CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR by Suetonius Tranquillus – Read online
CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR – THE LIVES OF THE TWELVE CAESARS By C. Suetonius Tranquillus
Julius Caesar, the Divine 3, lost his father 4 when he was in the sixteenth year of his age 5; and the year following, being nominated to the office of high-priest of Jupiter 6, he repudiated Cossutia, who was very wealthy, although her family belonged only to the equestrian order, and to whom he had been contracted when he was a mere boy. He then married (2) Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, who was four times consul; and had by her, shortly afterwards, a daughter named Julia. Resisting all the efforts of the dictator Sylla to induce him to divorce Cornelia, he suffered the penalty of being stripped of his sacerdotal office, his wife’s dowry, and his own patrimonial estates; and, being identified with the adverse faction 7, was compelled to withdraw from Rome. After changing his place of concealment nearly every night 8, although he was suffering from a quartan ague, and having effected his release by bribing the officers who had tracked his footsteps, he at length obtained a pardon through the intercession of the vestal virgins, and of Mamercus Aemilius and Aurelius Cotta, his near relatives. We are assured that when Sylla, having withstood for a while the entreaties of his own best friends, persons of distinguished rank, at last yielded to their importunity, he exclaimed—either by a divine impulse, or from a shrewd conjecture: “Your suit is granted, and you may take him among you; but know,” he added, “that this man, for whose safety you are so extremely anxious, will, some day or other, be the ruin of the party of the nobles, in defence of which you are leagued with me; for in this one Caesar, you will find many a Marius.”
His first campaign was served in Asia, on the staff of the praetor, M. Thermus; and being dispatched into Bithynia 9, to bring thence a fleet, he loitered so long at the court of Nicomedes, as to give occasion to reports of a criminal intercourse between him and that prince; which received additional credit from his hasty return to Bithynia, under the pretext of recovering a debt due to a freed-man, his client. The rest of his service was more favourable to his reputation; and (3) when Mitylene 10 was taken by storm, he was presented by Thermus with the civic crown. 11
He served also in Cilicia 12, under Servilius Isauricus, but only for a short time; as upon receiving intelligence of Sylla’s death, he returned with all speed to Rome, in expectation of what might follow from a fresh agitation set on foot by Marcus Lepidus. Distrusting, however, the abilities of this leader, and finding the times less favourable for the execution of this project than he had at first imagined, he abandoned all thoughts of joining Lepidus, although he received the most tempting offers.
Soon after this civil discord was composed, he preferred a charge of extortion against Cornelius Dolabella, a man of consular dignity, who had obtained the honour of a triumph. On the acquittal of the accused, he resolved to retire to Rhodes 13, with the view not only of avoiding the public odium (4) which he had incurred, but of prosecuting his studies with leisure and tranquillity, under Apollonius, the son of Molon, at that time the most celebrated master of rhetoric. While on his voyage thither, in the winter season, he was taken by pirates near the island of Pharmacusa 14, and detained by them, burning with indignation, for nearly forty days; his only attendants being a physician and two chamberlains. For he had instantly dispatched his other servants and the friends who accompanied him, to raise money for his ransom 15. Fifty talents having been paid down, he was landed on the coast, when, having collected some ships 16, he lost no time in putting to sea in pursuit of the pirates, and having captured them, inflicted upon them the punishment with which he had often threatened them in jest. At that time Mithridates was ravaging the neighbouring districts, and on Caesar’s arrival at Rhodes, that he might not appear to lie idle while danger threatened the allies of Rome, he passed over into Asia, and having collected some auxiliary forces, and driven the king’s governor out of the province, retained in their allegiance the cities which were wavering, and ready to revolt.
Having been elected military tribune, the first honour he received from the suffrages of the people after his return to Rome, he zealously assisted those who took measures for restoring the tribunitian authority, which had been greatly diminished during the usurpation of Sylla. He likewise, by an act, which Plotius at his suggestion propounded to the people, obtained the recall of Lucius Cinna, his wife’s brother, and others with him, who having been the adherents of Lepidus in the civil disturbances, had after that consul’s death fled to Sertorius 17; which law he supported by a speech.
During his quaestorship he pronounced funeral orations from the rostra, according to custom, in praise of his aunt (5) Julia, and his wife Cornelia. In the panegyric on his aunt, he gives the following account of her own and his father’s genealogy, on both sides: “My aunt Julia derived her descent, by the mother, from a race of kings, and by her father, from the Immortal Gods. For the Marcii Reges 18, her mother’s family, deduce their pedigree from Ancus Marcius, and the Julii, her father’s, from Venus; of which stock we are a branch. We therefore unite in our descent the sacred majesty of kings, the chiefest among men, and the divine majesty of Gods, to whom kings themselves are subject.” To supply the place of Cornelia, he married Pompeia, the daughter of Quintus Pompeius, and grand-daughter of Lucius Sylla; but he afterwards divorced her, upon suspicion of her having been debauched by Publius Clodius. For so current was the report, that Clodius had found access to her disguised as a woman, during the celebration of a religious solemnity 19, that the senate instituted an enquiry respecting the profanation of the sacred rites.
Farther-Spain 20 fell to his lot as quaestor; when there, as he was going the circuit of the province, by commission from the praetor, for the administration of justice, and had reached Gades, seeing a statue of Alexander the Great in the temple of Hercules, he sighed deeply, as if weary of his sluggish life, for having performed no memorable actions at an age 21 at which Alexander had already conquered the world. He, therefore, immediately sued for his discharge, with the view of embracing the first opportunity, which might present itself in The City, of entering upon a more exalted career. In the stillness of the night following, he dreamt that he lay with his own mother; but his confusion was relieved, and his hopes were raised to the highest pitch, by the interpreters of his dream, who expounded it as an omen that he should possess universal empire; for (6) that the mother who in his sleep he had found submissive to his embraces, was no other than the earth, the common parent of all mankind.
Quitting therefore the province before the expiration of the usual term, he betook himself to the Latin colonies, which were then eagerly agitating the design of obtaining the freedom of Rome; and he would have stirred them up to some bold attempt, had not the consuls, to prevent any commotion, detained for some time the legions which had been raised for service in Cilicia. But this did not deter him from making, soon afterwards, a still greater effort within the precincts of the city itself.
For, only a few days before he entered upon the aedileship, he incurred a suspicion of having engaged in a conspiracy with Marcus Crassus, a man of consular rank; to whom were joined Publius Sylla and Lucius Autronius, who, after they had been chosen consuls, were convicted of bribery. The plan of the conspirators was to fall upon the senate at the opening of the new year, and murder as many of them as should be thought necessary; upon which, Crassus was to assume the office of dictator, and appoint Caesar his master of the horse 22. When the commonwealth had been thus ordered according to their pleasure, the consulship was to have been restored to Sylla and Autronius. Mention is made of this plot by Tanusius Geminus 23 in his history, by Marcus Bibulus in his edicts 24, and by Curio, the father, in his orations 25. Cicero likewise seems to hint at this in a letter to Axius, where he says, that Caesar (7) had in his consulship secured to himself that arbitrary power 26 to which he had aspired when he was edile. Tanusius adds, that Crassus, from remorse or fear, did not appear upon the day appointed for the massacre of the senate; for which reason Caesar omitted to give the signal, which, according to the plan concerted between them, he was to have made. The agreement, Curio says, was that he should shake off the toga from his shoulder. We have the authority of the same Curio, and of M. Actorius Naso, for his having been likewise concerned in another conspiracy with young Cneius Piso; to whom, upon a suspicion of some mischief being meditated in the city, the province of Spain was decreed out of the regular course 27. It is said to have been agreed between them, that Piso should head a revolt in the provinces, whilst the other should attempt to stir up an insurrection at Rome, using as their instruments the Lambrani, and the tribes beyond the Po. But the execution of this design was frustrated in both quarters by the death of Piso.
In his aedileship, he not only embellished the Comitium, and the rest of the Forum 28, with the adjoining halls 29, but adorned the Capitol also, with temporary piazzas, constructed for the purpose of displaying some part of the superabundant collections (8) he had made for the amusement of the people 30. He entertained them with the hunting of wild beasts, and with games, both alone and in conjunction with his colleague. On this account, he obtained the whole credit of the expense to which they had jointly contributed; insomuch that his colleague, Marcus Bibulus, could not forbear remarking, that he was served in the manner of Pollux. For as the temple 31 erected in the Forum to the two brothers, went by the name of Castor alone, so his and Caesar’s joint munificence was imputed to the latter only. To the other public spectacles exhibited to the people, Caesar added a fight of gladiators, but with fewer pairs of combatants than he had intended. For he had collected from all parts so great a company of them, that his enemies became alarmed; and a decree was made, restricting the number of gladiators which any one was allowed to retain at Rome.
Having thus conciliated popular favour, he endeavoured, through his interest with some of the tribunes, to get Egypt assigned to him as a province, by an act of the people. The pretext alleged for the creation of this extraordinary government, was, that the Alexandrians had violently expelled their king 32, whom the senate had complimented with the title of an ally and friend of the Roman people. This was generally resented; but, notwithstanding, there was so much opposition from the faction of the nobles, that he could not carry his point. In order, therefore, to diminish their influence by every means in his power, he restored the trophies erected in honour of Caius Marius, on account of his victories over Jugurtha, the Cimbri, and the Teutoni, which had been demolished by Sylla; and when sitting in judgment upon murderers, he treated those as assassins, who, in the late proscription, had received money from the treasury, for bringing in the heads of Roman citizens, although they were expressly excepted in the Cornelian laws.
He likewise suborned some one to prefer an impeachment (9) for treason against Caius Rabirius, by whose especial assistance the senate had, a few years before, put down Lucius Saturninus, the seditious tribune; and being drawn by lot a judge on the trial, he condemned him with so much animosity, that upon his appealing to the people, no circumstance availed him so much as the extraordinary bitterness of his judge.
Having renounced all hope of obtaining Egypt for his province, he stood candidate for the office of chief pontiff, to secure which, he had recourse to the most profuse bribery. Calculating, on this occasion, the enormous amount of the debts he had contracted, he is reported to have said to his mother, when she kissed him at his going out in the morning to the assembly of the people, “I will never return home unless I am elected pontiff.” In effect, he left so far behind him two most powerful competitors, who were much his superiors both in age and rank, that he had more votes in their own tribes, than they both had in all the tribes together.
After he was chosen praetor, the conspiracy of Catiline was discovered; and while every other member of the senate voted for inflicting capital punishment on the accomplices in that crime 33, he alone proposed that the delinquents should be distributed for safe custody among the towns of Italy, their property being confiscated. He even struck such terror into those who were advocates for greater severity, by representing to them what universal odium would be attached to their memories by the Roman people, that Decius Silanus, consul elect, did not hesitate to qualify his proposal, it not being very honourable to change it, by a lenient interpretation; as if it had been understood in a harsher sense than he intended, and Caesar would certainly have carried his point, having brought over to his side a great number of the senators, among whom was Cicero, the consul’s brother, had not a speech by Marcus Cato infused new vigour into the resolutions of the senate. He persisted, however, in obstructing the measure, until a body of the Roman knights, who stood under arms as a guard, threatened him with instant death, if he continued his determined opposition. They even thrust at him with their drawn swords, so that those who sat next him moved away; (10) and a few friends, with no small difficulty, protected him, by throwing their arms round him, and covering him with their togas. At last, deterred by this violence, he not only gave way, but absented himself from the senate-house during the remainder of that year.
Upon the first day of his praetorship, he summoned Quintus Catulus to render an account to the people respecting the repairs of the Capitol 34; proposing a decree for transferring the office of curator to another person 35. But being unable to withstand the strong opposition made by the aristocratical party, whom he perceived quitting, in great numbers, their attendance upon the new consuls 36, and fully resolved to resist his proposal, he dropped the design.
He afterwards approved himself a most resolute supporter of Caecilius Metullus, tribune of the people, who, in spite of all opposition from his colleagues, had proposed some laws of a violent tendency 37, until they were both dismissed from office by a vote of the senate. He ventured, notwithstanding, to retain his post and continue in the administration of justice; but finding that preparations were made to obstruct him by force of arms, he dismissed the lictors, threw off his gown, and betook himself privately to his own house, with the resolution of being quiet, in a time so unfavourable to his interests. He likewise pacified the mob, which two days afterwards flocked about him, and in a riotous manner made a voluntary tender of their assistance in the vindication of his (11) honour. This happening contrary to expectation, the senate, who met in haste, on account of the tumult, gave him their thanks by some of the leading members of the house, and sending for him, after high commendation of his conduct, cancelled their former vote, and restored him to his office.
But he soon got into fresh trouble, being named amongst the accomplices of Catiline, both before Novius Niger the quaestor, by Lucius Vettius the informer, and in the senate by Quintus Curius; to whom a reward had been voted, for having first discovered the designs of the conspirators. Curius affirmed that he had received his information from Catiline. Vettius even engaged to produce in evidence against him his own hand-writing, given to Catiline. Caesar, feeling that this treatment was not to be borne, appealed to Cicero himself, whether he had not voluntarily made a discovery to him of some particulars of the conspiracy; and so baulked Curius of his expected reward. He, therefore, obliged Vettius to give pledges for his behaviour, seized his goods, and after heavily fining him, and seeing him almost torn in pieces before the rostra, threw him into prison; to which he likewise sent Novius the quaestor, for having presumed to take an information against a magistrate of superior authority.
At the expiration of his praetorship he obtained by lot the Farther-Spain 38, and pacified his creditors, who were for detaining him, by finding sureties for his debts 39. Contrary, however, to both law and custom, he took his departure before the usual equipage and outfit were prepared. It is uncertain whether this precipitancy arose from the apprehension of an impeachment, with which he was threatened on the expiration of his former office, or from his anxiety to lose no time in relieving the allies, who implored him to come to their aid. He had no (12) sooner established tranquillity in the province, than, without waiting for the arrival of his successor, he returned to Rome, with equal haste, to sue for a triumph 40, and the consulship. The day of election, however, being already fixed by proclamation, he could not legally be admitted a candidate, unless he entered the city as a private person 41. On this emergency he solicited a suspension of the laws in his favour; but such an indulgence being strongly opposed, he found himself under the necessity of abandoning all thoughts of a triumph, lest he should be disappointed of the consulship.
Of the two other competitors for the consulship, Lucius Luceius and Marcus Bibulus, he joined with the former, upon condition that Luceius, being a man of less interest but greater affluence, should promise money to the electors, in their joint names. Upon which the party of the nobles, dreading how far he might carry matters in that high office, with a colleague disposed to concur in and second his measures, advised Bibulus to promise the voters as much as the other; and most of them contributed towards the expense, Cato himself admitting that bribery; under such circumstances, was for the public good 42. He was accordingly elected consul jointly with Bibulus. Actuated still by the same motives, the prevailing party took care to assign provinces of small importance to the new consuls, such as the care of the woods and roads. Caesar, incensed at this indignity, endeavoured by the most assiduous and flattering attentions to gain to his side Cneius Pompey, at that time dissatisfied with the senate for the backwardness they shewed to confirm his acts, after his victories over Mithridates. He likewise brought about a reconciliation between Pompey and Marcus Crassus, who had been at variance from (13) the time of their joint consulship, in which office they were continually clashing; and he entered into an agreement with both, that nothing should be transacted in the government, which was displeasing to any of the three.
Having entered upon his office 43, he introduced a new regulation, that the daily acts both of the senate and people should be committed to writing, and published 44. He also revived an old custom, that an officer 45 should precede him, and his lictors follow him, on the alternate months when the fasces were not carried before him. Upon preferring a bill to the people for the division of some public lands, he was opposed by his colleague, whom he violently drove out of the forum. Next day the insulted consul made a complaint in the senate of this treatment; but such was the consternation, that no one having the courage to bring the matter forward or move a censure, which had been often done under outrages of less importance, he was so much dispirited, that until the expiration of his office he never stirred from home, and did nothing but issue edicts to obstruct his colleague’s proceedings. From that time, therefore, Caesar had the sole management of public affairs; insomuch that some wags, when they signed any instrument as witnesses, did not add “in the consulship of Caesar and Bibulus,” but, “of Julius and Caesar;” putting the same person down twice, under his name and surname. The following verses likewise were currently repeated on this occasion:
Non Bibulo quidquam nuper, sed Caesare factum est;
Nam Bibulo fieri consule nil memini.
Nothing was done in Bibulus’s year:
No; Caesar only then was consul here.
