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temperance, his skill, and exercise in war, his eloquence
of speech, integrity of mind, and affability in conversation


and address ; insomuch that no man ever asked a favor
with less offence, or conferred one with a better grace,
When he gave, it was without assumption ; when he re-
ceived, it was with dignity and honor.

In his youth, his countenance pleaded for him, seeming
to anticipate his eloquence, and win upon the affections of
the people before he spoke. His beauty even in his bloom
of youth had something in it at once of gentleness and
dignity; and when his prime of manhood came, the majesty
and kingliness of his character at once became visible in it.
His hair sat somewhat hollow or rising a little ; and this,
with the languishing motion of his eyes, seemed to form a
resemblance in his face, though perhaps more talked of
than really apparent, to the statues of the king Alexander,
And because many applied that name to him in his youth,
Pompey himself did not decline it, insomuch that some
called him so in derision. And Lucius Philippus, a man of
consular dignity, when he was pleading in favor of him,
thought it not unfit to say, that people could not be sur-
prised if Philip was a lover of Alexander.

It is related of Flora, the courtesan, that when she was
now pretty old, she took great delight in speaking of her
early familiarity with Pompey, and was wont to say that
she could never part after being with him without a bite.
She would further tell, that Geminius, a companion of
Pompey's, fell in love with her, and made his court with
great importunity ; and on her refusing, and telling him,
however her inclinations were, yet she could not gratify
his desires for Pompey's sake, he therefore made his
request to Pompey, and Pompey frankly gave his consent,
but never afterwards would have any converse with her,
notwithstanding that he seemed to have a great passion for
her ; and Flora, on this occasion, showed none of the levity
that might have been expected of her, but languished for
some time after under a sickness brought on by grief and
desire. This Flora, we are told, was such a celebrated


beauty, that Csecilius Metellus, when he adorned the temple
of Castor and Pollux with paintings and statues, among
the rest dedicated hers for her singular beauty. In his
conduct also to the wile of Demetrius, his freed servant
(who had great influence with him in his lifetime, and
left an estate of four thousand talents), Pornpey acted con-
trary to his usual habits, not quite fairly or generously,
fearing lest he should fall under the common censure of
being enamored and charmed with her beauty, which was
irresistible, and became famous everywhere. Nevertheless,
though he seemed to be so extremely circumspect and
cautious, yet even in matters of this nature he could not
avoid the calumnies of his enemies, but upon the score of
married women, they accused him, as if he had connived
at many things, and embezzled the public revenue to
gratify their luxury.

Of his easiness of temper and plainness, in what related
to eating and drinking, the story is told, that once in a
sickness, when his stomach nauseated common meats, his
physician prescribed him a thrush to eat ; but upon search,
there was none to be bought, for they were not then in
season, and one telling him they were to be had at Lucul-
lus's, who kept them all the year round, " So then," said he,
" if it were not for Lucullus's luxury, Pompey should not
live ; " and thereupon not minding the prescription of the
physician, he contented himself with such meat as could
easily be procured. But this was at a later time.

Being as yet a very young man, and upon an expedition
in which his father was commanding against Cinna, he had
in his tent with him one Lucius Terentius, as his com-
panion and comrade, who, being corrupted by Cinna, entered
into an engagement to kill Pompey, as others had done to
set the general's tent on fire. This conspiracy being dis-
covered to Pompey at supper, he showed no discomposure
at it, but on the contrary drank more liberally than usual,
nd expra^ed erreat kindness to Terentius ; but about bed-


time, pretending to go to his repose, lie stole away secretly
out of the tent, and setting a guard about his father, quietly
expected the event. Terentius, when he thought the proper
time come, rose with his naked sword and coming to Pom-
pey's bedside, stabbed several strokes through the bed-
clothes, as if he were lying there. Immediately after this
there was a great uproar throughout all the camp, arising
from the hatred they bore to the general, and an universal
movement of the soldiers to revolt, all tearing down their
tents, and betaking themselves to their arms. The general
himself all this while durst not venture out because of the
tumult ; but Pompey, going about in the midst of them,
besought them with tears ; and at last threw himself pros-
trate upon his face before the gate of the camp, and lay
there in the passage at their feet, shedding tears, and
bidding those that were marching off, if they would go,
trample upon him. Upon which, none could help going
back again, and all, except eight hundred, either through
shame or compassion, repented, and were reconciled to the

