Pompey - Return To Rome, and Third Triumph

Return To Rome, and Third Triumph

News of Pompey's victories in the east – and probably of his divine honours there – reached Rome before he did. He had cult at Delos and was "saviour" in Samos and Mytelene. Plutarch quotes a wall-graffito in Athens, referring it to Pompey: "The more you know you're a man, the more you become a god". In Greece, these honours were standard fare for benefactors. In Rome, they would have seemed dangerously monarchic.

In Pompey's absence, his old supporter Cicero had risen to the consulship. His old enemy and colleague Crassus supported Caesar. In the Senate and behind its scenes, Pompey was probably equally admired, feared and excluded; on the streets he was as popular as ever. His eastern victories earned him his third triumph. On his 45th birthday, in 61 BC, he rode the triumphal chariot, a magnificent god-king, but one of Republican form, ritualistically reminded of his impermanence and mortality. Even so, he was accompanied by a gigantic portrait head of himself, studded with pearls.

His third triumph exceeded all others; an unprecedented two days were scheduled for its procession and games (ludi). Spoils, prisoners, army and banners depicting battle scenes wended the triumphal route between the Campus Martius and the Capitoline temple of Jupiter. To conclude, he gave an immense triumphal banquet and money to the people of Rome, and promised them a new theatre. Plutarch claimed this triumph represented Pompey's – and therefore Rome's – domination over the entire world, an achievement to outshine even Alexander's.

In the meantime, Pompey promised his retiring veterans public lands to farm, then dismissed his armies. It was a reassuringly traditional gesture, but the Senate remained suspicious. They debated and delayed his eastern political settlements and the promised gifts of public land. From now on, Pompey seems to have toed a cautious line between his enthusiastic popular supporters and the conservatives who seemed so reluctant to acknowledge his solid achievements. It would lead him into unexpected political alliances.

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