Pompey the Great in Roman Biography
Pompey the Great, [Lat. Pompk'uis Mag'nus ;
Fr. PompEe le Grand, po.v'pl' leh gRON,] (Cneius,)
a famous Roman general and triumvir, was born on
the 30th of September, 106 B.C., in the same year as
Cicero. He fought under his father in the Social war,
(So, n.C.,) and saved his lather's life when China attempted
to assassinate him in 87 B.C. He raised, without a
three legions to fight for Sulla against the
party of Marius in 83 B.C., and began to display his
great military talents in the defeat of a hostile force
under Brutus. For this success Sulla saluted him with
the title of imperator. He gained another victory over
the legates of Carbo in 82 B.C., reduced Numidia in 81,
and obtained the honour of a triumph, although he
was but a simple eques.
In 76 B.C. he obtained command of an army sent to
Spain against Sertorius, who defeated Pompey in two
battles, but was assassinated in the year 72, soon after
which Spain was reduced to subjection. With a high
degree of popularity, Pompey returned to Italy in 71 B.C.,
and was elected consul (with Crassus) for the year 70,
although he had not held any of the lower civil offices
and was not legally eligible for other reasons. Among
the important acts of his administration was the restoration
of the power of the tribunes, by which he signalized
his defection from the aristocratic party. He remained
at Rome inactive during 69 and 68 B.C. In the next
year his friends procured the passage of a law by which
he was selected to conduct a war against the pirates
(who infested the Mediterranean in great numbers) and
was invested with irresponsible power for three years.
He performed this service with complete success in less
than one year, and, it is said, took 20,000 prisoners.
The next enterprise to which he was called by his own
ambition and the favour of the people was the termination
of the Mithridatic war, which had been protracted
for years. His claims having been advocated by Cicero
in a long oration, (" Pro Lege Manilla,") he superseded
Lucullus in 66 B.C. He defeated Mithridatts in Lesser
Armenia in the same year, and after that king had
escaped to the Crimea, which was difficult of access
to the Roman army, Pompey turned southward, and
reduced Syria to a Roman province in 64 H.C. After a
siege of three months, he captured Jerusalem in 63, and
entered the sanctuary of the Temple. Having received
intelligence of the death of Mithridates, and having reduced
Pontus and Bithynia to subjection, he returned to
Italy in 62 B.C., and was received with general enthusiasm.
The triumph which he obtained on this occasion was the
most brilliant which the Romans had ever witnessed.
Offended by the refusal of the senate to sanction his
public acts in Asia, he identified himself with the popular
party, and formed with Caesar and Crassus a coalition
)r triumvirate, (59 B.C.) Pompey, having divorced Mucia his
third wife, married Julia, a daughter of Caesar. He
made no effort to prevent the banishment of Cicero, but
he supported the bill for his restoration, in 57 B.C. His
popularity was now on the decline. He had lost the
confidence of the senate by his coalition with Caesar, who
was his successful rival in respect to the favour of the
people. Pompey could only obtain the consulship in 55
B.C. by the aid of Cxsar, with whom he and Crassus had
formed another secret treaty or bargain.
Anticipating the open hostility of Caesar to his ambitious
projects, Pompey renewed his connection with the
aristocracy, who accepted him as their leader in 51 B.C.
About the end of the next year the friends of Pompey
obtained a decree of the senate that Caesar should disband
his army. In defiance of this decree, Caesar marched
to Rome with a force which Pompey was unable to resist.
His self-confidence was such that he had neglected to
levy troops, and he was compelled to retreat to Epirus,
where he collected, an army. (See CAESAR.) Urged on
by the civilians and nobles of his camp, against his own
judgment he offered battle to Caesar in the plain of
Pharsaliain August, 48 B.C. and was completely defeated.
lie escaped by sea, with his wife Cornelia, and sought
refuge in Egypt, but was murdered in the act of landing,
by order of Theodotus and Achillas, the chief ministers,
in September, 48 B.C. His moral character is represented
as better than that of the majority of Roman
generals in his time. He was deficient in political
abilities, and was guided by no fixed principles as a
See Plutarch, "
Life of Pompey ;" G. Long, " The Decline of
the Roman Republic:" Dion CassiUS,
pro Lege Martina;" Drumann, "Gescliichte Roms ;" " Appian,
Bellum Civile ;" J. Upmarck. "
Dissertatio de Pompejo Magno,"
" Nouvelle Biographie Ge'ue'rale."