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himself no less disagreeable by his scoffing manner than others by the
unseasonable freedom of their language, calling out, "Men, we shall
not eat figs in Tusculum[364] even this year!" Lucius Afranius who had
lost his forces in Iberia and on that account had fallen under the
imputation of treachery, now seeing that Pompeius avoided a battle,
said he was surprised that those who accused him did not advance and
fight against the trafficker in provinces. By these and like
expressions often repeated they at last prevailed over Pompeius, a man
who was a slave to public fame and the opinion of his friends, and
drew him on to follow their own hopes and impetuosity and to give up
the best considered plans, a thing which would have been unbefitting
even in the master of a vessel, to say nothing of the
commander-in-chief of so many nations and forces. Pompeius approved of
the physician who never gratifies the desires of his patients, and yet
he yielded to military advisers who were in a diseased state, through
fear of offending if he adopted healing measures. And how can one say
those men were in a healthy state, some of whom were going about among
the troops and already canvassing for consulships and prætorships, and
Spinther and Domitius[365] and Scipio were disputing and quarrelling
about the priesthood of Cæsar and canvassing, just as if Tigranes the
Armenian were encamped by them or the King of the Nabathæans, and not
that Cæsar and that force with which he had taken a thousand cities by
storm, and subdued above three hundred nations, and had fought with
Germans and Gauls unvanquished in more battles than could be counted,
and had taken a hundred times ten thousand prisoners, and had
slaughtered as many after routing them in pitched battles.

LXVIII. However, by importunity and agitation, after the army had
descended into the plain of Pharsalus,[366] they compelled Pompeius to
hold a council of war, in which Labienus, who was commander of the
cavalry, got up first, and swore that he would not leave the battle
till he had routed the enemy; and they all swore to the same effect.
In the night Pompeius dreamed that as he was entering the theatre, the
people clapped, and that he was decorating a temple of Venus the
Victorious[367] with many spoils. And in some respects he was
encouraged, but in others rather depressed by the dream, lest fame and
glory should accrue from him to the race of Cæsar, which traced its
descent from Venus; and certain panic alarms which were rushing
through the camp aroused him. In the morning-watch a bright light[368]
shone forth above the camp of Cæsar, which was in a state of profound
tranquillity, and a flame-like torch springing from this light
descended upon the camp of Pompeius; and Cæsar himself says that he
witnessed this as he was visiting the watches. At daybreak, as Cæsar
was going to move to Scotussa,[369] and the soldiers were engaged in
taking down the tents and sending forward the beasts and
camp-followers, the scouts came with intelligence that they spied many
arms in the enemy's encampment moving backwards and forwards, and that
there was a movement and noise as of men coming out to battle. After
them others came announcing that the vanguard was already putting
itself in battle order. Upon this, Cæsar observing that the expected
day had arrived on which they would have to fight against men, and not
against hunger and poverty, quickly gave orders to hang out in front
of his tent the purple colours,[370] which is the signal for battle
among the Romans. The soldiers at the sight of it left their tents
with loud shouts and rejoicing and hurried to arms; as the centurions
led them to their several ranks, every man, just as if he belonged to
a chorus, without confusion, being well trained, quietly took his