(14) The land of Stellas, consecrated by our ancestors to the gods, with some other lands in Campania left subject to tribute, for the support of the expenses of the government, he divided, but not by lot, among upwards of twenty thousand freemen, who had each of them three or more children. He eased the publicans, upon their petition, of a third part of the sum which they had engaged to pay into the public treasury; and openly admonished them not to bid so extravagantly upon the next occasion. He made various profuse grants to meet the wishes of others, no one opposing him; or if any such attempt was made, it was soon suppressed. Marcus Cato, who interrupted him in his proceedings, he ordered to be dragged out of the senate-house by a lictor, and carried to prison. Lucius Lucullus, likewise, for opposing him with some warmth, he so terrified with the apprehension of being criminated, that, to deprecate the consul’s resentment, he fell on his knees. And upon Cicero’s lamenting in some trial the miserable condition of the times, he the very same day, by nine o’clock, transferred his enemy, Publius Clodius, from a patrician to a plebeian family; a change which he had long solicited in vain 46. At last, effectually to intimidate all those of the opposite party, he by great rewards prevailed upon Vettius to declare, that he had been solicited by certain persons to assassinate Pompey; and when he was brought before the rostra to name those who had been concerted between them, after naming one or two to no purpose, not without great suspicion of subornation, Caesar, despairing of success in this rash stratagem, is supposed to have taken off his informer by poison.
About the same time he married Calpurnia, the daughter of Lucius Piso, who was to succeed him in the consulship, and gave his own daughter Julia to Cneius Pompey; rejecting Servilius Caepio, to whom she had been contracted, and by whose means chiefly he had but a little before baffled Bibulus. After this new alliance, he began, upon any debates in the senate, to ask Pompey’s opinion first, whereas he used before to give that distinction to Marcus Crassus; and it was (15) the usual practice for the consul to observe throughout the year the method of consulting the senate which he had adopted on the calends (the first) of January.
Being, therefore, now supported by the interest of his father-in-law and son-in-law, of all the provinces he made choice of Gaul, as most likely to furnish him with matter and occasion for triumphs. At first indeed he received only Cisalpine-Gaul, with the addition of Illyricum, by a decree proposed by Vatinius to the people; but soon afterwards obtained from the senate Gallia-Comata 47 also, the senators being apprehensive, that if they should refuse it him, that province, also, would be granted him by the people. Elated now with his success, he could not refrain from boasting, a few days afterwards, in a full senate-house, that he had, in spite of his enemies, and to their great mortification, obtained all he desired, and that for the future he would make them, to their shame, submissive to his pleasure. One of the senators observing, sarcastically: “That will not be very easy for a woman 48 to do,” he jocosely replied, “Semiramis formerly reigned in Assyria, and the Amazons possessed great part of Asia.”
When the term of his consulship had expired, upon a motion being made in the senate by Caius Memmius and Lucius Domitius, the praetors, respecting the transactions of the year past, he offered to refer himself to the house; but (16) they declining the business, after three days spent in vain altercation, he set out for his province. Immediately, however, his quaestor was charged with several misdemeanors, for the purpose of implicating Caesar himself. Indeed, an accusation was soon after preferred against him by Lucius Antistius, tribune of the people; but by making an appeal to the tribune’s colleagues, he succeeded in having the prosecution suspended during his absence in the service of the state. To secure himself, therefore, for the time to come, he was particularly careful to secure the good-will of the magistrates at the annual elections, assisting none of the candidates with his interest, nor suffering any persons to be advanced to any office, who would not positively undertake to defend him in his absence for which purpose he made no scruple to require of some of them an oath, and even a written obligation.
But when Lucius Domitius became a candidate for the consulship, and openly threatened that, upon his being elected consul, he would effect that which he could not accomplish when he was praetor, and divest him of the command of the armies, he sent for Crassus and Pompey to Lucca, a city in his province, and pressed them, for the purpose of disappointing Domitius, to sue again for the consulship, and to continue him in his command for five years longer; with both which requisitions they complied. Presumptuous now from his success, he added, at his own private charge, more legions to those which he had received from the republic; among the former of which was one levied in Transalpine Gaul, and called by a Gallic name, Alauda 49, which he trained and armed in the Roman fashion, and afterwards conferred on it the freedom of the city. From this period he declined no occasion of war, however unjust and dangerous; attacking, without any provocation, as well the allies of Rome as the barbarous nations which were its enemies: insomuch, that the senate passed a decree for sending commissioners to examine into the condition of Gaul; and some members even proposed that he should be delivered up to the enemy. But so great had been the success of his enterprises, that he had the honour of obtaining more days 50 (17) of supplication, and those more frequently, than had ever before been decreed to any commander.
During nine years in which he held the government of the province, his achievements were as follows: he reduced all Gaul, bounded by the Pyrenean forest, the Alps, mount Gebenna, and the two rivers, the Rhine and the Rhone, and being about three thousand two hundred miles in compass, into the form of a province, excepting only the nations in alliance with the republic, and such as had merited his favour; imposing upon this new acquisition an annual tribute of forty millions of sesterces. He was the first of the Romans who, crossing the Rhine by a bridge, attacked the Germanic tribes inhabiting the country beyond that river, whom he defeated in several engagements. He also invaded the Britons, a people formerly unknown, and having vanquished them, exacted from them contributions and hostages. Amidst such a series of successes, he experienced thrice only any signal disaster; once in Britain, when his fleet was nearly wrecked in a storm; in Gaul, at Gergovia, where one of his legions was put to the rout; and in the territory of the Germans, his lieutenants Titurius and Aurunculeius were cut off by an ambuscade.
During this period 51 he lost his mother 52, whose death was followed by that of his daughter 53, and, not long afterwards, of his granddaughter. Meanwhile, the republic being in consternation at the murder of Publius Clodius, and the senate passing a vote that only one consul, namely, Cneius Pompeius, should be chosen for the ensuing year, he prevailed with the tribunes of the people, who intended joining him in nomination with Pompey, to propose to the people a bill, enabling him, though absent, to become a candidate for his second consulship, when the term of his command should be near expiring, that he might not be obliged on that account to quit his province too soon, and before the conclusion of the war. Having attained this object, carrying his views still higher, and animated with the hopes of success, he omitted no (18) opportunity of gaining universal favour, by acts of liberality and kindness to individuals, both in public and private. With money raised from the spoils of the war, he began to construct a new forum, the ground-plot of which cost him above a hundred millions of sesterces 54. He promised the people a public entertainment of gladiators, and a feast in memory of his daughter, such as no one before him had ever given. The more to raise their expectations on this occasion, although he had agreed with victuallers of all denominations for his feast, he made yet farther preparations in private houses. He issued an order, that the most celebrated gladiators, if at any time during the combat they incurred the displeasure of the public, should be immediately carried off by force, and reserved for some future occasion. Young gladiators he trained up, not in the school, and by the masters, of defence, but in the houses of Roman knights, and even senators, skilled in the use of arms, earnestly requesting them, as appears from his letters, to undertake the discipline of those novitiates, and to give them the word during their exercises. He doubled the pay of the legions in perpetuity; allowing them likewise corn, when it was in plenty, without any restriction; and sometimes distributing to every soldier in his army a slave, and a portion of land.
To maintain his alliance and good understanding with Pompey, he offered him in marriage his sister’s grand-daughter Octavia, who had been married to Caius Marcellus; and requested for himself his daughter, lately contracted to Faustus Sylla. Every person about him, and a great part likewise of the senate, he secured by loans of money at low interest, or none at all; and to all others who came to wait upon him, either by invitation or of their own accord, he made liberal presents; not neglecting even the freed-men and slaves, who were favourites with their masters and patrons. He offered also singular and ready aid to all who were under prosecution, or in debt, and to prodigal youths; excluding from (19) his bounty those only who were so deeply plunged in guilt, poverty, or luxury, that it was impossible effectually to relieve them. These, he openly declared, could derive no benefit from any other means than a civil war.
He endeavoured with equal assiduity to engage in his interest princes and provinces in every part of the world; presenting some with thousands of captives, and sending to others the assistance of troops, at whatever time and place they desired, without any authority from either the senate or people of Rome. He likewise embellished with magnificent public buildings the most powerful cities not only of Italy, Gaul, and Spain, but of Greece and Asia; until all people being now astonished, and speculating on the obvious tendency of these proceedings, Claudius Marcellus, the consul, declaring first by proclamation, that he intended to propose a measure of the utmost importance to the state, made a motion in the senate that some person should be appointed to succeed Caesar in his province, before the term of his command was expired; because the war being brought to a conclusion, peace was restored, and the victorious army ought to be disbanded. He further moved, that Caesar being absent, his claims to be a candidate at the next election of consuls should not be admitted, as Pompey himself had afterwards abrogated that privilege by a decree of the people. The fact was, that Pompey, in his law relating to the choice of chief magistrates, had forgot to except Caesar, in the article in which he declared all such as were not present incapable of being candidates for any office; but soon afterwards, when the law was inscribed on brass, and deposited in the treasury, he corrected his mistake. Marcellus, not content with depriving Caesar of his provinces, and the privilege intended him by Pompey, likewise moved the senate, that the freedom of the city should be taken from those colonists whom, by the Vatinian law, he had settled at New Como 55; because it had been conferred upon them with ambitious views, and by a stretch of the laws.(20)
Roused by these proceedings, and thinking, as he was often heard to say, that it would be a more difficult enterprise to reduce him, now that he was the chief man in the state, from the first rank of citizens to the second, than from the second to the lowest of all, Caesar made a vigorous opposition to the measure, partly by means of the tribunes, who interposed in his behalf, and partly through Servius Sulpicius, the other consul. The following year likewise, when Caius Marcellus, who succeeded his cousin Marcus in the consulship, pursued the same course, Caesar, by means of an immense bribe, engaged in his defence Aemilius Paulus, the other consul, and Caius Curio, the most violent of the tribunes. But finding the opposition obstinately bent against him, and that the consuls-elect were also of that party, he wrote a letter to the senate, requesting that they would not deprive him of the privilege kindly granted him by the people; or else that the other generals should resign the command of their armies as well as himself; fully persuaded, as it is thought, that he could more easily collect his veteran soldiers, whenever he pleased, than Pompey could his new-raised troops. At the same time, he made his adversaries an offer to disband eight of his legions and give up Transalpine-Gaul, upon condition that he might retain two legions, with the Cisalpine province, or but one legion with Illyricum, until he should be elected consul.
But as the senate declined to interpose in the business, and his enemies declared that they would enter into no compromise where the safety of the republic was at stake, he advanced into Hither-Gaul 56, and, having gone the circuit for the administration of justice, made a halt at Ravenna, resolved to have recourse to arms if the senate should proceed to extremity against the tribunes of the people who had espoused his cause. This was indeed his pretext for the civil war; but it is supposed that there were other motives for his conduct. Cneius Pompey used frequently to say, that he sought to throw every thing into confusion, because he was unable, with all his private wealth, to complete the works he had begun, and answer, at his return, the vast expectations which he had excited in the people. Others pretend that he was apprehensive of being (21) called to account for what he had done in his first consulship, contrary to the auspices, laws, and the protests of the tribunes; Marcus Cato having sometimes declared, and that, too, with an oath, that he would prefer an impeachment against him, as soon as he disbanded his army. A report likewise prevailed, that if he returned as a private person, he would, like Milo, have to plead his cause before the judges, surrounded by armed men. This conjecture is rendered highly probable by Asinius Pollio, who informs us that Caesar, upon viewing the vanquished and slaughtered enemy in the field of Pharsalia, expressed himself in these very words: “This was their intention: I, Caius Caesar, after all the great achievements I had performed, must have been condemned, had I not summoned the army to my aid!” Some think, that having contracted from long habit an extraordinary love of power, and having weighed his own and his enemies’ strength, he embraced that occasion of usurping the supreme power; which indeed he had coveted from the time of his youth. This seems to have been the opinion entertained by Cicero, who tells us, in the third book of his Offices, that Caesar used to have frequently in his mouth two verses of Euripides, which he thus translates:
Nam si violandum est jus, regnandi gratia
Violandum est: aliis rebus pietatem colas.
Be just, unless a kingdom tempts to break the laws,
For sovereign power alone can justify the cause. 57
When intelligence, therefore, was received, that the interposition of the tribunes in his favour had been utterly rejected, and that they themselves had fled from the city, he immediately sent forward some cohorts, but privately, to prevent any suspicion of his design; and, to keep up appearances, attended at a public spectacle, examined the model of a fencing-school which he proposed to build, and, as usual, sat down to table with a numerous party of his friends. But after sun-set, mules being put to his carriage from a neighbouring mill, he set forward on his journey with all possible privacy, and a small retinue. The lights going out, he lost his way, and (22) wandered about a long time, until at length, by the help of a guide, whom he found towards day-break, he proceeded on foot through some narrow paths, and again reached the road. Coming up with his troops on the banks of the Rubicon, which was the boundary of his province 58, he halted for a while, and, revolving in his mind the importance of the step he was on the point of taking, he turned to those about him, and said: “We may still retreat; but if we pass this little bridge, nothing is left for us but to fight it out in arms.”
While he was thus hesitating, the following incident occurred. A person remarkable for his noble mien and graceful aspect, appeared close at hand, sitting and playing upon a pipe. When, not only the shepherds, but a number of soldiers also flocked from their posts to listen to him, and some trumpeters among them, he snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran to the river with it, and sounding the advance with a piercing blast, crossed to the other side. Upon this, Caesar exclaimed, “Let us go whither the omens of the Gods and the iniquity of our enemies call us. The die is now cast.”
Accordingly, having marched his army over the river, he shewed them the tribunes of the people, who, upon their being driven from the city, had come to meet him; and, in the presence of that assembly, called upon the troops to pledge him their fidelity, with tears in his eyes, and his garment rent from his bosom. It has been supposed, that upon this occasion he promised to every soldier a knight’s estate; but that opinion is founded on a mistake. For when, in his harangue to them, he frequently held out a finger of his left hand, and declared, that to recompense those who should support him in the defence of his honour, he would willingly part even with his ring; the soldiers at a distance, who could more easily see than hear him while he spoke, formed their conception of what he said, by the eye, not by the ear; and accordingly gave out, that he had promised to each of them the privilege (23) of wearing the gold ring, and an estate of four hundred thousand sesterces. 60
Of his subsequent proceedings I shall give a cursory detail, in the order in which they occurred 61. He took possession of Picenum, Umbria, and Etruria; and having obliged Lucius Domitius, who had been tumultuously nominated his successor, and held Corsinium with a garrison, to surrender, and dismissed him, he marched along the coast of the Upper Sea, to Brundusium, to which place the consuls and Pompey were fled with the intention of crossing the sea as soon as possible. After vain attempts, by all the obstacles he could oppose, to prevent their leaving the harbour, he turned his steps towards Rome, where he appealed to the senate on the present state of public affairs; and then set out for Spain, in which province Pompey had a numerous army, under the command of three lieutenants, Marcus Petreius, Lucius Afranius, and Marcus Varro; declaring amongst his friends, before he set forward, “That he was going against an army without a general, and should return thence against a general without an army.” Though his progress was retarded both by the siege of Marseilles, which shut her gates against him, and a very great scarcity of corn, yet in a short time he bore down all before him.
Thence he returned to Rome, and crossing the sea to Macedonia, blocked up Pompey during almost four months, within a line of ramparts of prodigious extent; and at last defeated him in the battle of Pharsalia. Pursuing him in his flight to Alexandria, where he was informed of his murder, he presently found himself also engaged, under all the disadvantages of time and place, in a very dangerous war, with king Ptolemy, who, he saw, had treacherous designs upon his life. It was winter, and he, within the walls of a well-provided and subtle enemy, was destitute of every thing, and wholly unprepared (24) for such a conflict. He succeeded, however, in his enterprise, and put the kingdom of Egypt into the hands of Cleopatra and her younger brother; being afraid to make it a province, lest, under an aspiring prefect, it might become the centre of revolt. From Alexandria he went into Syria, and thence to Pontus, induced by intelligence which he had received respecting Pharnaces. This prince, who was son of the great Mithridates, had seized the opportunity which the distraction of the times offered for making war upon his neighbours, and his insolence and fierceness had grown with his success. Caesar, however, within five days after entering his country, and four hours after coming in sight of him, overthrew him in one decisive battle. Upon which, he frequently remarked to those about him the good fortune of Pompey, who had obtained his military reputation, chiefly, by victory over so feeble an enemy. He afterwards defeated Scipio and Juba, who were rallying the remains of the party in Africa, and Pompey’s sons in Spain.
During the whole course of the civil war, he never once suffered any defeat, except in the case of his lieutenants; of whom Caius Curio fell in Africa, Caius Antonius was made prisoner in Illyricum, Publius Dolabella lost a fleet in the same Illyricum, and Cneius Domitius Culvinus, an army in Pontus. In every encounter with the enemy where he himself commanded, he came off with complete success; nor was the issue ever doubtful, except on two occasions: once at Dyrrachium, when, being obliged to give ground, and Pompey not pursuing his advantage, he said that “Pompey knew not how to conquer;” the other instance occurred in his last battle in Spain, when, despairing of the event, he even had thoughts of killing himself.