Immediately upon the death of Strabo, there was an ac-
tion commenced against Pompey, as his heir, for that his
father had embezzled the public treasure. But Pompey,
having traced the principal thefts, charged them upon one
Alexander, a freed slave of his father's, and proved before
the judges that he had been the appropriator. But he
himself was accused of having in his possession some
hunting tackle, and books, that were taken at Asculum.
To this he confessed thus far, that he received them from
his father when he took Asculum, but pleaded further,
that he had lost them since, upon Cinna's return to Rome,
when his house was broken open and plundered by Cinna's
guards. In this cause he had a great many preparatory
pleadings against his accuser, in which he showed an
activity and steadfastness beyond his years, and gained

great reputation and favor, insomuch that Antistius, the


praetor and judge of the cause, took a great liking to
and offered him his daughter in marriage, having had
some communications with his friends about it. Pompey
accepted the proposal, and they were privately contracted ;
however, the secret was not so closely kept as to escape
the multitude, but it was discernible enough, from the
favor shown him by Antistius in his cause. And at last,
when Antistius pronounced the absolutory sentence of the
judges, the people, as if it had been upon a signal given,
made the acclamation used according to ancient custom, at
marriages, Talasio. The origin of which custom is related
to be this. At the time when the daughters of theSabines
came to Rome, to see the shows and sports there, and were
violently seized upon by the most distinguished and bravest
of the Romans for wives, it happened that some goatswains
and herdsmen of the meaner rank were carrying off a
beautiful and tall maiden ; and lest any of their betters
should meet them, and take her away, as they ran, they
cried out with one voice, Talasio^ Talasius being a well-
known and popular person among them, insomuch that
all that heard the name clapped their hands for joy, and
joined with them in the shout, as applauding and congrat-
ulating the chance. Now, say they, because this proved a
fortunate match to Talasius, hence it is that this accla-
mation is sportively used as a nuptial cry at all weddings.
This is the most credible of the accounts that are given of
the Talasio. And some few days after this judgment,
Pompey married Antistia.

After this he went to Cinna's camp, where, finding some
false suggestions and calumnies prevailing against him, he
began to be afraid, and presently withdrew himself secretly ;
which sudden disappearance occasioned great suspicion.
And there went a rumor and speech through all the camp,
that Cinna had murdered the young man ; upon which all
that had been anyways disobliged, and bore any malice to
him. resolved to make an assault upon him. He, endeavor


ing to make his escape, was seized by a centurion, who pur*
sued him with his naked sword. Cinna, in this distress, fell
upon his knees, and offered him his seal-ring, of great value,
for his ransom ; but the centurion repulsed him insolently,
saying, " I did not come to seal a covenant, but to be revenged
upon a lawless and wicked tyrant ; " and so despatched him

Thus Cinna being slain, Carbo, a tyrant yet more sense-
less than he, took the command and exercised it, while
Sylla meantime was approaching, much to the joy and
satisfaction of most people, who in their present evils were
ready to find some comfort if it were but in the exchange
of a master. For the city was brought to that pass by op-
pression and calamities, that, being utterly in despair of
liberty, men were only anxious for the mildest and most
tolerable bondage. At that time Pompey was in Picenum
in Italy, where he spent some time amusing himself, as he
had estates in the country there, though the chief motive of
his stay was the liking he felt for the towns of that district,
which all regarded him with hereditary feelings of kindness
and attachment. But when he now saw that the noblest
and best of the city began to forsake their homes and prop-
erty, and fly from all quarters to Sylla's camp, as to their
haven, he likewise was desirous to go ; not, however, as a
fugitive, alone and with nothing to offer, but as a friend
rather than a suppliant, in a way that would gain him
honor, bringing help along with him, and at the head of a
body of troops. Accordingly he solicited the Picentines
for their assistance, who as cordially embraced his motion,
and rejected the messengers sent from Carbo ; insomuch
that a certain Vindius taking upon him to say that Pompey
was come from the school-room to put himself at the head
of the people, they were so incensed that they fell forth-
with upon this Yindius and killed him. From henceforward
Pompey, finding a spirit of government upon him, though
not above twenty-three years of age, nor deriving


