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POMPEY AND CICERO
263 more was needed to estrange Pompey from the Optimates it was the personal character of Cicero. The orator wished to be friendly with him; he loved to go about in his company and to hear him called in jest “Gnaeus Cicero;" but this was merely because it gratified his vanity to be able to treat as an equal the man to whom he had once looked up as a leader. The two were not really suited to be friends. Pompey was stolid and solid and wholly uninterested in literature or society; Cicero was a literary man to the finger tips, with all the selfconsciousness and vanity of the “artistic temperament.” It is certain that they bored each other, and that their friendship was a hollow and lukewarm affair.
Pompey might have continued to tolerate Cicero, if the latter had been able to carry out his share in the projected alliance-to induce the Optimate party to grant the ratification of the Asiatic treaties, and the provision of land and money for the disbanded veterans. But this Cicero proved utterly unable to do: meanwhile he irritated his would-be friend by his ludicrous vanity and his oratorical airs and graces. We have already seen, while dealing with the life of Crassus, how he succeeded in offending Pompey by his autolatrous harangues in the Senate, and his frank assumption of equality with his former chief.
As the year B.C. 60_wore on, Pompey came gradually to see that he would never get his very moderate demands conceded by the Senate. His disgust was complete when Cato, at the instigation of Lucullus, proposed, and carried, a motion to the effect that his Asiatic acta should not be ratified, but that the Senate should go through and criticise every treaty and edict that he had made, confirming or rejecting each as it might think proper. The proposal to provide land for the veterans was also taken into consideration, but it came to nothing, on the excuse
tate o prove money
that the treasury was empty, a manifest evasion, since the enormous Asiatic spoils had been very recently paid into the public chest. When Pompey set up his friend the tribune L. Flavius to propose a plebiscitum giving a competent grant of land to the soldiers, Democrats and Optimates combined against him, and the bill had to be dropped.
It is impossible not to regret the unwisdom of Cicero, and the suspicious hostility of Cato, which frustrated the chance that Pompey might settle down once more into an honourable retirement. But his present position was unbearable. Because he had neither armed cohorts at his back, nor bands of hired rioters to sweep the streets, he was impotent. He might still have got what he wanted by raising his hand and bidding his old legions reassemble: forty thousand angry and disappointed men would have rallied around him in a moment. But however much provoked, he shrank from open treason and from civil war. Before all things he was a good citizen, and now, as in B.C. 71, he made no unconstitutional move.
But when he received the offer of the Democratic chiefs to do for him what the Senate had refused, and to obtain for him complete legal satisfaction for his desires, he did not now hold back. Cæsar had shown his willingness for an alliance by supporting Metellus Nepos in B.C. 62; Crassus also now came forward with proffers of friendship though he had almost fled from before Pompey's face when first he returned to Italy, and though he had been doing his best to thwart him ever since. Seeing no other way out of his difficulties, the Conqueror of the East reluctantly accepted their advances, and the “First Triumvirate" came into being.
Once before, in B.C. 71, Pompey had leagued himself with his rival; then the alliance had been a passing phase in politics, and no permanent results had followed
THE “FIRST TRIUMVIRATE” 265 from it. But the “First Triumvirate" was a very different matter: it was the dominating fact of the next ten years, and marked a new stage in the decadence of the Roman Republic. The state had experienced before the tyrannical domination of a party, under Cinna and Sulla ; but the triumvirs were not a party : it would be ridiculous to call their success a triumph of the Democratic faction. They were three men of very different character and aims, who had combined to secure their personal ends, and not to carry out any party programme.
Pompey received all that he had asked in the matter of grants and laws, and was, no doubt, satisfied for the moment; but it must very soon have been borne in upon him that he had now made himself a mere partner in a firm. The days when his personal influence could be exerted for any end that he chose were over: in all his doings he would have for the future to consult his partners. He was no longer responsible to himself only, but had to consider the wishes of Cæsar and Crassus.
Meanwhile there was no crisis either at home or abroad which seemed likely to provide work for Pompey. In such times of peace he had been wont to relapse into a dignified retirement till he should again be wanted. This was once more the line that he took in B.C. 59, forgetting that his whole position had now been altered by the fact that he had accepted a place in the triumvirate. It is a different thing to be a general taking holiday on furlough, and to be a sleeping partner in a great firm. The soldier, liable to be called back to the field at any moment, has no responsibilities save to his country, and may do much as he pleases ; but the partner who does not take his share in everyday business, and prefers dignity and leisure to the incessant work of supervising details, gradually loses his controlling power. When he does, on occasion, sally forth from
his retirement, he finds that he has got out of touch with the affairs of the firm. He may resent the situation, but he will find it difficult to reassert himself.
This is more or less what happened to Pompey during his long alliance with Cæsar and Crassus. No sooner had he seen the bills in which he was interested safely passed through the Comitia, than he withdrew for a space into private life. As one of the pledges of the alliance, he had married Julia, the young and charming daughter of Cæsar. He retired with her to his Alban villa, seldom came down into Rome, and took no important part in public business. Of his colleagues, Crassus seems to have relapsed once more into his obscure wire-pulling behind the scenes. Cæsar had gone off to Gaul, there to build up the army which was one day to make him the master of the world. There was no doubt that the triumvirs could, when they pleased, make their power felt, and do anything that they might choose: but for a space they did not assert themselves, and allowed the local politics of the streets and the Senate-house to drift on in their old fashion. The fact had yet to be realised that those who have taken responsibility upon themselves must interfere in small matters as well as in great, if they wish their power to be remembered and respected. While Pompey lived the life of the Aristotelian meryalóbuxos and kept aloof from the dirty details of politics, while Crassus jobbed and intrigued, and Cæsar slew Germans and Helvetii in Eastern Gaul, the city was disturbed by all manner of unnecessary riots and tumults, the work of that irresponsible and absurd personage, the demagogue Clodius.
Since the downfall of the Concordia Ordinum and the triumph of the triumvirs, the Senate was wholly incapable of keeping order in the streets. On the other hand, the new triple alliance did not choose to undertake the task ; indeed, there was no legal machinery by which CLODIUS THWARTS POMPEY 267 they could have done so. So while the fortunes of the world were really being settled in Gaul, the city was at the mercy of the noisy young aristocrat who wished to be taken for the heir of the Gracchi and of Saturninus. Clodius was an accurate copy of Cæsar, so far as debts, debauchery, and a talent for mob-oratory could go; he called himself the last of the great Democratic tribunes, but he was really nothing more than an exuberant rowdy who loved rioting for rioting's sake. His only redeeming qualities were a sense of humour and a love of practical jokes. It is impossible to take him seriously; if we did, we should have to denounce him as the worst example of the decadent Roman. He was of no real political importance; his programme was a patchcloth of flimsy odds and ends from the rag-bag of the practically defunct Democratic party. Any one that had the command of half-a-dozen cohorts could have disposed of him in ten minutes : the days were past in which the city mob was a factor of serious importance in Roman politics. But as long as the triumvirs let him alone, he could do much as he pleased in the Forum, and he made himself an intolerable nuisance for seven long years.
The proper way to have dealt with this pestilent fellow would have been to borrow half a legion from Cæsar and clear him and his myrmidons out of the city. The Senate could not do this, and Pompey and Crassus would not. At first he had been their tool. When he set up in business for himself, they suffered him for a long time to deal with the Optimates as he chose. Pompey would not even intervene to save Cicero from banishment, in spite of all the orator's appeals. He considered that he had been badly treated by him in B.C. 60, and was not unwilling that he should have a lesson which would show him the vanity of his belief in his own political importance.