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Trouble in the East:
Pompey the Great
Cilician Pirates
Third Mithridatic War
Pompey in the East

Pompey in the East

Pompey returned from his forays into the far east by 64 BC. Back in Pontus, he began the process of organizing the newly won territories into provinces. Cilicia had already officially been made a province after his campaign against the pirates in 66 BC, and Pompey would continue his remarkable skills as an administrator in the additional conquered lands. Bithynia and Pontus was established as another formal province in 64 BC and Pompey masterfully used existing Greek authorities to bring the people peacefully under control.

Satisfied with the results in Pontus, Pompey moved south to Syria in late 64 BC. Syria was still technically a part of the old Seleucid Dynasty, descendants of the old Roman enemy Antiochus III. However, for the previous 60 years, the throne of the Seleucids was in utter chaos. Rivals all over the territory controlled various cities and chaos reigned supreme. The vast wealth of the region was a tempting target for the Parthians and neighboring Arabians, and Pompey wanted to stabilize it for Roman benefit.

Syria was simply annexed as a Roman province with little regard for the opposing factions within. They were removed from power and Roman authority took control, as opposed to creating a client kingdom that would be unreliable at best. In so doing, Pompey not only added Syria, but created a buffer zone between potential eastern enemies, and other newly won territories in the area that now encompasses modern Turkey.

After settling affairs in Syria, the people of Judaea called upon Pompey for assistance in their own internal conflicts. The Jews had enjoyed nearly 2 centuries of independence from the Seleucids, but a power struggle that was leading to civil war threatened their stability. Two brothers, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, both vied for the Jewish throne and Pompey offered to play the mediator. Hyrcanus eventually received Pompey's endorsement, and Aristobulus apparently conceded, but his followers did not.

While Pompey was conducting a minor campaign against the Nabataeans, the followers of Aristobulus seized the principal city of Jerusalem and refused to recognize Hyrcanus' authority. The Romans reacted swiftly and laid siege to the city. Within 3 months, Pompey took Jerusalem and put Hyrcanus on the Judaean throne. While still independent, Hyrcanus now owed his crown to the Romans, and was established as a tribute paying client kingdom, much like Armenia.

This was not the end of Pompey's negotiations, however. Not long after establishing Tigranes as a client in Armenia, the Armenia sought to take advantage of his Roman support. In 64 BC Armenia invaded Parthian interests in Mesopotamia that could have had dire consequences in the region. Pompey could've supported the invasion and taken direct involvement against Parthia, but several exhaustive years on the move must have played a part. Instead, he negotiated peace between Armenia and Parthia, giving back most of Tigranes gains, but establishing peace in the region for at least another decade.

Pompey would return to Rome and celebrate his third and most glorious triumph in late 62 BC. The wealth brought with him was nearly incalculable with estimates ranging from 20,000 to 40,000 gold talents. The annual income to Rome nearly doubled as a result of both the war spoils and tribute from client states. Back in Rome though, there was much concern over Pompey's return, despite his great success. Pompey had nearly 45,000 men under his command and an incredible amount of wealth.

The Senate feared another Sullan march and forced dictatorship. But Pompey was not the man to pose that sort of threat, he was happy to return with all the power and grandeur of a conquering general. He assumed that his great success would ensure settlements for his men, and a position of prominence in the Senate. He found instead, upon returning home, that Rome had changed as much as the east had. New names had risen in his absence such as the young Gaius Julius Caesar, and Marcus Tullius Cicero, who would lay claim to the savior of Rome in Pompey's absence.

Did you know?

The Seleucid Empire was founded in 323 BC by Seleucus I Nicator and had it's capital at Babylon. It controlled a region including today's Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Bactria.



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Pompey - Related Topic: Roman Leader


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