T HE birth date of Caius Julius Caesar, the greatest man of the ancient world, is generally given as 100 B.C. If so, Caesar must have filled a number of public offices two years earlier than the law allowed. Some historians, therefore, consider that he was probably born in 102 B.C. Caesar is remarkable among great men for the marvellous variety of his powers. He ranks among the greatest statesmen and generals of the world. But that is not all. He was also a great administrator, a great orator, and a great writer. In spite of natural weakness of body and the distressing malady from which he suffered, the labours of the camp and the council did not exhaust his energies or suffice to occupy his time. Throughout his life he found leisure for literary pursuits, and the purity of his style was famous among the Romans themselves. The only works of Caesar which survive to our time are his Commentaries, which tell the story of the first seven years of the Gallic War and of a part of the civil war against Pompey and his party. The chief charge brought against Caesar is that of inordinate ambition and of seeking to make himself king. No doubt Caesar, with his clear-sighted wisdom, did indeed see that the wide extension of the dominions of Rome had, by his time, made good government impossible by the system which had served well enough when the rule of Rome did not extend beyond Italy. He saw that it was necessary for the supreme rule to be in the hands of one man, and there can be no doubt that he, above all others, was the man endowed with the gifts necessary to found the new system. It may, however, well be doubted whether Caesar cared much about receiving the actual title of rex, or king. It was not like his broad, clear-visioned intellect to be concerned greatly about an empty title.
The first act of the civil war, when, by crossing the Rubicon, Caesar practically declared war upon Pompey, was undoubtedly forced upon him by the instinct of self-preservation. The bloody massacres of Marius and Sulla were too recent to permit Caesar to doubt that obedience to the senate would mean his accusation and death. He had either to fight or to die.
It is a great and enduring honour to Caesar, greater in a moral sense than his victories and conquests, that he used his triumph over the party of Pompey with extraordinary mercy in comparison with others. Had Caesar been a Marius or a Sulla, few or none of the conspirators, Brutus, Cassius, and the rest, would have survived the ruin of their party to plot against him and to compass the great dictator's death.
Caesar was murdered on the Ides, the 15th, of March 44 B.C. But though he perished, the system of government he had begun survived, and the Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire.
Almost the whole of the material of Shakespeare's play of Julius Caesar is taken from Plutarch's Lives of Julius Caesar and of Brutus. It is of great interest to observe how the genius of Shakespeare deals with the material supplied by Plutarch's narrative and gives it a living, dramatic form.
W HEN Sulla had established himself as master of Rome, he put to death a great number of the relatives and supporters of his rival and enemy, Caius Marius. Now Caesar's aunt was the wife of Marius, and Caesar himself had married the daughter of one of the bitterest enemies of Sulla. Nevertheless, he was overlooked in the great number of those whom the dictator proscribed. When, however, Caesar presented himself as a candidate for the priesthood, Sulla prevented his obtaining the office, and was further minded to have him put to death. As Caesar was still very young, some one said to the dictator that there was no need to take the life of such a boy. Thereupon Sulla replied that those men must indeed be lacking in insight who did not see in this boy more than one Marius.
When this saying was reported to Caesar, he deemed it prudent to go into hiding, and for a time wandered about in the country of the Sabines. There he fell sick, so that he had to be carried about from place to place in a litter. In this condition he was one night found by a party of soldiers sent by Sulla to scour the country and to drag proscribed persons from their hiding-places. Caesar, however, by bribing the officer in command, prevaHed upon him to let him go.
Caesar then hastened to seek safety at sea. In the course of his voyages he was captured by pirates, who had beset the neighbouring seas with a number of galleys and other vessels. The pirates set a ransom of twenty talents upon their prisoner, whereupon Caesar laughed, for their demand showed that they did not know who he was. Of his own accord he promised them fifty talents. He then sent his people to different cities in order to raise the money, and himself remained, with only one friend and two servants, among these ruffian pirates, who looked upon murder as a mere trifle. Caesar, however, treated them with contempt. When he had a mind to sleep, he was wont to send to tell them to keep silence. Thus he lived among them for thirty-eight days, rather as though they were his guards than he their prisoner. He moved among them perfectly fearless and unconcerned, joined in their exercises and sports, recited to them poems and orations which he had composed, and did not scruple to call them blockheads when they gave no sign of admiration. Indeed, he did not hesitate to tell the pirates that some day he would crucify them. His captors laughed at these threats, which they looked upon as jests.
When at length the money for his ransom had been brought and he was released, he set himself to man some vessels in a neighbouring port, and sallied out to seek the pirates. He found their ships still lying at anchor near the place of his captivity, and attacking them captured the money and most of the pirates and clapped them into prison. Then, as the Roman officer in that region, having his eye upon the money, delayed in punishing the robbers, Caesar took the matter into his own hands, and crucified them all, as he had before threatened to do when they thought he was in jest.
When the power of Sulla began to decline, Caesar's friends pressed him to return to Rome. First, however, he went to Rhodes, in order to study rhetoric under a famous teacher of that place of whom Cicero was also a pupil. Caesar had great natural talents as a speaker, and was not without ambition to cultivate them. Hence he became second only to Cicero among the orators of Rome, and might indeed have been the first had he not preferred to be pre-eminent in arms rather than in eloquence.
When he returned to Rome, the eloquence which he displayed in many cases procured him a considerable amount of influence, which was increased by his engaging manners and conversation. Moreover, he kept an open table and spent money freely, so that he became very popular and thus gained office. Those who were envious of him imagined that his resources would soon fail, and therefore made light of his popularity as something which would not last.
Cicero seems to have been the first who suspected something dangerous to the established order of government from Caesar, and to have seen that deep designs of ambition lay beneath his smiling affability. 'I perceive,' said he, 'a tendency towards absolute rule in all he designs and does; yet, on the other hand, when I see him arranging his hair so carefully and scratching his head with one finger, I can hardly credit such a man with the vast design of overthrowing the Roman commonwealth.'
Many people, who observed the vast sums which Caesar expended, thought that he was purchasing short and fleeting honours very dearly. In truth, however, he was preparing the way to gain the greatest things to which a man can aspire at a cost small in comparison with their importance. He is said to have been in debt to the amount of one thousand three hundred talents before he obtained any public employment whatever. When he was appointed to superintend the Appian Way, he spent large sums of his own money on the work. Again, when he held the office of aedile, he exhibited a great gladiatorial show in which six hundred and forty gladiators took part. In addition to this, he provided other amusements in the theatre, and processions and public feasts which far outdid anything that the most ambitious of his predecessors had attempted.
Caesar's growing popularity and his efforts to revive the party of Marius greatly alarmed many of the senate, who believed that he was aiming at obtaining the sole rule in Rome. He was indeed accused of this in the senate, but defended himself so well that the decision went in his favour.
While affairs were going on thus, the chief pontiff of Rome died. Though the office was sought by two of the most distinguished men in Rome, who had, moreover, great interest with the senate, Caesar did not hesitate to offer himself as a candidate for the position. The prospects of the competitors seemed fairly equal, and one of his rivals therefore sent privately to Caesar and offered him large sums of money to withdraw from the contest. Caesar, however, replied that he would rather borrow in order to win the election still larger sums than those offered.
When the day of election came, his mother, her
eyes filled with tears, accompanied him to the door.
Embracing her, Caesar said, 'My dear mother, you will
After he had served as praetor at Rome, the government of Spain was allotted to him. He found himself, however, in difficulties. His debts were so great and his creditors so troublesome and clamorous that he was obliged to apply for help to Crassus, the richest man in Rome. Crassus undertook to answer the most pressing of the creditors, and, by becoming security for eight hundred and thirty talents, enabled Caesar to set out for his province.
