46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 19 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 19 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

[Footnote 183: The most aristocratic city in Bœotia, now allied with
the Spartans. During the Theban supremacy it was utterly destroyed.]

[Footnote 184: That is, the aristocratic or pro-Laconian party, who
had been driven out by the other side.]

[Footnote 185: To Medise was a phrase originally used during the great
Persian invasion of Greece under Xerxes, B.C. 480, when those Greek
cities who sided with the Persians, were said to Medise, that is, to
take the side of the Medes. See Life of Artaxerxes, vol. iv. ch. 22,
and Grote's 'History of Greece,' part ii. ch. lxxvi.]

[Footnote 186: See _ante_, ch. xiii., _note_.]

[Footnote 187: This name is spelt Leontiades by most writers.]

[Footnote 188: I extract the following note from Grote's 'History of
Greece.' "Plutarch gives this interchange of brief questions, between
Agesilaus and Epameinondas, which is in substance the same as that
given by Pausanias, and has every appearance of being true. But he
introduces it in a very bold and abrupt way, such as cannot be
conformable to the reality. To raise a question about the right of
Sparta to govern Laconia was a most daring novelty. A courageous and
patriotic Theban might venture upon it as a retort against those
Spartans who questioned the right of Thebes to her presidency of
Bœotia; but he would never do so without assigning his reasons to
justify an assertion so startling to a large portion of his hearers.
The reasons which I here ascribe to Epameinondas are such as we know
to have formed the Theban creed, in reference to the Bœotian cities;
such as were actually urged by the Theban orator in 427 B.C., when the
fate of the Platæan captives was under discussion. After Epameinondas
had once laid out the reasons in support of his assertion, he might
then, if the same brief question were angrily put to him a second
time, meet it with another equally brief counter-question or retort.
It is this final interchange of thrusts which Plutarch has given,
omitting the arguments previously stated by Epameinondas, and
necessary to warrant the seeming paradox which he advances. We must
recollect that Epameinondas does not contend that Thebes was entitled
to _as much power_ in Bœotia as Sparta in Laconia. He only contends
that Bœotia, under the presidency of Thebes, was as much an integral
political aggregate, as Laconia under Sparta - in reference to the
Grecian world." - Grote's 'History of Greece,' part ii. ch. lxvii.]


I. Towards Pompeius the Roman people seem to have been disposed from
the very first, just as the Prometheus of Aeschylus[189] was towards
his deliverer Hercules, when he says: -

"Though hateful is the sire, most dear to me the son."

For neither did the Romans ever display hatred so violent and savage
towards any commander as towards Strabo[190] the father of Pompeius,
whom they dreaded, when he was alive, for his military talent, for he
was a man most expert in arms; and when he was killed by lightning and
his body was carried out to interment they pulled it from the bier on
which it was lying and treated it with indignity: nor, on the other
hand, did any other Roman besides Pompeius ever receive from the
people tokens of affection so strong, or so early, or which grew so
rapidly with his good fortune, or abided with him so firmly in his
reverses. The cause of their hatred to the father was his insatiable
avarice: the causes of their affection to the son were many; his
temperate life, his practice in arms, the persuasiveness of his
speech, the integrity of his character, and his affability to every
man who came in his way, so that there was no man from whom another
could ask a favour with so little pain, and no man whose requests
another would more willingly labour to satisfy. For in addition to his
other endearing qualities, Pompeius could give without seeming to
confer a favour, and he could receive with dignity.

