Copyright
Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives (Volume 3) online

. (page 35 of 38)
Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's Lives (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


that Marcellinus was certainly the unfairest of men, to
show him no gratitude for having thus made him an orator
out of a mute, and converted him from a hungry starveling
into a man so full-fed that he could not contain himselt.

Most of the candidates nevertheless abandoned their can-
vass for the consulship ; Cato alone persuaded and encour-
aged Lucius Domitius not to desist, " since," said he, " the
contest now is not for office, but for liberty against tyrants



POMPEY, 411

and usurpers." Therefore those of Pompey's party, fear-
ing this inflexible constancy in Cato, by which he kept with
him the whole senate, lest by this he should likewise per-
vert and draw after him all the well-affected part of the
commonalty, resolved to withstand Domitius at once, and
to prevent his entrance into the forum. To this end,
therefore, they sent in a band of armed men, who slew the
torchbearer of Domitius, as he was leading the way before
him, and put all the rest to flight ; last of all, Cato himself
retired, having received a wound in his right arm while
defending Domitius. Thus by these means and practices
they obtained the consulship; neither did they behave
themselves with more decency in their further proceed-
ings ; but in the first place, when the people were choosing
Cato praetor, and just ready with their votes for the poll,
Pompey broke up the assembly, upon a pretext of some in-
auspicious appearance, and having gained the tribes by
money, they publicly proclaimed Yatinius praetor. Then>
in pursuance of their covenants with Caesar, they intro-
duced several laws by Trebonius, the tribune, continuing
Caesar's commission to another five years' charge of his
province ; to Crassus there were appointed Syria, and the
Parthian war ; and to Pompey himself, all Africa, together
with both Spains, and four legions of soldiers, two of which
he lent to Caesar upon his request, for the wars in Gaul.

Crassus, upon the expiration of his consulship, departed
forthwith into his province ; but Pompey spent some time
in Rome, upon the opening or dedication of his theatre,
where he treated the people with all sorts of games, shows,
and exercises, in gymnastics alike and in music. There was
likewise the hunting or baiting of wild beasts, and combats
with them, in which five hundred lions were slain ; but
above all, the battle of elephants was a spectacle full of
horror and amazement.

These entertainments brought him great honor and popu-
larity ; but on the other side he created no less envy to



41 2 PL UTARCH'8 LIVES.

himself, In that he committed the government of his prov-
inces and legions into the hands of friends as his lieuten,
ants, whilst he himself was going about and spending his
time with his wife in all the places of amusement in Italy ;
whether it were he was so fond of her himself, or she so fond
of him, and he unable to distress her by going away, for this
also is stated. And the love displayed by this young wife
for her elderly husband was a matter of general note, to be
attributed, it would seem, to his constancy in married life,
and to his dignity of manner, which in familiar intercourse
was tempered with grace and gentleness, and was particu-
larly attractive to women, as even Flora, the courtesan,
may be thought good enough evidence to prove. It once
happened in a public assembly, as they were at an election of
the sediles, that the people came to blows, and several about
Fompey were slain, so that he, finding himself all bloody,
ordered a change of apparel ; but the servants who brought
home his clothes, making a great bustle and hurry about
the house, it chanced that the young lady, who was then
with child, saw his gown all stained with blood; upon
which she dropped immediately into a swoon, and was
hardly brought to life again ; however, what with her
fright and suffering, she fell into labor and miscarried ;
even those who chiefly censured Pompey for his friendship
to Csesar could not reprove him for his affection to so
attached a wife. Afterwards she was great again, and
brought to bed of a daughter, but died in childbed ;
neither did the infant outlive her mother many days.
Pompey had prepared all things for the interment of her
corpse at his house near Alba, but the people seized upon
it by force, and performed the solemnities in the field of
Mars, rather in compassion for the young lady, than in
favor either for Pompey or Csesar ; and yet of these two,
the people seemed at that time to pay Caesar a greater share
of honor in his absence, than to Pompey, though he wag
present.



