On Pompey's Command


The orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero Vol 2 Three orations on the Agrarian law, the four against Catiline, the orations for Rabirius, Murena, Sulla, Archias, Flaccus, Scaurus, etc, Cicero, Marcus Tullius, creator; Yonge, Charles Duke, 1812-1891, translator

Although, O Romans, your numerous assembly has always seemed to me the most agreeable body that any one can address, and this place, which is most honourable to plead in, has also seemed always the most distinguished place for delivering an oration in, still I have been prevented from trying this road to glory, which has at all times been entirely open to every virtuous man, not indeed by my own will, but by the system of life which I have adopted from my earliest years. For as hitherto I have not dared, on account of my youth, to intrude upon the authority of this place, and as I considered that no arguments ought to be brought to this place except such as were the fruit of great ability, and worked up with the greatest industry, I have thought it fit to devote all my time to the necessities of my friends.

And accordingly, this place has never been unoccupied by men who were defending your cause, and my industry, which has been virtuously and honestly employed about the dangers of private individuals, has received its most honourable reward in your approbation. For when, on account of the adjournment of the comitia, I was three times elected the first praetor by all the centuries, I easily perceived, O Romans, what your opinion of me was, and what conduct you enjoined to others. Now, when there is that authority in me which you, by conferring honours on me, have chosen that there should be, and all that facility in pleading which almost daily practice in speaking can give a vigilant man who has habituated himself to the forum, at all events, if I have any authority, I will employ it before those who have given it to me; and if I can accomplish anything by speaking, I will display it to those men above all others, who have thought fit, by their decision, to confer honours on that qualification.

And, above all things, I see that I have reason to rejoice on this account, that, since I am speaking in this place, to which I am so entirely unaccustomed, I have a cause to advocate in which eloquence can hardly fail any one; for I have to speak of the eminent and extraordinary virtue of Cnaeus Pompey; and it is harder for me to find out how to end a discourse on such a subject, than how to begin one. So that what I have to seek for is not so much a variety of arguments, as moderation in employing them.

And, that my oration may take its origin from the same source from which all this cause is to be maintained; an important war, and one perilous to your revenues and to your allies, is being waged against you by two most powerful kings, Mithridates and Tigranes. One of these having been left to himself, and the other having been attacked, thinks that an opportunity offers itself to him to occupy all Asia. Letters are brought from Asia every day to Roman knights, most honourable men, who have great property at stake, which is all employed in the collection of your revenues; and they, in consequence of the intimate connection which I have with their order, have come to me and entrusted me with the task of pleading the cause of the republic, and warding off danger from their private fortunes.

They say that many of the villages of Bithynia, which is at present a province belonging to you, have been burnt; that the kingdom of Ariobarzanes, which borders on those districts from which you derive a revenue, is wholly in the power of the enemy; that Lucullus, after having performed great exploits, is departing from that war; that it is not enough that whoever succeeds him should be prepared for the conduct of so important a war; that one general is demanded and required by all men, both allies and citizens, for that war; that he alone is feared by the enemy, and that no one else is.

You see what the case is; now consider what you ought to do. It seems to me that I ought to speak in the first place of the sort of war that exists; in the second place, of its importance; and lastly, of the selection of a general. The kind of war is such as ought above all others to excite and inflame your minds to a determination to persevere in it. It is a war in which the glory of the Roman people is at stake; that glory which has been handed down to you from your ancestors, great indeed in everything, but most especially in military affairs. The safety of our friends and allies is at stake, in behalf of which your ancestors have waged many most important wars. The most certain and the largest revenues of the Roman people are at stake; and if they be lost, you will be at a loss for the luxuries of peace, and the sinews of war. The property of many citizens is at stake, which you ought greatly to regard, both for your own sake, and for that of the republic

And since you have at all times been covetous of glory and greedy of praise beyond all other nations, you have to wipe out that stain, received in the former Mithridates War, which has now fixed itself deeply and eaten its way into the Roman name, the stain arising from the fact that he, who in one day marked down by one order, and one single letter, all the Roman citizens in all Asia, scattered as they were over so many cities, for slaughter and butchery, has not only never yet suffered any chastisement worthy of his wickedness, but now, twenty-three years after that time, is still a king, and a king in such a way that he is not content to hide himself in Pontus, or in the recesses of Cappadocia, but he seeks to emerge from his hereditary kingdom, and to range among your revenues, in the broad light of Asia.

