21. CN. POMPEIUS SEX. F. CN. N. STRABO, younger son of No. 15, and father of the triumvir. His surname Strabo, which signifies one who squints, and which occurs in several other Roman gentes, is said to have been first given to his cook, Menogenes, and then to have been applied to Pompeius himself, from his likeness to his slave (Plin. Nat. 7.10. s. 12
; V. Max. 9.14.2
). Whether this be true or false, Pompeius at all events adopted the name; and it appears on his coins, and in the Fasti. All the ancient writers agree in giving this Pompeius a thoroughly bad character. His name is first mentioned in connection with a discreditable matter.
He had been quaestor in Sardinia in B. C. 103, under the propraetor T. Albucius, against whom he collected materials for an accusation, although the Romans regarded the relation between praetor and quaestor as a sacred one, like that between father and son. For that reason he was not allowed to conduct the accusation, which was assigned to C. Caesar instead (Cic. Div. in Caecil.
He was probably praetor in B. C. 94, and obtained in the following year the government of Sicily (Cic. Ver. 3.16
, 5.66). On the breaking out of the Social or Marsic war, in B. C. 90, Pompeius served as legate under the consul P. Rutilius Lupus. Pompeius was at first defeated, and obliged to take refuge at Firmun, where he was besieged by Afranius, one of the Italian generals.
But when Sulpicius came to his assistance, Afranius was attacked at once by the two Roman armies, and lost his life in the battle: his troops fled in confusion to Asculum. To this town Pompeius proceeded to lay siege; and as he seems to have been regarded as a general of no mean abilities, he was elected to the consulship, B. C. 89, with L. Porcius Cato. Soon after entering upon his consulship, he defeated the Italians' on the east coast, who, ignorant that the Etruscans had made terms with the Romans, were marching to their assistance.
He followed up this victory by others, and defeated, in succession, the Marsi, Marrucini, and Vestini.
He at length took Asculum, and subdued the Picentines, and returned to Rome at the end of the year, which he entered in triumph on the 27th of December.
Before he laid down his consulship, he probably brought forward the law (lex Pompeia
), which gave to all the towns of the Transpadani the Jus Latii or Latinitas.
In the following year, B. C. 88, occurred the dreadful struggle between Marius and Sulla for the command of the Mithridatic war, which ended in the proscription of Marius, and his flight from Italy. Strabo had returned to his army, and was engaged in southern Italy in completing the subjugation of the I talians, when he learnt that the senate had deprived him of the command, and had assigned his army to the consul Q. Pompeius Rufus, to whom the care of Italy was entrusted, while his colleague Sulla was engaged in the Mithridatic war. But Strabo, who was excessively fond of power, was indignant at this decision.
He however concealed his resentment and handed over the army to Rufus; but at the same time he secretly instigated the soldiers to murder their new commander, which they accordingly did shortly afterwards.
He affected great horror of the crime, but took no steps to bring the perpetrators to justice; and Sulla, who was on the point of starting for the East, was obliged to overlook the murder.
Next year, B. C. 87, the Marian party obtained the upper hand. L. Cinna, who had been driven out of the city by his colleague Cn. Octavius, had collected a formidable army, and being joined by Marius, advanced against Rome.
The aristocracy summoned Pompeius Strabo to their aid; but as he commanded against their wish, and had been refused a second consulship this year, he was unwilling to espouse their side. Still, not being prepared to join the other party, he advanced by slow marches to the relief of the city, and, contrary to his wishes, was obliged to fight near the Colline Gate with Cinna and Sertorius.
The battle was not decisive, but Strabo was unable to play any longer a neutral part. Cinna attempted to remove him by assassination, but he was saved by the energy and prudence of his son, who also quelled a dangerous mutiny among the soldiers. Shortly after these events and in the course of the same year, B. C. 87, Strabo was killed by lightning. His avarice and cruelty had made him hated by the soldiers to such a degree, that they tore his corpse from the bier and dragged it through the streets. Cicero describes him (Brut.
47) as "worthy of hatred on account of his cruelty, avarice, and perfidy."
He possessed some reputation as all orator, and still more as a general.
He left behind him a considerable property, especially in Picenum ; and his anxiety to protect his estates probably led him to make that neighbourhood one of the principal seats of the war against the Italians (Appian, App. BC 1.40
; Liv. Epit. 74
; Vell. 2.20
; Flor. 3.18
; Oros. 5.18
; Plut. Pomp. 1
; Cic. Philipp.