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POMPEY SUBDUES THE PIRATES 253
had only survived so long because they had hitherto been opposed by commanders of approved incapacity. "The suppression of the pirates was a great relief to the state, but not a great achievement," writes Dr. Mommsen; "it was a naive proceeding to celebrate such a razzia as a victory." But this is not the true way to look at the campaign; a war is not easy merely because the enemy is not able to face the assailant in a pitched battle. To make an end of a swarm of guerillas is no light matter, and the guerilla at sea is even more hard to catch than the guerilla on land. Pompey's suppression of the corsairs was a triumph of organisation and ingenuity. He mapped out the Mediterranean into districts, and set moving at the same moment thirteen separate squadrons, which all worked together and played into each other's hands. In forty days the whole of the seas west of Sicily had been completely cleared, and corn was so cheap in the Roman market that it was said that the very name of Pompey had finished thewar. Then the commander-in-chief went eastward with the best of his fleet, and swept the iEgean and Levant. There was no want of fighting: no less than 400 pirate ships, of which ninety were fully equipped wargalleys, were captured. Ten thousand of the corsairs were slain in battle; twice as many were captured. The fastnesses of the Cilician coast were one and all destroyed. Tens of thousands of prisoners were set free; immense quantities of plunder recaptured. The sea was freed from robbers as it had seldom been before since the beginning of authentic history. These are not achievements at which it is reasonable to scoff; but perhaps the most creditable item of the whole campaign is the fact that Pompey did not massacre his prisoners, but turned them into successful colonists in the maritime towns which he restored to life, Mallus, Adana, Dyme, and his new foundation of Pompeiopolis-Soli No Roman commander before him had done the like: even Caesar in the succeeding decade used the axe and the rods with cruel severity upon many a conquered foe. He knew no mercy save for Romans and citizens, while Pompey spared even the corsairs, whom any other general would have doomed to the cross.
The Gabinian Law had allotted three years as the term of office of the great High Commissioner; but no more than seven months had elapsed when he was able to report that his task was complete, and that piracy was suppressed throughout the Mediterranean. In the winter of 67-66 he was finishing up his work by restoring the Cilician cities, and organising a system of coastguards to preserve the peace of the seas for the future. There is no reason to doubt that he intended to come home in the following spring to surrender his command, according to his invariable fashion: but he was not yet destined to leave the East. A bill was brought in by the tribune U. Manilius, to transfer to him the charge of the war against Mithradates and the care of all the provinces of the East. The genesis and object of the Manilian Law js rather obscure: its author was not one of the acknowledged heads of the Democratic party, but a rather obscure personage, who had just failed in some small political plans of his own, and was apparently making a bid for renewed popularity by devising a scheme which should please the multitude. He was neither a friend nor a partisan of Pompey, and certainly was not acting as his agent But he saw that at this moment Pompey's name was the one to conjure with, and that a certain amount of importance would accrue to himself if he could gain credit with the people as the advocate of their idol. His proposal was reasonable in itself: the war with the Pontic king had proved a failure: Lucullus was in disgrace: Glabrio and Marcius Rex, who were to take up the command, had done nothing that made it probable that they would THE MANILIAN LAW 255
succeed where their able predecessor had failed. On the other hand, there was a general belief that to make over the war to Pompey would secure its prompt and successful conclusion. So clear was this, that neither the leading Democrats nor the moderate Optimates dared to say a word against the project. Cicero, whose main aim at this moment was always to make himself the mouthpiece of public opinion, gave the bill his warm support. Caesar also granted it his approval. Indeed no one save a handful of irreconcilable Conservatives ventured to oppose it, so popular was the scheme from the first moment that it was broached. It became law almost by acclamation, though there was hardly a prominent man in Rome who would really have supported it had he been free to speak his mind without fear of the multitude. Yet, as a mere measure of foreign policy, it was the best thing that could have been devised. There was no other man in Rome whose reputation would have justified him in asking for the Asiatic command. The one fortunate general of tried ability was the proper person to send against the Pontic king.
Pompey is reported to have received the news, of the passing of the Manilian Law without any signs of elation, and to have replied to the congratulations of his friends by complaining that the state gave him no time of leisure, that he was hurried on from one task to another, and hardly was suffered to get a glimpse of his home, his wife and children. "It would be better to be one of the undistinguished many," he is said to have murmured, "than to be the one Roman who was never granted a holiday." Of course, his adversaries could see nothing but the most contemptible hypocrisy in such a speech. It is not necessary to think so badly of the man. That Pompey loved power, we cannot deny; he felt (like Lord Carteret) that it was his special avocation "to go about knocking the heads of kings and princes together for the benefit of his country." But it is equally certain that he loved his home, and after finishing off a heavy task like the suppression of the pirates, he might reasonably repine at being sent forth without a moment's respite to take in hand another, which might lead him to the Caucasus and the Caspian, perhaps even to the Tanais or the Erythraean Sea.
The Oriental campaigns of Pompey occupied him for very nearly five years (b.c. 66-62). It is as easy to belittle his achievements in the East as his achievements against the pirates; but to call his battles farces and his conquests military promenades is wholly unjust. The enemy who had baffled Lucullus was not to be despised; the wild tribes of Albania and Iberia were not "effeminate Orientals;" the marches through the bleak Armenian uplands and passes, or across the burning sands of the Arabian border were not simple or easy. Eemembering all that Pompey did, and the apparent ease of his unending successes, the reader is prone to forget how Rome had failed before in these regions, and how she was destined to fail again. The army which he took with him was of no great strength—little greater, indeed, than that with which Sulla had conquered Greece: he never seems to have had more than 40,000 or 45,000 men. He was operating across utterly unknown country; each successive enemy whom he had to face had different methods of fighting; the devices that were useful against one were futile against another. Yet Pompey went on in an absolutely unchequered series of successes. He was as cautious as he was enterprising, as untiring as he was prudent. He never desisted from a task that he had taken in hand, but he never took in hand any task that was rash or unnecessary. When he first marched against Mithradates, the old king was in possesMITHRADATES EXPELLED FROM ASIA 257
sion of his whole kingdom, and had an army that he had at last trained to face the methods of Roman warfare by endless guerilla tactics. Within a year he was not only beaten, but expelled from his Pontic realm; his host had been not only scattered, but annihilated, by a sudden and brilliant night surprise, which formed the unexpected termination of a cautious and careful campaign. When Mithradates had thought that he had been facing Fabius, he suddenly found that he had to do with Hannibal. All that was left to him was to fly over-seas to his distant dependency in the Crimea. With Tigranes Pompey did not have to fight at all: he encouraged the Parthians to assault Armenia, while he was himself engaged with the Pontic king. When he turned towards Artaxata after expelling Mithradates, the Armenian monarch, vexed by foreign war and internal rebellion, refused to fight, did homage to Rome, paid a large war indemnity, and resigned all his claims to his late conquests in Syria and Cilieia. It does not detract in the least from Pompey's merit that this adversary was so much impressed by his mere approach, that he surrendered without a contest all that could have been asked from him after the most complete victory. Then came the turn of the wild tribes under Caucasus, who had been the vassals and the allies of Mithradates. In B.C. 65 the Roman army was pushed forward along the northern edge of Armenia, and scoured the valley of the Kur, and then by a backward sweep that of the Phasis. The Albanians and Iberians came out against the invaders in full force; they staked the fords and barricaded the passes, tried to cut off the convoys, and fell upon outlying detachments. But it was to no effect. On every occasion, and even on the most favourable ground, they were repulsed. At last they made their submission, surrendered to Pompey the golden table and bed of their king, disowned