Biography of Pompey the Great


CNEIUS POMPEIUS MAGNUS, was born in 106 B.C. At the early age of 17 he began to learn the military art under his father by service in the field against the Italians in the Social war. Though so young he gave proof of extraordinary valor, and of remarkable energy of character.

He was attached to Sulla in his war against Marius, and behaved with great prudence and valor, and with such remarkable success that, on the restoration of peace in Italy, the conduct of the war against the remains of the Marian faction in Africa and Sicily was entrusted to him. He speedily performed his commission, and on his return to Rome was honored with the name of Magnus, (i.e. "The Great,") and with a triumph, which for one who had never held any public office, and was merely an eques, was an unprecedented distinction. His next exploits were the reduction of the followers of Lepidus, whom he drove out of Italy, and the extinction of the Marian party in Spain, led on by the brave Sertorius. In returning to Italy after an absence of five or six years in Spain, he fell in with and defeated the remnants of the army of Spartacus, and thus claimed the credit of concluding the Servile war. He was now the idol of the people, and though legally ineligible to the consulship, was elected to that important office in the year 70, the Senate relieving him of his disabilities rather than provoke him to extremities.

In 67-66 B.C., Pompey performed a noble service to the republic in clearing the Mediterranean of the pirates who infested it in great numbers; and during the next four years 65-62 he conquered Mithridates, King of Pontus, Tigranes, King of Armenia, and Antiochus, King of Syria. At the same time he subdued the Jewish nation, and captured Jerusalem. On his return to Italy he disbanded his army and entered Rome in triumph for the third time, in 61 B.C. Later, having quarrelled with the Senate, he joined with Caesar and Crassus in forming a coalition, which is commonly called "The First Triumvirate," and which for a time frustrated all the efforts of the aristocratic party. Caesar's daughter, Julia, was given in marriage to Pompey, and private relationship was thus made to bind together the ties of political interest. And now for some years following, Caesar was reaping laurels in Gaul, and rising higher in popular esteem as a warrior and statesman, while Pompey was idly wasting his time and energies at Rome. But Pompey could not bear a rival. Jealousies sprang up; Julia died in 54 B.C., and thus father-in-law and son in-law were sundered by a yet wider gulf, which no bridge could span. Pompey now returned to his former friends, the aristocracy, whose great desire was to check Caesar's views, and strip him of his command. Caesar was ordered to lay down his office and return to Rome, which he consented to do provided Pompey, who had an army near Rome, would do the same. The Senate insisted on an unconditional resignation, and ordered him to disband his army by a certain day, otherwise he would be declared a public enemy. It was on this memorable occasion that he crossed the Rubicon, and thus defied the Senate and its armies, which were under Pompey's command. The events of the civil war which followed, are recorded in the life of Caesar. It remains only to mention that after being finally defeated at Pharsalia in 48 B.C., Pompey escaped to Egypt, where, according to the order of the King's ministers, he was treacherously murdered by a former centurion of his own, as he was landing from the boat.