It is said that when Caesar was crossing the Alps on his journey, one of his friends said, as they were passing through a little town, 'I wonder if there are any disputes about office, and whether there is envy and ambition, such as we see at Rome, in this paltry little place.' Thereupon Caesar, speaking very seriously, said, 'I assure you that for my part I would rather be first in this village than second in Rome.'
Again, we are told that when he was in Spain he spent some of his leisure in reading the history of Alexander the Great. It was noticed that he was greatly affected by his reading, and that, after sitting some time in thought, he burst into tears. His friends, greatly wondering, inquired the reason, whereupon Caesar exclaimed: 'Do you not think I have sufficient cause for concern when Alexander at my age ruled over so many conquered lands, while I have not a single glorious achievement of which to boast?'
Inspired by this desire for fame, Caesar immediately upon his arrival applied himself diligently to business. He raised ten new cohorts in addition to the twenty which he received with his government, and with these penetrated to the shores of the western ocean and conquered peoples who had not hitherto come under the Roman sway. Nor was his success in peace less than in war. He composed differences between the various cities and removed occasions of quarrel between the people, so that he left the province with a great reputation. Meanwhile he had acquired much wealth for himself, and enriched his soldiers with booty.
On his return to Rome, which happened at the time of the election of consuls, he found himself in a difficulty, for while those who wished for a triumph were obliged to remain without the walls, those who sought the consulship were required to appear in person in the city. He therefore applied to the senate for permission to stand for the consulship without presenting himself within the walls. The proposal, however, was strongly opposed by Cato, who, seeing that the request was likely to be granted, spun out the debate until it was too late for anything to be decided that day. Caesar therefore determined to give up the triumph, and to stand for the consulship.
As soon as he had entered the city, Caesar set himself to reconcile the enmity between Pompey and Crassus, two of the most powerful men in Rome. His success in making them friends secured the interest of both for himself. He walked to the place of election between them, and under the influence of their friendship he was elected consul with special honours.
He then at once proposed measures such as would have been expected rather from a tribune of the people than from a consul. Thus he brought forward bills for a division of lands and for a distribution of corn, both of which measures were wholly intended to please the plebeians. A part of the senate strongly opposed these proposals, whereupon Caesar with great warmth protested that their opposition drove him against his will to appeal to the people. Accordingly he did apply to them, and, with Crassus standing on one side of him and Pompey on the other, asked whether they approved of his laws. They replied that they did, whereupon Caesar further asked for their assistance against those who threatened to oppose them with the sword. Again they assented, and Pompey added, 'Against those who come with the sword, I will bring both sword and buckler.'
To strengthen still further his alliance with Pompey, Caesar gave him his daughter Julia in marriage, and soon after Pompey filled the Forum with armed men and so secured the passing of the laws which Caesar had proposed. At the same time the government of Gaul was decreed to Caesar for five years, and to this was added Illyricum, with four legions.
The wars which Caesar waged in Gaul, and the many glorious campaigns in which he reduced that country into submission to Rome, present him in a fresh light. We have to deal, as it were, with a new man. We behold him as a warrior and general not inferior to the greatest commanders the world ever produced. For he surpassed some in the difficulties of the scene of war, others in the extent of the lands he subdued, others in the numbers and strength of those he overcame, others in the savage manners and treacherous dispositions he civilised, others in his mercy to his prisoners, others in his bounty to his soldiers, and all, in the number of the battles which he fought and of enemies that fell before him. For in less than ten years of warfare in Gaul, he carried eight hundred cities by assault, conquered three hundred nations, and at different times fought pitched battles with three millions of men, of whom one million were slain and another million made prisoners.
Moreover, such was the affection which Caesar inspired in his soldiers, and such was their devotion to him, that they who under other leaders were nothing above the common, became under him invincible and capable of meeting the utmost danger with a courage which nothing could resist, and which was displayed in such instances as the following:
One of Caesar's legionaries, after boarding one of the enemy's ships in a sea-fight near Marseilles, had his right arm smitten off by a sword-cut. But, dashing the buckler which he bore upon his left arm in the faces of his foes, he vanquished them and captured the vessel.
Another soldier in the midst of battle had one eye shot out by an arrow, his shoulder pierced by a javelin, his thigh transfixed by another, while upon his shield he received a hundred and thirty darts. He called out to the enemy, and upon two of them, who thought he was about to surrender, approaching, he smote one so sorely that his arm was lopped off, and the other he wounded in the face. Then, his comrades rushing to his aid, he came off with his life.
Again, in Britain, it chanced that some of the vanguard got into difficulties in a deep morass, and were attacked there by the enemy. Then a private soldier, in the sight of Caesar, threw himself into the midst of the assailants, and by dint of extraordinary acts of valour drove them off and rescued his comrades. He then with much difficulty, partly by wading and partly by swimming, crossed the morass, but in so doing lost his shield. Caesar and those around him ran to meet the soldier when he got to land with shouts of joy, but he, with signs of deep distress, threw himself at Caesar's feet and besought pardon for the loss of his shield.
In Africa it chanced that one of Caesar's ships was taken by the enemy, and all on board were put to the sword except one officer, who was told that he would be given his life. 'It is the custom,' said he, 'for Caesar's soldiers to give quarter, but not to take it,' and immediately plunged his sword into his own breast.
This courage of his soldiers was cultivated in the first place by the generous manner in which Caesar rewarded his troops and by the honours which he paid them. For he did not heap up riches in his wars in order to live in luxury. He poured the wealth, as it were, into a common bank, to serve as prizes for distinguished valour. Another thing that helped to make his soldiers invincible was the fact that Caesar himself always took his full share in danger, and did not shrink from any labour and fatigue.
His soldiers were indeed not surprised at his exposing himself to danger, for they knew his ardent love of glory. But they were astonished at the patience with which he underwent toils and fatigues which appeared beyond his strength, for he was of slender build, fair in complexion and delicate in constitution, being subject to violent headaches and to epileptic fits. Yet he did not make these infirmities an excuse for indulging himself. On the contrary, he sought a remedy for them in warfare, and endeavoured to strengthen his constitution by long marches, simple food, and living largely in the open air. Thus he fought against his bodily weakness and strengthened himself against the attacks of his malady.
He generally took his sleep upon the march, either in a chariot or a litter, in order that rest might not cause any loss of time. In the daytime he visited the cities, castles, and camp attended by a servant, whom he employed to write from his dictation, and followed by a soldier, who carried his sword. In this way he was able to travel so fast that he reached the Rhone in eight days from the time of setting out from Rome.
In his early years he was a good horseman, and acquired such a mastery of the art of riding that he could sit his horse at full speed with his hands behind him. In his expedition into Gaul he was accustomed to dictate letters to two secretaries at the same time as he rode on horseback. Moreover, he showed himself indifferent to the pleasures of the table and careless of discomfort. 'Honours to the great and comforts for the infirm,' said he, giving up the only room in a poor hut where he had sheltered to one of his weaker followers, while he himself slept under a shed at the door.
Caesar's first expedition in Gaul was against the Helvetians and the Tigurini, who, having burnt twelve of their own towns and four hundred of their villages, set out to march through that part of Gaul which was subject to Rome, in order to invade Italy. They were brave and warlike peoples and formidable in numbers, for they mustered in all three hundred thousand, of whom one hundred and ninety thousand were fighting men. Caesar sent his chief lieutenant against the Tigurini, who were defeated by him near the river Saone.
