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

I say that he also, when general, defeated and destroyed that great and well-appointed fleet, which the chiefs of Sertorius's party were leading against Italy with furious zeal; I say besides, that by him numerous armies of the enemy were destroyed in several battles, and that Pontus was opened to our legions, which before his time had been closed against the Roman people on every side; and that Sinope and Amisus, towns in which the king had palaces, adorned and furnished with every kind of magnificence, and many other cities of Pontus and Cappadocia, were taken by his mere approach and arrival near them; that the king himself was stripped of the kingdom possessed by his father and his grandfather, and forced to betake himself as a suppliant to other kings and other nations; and that all these great deeds were achieved without any injury to the allies of the Roman people, or any diminution of its revenues. I think that this is praise enough;—such praise that you must see, O Romans, that Lucius Lucullus has not been praised as much from this rostrum by any one of these men who are objecting to this law and arguing against our cause.

Perhaps now it will be asked, how, when all this has been already done, there can be any great war left behind. I will explain this, O Romans; for this does not seem an unreasonable question. At first Mithridates fled from his kingdom, as Medea is formerly said to have fled from the same region of Pontus; for they say that she, in her flight, strewed about the limbs of her brother in those places along which her father was likely to pursue her, in order that the collection of them, dispersed as they were, and the grief which would afflict his father, might delay the rapidity of his pursuit. Mithridates, flying in the same manner, left in Pontus the whole of the vast quantity of gold and silver, and of beautiful things which he had inherited from his ancestors, and which he himself had collected and brought into his own kingdom, having obtained them by plunder in the former war from all Asia. While our men were diligently occupied in collecting all this, the king himself escaped out of their hands.And so grief retarded the father of Medea in his pursuit, but delight delayed our men.

In this alarm and flight of his, Tigranes, the king of Armenia, received him, encouraged him while despairing of his fortunes, gave him new spirit in his depression, and recruited with new strength his powerless condition. And after Lucius Lucullus arrived in his kingdom, very many tribes were excited to hostilities against our general. For those nations which the Roman people never had thought either of attacking in war or tampering with, had been inspired with fear. There was, besides, a general opinion which had taken deep root, and had spread over all the barbarian tribes in those districts, that our army had been led into those countries with the object of plundering a very wealthy and most religiously worshipped temple. And so, many powerful nations were roused against us by a fresh dread and alarm. But our army although it had taken a city of Tigranes's kingdom, and had fought some successful battles, still was out of spirits at its immense distance from Rome, and its separation from its friends.

At present I will not say more; for the result of these feelings of theirs was, that they were more anxious for a speedy return home than for any further advance into the enemies' country. But Mithridates had by this time strengthened his army by reinforcements of those men belonging to his own dominions who had assembled together, and by large promiscuous forces belonging to many other kings and tribes. And we see that this is almost invariably the case, that kings when in misfortune easily induce many to pity and assist them, especially such as are either kings themselves, or who live under kingly power, because to them the name of king appears something great and sacred.

And accordingly he, when conquered, was able to accomplish what, when he was in the full enjoyment of his powers, he never dared even to wish for. For when he had returned to his kingdom, he was not content (though that had happened to him beyond all his hopes) with again setting his foot on that land after he had been expelled from it; but he even volunteered an attack on your army, flushed as it was with glory and victory. Allow me, in this place, O Romans, (just as poets do who write of Roman affairs,) to pass over our disaster, which was so great that it came to Lucius Lucullus's ears, not by means of a messenger despatched from the scene of action, but through the report of common conversation.

At the very time of this misfortune,—of this most terrible disaster in the whole war, Lucius Lucullus, who might have been able, to a great extent, to remedy the calamity, being compelled by your orders, because you thought, according to the old principle of your ancestors, that limits ought to be put to length of command, discharged a part of his soldiers who had served their appointed time, and delivered over part to Glabrio. I pass over many things designedly; but you yourselves can easily conjecture how important you ought to consider that war which most powerful kings are uniting in,—which disturbed nations are renewing,—which nations, whose strength is unimpaired, are undertaking, and which anew general of yours has to encounter after a veteran army has been defeated.

I appear to have said enough to make you see why this war is in its very nature unavoidable, in its magnitude dangerous. It remains for me to speak of the general who ought to be selected for that war, and appointed to the management of such important affairs. I wish, O Romans, that you had such an abundance of brave and honest men, that it was a difficult subject for your deliberations, whom you thought most desirable to be appointed to the conduct of such important affairs, and so vast a war. But now, when there is Cnaeus Pompeius alone, who has exceeded in valour, not only the glory of these men who are now alive, but even all recollections of antiquity, what is there that, in this case, can raise a doubt in the mind of any one?