For the victories obtained in the several wars, he triumphed five different times; after the defeat of Scipio: four times in one month, each triumph succeeding the former by an interval of a few days; and once again after the conquest of Pompey’s sons. His first and most glorious triumph was for the victories he gained in Gaul; the next for that of Alexandria, the third for the reduction of Pontus, the fourth for his African victory, and the last for that in Spain; and (25) they all differed from each other in their varied pomp and pageantry. On the day of the Gallic triumph, as he was proceeding along the street called Velabrum, after narrowly escaping a fall from his chariot by the breaking of the axle-tree, he ascended the Capitol by torch-light, forty elephants 62 carrying torches on his right and left. Amongst the pageantry of the Pontic triumph, a tablet with this inscription was carried before him: I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED 63; not signifying, as other mottos on the like occasion, what was done, so much as the dispatch with which it was done.
To every foot-soldier in his veteran legions, besides the two thousand sesterces paid him in the beginning of the civil war, he gave twenty thousand more, in the shape of prize-money. He likewise allotted them lands, but not in contiguity, that the former owners might not be entirely dispossessed. To the people of Rome, besides ten modii of corn, and as many pounds of oil, he gave three hundred sesterces a man, which he had formerly promised them, and a hundred more to each for the delay in fulfilling his engagement. He likewise remitted a year’s rent due to the treasury, for such houses in Rome as did not pay above two thousand sesterces a year; and through the rest of Italy, for all such as did not exceed in yearly rent five hundred sesterces. To all this he added a public entertainment, and a distribution of meat, and, after his Spanish victory 64, two public dinners. For, considering the first he had given as too sparing, and unsuited to his profuse liberality, he, five days afterwards, added another, which was most plentiful.
The spectacles he exhibited to the people were of various kinds; namely, a combat of gladiators 65, and stage-plays in the several wards of the city, and in different languages; likewise Circensian games 66, wrestlers, and the representation of a sea-fight. In the conflict of gladiators presented in the Forum, Furius Leptinus, a man of praetorian family, entered the lists as a combatant, as did also Quintus Calpenus, formerly a senator, and a pleader of causes. The Pyrrhic dance was performed by some youths, who were sons to persons of the first distinction in Asia and Bithynia. In the plays, Decimus Laberius, who had been a Roman knight, acted in his own piece; and being presented on the spot with five hundred thousand sesterces, and a gold ring, he went from the stage, through the orchestra, and resumed his place in the seats (27) allotted for the equestrian order. In the Circensisn games; the circus being enlarged at each end, and a canal sunk round it, several of the young nobility drove chariots, drawn, some by four, and others by two horses, and likewise rode races on single horses. The Trojan game was acted by two distinct companies of boys, one differing from the other in age and rank. The hunting of wild beasts was presented for five days successively; and on the last day a battle was fought by five hundred foot, twenty elephants, and thirty horse on each side. To afford room for this engagement, the goals were removed, and in their space two camps were pitched, directly opposite to each other. Wrestlers likewise performed for three days successively, in a stadium provided for the purpose in the Campus Martius. A lake having been dug in the little Codeta 67, ships of the Tyrian and Egyptian fleets, containing two, three, and four banks of oars, with a number of men on board, afforded an animated representation of a sea-fight. To these various diversions there flocked such crowds of spectators from all parts, that most of the strangers were obliged to lodge in tents erected in the streets, or along the roads near the city. Several in the throng were squeezed to death, amongst whom were two senators.
Turning afterwards his attention to the regulation of the commonwealth, he corrected the calendar 68, which had for (28) some time become extremely confused, through the unwarrantable liberty which the pontiffs had taken in the article of intercalation. To such a height had this abuse proceeded, that neither the festivals designed for the harvest fell in summer, nor those for the vintage in autumn. He accommodated the year to the course of the sun, ordaining that in future it should consist of three hundred and sixty-five days without any intercalary month; and that every fourth year an intercalary day should be inserted. That the year might thenceforth commence regularly with the calends, or first of January, he inserted two months between November and December; so that the year in which this regulation was made consisted of fifteen months, including the month of intercalation, which, according to the division of time then in use, happened that year.
He filled up the vacancies in the senate, by advancing several plebeians to the rank of patricians, and also increased the number of praetors, aediles, quaestors, and inferior magistrates; restoring, at the same time, such as had been degraded by the censors, or convicted of bribery at elections. The choice of magistrates he so divided with the people, that, excepting only the candidates for the consulship, they nominated one half of them, and he the other. The method which he practised in those cases was, to recommend such persons as he had pitched upon, by bills dispersed through the several tribes to this effect: “Caesar the dictator to such a tribe (naming it). I recommend to you (naming likewise the persons), that by the favour of your votes they may attain to the honours for which they sue.” He likewise admitted to offices the sons of those who had been proscribed. The trial of causes he restricted to two orders of judges, the equestrian and senatorial; excluding the tribunes of the treasury who had before made a third class. The revised census of the people he ordered to be taken neither in the usual manner or place, but street by street, by the principal inhabitants of the several quarters of the city; and he reduced the number of those who received corn at the public cost, from three hundred and twenty, to a hundred and fifty, thousand. To prevent any tumults on account of the census, he ordered that the praetor should every year fill up by lot the vacancies occasioned by death, from those who were not enrolled for the receipt of corn. (29)
Eighty thousand citizens having been distributed into foreign colonies 69, he enacted, in order to stop the drain on the population, that no freeman of the city above twenty, and under forty, years of age, who was not in the military service, should absent himself from Italy for more than three years at a time; that no senator’s son should go abroad, unless in the retinue of some high officer; and as to those whose pursuit was tending flocks and herds, that no less than a third of the number of their shepherds free-born should be youths. He likewise made all those who practised physic in Rome, and all teachers of the liberal arts, free of the city, in order to fix them in it, and induce others to settle there. With respect to debts, he disappointed the expectation which was generally entertained, that they would be totally cancelled; and ordered that the debtors should satisfy their creditors, according to the valuation of their estates, at the rate at which they were purchased before the commencement of the civil war; deducting from the debt what had been paid for interest either in money or by bonds; by virtue of which provision about a fourth part of the debt was lost. He dissolved all the guilds, except such as were of ancient foundation. Crimes were punished with greater severity; and the rich being more easily induced to commit them because they were only liable to banishment, without the forfeiture of their property, he stripped murderers, as Cicero observes, of their whole estates, and other offenders of one half.
He was extremely assiduous and strict in the administration of justice. He expelled from the senate such members as were convicted of bribery; and he dissolved the marriage of a man of pretorian rank, who had married a lady two days after her divorce from a former husband, although there was no suspicion that they had been guilty of any illicit connection. He imposed duties on the importation of foreign goods. The use of litters for travelling, purple robes, and jewels, he permitted only to persons of a certain age and station, and on particular days. He enforced a rigid execution of the sumptuary laws; placing officers about the markets, to seize upon all meats exposed to sale contrary to the rules, and bring them to him; sometimes sending his lictors and soldiers to (30) carry away such victuals as had escaped the notice of the officers, even when they were upon the table.
His thoughts were now fully employed from day to day on a variety of great projects for the embellishment and improvement of the city, as well as for guarding and extending the bounds of the empire. In the first place, he meditated the construction of a temple to Mars, which should exceed in grandeur every thing of that kind in the world. For this purpose, he intended to fill up the lake on which he had entertained the people with the spectacle of a sea-fight. He also projected a most spacious theatre adjacent to the Tarpeian mount; and also proposed to reduce the civil law to a reasonable compass, and out of that immense and undigested mass of statutes to extract the best and most necessary parts into a few books; to make as large a collection as possible of works in the Greek and Latin languages, for the public use; the province of providing and putting them in proper order being assigned to Marcus Varro. He intended likewise to drain the Pomptine marshes, to cut a channel for the discharge of the waters of the lake Fucinus, to form a road from the Upper Sea through the ridge of the Appenine to the Tiber; to make a cut through the isthmus of Corinth, to reduce the Dacians, who had over-run Pontus and Thrace, within their proper limits, and then to make war upon the Parthians, through the Lesser Armenia, but not to risk a general engagement with them, until he had made some trial of their prowess in war. But in the midst of all his undertakings and projects, he was carried off by death; before I speak of which, it may not be improper to give an account of his person, dress, and manners; together with what relates to his pursuits, both civil and military.
It is said that he was tall, of a fair complexion, round limbed, rather full faced, with eyes black and piercing; and that he enjoyed excellent health, except towards the close of his life, when he was subject to sudden fainting-fits, and disturbance in his sleep. He was likewise twice seized with the falling sickness while engaged in active service. He was so nice in the care of his person, that he not only kept the hair of his head closely cut and had his face smoothly shaved, but (31) even caused the hair on other parts of the body to be plucked out by the roots, a practice for which some persons rallied him. His baldness gave him much uneasiness, having often found himself upon that account exposed to the jibes of his enemies. He therefore used to bring forward the hair from the crown of his head; and of all the honours conferred upon him by the senate and people, there was none which he either accepted or used with greater pleasure, than the right of wearing constantly a laurel crown. It is said that he was particular in his dress. For he used the Latus Clavus 70 with fringes about the wrists, and always had it girded about him, but rather loosely. This circumstance gave origin to the expression of Sylla, who often advised the nobles to beware of “the ill-girt boy.”
He first inhabited a small house in the Suburra 71, but after his advancement to the pontificate, he occupied a palace belonging to the state in the Via Sacra. Many writers say that he liked his residence to be elegant, and his entertainments sumptuous; and that he entirely took down a villa near the grove of Aricia, which he had built from the foundation and finished at a vast expense, because it did not exactly suit his taste, although he had at that time but slender means, and was in debt; and that he carried about in his expeditions tesselated and marble slabs for the floor of his tent.
They likewise report that he invaded Britain in hopes of finding pearls 72, the size of which he would compare together, and ascertain the weight by poising them in his hand; that he would purchase, at any cost, gems, carved works, statues, and pictures, executed by the eminent masters of antiquity; and that he would give for young and handy slaves a price so extravagant, that he forbad its being entered in the diary of his expenses.
We are also told, that in the provinces he constantly maintained two tables, one for the officers of the army, and the gentry of the country, and the other for Romans of the highest rank, and provincials of the first distinction. He was so very exact in the management of his domestic affairs, both little and great, that he once threw a baker into prison, for serving him with a finer sort of bread than his guests; and put to death a freed-man, who was a particular favourite, for debauching the lady of a Roman knight, although no complaint had been made to him of the affair.
The only stain upon his chastity was his having cohabited with Nicomedes; and that indeed stuck to him all the days of his life, and exposed him to much bitter raillery. I will not dwell upon those well-known verses of Calvus Licinius:
Whate’er Bithynia and her lord possess’d,
Her lord who Caesar in his lust caress’d. 73
I pass over the speeches of Dolabella, and Curio, the father, in which the former calls him “the queen’s rival, and the inner-side of the royal couch,” and the latter, “the brothel of Nicomedes, and the Bithynian stew.” I would likewise say nothing of the edicts of Bibulus, in which he proclaimed his colleague under the name of “the queen of Bithynia;” adding, that “he had formerly been in love with a king, but now coveted a kingdom.” At which time, as Marcus Brutus relates, one Octavius, a man of a crazy brain, and therefore the more free in his raillery, after he had in a crowded assembly saluted Pompey by the title of king, addressed Caesar by that of queen. Caius Memmius likewise upbraided him with serving the king at table, among the rest of his catamites, in the presence of a large company, in which were some merchants from Rome, the names of whom he mentions. But Cicero was not content with writing in some of his letters, that he was conducted by the royal attendants into the king’s bed-chamber, lay upon a bed of gold with a covering of purple, and that the youthful bloom of this scion of Venus had been tainted in Bithynia—but upon Caesar’s pleading the cause of Nysa, the daughter of (32) Nicomedes before the senate, and recounting the king’s kindnesses to him, replied, “Pray tell us no more of that; for it is well known what he gave you, and you gave him.” To conclude, his soldiers in the Gallic triumph, amongst other verses, such as they jocularly sung on those occasions, following the general’s chariot, recited these, which since that time have become extremely common:
The Gauls to Caesar yield, Caesar to Nicomede,
Lo! Caesar triumphs for his glorious deed,
But Caesar’s conqueror gains no victor’s meed. 74
L. It is admitted by all that he was much addicted to women, as well as very expensive in his intrigues with them, and that he debauched many ladies of the highest quality; among whom were Posthumia, the wife of Servius Sulpicius; Lollia, the wife of Aulus Gabinius; Tertulla, the wife of Marcus Crassus; and Mucia, the wife of Cneius Pompey. For it is certain that the Curios, both father and son, and many others, made it a reproach to Pompey, “That to gratify his ambition, he married the daughter of a man, upon whose account he had divorced his wife, after having had three children by her; and whom he used, with a deep sigh, to call Aegisthus.” 75 But the mistress he most loved, was Servilia, the mother of Marcus Brutus, for whom he purchased, in his first consulship after the commencement of their intrigue, a pearl which cost him six millions of sesterces; and in the civil war, besides other presents, assigned to her, for a trifling consideration, some valuable farms when they were exposed to public auction. Many persons expressing their surprise at the lowness of the price, Cicero wittily remarked, “To let you know the real value of the purchase, between ourselves, Tertia was deducted:” for Servilia was supposed to have prostituted her daughter Tertia to Caesar. 76
(34) LI. That he had intrigues likewise with married women in the provinces, appears from this distich, which was as much repeated in the Gallic Triumph as the former:—
Watch well your wives, ye cits, we bring a blade,
A bald-pate master of the wenching trade.
Thy gold was spent on many a Gallic w—-e;
Exhausted now, thou com’st to borrow more. 77
In the number of his mistresses were also some queens; such as Eunoe, a Moor, the wife of Bogudes, to whom and her husband he made, as Naso reports, many large presents. But his greatest favourite was Cleopatra, with whom he often revelled all night until the dawn of day, and would have gone with her through Egypt in dalliance, as far as Aethiopia, in her luxurious yacht, had not the army refused to follow him. He afterwards invited her to Rome, whence he sent her back loaded with honours and presents, and gave her permission to call by his name a son, who, according to the testimony of some Greek historians, resembled Caesar both in person and gait. Mark Antony declared in the senate, that Caesar had acknowledged the child as his own; and that Caius Matias, Caius Oppius, and the rest of Caesar’s friends knew it to be true. On which occasion, Oppius, as if it had been an imputation which he was called upon to refute, published a book to shew, “that the child which Cleopatra fathered upon Caesar, was not his.” Helvius Cinna, tribune of the people, admitted to several persons the fact, that he had a bill ready drawn, which Caesar had ordered him to get enacted in his absence, allowing him, with the hope of leaving issue, to take any wife he chose, and as many of them as he pleased; and to leave no room for doubt of his infamous character for unnatural lewdness and adultery, Curio, the father, says, in one of his speeches, “He was every woman’s man, and every man’s woman.”
It is acknowledged even by his enemies, that in regard to wine, he was abstemious. A remark is ascribed to Marcus Cato, “that Caesar was the only sober man amongst all those who were engaged in the design to subvert (35) the government.” In the matter of diet, Caius Oppius informs us, “that he was so indifferent, that when a person in whose house he was entertained, had served him with stale, instead of fresh, oil 78, and the rest of the company would not touch it, he alone ate very heartily of it, that he might not seem to tax the master of the house with rusticity or want of attention.”
But his abstinence did not extend to pecuniary advantages, either in his military commands, or civil offices; for we have the testimony of some writers, that he took money from the proconsul, who was his predecessor in Spain, and from the Roman allies in that quarter, for the discharge of his debts; and plundered at the point of the sword some towns of the Lusitanians, notwithstanding they attempted no resistance, and opened their gates to him upon his arrival before them. In Gaul, he rifled the chapels and temples of the gods, which were filled with rich offerings, and demolished cities oftener for the sake of their spoil, than for any ill they had done. By this means gold became so plentiful with him, that he exchanged it through Italy and the provinces of the empire for three thousand sesterces the pound. In his first consulship he purloined from the Capitol three thousand pounds’ weight of gold, and substituted for it the same quantity of gilt brass. He bartered likewise to foreign nations and princes, for gold, the titles of allies and kings; and squeezed out of Ptolemy alone near six thousand talents, in the name of himself and Pompey. He afterwards supported the expense of the civil wars, and of his triumphs and public spectacles, by the most flagrant rapine and sacrilege.
