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with him or see him without a train; but he took most pleasure in
showing himself with a numerous company close around him, and by these
means he threw a dignity and importance about his presence, and
thought that he ought to keep his high rank from contact or
familiarity with the many. For life in the garment of peace is a
hazardous thing towards loss of reputation for those who have gained
distinction in arms and are ill suited for civil equality; for such
men claim the first place in peace also, as in war, while those who
get less honour in war cannot submit to have no advantage in peace at
least. Wherefore when they moot in the Forum with the man who has been
distinguished in camps and triumphs, they humble him and cast him
down; but if a man renounces all pretensions to civil distinction and
withdraws, they maintain his military honours and power untouched by
envy. Facts soon showed this.

XXIV. Now the power of the pirates[232] had its beginning in Cilicia,
and at first its adventure was attended with hazard and sought
concealment, but it gained confidence and daring in the Mithridatic
war by lending itself to aid the king. Then, the Romans being engaged
in the civil wars about the gates of Rome, the sea was left destitute
of all protection, and this by degrees drew them on, and encouraged
them not to confine their attacks to those who navigated the sea, but
to ravage islands and maritime cities. And now men who wore powerful
by wealth and of distinguished birth, and who claimed superior
education, began to embark on board piratical vessels and to share in
their undertakings as if the occupation was attended with a certain
reputation and was an object of ambition. There were also piratical
posts established in many places and fortified beacons, at which
armaments put in, which were fitted out for this peculiar occupation
not only with bold vigorous crews and skilful helmsmen and the speed
and lightness of the ships, but more annoying than their formidable
appearance was their arrogant and pompous equipment, with their golden
streamers[233] and purple sails and silvered oars, as if they rioted
in their evil practices and prided themselves on them. And flutes and
playing on stringed instruments and drinking along the whole coast,
and capture of persons high in office, and ransomings of captured
cities, were a disgrace to the Roman supremacy. Now the piratical
ships had increased to above a thousand, and the cities captured by
them were four hundred. They attacked and plundered the asyla and
sacred places which had hitherto been unapproached, such as those of
Claros,[234] Didyma, Samothrace, the temple of Chthonia in Hermione,
the temple of Æsculapius in Epidaurus, and those of Neptune at the
Isthmus and Tænaros and Kalauria, and those of Apollo at Actium and
Leucas, and that of Juno in Samos, and in Argos, and Lacinium. They
also performed strange rites on Olympus[235] and celebrated certain
mysterious ceremonies, among which were those of Mithras[236] and they
are continued to the present time, having been first introduced by
them. But they did most insult to the Romans, and going up from the
sea they robbed on their roads and plundered the neighbouring villas.
They once seized two prætors Sextilius and Bellinus in their purple
dress, and they carried off with them their attendants and lictors.
They also took the daughter of Antonius, a man who had enjoyed a
triumph, as she was going into the country, and she was ransomed at
great cost. But their most insulting behaviour was in the following
fashion. Whenever a man who was taken called out that he was a Roman
and mentioned his name, they would pretend to be terror-struck and to
be alarmed, and would strike their thighs and fall down at his knees
praying him to pardon them; and their captive would believe all this
to be real, seeing that they were humble and suppliant. Then some
would put Roman shoes on his feet, and others would throw over him a
toga, pretending it was done that there might be no mistake about him
again. When they had for some time mocked the man in this way and had
their fill of amusement, at last they would put a ladder down into the
sea, and bid him step out and go away with their best wishes for a
good journey; and if a man would not go, then they shoved him into the