POMPEY 41S

For the city now at once began to roll and swell, so to
gay, with the stir of the coming storm. Things everywhere
were in a state of agitation, and everybody's discourse
tended to division, now that death had put an end to that
relation which hitherto had been a disguise rather than
restraint to the ambition of these men. Besides, not long
after came messengers from Parthia with intelligence of the
death of Crassus there, by which another safeguard against
civil war was removed, since both Caesar and Pompey kept
their eyes on Crassus, and awe of him held them together
more or less within the bounds of fair-dealing all his life-
time. But when fortune had taken away this second,
whose province it might have been to revenge the quarrel
of the conquered, you might then say with the comic poet,

The combatants are waiting to begin,

Smearing their hands with dust and oiling each his skin.

So inconsiderable a thing is fortune in respect of human
nature, and so insufficient to give content to a covetous
mind, that an empire of that mighty extent and sway could
not satisfy the ambition of two men ; and though they knew
and had read, that

The gods, when they divided out 'twixt three,
This massive universe, heaven, hell, and sea,
Each one sat down contented on his throne,
And undisturbed each god enjoys his own,

yet they thought the whole Roman empire not sufficient to
contain them, though they were but two.

Pompey once in an oration to the people told them, that
he had always come into office before he expected he should,
and that he had always left it sooner than they expected he
would ; and, indeed, the disbanding of all his armies wit-
nessed as much. Yet when he perceived that Caesar would
not so willingly discharge his forces, he endeavored to
strengthen himself against him by offices and commands
in the city ; but beyond this he showed no desire for an,v



414 PLUTARCWS LIVES

ehange, and would not seem to distrust, but rather to di&
regard and contemn him. And when he saw how thej
bestowed the places of government quite contrary to his
wishes, because the citizens were bribed in their elections,
he let things take their course, and allowed the city to be
left without any government at all. Hereupon there was
mention straightway made of appointing a dictator. Lu-
cullus, a tribune of the people, was the man who first ad-
ventured to propose it, urging the people to make Pompey
dictator. But the tribune was in danger of being turned
out of his office, by the opposition that Cato made against
it. And for Pompey, many of his friends appeared and
excused him, alleging that he never was desirous of that
government, neither would he accept of it. And when
Cato therefore made a speech in commendation of Pompey
and exhorted him to support the cause of good order in the
commonwealth, he could not for shame but yield to it, and
so for the present Domitius and Messala were elected con-
suls. But shortly afterwards, whe^ >here was another
anarchy, or vacancy in the government/ and the talk of a
dictator was much louder and more general than before,
those of Cato's party, fearing lest they should be forced to
appoint Pompey, thought it policy to keep him from that
arbitrary and tyrannical power, by giving him an office of
more legal authority. Bibulus himself, who was Pompey's
enemy, first gave his vote in the senate, that Pompey
should be created consul alone ; alleging, that by these
means either the commonwealth would be freed from its
present confusion, or that its bondage should be lessened by
serving the worthiest. This was looked upon as a very
strange opinion, considering the man that spoke it ; and
therefore on Cato's standing up, everybody expected that
he would have opposed it ; but after silence made, he said
that he would never have been the author of that advice
himself, but since it was propounded by another, his advice
was to follow it, adding, that any form of government waa



POMPEY. 415

better than none at all ; and that in a time so full of dis-
traction, he thought no man fitter to govern than Pompey.
This counsel was unanimously approved of, and a decree
passed that Pompey should be made sole consul, with this
clause, that if he thought it necessary to have a colleague,
he might choose whom he pleased, provided it were not till
after two months expired.

Thus was Pompey created and declared sole consul hy
Sulpicius, regent in this vacancy ; upon which he made
very cordial acknowledgments to Cato, professing himself
much his debtor, and requesting his good ad vice in conduct-
ing the government ; to this Cato replied, that Pompey had
no reason to thank him, for all that he had said was for
the service of the commonwealth, not of Pompey ; but that
he would be always ready to give his advice privately, if
he were asked for it ; and if not, he should not fail to say
what he thought in public. Such was Cato's conduct on
all occasions.

