Page images

Mithradates as overlord, and swore allegiance to Rome.

Asia Minor and the lands behind it were now disposed of. Mithradates, it is true, still held out in the Crimea; but though overflowing with wrath against the Romans, he was practically powerless. It was in vain that he crushed his few remaining subjects with taxes and requisitions to raise a new army. He enrolled, it is true, some thousands of slaves and Scythians, and spoke of trying the fortune of war once more.

But there was nothing to be feared from his menaces, for his troops were untrustworthy. He spoke of a wild plan of marching by land from the Tauric Chersonese to Italy, across the steppes of the Dnieper and the valley of the Danube. But this was a vain imagining; his mercenaries would not listen to the plan, and the tribes of the steppe would neither have followed him nor allowed him to pass. He was eating out his heart in impotent wrath, slaying his sons and his generals for suspected treason, and earning the bloody end that was soon to come upon him.

The Pontic king having become a negligible quantity, Pompey was able to turn his attention southward to Cilicial and Syria. These regions had been ceded to him by Tigranes, their last owner, but the king's rule had always been disputed by the late subjects of the Seleucidæ. When the last Armenian viceroy withdrew, anarchy set in; two princes, both claiming to represent the old Greek dynasty, half-a-dozen Arab emirs, a local tyrant or two, and the Jewish king from Jerusalem were filling the land with their futile strife. The Phænician cities had declared themselves independent republics, and the tribes of Amanus were devastating every valley that was within reach of their fastnesses. Pompey saw no way out of the

1 Eastern Cilicia and Tarsus had been in Tigranes' hands. Western Cilicia was already partly Roman,



chaos but annexation to Rome. It would have been absurd to set up again some representative of the Seleucidæ, whose fratricidal civil wars had been the ruin of Syria in the previous generation.

Marching down from Asia Minor, the great general occupied Antioch and proclaimed the incorporation of Syria and Cilicia with the Roman empire. Almost everywhere the change was welcomed as a happy deliverance from anarchy. The cities and dynasts made their submission, and little fighting was needed. A mountain tribe or two had to be chastised, the Arabs were thrust back into their deserts, and a handful of fanatical Jewish patriots, who shut themselves up in the temple of Jerusalem, were beleaguered and annihilated. It was after storming this stronghold that Pompey made his entrance, sword in hand, into the Holy of Holies, and marvelled (as Josephus relates) at the strange sanctuary of the Jews, where a bare room without an image, and now even without an ark, was set aside for the earthly abode of the invisible God of Zion. The Roman proved a not ungenerous conqueror: but the rabbis of the next generation, and after them many a mediæval chronicler, loved to tell how he lost his good luck from the moment that he dared to draw aside the curtain and step across the fatal threshold. Hitherto all had gone well with him ; from B.C. 63 onwards all was to be disillusion and disappointment.

It was while lying in his camp at Jericho, planning an expedition against the Nabatæan Arabs of Petra, that Pompey received the news that Mithradates was dead. The old king had tried too long the patience of his sons and his soldiers. Wearied of his wholesale executions and his wild plans for directing impossible expeditions against Italy, they had risen against him, and he had been forced to save himself from murder by committing suicide. His son and successor, Pharnaces, sent his embalmed body to Pompey, who, shocked at the unfilial act, ordered it to be laid in the family sepulchre of the kings of Pontus at Sinope.

The next year, B.C. 62, when all opposition in the East had been beaten down, was devoted to the delimitation and organisation of the new provinces which Pompey had added to the Empire—Syria, Cilicia, and Bithynia-Pontus. It is universally agreed that the settlement was carried out in a wise, generous, and statesmanlike way. Even Dr. Mommsen acknowledges that “though conducted primarily in the interest of Rome, secondarily in that of the provincials, it was comparatively commendable. The conversion of the chief states into provinces, the better regulation of the eastern frontier, the establishment of a single and a strong government, were full of blessings alike for the rulers and the ruled.” The name of Pompey always remained popular in the East; fifteen years later, when he was engaged in his great civil war with Cæsar, he found the Asiatic provinces perfectly loyal, and drew from them his most important resources.

