could read and write for their masters. The best cooks, builders,
tailors, and farmers were slaves. In fact it was by slaves that nearly all
the skilled work in Rome was done.
SLAVE MARKET, ROME
The inscription on the picture is the business sign, mango being Latin for slave-dealer.
There were markets in Rome where slaves were sold. The slaves to be sold
were placed on a platform. Labels hung from their necks, showing their age
and what they were able to do.
 The Roman children were taught to read and write Latin, which was their own
language. They were also taught arithmetic and history. Most of the
teachers were well-educated slaves.
Rome, then, was very rich and very powerful in the time of Pompey, and for
many years Pompey was very popular. At one time he became dangerously ill
while visiting Naples. Then the people showed their great love for him in
many ways, and when he recovered there were public thanksgivings throughout
Italy. On his journey home great crowds came out to greet him as he passed
through the towns, and when he arrived at Rome he was received with
Pompey had now a very strong hold on the affections of the people, so he
cared little for the efforts made by a very ambitious Roman named
Julius Cæsar to win public favor. But Cæsar was a man of strong will and great
energy. He had resolved to be the ruler of Rome, and he spared no labor to
accomplish his purpose. Pompey at last became alarmed at Cæsar's efforts,
but it was then too late. He was defeated by Cæsar in a great battle and soon
after lost his life. How these things came about we shall learn in the next
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