The Helvetians suddenly attacked Caesar as he was on the march, but, notwithstanding the surprise, he was able to take a good position and to draw up his men in order of battle. His horse was then brought to him, but he sent it away. 'I shall need my horse for the pursuit when I have won the battle,' said he, 'but at present let us attack the enemy on foot.' The enemy was not driven from the field without a long and severe combat. The Romans met with their chief difficulty when they came to the enemy's rampart of chariots, for then not only did the men make a determined stand, but even the women and children fought till they were cut to pieces. So stubborn was the resistance that the battle lasted till midnight.
Caesar followed up this great victory by a very wise act. He collected the surviving barbarians, who were in number about one hundred thousand. These he obliged to settle again in the lands they had abandoned and to rebuild the cities they had burnt, in order that the lands might not be left to be seized by the Germans.
Caesar's next war was in defence of Gaul against these Germans, who proved themselves very troublesome neighbours to the peoples he had subdued. He found, however, that some of his officers shrank from this expedition, especially some of the young nobility who had followed Caesar in the hope of both living in luxury and making their fortunes. The general therefore called them together, and before the whole army told them that, since they were so unmanly and spiritless, they were at liberty to depart. 'For my part,' he continued, 'I will march against the barbarians with the tenth legion only, for these Germans are not better men than others I have conquered, nor am I a worse general than Marius, who defeated them aforetime.' Upon this some of the tenth legion sent a deputation to thank Caesar for the honour he proposed to do them, while the other legions laid the whole blame for backwardness upon their officers. In the end all followed him in good spirits, and after several days' march arrived within twenty-five miles of the enemy.
The approach of Caesar broke down the confidence which the German king, Ariovistus, had felt. He had never dreamt that the Romans would march to attack him, but had expected, on the contrary, that they would not dare to stand against him when he went in quest of them. Moreover, he saw that his men were dispirited by the bold move of Caesar and by the prophecies of their diviners, who warned them not to give battle until the new moon.
Caesar was informed of the discouraged state of the enemy, and found that they kept close within their camp. He therefore thought it better to attack them while they were thus dejected, than to sit still and bide their time. Accordingly he attacked their defences and the hills upon which they were posted. The attack roused the Germans to fury, and they rushed to meet the Romans in the plain. They were, however, utterly routed, and were pursued by Caesar as far as the river Rhine so fiercely that the whole distance of nearly forty miles was strewn with dead bodies and scattered weapons. The number of killed is said to have been eighty thousand, Ariovistus himself narrowly escaping across the river with a few of his troops.
Having thus ended the war, Caesar left his army in winter quarters, and journeyed to that part of his province of Gaul which lay on the southern side of the Alps, and which is separated from Italy by the river Rubicon. His object was to keep affairs in Rome under his observation and to maintain his interests in the city. Many came thence to pay their respects to him, and all he sent away satisfied, some with presents, others with hopes of future benefits. Thus, throughout his wars, he gained over the citizens of Rome by means of the money which he obtained from the enemies whom he conquered by the use of the Roman arms.
When Caesar received news that the Belgae, who were the most powerful people in Gaul and whose territories made up a third part of the whole country, had collected a great army and broken out into rebellion, he marched against them with marvellous speed. He found them ravaging the lands of those Gauls who were allies of Rome. The main body made but a feeble resistance to him, and was defeated with such terrible slaughter that lakes and rivers were choked with bodies, and the soldiers crossed them over bridges of corpses.
Then Caesar led his army against the Nervii, who dwelt in a densely wooded country. These people, having hidden their families and their valuables in the depths of a great forest far from the enemy, marched, to the number of sixty thousand, against the Romans. They came upon Caesar as he was fortifying his camp, and when he was quite unprepared for their attack. The Roman cavalry was first of all routed, and then the barbarians surrounded the twelfth and seventh legions, which lost all their officers in the fight. Probably not one Roman would have survived the battle had not Caesar snatched a buckler from one of his men and thrown himself into the combat, while the tenth legion, which was posted on the heights above, rushed to support their general when they saw his danger. But though the Romans, encouraged by Caesar's bold action, fought with superhuman courage, they could not make the Nervii turn their backs. They stubbornly held their ground and were hewn to pieces where they stood, so that it is said that, of the sixty thousand, not five hundred survived the fight.
When the news of this great victory reached Rome, the senate decreed that sacrifices should be offered and festivities kept up for fifteen whole days, a longer term of rejoicing than had ever before been known. As for Caesar, when he had settled the affairs of Farther Gaul, he again crossed the Alps and passed the winter near the river Po, in order to watch over his interests in Rome. Thither came the greatest and most illustrious people in the state to pay their court to him, among them being over two hundred senators. Pompey and Crassus were of the number, and among these three it was settled that Pompey and Crassus should be consuls for the next year, and that in return they should procure for Caesar a further term of five years in his government, together with supplies for his needs from the public treasury.
Upon his return to his army Caesar found that another furious war had blazed out, for two German peoples had crossed the Rhine to make conquests in Gaul. When Caesar marched against them, however, they sent messengers to ask for a truce, and this he granted. Nevertheless, they treacherously attacked him when he was on the march with only eight hundred horse, who, on account of the truce, were quite unprepared for the onslaught. But even with this small force Caesar beat off the cavalry of the enemy, who numbered five thousand men.
Next day the Germans sent messengers to express their regret for the attack. These envoys Caesar seized, for he thought it foolish to stand upon honour with so treacherous a people, and then marched against the enemy. Four thousand of them were killed in the fight, and the few who escaped recrossed the Rhine, where they were sheltered by another German tribe. Caesar seized upon this as a pretext to attack the latter people, but his real motive was the desire of having the glory of being the first Roman to cross the Rhine in a hostile manner. For this purpose he threw a bridge across the river, which in that place is a wide rushing stream which bears down upon its waters many great trunks of trees. To ward off the shocks from these upon the supports of the bridge, Caesar drove great piles into the river bed, which stopped the trees and also served to break the force of the current. He carried out this great work, and finished the bridge in the astonishingly short space of ten days.
His crossing was not opposed by the enemy, who retired into the depths of their forests. Caesar laid waste their lands with fire, and then returned into Gaul after an absence of only eighteen days in Germany.
But Caesar's daring spirit of enterprise was most fully displayed by his expedition into Britain. For he was the first to sail a fleet upon the western ocean, and, embarking his army on the Atlantic, to carry war into an island the very existence of which was doubted. For some writers had represented it as so incredibly vast in size that others declined to believe that there was such a place, and declared both name and place to be fictitious. Yet Caesar endeavoured to conquer it, and to extend the bounds of the Roman Empire beyond the limits of the habitable world. He twice saHed to Britain from the opposite shores of Gaul and fought many battles, which brought more suffering to the Britons than profit to the Romans, for there was nothing worth taking from people so poor and living in such a state of misery. Caesar, however, did not finish the war as he had hoped; he only received hostages from the king and fixed a tribute which the island was to pay, and then returned to Gaul.
There he found news awaiting him of the death of his daughter, the wife of Pompey. Both father and husband were deeply affected by her death. It was also a matter of great concern to their friends, for her life was a great support to the alliance between Caesar and Pompey, upon which the peace of the state so largely depended.
As Caesar's army was now very large, and as there was, moreover, a scarcity of food in Gaul, he was forced to divide it when he went into winter quarters. When this was done, he himself, according to custom, set out towards Italy. But he had not gone long before the Gauls rose again in rebellion, raised considerable armies, and fiercely attacked the scattered Romans in their quarters. The strongest body of the insurgents attacked two of Caesar's officers in their camp and cut off the whole party. Then with an army of sixty thousand men they besieged a legion under Quintus Cicero. The Romans made a spirited resistance, but they suffered very heavy losses, so that they were near being taken.