II. At the beginning also his countenance contributed in no small
degree to win the good-will of the people and to secure a favourable
reception before he opened his mouth. For the sweetness of his
expression was mingled with dignity and kindness, and while he was yet
in the very bloom of youth his noble and kingly nature clearly showed
itself. There was also a slight falling back of the hair and softness
in the expression of his eyes, which produced a resemblance to the
likenesses of Alexander, though indeed the resemblance was more talked
of than real. Accordingly many at first gave him the name, which
Pompeius did not object to, whence some in derision called him
Alexander. It was in allusion to this that Lucius Philippus,[191] a
consular man, when he was speaking in favour of Pompeius, said it was
nothing strange if he who was Philippus loved Alexander. They used to
report that Flora the courtesan, when she was now advanced in years,
always spoke with pleasure of her intimacy with Pompeius, and said
that she could never leave the embrace of Pompeius without bearing
marks[192] of the ardour of his passion. Besides this, Flora used to
tell that Geminius, one of the companions of Pompeius, conceived a
passion for her, and plagued her much with his solicitations, and when
she said that for the sake of Pompeius she could not consent, Geminius
applied to Pompeius. Now Pompeius, as she told the story, gave
Geminius permission, but he never after touched Flora or had a meeting
with her, though it was believed that he was attached to her; and
Flora did not take this as most courtesans do, but was ill for a long
time through grief and regret for the loss of her lover. And indeed it
is said that Flora enjoyed such reputation and was so much talked of,
that Cæcilius Metellus, when he was ornamenting the temple of the
Dioscuri with statues and paintings, had the portrait of Flora painted
and placed in the temple on account of her beauty. The wife of his
freedman Demetrius also, who had the greatest influence with Pompeius
and left a property of four thousand talents, contrary to his habit he
did not treat kindly nor in a manner befitting her free condition: but
it was through fear of her beauty, which was irresistible and much
talked about, and that he might not appear to be captivated by her.
Though he was so exceedingly cautious in such matters and so much on
his guard, yet he did not escape the imputations of his enemies on the
ground of amours, but he was slanderously accused of commerce with
married women and of betraying many of the public interests to gratify
them. Of his temperance and simplicity in his way of living the
following anecdote is told. On one occasion when he was ill and
indisposed to his ordinary food, the physician prescribed a thrush for
him. After search had been made and none found, for the season was
past, some one observed that one might be found at the house of
Lucullus, for he kept them all the year round: "Well then," said
Pompeius, "I suppose if Lucullus were not luxurious, Pompeius could
not live;" and without regarding the physician's advice he took
something that was ready at hand. This, however, belongs to a later

III. When he was still quite a youth and was serving under his father,
who was opposed to Cinna, he had one Lucius Terentius[193] for his
companion and tent-mate. This Lucius being bribed by Cinna, designed
to kill Pompeius, and others were to fire the general's tent.
Information of this came to Pompeius while he was at supper, at which,
nothing disturbed, he went on drinking more gaily, and showing great
signs of affection towards Terentius; but when they were turning in to
rest he slipped unobserved from under the tent, and after placing a
guard about his father, kept quiet. When Terentius thought the time
was come, drawing his sword he got up, and approaching the bed of
Pompeius, he struck many blows upon the bed-covering, supposing that
Pompeius was lying there. Upon this there was a great commotion owing
to the soldiers' hatred of their general, and there was a movement
made towards mutiny by the men beginning to pull down the tents and
take their arms. The general, fearing the tumult, did not come near;
but Pompeius, going about in the midst of the soldiers, implored them
with tears in his eyes, and finally throwing himself on his face
before the gate of the camp right in their way, he lay there weeping,
and told those who were going out to trample on him, so that every man
drew back for very shame, and thus the whole army, with the exception
of eight hundred men, changed their design and were reconciled to
their commander.