LXIX. Pompeius commanded the right wing, intending to oppose Antonius;
in the centre he placed his father-in-law Scipio against Calvinus
Lucius;[371] and the left was commanded by Lucius Domitius, and
strengthened with the main body of the cavalry. For nearly all the
horsemen had crowded to that point, with the design of overpowering
Cæsar and cutting to pieces the tenth legion, which had a very great
reputation for courage, and Cæsar was accustomed to take his station
in this legion when he fought a battle. But Cæsar, observing that the
enemy's left wing was strengthened by so large a body of cavalry, and
fearing their brilliant equipment, summoned six cohorts from the
reserve, and placed them in the rear of the tenth legion, with orders
to keep quiet and not let the enemy see them; but as soon as the
cavalry advanced, they had orders to run forwards through the first
ranks, and not to throw their javelins, as the bravest soldiers are
used to do in their eagerness to get to fighting with the sword, but
to push upwards and to wound the eyes and faces of the enemy, for
those handsome, blooming pyrrichists would not keep their ground for
fear of their beauty being spoiled, nor would they venture to look at
the iron that was pushed right into their faces. Now Cæsar was thus
employed. But Pompeius, who was examining the order of battle from his
horse, observing that the enemy were quietly awaiting in their ranks
the moment of attack, and the greater part of his own army was not
still, but was in wavelike motion through want of experience and in
confusion, was alarmed lest his troops should be completely separated
at the beginning of the battle, and he commanded the front ranks to
stand with their spears presented, and keeping their ground in compact
order to receive the enemy's attack. But Cæsar finds fault[372] with
this generalship of Pompeius; for he says that he thus weakened the
force of the blows which a rapid assault produces; and the rush to
meet the advancing ranks, which more than anything else fills the mass
of the soldiers with enthusiasm and impetuosity in closing with the
enemy, and combined with the shouts and running increases the
courage - Pompeius, by depriving his men of this, fixed them to the
ground and damped them. On Cæsar's side the numbers were twenty-two
thousand; on the side of Pompeius the numbers[373] were somewhat more
than double.

LXX.[374] And now, when the signal was given on both sides, and the
trumpet was beginning to urge them on to the conflict, every man of
this great mass was busy in looking after himself; but a few of the
Romans, the best, and some Greeks who were present, and not engaged in
the battle, as the conflict drew near, began to reflect to what a
condition ambition and rivalry had brought the Roman State. For
kindred arms and brotherly battalions and common standards,[375] and
the manhood and the might of a single state in such numbers, were
closing in battle, self-matched against self, an example of the
blindness of human nature and its madness, under the influence of
passion. For if they had now been satisfied quietly to govern and
enjoy what they had got, there was the largest and the best portion of
the earth and of the sea subject to them; and if they still wished to
gratify their love of trophies and of triumphs, and their thirst for
them, they might have their fill of Parthian or German wars. Scythia,
too, and the Indians were a labour in reserve, and ambition had a
reasonable pretext for such undertaking, the civilization of barbaric
nations. And what Scythian horse, or Parthian arrows, or Indian wealth
could have checked seventy thousand Romans advancing in arms under
Pompeius and Cæsar, whose name these nations heard of long before they
heard of the name of Rome? Such unsociable, and various, and savage
nations had they invaded and conquered. But now they engaged with one
another in battle, without even feeling any compunction about their
own glory, for which they spared not their native country, up to this
day having always borne the name of invincible. For the relationship
that had been made between them, and the charms of Julia, and that
marriage, were from the very first only deceitful and suspected
pledges of an alliance formed from interested motives, in which there
was not a particle of true friendship.

LXXI. Now when the plain of Pharsalus was filled with men and horses
and arms, and the signal for battle was raised on both sides, the
first to spring forward from the line of Cæsar was Caius
Crassianus[376] a centurion who had the command of one hundred and
twenty men, and was now fulfilling a great promise to Cæsar. For as
Cæsar observed him to be the first that was quitting the camp, he
spoke to him and asked what he thought of the battle; and Crassianus
stretching out his right hand replied with a loud voice, "You shall
have a splendid victory, Cæsar; and as to me, you shall praise me
whether I survive the day or die." Remembering what he had said, he
rushed forward and carrying many along with him fell on the centre of
the enemy. The struggle was forthwith with the sword and many fell;
but while Crassianus was pushing forwards and cutting down those who
were in the front ranks, a soldier made a stand against him and drove
his sword through his mouth so that the point came out at the back of
the neck. When Crassianus had fallen, the battle was equally contested
in this part of the field. Now Pompeius did not quickly lead on the
right wing, but was looking at the opposite wing and lost time in
waiting for the cavalry to get into action. The cavalry were now
extending their companies with the view of surrounding Cæsar, and they
drove Cæsar's cavalry who were few in number upon the line in front of
which they were stationed. But upon Cæsar giving the signal, the
cavalry retired, and the cohorts which had been reserved to meet the
enemy's attempt to outflank them, rushed forward, three thousand in
number, and met the enemy; then fixing themselves by the side of the
horsemen, they pushed their spears upwards, as they had been
instructed, against the horses, aiming at the faces of the riders. The
horsemen, who were altogether inexperienced in fighting, and had never
expected or heard of such a mode of attack, did not venture to stand
or endure the blows aimed at their eyes and mouths, but turning their
backs and holding their hands before their faces they ingloriously
took to flight. The soldiers of Cæsar leaving these fugitives to
escape advanced against the infantry, and they made their attack at
that point where the wing having lost the protection of the cavalry
gave them the opportunity of outflanking and surrounding them. These
men falling on the enemy in the flank and the tenth legion attacking
them in front, the enemy did not stand their ground nor keep together,
for they saw that while they were expecting to surround the enemy,
they were themselves surrounded.