His dealings alike with the petty princes and the Hellenized cities were wise and upright. But he set his mark most notably on the land by the great number of towns which he founded or restored. Almost without exception his new colonies proved successful; their sites were well chosen, their constitutions wisely framed; they grew and flourished. Indeed, to Pompey more than to any other single person must the first beginnings of civil life in many parts of Eastern Asia Minor be ascribed; before him towns in the Pontic inland and certain other districts were almost non-existent. Even the places in Cilicia peopled with reclaimed pirates did well. In short, he was in the East almost as great a founder and organiser as Cæsar in the West, though his work in this direction has been wellnigh forgotten.



In the winter of 62 Pompey had at last completed his long and laborious task, and set out on his homeward way, bearing his enormous spoils, and with his victorious legions at his back. Of the stir and disquiet that his approach produced we have already written,

while dealing with Crassus and Cato; but when the “New Sulla,” as his disloyal critics chose to call him, landed at Brundisium, he showed no intention of marching on the city or starting a proscription; he behaved like a victorious general of the good old days, duly disbanded his soldiery, and came up to Rome unarmed, to receive, as he supposed, the thanks and the credit that were most certainly due to him.

It was an astonishing piece of civic virtue, if we consider the temptations to a man of ambition. If he had chosen to stretch forth his hand and ask for supreme power, it would undoubtedly have been within his grasp. The Democrats were cowed by the failure of the Catilinian conspiracy; the Optimates had no army to oppose to the victorious legions of the East. But the crown and the sceptre were not his desire. He had no notion of upsetting the Republic, in which he only desired to be the first citizen. It is absurd to say with Mommsen that “ fortune never did more for any mortal than for Pompey, but on those who lack courage the gods lavish all things in vain.” Is it the duty of every capable man to snatch at a tyranny? And why should Pompey be called a coward for refusing to subvert the immemorial constitution of Rome? He had no political schemes to work out, no great programme of reform to broach. All that he asked was to be the first servant of the state, the man to whom practical tasks of first-rate importance should be assigned in times of difficulty, and who in times of peace should live in dignity and quiet, enjoying the honours that he had earned. He demanded no more at present than the ratification of his arrangement in Asia, and a liberal provision of land or money for his faithful legions.

Expecting to find the people grateful for all his splendid successes in the East, Pompey came confidently before them to give an account of his doings of the last five years. To his surprise, he found that the Roman public was only half-informed as to his achievements, and rather disposed to be indifferent to them. “His first oration," says Cicero, “promised nothing to the poor; it gave no encouragement to the Democrats; to the wealthy it was unsympathetic; to the Optimates it seemed trivial.” Instead of meeting with a brilliant reception, he was pestered with a hail of questions on domestic politics from the spokesmen of the rival parties in the state. Did he or did he not approve of the execution of the Catilinian conspirators ? Was Cicero pater patrice or guilty of judicial murder ? Pompey was surprised and gave no certain sound: itaque frigebat, says Cicero–he was coldly received by every one.

The Senate, nevertheless, might have made him their good friend by a little courtesy and encouragement, for he disliked Crassus far more than any of the leaders of the Optimates, and he quite realised the way in which the Democratic party had been worked against him in his absence.

Cicero hoped for a time to secure the alliance, but there were insuperable difficulties in the way. In the first place, the orator could not speak for his party or conclude any bargain in its behalf, for the short-sighted oligarchs, whose leader he imagined that he was, declined to follow him. When Lucullus and Cato declared that Pompey was not a safe ally, the majority of the senatorial party trusted them rather than Cicero. They adopted an attitude of covert hostility to the great general, and when the critical day came round, would not vote that his requests should be conceded. If anything

« EelmineJätka »