On his return to Utica, a letter from Sulla was brought to him, in which he was commanded to send home the rest of his army, but to remain there himself with one legion, awaiting the arrival of the general who was to succeed him. Pompey himself gave no sign of the deep distress which these orders caused him, but his soldiers made their indignation manifest. When Pompey asked them to go home before him, they began to revile Sulla, declared they would not forsake their general, and insisted that he should not trust the tyrant.
At first, then, Pompey tried what words could do to appease and mollify them; but when he was unable to persuade them, he came down from his tribunal and withdrew to his tent in tears. Then his soldiers seized him and set him again upon his tribunal, and a great part of the day was consumed in this way, they urging him to remain and keep his command, and he begging them to obey and not to raise a sedition. At last, when their clamours and entreaties increased, he swore with an oath that he would kill himself if they used force with him, and even then they would hardly stop.
Sulla's first tidings of the affair were that Pompey was in revolt, and he told his friends that it was evidently his fate, now that he was an old man, to have his contests with boys. This he said because Marius also, who was quite a young man, had given him very great trouble and involved him in the most extreme perils.
But when he learned the truth, and perceived that everybody was sallying forth to welcome Pompey and accompany him home with marks of goodwill, he was eager to outdo them. So he went out and met him, and after giving him the warmest welcome, saluted him in a loud voice as
‘Magnus,’ or The Great
, and ordered those who were by to give him this surname.
Others, however, say that this title was first given him in Africa by the whole army, but received authority and weight when thus confirmed by Sulla. Pompey himself, however, was last of all to use it, and it was only after a long time, when he was sent as pro-consul to Spain against Sertorius, that he began to subscribe himself in his letters and ordinances
‘Pompeius Magnus’ ; for the name had become familiar and was no longer invidious.
And herein we may fittingly respect and admire the ancient Romans; they did not bestow such titles and surnames as a reward for successes in war and military command alone, but also adorned with them the high qualities and achievements of their statesmen.
At any rate, in two such cases the people bestowed the title of
‘Maximus,’ which signifies the Greatest upon Valerius, for reconciling them with the senate when it was at variance with them1
; and upon Fabius Rullus,2
because he expelled from the senate certain descendants of freedmen who had been enrolled in it on account of their wealth.