Caesar was a long way off when he received news of the danger which threatened the legion. He returned with great speed, and, having collected troops, not more than seven thousand in number, marched to the relief of Cicero. Thereupon the Gauls, who had intelligence of his movements, raised the siege and marched to meet him in full confidence of victory, for they knew how small his force was. Caesar, in order to deceive them, pretended to retreat hastily before them, until he came to a place which offered advantages to a small force resisting a large one. There he fortified his camp, and, in order to increase the self-confidence of the Gauls, he ordered his men not to attack but to shelter themselves behind a great rampart and strongly barricaded gates. Caesar's devices succeeded as he had hoped. The Gauls, despising an enemy which seemed so much afraid of them, confidently advanced to the attack in a disorderly rabble. Then Caesar suddenly burst out of the camp, and destroyed the greater part of them. This success laid the spirit of revolt for the time, though Caesar, as a measure of precaution, spent the whole of the winter in Gaul, visiting all the camps and keeping a vigilant eye upon any movement among the people.
Still later than these events, however, the embers of hatred to Rome, which had long smouldered in the more distant parts of the country and among the most warlike peoples, blazed out into one of the most dangerous and greatest wars that ever happened in Gaul. The difficulties of the Romans were increased, too, by the severity of the season in which the outbreak occurred. Ice covered the rivers and snow the forests, while the roads lay hidden beneath the snow or beneath the frozen flood-water which spread far and wide across the land. It seemed impossible, therefore, for Caesar to march against the insurgents. Nevertheless, immediately he received the news he struck swiftly. Covering with his whole army great distances at a speed which would have been remarkable for a single courier, he appeared in the lands of the enemy, ravaging the country, destroying the forts and storming the cities. So he went on, until a people who had been hitherto loyal to the Romans joined in the revolt. Then he was obliged to retreat, until he came to a region where the people remained steadfast to their alliance with Rome. There he made a stand, and although surrounded by a vast army, he totally defeated the enemy. Many of the foes who escaped from the battle took shelter in the town of Alesia. Though it seemed impossible to take the place on account of the strength of the walls and the great number of soldiers by which it was defended, Caesar immediately formed the siege of the town.
While he was thus engaged, he was exposed to the most extraordinary peril. Three hundred thousand of the bravest men in Gaul marched to the relief of Alesia, while within it was a garrison of seventy thousand soldiers. Then Caesar accomplished the most marvellous of all his feats of war and generalship. He built two lines of fortification around the town, from the inner one of which he carried on the siege, while the outer one was a defence against the relieving army. He successfully accomplished the feat of defeating the latter army, while he maintained the siege and forced the town to surrender.
By this time the rivalry between Caesar and Pompey had become very severe, the more so as Crassus, who alone might have entered into the lists against them, had been slain in the Parthian War. It is true that Pompey had not for any long time felt any fear of Caesar, but had rather despised him, as one who could be pulled down as easily as he had been set up. But Caesar had long been bent upon the ruin of Pompey, who, he plainly saw, alone stood between him and the mastery of Rome. Like a competitor in the games, he had therefore retired to a distance to train himself for the contest. The long service and glorious achievements in Gaul had provided him with a devoted army, and he himself had gained a fame which rivalled that of Pompey.
The misgovernment at Rome, the open corruption and bribery, the anarchy and bloodshed in the city, and especially some of the acts of Pompey, furnished Caesar with sufficient pretexts for action in accordance with his designs.
The disorders in the state were such that wise men thought it would be well if they ended in nothing worse than the establishment of a monarchy, and Pompey was hinted at as the man likeliest to remedy matters with the gentlest hand. For his part, Pompey, though he declined the honour of being made dictator, nevertheless acted in such a way as tended to bring all power into his hands. The senate was persuaded to declare him sole consul, he was continued in his governments of Spain and Africa, which he ruled by means of his lieutenants, and he was allowed a thousand talents a year for the maintenance of his troops.
Thereupon Caesar applied for another consulship, and for the continuance of his commission in Gaul, in order that he might be on the same footing as Pompey. The supporters of the latter, however, strongly opposed these demands, while Caesar, by a lavish use of the treasures he had amassed in Gaul, busied himself in greatly strengthening his party in the city. Pompey was alarmed by the rapid increase in the influence of his rival. He began to exert himself openly to get a successor to Caesar appointed to the rule of Gaul, and he also demanded back the legions which he had formerly lent to Caesar for his wars.
Caesar returned the legions, and the officers who led them back spread reports which filled Pompey with vain hopes which proved his ruin. They said that Caesar's victorious legions would declare for Pompey directly they arrived in Italy, so much did they hate Caesar because he hurried them ceaselessly from one expedition to another. Such confidence did Pompey repose in these assurances that he neglected to levy troops. He contented himself with making speeches and decrees, for which Caesar cared nothing. It is said that a centurion in Caesar's army, who had been sent by his general to Rome, waited at the door of the senate-house to learn the decision of the senate concerning Caesar's commission in Gaul. He was told that a longer term would not be given. Thereupon, clapping his hand upon his sword, he cried, 'This, then, shall give it.'
Indeed, Caesar's demands appeared very just and reasonable. He offered to lay down his arms if Pompey would do the same, and he pointed out that to deprive him alone of his government and legions was to leave Pompey absolute master of the state. The senate, however, was strongly opposed to Caesar. Few voted that Pompey should dismiss his forces, while almost all called upon Caesar to lay down his arms. Even when Caesar made still more moderate proposals than at first, they were rejected, and Antony and Curio, two of his friends, were driven with ignominy from the senate-house. Indeed, in such danger did they believe themselves to be, that, disguised as slaves, they escaped in hired carriages to Caesar's quarters. He did not fail to use the plight to which men of such distinction in the state had been reduced, merely through friendship to him, to exasperate his troops against the party of Pompey.
Caesar at this time had with him not more than three hundred horse and five thousand foot. He sent orders for the rest of his troops, who lay on the other side of the Alps, to join him. But for his present purposes he considered that swiftness and boldness of action were more necessary to his success than numbers. He therefore, without waiting for further forces, set out secretly for the Rubicon, the little stream which divided his government of Cisalpine Gaul from Italy. As he approached the river, his mind was disturbed by the greatness of the enterprise. He stood still for a time revolving in his mind the arguments on both sides, and talking with his friends about the calamities which his passage of the river would let loose upon the world. At last, impelled by a sudden impulse, he bade adieu to his reasonings, and crying out, 'The die is cast,' crossed the river. So fast did he travel during the rest of the night that before daylight he reached Ariminum and took it.
Now war by sea and land had opened wide its gates, for Caesar, by going beyond the bounds of his province, had broken the laws and declared war upon the state. Terror seized upon the land, whole cities were broken up, and their peoples sought safety in flight. Most of this tumultuous human tide flowed into Rome, and increased the wild confusion which reigned in the city. Pompey, though his forces were not inferior in numbers to those of Caesar, was borne along in the general panic. He left Rome, having first issued orders to the senate, and to every man who preferred liberty to tyranny, to follow him. The consuls fled with him, and most of the senators, snatching up such of their property as lay next to hand, joined in the frenzied flight. Indeed, so blind was the panic, that even some of those who had before been well disposed to Caesar now joined in the rush from the city. Caesar continued his advance and laid siege to Corfinium, wherein lay thirty cohorts of Pompey's troops. Their commander in despair ordered his physician to give him a draught of poison, which he immediately drank. In but a little while, however, he regretted his action, for he heard of the extraordinarily merciful way in which Caesar was treating his prisoners. Thereupon his physician removed his fears, for he was able to assure him that the draught was a sleeping potion, and not a deadly poison. Rejoicing greatly, the officer went to Caesar, who took him by the hand and pardoned him. The news of Caesar's clemency gave great relief in Rome, and many of those who had fled now ventured back again.
