XVI. HOW THE TRIUMVIRS CAME TO UNTIMELY ENDS.
It was agreed at the conference of Lucca that Pompey should rule Spain, but it did not suit his plans to go to that distant country. He preferred to remain at Rome, where he thought that he might do something that would establish his influence with the people, and give him the advantage over his colleagues that they were each seeking to get over him. In order to court popularity, he built the first stone theatre that Rome had ever seen, capable of accommodating the enormous number of forty thousand spectators, and opened it with a splendid exhibition (B.C. 55). [Footnote: This theatre was built after the model of one that Pompey had seen at Mitylene, and stood between the Campus Martius and Circus Flaminius. Adjoining it was a hall affording shelter for the spectators in bad weather, in which Julius Cæsar was assassinated. The Roman theatres had no roofs, and, in early times, no seats. At this period there were seats of stone divided by broad passages for the convenience of the audience in going in and out. A curtain, which was drawn down instead of up, served to screen the actors from the spectators. Awnings were sometimes used to protect the audience from rain and sun. A century before this time the Senate had stopped the construction of a theatre, and prohibited dramatic exhibitions as subversive of good morals. The actors usually wore masks. See page 159.] Day after day the populace were admitted, and on each occasion new games and plays were prepared for their gratification. For the first time a rhinoceros was shown; eighteen elephants were killed by fierce Libyan hunters, and five hundred African lions lost their lives in the combats to which they were forced; the vehement, tragic actor Æsopus, then quite aged, came out of his retirement for the occasion, and uttered his last words on the stage, the juncture being all the more remarkable from the fact that his strength failed him in the midst of a very emphatic part; gymnasts contended, gladiators fought to the death, and the crowd cheered, but, alas for Pompey! the cheers expressed merely temporary enjoyment at the scenes before them, and did not at all indicate that he had been received to their hearts.
Crassus, in the meantime, was thinking that he too must accomplish something great or he would be left behind by both of his associates. He reflected that Cæsar had won distinction in Gaul, and Pompey by overcoming the pirates and conquering the East, and determined to show his skill as a warrior in his new province, Parthia. There was no cause for war against the people of that distant land, but a cause might easily be found, or a war begun without one, the great object aimed at being the extension of the sovereignty of Rome, and marking the name of Crassus high on the pillar of fame. This would surely, he thought, give him the utmost popularity. Thus, in the year 54, he set out for Syria, and the world saw each of the triumvirs busily engaged in pushing his own cause in his own way. Ten years later not one of them was alive to enjoy that which they had all so earnestly sought.
It is not necessary to follow Crassus minutely in his campaign. He spent a winter in Syria, and in the spring of 53 set out for the still distant East, crossing the Euphrates, and plunging into the desert wastes of old Mesopotamia, where he was betrayed into the hands of the enemy, and lost, not far from Carrhæ (Charran or Haran), the City of Nahor, to which the patriarch Abraham migrated with his family from Ur of the Chaldees. Thus there remained but two of the three ambitious seekers of popular applause.
Pompey had been in some degree attached to Cæsar through his daughter Julia, whom he had married; but she died in the same year that Crassus went to the East, and from that time he gravitated toward the aristocrats, with whom his former affiliations had been. The ten years of Cæsar's government were to expire on the 1st of January, 48, and it became important for him to obtain the office of consul for the following year; but the senate and Pompey were equally interested to have him deprived of the command of the army before receiving any new appointment. The reason for this was that Cato [Footnote: This Cato was great-grandson of Cato the Censor (see page 152), was a man who endeavored to remind the world constantly of his illustrious descent by imitating the severe independence of his great ancestor, and by assuming marked peculiarity of dress and behavior. His life, blighted by an early disappointment in love, was unfortunate to the last. He was a consistent, but often ridiculous, leader of the minority opposed to the triumvirs.] had declared that as soon as Cæsar should become a private citizen he would bring him to trial for illegal acts of which his enemies accused him; and it was plain to him, no less than to all the world, that if Pompey were in authority at the time, conviction would certainly follow such a trial. One of Cicero's correspondents said on this subject: "Pompey has absolutely determined not to allow Cæsar to be elected consul on any terms except a previous resignation of his army and his government, while Cæsar is convinced that he must inevitably fall if he has once let go his army."