For I think that these four qualities are indispensable in a great general,—knowledge of military affairs, valour, authority and good fortune. Who, then, ever was, or ought to have been, better acquainted with military affairs than this man? who, the moment that he left school and finished his education as a boy, at a time when there was a most important war going on, and most active enemies were banded against us, went to his father's army and to the discipline of the camp; who, when scarcely out of his boyhood, became a soldier of a consummate general,—when entering on manhood, became himself the general of a mighty army; who has been more frequently engaged with the enemy, than any one else has ever disputed with an adversary; who has himself, as general, conducted more wars than other men have read of; who has subdued more provinces than other men have wished for; whose youth was trained to the knowledge of military affairs, not by the precepts of others, but by commanding himself,—not by the disasters of war, but by victories,—not by campaigns, but by triumphs. In short, what description of war can there be in which the fortune of the republic has not given him practice? Civil war, African war, Transalpine war, Spanish war, promiscuous war of the most warlike cities and nations, servile war, naval war, every variety and diversity of wars and of enemies, has not only been encountered by this one man, but encountered victoriously; and these exploits show plainly that there is no circumstance, in military practice which can elude the knowledge of this man.

But now, what language can be found equal to the valour of Cnaeus Pompeius? What statement can any one make which shall be either worthy of him, or new to you, or unknown to any one? For those are not the only virtuous of a general which are usually thought so,—namely, industry in business, fortitude amid dangers, energy in acting, rapidity in executing, wisdom in foreseeing; which all exist in as great perfection in that one man as in all the other generals put together whom we have either seen or heard of.

Italy is my witness, which that illustrious conqueror himself, Lucius Sulla, confessed had been delivered by this man's valour and ready assistance. Sicily is my witness, which he released when it was surrounded on all sides by many dangers, not by the dread of his power, but by the promptitude of his wisdom. Africa is my witness, which, having been overwhelmed by numerous armies of enemies, overflowed with the blood of those same enemies. Gaul is my witness, through which a road into Spain was laid open to our legions by the destruction of the Gauls. Spain is my witness, which has repeatedly seen our many enemies there defeated and subdued by this man. Again and again, Italy is my witness, which, when it was weighed down by the disgraceful and perilous servile war, entreated aid from this man, though he, was at a distance; and that war, having dwindled down and wasted away at the expectation of Pompeius, was destroyed and buried by his arrival.

But now, also every coast, all foreign nations and countries, all seas, both in their open waters and in every bay, and creek, and harbour, are my witnesses. For during these last years, what place in any part of the sea had so strong a garrison as to be safe from him? what place was so much hidden as to escape his notice? Whoever put to sea without being aware that he was committing himself to the hazard of death or slavery, either from storms or from the sea being crowded with pirates? Who would ever have supposed that a war of such extent, so mean, so old a war, a war so extensive in its theatre and so widely scattered, could have been terminated by all our generals put together in one year, or by one general in all the years of his life?

In all these later years what province have you had free from pirates? what revenue has been safe? what ally have you been able to protect? to whom have your fleets been any defence? How many islands do you suppose have been deserted? how many cities of the allies do you think have been either abandoned out of fear of the pirates, or have been taken by them? But why do I speak of distant events? It was—it was, indeed, formerly—a characteristic of the Roman people to carry on its wars at a distance from home, and to defend by the bulwarks of its power not its own homes, but the fortunes of its allies. Need I say, that the sea has during all these latter years been closed against your allies, when even our own armies never ventured to cross over from Brundusium, except in the depth of winter? Need I complain that men who were coming to you from foreign nations were taken prisoners, when even the ambassadors of the Roman people were forced to be ransomed? Need I say, that the sea was not safe for merchants, when twelve axes [*](The Scholiast says that a consul named Milienus (whose name, however, does not appear in the Fasti) was taken prisoner by the pirates, and sold with his ensigns of office. The axes mean his faces.) came into the power of the pirates?

Need I mention, how Cnidus, and Colophon, and Samos, most noble cities, and others too in countless numbers, were taken by them, when you know that your own harbours, and those harbours too from which you derive, as it were, your very life and breath, were in the power of the pirates? Are you ignorant that the harbour of Caieta, that illustrious harbour, when full of ships, was plundered by the pirates under the very eyes of the praetor? and that from Misenum, the children of the very man who had before that waged war against the pirates in that place, were carried off by the pirates? For why should I complain of the disaster of Ostia, and of that stain and blot on the republic, when almost under your very eyes, that fleet which was under the command of a Roman consul was taken and destroyed by the pirates? O ye immortal gods! could the incredible and godlike virtue of one man in so short a time bring so much light to the republic, that you who had lately been used to see a fleet of the enemy before the mouth of the Tiber, should now hear that there is not one ship belonging to the pirates on this side of the Atlantic?