The thirty cohorts at Corfinium, and others whom Pompey had left in garrison at various places, were added to Caesar's army, and he now felt strong enough to march against his rival. Pompey, however, did not await his attack. He retired to Brundisium, and thence sent the consuls across to Greece with part of the army. Thither he himself followed with the rest upon the approach of Caesar, who was prevented from pursuing farther by lack of ships. Caesar, therefore, returned to Rome with the glory of having subdued the whole of Italy without bloodshed in sixty days.
He found the city in a more orderly condition than he expected. One of the tribunes, indeed, opposed him. Caesar proposed to take money for his needs from the public treasury, whereupon the tribune alleged that it was contrary to the law. Thereupon Caesar exclaimed, 'War and laws do not flourish together, and indeed war will not brook much liberty of speech. You and all whom I find stirring up a spirit of faction against me are at my disposal.' Moreover, as the keys of the treasury were not produced, he sent for workmen to break open the doors. The tribune again strove to prevent his bursting into the treasury, but was silenced by a threat of death. 'And this,' said Caesar, 'you are aware it is easier for me to do than say.'
His first movement was to Spain, whence he was resolved to drive Pompey's lieutenants and to add their troops to his own before setting out against their master. In the course of this expedition he was often in danger from ambushes, and his army had to contend against famine. Nevertheless, he waged war by battle, pursuit and siege, till he forced the camp of his enemies and added their troops to his own.
Upon his return to Rome he was declared dictator, and, while he held that office, he recalled the exiles, restored to their honours the children of those who had suffered under Sulla, and relieved the debtors. He then laid down the dictatorship, after holding it for only eleven days. Then, having caused himself and one of his supporters to be declared consuls, he left Rome in order to continue his war against Pompey.
So fast did he march to Brundisium that only a part of his troops could keep up with him. He therefore embarked with only six hundred chosen cavalry and five legions. He crossed the Ionian Sea early in the month of January, made himself master of two towns, and then sent back his ships to bring over the remainder of his soldiers.
Meanwhile these war-worn troops, heavy with the fatigue of marching and wearied of the succession of foes they had to encounter, marched discontentedly towards Brundisium. They cried out upon Caesar, saying, 'Whither will this man lead us, and where is the end of our labours? Are we to be harassed for ever as though our limbs were hard as stone and our bodies strong as iron? Our very shields and breastplates cry out for rest, for iron itself yields to repeated blows. Our wounds should teach Caesar that we are mortals, and yet he would expose us to the rage of winter upon the sea, though even the gods cannot clear the wintry seas of storms.'
With such complaints they marched slowly to Brundisium. But when they arrived and found their general gone, the wonderful power which Caesar had over them was revealed. They changed their tone, blamed their officers for not having hastened the march, and sitting upon the cliffs strained their eyes across the seas in search of the transports that were to take them to share the dangers and labours of their general.
Meanwhile Caesar lay in the town which he had seized, lacking sufficient troops to make head against the enemy, and full of anxiety at the delay of the rest of his army. In his difficulty he took an astonishing and daring course. The sea was covered with the fleets of the enemy, yet he resolved to take the risk of sailing secretly to Brundisium to bring up his missing legions. By night, therefore, dressed in the habit of a slave, he went on board a little vessel of twelve oars, and throwing himself down as though he were a person of no account, sat in silence. The boat dropped down the river for the sea. At that place the outfall is generally easy, because the land wind which rises in the morning beats down the waves where sea and river meet. But, by ill-fortune, a strong sea wind blew that night, so that the opposing waters were lashed into fury. Wave dashed against wave in tumult, and the pilot, despairing of making good the passage through the boiling eddies, ordered the mariners to turn back. Thereupon Caesar arose and discovered himself to the astonished pilot. 'Go forward, my friend,' said he. 'Fear not, thou carriest Caesar and his fortune.'
The sailors forgot their fears, and, plying their oars manfully, endeavoured to force the boat along against the furious waves. But at the mouth of the river the storm was so violent and the water poured so fast into the vessel that Caesar, though with reluctance, was obliged to permit the pilot to put back. When he returned to the camp, the soldiers met him in crowds, complaining loudly that he had not enough confidence in them to be assured of victory by their aid alone, and that, in his distrust of their support, he had exposed himself to such peril.
Soon after this Antony arrived with the troops from Brundisium, and Caesar in high spirits then offered battle to Pompey. His rival was strongly encamped, and was abundantly supplied with provisions both by way of sea and land, while Caesar from the first had but little food, and later on suffered from great scarcity. His soldiers, however, found relief from their hunger in a root which grew in the neighbouring fields, and which they prepared in milk. Sometimes they made a kind of bread from it, and throwing it amongst Pompey's outposts declared that they would maintain the siege while the earth continued to produce such food.
Pompey would not suffer this bread to be shown nor these speeches to be reported in his camp, for his men were already discouraged. They shuddered, indeed, at the hardihood of Caesar's troops, who seemed as insensible to fatigue as so many wild beasts. Skirmishes around Pompey's entrenchments frequently took place, and in all save one Caesar had the advantage. That one, however, promised disaster for his cause, for his troops were driven back in such hurried flight that his camp was in danger of being taken. Pompey himself headed the attack, and none could stand before him. He drove Caesar's troops upon their own lines in utter confusion, and their trenches were filled with dead.
Caesar ran to stay the flight, but it was beyond his power to rally the fugitives. He seized hold of the standards in order to recall his soldiers to a sense of discipline, but the standard-bearers then cast their ensigns away, so that no less than thirty-two were taken by the enemy. Indeed, Caesar narrowly escaped with his life in the panic. He laid hold of a tall, strong fellow who was running past him and tried to make him stand and face the enemy. Thereupon the fugitive, mad with fear, raised his sword to strike his general, but the blow was prevented by Caesar's armour-bearer, who struck off the soldier's arm.
That day Caesar so completely despaired of his affairs that after Pompey, either through too great caution or some accident, caused the retreat to be sounded without giving the finishing stroke to his great success, Caesar said to his friends, 'This day victory would have been with the enemy if their general had known how to conquer.' That night, when Caesar sought repose in his tent, was the most full of anxiety of any in his life. He reflected that his generalship had been bad in neglecting to carry the war into the fertHe lands near him, and in confining himself to the seacoast, where the fleets of the enemy cut off his supplies, with the result that he, rather than Pompey, suffered the difficulties and scarcity of a siege. Therefore, after a night thus disturbed by his sense of the difficulty and danger of his position, he broke up his camp in order to march into Macedonia. He considered that Pompey, if he followed him, would lose the advantage he now had of receiving supplies; while, if his rival sat still, Pompey's lieutenant in Macedonia might easily be crushed while left unsupported.
His enemies were greatly elated by Caesar's retreat. They looked upon it as an acknowledgment that he was beaten, and Pompey's officers and men wished to pursue him closely. But Pompey was unwilling to stake all upon the hazard of immediate battle. He himself was well provided with all necessary stores, and he therefore thought that time was on his side, and that, by dragging out the war, he could break down such vigour as remained in Caesar's army. For the best of that general's soldiers were indeed veterans of the staunchest valour in battle, but age had rendered them less fitted for the wearisome labours of war, for long marches and the making of encampments, for attacking walls, and for standing whole nights on guard under arms. It was said, too, that a disease due to the lack of proper food was raging among them. Moreover, Pompey's chief consideration was that Caesar was so poorly supplied with money and provisions that it seemed likely that his army would soon break up of itself.
