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

For what can be so unprecedented as for a young man in a private capacity to levy an army at a most critical time of the republic? He levied one.—To command it? He did command it.—To succeed gloriously in his undertaking? He did succeed. What can be so entirely contrary to usage, as for a very young man, whose age [*](“As regards the age at which a person might become a senator, we have no express statement for the time of the republic, although it appears to have been fixed by some custom or law, as the aetas senatoria is frequently mentioned, especially during the latter period of the republic; but we may by induction discover the probable age. We know that according to the law of the tribune Villius the age fixed for the quaestorship was thirty-one. Now as it might happen that a quaestor was made the senator immediately after the expiration of his office, we may presume that the earliest age at which a man could become a senator was thirty-two. Augustus at last fixed the senatorial age at twenty-five, which appears to have remained unaltered throughout the time of the empire.”—Smith, Dict. Ant. p. 851, v. Senatus.) fell far short of that required for the rank of a senator, to have a command and an army entrusted to him? to have Sicily committed to his care, and Africa, and the war which was to be carried on there? He conducted himself in these provinces with singular blamelessness, dignity, and valour; he terminated a most serious war in Africa, and brought away his army victorious. But what was ever so unheard of as for a Roman knight to have a triumph? But even that circumstance the Roman people not only say, but they thought that it deserved to be thronged to and honoured with all possible zeal.

What was ever so unusual, as, when there were two most gallant and most illustrious consuls, for a Roman knight to be sent as proconsul to a most important and formidable war? He was so sent—on which occasion, indeed, when some one in the senate said that a private individual ought not to be sent as proconsul, Lucius Philippus is reported to have answered, that if he had his will he should be sent not for one consul, but for both the consuls. Such great hope was entertained that the affairs of the republic would be prosperously managed by him, that the charge which properly belonged to the two consuls was entrusted to the valour of one young man. What was ever so extraordinary as for a man to be released from all laws by a formal resolution of the senate, and made consul before he was of an age to undertake any other magistracy according to the laws? What could be so incredible, as for a Roman knight to celebrate a second triumph in pursuance of a resolution of the senate? All the unusual circumstances which in the memory of man have ever happened to all other men put together, are not so many as these which we see have occurred in the history of this one man.

And all these instances, numerous, important and novel as they are, have all occurred in the case of the same man, taking their rise in the authority of Quintus Catulus himself and by that of other most honourable men of the same rank. Wherefore, let them take care that it is not considered a most unjust and intolerable thing, that their authority in matters affecting the dignity of Cnaeus Pompeius should hitherto have been constantly approved of by you, but that your judgment, and the authority of the Roman people in the case of the same man, should be disregarded by them. Especially when the Roman people can now, of its own right, defend its own authority with respect to this man against all who dispute it,—because, when those very same men objected, you chose him alone of all men to appoint to the management of the war against the pirates.

If you did this at random, and had but little regard for the interests of the republic, then they are right to endeavour to guide your party spirit by their wisdom; but if you at that time showed more foresight in the affairs of the state than they did; if you, in spite of their resistance, by yourselves conferred dignity on the empire, safety on the whole world; then at last let those noble men confess that both they and all other men must obey the authority of the universal Roman people. And in this Asiatic and royal war, not only is that military valour required, which exists in a singular degree in Cnaeus Pompeius, but many other great virtues of mind are also demanded. It is difficult for your commander-in-chief in Asia, Cilicia, Syria, and all the kingdoms of the inland nations, to behave in such a manner as to think of nothing else but the enemy and glory. Then, even if there be some men moderate and addicted to the practice of modesty and self-government, still, such is the multitude of covetous and licentious men, that no one thinks that these are such men.

It is difficult to tell you, O Romans, how great our unpopularity is among foreign nations, on account of the injurious and licentious behaviour of those whom we have of late years sent among them with military command. For, in all those countries which are now under our dominion, what temple do you think has had a sufficiently holy reputation, what city has been sufficiently sacred, what private house has been sufficiently closed and fortified, to be safe from them? They seek out wealthy and splendid cities to find presence for making war on them for the sake of plundering them.