On his return into the city Pompey married Cornelia,
the daughter of Metellus Scipio, not a maiden, but lately
left a widow by Publius, the son of Crassus, her first hus-
band, who had been killed in Parthia. The young lady
had other attractions besides those of youth and beauty ;
for she was highly educated, played well upon the lute,
and understood geometry, and had been accustomed to
listen with profit to lectures on philosophy ; all this, too,
without in any degree becoming unamiable or pretentious,
as sometimes young women do when they pursue such
studies. Nor could any fault be found either with her
father's family or reputation. The disparity of their ages
was, however, not liked by everybody ; Cornelia being in
this respect a fitter match for Pompey's son. And wiser
judges thought it rather a slight upon the commonwealth
when he, to whom alone they had committed their broken
fortunes, and from whom alone, as from their physician,
they expected a cure to these distractions, went about



416 PLUTARCH 1 S LIVES,

crowned with garlands and celebrating his nuptial feasts,
never considering that his very consulship was a public
calamity, which would never have been given him, con-
trary to the rules of law, had his country been in a flour-
ishing state. Afterwards, however, he took cognizance of
the cases of those that had obtained offices by gifts and
bribery, and enacted laws and ordinances, setting forth the
rules of judgment by which they should be arraigned ; and
regulating all things with gravity and justice, he restored
security, order, and silence to their courts of judicature,
himself giving his presence there with a band of soldiers.
But when his father-in-law, Scipio, was accused, he sent for
the three hundred and sixty judges to his house, and en-
treated them to be favorable to him ; whereupon his accuser,
seeing Scipio come into the court, accompanied by the
judges themselves, withdrew the prosecution. Upon this
Pompey was very ill spoken of, and much worse in the case
of Plancus ; for whereas he himself had made a law, putting
a stop to the practice of making speeches in praise of per-
sons under trial, yet notwithstanding this prohibition, he
came into court, and spoke openly in commendation of
Plancus, insomuch that Cato, who happened to be one of
the judges at that time, stopping his ears with his hands,
told him he could not in conscience listen to commendations
contrary to law. Cato upon this was refused, and set aside
from being a judge, before sentence was given, but Plancus
was condemned by the rest of the judges, to Pompey's dis-
honor. Shortly after, Hypsaeus, a man of consular dignity,
who was under accusation, waited for Pompey's return
from his bath to his supper, and falling down at his feet,
implored his favor; but he disdainfully passed him by,
saying, that he did nothing else but spoil his supper. Such
partiality was looked upon as a great fault in Pompey, and
highly condemned ; however, he managed all things else
discreetly, and having put the government in very good
prder, he chose his father-in-law to be his colleague in the



POMPEY. 417

consulship for the last five months. His provinces were
continued to him for the term of four years longer, with a
commission to take one thousand talents yearly out of the
treasury for the payment of his army.

This gave occasion to some of Caesar's friends to think it
reasonable, that some consideration should be had of him
too, who had done such signal services in war and fought
so many battles for the empire, alleging, that he deserved
at least a second consulship, or to have the government of
his province continued, that so he might command and en-
joy in peace what he had obtained in war, and no successor
come in to reap the fruits of his labor, and carry off the
glory of his actions. There arising some debate about this
matter, Pompey took upon him, as it were out of kindness
to Caesar, to plead his cause, and allay any jealousy that
was conceived against him, telling them that he had letters
from Caesar, expressing his desire for a successor, and his
own discharge from the command ; but it would be only
right that they should give him leave to stand for the con-
sulship though in his absence. But those of Cato's party
withstood this, saying, that if he expected any favor from
the citizens, he ought to leave his army, and come in a
private capacity to canvass for it. And Pompey's making
no rejoinder, but letting it pass as a matter in which he
was overruled, increased the suspicion of his real feelings
towards Caesar. Presently, also, under pretence of a war
with Parthia, he sent for his two legions which he had lent
him. However, Caesar, though he well knew why they
were asked for, sent them home very liberally rewarded.