Such were Pompey's reasons for avoiding a battle, but none of his officers, save one, approved of his opinion. All the rest reproached and upbraided him, and hinted that his inaction was due to the kingly state in which he found himself, with so many officers of high rank paying him court. Stung by these reproaches, Pompey, against his own judgment, went in pursuit of Caesar with the intention of bringing on a battle. Meanwhile Caesar had continued his retreat with difficulty, for, being looked upon as a beaten man, he was everywhere refused provisions. However, he took a certain town where his troops obtained plenty of food and wine, and, the disease which had oppressed them disappearing as if by magic, they marched on with renewed vigour. Thus the two armies entered the plain of Pharsalia and encamped over against one another. Pompey now returned to his former opinion as to the wisdom of postponing battle, and some unlucky omens and an alarming dream strengthened his views. His officers, however, were so foolishly confident of victory, that some disputed about the offices which should be theirs when they returned in triumph to Rome, while others sent to the city to secure houses suitable for men of the high rank to which they expected to be raised. Especially were the cavalry impatient for battle, in the pride of their splendid armour, their well-fed horses and their own handsome persons, and in the confidence in their numbers, for they were seven thousand against Caesar's one thousand. In foot-soldiers, too, Pompey had a great advantage, for he had forty-five thousand to oppose to twenty-two thousand who followed his rival.
Caesar now assembled his soldiers, and told them that two more legions were coming to join them and were at no great distance, while fifteen other cohorts lay round about Megara and Athens. He then asked whether they would wait for these troops or whether they would risk a battle without them. His soldiers cried aloud, 'Let us not wait, but do you rather contrive some plan to make the enemy fight as soon as possible.'
Caesar then offered sacrifices, and the soothsayer announced that a decisive battle would be fought within three days. Caesar then asked if he saw any sign favourable to his success. 'You,' said the soothsayer, 'can answer that question better than I. The gods announce a complete change in the state of affairs. If, then, you consider your present condition a happy one, prepare for a worse; but if not, you may expect a better.'
The night before the battle there was a strange appearance in the sky. About midnight Caesar was going his round to inspect the watches when a fiery torch was seen in the heavens. It seemed to pass over Caesar's camp, and then, flaming out with great brightness, to fall in the midst of Pompey's army. In the morning, too, when the guard was relieved, a great tumult was observed in the enemy's camp. Caesar, however, did not expect a battle that day, and therefore ordered his soldiers to break up their camp.
The tents were already struck when the scouts came riding in with news that the enemy was coming down to battle. Caesar was filled with joy at the news, and, after offering prayers to the gods, arranged his army in three divisions. He himself had the right wing, where he intended to fight in the tenth legion.
Caesar was struck by the number and splendid appearance of the enemy's horsemen, who were posted over against him. He therefore brought round six cohorts of his horse from the rear without the movement being observed. These he stationed behind his wing, and gave them instructions as to what they should do when the enemy's cavalry charged. The whole strength of Pompey's horsemen was brought to bear against Caesar's wing, with the design of breaking up that part of the army where he commanded in person by the shock of an irresistible charge.
When the signal for battle was about to be given, Pompey ordered his foot-soldiers to stand in close order, and not to move to meet the enemy's attack until they were within cast of a javelin. Here, Caesar says, his rival was wrong, because the swift charge fires a soldier's courage, and lends force to his blows.
As Caesar was going into action with his phalanx, he espied a valiant and veteran centurion urging on his troop to play the men that day. Caesar hailed him by name and cried: 'How do we stand for victory, Crassinus?' The centurion stretched out his right hand. 'A splendid victory is ours, O Caesar!' he cried, 'and whether I live through the day or not, of this I am sure, that I shall earn your praise.' First of all the host, Crassinus, with his hundred and twenty soldiers following, burst upon the enemy, cut his way through the front ranks, and was fiercely driving the foe back, when a sword-thrust in the mouth, so shrewd that the blade came out at the back of his neck, laid him low.
When the infantry had come into close action and were fighting hotly, Pompey's cavalry advanced boldly from his left, and extended their squadrons to envelop Caesar's right. But at once the six cohorts whom Caesar had stationed behind his infantry came up at a gallop to meet the charge. They did not, as was the custom, hurl their javelins at the enemy from a distance. Nor did they, when they came to close quarters, strike at the legs and bodies of their foes. But they aimed their thrusts at their enemies' eyes and wounded them in their faces, as Caesar had ordered them before the battle. For he judged that Pompey's gay young horsemen, unused to war and wounds, and proud above all things of their handsome looks, would dread exceedingly blows directed at their faces, and that their ranks would thus be broken as much from fear of the disfiguring wounds as from the terror of the combat.
The event fell out as Caesar had expected. The gallants could not bear to look upon the spear-points pointed at their faces and the gleam of the swords flashing in the thrust at their eyes. They turned away their faces or covered them with their hands, broke into shameful flight, and, by their flight, ruined the whole cause of their army. For Caesar's cohorts of horsemen then swept round the enemy's infantry on that wing, charged them in front and rear, rode them down and cut them to pieces.
When Pompey from the other wing saw the rout of his cavalry, he forgot that he was Pompey the Great and became like one possessed. Without a word he left the battlefield, went to his tent, and there sat down to await the issue of the fight. At length, when his whole army was broken and dispersed and the victors were attacking the ramparts of his camp, he seemed to come to himself. 'What, into my camp too!' he cried, and, laying aside the signs of his rank as general, donned humble garments and fled from the camp. He made his way safely to Egypt, but there, as he was landing from his boat, he was treacherously murdered by a centurion who had formerly served under him. When Caesar entered the camp of his rival, and saw the number of those who lay dead and the slaughter that was still going on, he said, with a sigh of regret, 'Alas! that cruel necessity has brought this about; but, alas had I dismissed my troops I should myself have been condemned as a criminal.'
Caesar took most of the infantry who were made prisoners into his own legions. Moreover, he pardoned many persons of rank and importance, amongst whom was that Brutus who afterwards killed him. Caesar is said to have shown much concern when Brutus could not be found after the battle, and to have been overjoyed when he found that he was unhurt.
The victor soon went in pursuit of Pompey and arrived at Alexandria. There the head of his great rival, which had been cut off after the murder, was brought to him. But the conqueror turned away in abhorrence from the sight, and ordered that the murderer should be put to death. Such of Pompey's friends and supporters as were captured wandering about the country and were brought to Caesar, met with a welcome from him, were loaded with favours and taken into his own service. He wrote to his friends at Rome, saying that the chief satisfaction he derived from his victory was the pleasure of pardoning every day some one or other of his fellow-citizens who had fought against him.
In Egypt, Caesar became engaged in a dangerous war, which some have blamed him for undertaking needlessly. Others, however, accuse the servants of the ruler of Egypt of causing the war. For a servant of Caesar's, a prying and suspicious man, discovered that two officers at the Egyptian court were plotting to kill his master. When Caesar heard of this he planted his guards about the hall. One of the plotters was killed, but the other, who was the general of the army, escaped. His soldiers supported him, and thus Caesar was drawn into a difficult war, for he had but a few troops with which to subdue a great city and a large army.
His first great difficulty arose from a lack of water, for the enemy stopped up the aqueducts from which he drew his supply. When he had surmounted this by digging wells, he was faced with the necessity of burning his ships in the harbour to prevent their falling into the enemy's hands. And in a sea-fight near the island of Pharos he was in the most imminent danger. For, seeing his men hard pressed, he jumped from the mole into a small boat in order to go to their assistance. From all sides the Egyptians hastened to attack him. In order to escape, Caesar was obliged to jump from the boat, which soon after sank. With great difficulty he managed to escape to his own galley by swimming. But, imminent though his danger was, Caesar contrived to save some valuable documents which he had with him by holding them above water with one hand, while he swam with the other. In the end Caesar triumphed. He won a great victory over the Egyptians, and then established Cleopatra as queen over the country.