IV. Upon the death of Strabo, Pompeius had to defend a prosecution in
respect of a charge of peculation against his father. He detected one
of his freedmen in having appropriated most of the property, and
proved it to the magistrates; but he was himself accused of having in
his possession hunting nets and books which were taken among the
plunder at Asculum.[194] He received these things from his father when
he took Asculum, but he lost them after his return to Rome, when the
guards of Cinna broke into his house and plundered it. He had many
preliminary contests with the accuser before the trial commenced, in
which, by showing himself to possess an acuteness and firmness above
his years, he got great reputation and popularity, so that
Antistius,[195] who was prætor and presided at that trial, conceived a
great affection for Pompeius, and offered him his daughter to wife,
and spoke about it to his friends. Pompeius accepted the proposal, and
an agreement was secretly made between them; but yet the matter did
not fail to be generally known by reason of the partizanship of
Antistius. When at last Antistius declared the votes of the judices to
be for his acquittal, the people, as if a signal had been concerted,
called out the name Talasius,[196] which, pursuant to an old custom,
they are used to utter on the occasion of a marriage. This ancient
custom, they say, had the following origin: When the daughters of the
Sabines had come to Rome to see the games, and the noblest among the
Romans were carrying them off to be their wives, some goatherds and
herdsmen of mean condition took upon their shoulders a tall handsome
maid and were carrying her off. In order, however, that none of the
better sort who might fall in with them should attempt to take the
maid from them, they called out as they ran along that she was for
Talasius (now Talasius was a man of rank and much beloved), so that
those who heard the cry clapped their hands and shouted as being
pleased at what the men were doing and commending them for it. From
this time forth, as the story goes, inasmuch as the marriage of
Talasius turned out to be a happy one, it is usual to utter the same
expression by way of merriment at the occasion of a marriage. This is
the most probable story among those which are told about the name
Talasius. However, a few days after the trial Pompeius married

V. Having gone to Cinna[197] to the camp, Pompeius became alarmed in
consequence of some charge and false accusation, and he quickly stole
out of the way. On his disappearing, a rumour went through the camp
and a report that Cinna had murdered the young man, whereupon the
soldiers, who had long been weary of him and hated their general, made
an assault upon him. Cinna attempted to escape, but he was overtaken
by a centurion, who pursued him with his naked sword. Cinna fell down
at the knees of the centurion, and offered him his seal ring, which
was of great price; but the centurion with great contempt replied: "I
am not going to seal a contract, but to punish an abominable and
unjust tyrant," and so killed him. Cinna thus perished, but he was
succeeded in the direction of affairs by Carbo, a still more furious
tyrant than himself, who kept the power in his hands till Sulla
advanced against him, to the great joy of the most part, who in their
present sufferings thought even a change of masters no small profit.
To such a condition had calamities brought the state, that men
despairing of freedom sought a more moderate slavery.

VI. Now about this time Pompeius was tarrying in Picenum in Italy, for
he had estates[198] there, but mainly because he liked the cities,
which were well disposed and friendly towards him by reason of their
ancient connection with his father. Seeing that the most distinguished
and chief of the citizens were leaving their property and flocking
from all sides to Sulla's camp as to a harbour of refuge, Pompeius did
not think it becoming in him to steal away to Sulla like a fugitive,
nor without bringing some contribution, nor yet as if he wanted help,
but he thought that he should begin by doing Sulla some service and so
approach with credit and a force. Accordingly he attempted to rouse
the people of Picenum, who readily listened to his proposals, and paid
no attention to those who came from Carbo. A certain Vindius having
remarked that Pompeius had just quitted school to start up among them
as a popular leader, the people were so infuriated that they
forthwith fell on Vindius and killed him. Upon this Pompeius, who was
now three and twenty years of age, without being appointed general by
any one, but himself assuming the command in Auximum,[199] a large
city, placing a tribunal in the forum and by edict ordering two
brothers Ventidii who were among the chief persons in the place and
were opposing him on behalf of Carbo, to quit the city, began to
enlist soldiers, and to appoint centurions and officers over them, and
he went to all the surrounding cities and did the same. All who were
of Carbo's party got up and quitted the cities, but the rest gladly
put themselves in the hands of Pompeius, who thus in a short time
raised three complete legions, and having supplied himself with
provisions and beasts of burden and waggons and everything else that
an army requires, advanced towards Sulla, neither hurrying nor yet
content with passing along unobserved, but lingering by the way to
harass the enemy, and endeavouring to detach from Carbo every part of
Italy that he visited.