authority by commission from any man, took the privilege
to grant himself full power, and, causing a tribunal to be
erected in the market-place of Auximum, a populous city,
expelled two of their principal men, brothers, of the name
of Yentidius, who were acting against him in Carbo's in-
terest, commanding them by a public edict to depart the
city ; and then proceeded to levy soldiers, issuing oat com-
missions to centurions and other officers, according to the
form of military discipline. And in this manner he went
round all the rest of the cities in the district. So that those
of Carbo's faction flying, and all others cheerfully submit-
ting to his command, in a little time he mustered three
entire legions, having supplied himself besides with all
manner of provisions, beasts of burden, carriages, and other
necessaries of war. And with this equipage he set forward
on his march toward Sylla, not as if he were in haste, or
desirous of escaping observation, but by small journeys,
making several halts upon the road, to distress and annoy
the enemy, and exerting himself to detach from Carbo's
interest every part of Italy that he passed through.

Three commanders of the enemy encountered him at
once, Carinna, Clcelius, and Brutus, and drew up their
forces, not all in the front, nor yet together on any one
part, but encamping three several armies in a circle about
him, they resolved to encompass and overpower him,
Pompey was noway alarmed at this, but collecting all his
troops into one body, and placing his horse in the front of
the battle, where he himself was in person, he singled out
and bent all his forces against Brutus, and when the Celtic
horsemen from the enemy's side rode out to meet him,
Pompey himself encountering hand to hand with the fore-
most and stoutest among them, killed him with his spear.
The rest seeing this turned their backs and fled, and break-
ing the ranks of their own foot, presently caused a general
rout; whereupon the commanders fell out among tliem-
gelves, and marched off, some one way, some another, as


their fortunes led them, and the towns round about came
in and surrendered themselves to Pompey, concluding that
the enemy was dispersed for fear. Next after these,
Scipio, the consul, came to attack him, and with as little
success ; for before the armies could join, or be within the
throw of their javelins, Scipio's soldiers saluted Pompey's,
and came over to them, while Scipio made his escape by '
flight. Last of all, Carbo himself sent down several troops
of horse against him by the river Arsis, which Pompey
assailed with the same courage and success as before ; and
having routed and put them to flight, he forced them in
the pursuit into difficult ground, unpassable for horse,
where, seeing no hopes of escape, they yielded themselves
with their horses and armor, all to his mercy.

Sylla was hitherto unacquainted with all these actions ;
and on the first intelligence he received of his movements
was in great anxiety about him, fearing lest he should be
cut off among so many and such experienced commanders
of the enemy, and marched therefore with all speed to his
aid. Now Pompey, having advice of his approach, sent
out orders to his officers, to marshal and draw up all his
forces in full array, that they might make the finest and
noblest appearance before the commander-in-chief ; for he
expected indeed great honors from him, but met with even
greater. For as soon as Sylla saw him thus advancing,
his army so well appointed, his men so young and strong,
and their spirits so high and hopeful with their successes,
he alighted from his horse, and being first, as was his due,
saluted by them with the title of Imperator, he returned
the salutation upon Pompey, in the same term and style of
Imperator, which might well cause surprise, as none could
have ever anticipated that he would have imparted, to one
so young in years and not yet a senator, a title which was
the object of contention between him and the Scipios and
Marii. And indeed all the rest of his deportment was
agreeable to this first compliment; whenever Pompey came


