|The Story of Rome|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Ages 10-14 |
POMPEY GOES TO WAR WITH MITHRIDATES
 WHEN the Romans heard that the pirates had been scattered
and forced to submit to Pompey their joy knew no
No longer need they live in dread of the sudden
appearance of the ships with scarlet sails and silver
oars along the Italian coasts, no longer need they fear
the sudden capture of their corn. And this was due to
Pompey! In Rome at this time no one was so popular as
His success determined the Senate to send him to take
command of the war that was going on in the East,
Lucullus had been in the East at the head of the army
for some time.
But the Senate refused to send him money to pay or to
clothe his men, and they had grown rebellious, and had
begun to grumble at his strict discipline. They wished
Pompey the Great to come to take command of them, and
then they would do great deeds. So in 66 B.C. Pompey
was appointed commander of both army and navy in the
East, to the delight of soldiers and sailors alike.
Pompey himself seemed none too pleased at the honour
conferred on him.
"Alas, what a series of labours upon labours," he
cried, frowning as he spoke. " If I am never to end my
services as a soldier . . . and live at home in the
country with my wife, I had better have been an unknown
These were unsoldierly words, but his friends paid
little attention to them, believing that he did not
mean them seriously. And his deeds were proof that he
longed to win
 glory for himself and his country, although he never
risked any great adventure on the battlefield.
Mithridates had little hope of withstanding Pompey,
when he had barely been able to hold his own against
Lucullus. However, he encamped in a strong position on
a hill, and hoped that this would make an attack
difficult, perhaps even impossible.
Pompey, leaving his fleet to guard the seas, marched
into Pontus, but not before the king had been driven
from the hill on which he had entrenched himself, by
lack of water for his army.
The Roman general had more discerning eyes than the old
king. For he, noticing that the plants were green and
healthy, encamped on this same hill, and when his
soldiers complained of thirst he bade them dig wells.
As he expected, there was soon abundance of water in
But Pompey did not linger long on the hill, for he was
eager to follow Mithridates, and soon after this the
king found his camp besieged so closely by the Romans
that it was impossible to get supplies for his army.
It was plain that he and his soldiers must either
starve or escape.
So one night Mithridates ordered the sick and wounded
to be killed, for they would have hampered the army in
its fight. The king did not hesitate to give such a
cruel order, for he and his followers had not been
taught to pity the weak and helpless.
The watch-fires were lighted at the usual time, that
the suspicions of the Romans might not be roused. Then
when the camp seemed quiet for the night, Mithridates
and the main body of the army slipped out into the
dark, and somehow succeeded in passing unnoticed
through the Roman lines.
In dread of pursuit, they hid themselves by day in
forests, at night they marched as quickly as possible
toward the river Euphrates.
When Pompey found that Mithridates had escaped, he
 blamed his own carelessness and followed swiftly in
pursuit. As he marched by day as well as by night, he
was soon in advance of the king. So it happened that
when Mithridates encamped by the banks of the river
Euphrates, the Romans were already there, and
determined that the enemy should not again escape.
But the very first evening as it grew dark Pompey
became restless. He had set a strict watch, it was
true, yet Mithridates had already shown himself skilful
in evading sentinels. It would be safer to attack the
camp without delay. Pompey summoned his officers, and
arranged that the assault should take place at
Meanwhile, Mithridates lay asleep in his tent, worn out
with fatigue and anxiety. As he slept, his troubles
slipped from his mind, and the old king dreamed
pleasant dreams. He thought that he had
reached the sea, and was in a ship.
The winds blew soft and fair, wafting
the vessel quietly along toward a harbour where no foes
could touch him.
In his dream the king began to tell his friends how
pleased he was to have reached so safe a haven, when
suddenly the wind rose, lashing the sea into fury. The
king grasped a spar, but his strength failed, and he
was beginning to sink, when he awoke, and lo! it was a
At that moment his officers rushed into his tent, to
tell him that the Romans were preparing to attack them.
Swiftly the king shook off the effects of his dream,
and ordered his troops to defend their camp to the
Now, as the Romans approached the enemy, the moon rose
behind them and cast their shadows on the ground.
The soldiers of Mithridates saw the black flitting
forms and grew bewildered. In the indistinct light
they thought the shadows were the real soldiers and
they flung their darts at these imaginary foes.
Then with a great shout the Romans rushed in upon the
puzzled enemy, fear was at once added to their
 and in sheer panic they turned and fled. But more than
ten thousand were killed, and their camp was taken.
Mithridates himself once more escaped. At the head of
about eight hundred horse he made a desperate charge
through the enemy's lines, and then in the darkness of
the night he was seen no more.
Pompey did not follow the king further. But he stayed
in the East to fight, and by his skill he won many new
territories for Rome.
He even marched to Palestine, where the city of
Jerusalem soon surrendered to the powerful enemy that
had surrounded her walls. But the Jews refused to give
up their temple, and for two or three months they
defended their holy place bravely against every attack.
In December 63 B.C., however, it was taken, and Pompey,
who had entered many temples and seen many pagan gods,
now entered the temple of the Jews.
Nor would he be content until he had penetrated into
the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest alone might
enter once every year. Here he saw the golden table
and the golden candlesticks, of which you have read in
Old Testament stories. But the Roman, although he felt
a Presence there, looked in vain for the God of the
Jews, for His dwelling is in a house "not made with
While Pompey was still in Palestine, he heard that the
king whose rebellion had brought him to the East was
Forsaken by his allies, deserted by the one son who was
still alive, Mithridates had cared to live no longer,
and had taken poison, which he had carried with him in
the hilt of his sword.
After his death there was no one to lead an army
against the Romans. So the rebellion in Asia came to
an end, and Pompey the Great was free to return to
Once again the Roman citizens wondered what would
happen when he came. Would his many victories have
changed the conqueror into a tyrant ? But once again
 people found that their fears were groundless. For as
soon as he landed in Italy Pompey disbanded his army
and set out for Rome, attended only by a few friends.
When the Italian cities saw Pompey the Great
journeying in this simple guise they determined to send
him to Rome in more suitable fashion.
So, in happy, careless mood, the citizens crowded
around him, and themselves became his escort. In such
multitudes did they follow him that they were more in
number than the troops which he had disbanded.
Never was such a triumph as Pompey held! Although,
indeed, he had to wait more than nine months before he
was allowed to hold it.
His long list of victories was written on tablets that
all might read. Kings, princes, chiefs were led in
chains in his procession, while the temples of Rome
were enriched by the treasures that he had brought from
Plutarch, who writes the life of Pompey, says, that he
seemed to have led the whole world captive, for his
first triumph was over "Africa, his second over
Europe, and his third over Asia."
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