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 Possibly even Spain might have superseded her sister peninsula as the seat of Roman power.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 Although both were disciples of Sulla, yet obeying the necessities of the time, they repealed several of his enactments, and passed various measures of liberal tendency.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.

Meanwhile Rome had been the scene of one of the most extraordinary attempts at revolution recorded in history the famous conspiracy of Catiline. No passage in Roman history is involved in such obscurity as this; for the accounts of the conspiracy left by Sallust and other Latin authors are not nearly so satisfactory to the genuine student of history, as they are pleasant to the mere reader for amusement. M. Mérimée supposes that, several years after Sulla's death, there arose in Rome four distinct parties the 'oligarchical faction,' consisting of the small number of families the chiefs of which directed the senate, and in fact governed the republic; the 'aristocratic faction,' comprehending the mass of the senators, anxious to exercise the power which they saw usurped by a small number of their colleagues; the 'party of Marius,' including all those whose families had been persecuted by Sulla, and who now began to rally, and aspire to power; and lastly, the 'military factions,' embracing a crowd of old officers of Sulla, who, having squandered the fortunes they had gained under him, and seeing themselves excluded from public affairs, were eager for some convulsion which might improve their condition. At the head of the first party was Pompey, now absent in Asia. In his absence, the soul of the oligarchical party was the celebrated Marcus Tullius Cicero an advocate of extraordinary intellect, born B.C. 106, a few months after Pompey, and who, entering public life early, had soon established his reputation as the first orator in Rome. Of plebeian birth, it might have been expected that he would attach himself to the democratic side; but circumstances, and his natural disposition, which was weak, and fond of the consideration of others, had won him over to the side of the oligarchy, to whom his talents were invaluable. Having passed through the quaestorship, and edileship, and praetorship, which last he held B.C. 66, he now aspired to the highest dignity in the state. Such was the leader of the oligarchical party. The leader of the aristocratic party was Crassus, formerly the colleague of Pompey in the consulship, and now his personal rival. Besides Crassus, the senators had an active and most conscientious partisan in Marcus Porcius Cato, who had been tribune of the people - a greatgrandson of Cato the Censor, and possessed of all his integrity. The leader of the third or Marian party was a man six years younger than Pompey or Cicero, and who, known during his youth for his accomplishments, his love of pleasure, his firmness of purpose, and the boundless generosity of his character, had just earned for himself the applauses of all Rome by the lavish magnificence of his edileship (B.C. 65). This was Caius Julius Caesar, the greatest man that ever Rome produced. He was the son of a man who had died suddenly, without having made any figure in public life; his family was one of the noblest in Rome; and his aunt had been the wife of Marius. Literature and pleasure had occupied his youth, and only now was he beginning to take an active part in public affairs, although with a force and earnestness which at once marked him out as a man who was to lead. With chivalrous recklessness of consequences, he had done justice to his uncle's memory at a time when it was hardly safe to mention the name of Marius; and now the relics of the Marian party gathered round him with hope, while the oligarchy and aristocracy, with the presentiment of what he was to become, would fain have crushed him. Nine years older than Cesar, and three years older than Cicero or Pompey, was the leader of the fourth or military faction Lucius Sergius Catilina, more commonly called Catiline, a man of illustrious birth, and who had distinguished himself as one of the ablest and most ferocious officers of Sulla. His reputation, owing partly to his haggard personal appearance, and partly to vague rumors of horrible crimes which he had committed, was one of the blackest; and as he walked along the streets with gigantic body, but hurried and uncertain step, men pointed, and said that that was Catiline. Y et he possessed extraordinary abilities, and a peculiar power of fascinating those with whom he wished to establish a friendly relation. He had already been praetor (B.C. 67), and there was a large class, consisting principally of debauched young patricians and ruined military men, who look ed forward eagerly to his election to the consulship.

Prevented, by a charge of extortion brought against him in his capacity of praetor, from becoming a candidate for the consulship of the year B.C. 65, Catiline came forward as candidate in the following year. Cicero was his rival; and the senators mustered in sufficient strength to return the orator. Enraged at his defeat, Catiline began to plot a seditious movement with his patrician adherents, among whom were Lentulus, Cethegus, Caeparius, etc. Rome, it was said, was to be set on fire, and the consuls and many of the senators murdered. Towards the end of the year (B.C. 64), these designs had become ripe, and emissaries of Catiline were abroad throughout Italy. Meanwhile Cicero had obtained private intelligence of the conspiracy, and on the 8th of November he addressed Catiline in such vehement terms in the senate-house, that the conspirator fled into Etruria, from which he continued to correspond with his accomplices in Rome. Having obtained satisfactory proofs of the guilt of these accomplices, and having been empowered by the senate to act as he chose for the good of state, Cicero caused Lentulus, Cethegus, Statilius, and Caeparius to be apprehended; and these four, notwithstanding the motion of Caesar for a more moderate punishment, were put to death in prison; Cicero's activity had saved the Commonwealth. Catiline, however, who had raised troops in Etruria, continued to menace the state till the beginning of B.C. 62, when he and many of his patrician supporters died fighting like lions against the troops sent to destroy them. Thus the insane movement of the military faction was crushed: there remained, however, much of the Catilinarian leaven diffused through Italy men of broken fortunes and profligate characters, to whom turmoil and riot afforded the only chance of promotion.