into his presence, he paid some sort of respect to him,
either in rising and being uncovered, or the like, which h
was rarely seen to do with any one else, notwithstanding
that there were many about him of great rank and honor.
Yet Pompey was not puffed up at all, or exalted with these
favors. And when Sylla would have sent him with all
expedition into Gaul, a province in which it was thought
Metellus who commanded in it had done nothing worthy
of the large forces at his disposal, Pompey urged that it
could not be fair or honorable for him to take a province
out of the hands of his senior in command and his superior
in reputation; however, if Metellus were willing, and
should request his service, he should be very ready to
accompany and assist him in the war. Which when
Metellus came to understand, he approved of the proposal,
and invited him over by letter. And on this Pompey fell
immediately into Gaul, where he not only achieved wonder-
ful exploits of himself, but also fired up and kindled again
that bold and warlike spirit, which old age had in a manner
extinguished in Metellus, into a new heat; just as molten
copper, they say, when poured upon that which is cold and
solid, will dissolve and melt it faster than fire itself. But
as when a famous wrestler has gained the first place among
men, and borne away the prizes at all the games, it is not
usual to take account of his victories as a boy, or to enter
them upon record among the rest ; so with the exploits of
Pompey in his youth, though they were extraordinary in
themselves, yet because they were obscured and buried in
the multitude and greatness of his later wars and con-
quests, I dare not be particular in them, lest, by trifling
away time in the lesser moments of his youth, we should
be driven to omit those greater actions and fortunes which
best illustrate his character.

Now, when Sylla had brought all Italy under his domin-
ion, and was proclaimed dictator, he began to reward the
rest of his followers, by giving them wealth, appointing


them to offices in the State, and granting them freely and
without restriction any favors they asked for. But as for
Pompey, admiring his valor and conduct, and thinking that
he might prove a great stay and support to him hereafter
in his affairs, he sought means to attach him to himself by
some personal alliance, and his wife Metella joining in his
wishes, they two persuaded Pompey to put away Antistia,
and marry JEmilia, the step-daughter of Sylla, born by
Metella to Scaurus, her former husband, she being at that
very time the wife of another man, living with him, and
\vith child by him. These were the very tyrannies of mar-
riage, and much more agreeable to the times under Sylla,
than to the nature and habits of Pompey; that ^Emilia
great with child should be, as it were, ravished from the
embraces of another for him, and that Antistia should be
divorced with dishonor and misery, by him, for whose sake
she had been but just before bereft of her father. For An-
tistius was murdered in the senate, because he was sus-
pected to be a favorer of Sylla for Pompey's sake ; and her
mother, likewise, after she had seen all these indignities,
made away with herself, a new calamity to be added to the
tragic accompaniments of this marriage, and that there
might be nothing wanting to complete them, Emilia her-
self died, almost immediately after entering Pompey's
house, in childbed.

About this time news came to Sylla, that Perpenna was
fortifying himself in Sicily, that the island was now be-
come a refuge and receptacle for the relics of the adverse
party, that Carbo was hovering about those seas with a
navy, that Domitius had fallen in upon Africa, and that
many of the exiled men of note who had escaped from the
proscriptions were daily flocking into those parts. Against
these, therefore, Pompey was sent with a large force ; and
no sooner was he arrived in Sicily, but Perpenna immedi-
ately departed, leaving the whole island to him. Pompey
received the distressed cities into favor, and treated all


with great humanity, except the Mamertines in Messena ;
for when they protested against his court and jurisdiction,
alleging their privilege and exemption founded upon an
ancient charter or grant of the Romans, he replied sharply,
" What ! will you never cease prating of laws to us that
have swords by our sides ? " It was thought, likewise,
that he showed some inhumanity to Carbo, seeming rather
to insult over his misfortunes, than to chastise his crimes.
For if there had been a necessity, as perhaps there was,
that he should be taken off, that might have been done at
first, as soon as he was taken prisoner, for then it would
have been the act of him that commanded it. But here
Pompey commanded a man that had been thrice consul of
Rome to be brought in fetters to stand at the bar, he him-
self sitting upon the bench in judgment, examining the
cause with the formalities of law, to the oifence and indig-
nation of all that were present, and afterwards ordered him
to be taken away and put to death. It is related, by the
way, of Carbo, that as soon as he was brought to the place,
and saw the sword drawn for execution, he was suddenly
seized with a looseness or pain in his bowels, and desired a
little respite of the executioner, and a convenient place to
relieve himself. And yet further, Caius Oppius, the friend
of Caesar, tells us, that Pompey dealt cruelly with Quintus
Valerius, a man of singular learning and science. For
when he was brought to him, he walked aside, and drew
him into conversation, and after putting a variety of ques-
tions to him, and receiving answers from him, he ordered
his officers to take him away, and put him to death. But
we must not be too credulous in the case of narratives told
by Oppius, especially when he undertakes to relate any-
thing touching the friends or foes of Caesar. This is cer-
tain, that there lay a necessity upon Pompey to be severe
upon many of Sylla's enemies, those at least that were emi-
nent persons in themselves, and notoriously known to be
taken ; but for the rest, he acted with all the clemency po-


