1 So… I’ve never given a contio speech before…
2 But, well, I’m a praetor now, so I guess I probably should.
3 Happily enough, my topic would suit anyone – the wonders of Gnaeus Pompey.
4 Let’s start with the cause: Mithridates and Tigranes, and the war in Asia.
5 The publicani are very, very worried. We need a new general. Guess who?
6 Let’s run through, in order, the nature of the war; its seriousness; the choice of a commander.
It’s a very patriotic war! Lots of glory to be had!
7 And since Romans have ever been glory-seekers, you should damn well go glory-seeking against Mithridates, which frankly has been a rather embarrassing mess so far.
8 I mean, two triumphs have come out of this (for Sulla and Murena), but Mithridates remained on his throne. Shocking! (Not that Sulla and Murena didn’t deserve their triumphs; both of them got called back early, after all: Sulla by domestic crisis, Murena by Sulla.)
9 Mithridates used his grace period to rearm, the horror. Of course, we were distracted by the Spanish war then.
10 But Pompey’s sorted out Sertorius and out in the East, well… let me damn Lucullus with faint praise for a bit. Good qualities, right, but really: his luck’s so awful, isn’t it?
11 Let me appeal to the ancestors (maiores)! They used to go to war to avenge the slightest insult against our citizens, not to mention envoys – surely we’re not going to let pass the murder of thousands of citizens by Mithridates? and the horribly torturous death of a Roman consular envoy (Manius Aquilius)?
12 What about your allies, eh? We want to protect Ariobarzanes, who’s been driven into exile, and all the Greek and Asian states.
They don’t dare ask for a specific general…
13 … but they totally would if they thought they could get away with it. Because he’s so awesome!
14 You are going to defend your allies, right, just like our ancestors did?
I mean, if nothing else, think how much we’ll be financially screwed if we don’t get Asia back…
15 And I mean seriously screwed.
16 Genuinely and horribly so.
17 And we need to protect the interests of our citizens whose property is affected by this war.
18 Not least since our economic recovery will be problematic if they can’t e.g. bid for contracts to collect taxes. Etc.
19 And we want to avoid a collapse of credit, such as happened with the first Mithridatic war.
20 Let’s talk about the magnitude of the war now.
It’s very big.
I mean, okay, Lucullus has, like, relieved our good friends in Cyzicus…
21 … and sunk the massive fleet that was heading for Italy under Sertorian leadership…
… and opened the way for our legions into Pontus…
… captured Sinope and Amisus, plus countless other cities of Pontus and Cappadocia…
… forced Mithridates into exile…
22 But the war is still very big!
Analogy of Mithridates’ flight with that of Medea, scattering her brother’s limbs. Mithridates leaves scattered only his vast wealth, thereby escaping our soldiers.
23 … and is picked up by Tigranes of Armenia.
In a way that upsets all sorts of new enemies. Oh dear.
24 I’ll just leave it at that, shall I?
25 Result: Mithridates looks better placed than ever. And also goes home merrily and attacks our army again. I’ll pass over the disaster (it was awful).
26 And at this terrible moment, Lucullus was obliged to disband some troops and hand over others to Manius Glabrio, all because you insisted on customary practice!
27 Let’s talk about the choice of general now.
Pompey is pretty much head and shoulders above everybody else in the world.
He possesses the four necessary qualities of a perfect general: knowledge of warfare, ability, prestige, luck.
28 Wow, he does have a great knowledge of warfare! Think of all the (civil) wars he’s been involved in! What a range!
29 And what amazing abilities!
30 All these countries in which he’s done battle are my witness!
31 Plus every sea.
32 Let me lament the days of yore, for… some reason involving pirates…
33 Awful pirates, they are.
And good lord! Pompey has sorted them all out.
34 And he did it very fast!
He’s travelled to so many places.
35 So very, very many places.
Sorting out pirates! All in half a year!
36 And he has so many other awesome qualities!
37 Truly glorious ones. He isn’t avaricious at all, unlike some people, naming no names.
38 I mean, some of our generals have been pretty destructive in touring with their armies.
39 Whereas Pompey is pretty awesome!
40 In, like, just about every way.
41 People out in the provinces are starting to think of him as a god from heaven! They begin to believe in the existence of Ye Olde Roman!