In eloquence and warlike achievements, he equalled at least, if he did not surpass, the greatest of men. After his prosecution of Dolabella, he was indisputably reckoned one of the most distinguished advocates. Cicero, in recounting to Brutus the famous orators, declares, “that he does not see that Caesar was inferior to any one of them;” and says, “that he (36) had an elegant, splendid, noble, and magnificent vein of eloquence.” And in a letter to Cornelius Nepos, he writes of him in the following terms: “What! Of all the orators, who, during the whole course of their lives, have done nothing else, which can you prefer to him? Which of them is more pointed or terse in his periods, or employs more polished and elegant language?” In his youth, he seems to have chosen Strabo Caesar for his model; from whose oration in behalf of the Sardinians he has transcribed some passages literally into his Divination. In his delivery he is said to have had a shrill voice, and his action was animated, but not ungraceful. He has left behind him some speeches, among which are ranked a few that are not genuine, such as that on behalf of Quintus Metellus. These Augustus supposes, with reason, to be rather the production of blundering short-hand writers, who were not able to keep pace with him in the delivery, than publications of his own. For I find in some copies that the title is not “For Metellus,” but “What he wrote to Metellus;” whereas the speech is delivered in the name of Caesar, vindicating Metellus and himself from the aspersions cast upon them by their common defamers. The speech addressed “To his soldiers in Spain,” Augustus considers likewise as spurious. We meet with two under this title; one made, as is pretended, in the first battle, and the other in the last; at which time, Asinius Pollio says, he had not leisure to address the soldiers, on account of the suddenness of the enemy’s attack.
He has likewise left Commentaries of his own actions both in the war in Gaul, and in the civil war with Pompey; for the author of the Alexandrian, African, and Spanish wars is not known with any certainty. Some think they are the production of Oppius, and some of Hirtius; the latter of whom composed the last book, which is imperfect, of the Gallic war. Of Caesar’s Commentaries, Cicero, in his Brutus, speaks thus: “He wrote his Commentaries in a manner deserving of great approbation: they are plain, precise, and elegant, without any affectation of rhetorical ornament. In having thus prepared materials for others who might be inclined to write his history, he may perhaps have encouraged some silly creatures to enter upon such a work, who will needs be dressing up his actions in all the extravagance a (37) bombast; but he has discouraged wise men from ever attempting the subject.” Hirtius delivers his opinion of these Commentaries in the following terms: “So great is the approbation with which they are universally perused, that, instead of rousing, he seems to have precluded, the efforts of any future historian. Yet, with respect to this work, we have more reason to admire him than others; for they only know how well and correctly he has written, but we know, likewise, how easily and quickly he did it.” Pollio Asinius thinks that they were not drawn up with much care, or with a due regard to truth; for he insinuates that Caesar was too hasty of belief in regard to what was performed by others under his orders; and that, he has not given a very faithful account of his own acts, either by design, or through defect of memory; expressing at the same time an opinion that Caesar intended a new and more correct edition. He has left behind him likewise two books on Analogy, with the same number under the title of Anti-Cato, and a poem entitled The Itinerary. Of these books, he composed the first two in his passage over the Alps, as he was returning to the army after making his circuit in Hither-Gaul; the second work about the time of the battle of Munda; and the last during the four-and-twenty days he employed in his journey from Rome to Farther-Spain. There are extant some letters of his to the senate, written in a manner never practised by any before him; for they are distinguished into pages in the form of a memorandum book whereas the consuls and commanders till then, used constantly in their letters to continue the line quite across the sheet, without any folding or distinction of pages. There are extant likewise some letters from him to Cicero, and others to his friends, concerning his domestic affairs; in which, if there was occasion for secrecy, he wrote in cyphers; that is, he used the alphabet in such a manner, that not a single word could be made out. The way to decipher those epistles was to substitute the fourth for the first letter, as d for a, and so for the other letters respectively. Some things likewise pass under his name, said to have been written by him when a boy, or a very young man; as the Encomium of Hercules, a tragedy entitled Oedipus, and a collection of Apophthegms; all which Augustus forbad to be published, in a short and plain letter to Pompeius Macer, who was employed by him in the arrangement of his libraries. (38)
He was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march, he used to go at the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, with his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light carriage 79 without baggage, at the rate of a hundred miles a day; and if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on skins inflated with wind, so that he often anticipated intelligence of his movements. 80
In his expeditions, it is difficult to say whether his caution or his daring was most conspicuous. He never marched his army by roads which were exposed to ambuscades, without having previously examined the nature of the ground by his scouts. Nor did he cross over to Britain, before he had carefully examined, in person 81, the navigation, the harbours, and the most convenient point of landing in the island. When intelligence was brought to him of the siege of his camp in Germany, he made his way to his troops, through the enemy’s stations, in a Gaulish dress. He crossed the sea from Brundisium and Dyrrachium, in the winter, through the midst of the enemy’s fleets; and the troops, under orders to join him, being slow in their movements, notwithstanding repeated messages to hurry them, but to no purpose, he at last went privately, and alone, aboard a small vessel in the night time, with his head muffled up; nor did he make himself known, or suffer the master to put about, although the wind blew strong against them, until they were ready to sink.
He was never deterred from any enterprise, nor retarded in the prosecution of it, by superstition 82. When a victim, which he was about to offer in sacrifice, made its (39) escape, he did not therefore defer his expedition against Scipio and Juba. And happening to fall, upon stepping out of the ship, he gave a lucky turn to the omen, by exclaiming, “I hold thee fast, Africa.” To chide the prophecies which were spread abroad, that the name of the Scipios was, by the decrees of fate, fortunate and invincible in that province, he retained in the camp a profligate wretch, of the family of the Cornelii, who, on account of his scandalous life, was surnamed Salutio.
He not only fought pitched battles, but made sudden attacks when an opportunity offered; often at the end of a march, and sometimes during the most violent storms, when nobody could imagine he would stir. Nor was he ever backward in fighting, until towards the end of his life. He then was of opinion, that the oftener he had been crowned with success, the less he ought to expose himself to new hazards; and that nothing he could gain by a victory would compensate for what he might lose by a miscarriage. He never defeated the enemy without driving them from their camp; and giving them no time to rally their forces. When the issue of a battle was doubtful, he sent away all the horses, and his own first, that having no means of flight, they might be under the greater necessity of standing their ground.
He rode a very remarkable horse, with feet almost like those of a man, the hoofs being divided in such a manner as to have some resemblance to toes. This horse he had bred himself, and the soothsayers having interpreted these circumstances into an omen that its owner would be master of the world, he brought him up with particular care, and broke him in himself, as the horse would suffer no one else to mount him. A statue of this horse was afterwards erected by Caesar’s order before the temple of Venus Genitrix.
He often rallied his troops, when they were giving way, by his personal efforts; stopping those who fled, keeping others in their ranks, and seizing them by their throat turned them towards the enemy; although numbers were so terrified, that an eagle-bearer 83, thus stopped, made a thrust at him with (40) the spear-head; and another, upon a similar occasion, left the standard in his hand.
The following instances of his resolution are equally, and even more remarkable. After the battle of Pharsalia, having sent his troops before him into Asia, as he was passing the straits of the Hellespont in a ferry-boat, he met with Lucius Cassius, one of the opposite party, with ten ships of war; and so far from endeavouring to escape, he went alongside his ship, and calling upon him to surrender, Cassius humbly gave him his submission.
At Alexandria, in the attack of a bridge, being forced by a sudden sally of the enemy into a boat, and several others hurrying in with him, he leaped into the sea, and saved himself by swimming to the next ship, which lay at the distance of two hundred paces; holding up his left hand out of the water, for fear of wetting some papers which he held in it; and pulling his general’s cloak after him with his teeth, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.
He never valued a soldier for his moral conduct or his means, but for his courage only; and treated his troops with a mixture of severity and indulgence; for he did not always keep a strict hand over them, but only when the enemy was near. Then indeed he was so strict a disciplinarian, that he would give no notice of a march or a battle until the moment of action, in order that the troops might hold themselves in readiness for any sudden movement; and he would frequently draw them out of the camp without any necessity for it, especially in rainy weather, and upon holy-days. Sometimes, giving them orders not to lose sight of him, he would suddenly depart by day or by night, and lengthen the marches in order to tire them out, as they followed him at a distance.
When at any time his troops were dispirited by reports of the great force of the enemy, he rallied their courage; not by denying the truth of what was said, or by diminishing the facts, but, on the contrary, by exaggerating every particular. (41) Accordingly, when his troops were in great alarm at the expected arrival of king Juba, he called them together, and said, “I have to inform you that in a very few days the king will be here, with ten legions, thirty thousand horse, a hundred thousand light-armed foot, and three hundred elephants. Let none of you, therefore, presume to make further enquiry, or indulge in conjectures, but take my word for what I tell you, which I have from undoubted intelligence; otherwise I shall put them aboard an old crazy vessel, and leave them exposed to the mercy of the winds, to be transported to some other country.”
He neither noticed all their transgressions, nor punished them according to strict rule. But for deserters and mutineers he made the most diligent enquiry, and their punishment was most severe: other delinquencies he would connive at. Sometimes, after a great battle ending in victory, he would grant them a relaxation from all kinds of duty, and leave them to revel at pleasure; being used to boast, “that his soldiers fought nothing the worse for being well oiled.” In his speeches, he never addressed them by the title of “Soldiers,” but by the kinder phrase of “Fellow-soldiers;” and kept them in such splendid order, that their arms were ornamented with silver and gold, not merely for parade, but to render the soldiers more resolute to save them in battle, and fearful of losing them. He loved his troops to such a degree, that when he heard of the defeat of those under Titurius, he neither cut his hair nor shaved his beard, until he had revenged it upon the enemy; by which means he engaged their devoted affection, and raised their valour to the highest pitch.
Upon his entering on the civil war, the centurions of every legion offered, each of them, to maintain a horseman at his own expense, and the whole army agreed to serve gratis, without either corn or pay; those amongst them who were rich, charging themselves with the maintenance of the poor. No one of them, during the whole course of the war, deserted to the enemy; and many of those who were made prisoners, though they were offered their lives, upon condition of bearing arms against him, refused to accept the terms. They endured want, and other hardships, not only (42) when they were besieged themselves, but when they besieged others, to such a degree, that Pompey, when blocked up in the neighbourhood of Dyrrachium, upon seeing a sort of bread made of an herb, which they lived upon, said, “I have to do with wild beasts,” and ordered it immediately to be taken away; because, if his troops should see it, their spirit might be broken by perceiving the endurance and determined resolution of the enemy. With what bravery they fought, one instance affords sufficient proof; which is, that after an unsuccessful engagement at Dyrrachium, they called for punishment; insomuch that their general found it more necessary to comfort than to punish them. In other battles, in different quarters, they defeated with ease immense armies of the enemy, although they were much inferior to them in number. In short, one cohort of the sixth legion held out a fort against four legions belonging to Pompey, during several hours; being almost every one of them wounded by the vast number of arrows discharged against them, and of which there were found within the ramparts a hundred and thirty thousand. This is no way surprising, when we consider the conduct of some individuals amongst them; such as that of Cassius Scaeva, a centurion, or Caius Acilius, a common soldier, not to speak of others. Scaeva, after having an eye struck out, being run through the thigh and the shoulder, and having his shield pierced in an hundred and twenty places, maintained obstinately the guard of the gate of a fort, with the command of which he was intrusted. Acilius, in the sea-fight at Marseilles, having seized a ship of the enemy’s with his right hand, and that being cut off, in imitation of that memorable instance of resolution in Cynaegirus amongst the Greeks, boarded the enemy’s ship, bearing down all before him with the boss of his shield.
They never once mutinied during all the ten years of the Gallic war, but were sometimes refractory in the course of the civil war. However, they always returned quickly to their duty, and that not through the indulgence, but in submission to the authority, of their general; for he never yielded to them when they were insubordinate, but constantly resisted their demands. He disbanded the whole ninth legion with ignominy at Placentia, although Pompey was still in arms, and would (43) not receive them again into his service, until they had not only made repeated and humble entreaties, but until the ringleaders in the mutiny were punished.
When the soldiers of the tenth legion at Rome demanded their discharge and rewards for their service, with violent threats and no small danger to the city, although the war was then raging in Africa, he did not hesitate, contrary to the advice of his friends, to meet the legion, and disband it. But addressing them by the title of “Quirites,” instead of “Soldiers,” he by this single word so thoroughly brought them round and changed their determination, that they immediately cried out, they were his “soldiers,” and followed him to Africa, although he had refused their service. He nevertheless punished the most mutinous among them, with the loss of a third of their share in the plunder, and the land destined for them.
In the service of his clients, while yet a young man, he evinced great zeal and fidelity. He defended the cause of a noble youth, Masintha, against king Hiempsal, so strenuously, that in a scuffle which took place upon the occasion, he seized by the beard the son of king Juba; and upon Masintha’s being declared tributary to Hiempsal, while the friends of the adverse party were violently carrying him off, he immediately rescued him by force, kept him concealed in his house a long time, and when, at the expiration of his praetorship, he went to Spain, he took him away in his litter, in the midst of his lictors bearing the fasces, and others who had come to attend and take leave of him.
He always treated his friends with such kindness and good-nature, that when Caius Oppius, in travelling with him through a forest, was suddenly taken ill, he resigned to him the only place there was to shelter them at night, and lay upon the ground in the open air. When he had placed himself at the head of affairs, he advanced some of his faithful adherents, though of mean extraction, to the highest offices; and when he was censured for this partiality, he openly said, “Had I been assisted by robbers and cut-throats in the defence of my honour, I should have made them the same recompense.”
The resentment he entertained against any one was never so implacable that he did not very willingly renounce it when opportunity offered. Although Caius Memmius had published some extremely virulent speeches against him, and he had answered him with equal acrimony, yet he afterwards assisted him with his vote and interest, when he stood candidate for the consulship. When C. Calvus, after publishing some scandalous epigrams upon him, endeavoured to effect a reconciliation by the intercession of friends, he wrote to him, of his own accord, the first letter. And when Valerius Catullus, who had, as he himself observed, fixed such a stain upon his character in his verses upon Mamurra as never could be obliterated, he begged his pardon, invited him to supper the same day; and continued to take up his lodging with his father occasionally, as he had been accustomed to do.
His temper was also naturally averse to severity in retaliation. After he had captured the pirates, by whom he had been taken, having sworn that he would crucify them, he did so indeed; but he first ordered their throats to be cut 84. He could never bear the thought of doing any harm to Cornelius Phagitas, who had dogged him in the night when he was sick and a fugitive, with the design of carrying him to Sylla, and from whose hands he had escaped with some difficulty by giving him a bribe. Philemon, his amanuensis, who had promised his enemies to poison him, he put to death without torture. When he was summoned as a witness against Publicus Clodius, his wife Pompeia’s gallant, who was prosecuted for the profanation of religious ceremonies, he declared he knew nothing of the affair, although his mother Aurelia, and his sister Julia, gave the court an exact and full account of the circumstances. And being asked why then he had divorced his wife? “Because,” he said, “my family should not only be free from guilt, but even from the suspicion of it.”
Both in his administration and his conduct towards the vanquished party in the civil war, he showed a wonderful moderation and clemency. For while Pompey declared that he would consider those as enemies who did not take arms in defence of the republic, he desired it to be understood, that he (45) should regard those who remained neuter as his friends. With regard to all those to whom he had, on Pompey’s recommendation, given any command in the army, he left them at perfect liberty to go over to him, if they pleased. When some proposals were made at Ileria 85 for a surrender, which gave rise to a free communication between the two camps, and Afranius and Petreius, upon a sudden change of resolution, had put to the sword all Caesar’s men who were found in the camp, he scorned to imitate the base treachery which they had practised against himself. On the field of Pharsalia, he called out to the soldiers “to spare their fellow-citizens,” and afterwards gave permission to every man in his army to save an enemy. None of them, so far as appears, lost their lives but in battle, excepting only Afranius, Faustus, and young Lucius Caesar; and it is thought that even they were put to death without his consent. Afranius and Faustus had borne arms against him, after obtaining their pardon; and Lucius Caesar had not only in the most cruel manner destroyed with fire and sword his freed-men and slaves, but cut to pieces the wild beasts which he had prepared for the entertainment of the people. And finally, a little before his death, he permitted all whom he had not before pardoned, to return into Italy, and to bear offices both civil and military. He even replaced the statues of Sylla and Pompey, which had been thrown down by the populace. And after this, whatever was devised or uttered, he chose rather to check than to punish it. Accordingly, having detected certain conspiracies and nocturnal assemblies, he went no farther than to intimate by a proclamation that he knew of them; and as to those who indulged themselves in the liberty of reflecting severely upon him, he only warned them in a public speech not to persist in their offence. He bore with great moderation a virulent libel written against him by Aulus Caecinna, and the abusive lampoons of Pitholaus, most highly reflecting on his reputation.
