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

And, therefore, every one in those countries looks upon Cnaeus Pompeius as some one descended from heaven, not as some one sent out from this city. Now they begin to believe that there really were formerly Romans of the same moderation; which hitherto has seemed to foreign nations a thing incredible, a false and ridiculous tradition. Now the splendour of your dominion is really brilliant in the eyes of those nations. Now they understand that it was not without reason that, when we had magistrates of the same moderation, their ancestors preferred being subject to the Roman people to being themselves lords of other nations. But now the access of all private individuals to him is so easy, their complaints of the injuries received from others are so little checked, that he who in dignity is superior to the noblest men, in affability seems to be on a par with the meanest.

How great his wisdom is, how great his authority and fluency in speaking,—and that too is a quality in which the dignity of a general is greatly concerned,—you, O Romans, have often experienced yourselves in this very place. But how great do you think his good faith must have been towards your allies, when the enemies of all nations have placed implicit confidence in it? His humanity is such that it is difficult to say, whether the enemy feared his valour more when fighting against him, or loved his mildness more when they had been conquered by him. And will any one doubt, that this important war ought to be entrusted to him, who seems to have been born by some especial design and favour of the gods for the express purpose of finishing all the wars which have existed in their own recollection?

And since authority has great weight in conducting wars, and in discharging the duties of military command, it certainly is not doubtful to any one that in that point this same general is especially preeminent. And who is ignorant that it is of great importance in the conduct of wars, what opinion the enemy, and what opinion the allies have of your generals, when we know that men are not less influenced in such serious affairs, to despise, or fear, or hate, or love a man by common opinion and common report, than by sure grounds and principles? What name, then, in the whole world has ever been more illustrious than his? whose achievements have ever been equal to his? And, what gives authority in the highest degree, concerning whom have you ever passed such numerous and such honourable resolutions?

Do you believe that there is anywhere in the whole world any place so desert that the renown of that day has not reached it, when the whole Roman people, the forum being crowded, and all the adjacent temples from which this place can be seen being completely filled,—the whole Roman people, I say, demanded Cnaeus Pompeius alone as their general in the war in which the common interests of all nations were at stake? Therefore, not to say more on the subject, nor to confirm what I say by instances of others as to the influence which authority has in war, all our instances of splendid exploits in war must be taken from this same Cnaeus Pompeius. The very day that he was appointed by you commander-in-chief of the maritime war, in a moment such a cheapness of provisions ensued, (though previously there had been a great scarcity of corn, and the price had been exceedingly high,) owing to the hope conceived of one single man, and his high reputation, as could scarcely have been produced by a most productive harvest after a long period of peace.

Now, too, after the disaster which befell us in Pontus, from the result of that battle, of which, sorely against my will, I just now reminded you, when our allies were in a state of alarm, when the power and spirits of our enemies had risen, and the province was in a very insufficient state of defence, you would have entirely lost Asia, O Romans, if the fortune of the Roman people had not, by some divine interposition, brought Cnaeus Pompeius at that particular moment into those regions. His arrival both checked Mithridates, elated with his unusual victory, and delayed Tigranes, who was threatening Asia with a formidable army. And can any one doubt what he will accomplish by his valour, when he did so much by his authority and reputation? or how easily he will preserve our allies and our revenues by his power and his army, when he defended them by the mere, terror of his name?

Come, now; what a great proof does this circumstance afford us of the influence of the same man on the enemies of the Roman people, that all of them, living in countries so far distant from us and from each other, surrendered themselves to him alone in so short a time? that the ambassadors of the Cretans, though there was at the time a general [*](Metellus, afterwards called Creticus, from his victory over the Cretans.) and an army of ours in their island came almost to the end of the world to Cnaeus Pompeius, and said, all the cities of the Cretans were willing to surrender themselves to him? What did Mithridates himself do? Did he not send an ambassador into Spain to the same Cnaeus Pompeius? a man whom Pompeius has always considered an ambassador, but who that party, to whom it has always been a source of annoyance that he was sent to him particularly, have contended was sent as a spy rather than as an ambassador. You can now, then, O Romans, form an accurate judgment how much weight you must suppose that this authority of his—now, too, that it has been further increased by many subsequent exploits, and by many commendatory resolutions of your own—will have with those kings and among foreign nations.

