When word was brought to Rome that the war against the pirates was at an end, and that Pompey, now at leisure, was visiting the cities, Manlius,1
one of the popular tribunes, proposed a law giving Pompey all the country and forces which Lucullus commanded, with the addition, too, of Bithynia, which Glabrio2
had, and the commission to wage war upon Mithridates and Tigranes, the kings, retaining also his naval force and his dominion over the sea as he had originally received them.
But this meant the placing of the Roman supremacy entirely in the hands of one man; for the only provinces which were held to be excluded from his sway by the former law, namely, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Galatia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Upper Colchis, and Armenia, these were now added to it, together with the military forces which Lucullus had used in his conquest of Mithridates and Tigranes.
But though Lucullus was thus robbed of the glory of his achievements, and was receiving a successor who would enjoy his triumph rather than prosecute the war,3
this was of less concern to the aristocratic party, although they did think that the man was unjustly and thanklessly treated; they were, however, displeased at the power given to Pompey, which they regarded as establishing a tyranny, and privately exhorted and encouraged one another to attack the law, and not to surrender their freedom.
But when the time came, their hearts failed them through fear of the people, and all held their peace except Catulus; he denounced the law at great length and the tribune who proposed it, and when none of the people would listen to him, he called out in loud tones from the rostra urging the senate again and again to seek out a mountain, as their forefathers had done,4
or a lofty rock, whither they might fly for refuge and preserve their freedom.
But still the law was passed by all the tribes, as we are told, and Pompey, in his absence, was proclaimed master of almost all the powers which Sulla had exercised after subduing the city in armed warfare. Pompey himself, however, on receiving his letters and learning what had been decreed, while his friends surrounded him with their congratulations, frowned, we are told, smote his thigh, and said, in the tone of one who was already oppressed and burdened with command:
‘Alas for my endless tasks! How much better it were to be an unknown man, if I am never to cease from military service, and cannot lay aside this load of envy and spend my time in the country with my wife!’ As he said this, even his intimate friends could not abide his dissimulation; they knew that his enmity towards Lucullus gave fuel to his innate ambition and love of power, and made him all the more delighted.