His other words and actions, however, so far outweigh all his good qualities, that it is thought he abused his power, and was justly cut off. For he not only obtained excessive honours, such as the consulship every year, the dictatorship for life, and the censorship, but also the title of emperor 86, (46) and the surname of FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY 87, besides having his statue amongst the kings 88, and a lofty couch in the theatre. He even suffered some honours to be decreed to him, which were unbefitting the most exalted of mankind; such as a gilded chair of state in the senate-house and on his tribunal, a consecrated chariot, and banners in the Circensian procession, temples, altars, statues among the gods, a bed of state in the temples, a priest, and a college of priests dedicated to himself, like those of Pan; and that one of the months should be called by his name. There were, indeed, no honours which he did not either assume himself, or grant to others, at his will and pleasure. In his third and fourth consulship, he used only the title of the office, being content with the power of dictator, which was conferred upon him with the consulship; and in both years he substituted other consuls in his room, during the three last months; so that in the intervals he held no assemblies of the people, for the election of magistrates, excepting only tribunes and ediles of the people; and appointed officers, under the name of praefects, instead of the praetors, to administer the affairs of the city during his absence. The office of consul having become vacant, by the sudden death of one of the consuls the day before the calends of January [the 1st Jan.], he conferred it on a person who requested it of him, for a few hours. Assuming the same licence, and regardless of the customs of his country, he appointed magistrates to hold their offices for terms of years. He granted the insignia of the consular dignity to ten persons of pretorian rank. He admitted into the senate some men who had been made free of the city, and even natives of Gaul, who were semi-barbarians. (47) He likewise appointed to the management of the mint, and the public revenue of the state, some servants of his own household; and entrusted the command of three legions, which he left at Alexandria, to an old catamite of his, the son of his freed-man Rufinus.
He was guilty of the same extravagance in the language he publicly used, as Titus Ampius informs us; according to whom he said, “The republic is nothing but a name, without substance or reality. Sylla was an ignorant fellow to abdicate the dictatorship. Men ought to consider what is becoming when they talk with me, and look upon what I say as a law.” To such a pitch of arrogance did he proceed, that when a soothsayer announced to him the unfavourable omen, that the entrails of a victim offered for sacrifice were without a heart, he said, “The entrails will be more favourable when I please; and it ought not to be regarded as a prodigy that a beast should be found wanting a heart.”
But what brought upon him the greatest odium, and was thought an unpardonable insult, was his receiving the whole body of the conscript fathers sitting, before the temple of Venus Genitrix, when they waited upon him with a number of decrees, conferring on him the highest dignities. Some say that, on his attempting to rise, he was held down by Cornelius Balbus; others, that he did not attempt to rise at all, but frowned on Caius Trebatius, who suggested to him that he should stand up to receive the senate. This behaviour appeared the more intolerable in him, because, when one of the tribunes of the people, Pontius Aquila, would not rise up to him, as he passed by the tribunes’ seat during his triumph, he was so much offended, that he cried out, “Well then, you tribune, Aquila, oust me from the government.” And for some days afterwards, he never promised a favour to any person, without this proviso, “if Pontus Aquila will give me leave.”
To this extraordinary mark of contempt for the senate, he added another affront still more outrageous. For when, after the sacred rites of the Latin festival, he was returning home, amidst the immoderate and unusual acclamations (48) of the people, a man in the crowd put a laurel crown, encircled with a white fillet 89, on one of his statues; upon which, the tribunes of the people, Epidius Marullus, and Caesetius Flavus, ordered the fillet to be removed from the crown, and the man to be taken to prison. Caesar, being much concerned either that the idea of royalty had been suggested to so little purpose, or, as was said, that he was thus deprived of the merit of refusing it, reprimanded the tribunes very severely, and dismissed them from their office. From that day forward, he was never able to wipe off the scandal of affecting the name of king, although he replied to the populace, when they saluted him by that title, “I am Caesar, and no king.” And at the feast of the Lupercalia 90, when the consul Antony placed a crown upon his head in the rostra several times, he as often put it away, and sent it to the Capitol for Jupiter, the Best and the Greatest. A report was very current, that he had a design of withdrawing to Alexandria or Ilium, whither he proposed to transfer the imperial power, to drain Italy by new levies, and to leave the government of the city to be administered by his friends. To this report it was added, that in the next meeting of the senate, Lucius Cotta, one of the fifteen 91, would make a motion, that as there was in the Sibylline books a prophecy, that the Parthians would never be subdued but by a king, Caesar should have that title conferred upon him.
For this reason the conspirators precipitated the execution of their design 92, that they might not be obliged to give their assent to the proposal. Instead, therefore, of caballing any longer separately, in small parties, they now united their counsels; the people themselves being dissatisfied with the present state of affairs, both privately and publicly (49) condemning the tyranny under which they lived, and calling on patriots to assert their cause against the usurper. Upon the admission of foreigners into the senate, a hand-bill was posted up in these words: “A good deed! let no one shew a new senator the way to the house.” These verses were likewise currently repeated:
The Gauls he dragged in triumph through the town,
Caesar has brought into the senate-house,
And changed their plaids 93 for the patrician gown.
Gallos Caesar in triumphum ducit: iidem in curiam
Galli braccas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt.
When Quintus Maximus, who had been his deputy in the consulship for the last three months, entered the theatre, and the lictor, according to custom, bid the people take notice who was coming, they all cried out, “He is no consul.” After the removal of Caesetius and Marullus from their office, they were found to have a great many votes at the next election of consuls. Some one wrote under the statue of Lucius Brutus, “Would you were now alive!” and under the statue of Caesar himself these lines:
Because he drove from Rome the royal race,
Brutus was first made consul in their place.
This man, because he put the consuls down,
Has been rewarded with a royal crown.
Brutus, quia reges ejecit, consul primus factus est:
Hic, quia consules ejecit, rex postremo factus est.
About sixty persons were engaged in the conspiracy against him, of whom Caius Cassius, and Marcus and Decimus Brutus were the chief. It was at first debated amongst them, whether they should attack him in the Campus Martius when he was taking the votes of the tribes, and some of them should throw him off the bridge, whilst others should be ready to stab him upon his fall; or else in the Via Sacra, or at the entrance of the theatre. But after public notice had been given by proclamation for the senate to assemble upon the ides of March [15th March], in the senate-house built by Pompey, they approved both of the time and place, as most fitting for their purpose.
Caesar had warning given him of his fate by indubitable (50) omens. A few months before, when the colonists settled at Capua, by virtue of the Julian law, were demolishing some old sepulchres, in building country-houses, and were the more eager at the work, because they discovered certain vessels of antique workmanship, a tablet of brass was found in a tomb, in which Capys, the founder of Capua, was said to have been buried, with an inscription in the Greek language to this effect “Whenever the bones of Capys come to be discovered, a descendant of Iulus will be slain by the hands of his kinsmen, and his death revenged by fearful disasters throughout Italy.” Lest any person should regard this anecdote as a fabulous or silly invention, it was circulated upon the authority of Caius Balbus, an intimate friend of Caesar’s. A few days likewise before his death, he was informed that the horses, which, upon his crossing the Rubicon, he had consecrated, and turned loose to graze without a keeper, abstained entirely from eating, and shed floods of tears. The soothsayer Spurinna, observing certain ominous appearances in a sacrifice which he was offering, advised him to beware of some danger, which threatened to befall him before the ides of March were past. The day before the ides, birds of various kinds from a neighbouring grove, pursuing a wren which flew into Pompey’s senate-house 94, with a sprig of laurel in its beak, tore it in pieces. Also, in the night on which the day of his murder dawned, he dreamt at one time that he was soaring above the clouds, and, at another, that he had joined hands with Jupiter. His wife Calpurnia fancied in her sleep that the pediment of the house was falling down, and her husband stabbed on her bosom; immediately upon which the chamber doors flew open. On account of these omens, as well as his infirm health, he was in some doubt whether he should not remain at home, and defer to some other opportunity the business which he intended to propose to the senate; but Decimus Brutus advising him not to disappoint the senators, who were numerously assembled, and waited his coming, he was prevailed upon to go, and accordingly (51) set forward about the fifth hour. In his way, some person having thrust into his hand a paper, warning him against the plot, he mixed it with some other documents which he held in his left hand, intending to read it at leisure. Victim after victim was slain, without any favourable appearances in the entrails; but still, disregarding all omens, he entered the senate-house, laughing at Spurinna as a false prophet, because the ides of March were come, without any mischief having befallen him. To which the soothsayer replied, “They are come, indeed, but not past.”
When he had taken his seat, the conspirators stood round him, under colour of paying their compliments; and immediately Tullius Cimber, who had engaged to commence the assault, advancing nearer than the rest, as if he had some favour to request, Caesar made signs that he should defer his petition to some other time. Tullius immediately seized him by the toga, on both shoulders; at which Caesar crying out, “Violence is meant!” one of the Cassii wounded him a little below the throat. Caesar seized him by the arm, and ran it through with his style 95; and endeavouring to rush forward was stopped by another wound. Finding himself now attacked on all hands with naked poniards, he wrapped the toga 96 about his head, and at the same moment drew the skirt round his legs with his left hand, that he might fall more decently with the lower part of his body covered. He was stabbed with three and twenty wounds, uttering a groan only, but no cry, at the first wound; although some authors relate, that when Marcus Brutus fell upon him, he exclaimed, “What! art thou, too, one of them? Thou, my son!” 97 The whole assembly instantly (52) dispersing, he lay for some time after he expired, until three of his slaves laid the body on a litter, and carried it home, with one arm hanging down over the side. Among so many wounds, there was none that was mortal, in the opinion of the surgeon Antistius, except the second, which he received in the breast. The conspirators meant to drag his body into the Tiber as soon as they had killed him; to confiscate his estate, and rescind all his enactments; but they were deterred by fear of Mark Antony, and Lepidus, Caesar’s master of the horse, and abandoned their intentions.
At the instance of Lucius Piso, his father-in-law, his will was opened and read in Mark Antony’s house. He had made it on the ides [13th] of the preceding September, at his Lavican villa, and committed it to the custody of the chief of the Vestal Virgins. Quintus Tubero informs us, that in all the wills he had signed, from the time of his first consulship to the breaking out of the civil war, Cneius Pompey was appointed his heir, and that this had been publicly notified to the army. But in his last will, he named three heirs, the grandsons of his sisters; namely, Caius Octavius for three fourths of his estate, and Lucius Pinarius and Quintus Pedius for the remaining fourth. Other heirs [in remainder] were named at the close of the will, in which he also adopted Caius Octavius, who was to assume his name, into his family; and nominated most of those who were concerned in his death among the guardians of his son, if he should have any; as well as Decimus Brutus amongst his heirs of the second order. Be bequeathed to the Roman people his gardens near the Tiber, and three hundred sesterces each man.
Notice of his funeral having been solemnly proclaimed, a pile was erected in the Campus Martius, near the tomb of his daughter Julia; and before the Rostra was placed a gilded tabernacle, on the model of the temple of Venus Genitrix; within which was an ivory bed, covered with purple and cloth of gold. At the head was a trophy, with the [bloodstained] robe in which he was slain. It being considered that the whole day would not suffice for carrying the funeral oblations in solemn procession before the corpse, directions were given for every one, without regard to order, to carry them from the city into the Campus Martius, by what way they pleased. To raise pity and indignation for his murder, in the plays acted at the funeral, a passage was sung from Pacuvius’s tragedy, entitled, “The Trial for Arms:”
That ever I, unhappy man, should save
Wretches, who thus have brought me to the grave! 98
And some lines also from Attilius’s tragedy of “Electra,” to the same effect. Instead of a funeral panegyric, the consul Antony ordered a herald to proclaim to the people the decree of the senate, in which they had bestowed upon him all honours, divine and human; with the oath by which they had engaged themselves for the defence of his person; and to these he added only a few words of his own. The magistrates and others who had formerly filled the highest offices, carried the bier from the Rostra into the Forum. While some proposed that the body should be burnt in the sanctuary of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and others in Pompey’s senate-house; on a sudden, two men, with swords by their sides, and spears in their hands, set fire to the bier with lighted torches. The throng around immediately heaped upon it dry faggots, the tribunals and benches of the adjoining courts, and whatever else came to hand. Then the musicians and players stripped off the dresses they wore on the present occasion, taken from the wardrobe of his triumph at spectacles, rent them, and threw them into the flames. The legionaries, also, of his (54) veteran bands, cast in their armour, which they had put on in honour of his funeral. Most of the ladies did the same by their ornaments, with the bullae 99, and mantles of their children. In this public mourning there joined a multitude of foreigners, expressing their sorrow according to the fashion of their respective countries; but especially the Jews 100, who for several nights together frequented the spot where the body was burnt.
The populace ran from the funeral, with torches in their hands, to the houses of Brutus and Cassius, and were repelled with difficulty. Going in quest of Cornelius Cinna, who had in a speech, the day before, reflected severely upon Caesar, and mistaking for him Helvius Cinna, who happened to fall into their hands, they murdered the latter, and carried his head about the city on the point of a spear. They afterwards erected in the Forum a column of Numidian marble, formed of one stone nearly twenty feet high, and inscribed upon it these words, TO THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY. At this column they continued for a long time to offer sacrifices, make vows, and decide controversies, in which they swore by Caesar.
Some of Caesar’s friends entertained a suspicion, that he neither desired nor cared to live any longer, on account of his declining health; and for that reason slighted all the omens of religion, and the warnings of his friends. Others are of opinion, that thinking himself secure in the late decree of the senate, and their oaths, he dismissed his Spanish guards who attended him with drawn swords. Others again suppose, that he chose rather to face at once the dangers which threatened him on all sides, than to be for ever on the watch against them. Some tell us that he used to say, the commonwealth was more interested in the safety of his person than himself: for that he had for some time been satiated with power and glory; but that the commonwealth, if any thing should befall him, would have no rest, and, involved in another civil war, would be in a worse state than before.
This, however, was generally admitted, that his death was in many respects such as he would have chosen. For, upon reading the account delivered by Xenophon, how Cyrus in his last illness gave instructions respecting his funeral, Caesar deprecated a lingering death, and wished that his own might be sudden and speedy. And the day before he died, the conversation at supper, in the house of Marcus Lepidus, turning upon what was the most eligible way of dying, he gave his opinion in favour of a death that is sudden and unexpected.
He died in the fifty-sixth year of his age, and was ranked amongst the Gods, not only by a formal decree, but in the belief of the vulgar. For during the first games which Augustus, his heir, consecrated to his memory, a comet blazed for seven days together, rising always about eleven o’clock; and it was supposed to be the soul of Caesar, now received into heaven: for which reason, likewise, he is represented on his statue with a star on his brow. The senate-house in which he was slain, was ordered to be shut up 101, and a decree made that the ides of March should be called parricidal, and the senate should never more assemble on that day.
Scarcely any of those who were accessary to his murder, survived him more than three years, or died a natural death 102. They were all condemned by the senate: some were taken off by one accident, some by another. Part of them perished at sea, others fell in battle; and some slew themselves with the same poniard with which they had stabbed Caesar 103.
(56) 104 The termination of the civil war between Caesar and Pompey forms a new epoch in the Roman History, at which a Republic, which had subsisted with unrivalled glory during a period of about four hundred and sixty years, relapsed into a state of despotism, whence it never more could emerge. So sudden a transition from prosperity to the ruin of public freedom, without the intervention of any foreign enemy, excites a reasonable conjecture, that the constitution in which it could take place, however vigorous in appearance, must have lost that soundness of political health which had enabled it to endure through so many ages. A short view of its preceding state, and of that in which it was at the time of the revolution now mentioned, will best ascertain the foundation of such a conjecture.
Though the Romans, upon the expulsion of Tarquin, made an essential change in the political form of the state, they did not carry their detestation of regal authority so far as to abolish the religious institutions of Numa Pompilius, the second of their kings, according to which, the priesthood, with all the influence annexed to that order, was placed in the hands of the aristocracy. By this wise policy a restraint was put upon the fickleness and violence of the people in matters of government, and a decided superiority given to the Senate both in the deliberative and executive parts of administration. This advantage was afterwards indeed diminished by the creation of Tribunes of the people; a set of men whose ambition often embroiled the Republic in civil dissensions, and who at last abused their authority to such a degree, that they became instruments of aggrandizement to any leading men in the state who could purchase their friendship. In general, however, the majority of the Tribunes being actuated by views which comprehended the interests of the multitude, rather than those of individuals, they did not so much endanger the liberty, as they interrupted the tranquillity, of the public; and when the occasional commotions subsided, there remained no permanent ground for the establishment of personal usurpation.
In every government, an object of the last importance to the peace and welfare of society is the morals of the people; and in proportion as a community is enlarged by propagation, or the accession of a multitude of new members, a more strict attention is requisite to guard against that dissolution of manners to which a crowded and extensive capital has a natural tendency. Of this (57) the Romans became sensible in the growing state of the Republic. In the year of the City 312, two magistrates were first created for taking an account of the number of the people, and the value of their estates; and soon after, they were invested with the authority not only of inspecting the morals of individuals, but of inflicting public censure for any licentiousness of conduct, or violation of decency. Thus both the civil and religious institutions concurred to restrain the people within the bounds of good order and obedience to the laws; at the same time that the frugal life of the ancient Romans proved a strong security against those vices which operate most effectually towards sapping the foundations of a state.