It remains for me timidly and briefly to speak of his good fortune, a quality which no man ought to boast of in his own case, but which we may remember and commemorate an happening to another, just as a man may extol the power of the gods. For my judgment is this, that very often commands have been conferred upon, and armies have been entrusted to Maximus, to Marcellus, to Scipio, to Marius, and to other great generals, not only on account of their valour, but also on account of their good fortune. For there has been, in truth, in the case of some most illustrious men, good fortune added as some contribution of the gods to their honour and glory, and as a means of performing mighty achievements. But concerning the good fortune of this man of whom we are now speaking, I will use so much moderation as not to say that good fortune was actually placed in his power, but I will so speak as to appear to remember what is past, to have good hope of what is to come; so that my speech may, on the one hand, not appear to the immortal gods to be arrogant, nor, on the other hand, to be ungrateful.

Accordingly, I do not intend to mention, O Romans, what great exploits he has achieved both at home and in war, by land and by sea, and with what invariable felicity he has achieved them; how, not only the citizens have always consented to his wishes,—the allies complied with them,—the enemy obeyed them, but how even the winds and weather have seconded them. I will only say this, most briefly,—that no one has ever been so impudent as to dare in silence to wish for so many and such great favours as the immortal gods have showered upon Cnaeus Pompeius. And that this favour may continue his, and be perpetual, you, O Romans, ought to wish and pray (as, indeed, you do), both for the sake of the common safety and prosperity, and for the sake of the man himself

Wherefore, as the war is at the same time so necessary that it cannot be neglected, so important that it must be conducted with the greatest care; and since you have it in your power to appoint a general to conduct it, in whom there is the most perfect knowledge of war, the most extraordinary valour, the most splendid personal influence, and the most eminent good fortune, can you hesitate, O Romans, to apply this wonderful advantage which is offered you and given you by the immortal gods, to the preservation and increase of the power of the republic?

But, if Cnaeus Pompeius were a private individual at Rome at this present time, still he would be the man who ought to be selected and sent out to so great a war. But now, when to all the other exceeding advantages of the appointment, this opportunity is also added,—that he is in those very countries already,—that he has an army with him,—that there is another army there which can at once be made over to him by those who are in command of it,—why do we delay? or why do we not, under the guidance of the immortal gods themselves, commit this royal war also to him to whom all the other wars in those parts have been already entrusted to the greatest advantage, to the very safety of the republic?

But, to be sure, that most illustrious man, Quintus Catulus, a man most honestly attached to the republic, and loaded with your kindness in a way most honourable to him; and also Quintus Hortensius, a man endowed with the highest qualities of honour, and fortune, and virtue, and genius, disagree to this proposal. And I admit that their authority has in many instances had the greatest weight with you, and that it ought to have the greatest weight; but in this cause, although you are aware that the opinions of many very brave and illustrious men are unfavourable to us, still it is possible for us, disregarding those authorities, to arrive at the truth by the circumstances of the case and by reason. And so much the more easily, because those very men admit that everything which has been said by me up to this time is true,—that the war is necessary, that it is an important war, and that all the requisite qualifications are in the highest perfection in Cnaeus Pompeius.

What, then, does Hortensius say? “That if the whole power must be given to one man, Pompeius alone is most worthy to have it, but that, nevertheless, the power ought not to be entrusted to one individual.” That argument, however, has now become obsolete, having been refuted much more by facts than by words. For you, also, Quintus Hortensius, said many things with great force and fluency (as might be expected from your exceeding ability, and eminent facility as an orator) in the senate against that brave man, Aulus Gabinius, when he had brought forward the law about appointing one commander-in-chief against the pirates; and also from this place where I now stand, you made a long speech against that law.

What then? By the immortal gods, if your authority had had greater weight with the Roman people than the safety and real interests of the Roman people itself, should we have been this day in possession of our present glory, and of the empire of the whole earth? Did this, then, appear to you to be dominion, when it was a common thing for the ambassadors, and praetors, and quaestors of the Roman people to be taken prisoners? when we were cut off from all supplies, both public and private, from all our provinces? when all the seas were so closed against us, that we could neither visit any private estate of our own, nor any public domain beyond the sea?

What city ever was there before this time,—I speak not of the city of the Athenians, which is said formerly to have had a sufficiently extensive naval dominion; nor of that of the Carthaginians, who had great power with their fleet and maritime resources; nor of those of the Rhodians, whose naval discipline and naval renown has lasted even to our recollection,—but was there ever any city before this time so insignificant, if it was only a small island, as not to be able by its own power to defend its harbours, and its lands, and some part of its country and maritime coast? But, forsooth, for many years before the Gabinian law was passed, the Roman people, whose name, till within our own memory remained invincible in naval battles, was deprived not only of a great, aye, of much the greatest part of its usefulness, but also of its dignity and dominion.