And although you have seen with what rapidity these things were done, still that rapidity ought not to be passed over by me in speaking of them.—For who ever, even if he were only going for the purpose of transacting business or making profit, contrived in so short a time to visit so many places, and to perform such long journeys, with as great celerity as Cnaeus Pompeius has performed his voyage, bearing with him the terrors of war as our general? He, when the weather could hardly be called open for sailing, went to Sicily, explored the coasts of Africa; from thence he came with his fleet to Sardinia, and these three great granaries of the republic he fortified with powerful garrisons and fleets;

when, leaving Sardinia, he came to Italy, having secured the two Spains and Cisalpine Gaul with garrisons and ships. Having sent vessels also to the coast of Illyricum, and to every part of Achaia and Greece, he also adorned the two seas of Italy with very large fleets, and very sufficient garrisons; and he himself going in person, added all Cilicia to the dominions of the Roman people, on the forty-ninth day after he set out from Brundusium. Will the pirates who were anywhere to be found, were either taken prisoners and put to death, or else had surrendered themselves voluntarily to the power and authority of this one man. Also, when the Cretans had sent ambassadors to implore his mercy even into Pamphylia to him, he did not deny them hopes of being allowed to surrender, and he exacted hostages from them. And thus Cnaeus Pompeius at the end of winter prepared, at the beginning of spring undertook, and by the middle of summer terminated, this most important war, which had lasted so long, which was scattered in such distant and such various places, and by which every nation and country was incessantly distressed.

This is the godlike and incredible virtue of that general. What more shall I say? How many and how great are his other exploits which I began to mention a short time back; for we are not only to seek for skill in war in a consummate and perfect general, but there are many other eminent qualities which are the satellites and companions of this virtue. And first of all, how great should be the incorruptibility of generals! How great should be their moderation in everything! How perfect their good faith! How universal should be their affability! how brilliant their genius! how tender their humanity! And let us briefly consider to what extent these qualities exist in Cnaeus Pompeius. For they are all of the highest importance, O Romans, but yet they are to be seen and ascertained more by comparison with the conduct of others than by any display which they make of themselves.

For how can we rank a man among generals of any class at all, if centurionships [*](The Scholiast says that Cicero is here hinting at Glabrio the consul, or at the younger Marius.) are sold, and have been constantly sold in his army? What great or honourable thoughts can we suppose that that man cherishes concerning the republic, who has either distributed the money which was taken from the treasury for the conduct of the war among the magistrates, out of ambition [*](Lucullus is supposed to be meant here as it is said that he had employed large sums in soliciting the votes of influential men, so as to be left in command of the province of Asia, in which he had amassed enormous riches.) to keep his province, or, out of avarice, has left it behind him at Rome, invested for his own advantage? Your murmurs show, O Romans, that you recognise, in my description, men who have done these things. But I name no one, so that no one can be angry with me, without making confession beforehand of his own malpractices. But who is there who is ignorant what terrible distresses our armies suffer wherever they go, through this covetousness of our generals?

Recollect the marches which, during these latter years, our generals have made in Italy, through the lands and towns of the Roman citizens; then you will more easily imagine what is the course pursued among foreign nations. Do you think that of late years more cities of the enemy have been destroyed by the arms of your soldiers, or more cities of your own allies by their winter campaigns? For that general who does not restrain himself can never restrain his army; nor can he be strict in judging others who is unwilling for others to be strict in judging him.

Do we wonder now that this man should be so far superior to all others, when his legions arrived in Asia in such order that not only no man's hand in so numerous an army, but not even any man's footstep was said to have done the least injury to any peaceful inhabitant? But now we have daily rumours—yes, and letters too—brought to Rome about the way in which the soldiers are behaving in their winter quarters; not only is no one compelled to spend money on the entertainment of the troops, but he is not permitted to do so, even if he wish. For our ancestors thought fit that the houses of our allies and friends should be a shelter to our soldiers from the winter, not a theatre for the exercise of their avarice.

Come now, consider also what moderation he has displayed in other matters also. How was it, do you suppose, that he was able to display that excessive rapidity, and to perform that incredible voyage? For it was no unexampled number of rowers, no hitherto unknown skill in navigation, no new winds, which bore him so swiftly to the most distant lands; but those circumstances which are wont to delay other men did not delay him. No avarice turned him aside from his intended route in pursuit of some plunder or other; no lust led him away in pursuit of pleasure; no luxury allured him to seek its delights; the illustrious reputation of no city tempted him to make its acquaintance; even labour did not turn him aside to seek rest. Lastly, as for the statues, and pictures, and other embellishments of Greek cities, which other men think worth carrying away, he did not think them worthy even of a visit from him.