He next marched by way of Syria into Asia Minor, where he found that the governor whom he had appointed had been defeated, and that all the kings and rulers of Asia had been stirred up against the Romans. With three legions Caesar attacked their forces, and overthrew them with utter ruin in a great battle near Zela. He expressed the rapidity of his success by the brevity of the message in which he announced the victory to his friends in Rome: Veni, vidi, vici; (I came, I saw, I conquered).
After this extraordinary success he returned to Italy, and arrived in Rome just as the year of his second dictatorship was expiring. He was declared consul for the ensuing year, and after some interval prepared for another campaign against the remnants of Pompey's party, two of the leaders of which, Cato and Scipio, had escaped to Africa after the battle of Pharsalia, and there raised a considerable army. Caesar first crossed over to Sicily, and to show his intention of brooking no delay, had his tent pitched on the seashore almost within wash of the waves, although it was the winter season. When a favourable wind sprang up, he embarked three thousand foot and a small body of horse, and landed them secretly and safely on the African coast. He then returned to bring on the remainder of his troops, who were greater in number, but had the good fortune to meet them at sea, and to lead them safely to his African camp.
Caesar was often in difficulties during this war, mainly through the number of the African cavalry, who were extremely well mounted. By swift and sudden incursions they commanded the whole coast and prevented Caesar from receiving provisions and forage by sea. Hence he was often obliged to fight to obtain food. He was even forced to give his horses seaweed for fodder, merely washing out the salt and mixing it with a little grass to make it more palatable.
One day Caesar's cavalry, having no special duty to perform, left their horses to the care of boys and sat watching an African who danced and played upon the flute for their amusement. Suddenly the enemy burst upon them, killed some and drove the others in a confused mob into their camp. Had not Caesar and one of his officers come to the rescue and rallied the fugitives, the war would have been over in that hour. On another occasion the enemy again had the advantage, and again Caesar stopped the fight. It was in this fight that he caught by the neck a standard-bearer who was running away, and twisting him round, said, 'Look this way, my man, for the enemy.'
Scipio, flushed with these early successes, sought to come to a decisive action with Caesar. He marched to a camp by a lake near Thapsus in order to raise fortifications there and make it a place of arms. while he was raising his walls and ramparts, Caesar advanced with marvellous rapidity through a country very difficult for troops on account of woods and rough mountain passes, and surprised him at the work. Scipio's army, taken in front and rear, was utterly broken and put to flight. Then, acting upon the flood-tide of success, Caesar attacked the two other camps of the enemy, which were at no great distance, and captured both. Thus, in a small part of a single day, he took three camps and killed fifty thousand of the enemy with a loss to his own army of only fifty men.
A number of officers of high rank escaped from the battle. Some of them killed themselves when they were afterwards taken, and a number were put to death. Caesar was especially anxious to take Cato alive, and therefore hastened to the place where he had been stationed. But when he approached the town he learnt that Cato had put an end to his life. He was plainly disturbed at the news, and when his officers sought to know the reason of his uneasiness he exclaimed, 'Cato, I envy thee thy death, because thou hast denied me the glory of giving thee thy life.'
After his return to Rome Caesar spoke in glowing words of the victory he had won, and celebrated great triumphs for his victories over foreign peoples.
About this time a count was taken of the citizens of Rome, and it was found that their number had been reduced from three hundred and twenty thousand to a hundred and fifty thousand. Such was the dreadful loss which the civil war brought upon the city, to say nothing of the misery it inflicted upon the rest of Italy, and upon all the provinces under the Roman sway.
Caesar was now made consul for the fourth time. The first thing of importance which he undertook was to march into Spain, where the sons of Pompey, though young, had collected a large force. The great battle which put an end to the war was fought under the walls of Munda.
At first Caesar's men were hard pressed, and appeared to fight with but little vigour. He therefore ran through the ranks amidst the clash of swords and spears, crying, 'Are you not ashamed to let your general be taken captive by boys?' The reproach stung his soldiers to desperate efforts. At length the enemy turned and fled, and more than thirty thousand were slain. Caesar lost but one thousand, but the loss included some of the best of his troops. Concerning this battle he said to his officers, as he left the field, that he had often fought for victory, but never before for his life.
This was the last of Caesar's wars, and the triumph in which he celebrated it gave more pain to the people of Rome than any act he had hitherto taken. For he did not now mount the triumphal car to celebrate victory over foreign kings and generals, but to glory in the ruin of the children and the destruction of the race of one of the greatest men that Rome had ever produced. It seemed to all that he was triumphing over the calamities of his country, and rejoicing in the miseries of a civil war which nothing but stern necessity could justify in the sight of gods or men. But the Romans saw no escape from ceaseless internal wars and troubles unless they took Caesar for their sole master, and they therefore created him dictator for life. His friends and enemies now vied with each other in paying him the most extravagant honours, the latter perhaps because they hoped that the very extravagance of their decrees in his favour would turn many of the people from him. Certainly Caesar's own actions at this time were above reproach. He not only pardoned most of those who had fought against him, but on some of them he bestowed offices and honours. He also caused the statues of Pompey which had been thrown down to be erected again. Concerning this the orator Cicero said, that by raising Pompey's statues, Caesar set up his own. Though his friends pressed him to have a bodyguard, Caesar refused. 'Better die once,' said he, 'than live in constant fear of death.' Indeed, he considered the affection of the people his greatest safeguard, and therefore sought to please them by feasts and gifts of corn. Similarly he gratified the soldiers by placing them in pleasant colonies. The most notable of these were at Carthage and Corinth, cities which he caused to be rebuilt. Thus it fell out that these two famous cities, which had been destroyed at the same time, were restored together.
So great were Caesar's abilities, so vast his ambition, that he was by no means ready, now that he was master of the world, to sit down and enjoy the glory he had won. Rather was his appetite whetted for still further achievements. In this spirit he formed the vast design of waging war against the Parthians and of making a circuit, after he had subdued them, of the whole northern boundary of the Empire, and of extending its limits to the ocean throughout his course.
During the preparations for this expedition he attempted to dig a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. He planned also a canal from Rome to the sea, the draining of a wide extent of marsh-land, the embankment of certain parts of the seashore, the removal of obstructions to navigation, and the building of a number of harbours.
These designs, however, he did not live to carry out. But he did complete a work of great usefulness in reforming the calendar and correcting the reckoning of time. The change, useful and necessary though it was, was disliked by some.
The matter which most of all excited hatred against Caesar, and which led at last to his murder, was his desire for the title of king. This first offended the multitude, and it also gave his enemies a plausible excuse for their hatred. Those who, to curry favour with him, sought to procure him the title, spread among the people the statement that it appeared from the Sibylline Books that the Romans would never conquer the Parthians except under the leadership of a king. One day, when Caesar was returning from Alba to Rome, some of his followers ventured to salute him with the regal title. Caesar, however, saw that the people standing about were much disturbed by this compliment. He therefore assumed a look of anger and exclaimed, 'I am not called king, but Caesar.' Thereupon a deep silence fell upon the people, and the dictator passed on, by no means well pleased.
At another time, when the senate had decreed certain extravagant honours to him, the consuls and other great officers of state went to acquaint him with the decree. Caesar declared that there was more need to retrench his honours than to increase them. But in spite of this answer, he gave great offence because he did not rise to receive the consuls, as was due to their office, but remained seated. Not only the senate, but also the people were displeased by this haughty reception, and Caesar saw his mistake. He sought to make his malady an excuse, saying that those who suffer from epilepsy are liable to find their faculties fail them when they speak standing, through trembling and giddiness overcoming them. But the truth seems to be that Caesar himself did intend to rise to greet the consuls, but was restrained by one of his flatterers, who laid hold of him and said: 'Why do you not remember that you are Caesar? Let them pay their court to you as to their superior.'
