The Politics of Friendship: Pompey and Cicero - Vol. 6

The Politics of Friendship: Pompey and Cicero - Vol. 6

The Politics of Friendship: Pompey and Cicero - Vol. 6

The Politics of Friendship: Pompey and Cicero - Vol. 6

Excerpt

Pompey and Cicero were born in the same year, 106 BC. Their lives spanned a critical period of Roman history, commonly thought of as 'the end of the Republic'. They both belonged to a generation which had experienced civil war several times before they were twenty years of age. The consequent horror of civil war, and wish to avoid its recurrence at almost any cost, marked many men of this age-group and gave them a different perspective from that of many of their younger contemporaries.

But Pompey and Cicero were themselves men of different backgrounds, interests and outlooks. Both played an important part in public affairs, but their parts were of a different kind. Pompey was in the limelight at a younger age than Cicero, largely through his military talents; but Cicero attained senatorial office five years before Pompey did. When Pompey did enter the senate (in 70 BC) it was in the top office; but except for that single year in office he played no other role in the senate until 61 BC, by which time Cicero had risen through the ranks, acquiring a wide range of experience and playing an active role in the senate and the city. By 61 BC Pompey's military achievements and wealth made him one of the most distinguished men in Rome; but he had little experience of, or patience with, the kind of life which Cicero valued and cultivated.

In spite of these differences, Pompey and Cicero were thrown together for some periods of their lives, especially in the fifties BC which were so critical for the Republic. Their separate careers illustrate much of what was happening in the late Republic—the political, intellectual and military history of their times. Their interrelationship - the things that drew them together, and the matters on which they declined to co-operate—tells us something more, not only about political life of the period but, more generally, social life and values in senatorial circles.

The evidence for the relationship is largely one man's view— Cicero's, not Pompey's. But Cicero, though he played a less significant role overall in the late Republic than did Pompey, was a much more . . .

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