LXXII. After the infantry were routed, and Pompeius seeing the dust
conjectured what had befallen the cavalry, what reflections passed in
his mind, it is difficult to say; but like a madman more than anything
else and one whose reason was affected, without considering that he
was Magnus Pompeius, without speaking a word to any one, he walked
slowly back to his camp, so that one may properly apply to him the

"But lofty father Zeus struck fear in Ajax;
He stood confounded, and behind him threw
His shield of seven-ox-hide, and trembling look'd
Towards the crowd."

In this state Pompeius came to his tent and sat down without speaking,
until many of the pursuers rushed into the camp with the fugitives;
and then merely uttering these words, "What, even to the camp!" and
nothing more, he rose and taking a dress suitable to his present
condition made his way out. The rest of the legions also fled, and
there was great slaughter in the camp of those who were left to guard
the tents and of the slaves; but Asinius Pollio[378] says that only
six thousand soldiers fell, and Pollio fought in that battle on
Cæsar's side. When Cæsar's men took the camp, they saw evidence of the
folly and frivolity of the enemy. For every tent was crowned with
myrtle and furnished with flowered coverings to the couches and tables
loaded with cups; and bowls of wine were laid out, and there was the
preparation and decoration of persons who had performed a sacrifice
and were celebrating a festival,[379] rather than of men who were
arming for battle. So blinded by their hopes, and so full of foolish
confidence did they come out to war.

LXXIII. Pompeius having proceeded a little way from the camp let his
horse go, and with very few persons about him, went on slowly as no
one pursued him, and with such thoughts, as would naturally arise in
the mind of a man who for four-and-thirty years had been accustomed to
conquer and to have the mastery in everything, and now for the first
time in his old age experienced what defeat and flight were;
reflecting also that in a single battle he had lost the reputation and
the power which were the fruit of so many struggles and wars, and
while a little before he was protected by so many armed men and
horses, and armaments, now he was retreating and had become so weak
and humbled, as easily to escape the notice of his enemies who were
looking for him. After passing Larissa[380] and arriving at Tempe,
being thirsty he threw himself down on his face and drank of the
river, and then rising up he proceeded through Tempe till he reached
the sea. There he rested for the remainder of the night in a
fisherman's hut, and at daybreak embarking on board of one of the
river-boats and taking with him those of his followers who were
freemen, and bidding his slaves go to Cæsar without any apprehension
for their safety, he rowed along the coast till he saw a large
merchant-ship preparing to set sail, the master of which was a Roman,
who had no intimacy with Pompeius, but knew him by sight: his name was
Peticius. It happened the night before that Peticius saw Pompeius in a
dream, not as he had often seen him, but humble and downcast, speaking
to him. And it happened that he was telling his dream to his
shipmates, as is usual with men in such weighty matters, who have
nothing to do; when all at once one of the sailors called out that he
spied a river-boat rowing from the land with men in it who were making
signals with their clothes and stretching out their hands to them.
Accordingly Peticius turning his eyes in that direction recognised
Pompeius just as he had seen him in the dream, and striking his
forehead he ordered the sailors to put the boat alongside, and he
stretched out his right hand and called to Pompeius, already
conjecturing from his appearance the fortune and the reverses of the
man. Upon which the master, without waiting to be entreated or
addressed, took on board with him, all whom Pompeius chose (and these
were the two Lentuli[381] and Favonius), and set sail; and shortly
after seeing King Deiotarus making his way from the land as fast as he
could they took him in also. When it was supper time and the master
had made the best preparation that he could, Favonius observing that
Pompeius had no domestics and was beginning to take off his shoes, ran
up to him and loosed his shoes and helped him to anoint himself. And
henceforward Favonius continued to wait on Pompeius and serve him,
just as slaves do their master, even to the washing of his feet and
preparing his meals, so that a witness of the free will of that
service and the simplicity and absence of all affectation might have