Indeed up to this time your generals have been, contending with the king so as to carry off tokens of victory rather than actual victory. Lucius Sulla has triumphed, Lucius Murena has triumphed over Mithridates, two most gallant men, and most consummate generals; but yet they have triumphed in such a way that he, though routed and defeated, was still king. Not but what praise is to be given to those generals for what they did. Pardon must be conceded to them for what they left undone; because the republic recalled Sulla from that war into Italy, and Sulla recalled Murena.

But Mithridates employed all the time which he had left to him, not in forgetting the old war, but in preparing for a new one; and, after he had built and equipped very large fleets, and had got together mighty armies from every nation he could, and had pretended to be preparing war against the tribes of the Bosphorus, his neighbours, sent ambassadors and letters as far as Spain to those chiefs with whom we were at war at the time, in order that, as you would by that means have war waged against you in the two parts of the world the furthest separated and most remote of all from one another, by two separate enemies warring against you with one uniform plan, you, hampered by the double enmity, might find that you were fighting for the empire itself.

However; the danger on one side, the danger from Sertorius and from Spain, which had much the most solid foundation and the most formidable strength, was warded off by the divine wisdom and extraordinary valour of Cnaeus Pompeius. And on the other side of the empire, affairs were so managed by Lucilius Lucullus, that most illustrious of men, that the beginning, of all those achievements in those countries, great and eminent as they were, deserve to be attributed not to his good fortune but to his valour; but the latter events which have taken place lately, ought to be imputed not to his fault, but to his ill-fortune. However, of Lucullus I will speak hereafter, and I will speak, O Romans, in such a manner, that his true glory shall not appear to be at all disparaged by my pleading, nor, on the other hand, shall any undeserved credit seem to be given to him.

At present, when we are speaking of the dignity and glory of your empire, since that is the beginning of my oration, consider what feelings you think you ought to entertain. Your ancestors have often waged war on account of their merchants and seafaring men having been injuriously treated. What ought to be your feelings when so many thousand Roman citizens have been put to death by one order and at one time? Because their ambassadors had been spoken to with insolence, your ancestors determined that Corinth, the light of all Greece, should be destroyed. Will you allow that king to remain unpunished, who has murdered a lieutenant of the Roman people of consular rank, having tortured him with chains and scourging, and every sort of punishment? They would not allow the freedom of Roman citizens to be diminished; will you be indifferent to their lives being taken? They avenged the privileges of our embassy when they were violated by a word; will you abandon an ambassador who has been put to death with every sort of cruelty?

Take care lest, as it was a most glorious thing for them, to leave you such wide renown and such a powerful empire, it should be a most discreditable thing for you, not to be able to defend and preserve that which you have received. What more shall I say? Shall I say, that the safety of our allies is involved in the greatest hazard and danger? King Ariobarzanes has been driven from his kingdom, an ally and friend of the Roman people; two kings are threatening all Asia, who are not only most hostile to you, but also to your friends and allies. And every city throughout all Asia, and throughout all Greece, is compelled by the magnitude of the danger to put its whole trust in the expectation of your assistance. They do not dare to beg of you any particular general, especially since you have sent them another, nor do they think that they can do this without extreme danger.

They see and feel this, the same thing which you too see and feel,—that there is one man in whom all qualities are in the highest perfection, and that he is near, (which circumstance makes it seem harder to be deprived of him,) by whose mere arrival and name, although it was a maritime war for which he came, they are nevertheless aware that the attacks of the enemy were retarded and repressed. They then, since they cannot speak freely, silently entreat you to think them (as you have thought your allies in the other provinces) worthy of having their safety recommended to such a man; and to think them worthy even more than others, because we often send men with absolute authority into such a province as theirs, of such character, that, even if they protect them from the enemy, still their arrival among the cities of the allies is not very different from an invasion of the enemy. They used to hear of him before, now they see him among them; a man of such moderation, such mildness, such humanity, that those seem to be the happiest people among whom he remains for the longest time.

Wherefore, if on account of their allies, though they themselves had not been roused by any injuries, your ancestors waged war against Antiochus, against Philip, against the Aetolians, and against the Carthaginians; with how much earnestness ought you, when you yourselves have been provoked by injurious treatment, to defend the safety of the allies, and at the same time, the dignity of your empire? especially when your greatest revenues are at stake. For the revenues of the other provinces, O Romans, are such that we can scarcely derive enough from them for the protection of the provinces themselves. But Asia is so rich and so productive, that in the fertility of its soil, and in the variety of its fruits, and in the vastness of its pasture lands, and in the multitude of all those things which are matters of exportation, it is greatly superior to all other countries. Therefore, O Romans, this province, if you have any regard for what tends to your advantage in time of war, and to your dignity in time of peace, must be defended by you, not only from all calamity, but from all fear of calamity.