But in the time of Julius Caesar the barriers of public liberty were become too weak to restrain the audacious efforts of ambitious and desperate men. The veneration for the constitution, usually a powerful check to treasonable designs, had been lately violated by the usurpations of Marius and Sylla. The salutary terrors of religion no longer predominated over the consciences of men. The shame of public censure was extinguished in general depravity. An eminent historian, who lived at that time, informs us, that venality universally prevailed amongst the Romans; and a writer who flourished soon after, observes, that luxury and dissipation had encumbered almost all so much with debt, that they beheld with a degree of complacency the prospect of civil war and confusion.
The extreme degree of profligacy at which the Romans were now arrived is in nothing more evident, than that this age gave birth to the most horrible conspiracy which occurs in the annals of humankind, viz. that of Catiline. This was not the project of a few desperate and abandoned individuals, but of a number of men of the most illustrious rank in the state; and it appears beyond doubt, that Julius Caesar was accessary to the design, which was no less than to extirpate the Senate, divide amongst themselves both the public and private treasures, and set Rome on fire. The causes which prompted to this tremendous project, it is generally admitted, were luxury, prodigality, irreligion, a total corruption of manners, and above all, as the immediate cause, the pressing necessity in which the conspirators were involved by their extreme dissipation.
The enormous debt in which Caesar himself was early involved, countenances an opinion that his anxiety to procure the province of Gaul proceeded chiefly from this cause. But during nine years in which he held that province, he acquired such riches as must have rendered him, without competition, the most opulent person in the state. If nothing more, therefore, than a (58) splendid establishment had been the object of his pursuit, he had attained to the summit of his wishes. But when we find him persevering in a plan of aggrandizement beyond this period of his fortunes, we can ascribe his conduct to no other motive than that of outrageous ambition. He projected the building of a new Forum at Rome, for the ground only of which he was to pay 800,000 pounds; he raised legions in Gaul at his own charges: he promised such entertainments to the people as had never been known at Rome from the foundation of the city. All these circumstances evince some latent design of procuring such a popularity as might give him an uncontrolled influence in the management of public affairs. Pompey, we are told, was wont to say, that Caesar not being able, with all his riches, to fulfil the promises which he had made, wished to throw everything into confusion. There may have been some foundation for this remark: but the opinion of Cicero is more probable, that Caesar’s mind was seduced with the temptations of chimerical glory. It is observable that neither Cicero nor Pompey intimates any suspicion that Caesar was apprehensive of being impeached for his conduct, had he returned to Rome in a private station. Yet, that there was reason for such an apprehension, the positive declaration of L. Domitius leaves little room to doubt: especially when we consider the number of enemies that Caesar had in the Senate, and the coolness of his former friend Pompey ever after the death of Julia. The proposed impeachment was founded upon a notorious charge of prosecuting measures destructive of the interests of the commonwealth, and tending ultimately to an object incompatible with public freedom. Indeed, considering the extreme corruption which prevailed amongst the Romans at this time, it is more than probable that Caesar would have been acquitted of the charge, but at such an expense as must have stripped him of all his riches, and placed him again in a situation ready to attempt a disturbance of the public tranquillity. For it is said, that he purchased the friendship of Curio, at the commencement of the civil war, with a bribe little short of half a million sterling.
Whatever Caesar’s private motive may have been for taking arms against his country, he embarked in an enterprise of a nature the most dangerous: and had Pompey conducted himself in any degree suitable to the reputation which he had formerly acquired, the contest would in all probability have terminated in favour of public freedom. But by dilatory measures in the beginning, by imprudently withdrawing his army from Italy into a distant province, and by not pursuing the advantage he had gained by the vigorous repulse of Caesar’s troops in their attack upon his camp, this commander lost every opportunity of extinguishing a war which was to determine the fate, and even the existence, of the Republic. It was accordingly determined on the plains of Pharsalia, where Caesar obtained a victory which was not more decisive than unexpected. He was now no longer amenable either to the tribunal of the Senate or the power of the laws, but triumphed at once over his enemies and the constitution of his country.
It is to the honour of Caesar, that when he had obtained the supreme power, he exercised it with a degree of moderation beyond what was generally expected by those who had fought on the side of the Republic. Of his private life either before or after this period, little is transmitted in history. Henceforth, however, he seems to have lived chiefly at Rome, near which he had a small villa, upon an eminence, commanding a beautiful prospect. His time was almost entirely occupied with public affairs, in the management of which, though he employed many agents, he appears to have had none in the character of actual minister. He was in general easy of access: but Cicero, in a letter to a friend, complains of having been treated with the indignity of waiting a considerable time amongst a crowd in an anti-chamber, before he could have an audience. The elevation of Caesar placed him not above discharging reciprocally the social duties in the intercourse of life. He returned the visits of those who waited upon him, and would sup at their houses. At table, and in the use of wine, he was habitually temperate. Upon the whole, he added nothing to his own happiness by all the dangers, the fatigues, and the perpetual anxiety which he had incurred in the pursuit of unlimited power. His health was greatly impaired: his former cheerfulness of temper, though not his magnanimity, appears to have forsaken him; and we behold in his fate a memorable example of illustrious talents rendered, by inordinate ambition, destructive to himself, and irretrievably pernicious to his country.
From beholding the ruin of the Roman Republic, after intestine divisions, and the distractions of civil war, it will afford some relief to take a view of the progress of literature, which flourished even during those calamities.
The commencement of literature in Rome is to be dated from the reduction of the Grecian States, when the conquerors imported into their own country the valuable productions of the Greek language, and the first essay of Roman genius was in dramatic composition. Livius Andronicus, who flourished about 240 years before the Christian aera, formed the Fescennine verses into a kind of regular drama, upon the model of the Greeks. He was followed some time after by Ennius, who, besides dramatic and other compositions, (60) wrote the annals of the Roman Republic in heroic verse. His style, like that of Andronicus, was rough and unpolished, in conformity to the language of those times; but for grandeur of sentiment and energy of expression, he was admired by the greatest poets in the subsequent ages. Other writers of distinguished reputation in the dramatic department were Naevius, Pacuvius, Plautus, Afranius, Caecilius, Terence, Accius, etc. Accius and Pacuvius are mentioned by Quintilian as writers of extraordinary merit. Of twenty-five comedies written by Plautus, the number transmitted to posterity is nineteen; and of a hundred and eight which Terence is said to have translated from Menander, there now remain only six. Excepting a few inconsiderable fragments, the writings of all the other authors have perished. The early period of Roman literature was distinguished for the introduction of satire by Lucilius, an author celebrated for writing with remarkable ease, but whose compositions, in the opinion of Horace, though Quintilian thinks otherwise, were debased with a mixture of feculency. Whatever may have been their merit, they also have perished, with the works of a number of orators, who adorned the advancing state of letters in the Roman Republic. It is observable, that during this whole period, of near two centuries and a half, there appeared not one historian of eminence sufficient to preserve his name from oblivion.
Julius Caesar himself is one of the most eminent writers of the age in which he lived. His commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars are written with a purity, precision, and perspicuity, which command approbation. They are elegant without affectation, and beautiful without ornament. Of the two books which he composed on Analogy, and those under the title of Anti-Cato, scarcely any fragment is preserved; but we may be assured of the justness of the observations on language, which were made by an author so much distinguished by the excellence of his own compositions. His poem entitled The Journey, which was probably an entertaining narrative, is likewise totally lost.
The most illustrious prose writer of this or any other age is M. Tullius Cicero; and as his life is copiously related in biographical works, it will be sufficient to mention his writings. From his earliest years, he applied himself with unremitting assiduity to the cultivation of literature, and, whilst he was yet a boy, wrote a poem, called Glaucus Pontius, which was extant in Plutarch’s time. Amongst his juvenile productions was a translation into Latin verse, of Aratus on the Phaenomena of the Heavens; of which many fragments are still extant. He also published a poem of the heroic kind, in honour of his countryman C. Marius, who was born at Arpinum, the birth-place of Cicero. (61) This production was greatly admired by Atticus; and old Scaevola was so much pleased with it, that in an epigram written on the subject, he declares that it would live as long as the Roman name and learning subsisted. From a little specimen which remains of it, describing a memorable omen given to Marina from an oak at Arpinum, there is reason to believe that his poetical genius was scarcely inferior to his oratorical, had it been cultivated with equal industry. He published another poem called Limon, of which Donatus has preserved four lines in the life of Terence, in praise of the elegance and purity of that poet’s style. He composed in the Greek language, and in the style and manner of Isocrates, a Commentary or Memoirs of the Transactions of his Consulship. This he sent to Atticus, with a desire, if he approved it, to publish it in Athens and the cities of Greece. He sent a copy of it likewise to Posidonius of Rhodes, and requested of him to undertake the same subject in a more elegant and masterly manner. But the latter returned for answer, that, instead of being encouraged to write by the perusal of his tract, he was quite deterred from attempting it.
Upon the plan of those Memoirs, he afterwards composed a Latin poem in three books, in which he carried down the history to the end of his exile, but did not publish it for several years, from motives of delicacy. The three books were severally inscribed to the three Muses; but of this work there now remain only a few fragments, scattered in different parts of his other writings. He published, about the same time, a collection of the principal speeches which he had made in his consulship, under the title of his Consular Orations. They consisted originally of twelve; but four are entirely lost, and some of the rest are imperfect. He now published also, in Latin verse, a translation of the Prognostics of Aratus, of which work no more than two or three small fragments now remain. A few years after, he put the last hand to his Dialogues upon the Character and Idea of the perfect Orator. This admirable work remains entire; a monument both of the astonishing industry and transcendent abilities of its author. At his Cuman villa, he next began a Treatise on Politics, or on the best State of a City, and the Duties of a Citizen. He calls it a great and a laborious work, yet worthy of his pains, if he could succeed in it. This likewise was written in the form of a dialogue, in which the speakers were Scipio, Laelius, Philus, Manilius, and other great persons in the former times of the Republic. It was comprised in six books, and survived him for several ages, though it is now unfortunately lost. From the fragments which remain, it appears to have been a masterly production, in which all the important questions in politics and morality were discussed with elegance and accuracy.
(62) Amidst all the anxiety for the interests of the Republic, which occupied the thoughts of this celebrated personage, he yet found leisure to write several philosophical tracts, which still subsist, to the gratification of the literary world. He composed a treatise on the Nature of the Gods, in three books, containing a comprehensive view of religion, faith, oaths, ceremonies, etc. In elucidating this important subject, he not only delivers the opinions of all the philosophers who had written anything concerning it, but weighs and compares attentively all the arguments with each other; forming upon the whole such a rational and perfect system of natural religion, as never before was presented to the consideration of mankind, and approaching nearly to revelation. He now likewise composed in two books, a discourse on Divination, in which he discusses at large all the arguments that may be advanced for and against the actual existence of such a species of knowledge. Like the preceding works, it is written in the form of dialogue, and in which the chief speaker is Laelius. The same period gave birth to his treatise on Old Age, called Cato Major; and to that on Friendship, written also in dialogue, and in which the chief speaker is Laelius. This book, considered merely as an essay, is one of the most entertaining productions of ancient times; but, beheld as a picture drawn from life, exhibiting the real characters and sentiments of men of the first distinction for virtue and wisdom in the Roman Republic, it becomes doubly interesting to every reader of observation and taste. Cicero now also wrote his discourse on Fate, which was the subject of a conversation with Hirtius, in his villa near Puteoli; and he executed about the same time a translation of Plato’s celebrated Dialogue, called Timaeus, on the nature and origin of the universe. He was employing himself also on a history of his own times, or rather of his own conduct; full of free and severe reflections on those who had abused their power to the oppression of the Republic. Dion Cassius says, that he delivered this book sealed up to his son, with strict orders not to read or publish it till after his death; but from this time he never saw his son, and it is probable that he left the work unfinished. Afterwards, however, some copies of it were circulated; from which his commentator, Asconius, has quoted several particulars.
During a voyage which he undertook to Sicily, he wrote his treatise on Topics, or the Art of finding Arguments on any Question. This was an abstract from Aristotle’s treatise on the same subject; and though he had neither Aristotle nor any other book to assist him, he drew it up from his memory, and finished it as he sailed along the coast of Calabria. The last (63) work composed by Cicero appears to have been his Offices, written for the use of his son, to whom it is addressed. This treatise contains a system of moral conduct, founded upon the noblest principles of human action, and recommended by arguments drawn from the purest sources of philosophy.
Such are the literary productions of this extraordinary man, whose comprehensive understanding enabled him to conduct with superior ability the most abstruse disquisitions into moral and metaphysical science. Born in an age posterior to Socrates and Plato, he could not anticipate the principles inculcated by those divine philosophers, but he is justly entitled to the praise, not only of having prosecuted with unerring judgment the steps which they trod before him, but of carrying his researches to greater extent into the most difficult regions of philosophy. This too he had the merit to perform, neither in the station of a private citizen, nor in the leisure of academic retirement, but in the bustle of public life, amidst the almost constant exertions of the bar, the employment of the magistrate, the duty of the senator, and the incessant cares of the statesman; through a period likewise chequered with domestic afflictions and fatal commotions in the Republic. As a philosopher, his mind appears to have been clear, capacious, penetrating, and insatiable of knowledge. As a writer, he was endowed with every talent that could captivate either the judgment or taste. His researches were continually employed on subjects of the greatest utility to mankind, and those often such as extended beyond the narrow bounds of temporal existence. The being of a God, the immortality of the soul, a future state of rewards and punishments, and the eternal distinction of good and evil; these were in general the great objects of his philosophical enquiries, and he has placed them in a more convincing point of view than they ever were before exhibited to the pagan world. The variety and force of the arguments which he advances, the splendour of his diction, and the zeal with which he endeavours to excite the love and admiration of virtue, all conspire to place his character, as a philosophical writer, including likewise his incomparable eloquence, on the summit of human celebrity.
The form of dialogue, so much used by Cicero, he doubtless adopted in imitation of Plato, who probably took the hint of it from the colloquial method of instruction practised by Socrates. In the early stage of philosophical enquiry, this mode of composition was well adapted, if not to the discovery, at least to the confirmation of moral truth; especially as the practice was then not uncommon, for speculative men to converse together on important subjects, for mutual information. In treating of any subject respecting which the different sects of philosophers differed (64) from each other in point of sentiment, no kind of composition could be more happily suited than dialogue, as it gave alternately full scope to the arguments of the various disputants. It required, however, that the writer should exert his understanding with equal impartiality and acuteness on the different sides of the question; as otherwise he might betray a cause under the appearance of defending it. In all the dialogues of Cicero, he manages the arguments of the several disputants in a manner not only the most fair and interesting, but also such as leads to the most probable and rational conclusion.
After enumerating the various tracts composed and published by Cicero, we have now to mention his Letters, which, though not written for publication, deserve to be ranked among the most interesting remains of Roman literature. The number of such as are addressed to different correspondents is considerable, but those to Atticus alone, his confidential friend, amount to upwards of four hundred; among which are many of great length. They are all written in the genuine spirit of the most approved epistolary composition; uniting familiarity with elevation, and ease with elegance. They display in a beautiful light the author’s character in the social relations of life; as a warm friend, a zealous patron, a tender husband, an affectionate brother, an indulgent father, and a kind master. Beholding them in a more extensive view, they exhibit an ardent love of liberty and the constitution of his country: they discover a mind strongly actuated with the principles of virtue and reason; and while they abound in sentiments the most judicious and philosophical, they are occasionally blended with the charms of wit, and agreeable effusions of pleasantry. What is likewise no small addition to their merit, they contain much interesting description of private life, with a variety of information relative to public transactions and characters of that age. It appears from Cicero’s correspondence, that there was at that time such a number of illustrious Romans, as never before existed in any one period of the Republic. If ever, therefore, the authority of men the most respectable for virtue, rank, and abilities, could have availed to overawe the first attempts at a violation of public liberty, it must have been at this period; for the dignity of the Roman senate was now in the zenith of its splendour.
Cicero has been accused of excessive vanity, and of arrogating to himself an invidious superiority, from his extraordinary talents but whoever peruses his letters to Atticus, must readily acknowledge, that this imputation appears to be destitute of truth. In those excellent productions, though he adduces the strongest arguments for and against any object of consideration, that the (65) most penetrating understanding can suggest, weighs them with each other, and draws from them the most rational conclusions, he yet discovers such a diffidence in his own opinion, that he resigns himself implicitly to the judgment and direction of his friend; a modesty not very compatible with the disposition of the arrogant, who are commonly tenacious of their own opinion, particularly in what relates to any decision of the understanding.