XXV. The power of the pirates extended over the whole of our sea[237]
at once in a measure, so that it could not be navigated and was closed
against all trade. It was this which mainly induced the Romans, who
were hard pressed for provisions and were expecting great scarcity, to
send out Pompeius to clear the sea of the pirates. Gabinius,[238] one
of the friends of Pompeius, drew up a law which gave Pompeius, not a
naval command, but palpably sole dominion and power over all men
without any responsibility. For the law gave him authority over the
sea within the columns of Hercules and all the main land to the
distance of four hundred stadia from the sea. There were not many
places within the Roman dominions which lay beyond those limits, but
the chief nations and the most powerful of the kings were comprised
within them. Besides this, Pompeius was empowered to choose fifteen
legati from the Senate who should command in particular parts, to take
from the treasuries and from the Publicani as much money as he
pleased, and two hundred ships, with full authority as to the number
and levying of the armed force and of the rowers for the vessels. When
these provisions of the law were read, the people received them with
exceeding great satisfaction, but the chief of the Senate and the most
powerful citizens considered that this unlimited and indefinite power
was indeed too great to be an object of envy, but was a matter for
alarm. Accordingly with the exception of Cæsar they opposed the law;
but Cæsar spoke in favour of it, though indeed he cared very little
for Pompeius, but from the beginning it was his plan to insinuate
himself into the popular favour and to gain over the people. But the
rest vehemently assailed Pompeius. One of the consuls who had observed
to him that if he emulated Romulus he would not escape the end of
Romulus, was near being killed by the people. When Catulus came
forward to speak against the law, the people out of respect were
silent for some time; but after he had spoken at length with
honourable mention of Pompeius and without any invidious remark, and
then advised the people to spare him and not to expose such a man to
repeated dangers and wars, "What other man," he continued, "will you
have, if you lose him?" when with one accord all the people replied,
"Yourself." Now as Catulus could produce no effect, he retired from
the Rostra; when Roscius[239] came forward, nobody listened, but he
made signs with his fingers that they should not appoint Pompeius to
the sole command, but should give him a colleague. At this it is said
that the people being irritated sent forth such a shout, that a
crow[240] which was flying over the Forum was stunned and fell down
into the crowd. Whence it appears, that birds which fall, do not
tumble into a great vacuum in the air caused by its rending and
separation, but that they are struck by the blow of the voice, which,
when it is carried along with great mass and strength, causes an
agitation and a wave in the air.

XXVI. Now for the time the assembly was dissolved. But on the day on
which they were going to put the law to the vote, Pompeius privately
retired to the country, but on hearing that the law had passed, he
entered the city by night, considering that he should make himself an
object of jealousy if the people met him and crowded about him. At
daybreak he came into public and sacrificed; and an assembly being
summoned he contrived to get many other things in addition to what had
been voted, and nearly doubled his armament. For he manned five
hundred ships, and one hundred and twenty thousand heavy-armed
soldiers and five thousand horse were raised. He chose out of the
senate twenty-four men who had held command and served the office of
prætor; and there were two quæstors. As the prices of provisions
immediately fell, it gave the people, who were well pleased to have
it, opportunity to say that the very name of Pompeius had put an end
to the war. However, by dividing the waters and the whole space of the
internal sea into thirteen parts and appointing a certain number of
ships and a commander for each, with his force, which was thus
dispersed in all directions, he surrounded the piratical vessels that
fell in his way in a body, and forthwith hunted them down and brought
them into port; but those who separated from one another before they
were taken and effected their escape, crowded from all parts and made
their way to Cilicia as to a hive; and against them Pompeius himself
went with sixty of the best ships. But he did not sail against them
till he had completely cleared of the piratical vessels the Tyrrhenian
sea, the Libyan, and the seas around Sardinia, and Corsica, and
Sicily, in forty days in all, by his own unwearied exertions and the
active co-operation of his commanders.

XXVII. In Rome the consul Piso, through passion and envy, was damaging
the preparations for the war, and disbanding the seamen who were to
man the ships, but Pompeius sent round his navy to Brundisium and
himself advanced through Tyrrhenia to Rome. On hearing this all the
people poured forth out of the city upon the road, just as if they had
not only a few days before conducted him out of the city. And the
rejoicing was caused by the speediness of the change, which was
contrary to expectation, for the Forum had a superabundance of
provisions. The consequence was that Piso ran the risk of being
deprived of the consulship, for Gabinius had already a law drawn up.
But Pompeius prevented this, and having managed everything else with
moderation and got what he wanted, he went down to Brundisium and set
sail. But though he was pressed by the urgency of the business and
sailed past the cities in his haste, still he did not pass by Athens
but he went up to it. After sacrifices to the gods and addressing the
people, just as he was quitting the place he read two inscriptions,
each of a single verse, addressed to him, the one within the gate,

"As thou own'st thyself a mortal, so thou art in truth a God."

and that on the outside:

"Expected, welcomed, seen, we now conduct thee forth."