Other causes of offence were afterwards added. It was the custom at the feast of the Lupercalia for many of the young nobles and magistrates to run, stripped of their togas, through the city, and to strike those whom they met with strips of hide to cause sport and laughter, many women of rank putting themselves in the way of the runners and holding out their hands like scholars to their master. On this occasion Caesar, wearing a triumphal robe, sat upon a golden chair to view the spectacle.
Among those who ran was Mark Antony, for he was consul. When he came into the Forum, the crowd made way for him. He then approached Caesar and offered him a diadem wreathed with a crown of bay. Thereupon there was some applause, but it was slight, and came only from some few who had been placed there for the purpose. But when Caesar refused the proffered crown, all the people applauded loudly. Antony again offered it, and a few clapped their hands, but when Caesar once more put it from him the applause was again general. The trial of the people's feelings having thus shown their dislike to the emblems of kingship, Caesar rose and ordered the diadem to be taken away and placed in the Capitol.
A few days afterwards the statues of Caesar were found to be adorned with royal crowns. Thereupon two of the tribunes went and tore off the diadems, and, having discovered those persons who first saluted Caesar as king, carried them off to prison. A crowd followed the tribunes, applauding and clapping their hands and calling them Brutuses, because of that Brutus who put down the power of the kings and placed the government in the hands of the senate and the people. Caesar was very angry at these proceedings, rated the tribunes soundly with jeering speech, and deprived them of their offices.
In this state of affairs the minds of many turned towards Marcus Brutus, who on his father's side was said to be descended from the ancient Brutus. Many sought to stir him up against Caesar, and Cassius, who cherished a private hatred against the dictator, was especially active in doing so. Thus a plot against the life of Caesar, as being one who sought the kingly power, grew up.
It seems, from the death of Caesar, that fate is not so much a thing which gives no warning as something not to be escaped, for his death was foretold by many wondrous signs and portents. Perhaps, in connection with so great an event, it is not worth while to mention the lights which appeared in the heavens, the strange noises heard from various quarters in the air, and the solitary birds that appeared in the Forum. But one philosopher tells of more wondrous happenings; of warriors of fire seen contending in the air; of a flame that burst forth from the hand of a soldier's slave but left it unconsumed; of a victim which Caesar sacrificed and which was found to be without a heart.
Other stories are told by many. It is said that a certain seer warned the dictator of a great danger that threatened him upon the Ides of March. When the day arrived, we are told that Caesar saw the seer as he was going to the senate-house, and called out to him, with a laugh, 'Well, the Ides of March are come'; whereupon the other answered quietly, 'Yes, but not gone.'
The evening before his murder Caesar supped with one of his friends, and according to his custom signed a number of letters while he was reclining at the table. While he was thus employed, the talk happened to turn on what kind of death was the best. Before any one else could give an opinion Caesar cried out, 'A sudden one.'
It is said that as he lay in bed the same night all the doors and windows of the room flew open at the same moment. Caesar was startled by the noise and by the bright moonlight which fell upon him, and looking at his wife Calpurnia, he saw that she lay in a deep sleep, but heard her uttering broken words and inarticulate groans. She was indeed dreaming that she held the body of her murdered husband in her arms and that she was weeping over him.
However that may be, the next day Calpurnia besought Caesar not to go out, but to put off the meeting of the senate if possible. She further implored him, that even if he paid no attention to her dreams, he would, at least, by sacrifices and other means of divination, seek information as to his fate.
It seems that Caesar himself felt some fear, especially as he had never before found any womanish superstition in Calpurnia, and now saw that she was much disturbed. He therefore caused a number of sacrifices to be made, and as the diviners found the omens unfavourable, he sent Antony to dismiss the senate.
In the meantime Decimus Brutus came in. He was in such great favour with Caesar that he had been appointed his second heir, but nevertheless he had joined in the plot with the other Brutus and Cassius. This man feared that, if Caesar escaped that day, the plot might be discovered. He therefore laughed at the diviners, and told Caesar that he would be greatly to blame if he insulted the senate by such a slight. 'They are met together at your bidding,' said he, 'and are all of one mind to pass a decree declaring you king of all the provinces outside Italy and granting you the right to wear the diadem in all those parts by land and sea. But if you send to tell them, when they are taking their seats, to begone and come again some other day when Calpurnia may chance to have had better dreams, what do you expect will be said by those who envy you? If, however, you are firmly resolved to look upon the day as ill-omened, at least go yourself and address the senate, and then adjourn the meeting.' So saying, he took Caesar by the hand and led him forth. The dictator had gone but a little way from the door, when a certain slave strove to get near enough to speak to him, but could not do so by reason of the crowd that pressed around him. The slave therefore made his way hurriedly into the house, and begged Calpurnia to allow him to stop there then till Caesar returned, because he had things of importance to tell him.
Moreover, a certain professor of philosophy, who was familiar with some of those who belonged to the party of Brutus, and had thus got to know most of what was going on, approached Caesar with a small roll on which was written information of the plot. He noticed, however, that Caesar received other such writings as he went along, and that he handed them at once to his attendants. The philosopher therefore got up as close as possible to Caesar, and handing him the roll said, 'You alone should read this, Caesar, and quickly too, for it is about weighty matters of the utmost concern to you.' Caesar therefore kept the writing, but though he made several attempts to read it, the crowd of people who came in his way prevented his doing so, and he entered the senate holding the roll, still unread, in his hand.
When Caesar came in, the senate rose to do honour to him. At once some of the accomplices placed themselves behind his chair, while others presented themselves before him, as if to support the prayer of one of their number, who besought Caesar that his banished brother might be recalled. All these conspirators followed Caesar and continued their entreaties till he came to his chair. When he was seated, he refused their plea, and as they continued to urge him still more strongly, he began to grow angry. Then one of them seizing Caesar's toga with both hands pulled it down from his neck, and thus gave the signal for the attack. Casca struck the first blow, and wounded Caesar in the neck. The wound was not mortal, nor even severe, and Caesar turning round seized hold of Casca's sword. At the same time he cried, 'What meanest thou, villain Casca?' While Casca called to his brother in Greek, 'Help, brother!'
All the conspirators now drew their swords and surrounded Caesar, so that whichever way he turned he saw nothing but gleaming blades thrusting at him, and met with nothing but wounds. Thus he found every hand raised against him, and was driven about like some wild beast attacked by the hunters, for the conspirators had agreed that each should have a share in the slaying and that each weapon should taste the blood of the victim. Therefore Brutus himself dealt him one blow in the groin. Some say that Caesar defended himself against the others, calling out and struggling, but that, when he saw the sword of Brutus drawn, he pulled his toga over his face and offered no further resistance. Either by chance or by the design of the conspirators, Caesar had been driven to the foot of Pompey's statue. There he fell, drenching the base of the statue with his blood. It seemed as if Pompey himself were directing the vengeance against his enemy who lay prostrate at his feet, writhing in the agony of death.
It is said that Caesar received three-and-twenty wounds, and that many of his murderers were wounded by their fellows as they crowded around their victim and aimed their blows at him.
Thus died Caesar at the age of fifty-six, having survived his rival Pompey not much more than four years. The spirit which had attended Caesar throughout his life followed him even after death, and as his avenger pursued and hunted his assassins across sea and land till there was not one left of all those who had either shed the blood of Caesar or consented to his death.
Signs from heaven marked his death. A great comet blazed in the skies for seven nights after his murder, and then disappeared. The sun's lustre faded and its orb looked pale all that year; it rose without its usual radiance and did not give forth its usual heat. The air was dark and heavy by reason of the feebleness of the sun, and the fruits withered and fell half-ripened from the trees.