42 He’s such a wonderful person, I just can’t tell you.
So seriously, why would anyone hesitate to put him in charge of this war?
43 Prestige matters too. Guess who has lots of it?
44 And I mean lots.
Look how the price of wheat fell when he was appointed to the command of the naval war!
45 And look how just his providential presence in Asia back after that disaster at Pontus restrained Mithridates and checked Tigranes!
46 And how all Rome’s enemies surrendered to him very suddenly! Even when there were closer Roman generals to whom they might have surrendered!
47 Now let’s talk about good luck.
It’s very important. But also kind of difficult to talk about, what with not wanting to provoke the gods.
48 Basically, Pompey has it as well. Lots of it.
49 So why would you hesitate to put Pompey in charge of the war?
50 You’d do it even if he was here (but as it is, he’s there already) and a private citizen (he isn’t)! So seriously, just give him all the other armies in the vicinity and let him get on with it.
51 Catulus and Hortensius disagree with me.
Well, they’re both very distinguished gentlemen; but that’s not going to stop me damning them too with a bit of faint praise.
52 Hortensius says we shouldn’t give supreme command to one man (although if we were going to, the right man would be Pompey).
This argument is out of date. Hortensius argued against Gabinius’ law re: pirates…
53 … well, Pompey got the pirate command, thanks to the Roman people. They didn’t agree with Hortensius then, quite rightly too.
54 Those pirates were very mean people!
55 Very, very mean!
56 So the Roman people ignored Hortensius’ well-intentioned advice and gave supreme command against the pirates to Pompey, with the result that those very mean pirates were sorted out within the year.
57 The opposition to Gabinius (who proposed this law) serving as legate to Pompey as per Pompey’s request is therefore terribly ungracious.
58 There are other precedents that back me up!
Something should be done about it; and if the consuls won’t do it, I will myself.
59 About Catulus – wasn’t that amusing, when he said ‘Who will you put in command if something happens to Supreme Commander Pompey?’ and you all said ‘You!’
I mean, he is a pretty decent guy really, but I have to disagree with him here. Human life is very uncertain – that just means we should take advantage of the abilities of a great man while he’s around for everyone else to exploit.
60 Okay, so some people say we should just go along with what the maiores always did; but I shall ostentatiously refrain from pointing out a long list of precedents in which the maiores totally put all their trust in the hands of one man and thereby won the day.
61 Think how many such precedents for Pompey himself have already been approved by Catulus among others!
Such novelties as can be seen from his early career.
62 Seriously, his early career was very novel. As L. Philippus is said to have remarked, non se illum sua sententia pro consule sed pro consulibus mittere (‘I give my vote to send him not in place of a consul but in place of both consuls!’). That’s really helpful!
63 So let everyone who agreed to those novelties understand that it would be terribly unjust for them not to agree now that the people want him to have full command, just as they did re: pirates.
64 Since you made a perfectly sensible decision when you gave Pompey command against the pirates, you’re obviously making a perfectly sensible one now.
After all, this war against an Asiatic monarch requires very special moral qualities!
65 We are very, very unpopular abroad right now, thanks to the bad behaviour of our governors.
66 As Catulus and Hortensius know.
So a general sent abroad to Asia needs to be very special.
67 As Pompey is! How convenient.
That’s why the coastal regions asked for him to be appointed.
68 So let’s not hesitate to give him full command.
If you want some serious auctoritas to agree with me, what about Gaius Curio? What about Gnaeus Lentulus? And Gaius Cassius!
69 I therefore applaud and commend Gaius Manilius’s law. It’s a very good one. I’m behind you all the way.
70 I call on the gods to witness that I’m acting in the interests of the state and definitely not e.g. in the hopes of winning Pompey’s favour. Oh no. Definitely not!
71 That’s because it’s my duty to place your wishes, the honour of the state and the well-being of the provinces and allies above my own advantages and interests.