Now as he treated mercifully some of the piratical crews which still
held together and were cruising about the seas upon their preferring
entreaties to him, and after receiving a surrender of their vessels
and persons did them no harm, the rest entertaining good hopes
attempted to get out of the way of the other officers, and coming to
Pompeius they put themselves into his hands with their children and
wives. But he spared all, and it was chiefly through their assistance
that he tracked out and caught[241] those who still lurked in
concealment, as being conscious that they had committed unpardonable

XXVIII. The greater part and the most powerful of the pirates had
deposited their families and wealth, and their useless people, in
garrisons and strong forts among the heights of the Taurus; but
manning their ships the pirates themselves awaited the approach of
Pompeius near Coracesium[242] in Cilicia, and a battle was fought in
which they were defeated and afterwards blockaded. At last sending a
suppliant message they surrendered themselves and their cities and the
islands of which they had possession and in which they had built forts
that were difficult to force and hard to approach. Accordingly the war
was ended, and all the pirates were driven from the sea in no more
than three months. Pompeius received by surrender many ships, and
among them ninety with brazen beaks. The pirates, who amounted to more
than twenty thousand, he never thought of putting to death, but he
considered that it would not be prudent to let them go and to allow
them to be dispersed or to unite again, being poor, and warlike and
many in number. Reflecting then that by nature man neither is made nor
is a wild animal nor unsocial, and that he changes his character by
the practice of vice which is contrary to his nature, but that he is
tamed by habits and change of place and life, and that wild beasts by
being accustomed to a gentler mode of living put off their wildness
and savageness, he determined to transfer the men to the land from the
sea and to let them taste a quiet life by being accustomed to live in
cities and to cultivate the ground. The small and somewhat depopulated
cities of Cilicia received some of the pirates whom they associated
with themselves, and the cities received some additional tracts of
land; and the city of Soli,[243] which had lately been deprived of its
inhabitants by Tigranes[244] the Armenian king, he restored and
settled many of them in it. To the greater part he gave as their
residence Dyme[245] in Achæa, which was then without inhabitants and
had much good land.

XXIX. Now those who envied Pompeius found fault with these measures;
but as to his conduct towards Metellus[246] in Crete, even his best
friends were not pleased with it. Metellus, who was a kinsman of the
Metellus who had the command in Iberia jointly with Pompeius, was sent
as commander to Crete before Pompeius was chosen. For Crete was a kind
of second source of pirates and next to Cilicia; and Metellus having
caught many of them in the island took them prisoners and put them to
death. Those who still survived and were blockaded, sent a suppliant
message and invited Pompeius to the island, as being a part of his
government and falling entirely within the limits reckoned from the
coast. Pompeius accepted the invitation and wrote to Metellus to
forbid him continuing the war. He also wrote to the cities not to pay
any attention to Metellus, and he sent as commander one of his own
officers, Lucius Octavius, who entering into the forts of the besieged
pirates and fighting on their side made Pompeius not only odious and
intolerable, but ridiculous also, inasmuch as he lent his name to
accursed and godless men and threw around them his reputation as a
kind of amulet, through envy and jealousy of Metellus. Neither did
Achilles,[247] it was argued, act like a man, but like a youth all
full of violence and passionately pursuing glory, when he made a sign
to the rest of the Greeks and would not let them strike Hector,

"For fear another gave the blow and won
The fame, and he should second only come;"

but Pompeius even protected and fought in behalf of the common enemy,
that he might deprive of a triumph a general who had endured so much
toil. Metellus however did not give in, but he took and punished the
pirates, and after insulting and abusing Octavius in his camp he let
him go.

