Gnaeus Pompey was a young man who manipulated the Roman political situation to his advantage and becomes the exception of how to become powerful. When Sulla returned from the east after settling affairs with Mithridates and returned to fight civil war with enemies, Pompey joined his cause at the age of twenty-three. Pompey inherited his father’s clients and estate. His father was a successful politician but he not well liked. Pompey preferred to be on the side of the victors.
Pompey mobilized two legions including 10k men in 83 B.C.. Sulla dismissed the troops and Pompey demanded command of his men. He was named a legate and instead he became Sulla’s right hand man. If enemies needed to be eliminated it was Pompey who came to the rescue. The governor of Africa was a member of popularis faction in Rome and Pompey wanted permission to fight. Sulla agreed because the governor was a personal enemy. Pompey waged war and defeated him. The governor hope for clemency and he was executed by Pompey. Pompey was known as the “young butcher” .
Even more intriguing, Pompey approached Sulla after he returned from Africa and demanded a triumph. At twenty-five he wanted a military triumph. He was asking for the most significant expression of popularity for defeating other Romans. This was distasteful and not triumph worthy. Why celebrate over the defeat of Romans? Sulla threw him a bone and Pompey celebrated. Pompey did hold leadership of the army, and also he had proconsular imperium, but he didn’t fit into the political system. Those who benefitted most from Sulla believed it would self-preserving. There was no need for single leader when all individuals can do it. In 78 B.C. he is elected consul. He puts down a rebellion in the north led by poor farmers exiles and men who suffered under the Sullan order.
Pompey was elected consul in 70 B.C., along with Crassus. Pompey essentially undid the work of Sulla. He restored the power of the tribunes and helped put equites back on the jury courts, thereby reviving popularis politics. In 67 B.C. Pompey cleared the Mediterranean Seas of the pirates, and after his success he was put in command of the war campaign against Mithridates. Pompey defeated Mithridates, reorganized the east, and gained wealth and prestige. Upon returning to Rome, Pompey disbanded his army.
In 62 B.C., Marcus Cicero needed a powerful general if the concord of the orders was to be made a reality. He saw Pompey as a perfect candidate; however, the senate agreed he had become too powerful, as was the same with Julius Caesar. Caesar joiner with Pompey and Crassus in a coalition called the First Triumvirate. Pompey gained eastern lands for his military veterans in return for this political relationship. Pompey later became consul again in 55 B.C. Pompey was given a command in Spain, but when Crassus died in 53 B.C., it prompted competition between Caesar and Pompey. The senators recognized that Pompey would be less of a threat and ordered Caesar to become a private citizen. Caesar was infuriated and took his army into Italy. Consequently, Pompey fled to Greece with his army. At the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar’s veterans defeated Pompey and he fled to Egypt. The king in Egypt had been a foreign client of Caesar, and when Pompey arrived, he was killed by some of the king’s advisors.
Allen M Ward, Fritz M Heichelheim, and Cedric A Yeo, A History of the Roman People, (Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2010) 177.
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