When his term of office was over, the most pressing thing to be done was to put down the Cilician pirates. In the angle formed between Asia Minor and Syria, with plenty of harbors formed by the spurs of Mount Taurus, there had dwelt for ages past a horde of sea robbers, whose swift galleys darted on the merchant ships of Tyre and Alexandria; and now, after the ruin of the Syrian kingdom, they had grown so rich that their state galleys had silken sails, oars inlaid with ivory and silver, and bronze prows. They robbed the old Greek temples and the Eastern shrines, and even made descents on the Italian cities, besides stopping the ships which brought wheat from Sicily and Alexandria to feed the Romans.
To enable Pompeius to crush them, authority was given him for three years over all the Mediterranean and fifty miles inland all round, which was nearly the same thing as the whole empire. He divided the sea into thirteen commands, and sent a party to fight the pirates in each; and this was done so effectually, that in forty days they were all hunted out of the west end of the gulf, whither he pursued them with his whole force, beat them in a sea-fight, and then besieged them; but, as he was known to be a just and merciful man, they came to terms with him, and he scattered them about in small colonies in distant cities, so that they might cease to be mischievous.
[Illustration: COAST OF TYRE.]
In the meantime, the war with Mithridates had broken out again, and Lucius Lucullus, who had been consul after Pompeius, was fighting with him in the East; but Lucullus did not please the Romans, though he met with good success, and had pushed Mithridates so hard that there was nothing left for Pompeius but to complete the conquest, and he drove the old king beyond Caucasus, and then marched into Syria, where he overthrew the last of the Seleucian kings, Antiochus, and gave him the little kingdom of Commagene to spend the remainder of his life in, while Syria and Phoenicia were made into a great Roman province.
Under the Maccabees, Palestine had struggled into being independent of Syria, but only by the help of the Romans, who, as usual, tried to ally themselves with small states in order to make an excuse for making war on large ones. There was now a great quarrel between two brothers of the Maccabean family, and one of them, Hyrcanus, came to ask the aid of Pompeius. The Roman army marched into the Holy Land, and, after seizing the whole country, was three months besieging Jerusalem, which, after all, it only took by an attack when the Jews were resting on the Sabbath day. Pompeius insisted on forcing his way into the Holy of Holies, and was very much disappointed to find it empty and dark. He did not plunder the treasury of the Temple, but the Jews remarked that, from the time of this daring entrance, his prosperity seemed to fail him. Before he left the East, however, old Mithridates, who had taken refuge in the Crimea, had been attacked by his own favorite son, and, finding that his power was gone, had taken poison; but, as his constitution was so fortified by antidotes that it took no effect, he caused one of his slaves to kill him.