We, whose ancestors conquered with our fleets Antiochus the king, and Perses, and in every naval engagement defeated the Carthaginians, the best practiced and best equipped of all men in maritime affairs; we could now in no place prove ourselves equal to the pirates. We, who formerly had not only all Italy in safety, but who were able by the authority of our empire to secure the safety of all our allies in the most distant countries, so that even the island of Delos, situated so far from us in the Aegean sea, at which all men were in the habit of touching with their merchandise and their freights, full of riches as it was, little and unwalled as it was, still was in no alarm; we, I say, were cut off, not only from our provinces, and from the sea-coast of Italy, and from our harbours, but even from the Appian road; and at this time, the magistrates of the Roman people were not ashamed to come up into this very rostrum where I am standing, which your ancestors had bequeathed to you adorned with nautical trophies, and the spoils of the enemy's fleet.

When you opposed that law, the Roman people, O Quintus Hortensius, thought that you, and the others who held the same opinion with you, delivered your sentiments in a bold and gallant spirit. But still, in a matter affecting the safety of the commonwealth, the Roman people preferred consulting its own feelings of indignation to your authority. Accordingly, one law, one man, and one year, delivered us not only from that misery and disgrace, but also caused us again at length to appear really to be the masters of all nations and countries by land and sea.

And on this account the endeavour to detract, shall I say from Gabinius, or from Pompeius, or (what would be truer still) from both? appears to me particularly unworthy; being done in order that Aulus Gabinius might not be appointed lieutenant to Cnaeus Pompeius, though he requested and begged it. Is he who begs for a particular lieutenant in so important a war unworthy to obtain any one whom he desires, when all other generals have taken whatever lieutenants they chose, to assist them in pillaging the allies and plundering the provinces? or ought he, by whose law safety and dignity has been given to the Roman people, and to all nations, to be prevented from sharing in the glory of that commander and that army, which exists through his wisdom and was appointed at his risk?

Was it allowed to Caius Falcidius, to Quintus Metellus, to Quintus Caelius Laterensis, and to Cnaeus Lentulus, all of whom I name to do them honour, to be lieutenants the year after they had been tribunes of the people; and shall men be so exact in the case of Gabinius alone, who, in this war which is carried on under the provisions of the Gabinian law, and in the case of this commander and this army which he himself appointed with your assistance, ought to have the first right of any one? And concerning whose appointment as lieutenant I hope that the consuls will bring forward a motion in the senate; and if they hesitate, or are unwilling to do so, I undertake to bring it forward myself; nor, O Romans, shall the hostile edict of any one deter me from relying on you and defending your privileges and your kindness. Nor will I listen to anything except the interposition of the tribunes; and as to that, those very men who threaten it, will, I apprehend, consider over and over again what they have a right to do. In my own opinion, O Romans, Aulus Gabinius alone has a right to be put by the side of Cnaeus Pompeius as a partner of the glory of his exploits in the maritime war; because the one, with the assistance of your votes, gave to that man alone the task of undertaking that war, and the other, when it entrusted to him, undertook it and terminated it.

It remains for me to speak of the authority and opinion of Quintus Catulus; who, when he asked of you, if you thus placed all your dependence on Cnaeus Pompeius, in whom you would have any hope, if anything were to happen to him, received a splendid reward for his own virtue and worth, when you all, with almost one voice, cried out that you would, in that case, put your trust in him. In truth he is such a man, that no affair can be so important, or so difficult, that, he cannot manage it by his wisdom, or defend it by his integrity, or terminate it by his valour. But, in this case, I entirely differ from him; because, the less certain and the less lasting the life of man is, the more ought the republic to avail itself of the life and valour of any admirable man, as long as the immortal gods allow it to do so.

But let no innovation be established contrary to the precedents and principles of our ancestors.— I will not say, at this moment, that our ancestors in peace always obeyed usage, but in war were always guided by expediency, and always accommodated themselves with new plans to the new emergencies of the times. I will not say that two most important wars, the Punic war and the Spanish war, were put an end to by one general; that two most powerful cities, which threatened the greatest danger to this empire— Carthage and Numantia, were destroyed by the same Scipio. I will not remind you that it was but lately determined by you and by your ancestors, to rest all the hopes of the empire on Caius Marius, so that the same man conducted the war against Jugurtha, and against the Cimbri, and against the Teutones. But recollect, in the case of Cnaeus Pompeius himself, with reference to whom Catulus objects to having any new regulations introduced, how many new laws have been made with the most willing consent of Quintus Catulus.