It is difficult to say, whether Cicero appears in his letters more great or amiable: but that he was regarded by his contemporaries in both these lights, and that too in the highest degree, is sufficiently evident. We may thence infer, that the great poets in the subsequent age must have done violence to their own liberality and discernment, when, in compliment to Augustus, whose sensibility would have been wounded by the praises of Cicero, and even by the mention of his name, they have so industriously avoided the subject, as not to afford the most distant intimation that this immortal orator and philosopher had ever existed. Livy however, there is reason to think, did some justice to his memory: but it was not until the race of the Caesars had become extinct, that he received the free and unanimous applause of impartial posterity. Such was the admiration which Quintilian entertained of his writings, that he considered the circumstance or being delighted with them, as an indubitable proof of judgment and taste in literature. Ille se profecisse sciat, cui Cicero valde placebit. 105
In this period is likewise to be placed M. Terentius Varro, the celebrated Roman grammarian, and the Nestor of ancient learning. The first mention made of him is, that he was lieutenant to Pompey in his piratical wars, and obtained in that service a naval crown. In the civil wars he joined the side of the Republic, and was taken by Caesar; by whom he was likewise proscribed, but obtained a remission of the sentence. Of all the ancients, he has acquired the greatest fame for his extensive erudition; and we may add, that he displayed the same industry in communicating, as he had done in collecting it. His works originally amounted to no less than five hundred volumes, which have all perished, except a treatise De Lingua Latina, and one De Re Rustica. Of the former of these, which is addressed to Cicero, three books at the beginning are also lost. It appears from the introduction of the fourth book, that they all related to etymology. The first contained such observations as might be made against it; the second, such as might be made in its favour; and the third, observations upon it. He next proceeds to investigate the origin of (66) Latin words. In the fourth book, he traces those which relate to place; in the fifth, those connected with the idea of time; and in the sixth, the origin of both these classes, as they appear in the writings of the poets. The seventh book is employed on declension; in which the author enters upon a minute and extensive enquiry, comprehending a variety of acute and profound observations on the formation of Latin nouns, and their respective natural declinations from the nominative case. In the eighth, he examines the nature and limits of usage and analogy in language; and in the ninth and last book on the subject, takes a general view of what is the reverse of analogy, viz. anomaly. The precision and perspicuity which Varro displays in this work merit the highest encomiums, and justify the character given him in his own time, of being the most learned of the Latin grammarians. To the loss of the first three books, are to be added several chasms in the others; but fortunately they happen in such places as not to affect the coherency of the author’s doctrine, though they interrupt the illustration of it. It is observable that this great grammarian makes use of quom for quum, heis for his, and generally queis for quibus. This practice having become rather obsolete at the time in which he wrote, we must impute his continuance of it to his opinion of its propriety, upon its established principles of grammar, and not to any prejudice of education, or an affectation of singularity. As Varro makes no mention of Caesar’s treatise on Analogy, and had commenced author long before him, it is probable that Caesar’s production was of a much later date; and thence we may infer, that those two writers differed from each other, at least with respect to some particulars on that subject.
This author’s treatise De Re Rustica was undertaken at the desire of a friend, who, having purchased some lands, requested of Varro the favour of his instructions relative to farming, and the economy of a country life, in its various departments. Though Varro was at this time in his eightieth year, he writes with all the vivacity, though without the levity, of youth, and sets out with invoking, not the Muses, like Homer and Ennius, as he observes, but the twelve deities supposed to be chiefly concerned in the operations of agriculture. It appears from the account which he gives, that upwards of fifty Greek authors had treated of this subject in prose, besides Hesiod and Menecrates the Ephesian, who both wrote in verse; exclusive likewise of many Roman writers, and of Mago the Carthaginian, who wrote in the Punic language. Varro’s work is divided into three books, the first of which treats of agriculture; the second, of rearing of cattle; and the third, of feeding animals for the use of the table. (67) In the last of these, we meet with a remarkable instance of the prevalence of habit and fashion over human sentiment, where the author delivers instructions relative to the best method of fattening rats.
We find from Quintilian, that Varro likewise composed satires in various kinds of verse. It is impossible to behold the numerous fragments of this venerable author without feeling the strongest regret for the loss of that vast collection of information which he had compiled, and of judicious observations which he had made on a variety of subjects, during a life of eighty-eight years, almost entirely devoted to literature. The remark of St. Augustine is well founded, That it is astonishing how Varro, who read such a number of books, could find time to compose so many volumes; and how he who composed so many volumes, could be at leisure to peruse such a variety of books, and to gain so much literary information.
Catullus is said to have been born at Verona, of respectable parents; his father and himself being in the habit of intimacy with Julius Caesar. He was brought to Rome by Mallius, to whom several of his epigrams are addressed. The gentleness of his manners, and his application to study, we are told, recommended him to general esteem; and he had the good fortune to obtain the patronage of Cicero. When he came to be known as a poet, all these circumstances would naturally contribute to increase his reputation for ingenuity; and accordingly we find his genius applauded by several of his contemporaries. It appears that his works are not transmitted entire to posterity; but there remain sufficient specimens by which we may be enabled to appreciate his poetical talents.
Quintilian, and Diomed the grammarian, have ranked Catullus amongst the iambic writers, while others have placed him amongst the lyric. He has properly a claim to each of these stations; but his versification being chiefly iambic, the former of the arrangements seems to be the most suitable. The principal merit of Catullus’s Iambics consists in a simplicity of thought and expression. The thoughts, however, are often frivolous, and, what is yet more reprehensible, the author gives way to gross obscenity: in vindication of which, he produces the following couplet, declaring that a good poet ought to be chaste in his own person, but that his verses need not be so.
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
Ipsum: versiculos nihil necesse est.
This sentiment has been frequently cited by those who were inclined to follow the example of Catullus; but if such a practice be in any case admissible, it is only where the poet personates (68) a profligate character; and the instances in which it is adopted by Catullus are not of that description. It had perhaps been a better apology, to have pleaded the manners of the times; for even Horace, who wrote only a few years after, has suffered his compositions to be occasionally debased by the same kind of blemish.
Much has been said of this poet’s invective against Caesar, which produced no other effect than an invitation to sup at the dictator’s house. It was indeed scarcely entitled to the honour of the smallest resentment. If any could be shewn, it must have been for the freedom used by the author, and not for any novelty in his lampoon. There are two poems on this subject, viz. the twenty-ninth and fifty-seventh, in each of which Caesar is joined with Mamurra, a Roman knight, who had acquired great riches in the Gallic war. For the honour of Catullus’s gratitude, we should suppose that the latter is the one to which historians allude: but, as poetical compositions, they are equally unworthy of regard. The fifty seventh is nothing more than a broad repetition of the raillery, whether well or ill founded, with which Caesar was attacked on various occasions, and even in the senate, after his return from Bithynia. Caesar had been taunted with this subject for upwards of thirty years; and after so long a familiarity with reproach, his sensibility to the scandalous imputation must now have been much diminished, if not entirely extinguished. The other poem is partly in the same strain, but extended to greater length, by a mixture of common jocular ribaldry of the Roman soldiers, expressed nearly in the same terms which Caesar’s legions, though strongly attached to his person, scrupled not to sport publicly in the streets of Rome, against their general, during the celebration of his triumph. In a word, it deserves to be regarded as an effusion of Saturnalian licentiousness, rather than of poetry. With respect to the Iambics of Catullus, we may observe in general, that the sarcasm is indebted for its force, not so much to ingenuity of sentiment, as to the indelicate nature of the subject, or coarseness of expression.
The descriptive poems of Catullus are superior to the others, and discover a lively imagination. Amongst the best of his productions, is a translation of the celebrated ode of Sappho:
Ille mi par esse Deo videtur,
This ode is executed both with spirit and elegance; it is, however, imperfect; and the last stanza seems to be spurious. Catullus’s epigrams are entitled to little praise, with regard either to sentiment or point; and on the whole, his merit, as a poet, appears to have been magnified beyond its real extent. He is said to have died about the thirtieth year of his age.
(69) Lucretius is the author of a celebrated poem, in six books, De Rerum Natura; a subject which had been treated many ages before by Empedocles, a philosopher and poet of Agrigentum. Lucretius was a zealous partizan of Democritus, and the sect of Epicurus, whose principles concerning the eternity of matter, the materiality of the soul, and the non-existence of a future state of rewards and punishments, he affects to maintain with a certainty equal to that of mathematical demonstration. Strongly prepossessed with the hypothetical doctrines of his master, and ignorant of the physical system of the universe, he endeavours to deduce from the phenomena of the material world conclusions not only unsupported by legitimate theory, but repugnant to the principles of the highest authority in metaphysical disquisition. But while we condemn his speculative notions as degrading to human nature, and subversive of the most important interests of mankind, we must admit that he has prosecuted his visionary hypothesis with uncommon ingenuity. Abstracting from it the rhapsodical nature of this production, and its obscurity in some parts, it has great merit as a poem. The style is elevated, and the versification in general harmonious. By the mixture of obsolete words, it possesses an air of solemnity well adapted to abstruse researches; at the same time that by the frequent resolution of diphthongs, it instils into the Latin the sonorous and melodious powers of the Greek language.
While Lucretius was engaged in this work, he fell into a state of insanity, occasioned, as is supposed, by a philtre, or love-potion, given him by his wife Lucilia. The complaint, however, having lucid intervals, he employed them in the execution of his plan, and, soon after it was finished, laid violent hands upon himself, in the forty-third year of his age. This fatal termination of his life, which perhaps proceeded from insanity, was ascribed by his friends and admirers to his concern for the banishment of one Memmius, with whom he was intimately connected, and for the distracted state of the republic. It was, however, a catastrophe which the principles of Epicurus, equally erroneous and irreconcilable to resignation and fortitude, authorized in particular circumstances. Even Atticus, the celebrated correspondent of Cicero, a few years after this period, had recourse to the same desperate expedient, by refusing all sustenance, while he laboured under a lingering disease.
It is said that Cicero revised the poem of Lucretius after the death of the author, and this circumstance is urged by the abettors of atheism, as a proof that the principles contained in the work had the sanction of his authority. But no inference in favour of Lucretius’s doctrine can justly be drawn from this circumstance. (70) Cicero, though already sufficiently acquainted with the principles of the Epicurean sect, might not be averse to the perusal of a production, which collected and enforced them in a nervous strain of poetry; especially as the work was likely to prove interesting to his friend Atticus, and would perhaps afford subject for some letters or conversation between them. It can have been only with reference to composition that the poem was submitted to Cicero’s revisal: for had he been required to exercise his judgment upon its principles, he must undoubtedly have so much mutilated the work, as to destroy the coherency of the system. He might be gratified with the shew of elaborate research, and confident declamation, which it exhibited, but he must have utterly disapproved of the conclusions which the author endeavoured to establish. According to the best information, Lucretius died in the year from the building of Rome 701, when Pompey was the third time consul. Cicero lived several years beyond this period, and in the two last years of his life, he composed those valuable works which contain sentiments diametrically repugnant to the visionary system of Epicurus. The argument, therefore, drawn from Cicero’s revisal, so far from confirming the principle of Lucretius, affords the strongest tacit declaration against their validity; because a period sufficient for mature consideration had elapsed, before Cicero published his own admirable system of philosophy. The poem of Lucretius, nevertheless, has been regarded as the bulwark of atheism—of atheism, which, while it impiously arrogates the support of reason, both reason and nature disclaim.
Many more writers flourished in this period, but their works have totally perished. Sallust was now engaged in historical productions; but as they were not yet completed, they will be noticed in the next division of the review.
[ Plin. Epist. i. 18, 24, iii. 8, v. 11, ix. 34, x. 95.]
[ Lycee, part I. liv. III. c. i.]
[ Julius Caesar Divus. Romulus, the founder of Rome, had the honour of an apotheosis conferred on him by the senate, under the title of Quirinus, to obviate the people’s suspicion of his having been taken off by a conspiracy of the patrician order. Political circumstances again concurred with popular superstition to revive this posthumous adulation in favour of Julius Caesar, the founder of the empire, who also fell by the hands of conspirators. It is remarkable in the history of a nation so jealous of public liberty, that, in both instances, they bestowed the highest mark of human homage upon men who owed their fate to the introduction of arbitrary power.]
[ Pliny informs us that Caius Julius, the father of Julius Caesar, a man of pretorian rank, died suddenly at Pisa.]
[ A.U.C. (in the year from the foundation of Rome) 670; A.C. (before Christ) about 92.]
[ Flamen Dialis. This was an office of great dignity, but subjected the holder to many restrictions. He was not allowed to ride on horseback, nor to absent himself from the city for a single night. His wife was also under particular restraints, and could not be divorced. If she died, the flamen resigned his office, because there were certain sacred rites which he could not perform without her assistance. Besides other marks of distinction, he wore a purple robe called laena, and a conical mitre called apex.]
[ Two powerful parties were contending at Rome for the supremacy; Sylla being at the head of the faction of the nobles, while Marius espoused the cause of the people. Sylla suspected Julius Caesar of belonging to the Marian party, because Marius had married his aunt Julia.]
[ He wandered about for some time in the Sabine territory.]
[ Bithynia, in Asia Minor, was bounded on the south by Phrygia, on the west by the Bosphorus and Propontis; and on the north by the Euxine sea. Its boundaries towards the east are not clearly ascertained, Strabo, Pliny, and Ptolemy differing from each other on the subject.]
[ Mitylene was a city in the island of Lesbos, famous for the study of philosophy and eloquence. According to Pliny, it remained a free city and in power one thousand five hundred years. It suffered much in the Peloponnesian war from the Athenians, and in the Mithridatic from the Romans, by whom it was taken and destroyed. But it soon rose again, having recovered its ancient liberty by the favour of Pomnpey; and was afterwards much embellished by Trajan, who added to it the splendour of his own name. This was the country of Pittacus, one of the seven wise men of Greece, as well as of Alcaeus and Sappho. The natives showed a particular taste for poetry, and had, as Plutarch informs us, stated times for the celebration of poetical contests.]
[ The civic crown was made of oak-leaves, and given to him who had saved the life of a citizen. The person thus decorated, wore it at public spectacles, and sat next the senators. When he entered, the audience rose up, as a mark of respect.]
[ A very extensive country of Hither Asia; lying between Pamphylia to the west, Mount Taurus and Amanus to the north, Syria to the east, and the Mediterranean to the south. It was anciently famous for saffron; and hair-cloth, called by the Romans ciliciun, was the manufacture of this country.]
[ A city and an island, near the coast of Caria famous for the huge statue of the Sun, called the Colossus. The Rhodians were celebrated not only for skill in naval affairs, but for learning, philosophy, and eloquence. During the latter periods of the Roman republic, and under some of the emperors, numbers resorted there to prosecute their studies; and it also became a place of retreat to discontented Romans.]
[ Pharmacusa, an island lying off the coast of Asia, near Miletus. It is now called Parmosa.]
[ The ransom, too large for Caesar’s private means, was raised by the voluntary contributions of the cities in the Asiatic province, who were equally liberal from their public funds in the case of other Romans who fell into the hands of pirates at that period.]
[ From Miletus, as we are informed by Plutarch.]
[ Who commanded in Spain.]
[ Rex, it will be easily understood, was not a title of dignity in a Roman family, but the surname of the Marcii.]
[ The rites of the Bona Dea, called also Fauna, which were performed in the night, and by women only.]
[ Hispania Boetica; the Hither province being called Hispania Tarraconensis.]
[ Alexander the Great was only thirty-three years at the time of his death.]
[ The proper office of the master of the horse was to command the knights, and execute the orders of the dictator. He was usually nominated from amongst persons of consular and praetorian dignity; and had the use of a horse, which the dictator had not, without the order of the people.]
[ Seneca compares the annals of Tanusius to the life of a fool, which, though it may be long, is worthless; while that of a wise man, like a good book, is valuable, however short.—Epist. 94.]
[ Bibulus was Caesar’s colleague, both as edile and consul. Cicero calls his edicts “Archilochian,” that is, as full of spite as the verses of Archilochus.—Ad. Attic. b. 7. ep. 24.]
[ A.U.C. 689. Cicero holds both the Curio’s, father and son, very cheap.—Brut. c. 60.]
[ Regnum, the kingly power, which the Roman people considered an insupportable tyranny.]
[ An honourable banishment.]
[ The assemblies of the people were at first held in the open Forum. Afterwards, a covered building, called the Comitium, was erected for that purpose. There are no remains of it, but Lumisden thinks that it probably stood on the south side of the Forum, on the site of the present church of The Consolation.—Antiq. of Rome, p. 357.]
[ Basilicas, from Basileus; a king. They were, indeed, the palaces of the sovereign people; stately and spacious buildings, with halls, which served the purpose of exchanges, council chambers, and courts of justice. Some of the Basilicas were afterwards converted into Christian churches. “The form was oblong; the middle was an open space to walk in, called Testudo, and which we now call the nave. On each side of this were rows of pillars, which formed what we should call the side-aisles, and which the ancients called Porticus. The end of the Testudo was curved, like the apse of some of our churches, and was called Tribunal, from causes being heard there. Hence the term Tribune is applied to that part of the Roman churches which is behind the high altar.”—Burton’s Antiq. of Rome, p. 204.]
[ Such as statues and pictures, the works of Greek artists.]