For in other matters when calamity comes on one, then damage is sustained; but in the case of revenues, not only the arrival of evil, but the bare dread of it, brings disaster. For when the troops of the enemy are not far off, even though no actual irruption takes place, still the flocks are abandoned, agriculture is relinquished, the sailing of merchants is at an end. And accordingly, neither from harbour dues, nor from tenths, nor from the tax on pasture lands, can any revenue be maintained. And therefore it often happens that the produce of an entire year is lost by one rumour of danger, and by one alarm of war.

What do you think ought to be the feelings of those who pay us tribute, or of those who get it in, and exact it, when two kings with very numerous armies are all but on the spot? when one inroad of cavalry may in a very short time carry off the revenue of a whole year? when the publicans think that they retain the large households of slaves which they have in the salt-works, in the fields, in the harbours, and custom-houses, at the greatest risk? Do you think that you can enjoy these advantages unless you preserve those men who are productive to you, free not only, as I said before, from calamity, but even from the dread of calamity?

And even this must not be neglected by you, which I had proposed to myself as the last thing to be mentioned, when I was to speak of the kind of war, for it concerns the property of many Roman citizens; whom you, as becomes your wisdom, O Romans, must regard with the most careful solicitude. The publicans, [*](It has been said before that the publicans were taken almost exclusively from the equestrian order.) most honourable and accomplished men, have taken all their resources and all their wealth into that province; and their property and fortunes ought, by themselves, to be an object of your special care. In truth, if we have always considered the revenues as the sinews of the republic, certainly we shall be right if we call that order of men which collects them, the prop and support of all the other orders.

In the next place, clever and industrious men, of all the other orders of the state, are some of them actually trading themselves in Asia, and you ought to show a regard for their interests in their absence; and others of them have large sums invested in that province. It will, therefore become your humanity to protect a large number of those citizens from misfortune; it will become your wisdom to perceive that the misfortune of many citizens cannot be separated from the misfortune of the republic. In truth, firstly, it is of but little consequence for you afterwards to recover for the publicans revenues which have been once lost; for the same men have not afterwards the same power of contracting for them, and others have not the inclination, through fear.

In the next place, that which the same Asia, and that same Mithridates taught us, at the beginning of the Asiatic war that, at all events, we, having learnt by disaster, ought to keep in our recollection. For we know that then, when many had lost large fortunes in Asia, all credit failed at Rome, from payments being hindered. For it is not possible for many men to lose their property and fortunes in one city, without drawing many along with them into the same vortex of disaster. But do you now preserve the republic from this misfortune; and believe me, (you yourselves see that it is the case,) this credit, and this state of the money-market which exists at Rome and in the forum, is bound up with, and is inseparable from, those fortunes which are invested in Asia. Those fortunes cannot fall without credit here being undermined by the came blow, and perishing along with them. Consider, then, whether you ought to hesitate to apply yourselves with all zeal to that war, in which the glory of your name, the safety of your allies, your greatest revenues, and the fortunes of numbers of your citizens, will be protected at the same time as the republic.

Since I have spoken of the description of war, I will now say a few words about its magnitude. For this may be said of it,—that it is a kind of war so necessary, that it must absolutely be waged, and yet not one of such magnitude as to be formidable. And in this we must take the greatest care that those things do not appear to you contemptible which require to be most diligently guarded against. And that all men may understand that I give Lucius Lucullus all the praise that is due to a gallant man, and most wise [*](The Latin is, “forti viro, et sapientissimo homini,” and this opposition of vir and homo is not uncommon in Cicero's orations. “Homo is nearly synonymous with vir, but with this distinction, that homo is used of a man considered as an intellectual and moral being.—namely, where personal qualities are to be denoted; whereas vir signifies a man his relations to the state.”—Riddle, Lat. Dict. v. Homo.) man, and to a most consummate general, I say that when he first arrived in Asia, the forces of Mithridates were most numerous, well appointed, and provided with every requisite; and that the finest city in Asia, and the one, too, that was most friendly to us, the city of Cyzicus, was besieged by the king in person, with an enormous army, and that the siege had been pressed most vigorously, when Lucius Lucullus, by his valour, and perseverance, and wisdom, relieved it from the most extreme danger.