"To generous minds how noble every task."[382]

LXXIV. In such wise Pompeius coasted to Amphipolis,[383] and thence
crossed over to Mitylene, wishing to take up Cornelia and her son.
Upon reaching the shore of the island he sent a message to the city,
not such as Cornelia expected, for the pleasing intelligence that she
had received both by report and by letter led her to hope that the war
was terminated near Dyrrachium, and that all that remained for
Pompeius was to pursue Cæsar. The messenger, who found her in this
state of expectation, did not venture to salute her, but indicating by
tears more than words the chief and greatest of her misfortunes, he
bade her hasten, if she wished to see Pompeius in a single vessel and
that not his own. Cornelia, on hearing these words, threw herself on
the ground, and lay there a long time without sense or speech, and
with difficulty recovering herself, and seeing that it was not a time
for tears and lamentations, she ran through the city to the sea.
Pompeius met and caught her in his arms as she was just ready to sink
down and fall upon him, when Cornelia said, "I see you, husband, not
through your own fortune but mine, reduced to a single vessel, you who
before your marriage with Cornelia sailed along this sea with five
hundred ships. Why have you come to see me, and why did you not leave
to her evil dæmon one who has loaded you also with so much misfortune?
How happy a woman should I have been had I died before I heard that
Publius, whose virgin bride I was, had perished by the Parthians; and
how wise, if even after he died I had put an end to my own life, as I
attempted to do; but forsooth I have been kept alive to be the ruin of
Pompeius Magnus also."

LXXV. So it is said Cornelia spoke, and thus Pompeius replied: "It is
true, Cornelia, you have hitherto known only one fortune, and that the
better; and perhaps it has deceived you too, in that it has abided
with me longer than is wont. But as we are mortals, we must bear this
change, and still try fortune; for it is not hopeless for a man to
attempt from this condition to recover his former state who has come
to this after being in that other." Accordingly Cornelia sent for her
property and slaves from the city; and though the Mitylenæans came to
pay their respects to Pompeius, and invited him to enter the city, he
would not, but he exhorted them also to yield to the conqueror and to
be of good heart, for Cæsar was merciful and of a humane disposition.
But turning to Kratippus[384] the philosopher, for he had come down
from the city to see him, Pompeius found fault with and in a few
words expressed some doubts about Providence, Kratippus rather giving
way to him and trying to lead him to better hopes, that he might not
give him pain at so unseasonable a time by arguing against him; for
Pompeius might have questioned him about Providence, and Kratippus
might have shown that the state of affairs at Rome required a monarchy
on account of the political disorder; and he might have asked
Pompeius, "How, Pompeius, and by what evidence shall we be persuaded
that you would have used your fortune better than Cæsar, if you had
been victorious?" But these matters that concern the gods we must
leave as they are.

