Pompey - Cicero - Catiline - Caesar

After the death of Sulla, the most distinguished man of the aristocratic party was Pompey, who had been engaged in reducing Sicily and Africa to allegiance after his chief had triumphed in Italy. Some attempts were made to revive the Marian cause after the dictator's death, but by the exertions of Pompey and others they were suppressed, and only in Spain had the Marian party still a stronghold. There the brave Sertorius, at the head of the Marian refugees and the native Spaniards, was fast establishing a power likely to rival that of Italy. None of the Sullanian generals, not even Pompey, who went to Spain in B.C. 76, could gain an advantage when opposed to his splendid generalship; and had he not perished by treachery (B.C. 74), Spain would have become an instrument in his hands for overturning all that had been done by Sulla in Italy. Possibly even Spain might have superseded her sister peninsula as the seat of Roman power. But after the death of Sertorius, his army crumbled away; and, conquering his successor Perpenna, Pompey found the pacification of Spain an easy task. Returning to Italy in the height of the reputation which the discharge of this office procured to him, he arrived (B.C. 71) in time to have some share in another war of a frightful character which had been desolating Italy in his absence. In the year B.C. 73, seventy gladiators, headed by a Thracian named Spartacus, had broken out of a school, or rather gladiator warehouse, at Capua, where they were kept in training; and, speedily joined by all the slaves and gladiators of the neighborhood, they had taken up their position on Mount Vesuvius. Finding himself at the head of a large army, Spartacus had given battle to several Roman generals, and defeated them; and the conquering host which he commanded was on the point of crossing into Sicily, after ravaging Italy, when it was attacked and cut to pieces by the praetor Licinius Crassus (B.C. 71). Spartacus died fighting; such of the gladiators and slaves as were taken prisoners were crucified, or impaled alive; and the remnant which had escaped Crassus were met and destroyed in the north of Italy by Pompey, as he was returning from Spain. Pompey and Crassus were chosen consuls for the year B.C. 70, the former being then in his thirty-sixth year. Although both were disciples of Sulla, yet obeying the necessities of the time, they repealed several of his enactments, and passed various measures of liberal tendency.

Pompey was at this time the idol of Rome; and although after his consulship he retired into private life, he was soon called upon to exercise his abilities in a post of greater dignity and responsibility than had ever been formally conferred on any Roman before him. The Mediterranean was at that time infested with pirates, who had become so numerous and so audacious during the recent convulsions, that the coast of the Italian peninsula itself was not safe from their attacks, and not a ship could sail from any port in the Roman dominions, even in the service of government, without the risk of being captured. To enable Pompey to free the Empire from this nuisance, he was invested (B.C. 67) with supreme command for three years over the whole Mediterranean and its coasts for 400 stadia inland, with power to raise as many men and ships and as much money as he chose. Thus virtually made master of the Roman world, Pompey exerted himself so vigorously and judiciously, that within the short period of three months he had cleared the sea of every pirate vessel. That his command might not lie dormant for the remainder of the three years for which he had been appointed, a tribune of the people proposed and carried a law conferring on him the additional command of Pontus, Bithynia, and Armenia, in order to secure his services in finishing a war which was then going on with Mithridates. This was the third war with that monarch; for there had been a second short war with him B.C. 83-81. The present war had originated in some overtures made by Sertorius to Mithridates in B.C. 74; but Sertorius having died in the same year, Mithridates was left to maintain the war alone. The general sent to oppose him was Lucullus, who carried on the war very successfully till Pompey came to supersede him. For four years Pompey remained in Asia, breaking the power of Mithridates, and negotiating with the monarchs of Parthia, Armenia, etc. He traversed the greater part of Asia Minor, establishing the Roman influence; dethroned the king of Syria, and added it and Phoenicia to the number of the Roman provinces; entered Palestine, where a civil war was then raging between the brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, declared in favor of the former, besieged and took Jerusalem, and having imposed a tribute on the Jews, commenced his march homewards. On his return through Asia Minor, he found that Mithridates had in the meantime killed himself in despair; and as there was no one to take up that monarch's part, he was able to parcel out Asia Minor as he chose erecting some portions into provinces, and giving others in charge to tributary princes. With the glory of having thus subjugated and settled the East, the fortunate Pompey prepared to return to Rome in the year B.C. 62.