POMPEY the Great returned to Rome in 71 B.C., to celebrate his
second triumph, and to be elected Consul for the
The people were eager to see the great general return,
yet they were afraid as well.
Suppose Pompey should do as Sulla had done, and bring
his army to Rome! Suppose he should make himself
Dictator, and destroy his enemies!
But these fears proved groundless, for no sooner had
Pompey reached Italy than he disbanded his army,
bidding his soldiers to go home until he recalled them
to grace his triumph.
He was at once elected Consul, while his colleague was
the wealthy Crassus. The two Consuls did not agree
well, for Pompey's sympathies were, in these days, with
the people, while Crassus was anxious to please the
The general who had just returned victorious endeared
himself to the populace in many ways, but in none,
perhaps, more than by his respect for their ancient
It was usual for each Roman knight, after having served
his appointed time in the wars, to lead his horse to
the Forum, and there, in the presence of two Censors,
tell under what generals he had served and in what
battles he had taken part. According to his
achievements he was then discharged, either with praise
Pompey, as Consul, might easily have ignored this
 But to the delight of the people he was one day seen
among the other knights, clad in his Consul's robes,
indeed, but leading his horse to the Forum.
As he drew near to the Censors, Pompey bade his lictors
go aside, while he went to stand before the judges.
The Censors were well pleased to be thus honoured by
the Consul, but they behaved as though he were like any
"Pompeius Magnus, I demand of you," said one of the
Censors, "whether you have served the full time in the
wars that is prescribed by the law?"
"Yes," answered Pompey, and his voice rang out clear
in the Forum, "Yes, I have served all, and all under
myself as general."
The citizens clapped their hands and shouted with
pleasure at the answer of their favourite, while the
Censors rose to accompany him to his house.
When his Consulship came to an end, Pompey spent two
years quietly in his own home, and during this time he
was seldom seen in the Forum. Those who admired him
went often to his house, where he entertained his
But at the end of two years Pompey was again called
upon to serve his country.
The pirates, who for long years had ravaged the
Mediterranean, were troublesome foes. Of late these
sea-robbers had seemed more numerous than ever, and
there was no doubt of their increasing boldness.
No vessel, unless its crew was armed, need hope to
escape these desperate men. The coasts of Asia,
Greece, Epirus, and Italy had all suffered from the
attack of the pirates; no temple, no property was safe
from their raids.
Two Roman prætors had been carried off by these same
bold robbers, and even Roman ladies of high rank had
been captured, and kept until a heavy ransom had been
paid for their release. In recent days they had even
been seen at
 the mouth of the Tiber, and in the harbour at Ostia
Roman ships had been set on fire.
King Mithridates had sometimes employed these men, and
encouraged them by gifts to plunder his enemies.
The pirates' ships were adorned with the spoils which
they had stolen. Their sails were of costly silk, the
colour of which was a rare purple which in time to come
was used only for royal robes. Their oars as they
dipped in the water shone as silver, their masts were
gilded with gold. At their banquets the rough sailors
sat down before dishes of silver.
To thus flaunt their booty before the eyes of those
they had plundered was foolish, for it roused the
Italian cities, at last, to demand revenge.
Besides, there was cause for alarm lest the supply of
grain from Africa and Sicily should be captured, unless
the pirates were banished, and if the grain supply were
stopped, famine would stare Rome in the face.
One day a tribune proposed to the Senate that some one
should be sent to the Mediterranean with absolute power
to deal as he thought fit with the pirates. That the
pirates might be finally banished, the appointment was
to be made for three years, and be not only over the
sea, but fifty miles inland as well.
The Romans would give such great powers to no one but
to Pompey, who had already shown that he knew how to
use them without crushing the people.
So, amid the cheers of the citizens, Pompey was
appointed to this great trust. Julius Cæsar, of whom
you are soon to hear, voted for the favourite, perhaps
to gain the goodwill of the people.
With a large fleet Pompey set out to perform the task
entrusted to him, and his success was speedy.
He divided the sea coast into separate districts, and
sent his officers to sweep the pirates from these
regions, while he himself went in pursuit of them to
the shores of Sicily and
 Africa. Within the short space of forty days the
pirates were scattered, and west of Greece their
dreaded sails were no longer to be seen.
But in the Archipelago there were many useful inlets in
which the pirates could seek shelter, and thither
Pompey hastened and thoroughly searched and emptied
these natural hiding-places.
Then the pirates assembled all that was left of their
fleet at Cilicia, to make one last stand against the
enemy. But there they were finally defeated by the
great Roman general.
Those who were left alive after the battle surrendered,
with their strongholds and islands. These had been so
well fortified that Pompey would have found them
difficult, if not impossible, to storm.
Many prisoners had been taken, and these the Romans did
not kill. Pompey, indeed, spent the winter in Cilicia
to look after their welfare. For he founded cities in
which the pirates could settle, and, if so they willed,
work honestly to earn their livelihood.