eible for him, conniving at the concealment of some, and
himself being the instrument in the escape of others. So
in the case of the Himeraeans ; for when Pompey had deter-
mined on severely punishing their city, as they had been
abettors of the enemy, Sthenis, the leader of the people
there, craving liberty of speech, told him, that what he was
about to do was not at all consistent with justice, for that
he would pass by the guilty and destroy the innocent ; and
on Pompey demanding who that guilty person was that
would assume the offences of them all, Sthenis replied, it
was himself, who had engaged his friends by persuasion
to what they had done, and his enemies by force ; where-
upon Pompey being much taken with the frank speech and
noble spirit of the man, first forgave his crime, and then
pardoned all the rest of the Himerseans. Hearing, likewise,
that his soldiers were very disorderly in their march, doing
Violence upon the roads, he ordered their swords to be
sealed up in their scabbards, and whosoever kept them not
so were severely punished.

Whilst Pompey was thus busy in the affairs and govern-
ment of Sicily, he received a decree of the senate, and a
commission from Sylla, commanding him forthwith to sail
into Africa, and make war upon Domitius with all his
forces : for Domitius had rallied up a far greater army than
Marius had had not long since, when he sailed out of Africa
into Italy, and caused a revolution in Eome, and himself, of
a fugitive outlaw, became a tyrant. Pompey, therefore,
haying prepared everything with the utmost speed, left
Memmius, his sister's husband, governor of Sicily, and set
sail with one hundred and twenty galleys, and eight hun-
dred other vessels laden with provisions, money, ammuni-
tion, and engines of battery. He arrived with his fleet, part
at the port of Utica, part at Carthage ; and no sooner was
he landed, but seven thousand of the enemy revolted and
came over to him, while his own forces that he brought
With him consisted of six entire legions. Here they tell us


of a pleasant incident that happened to him at his first
arrival. For some of his soldiers having by accident stum-
bled upon a treasure, by which they got a good sum of
money, the rest of the army hearing this, began to fancy
that the field was full of gold and silver, which had been
hid there of old by the Carthaginians in the time of their
calamities, and thereupon fell to work, so that the army
was useless to Pompey for many days, being totally engaged
in digging for the fancied treasure, he himself all the while
walking up and down only, and laughing to see so many
thousands together, digging and turning up the earth.
Until at last, growing weary and hopeless, they came to
themselves and returned to their general, begging him to
lead them where he pleased, for that they had already
received the punishment of their folly. By this time
Domitius had prepared himself and drawn out his army in
array against Pompey ; but there was a watercourse betwixt
them, craggy, and difficult to pass over ; and this, together
with a great storm of wind and rain pouring down even
from break of day, seemed to leave but little possibility of
their coming together ; so that Domitius, not expecting any
engagement that day, commanded his forces to draw off
and retire to the camp. Now Pompey, who was watchful
upon every occasion, making use of the opportunity, ordered
a march forthwith, and having passed over the torrent, fell
in immediately upon their quarters. The enemy was in a
great disorder and tumult, and in that confusion attempted
a resistance ; but they neither were all there, nor supported
one another; besides, the wind having veered about, beat
the rain full in their faces. Neither indeed was the storm
less troublesome to the Romans, for that they could not
clearly discern one another, insomuch that even Pompey

Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's Lives (Volume 3) → online text (page 30 of 38)