XXX. When news reached Rome that the Pirates' war was at an end and
that Pompeius being now at leisure was visiting the cities,
Manlius,[248] one of the tribunes, proposed a law, that Pompeius
should take all the country and force which Lucullus commanded, with
the addition of Bithynia, which Glabrio[249] had, and should carry on
the war against the kings Mithridates and Tigranes, with both the
naval force and the dominion of the sea on the terms on which he
received it originally. This was in short for the Roman dominion to be
placed at the disposal of one man. For the provinces which alone he
could not touch under the former law, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Galatia,
Cappadocia, Cilicia, the upper Colchis, Armenia, these he now had
together with the armies and resources with which Lucullus defeated
Mithridates and Tigranes. But though Lucullus was thus deprived of the
glory of his achievements and was receiving a successor in a triumph
rather than in a war, the aristocratical party thought less of this,
though they considered that the man was treated unjustly and
ungratefully, but they were much dissatisfied with the power of
Pompeius which they viewed as the setting up of a tyranny, and they
severally exhorted and encouraged one another to oppose the law and
not to give up their freedom. But when the time came, the rest kept
back through fear of the people and were silent, except Catulus, who
after finding much fault with the law and the tribune, yet without
persuading any one, urged the Senate from the Rostra, repeating it
many times, to seek for a mountain,[250] like their ancestors, and a
rock, to which they might fly for refuge and preserve their liberty.
Accordingly the law was ratified, as they say, by all the tribes[251]
and Pompeius in his absence was put in possession of nearly
everything which Sulla got after he had made himself master of the
city by arms and war. On receiving the letters and reading the decrees
in the presence of his friends who were congratulating him, Pompeius
is said to have contracted his eyebrows and to have struck his thigh,
and to have spoken like a man who was already tired and averse to
command, "Oh, the endless toils, how much better it were to have been
one unknown to fame, if there shall never be an end to my military
service and I shall never elude this envy and live quietly in the
country with my wife."[252] On hearing these expressions not even his
intimate friends could endure his hypocritical pretences, as they knew
that he was the more delighted, inasmuch as his difference with
Lucullus gave additional fire to his innate ambition and love of

XXXI. And in truth his acts soon discovered his real temper: for he
issued counter-edicts in all directions by which he required the
presence of the soldiers and summoned to him the subject rulers and
kings. And as he traversed the country, he let nothing that Lucullus
had done remain undisturbed, but he both remitted the punishments of
many, and took away what had been given, and in short he left nothing
undone in his eagerness to prove to the admirers of Lucullus[253] that
he was entirely without power. Lucullus through his friends complained
to Pompeius, and it was agreed that they should have a meeting. They
met in Galatia: and as they were most distinguished generals and had
won the greatest victories, their lictors met with the fasces wreathed
with bay; but Lucullus advanced from green and shady parts, and
Pompeius happened to have crossed an extensive tract without trees and
parched. Accordingly the lictors of Lucullus seeing that the bays of
Pompeius were faded and completely withered, gave them some of their
own which were fresh, and so decorated and wreathed the fasces of
Pompeius with them. This was considered a sign that Pompeius was
coming to carry off the prizes of victory and the glory that was due
to Lucullus. As to the order of his consulship and in age also
Lucullus had the priority, but the reputation of Pompeius was more
exalted on account of his two triumphs. However they managed their
first interview with as much civility and friendliness as they could,
magnifying the exploits of each other, and congratulating one another
on their victories: in their conferences however they came to no
reasonable or fair settlement, but even fell to mutual abuse, Pompeius
charging Lucullus with avarice, and Lucullus charging Pompeius with
love of power; and they were with difficulty separated by their
friends. Lucullus being in Galatia assigned portions of the captured
land and gave other presents to whom he chose; while Pompeius, who was
encamped at a short distance, prevented any attention being paid to
the orders of Lucullus, and took from him all his soldiers except
sixteen hundred, whose mutinous disposition he thought would make them
useless to himself, but hostile to Lucullus. Besides this, Pompeius
disparaged the exploits of Lucullus and openly said that Lucullus had
warred against tragedies and mere shadows of kings, while to himself
was reserved the contest against a genuine power and one that had
grown wiser by losses, for Mithridates was now having recourse to
shields, and swords and horses. Lucullus retorting said, that Pompeius
was going to fight with a phantom and a shadow of war, being
accustomed, like a lazy bird, to descend upon the bodies that others
had slaughtered and to tear the remnants of wars; for so had he
appropriated to himself the victories over Sertorius, Lepidus and
Spartacus, though Crassus, Metellus and Catulus had respectively
gained these victories: it was no wonder then, if Pompeius was
surreptitiously trying to get the credit of the Armenian and Pontic
wars, he who had in some way or other contrived to intrude himself
into a triumph over runaway slaves.