About that time Pompey recovered of a dangerous fit of
sickness which seized him at Naples, where the whole city,
upon the suggestion of Praxagoras, made sacrifices of
thanksgiving to the gods for his recovery. The neighbor-
ing towns likewise happening to follow their example, the
thing then went its course throughout all Italy, so that

there was not a city, either great or small, that did not
27



418 PLUTARCirS LIVES.

feast and rejoice for many days together. And the com.
pany of those that came from all parts to meet him was so
numerous, that no place was able to contain them, but the
villages, seaport towns, and the very highways were all
full of people, feasting and sacrificing to the gods. Kay,
many went to meet him with garlands on their heads, and
flambeaux in their hands, casting flowers and nosegays
upon him as he went along ; so that this progress of his, and
reception, was one of the noblest and most glorious sights
imaginable. And yet it is thought that this very thing
was not one of the least causes and occasions of the civil
war. For Pompey, yielding to a feeling of exultation,
which in the greatness of the present display of joy lost
sight of more solid grounds of consideration, and abandon-
ing that prudent temper which had guided him hitherto to
a safe use of all his good fortune and his successes, gave
himself up to an extravagant confidence in his own and
contempt of Caesar's power ; insomuch that he thought
neither force of arms nor care necessary against him, but
that he could pull him down much easier than he had set
him up. Besides this, Appius, under whose command those
legions which Pompey lent to Caesar were returned, coming
lately out of Gaul, spoke slightingly of Caesar's actions
there, and spread scandalous reports about him, at the same
time telling Pompey, that he was unacquainted with his
own strength and reputation, if he made use of any other
forces against Caesar than Caesar's own; for such was the
soldiers' hatred to Caesar, and their love to Pompey so great,
that they would all come over to him upon his first appear-
ance. By these flatteries Pompey was so puffed up, and
led on into such a careless security, that he could not choose
but laugh at those who seemed to fear a war; and when
some were saying, that if Caesar should march against the
city, they could not see what forces there were to resist
him, he replied with a smile, bidding them be in no concern,
** for," said he. " whenever I stamp with my foot in anv



POMPEY. 419

part of Italy, there will rise up forces enough In an instant,
both horse and foot."

Caesar, on the other side, was more and more vigorous in
his proceedings, himself always at hand about the frontiers
of Italy, and sending his soldiers continually into the city
to attend all elections with their votes. Besides, he cor-
rupted several of the magistrates, and kept them in his pay ;
among others, Paulus, the consul, who was brought over
by a bribe of one thousand and five hundred talents ; and
Curio, tribune of the people, by a discharge of the debts
with which he was overwhelmed ; together with Mark An-
tony, who, out of friendship to Curio, had become bound
with him in the same obligations for them all. And it was
stated as a fact, that a centurion of Csesar's, waiting at the
senate-house, and hearing that the senate refused to give
him a longer term of his government, clapped his hand
upon his sword, and said, " But this shall give it." And
indeed all his practices and preparations seemed to bear
this appearance. Curio's demands, however, and requests
in favor of Caesar, were more popular in appearance ; for
he desired one of these two things, either that Pompey also
should be called upon to resign his army, or that Caesar's
should not be taken away from him ; for if both of them
became private persons, both would be satisfied with simple
justice ; or if both retained their present power, each being
a match for the other, they would be contented with what
they already had ; but he that weakens one, does at the
same time strengthen the other, and so doubles that
very strength and power which he stood in fear of before.
Mar cell us, the consul, replied nothing to all this, but that
Caesar was a robber, and should be proclaimed an enemy to
the State, if he did not disband his army. However, Curio,
with the assistance of Antony and Piso, prevailed, that the
matter in debate should be put to the question, and decided
by vote in the senate. So that it being ordered upon the
question for those to withdraw, who were of opinion that



420 PLUTARCH'S LIVES.

Caesar only should lay down his army, and Pompey com.
mand, the majority withdrew. But when it was ordered
again for those to withdraw, whose vote was, that both
should lay down their arms, and neither command, there
were but twenty-two for Pompey, all the rest remained on
Curio's side. Whereupon he, as one proud of his conquest,
leaped out in triumph among the people, who received him
with as great tokens of joy, clapping their hands, and crown-
ing him with garlands and flowers. Pompey was not
then present in the senate, because it is not lawful for gen-
erals in command of an army to come into the city. But
Marcellus rising up, said, that he would not sit there hear-
ing speeches, when he saw ten legions already passing the
Alps on their march toward the city, but on his own au-
thority would send some one to oppose them in defence of
the country.

