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Discuss Pompey's role in the politics of the 60's BC. Were his activities unconventional? Do they, and the response they met from the senate and people, provide evidence for a Roman policy of imperialism?
Gnaeus Pompeius acquired the consulship at a very early age on the back of his numerous impressive victories on behalf of the Romans; according to Plutarch this earned him the title "imperator", given to him by his soldiers, before he was even a member of the senate. In coming to the consulship he ignored the entirety of the traditional cursus honorum which Sulla had reinforced with his legislation only a few years before, thus marking the arrival of another extraordinary man into the world of late Republican history. He was, somewhat unsurprisingly, greeted with jealousy in the senate, which did everything they could to stand in his way, but also with great passion by the people who revered greatly his successes in war. It was, of course, this incredible ability to win battles which was at the heart of his success and influence; the nature of the Roman culture allowed men such as Pompey to thrive and enjoy influence as well as the riches foreign conflict brought. For this reason provincial commands were restricted to a single year so that the advantages, as well as the inevitable jealousy, that they brought could be shared among the elite in Roman society. This is exactly the problem which Pompey would later encounter in the senate and the main thrust of the opposition against him was the fact he had a long and unbroken series of prestigious commands, but on the other hand it was for this reason the people loved him. Cicero makes in clear, in various works, that there was no greater renown for a Roman than victories in war; something he makes clear in the pro Archias. A good example of this is the victory parade of a successful general which was only granted if they had slaughtered five thousand enemies in a single battle, therefore one of the greatest honours in the Roman culture was a reward for being a brutally successful general. A more thorough exploration of these notions, which were so fundamentally important to the average Roman, is given in the speech de imperio Cn. Pompei by Cicero. This speech explains to the senate why Pompey should be granted the command against Mithradates but begins with a more general, although still very strong, imperialist tone and thereby illustrates how a successful general was inherently linked to the expansion of the empire. He begins the speech with an appeal to the Romans and stirs their memory of the many great and serious wars which their forefathers undertook while they were expanding the empire; he even addresses them as, "seekers after glory and greedy of renown." This highlights the culture of imperialism in Roman society and provides evidence for a policy as such with regard to the activities of Pompey because it shows what a strong basis of precedence and tradition he was building upon. This was so important to a Roman that, ignoring all other benefits that an empire brings which might be used to persuade an audience, Cicero uses it to shame the Romans into a policy of imperialism, "See to it that, as it was the proudest achievement of your
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