XXXII. Lucullus[254] now retired, and Pompeius after distributing his
whole naval force over the sea between Phœnicia and the Bosporus to
keep guard, himself marched against Mithridates, who had thirty
thousand foot soldiers of the phalanx and two thousand horsemen, but
did not venture to fight. First of all, Mithridates left a strong
mountain which was difficult to assault, whereon he happened to be
encamped, because he supposed there was no water there; but Pompeius,
after occupying the same mountain, conjectured from the nature of the
vegetation upon it and the hollows formed by the slopes of the ground
that the place contained springs, and he ordered wells to be dug in
all parts: and immediately the whole army had abundance of water, so
that it was a matter of surprise that Mithridates had all along been
ignorant of this. Pompeius then surrounded Mithridates with his troops
and hemmed him in with his lines. After being blockaded forty-five
days Mithridates succeeded in stealing away with the strongest part of
his army, after having first massacred those who were unfit for
service and were sick. Next, Pompeius overtook him on the Euphrates
and pitched his camp near him; and fearing lest Mithridates should
frustrate his design by crossing the river, he led his army against
him in battle order at midnight, at which very hour it is said that
Mithridates had a vision in his sleep which forewarned him of what was
going to happen. He dreamed that he was sailing on the Pontic sea with
a fair wind, and was already in sight of the Bosporus, and
congratulating his fellow voyagers, as a man naturally would do in his
joy at a manifest and sure deliverance; but all at once he saw himself
abandoned by everybody and drifting about upon a small piece of wreck.
While he was suffering under this anguish and these visions, his
friends came to his bed-side and roused him with the news that
Pompeius was attacking them. The enemy accordingly must of necessity
fight in defence of their camp, and the generals leading their forces
out put them in order of battle. Pompeius, seeing the preparations to
oppose him, hesitated about running any risk in the dark, and thought
that he ought only to surround the enemy, to prevent their escape, and
attack them when it was daylight, inasmuch as their numbers were
greater. But the oldest centurions by their entreaties and
exhortations urged him on; for it was not quite dark, but the moon
which was descending in the horizon still allowed them to see objects
clear enough. And it was this which most damaged the king's troops.
For the Romans advanced with the moon on their backs, and as the light
was much depressed towards the horizon, the shadows were projected a
long way in front of the soldiers and fell upon the enemy, by reason
of which they could not accurately estimate the distance between them
and the Romans, but supposing that they were already at close quarters
they threw their javelins without effect and struck nobody. The Romans
perceiving this rushed upon the enemy with shouts, and as they did not
venture to stand their ground, but were terror-struck and took to
flight, the Romans slaughtered them to the number of much more than
ten thousand, and took their camp. Mithridates at the commencement
with eight hundred horsemen cut his way through the Romans, but the
rest were soon dispersed and he was left alone with three persons, one
of whom was his concubine Hypsikratia,[255] who on all occasions
showed the spirit of a man and desperate courage; and accordingly the
king used to call her Hypsikrates. On this occasion, armed like a
Persian and mounted on horseback, she was neither exhausted by the
long journeys nor ever wearied of attending to the King's person and
his horse, till they came to a place called Inora,[256] which was
filled with the King's property and valuables. Here Mithridates took
costly garments and distributed among those who had flocked to him

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 21 of 55)