The one who had most influence with him was Demetrius, a freedman, a young man of some intelligence otherwise, but who abused his good fortune. The following story is told about him. Cato the philosopher, when he was still a young man, but had already great reputation and lofty purposes, went up to Antioch,1
at a time when Pompey was not there, wishing to inspect the city.
Cato himself, the story goes, marched on foot, as always, but the friends who journeyed with him were on horseback. When he beheld before the gate of the city a throng of men in white raiment, and drawn up along the road the youths on one side, and the boys on the other, he was vexed, supposing this to be done out of deference and honour to himself, who desired nothing of the kind.
However, he ordered his friends to dismount and walk with him; but when they drew near, the master of all these ceremonies met them, with a wreath on his head and a wand in his hand, and asked them where they had left Demetrius, and when he would come. The friends of Cato, accordingly, burst out laughing, but Cato said,
‘O the wretched city!’ and passed on without any further answer.
However, Pompey himself made this Demetrius less odious to the rest by enduring his caprices without vexation. For instance, it is said that many times at his entertainments, when Pompey was awaiting and receiving his other guests, that fellow would be already reclining at table in great state, with the hood of his toga drawn down behind his ears.2
Before his return to Italy, he had purchased the pleasantest suburbs of Rome and the most beautiful places of entertainment, and very costly gardens were called
‘Demetrian’ after him; and yet Pompey himself, up to the time of his third triumph, had a simple and modest house. After that, it is true, when he was erecting the famous and beautiful theatre which bears his name, he built close by it, like a small boat towed behind a ship, a more splendid house than the one he had before. But even this was not large enough to excite envy, so that when he who succeeded Pompey as its owner entered it, he was amazed, and inquired where Pompey the Great used to sup. At any rate, so the story runs.