The conquests of Gnaeus Pompey in the east were so spectacular that the living at that time compared the Roman commander to the famous Alexander the Great – hence he later adopted the nickname “the Great”, meaning Magnus. His strength and political significance grew so much that in practice he was the independent king in the years 66-62 BCE.
Conquests in the east – the defeat of Mithridates VI Eupator and the imposition of Roman sovereignty on Pont and Syria – made Pompey an unusually rich man. He allegedly boasted that he greatly increased Rome’s income, which he also derived from the tribute imposed on subordinate Cappadocia, Armenia and the Bosporan Kingdom. In addition, Pompey owed his power to his faithful soldiers, who were generously endowed by him, and who associated their fate with his conquests. The spoils of war that he took during the wars allowed him to pay legionaries money worth 12,5 years of regular pay.
Pompey’s unusual position meant that he stopped caring about the senate. He made decisions without consulting senators and was sure of his position. This is perfectly illustrated by a situation communicated to us by Plutarch. Apparently, when certain foreigners protested how Pompey was handled, he replied:
Cease quoting laws to us that have swords girt about us!
– Plutarch, Pompey, 10