I would willingly argue this with those most eminent and illustrious men, Quintus Catulus and Quintus Hortensius; for they know the distresses of the allies, they see their calamities, they hear their complaints. Do you think that you are sending an army in defence of your allies against their enemies, or rather, under presence of the existence of enemies, against your allies and friends themselves? What city is there in Asia which can stand the ferocity and arrogance, I will not say of the, army, of a commander-in-chief, or of a lieutenant, but of even the brigade of one single military tribune? So that even if you have any one who may appear able to cope in terms of advantage with the king's armies, still, unless he be also a man who can keep his hands, and eyes, and desires from the treasures of the allies, from their wives and children, from the ornaments of their temples and cities, from the gold and jewels of the king, he will not be a fit person to be sent to this Asiatic and royal war. Do you think that there is any city there peacefully inclined towards us which is rich?

Do you think that there is any rich city there, which will appear to those men to be peacefully inclined towards us? The sea-coast, O Romans, begged for Cnaeus Pompeius, not only on account of his renown for military achievements, but also because of the moderation of his disposition. For it saw that it was not the Roman people that was enriched every year by the public money, but only a few individuals, and that we did nothing more by the name of our fleets beyond sustaining losses, and so covering ourselves with additional disgrace. But now, are these men, who think that all these honours and offices are not to be conferred on one person, ignorant with what desires, with what hope of retrieving past losses, and on what conditions, these men go to the provinces? As if Cnaeus Pompeius did not appear great in our eyes, not only on account of his own positive virtues, but by a comparison with the vices of others.

And, therefore, do not you doubt to entrust everything to him alone, when he has been found to be the only man for many years whom the allies are glad to see come to their cities with an army. And if you think that our side of the argument, O Romans, should be confirmed by authorities, you have the authority of Publius Servilius, a man of the greatest skill in all wars, and in affairs of the greatest importance, who has performed such mighty achievements by land and sea, that, when you are deliberating about war, no one's authority ought to have more weight with you. You have the authority of Caius Curio, a man who has received great kindnesses from you, who has performed great exploits, who is endued with the highest abilities and wisdom; and of Cnaeus Lentulus, in whom all of you know there is (as, indeed, there ought to be from the ample honours which you have heaped upon him) the most eminent wisdom, and the greatest dignity of character; and of Caius Cassius, a man of extraordinary integrity, and valour, and virtue. Consider, therefore, whether we do not seem by the authority of these men to give a sufficient answer to the speeches of those men who differ from us.

And as this is the case, O Caius Manilius, in the first place, I exceedingly praise and approve of that law of yours, and of your purpose, and of your sentiments. And in the second place, I exhort you, having the approbation of the Roman people, to persevere in those sentiments, and not to fear the violence or threats of any one. And, first of all, I think you have the requisite courage and perseverance; and, secondly, when we see such a multitude present displaying such zeal in our cause as we now see displayed for the second time, in appointing the same man to the supreme command how can we doubt in the matter, or question our power of carrying our point? As for me, all the zeal, and wisdom, and industry, and ability of which I am possessed, all the influence which I have through the kindness shown for me by the Roman people, and through my power as praetor, as also, through my reputation for authority, good faith, and virtue, all of it I pledge to you and the Roman people, and devote to the object of carrying this resolution.

And I call all the gods, to witness, and especially those who preside over this place and temple, who see into the minds of all those who apply themselves to affairs of state, that I am not doing this at the request of any one, nor because I think to conciliate the favour of Cnaeus Pompeius by taking this side, nor in order, through the greatness of any one else, to seek for myself protection against dangers, or aids in the acquirement of honours; because, as for dangers, we shall easily repel them, as a man ought to do, protected by our own innocence; and as for honours, we shall not gain them by the favour of any men, nor by anything that happens in this place, but by the same laborious course of life which I have hitherto adopted, if your favourable inclination assists me.

Wherefore, whatever I have undertaken in this cause, O Romans, I assure you that I have undertaken wholly for the sake of the republic; and I am so far from thinking that I have gained by it the favour of any influential man, that I know, on the other hand, that I have brought on myself many enmities, some secret, some undisguised, which I never need have incurred, and which get will not be mischievous to you. But I have considered that I, invested with my present honours, and loaded with so many kindnesses from you, ought to prefer your inclination, and the dignity of the republic, and the safety of our provinces and allies, to all considerations of my own private interest.