Certainly very grave errors were perpetrated both by Lucullus and by Pompeius. Lucullus reaped their fruits himself, when his imprudent conduct wrested from him all the results of his victories; Pompeius left it to his successors to bear the consequences of his false policy towards the Parthians. He might either have made war on the Parthians, if he had had the courage to do so, or have maintained peace with them and recognized, as he had promised, the Euphrates as boundary; he was too timid for the former course, too vain for the latter, and so he resorted to the silly perfidy of rendering the good neighbourhood, which the court of Ctesiphon desired and on its part practised, impossible through the most unbounded aggressions, and yet allowing the enemy to choose of themselves the time for rupture and retaliation. As administrator of Asia Lucullus acquired a more than princely wealth; and Pompeius also received as reward for its organization large sums in cash and still more considerable promissory notes from the king of Cappadocia, from the rich city of Antioch, and from other lords and communities. But such exactions had become almost a customary tax; and both generals showed themselves at any rate to be not altogether venal in questions of greater importance, and, if possible, got themselves paid by the party whose interests coincided with those of Rome. Looking to the state of the times, this does not prevent us from characterizing the administration of both as comparatively commendable and conducted primarily in the interest of Rome, secondarily in that of the provincials.

The conversion of the clients into subjects, the better regulation of the eastern frontier, the establishment of a single and strong government, were full of blessing for the rulers as well as for the ruled. The financial gain acquired by Rome was immense; the new property tax, which with the exception of some specially exempted communities all those princes, priests, and cities had to pay to Rome, raised the Roman state-revenues almost by a half above their former amount. Asia indeed suffered severely. Pompeius brought in money and jewels an amount of 2,000,000 pounds (200,000,000 sesterces) into the state-chest and distributed 3,900,000 pounds (16,000 talents) among his officers and soldiers; if we add to this the considerable sums brought home by Lucullus, the non-official exactions of the Roman army, and the amount of the damage done by the war, the financial exhaustion of the land may be readily conceived. The Roman taxation of Asia was perhaps in itself not worse than that of its earlier rulers, but it formed a heavier burden on the land, in so far as the taxes thenceforth went out of the country and only the lesser portion of the proceeds was again expended in Asia; and at any rate it was, in the old as well as the newly-acquired provinces, based on a systematic plundering of the provinces for the benefit of Rome. But the responsibility for this rests far less on the generals personally than on the parties at home, whom these had to consider; Lucullus had even exerted himself energetically to set limits to the usurious dealings of the Roman capitalists in Asia, and this essentially contributed to bring about his fall. How much both men earnestly sought to revive the prosperity of the reduced provinces, is shown by their action in cases where no considerations of party policy tied their hands, and especially in their care for the cities of Asia Minor. Although for centuries afterwards many an Asiatic village lying in ruins recalled the times of the great war, Sinope might well begin a new era with the date of its re-establishment by Lucullus, and almost all the more considerable inland towns of the Pontic kingdom might gratefully honour Pompeius as their founder. The organization of Roman Asia by Lucullus and Pompeius may with all its undeniable defects be described as on the whole judicious and praiseworthy; serious as were the evils that might still adhere to it, it could not but be welcome to the sorely tormented Asiatics for the very reason that it came attended by the inward and outward peace, the absence of which had been so long and so painfully felt.

The East After The Departure Of Pompeius

Peace continued substantially in the east, till the idea--merely indicated by Pompeius with his characteristic timidity--of joining the regions eastward of the Euphrates to the Roman empire was taken up again energetically but unsuccessfully by the new triumvirate of Roman regents, and soon thereafter the civil war drew the eastern provinces as well as all the rest into its fatal vortex. In the interval the governors of Cilicia had to fight constantly with the mountain-tribes of the Amanus and those of Syria with the hordes of the desert, and in the latter war against the Bedouins especially many Roman troops were destroyed; but these movements had no farther significance. More remarkable was the obstinate resistance, which the tough Jewish nation opposed to the conquerors. Alexander, son of the deposed king Aristobulus, and Aristobulus himself who after some time succeeded in escaping from captivity, excited during the governorship of Aulus Gabinius (697-700) three different revolts against the new rulers, to each of which the government of the high-priest Hyrcanus installed by Rome impotently succumbed. It was not political conviction, but the invincible repugnance of the Oriental towards the unnatural yoke, which compelled them to kick against the pricks; as indeed the last and most dangerous of these revolts, for which the withdrawal of the Syrian army of occupation in consequence of the Egyptian crisis furnished the immediate impulse, began with the murder of the Romans settled in Palestine. It was not without difficulty that the able governor succeeded in rescuing the few Romans, who had escaped this fate and found a temporary refuge on Mount Gerizim, from the insurgents who kept them blockaded there, and in overpowering the revolt after several severely contested battles and tedious sieges.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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