VII. Now there rose up against him three hostile generals at once,
Carinna,[200] and Clœlius and Brutus, not all in front, nor yet all
from the same quarter, but they surrounded him with three armies, with
the view of completely destroying him. Pompeius was not alarmed, but
getting all his force together he attacked one of the armies, that of
Brutus, placing in the front his cavalry, among whom he himself was.
From the side of the enemy the Celtæ rode out to meet him, when
Pompeius with spear in hand struck the first and strongest of them and
brought him down; on which the rest fled and put the infantry also
into confusion, so that there was a general rout. Hereupon the
generals quarrelled among themselves and retired, as each best could,
and the cities took the part of Pompeius, seeing that the enemy had
dispersed in alarm. Next came Scipio[201] the consul against him, but
before the lines had come close enough to discharge their javelins,
the soldiers of Scipio saluted those of Pompeius and changed sides,
and Scipio made his escape. Finally, near the river Arsis,[202] Carbo
himself attacked Pompeius with several troops of horse, but Pompeius
bravely stood the attack, and putting them to flight pursued and drove
all of them upon difficult ground where no cavalry could act; and the
men, seeing that there was no hope of saving themselves, surrendered
with their arms and horses.

VIII. Sulla had not yet received intelligence of these events, but
upon the first news and reports about Pompeius, being alarmed at his
being among so many hostile generals of such reputation, he made haste
to relieve him. Pompeius being informed that Sulla was near, ordered
his officers to arm the forces and to display them in such manner that
they might make the most gallant and splendid appearance to the
Imperator, for he expected to receive great honours from him; and he
got more than he expected. For when Sulla saw him approaching and his
army standing by, admirable for the brave appearance of the men and
elated and rejoicing in their success, he leapt down from his horse,
and being addressed, according to custom, by the title of Imperator,
he addressed Pompeius in return by the title of Imperator, though
nobody would have expected that Sulla would give to a young man who
was not yet a member of the Senate, the title for which he was
fighting against the Scipios and the Marii. And indeed everything else
was in accordance with the first greeting, for Sulla used to rise from
his seat as Pompeius approached and take his vest from his head, which
he was not observed to do generally to any other person, though there
were many distinguished men about him. Pompeius, however, was not made
vain by these marks of distinction, but on being immediately sent into
Gaul by Sulla, where Metellus[203] commanded and appeared to be doing
nothing correspondent to his means, Pompeius said it was not right to
take the command from a man who was his senior and superior in
reputation; however he said he was ready to carry on the war in
conjunction with Metellus, if he had no objection, in obedience to his
orders and to give him his assistance. Metellus accepted the proposal
and wrote to him to come, on which Pompeius entering Gaul, performed
noble exploits, and he also fanned into a flame again and warmed the
warlike and courageous temper of Metellus, which was now near becoming
extinct through old age, as the liquid, heated stream of copper by
flowing about the hard, cold metal is said to soften and to liquefy it
into its own mass better than the fire. But as in the case of an
athlete[204] who has obtained the first place among men and has
gloriously vanquished in every contest, his boyish victories are made
of no account and are not registered; so the deeds which Pompeius then
accomplished, though of themselves extraordinary, yet as they were
buried under the number and magnitude of his subsequent struggles and
wars, I have been afraid to disturb them, lest if we should dwell too
long on his first exploits, we should miss the acts and events which
are the most important and best show the character of the man.

IX.[205] Now when Sulla was master of Italy and was proclaimed
Dictator, he rewarded the other officers and generals by making them
rich and promoting them to magistracies and by granting them without
stint and with readiness what they asked for. But as he admired
Pompeius for his superior merit and thought that he would be a great
support to his own interests, he was anxious in some way to attach him
by family relations. Metella, the wife of Sulla, had also the same
wish, and they persuaded Pompeius to put away Antistia and to take to
wife Aemilia, the step-daughter of Sulla, the child of Metella by
Scaurus, who was then living with her husband and was pregnant. This
matter of the marriage was of a tyrannical character, and more suited
to the interests of Sulla than conformable to the character of
Pompeius, for Aemilia, who was pregnant, was taken from another to be
married to him, and Antistia was put away with dishonour and under
lamentable circumstances, inasmuch as she had just lost her father
also, and that, too, on her husband's account; for Antistius was
murdered in the Senate-house because he was considered to be an
adherent of Sulla for the sake of Pompeius; and the mother of Antistia
having witnessed all this put an end to her life, so that this
misfortune was added to the tragedy of the marriage; and in sooth
another besides, for Aemilia herself died immediately afterwards in
child-birth in the house of Pompeius.

