" the twenty-fifth day of November, that date kept sacred to Proserpina, Queen of Hades "
Proserpina was the Roman name for the goddess Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (Roman Ceres) who was desired and carried off by Hades (Roman Pluto), god of the underworld. She spent half the year in the underworld, during which time the plants would die in the world above as her mother mourned, creating autumn and winter. When she returned to her mother for the other half of the year, Demeter’s joy would bring the spring and summer again. Proserpina was offered cult as an underworld deity.
" I was going to be another Achilles, albeit of the law courts rather than the battlefield. "
was a famous Greek hero who was renowned for his strength and skill in battle. He was given the choice of an easy, happy life after which he would eventually die a nobody, or an early death in the Trojan War that would win him everlasting fame and glory. He chose the latter. This is perhaps Cicero’s way of saying that he, too, chooses everlasting fame over the easy life.
" The consular war fleet had been set on fire in its winter anchorage at Ostia. "
was the port city of Rome.
" It was all the work of pirates "
With Rome’s defeat of large naval empires such as Carthage, the policing of the waters was no longer as thorough as it had been. Small communities around the Mediterranean left to fend for themselves were forced to make deals with pirates, becoming havens for them. These ‘pirates’ probably included the ships of various peoples and city states found around the Mediterranean that were not under the control of Rome, such as Crete and Cilicia. The Cilician pirates
in particular were strong, organised and very frightening to Rome. By attacking coastal cities in Greece, Asia and Italy, they seriously threatened the city’s grain supply, a situation guaranteed to cause panic in Rome.
" One of Pompey’s peculiarities, I later discovered, was that he always tended to love his wife, whoever she happened to be at the time. "
Roman marriages were not usually formed out of love, but out of a desire to create new family connections, forge or bind political alliances, marry into money, or honour a respected friend. Thus, marriages were usually arranged, either by the parents or by the prospective husband and his desired wife’s guardian; girls married young and were rarely given much of a choice, if any, of potential husband. Funerary inscriptions, however, provide evidence of the love and affection that could develop between Roman married couples.
" along with their retinues and their symbolic rods and axes "
, a bundle of birch rods tied into a cylinder, sometimes with one or two axe heads projecting from the sides, were symbols of power and authority in ancient Rome. These were held by the lictors (personal bodyguards) of important magistrates, and carried before them in processions.
" from the Pillars of Hercules here in the west to the waters of Egypt and Syria here in the east "
The Pillars of Hercules was the ancient term for the strait of Gibraltar (specifically the land on either side of the narrow stretch of sea leading out to the Atlantic Ocean). So, from the Pillars of Hercules to Egypt and Syria, Pompey basically means the entire Mediterranean Sea.
The Pillars of Hercules - Credit: John Eckert