Upon this the city went into mourning, as in a public
calamity, and Marcellus, accompanied by the senate, went
solemnly through the forum to meet Pompey, and made
him this address : " I hereby give you orders, O Pompey,
to defend your country, to employ the troops you now
command, and to levy more." Lentulus, consul elect for
the year following, spoke to the same purpose. Antony,
however, contrary to the will of the senate, having in a
public assembly read a letter of Caesar's, containing various
plausible overtures such as were likely to gain the common
people, proposing, namely, that both Pompey and he, quit-
ting their governments and dismissing their armies, should
submit to the judgment of the people, and give an account
of their actions before them, the consequence was that
when Pompey began to make his levies, he found himself
disappointed in his expectations. Some few, indeed, came
in, but those very unwillingly ; others would not answer
to their names, and the generality cried out for peace.
Lentulus, notwithstanding he was now entered upon his
consulship, would not assemble the senate ; but Cicero,



POMPEY. 421

who was lately returned from Cilicia, labored for a recon.
dilation, proposing that Caesar should leave his province
of Gaul and army, reserving two legions only, together
with the government of Illyricum, and should thus be put
in nomination for a second consulship. Pompey disliking
this motion, Caesar's friends were contented that he should
surrender one of the two ; but Leiitulus still opposing, and
Cato crying out that Pompey did ill to be deceived again,
the reconciliation did not take effect.

In the mean time, news was brought that Ceesar had
occupied Ariminum, a great city in Italy, and was march-
ing directly towards Rome with all his forces. But this
latter was altogether false, for he had no more with him
at that time than three hundred horse and five thousand
foot; and he did not mean to tarry for the body of his
army, which lay beyond the Alps, choosing rather to fall
in on a sudden upon his enemies, while they were in con-
fusion, and did not expect him, than to give them time,
and fight them after they had made preparations. For
when he came to the banks of the Rubicon, a river that
made the bounds of his province, there he made a halt,
pausing a little, and considering, we may suppose, with
himself the greatness of the enterprise which he had un-
dertaken ; then, at last, like men that are throwing them-
selves headlong from some precipice into a vast abyss,
having shut, as it were, his mind's eyes and put away from
his sight the idea of danger, he merely uttered to those
near him in Greek the words, " Anerriphtho kubos ' (let
the die be cast), and let his army through it. No sooner
was the news arrived, but there was an uproar throughout
all the city, and a consternation in the people even to
astonishment, such as never was known in Rome before;
all the senate ran immediately to Pompey, and the magis-
trates followed. And when Tullus made inquiry about his
legions and forces, Pompey seemed to pause a little, and
answered with some hesitation, that he had those two



422 PL UTAECU ' S LIVES.

legions ready that Caesar sent back, and that out of the
men who had been previously enrolled he believed he could
shortly make up a body of thirty thousand men. On which
Tullus crying out aloud, " O Pompey, you have deceived
us," gave his advice to send off a deputation to Csesar,
Favonius, a man of fair character, except that he used to
suppose his own petulance and abusive talking a copy of
Cato's straightforwardness, bade Pompey stamp upon the
ground, and call forth the forces he had promised. But
Pompey bore patiently with this unseasonable raillery ;
and on Cato putting him in mind of what he had foretold
from the very beginning about Caesar, made this answer
only, that Cato indeed had spoken more like a prophet, but
he had acted more like a friend. Cato then advised them
to choose Pompey general with absolute power and author-
ity, saying that the same men who do great evils know
best how to cure them. He himself went his way forth-
with into Sicily, the province that was allotted him, and all
the rest of the senators likewise departed every one to his
respective government.

Thus all Italy in a manner being up in arms, no one
could say what was best to be done. For those that were
without came from all parts flocking into the city ; and
they who were within, seeing the confusion and disorder so
great there, all good things impotent, and disobedience and
insubordination grown too strong to be controlled by the
magistrates, were quitting it as fast as the others came in.
Nay, it was so far from being possible to allay their fear^
that they would not suffer Pompey to iollow out his own



Online LibraryPlutarchPlutarch's Lives (Volume 3) → online text (page 35 of 38)