X. After this, news arrived that Perpenna[206] was securing Sicily for
himself, and that the island was supplying to those who remained of
the opposite faction a point for concentrating their forces; for
Carbo[207] was afloat in those parts with a navy, and Domitius had
fallen upon Libya, and many other fugitives of note were crowding
there, who had escaped from the proscriptions. Against these Pompeius
was sent with a large force: and Perpenna immediately evacuated Sicily
upon his arrival. Pompeius relieved the cities which had been harshly
treated, and behaved kindly to them all except to the Mamertini in
Messene. For when the Mamertini protested against the tribunal and the
Roman administration of justice, on the ground that there was an old
Roman enactment which forbade their introduction, "Won't you stop,"
said he, "citing laws to us who have our swords by our sides?" It was
considered also that Pompeius triumphed over the misfortunes of Carbo
in an inhuman manner. For if it was necessary to put Carbo to death,
as perhaps it was, he ought to have been put to death as soon as he
was taken, and then the act might have been imputed to him who gave
the order. But Pompeius produced in chains a Roman who had three times
been Consul, and making him stand in front of the tribunal while he
was sitting, sat in judgment on him, to the annoyance and vexation of
those who were present; after which he ordered him to be removed and
put to death. They say that when Carbo had been dragged off, seeing
the sword already bared, he begged them to allow him to retire for a
short time as his bowels were disordered. Caius Oppius,[208] the
friend of Cæsar, says that Pompeius behaved inhumanly to Quintus
Valerius also; for Pompeius, who knew that Valerius was a learned man
and a particular lover of learning, embraced him, and after walking
about with him and questioning him about what he wanted to know, and
getting his answer, he ordered his attendants to take Valerius away
and immediately put him to death. But when Oppius is speaking of the
enemies or friends of Cæsar, it is necessary to be very cautious in
believing what he says. Now as to those enemies of Sulla who were of
the greatest note and were openly taken, Pompeius of necessity
punished them; but as to the rest he allowed as many as he could to
escape detection, and he even aided some in getting away. Pompeius had
determined to punish the inhabitants of Himera which had sided with
the enemy; but Sthenis the popular leader having asked for a
conference with him, told Pompeius that he would not do right, if he
let the guilty escape and punished the innocent. On Pompeius asking
who the guilty man was, Sthenis replied, it was himself, for he had
persuaded those citizens who were his friends, and forced those who
were his enemies. Pompeius admiring the bold speech and spirit of the
man pardoned him first and then all the rest. Hearing that his
soldiers were committing excesses on the march, he put a seal on their
swords, and he who broke the seal was punished.

XI. While he was thus engaged in Sicily and settling the civil
administration, he received a decree of the Senate and letters from
Sulla which contained an order for him to sail to Libya and vigorously
oppose Domitius,[209] who had got together a power much larger than
that with which Marius no long time back had passed over from Libya to
Italy and put all affairs at Rome in confusion by making himself a
tyrant after having been a fugitive. Accordingly making his
preparations with all haste Pompeius left in command in Sicily
Memmius,[210] his sister's husband, and himself set sail with a
hundred and twenty large ships, and eight hundred transports which
conveyed corn, missiles, money, and engines. On his landing with part
of his vessels at Utica and the rest at Carthage, seven thousand men
deserted from the enemy and came over to him; he had himself six
complete legions. It is said that a ludicrous thing occurred here.
Some soldiers having fallen in with a treasure, as it seems, got a
large sum of money. The matter becoming known, all the rest of the
soldiers got a notion that the place was full of money, which they
supposed to have been hid during the misfortunes of the Carthaginians.
The consequence was that Pompeius could do nothing with the soldiers
for many days while they were busy with looking after treasure, but he
went about laughing and looking on so many thousands all at one time
digging and turning up the ground, till at last the men were tired and
told their commander to lead them were he pleased, as they had been
punished enough for their folly.

XII. Domitius had posted himself to oppose Pompeius, with a ravine in
his front which was difficult to pass and rough; but a violent rain
accompanied with wind commenced in the morning and continued, so that
Domitius giving up his intention of fighting on that day ordered a

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 19 of 55)