[Sidenote: Pompey’s personal popularity.] [Sidenote: Public thanksgiving in his behalf.]
It increased their anxiety to observe that Pompey was gaining the same kind of influence and ascendency too. He had not the advantage which Caesar enjoyed in the prodigious wealth obtained from the rich countries over which Caesar ruled, but he possessed, instead of it, the advantage of being all the time at Rome, and of securing, by his character and action there, a very wide personal popularity and influence. Pompey was, in fact, the idol of the people. At one time, when he was absent from Rome, at Naples, he was taken sick. After being for some days in considerable danger, the crisis passed favorably, and he recovered. Some of the people of Naples proposed a public thanksgiving to the gods, to celebrate his restoration to health. The plan was adopted by acclamation, and the example, thus set, extended from city to city, until it had spread throughout Italy, and the whole country was filled with the processions, games, shows, and celebrations, which were instituted every where in honor of the event. And when Pompey returned from Naples to Rome, the towns on the way could not afford room for the crowds that came forth to meet him. The high roads, the villages, the ports, says Plutarch, were filled with sacrifices and entertainments. Many received him with garlands on their heads and torches in their hands, and, as they conducted him along, strewed the way with flowers.
[Sidenote: Pompey’s estimate of Caesar’s power.]
In fact, Pompey considered himself as standing far above Caesar in fame and power, and this general burst of enthusiasm and applause, educed by his recovery from sickness, confirmed him in this idea. He felt no solicitude, he said, in respect to Caesar. He should take no special precautions against any hostile designs which he might entertain on his return from Gaul. It was he himself, he said, that had raised Caesar up to whatever of elevation he had attained, and he could put him down even more easily than he had exalted him.
[Sidenote: Plans of the latter.]
In the mean time, the period was drawing near in which Caesar’s command in the provinces was to expire; and, anticipating the struggle with Pompey which was about to ensue, he conducted several of his legions through the passes of the Alps, and advanced gradually, as he had a right to do, across the country of the Po toward the Rubicon, revolving in his capacious mind, as he came, the various plans by which he might hope to gain the ascendency over the power of his mighty rival, and make himself supreme.