[ It appears to have stood at the foot of the Capitoline hill. Piranesi thinks that the two beautiful columns of white marble, which are commonly described as belonging to the portico of the temple of Jupiter Stator, are the remains of the temple of Castor and Pollux.]
[ Ptolemy Auletes, the son of Cleopatra.]
[ Lentulus, Cethegus, and others.]
[ The temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was commenced and completed by the Tarquins, kings of Rome, but not dedicated till the year after their expulsion, when that honour devolved on M. Horatius Fulvillus, the first of the consuls. Having been burnt down during the civil wars, A.U.C. 670, Sylla restored it on the same foundations, but did not live to consecrate it.]
[ Meaning Pompey; not so much for the sake of the office, as having his name inserted in the inscription recording the repairs of the Capitol, instead of Catulus. The latter, however, secured the honour, and his name is still seen inscribed in an apartment at the Capitol, as its restorer.]
[ It being the calends of January, the first day of the year, on which the magistrates solemnly entered on their offices, surrounded by their friends.]
[ Among others, one for recalling Pompey from Asia, under the pretext that the commonwealth was in danger. Cato was one of the colleagues who saw through the design and opposed the decree.]
[ See before, p. 5. This was in A.U.C. 693.]
[ Plutarch informs us, that Caesar, before he came into office, owed his creditors 1300 talents, somewhat more than 565,000 pounds of our money. But his debts increased so much after this period, if we may believe Appian, that upon his departure for Spain, at the expiration of his praetorship, he is reported to have said, Bis millies et quingenties centena minis sibi adesse oportere, ut nihil haberet: i. e. That he was 2,000,000 and nearly 20,000 sesterces worse than penniless. Crassus became his security for 830 talents, about 871,500 pounds.]
[ For his victories in Gallicia and Lusitania, having led his army to the shores of the ocean, which had not before been reduced to submission.]
[ Caesar was placed in this dilemma, that if he aspired to a triumph, he must remain outside the walls until it took place, while as a candidate for the consulship, he must be resident in the city.]
[ Even the severe censor was biassed by political expediency to sanction a system, under which what little remained of public virtue, and the love of liberty at Rome, were fast decaying. The strict laws against bribery at elections were disregarded, and it was practised openly, and accepted without a blush. Sallust says that everything was venal, and that Rome itself might be bought, if any one was rich enough to purchase it. Jugurth, viii. 20, 3.]
[ A.U.C. 695.]
[ The proceedings of the senate were reported in short notes taken by one of their own order, “strangers” not being admitted at their sittings. These notes included speeches as well as acts. These and the proceedings of the assemblies of the people, were daily published in journals [Footnote diurna: which contained also accounts of the trials at law, with miscellaneous intelligence of births and deaths, marriages and divorces. The practice of publishing the proceedings of the senate, introduced by Julius Caesar, was discontinued by Augustus.]
[ Within the city, the lictors walked before only one of the consuls, and that commonly for a month alternately. A public officer, called Accensus, preceded the other consul, and the lictors followed. This custom had long been disused, but was now restored by Caesar.]
[ In order that he might be a candidate for the tribuneship of the people; it was done late in the evening, at an unusual hour for public business.]
[ Gaul was divided into two provinces, Transalpine, or Gallia Ulterior, and Cisalpina, or Citerior. The Citerior, having nearly the same limits as Lombardy in after times, was properly a part of Italy, occupied by colonists from Gaul, and, having the Rubicon, the ancient boundary of Italy, on the south. It was also called Gallia Togata, from the use of the Roman toga; the inhabitants being, after the social war, admitted to the right of citizens. The Gallia Transalpina, or Ulterior, was called Comata, from the people wearing their hair long, while the Romans wore it short; and the southern part, afterwards called Narbonensis, came to have the epithet Braccata, from the use of the braccae, which were no part of the Roman dress. Some writers suppose the braccae to have been breeches, but Aldus, in a short disquisition on the subject, affirms that they were a kind of upper dress. And this opinion seems to be countenanced by the name braccan being applied by the modern Celtic nations, the descendants of the Gallic Celts, to signify their upper garment, or plaid.]
[ Alluding, probably, to certain scandals of a gross character which were rife against Caesar. See before, c. ii. (p. 2) and see also c. xlix.]
[ So called from the feathers on their helmets, resembling the crest of a lark; Alauda, Fr. Alouette.]
[ Days appointed by the senate for public thanksgiving in the temples in the name of a victorious general, who had in the decrees the title of emperor, by which they were saluted by the legions.]
[ A.U.C. 702.]
[ Julia, the wife of Pompey, who died in childbirth.]
[ Conquest had so multiplied business at Rome, that the Roman Forum became too little for transacting it, and could not be enlarged without clearing away the buildings with which it was surrounded. Hence the enormous sum which its site is said to have cost, amounting, it is calculated, to 809,291 pounds of our money. It stood near the old forum, behind the temple of Romulus and Remus, but not a vestige of it remains.]
[ Comum was a town of the Orobii, of ancient standing, and formerly powerful. Julius Caesar added to it five thousand new colonists; whence it was generally called Novocomum. But in time it recovered its ancient name, Comum; Pliny the younger, who was a native of this place, calling it by no other name.]
[ A.U.C. 705.]
[ Eiper gar adikein chrae, tyrannidos peri Kalliston adikein talla de eusebein chreon. —Eurip. Phoeniss. Act II, where Eteocles aspires to become the tyrant of Thebes.]
[ Now the Pisatello; near Rimini. There was a very ancient law of the republic, forbidding any general, returning from the wars, to cross the Rubicon with his troops under arms.]
[ The ring was worn on the finger next to the little finger of the left hand.]
[ Suetonius here accounts for the mistake of the soldiers with great probability. The class to which they imagined they were to be promoted, was that of the equites, or knights, who wore a gold ring, and were possessed of property to the amount stated in the text. Great as was the liberality of Caesar to his legions, the performance of this imaginary promise was beyond all reasonable expectation.]
[ A.U.C. 706.]
[ Elephants were first introduced at Rome by Pompey the Great, in his African triumph.]
[ VENI, VIDI, VICI.]
[ A.U.C. 708.]
[ Gladiators were first publicly exhibited at Rome by two brothers called Bruti, at the funeral of their father, A.U.C. 490; and for some time they were exhibited only on such occasions. But afterwards they were also employed by the magistrates, to entertain the people, particularly at the Saturnalia, and feasts of Minerva. These cruel spectacles were prohibited by Constantine, but not entirely suppressed until the time of Honorius.]
[ The Circensian games were shews exhibited in the Circus Maximus, and consisted of various kinds: first, chariot and horse-races, of which the Romans were extravagantly fond. The charioteers were distributed into four parties, distinguished by the colour of their dress. The spectators, without regarding the speed of the horses, or the skill of the men, were attracted merely by one or the other of the colours, as caprice inclined them. In the time of Justinian, no less than thirty thousand men lost their lives at Constantinople, in a tumult raised by a contention amongst the partizans of the several colours. Secondly, contests of agility and strength; of which there were five kinds, hence called Pentathlum. These were, running, leaping, boxing, wrestling, and throwing the discus or quoit. Thirdly, Ludus Trojae, a mock-fight, performed by young noblemen on horseback, revived by Julius Caesar, and frequently celebrated by the succeeding emperors. We meet with a description of it in the fifth book of the Aeneid, beginning with the following lines: Incedunt pueri, pariterque ante ora parentum Fraenatis lucent in equis: quos omnis euntes Trinacriae mirata fremit Trojaeque juventus. Fourthly, Venatio, which was the fighting of wild beasts with one another, or with men called Bestiarii, who were either forced to the combat by way of punishment, as the primitive Christians were, or fought voluntarily, either from a natural ferocity of disposition, or induced by hire. An incredible number of animals of various kinds were brought from all quarters, at a prodigious expense, for the entertainment of the people. Pompey, in his second consulship, exhibited at once five hundred lions, which were all dispatched in five days; also eighteen elephants. Fifthly the representation of a horse and foot battle, with that of an encampment or a siege. Sixthly, the representation of a sea-fight (Naumachia), which was at first made in the Circus Maximus, but afterwards elsewhere. The combatants were usually captives or condemned malefactors, who fought to death, unless saved by the clemency of the emperor. If any thing unlucky happened at the games, they were renewed, and often more than once.]
[ A meadow beyond the Tiber, in which an excavation was made, supplied with water from the river.]
[ Julius Caesar was assisted by Sosigenes, an Egyptian philosopher, in correcting the calendar. For this purpose he introduced an additional day every fourth year, making February to consist of twenty-nine days instead of twenty-eight, and, of course, the whole year to consist of three hundred and sixty-six days. The fourth year was denominated Bissextile, or leap year, because the sixth day before the calends, or first of March, was reckoned twice. The Julian year was introduced throughout the Roman empire, and continued in general use till the year 1582. But the true correction was not six hours, but five hours, forty-nine minutes; hence the addition was too great by eleven minutes. This small fraction would amount in one hundred years to three-fourths of a day, and in a thousand years to more than seven days. It had, in fact, amounted, since the Julian correction, in 1582, to more than seven days. Pope Gregory XIII., therefore, again reformed the calendar, first bringing forward the year ten days, by reckoning the 5th of October the 15th, and then prescribing the rule which has gradually been adopted throughout Christendom, except in Russia, and the Greek church generally.]
[ Principally Carthage and Corinth.]
[ The Latus Clavus was a broad stripe of purple, on the front of the toga. Its width distinguished it from that of the knights, who wore it narrow.]
[ The Suburra lay between the Celian and Esquiline hills. It was one of the most frequented quarters of Rome.]
[ Bede, quoting Solinus, we believe, says that excellent pearls were found in the British seas, and that they were of all colours, but principally white. Eccl. Hist. b. i. c. 1.]
[ ————Bithynia quicquid Et predicator Caesaris unquam habuit.]
[ Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem; Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat, qui subegit Gallias: Nicomedes non triumphat, qui subegit Caesarem.]
[ Aegisthus, who, like Caesar, was a pontiff, debauched Clytemnestra while Agamemnon was engaged in the Trojan war, as Caesar did Mucia, the wife of Pompey, while absent in the war against Mithridates.]
[ A double entendre; Tertia signifying the third of the value of the farm, as well as being the name of the girl, for whose favours the deduction was made.]
[ Urbani, servate uxores; moechum calvum adducimus: Aurum in Gallia effutuisti, hic sumpsisti mutuum.]
[ Plutarch tells us that the oil was used in a dish of asparagus. Every traveller knows that in those climates oil takes the place of butter as an ingredient in cookery, and it needs no experience to fancy what it is when rancid.]
[ Meritoria rheda; a light four-wheeled carriage, apparently hired either for the journey or from town to town. They were tolerably commodious, for Cicero writes to Atticus, (v. 17.) Hanc epistolam dictavi sedens in rheda, cum in castra proficiscerer.]
[ Plutarch informs us that Caesar travelled with such expedition, that he reached the Rhone on the eighth day after he left Rome.]
[ Caesar tells us himself that he employed C. Volusenus to reconnoitre the coast of Britain, sending him forward in a long ship, with orders to return and make his report before the expedition sailed.]
[ Religione; that is, the omens being unfavourable.]
[ The standard of the Roman legions was an eagle fixed on the head of a spear. It was silver, small in size, with expanded wings, and clutching a golden thunderbolt in its claw.]
[ To save them from the torture of a lingering death.]
[ Now Lerida, in Catalonia.]
[ The title of emperor was not new in Roman history; 1. It was sometimes given by the acclamations of the soldiers to those who commanded them. 2. It was synonymous with conqueror, and the troops hailed him by that title after a victory. In both these cases it was merely titular, and not permanent, and was generally written after the proper name, as Cicero imperator, Lentulo imperatore. 3. It assumed a permanent and royal character first in the person of Julius Caesar, and was then generally prefixed to the emperor’s name in inscriptions, as IMP. CAESAR. DIVI. etc.]
[ Cicero was the first who received the honour of being called “Pater patriae.”]
[ Statues were placed in the Capitol of each of the seven kings of Rome, to which an eighth was added in honour of Brutus, who expelled the last. The statue of Julius Caesar was afterwards raised near them.]
[ The white fillet was one of the insignia of royalty. Plutarch, on this occasion, uses the expression, diadaemati basiliko, a royal diadem.]
[ The Lupercalia was a festival, celebrated in a place called the Lupercal, in the month of February, in honour of Pan. During the solemnity, the Luperci, or priests of that god, ran up and down the city naked, with only a girdle of goat’s skin round their waist, and thongs of the same in their hands; with which they struck those they met, particularly married women, who were thence supposed to be rendered prolific.]
[ Persons appointed to inspect and expound the Sibylline books.]
[ A.U.C. 709.]
[ See before, c. xxii.]
[ This senate-house stood in that part of the Campus Martius which is now the Campo di Fiore, and was attached by Pompey, “spoliis Orientis Onustus,” to the magnificent theatre, which he built A.U.C. 698, in his second consulship. His statue, at the foot of which Caesar fell, as Plutarch tells us, was placed in it. We shall find that Augustus caused it to be removed.]
[ The stylus, or graphium, was an iron pen, broad at one end, with a sharp point at the other, used for writing upon waxen tables, the leaves or bark of trees, plates of brass, or lead, etc. For writing upon paper or parchment, the Romans employed a reed, sharpened and split in the point like our pens, called calamus, arundo, or canna. This they dipped in the black liquor emitted by the cuttle fish, which served for ink.]
[ It was customary among the ancients, in great extremities to shroud the face, in order to conceal any symptoms of horror or alarm which the countenance might express. The skirt of the toga was drawn round the lower extremities, that there might be no exposure in falling, as the Romans, at this period, wore no covering for the thighs and legs.]
[ Caesar’s dying apostrophe to Brutus is represented in all the editions of Suetonius as uttered in Greek, but with some variations. The words, as here translated, are Kai su ei ekeinon; kai su teknon. The Salmasian manuscript omits the latter clause. Some commentators suppose that the words “my son,” were not merely expressive of the difference of age, or former familiarity between them, but an avowal that Brutus was the fruit of the connection between Julius and Servilia, mentioned before (see p. 33). But it appears very improbable that Caesar, who had never before acknowledged Brutus to be his son, should make so unnecessary an avowal, at the moment of his death. Exclusively of this objection, the apostrophe seems too verbose, both for the suddenness and urgency of the occasion. But this is not all. Can we suppose that Caesar, though a perfect master of Greek, would at such a time have expressed himself in that language, rather than in Latin, his familiar tongue, and in which he spoke with peculiar elegance? Upon the whole, the probability is, that the words uttered by Caesar were, Et tu Brute! which, while equally expressive of astonishment with the other version, and even of tenderness, are both more natural, and more emphatic.]
[ Men’ me servasse, ut essent qui me perderent?]
[ The Bulla, generally made of gold, was a hollow globe, which boys wore upon their breast, pendant from a string or ribbon put round the neck. The sons of freedmen and poor citizens used globes of leather.]
[ Josephus frequently mentions the benefits conferred on his countrymen by Julius Caesar. Antiq. Jud. xiv. 14, 15, 16.]
[ Appian informs us that it was burnt by the people in their fury, B. c. xi. p. 521.]
[ Suetonius particularly refers to the conspirators, who perished at the battle of Philippi, or in the three years which intervened. The survivors were included in the reconciliation of Augustus, Antony, and Pompey, A.U.C. 715.]
[ Suetonius alludes to Brutus and Cassius, of whom this is related by Plutarch and Dio.]
[ For observations on Dr. Thomson’s Essays appended to Suetonius’s History of Julius Caesar, and the succeeding Emperors, see the Preface to this volume.]
[ He who has a devoted admiration of Cicero, may be sure that he has made no slight proficiency himself.]
[ A town in the ancient Volscian territory, now called Veletra. It stands on the verge of the Pontine Marshes, on the road to Naples.]
[ Thurium was a territory in Magna Graecia, on the coast, near Tarentum.]
[ Argentarius; a banker, one who dealt in exchanging money, as well as lent his own funds at interest to borrowers. As a class, they possessed great wealth, and were persons of consideration in Rome at this period.]
[ Now Laricia, or Riccia, a town of the Campagna di Roma, on the Appian Way, about ten miles from Rome.]
[ A.U.C. 691. A.C. (before Christ) 61.]
[ The Palatine hill was not only the first seat of the colony of Romulus, but gave its name to the first and principal of the four regions into which the city was divided, from the time of Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, to that of Augustus; the others being the Suburra, Esquilina, and Collina.]
[ There were seven streets or quarters in the Palatine region, one of which was called “Ad Capita Bubula,” either from the butchers’ stalls at which ox-heads are hung up for sale, or from their being sculptured on some edifice. Thus the remains of a fortification near the tomb of Cecilia Metella are now called Capo di Bove, from the arms of the Gaetani family over the gate.]
[ Adrian, to whom Suetonius was secretary.]
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