Case study II: Pompey’s auctoritas and psychological warfare

As his second case study to illustrate Pompey’s auctoritas, Cicero chooses the impact of his presence in Asia after Mithridates’ crushing defeat of the Roman forces under the command of C. Triarius at the battle of Zela in 67 BC. He invokes the possibility of a ‘worst-case scenario’: Rome’s loss of the province of Asia. This, Cicero submits, would have been the outcome of the defeat had it not so happened by divine dispensation that Pompey was in the region at the time, as a result of his command against the pirates. The auctoritas accorded to him even by Rome’s bitter foes Mithridates and Tigranes (the king of Armenia and Mithridates’ son-in-law) sufficed to prevent them from exploiting their victory – or so Cicero argues. Without doing anything Pompey thus managed to check the enemy in an act of ‘psychological warfare’: his auctoritas in the eyes of the royal beholders. This scenario forms the basis for Cicero’s conclusion: if Pompey’s auctoritas has such a positive impact on Roman interests in the region, an opportunity to bring his virtus to bear on the war against Mithridates would surely yield the desired result.