LXXVI. Taking on board his wife and friends, Pompeius continued his
voyage, only putting in at such ports as of necessity he must for
water or provisions. The first city that he came to was Attaleia[385]
of Pamphylia; and there some galleys from Cilicia met him, and some
soldiers were collecting, and there were again about sixty senators
about him. Hearing that his navy still kept together, and that Cato
had recruited many soldiers and was passing over to Libya, he lamented
to his friends and blamed himself for being forced to engage with his
army only, and for not making any use of the force which was beyond
all dispute superior to that of the enemy; and that his navy was not
so stationed that if he were defeated by land he might forthwith have
had what would have made him a match for the enemy, a strength and
power so great by sea close at hand. Indeed Pompeius committed no
greater fault, nor did Cæsar show any greater generalship, than in
withdrawing the field of battle so far beyond the reach of assistance
from the navy. However, being compelled in the present state of
affairs to decide and do something, he sent round to the cities, and
himself sailing about to some, asked them for money, and began to man
ships. But fearing the rapid movements and speed of his enemy, lest he
should come upon him and take him before he was prepared, he looked
about for a place of refuge for the present and a retreat. Now there
appeared to them upon consideration to be no province to which they
could safely fly; and as to the kingdoms, Pompeius gave it as his
opinion that the Parthian[386] at the present was the best able to
receive and protect them in their present weakness, and to strengthen
them again and to send them forth with the largest force; of the rest,
some turned their thoughts towards Libya and Juba,[387] but Theophanes
of Lesbos pronounced it madness to leave Egypt, which was only three
days' sail distant, and Ptolemæus,[388] who was still a youth, and
indebted to Pompeius for the friendship and favour which his father
had received from him, and to put himself in the hands of the
Parthians, a most treacherous nation; and to be the first of all
persons who did not choose to submit to a Roman who had been connected
with him by marriage, nor to make trial of his moderation, and to put
himself in the power of Arsakes,[389] who was not able to take even
Crassus so long as he was alive; and to carry a young wife of the
family of Scipio among barbarians, who measured their power by their
insolence and unbridled temper; and if no harm should befall Cornelia,
and it should only be apprehended that she might suffer injury, it
would be a sad thing for her to be in the power of those who were able
to do it. This alone, it is said diverted Pompeius from proceeding to
the Euphrates; if indeed any reflection still guided Pompeius, and he
was not rather directed by a dæmon to the way that he took.

LXXVII. Accordingly when the proposal to fly to Egypt prevailed,
Pompeius setting sail from Cyprus in a galley of Seleukeia[390] with
his wife (and of the rest some accompanied him also in ships of war,
and others in merchant vessels), crossed the sea safely; and hearing
that Ptolemæus[391] was seated before Pelusium with his army, being
engaged in war against his sister, he came to that part of the coast
and sent forward a person to announce his arrival to the king and to
pray for his protection. Now Ptolemæus was very young, and Potheinus
who managed everything, summoned a council of the chief persons; and
the chief persons were those whom he chose to make so, and he bade
each man give his opinion. It was indeed a sad thing that such men
should deliberate about Pompeius Magnus, as Potheinus the eunuch and
Theodotus of Chios who was hired as a teacher of rhetoric and the
Egyptian Achillas: for these were the chief advisers of the king among
the eunuchs and others who had the care of his person; and such was
the court whose decision Pompeius was waiting for at anchor some
distance from the shore and tossed by the waves, he who thought it
beneath him to be indebted to Cæsar for his life. Now opinions among
the rest were so far divided that some advised they should drive away
Pompeius, and others, that they should invite and receive him: but
Theodotus displaying his power in speech and his rhetorical art proved
that neither of these courses was safe, but that if they received
Pompeius, they would have Cæsar for an enemy and Pompeius for their
master, and if they drove him away, they would incur the displeasure
of Pompeius for ejecting him and of Cæsar for the trouble of the
pursuit; it was therefore best to send for the man and kill him, for
thus they would please Cæsar and have nothing to fear from Pompeius.
And he concluded with a smile, as it is said, A dead man does not

LXXVIII. Having determined on this they intrust the execution to
Achillas, who taking with him one Septimius who had a long time ago
served under Pompeius as a centurion and Salvius another centurion and
three or four slaves, put out towards the ship of Pompeius. It
happened that all the most distinguished persons who accompanied
Pompeius had come on board his ship to see what was going on.
Accordingly when they saw a reception which was neither royal nor
splendid nor corresponding to the expectations of Theophanes, but a
few men in a fishing-boat sailing towards them, this want of respect
made them suspect treachery and they advised Pompeius to row back into
the open sea, while they were still out of reach of missiles. In the
mean time as the boat was nearing, Septimius was the first to rise and
he addressed Pompeius as Imperator in the Roman language and Achillas
saluting him in Greek invited him to enter the boat, because, as he
said, the shallows were of great extent and the sea being rather sandy

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 25 of 55)