|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 |
THE FLIGHT OF POMPEY
 IN the camps of both Pompey and Cæsar there was great
suffering. The chief strength of Pompey's army was its
cavalry, which was 7000 strong, and the horses had
begun to die for want of food.
Pompey had many officers of noble rank in his camp, and
they urged him to fight at once, or there would be no
horses left for the soldiers to ride.
But Pompey knew that his large army was undisciplined,
that many of the soldiers were rebellious, and he
wished to avoid a battle. He hoped that the difficulty
of providing food for his army would force Cæsar to
It was indeed true that Cæsar's legions were suffering
from hunger, but they would have died rather than let
the enemy know that this was so. They tried their
utmost to mislead them. To stay their hunger they
gathered a root which they found in the fields, and
made it as palatable as they could by adding milk to
Sometimes they made the root into loaves of a kind, and
some of these they threw into the enemy's camp, as
though to say, "Whatever you may think, we have food
enough and to spare."
Not a murmur was heard in Cæsar's camp. Every man
remained loyal to his general, and cheerful, even when
suffering intensely from the pangs of hunger.
It had been spring when Mark Antony joined Cæsar. It
was now nearly the end of summer, and still the two
armies were encamped near to each other, but no battle
had been fought.
 Then, at length, it happened, that Pompey discovered a
weak point in Cæsar's lines, which he believed he
could attack with success.
His army, pleased to be at last in action, advanced
with alacrity as soon as the order was given.
As Pompey had hoped, Cæsar's troops were soon driven
back toward their camp in utter confusion, while the
camp itself was in danger of being taken.
In vain did Cæsar try to rally his forces, heedless of
his own danger, if he could but stem the flight of his
men. As one strong active soldier ran past, Cæsar
caught hold of him, to make him turn to face the foe.
Mad with terror, and scarce knowing what he did, the
fugitive raised his sword. He was going to strike his
But, quick as lightning, Cæsar's armour-bearer struck
off the soldier's arm, and his sword fell harmlessly to
the ground. Cæsar had narrowly escaped with his life.
Had Pompey followed up his attack, he might have
captured the camp and won a decisive victory, as Cæsar
himself was aware. But Pompey sounded a retreat, and
the decisive battle had still to be fought.
Cæsar wasted no time in bemoaning the losses of the
day, although he must have felt that evening that his
fortunes were at their lowest ebb.
He determined to march without delay into Thessaly, and
so to entice Pompey away from the sea. For then he
would not be able to get provisions for his army and
would be forced to fight. And Cæsar was eager to meet
his enemy fairly on the battlefield.
When Pompey's officers saw that Cæsar was retreating,
they could scarcely believe their eyes, but their
confidence in their own prowess was confirmed.
They begged Pompey to follow, and he reluctantly
yielded, but for that day alone. Knowing well the
strength of Cæsar's veterans, he had no wish to fight
 battle, and so he ordered his soldiers to set up their
The patrician officers were exasperated with the
indecision of their general. They did not cease to
taunt him for not fighting, or to urge him still to
follow Cæsar, until at length Pompey made up his mind
that they should have their way and pit themselves
against Cæsar's well-disciplined officers and troops.
Both armies accordingly reached Thessaly, although by
different routes, and soon they were encamped on the
plain of Pharsalia, where, in August 48 B.C., a great
and decisive battle was fought.
Pompey's confidence was placed chiefly on his splendid
cavalry, and he believed that his 7000 horsemen would
speedily scatter the 1000 which was all that Cæsar had
to oppose to his great force.
But if his body of cavalry was small, Cæsar had
supported it well by his infantry and archers.
His horsemen were, it is true, driven back before the
brilliant charge of the enemy, but the infantry and
archers attacked Pompey's cavalry so furiously, that
soon it was forced from the field in utter confusion.
Cæsar's infantry then advanced against the main body
of Pompey's army. The soldiers first hurled their
javelins at the enemy and then closed in upon them,
doing deadly havoc with their swords.
Before long Cæsar sent a reserve troop of soldiers to
their aid, and soon the army of Pompey was put to
flight. For the patrician officers had not proved
skilful on the battlefield, nor had they now any
control over their undisciplined followers.
When Pompey saw that his cavalry was scattered at the
beginning of the day, he lost hope and hastened to his
tent, where he sat, amid the confused noise of battle,
bewildered and dismayed.
Only when the victorious army began to attack the camp
 did he seem to realise that he must bestir himself,
unless he would be captured by the enemy.
"What, into my camp too," he is said to have cried
indignantly as he heard the clash of arms and shouts of
victory drawing nearer and nearer. Then swiftly laying
aside his military dress, the defeated general slipped
into a simple garment, and hurrying from the tent,
mounted a horse, and with a few followers fled toward
the coast. It was useless for him to think of meeting
Cæsar again, for his army was slain or scattered. So
he resolved to seek shelter in Egypt.
It was a sad voyage on which Pompey embarked, for he
had been overthrown, and that by his rival, who would
As the ship drew near to land, Pompey sent a messenger
to Alexandria to beg for shelter.
The king, Ptolemy XII., was only a boy of thirteen, but
the royal council, when it heard Pompey's request,
proved cruel. It neither welcomed him nor sent him
elsewhere to seek for safety. At first some of the
members spoke on his behalf, but in the end they all
agreed that he must die.
But they did not tell him their decision, they merely
sent a boat to bring him to shore. In the boat was
Septimius, a military tribune of Rome, who had once
served in Pompey's army.
As Pompey prepared to step into the boat his wife clung
to him, and filled with foreboding would hardly let him
go. But he bade her and his followers farewell, and
seated himself in the stern of the boat. As he did so
he noticed Septimius and spoke kindly to him.
But Septimius had no answer to give to his former
general. He had been unjustly degraded by him in
former days as he believed, and he still owed him a
In response to Pompey's words, he only nodded sullenly
and with averted face.
 Did a swift dread of what lay before him flash across
Pompey's mind as he heard the Roman's gruff response to
He had at least no time to brood over the future, for,
now they had reached the shore, and as Pompey stepped
out of the boat, Septimius, who was behind him, drew
As Pompey felt the touch of the steel he swiftly drew
his toga across his face, and then, without a cry for
help, he fell to the ground.
When Cæsar reached Egypt ten days later, he was shown
the head of his rival and his signet ring. From the
first sight he turned away in horror, while, when he
saw the ring, he wept.
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