Caesar: A Sketch
by James Anthony Froude
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[Sidenote: B.C. 51.] Crassus had been destroyed by the Parthians. The nomination of his successor lay with the Senate, and the Senate gave a notable evidence of their incapacity for selecting competent governors for the provinces by appointing in his place Caesar's old colleague, Bibulus. In their whole number there was no such fool as Bibulus. When he arrived in Syria he shut himself into a fortified town, leaving the Parthians to plunder and burn at their pleasure. Cicero mocked at him. The Senate thanked him for his distinguished services. The few serious men in Rome thought that Caesar or Pompey should be sent out;[1] or, if they could not be spared, at least one of the consuls of the year—Sulpicius Rufus or Marcus Marcellus. But the consuls were busy with home politics and did not wish to go, nor did they wish that others should go and gather laurels instead of them. Therefore nothing was done at all,[2] and Syria was left to fate and Bibulus. The consuls and the aristocracy had, in fact, more serious matters to attend to. Caesar's time was running out, and when it was over he had been promised the consulship. That consulship the faction of the conservatives had sworn that he should never hold. Cato was threatening him with impeachment, blustering that he should be tried under a guard, as Milo had been.[3] Marcellus was saying openly that he would call him home in disgrace before his term was over. Como, one of the most thriving towns in the north of Italy, had been enfranchised by Caesar. An eminent citizen from Como happening to be at Rome, Marcellus publicly flogged him, and bade him go back and tell his fellow-townsmen the value of Caesar's gift to them, Cicero saw the folly of such actions;[4] but the aristocracy were mad—mad with pride and conscious guilt and fear. The ten years of Caesar's government would expire at the end of 49. The engagement had been entered into that he was to see his term out with his army and to return to Rome for 48—as consul. They remembered his first consulship and what he had done with it, and the laws which he had passed—laws which they could not repeal; yet how had they observed them? If he had been too strong for them all when he was but one of themselves, scarcely known beyond the Forum and senate-house, what would he do now, when he was recognized as the greatest soldier which Rome had produced, the army, the people, Italy, the provinces all adoring his name? Consul again he could not, must not be. Yet how could it be prevented? It was useless now to bribe the Comitia, to work with clubs and wire-pullers. The enfranchised citizens would come to vote for Caesar from every country town. The legionaries to a man would vote for him; and even in the venal city he was the idol of the hour. No fault could be found with his administration. His wars had paid their own expenses. He had doubled the pay of his troops, but his military chest was still full, and his own wealth seemed boundless. He was adorning the Forum with new and costly buildings. Senators, knights, young men of rank who had been extravagant, had been relieved by his generosity and were his pensioners. Gaul might have been impatient at its loss of liberty, but no word of complaint was heard against Caesar for oppressive government. The more genius he had shown the more formidable he was. Let him be consul, and he would be the master of them all.

Caesar had been credited with far-reaching designs. It has been assumed that in early life he had designed the overthrow of the Constitution; that he pursued his purpose steadily through every stage in his career, and that he sought the command of Gaul only to obtain an army devoted to him which would execute his will. It has not seemed incredible that a man of middle age undertook the conquest of a country of which nothing is known save that it was inhabited by warlike races, who more than once had threatened to overrun Italy and destroy Rome; that he went through ten years of desperate fighting exposed to a thousand dangers from the sword, from exposure and hardship; that for ten years he had banished himself from Rome, uncertain whether he would ever see it again; and that he had ventured upon all this with no other object than that of eventually controlling domestic politics. A lunatic might have entertained such a scheme, but not a Caesar. The Senate knew him. They knew what he had done. They knew what he would now do, and for this reason they feared and hated him. Caesar was a reformer. He had long seen that the Roman Constitution was too narrow for the functions which had fallen to it, and that it was degenerating into an instrument of tyranny and injustice. The courts of law were corrupt; the elections wore corrupt. The administration of the provinces was a scandal and a curse. The soil of Italy had become a monopoly of capitalists, and the inhabitants of it a population of slaves. He had exerted himself to stay the mischief at its fountain, to punish bribery, to punish the rapacity of proconsuls and propraetors, to purify the courts, to maintain respect for the law. He had endeavored to extend the franchise, to raise the position of the liberated slaves, to replace upon the land a free race of Roman citizens. The old Roman sentiment, the consciousness of the greatness of the country and of its mighty destinies, was chiefly now to be found in the armies. In the families of veteran legionaries, spread in farms over Italy and the provinces, the national spirit might revive; and, with a due share of political power conceded to them, an enlarged and purified constituency might control the votes of the venal populace of the city. These were Caesar's designs, so far as could have been gathered from his earlier actions; but the manipulation of elections, the miserable contests with disaffected colleagues and a hostile Senate, were dreary occupations for such a man as he was. He was conscious of powers which in so poor a sphere could find no expression. He had ambition doubtless—plenty of it—ambition not to pass away without leaving his mark on the history of his country. As a statesman he had done the most which could be done when he was consul the first time, and he had afterward sought a free field for his adventurous genius in a new country, and in rounding off into security the frontiers of the 'Empire on the side where danger was most threatening. The proudest self-confidence could not have allowed him at his time of life to calculate on returning to Rome to take up again the work of reformation.

But Cesar had conquered. He had made a name for himself as a soldier before which the Scipios and the Luculluses, the Syllas and Pompeys paled their glory. He was coming back to lay at his country's feet a province larger than Spain—not subdued only, but reconciled to subjugation; a nation of warriors, as much devoted to him as his own legions. The aristocracy had watched his progress with the bitterest malignity. When he was struggling with the last spasms of Gallic liberty, they had talked in delighted whispers of his reported ruin.[5] But his genius had risen above his difficulties and shone out more glorious than before. When the war was over the Senate had been forced to vote twenty days of thanksgiving. Twenty days were not enough for Roman, enthusiasm. The people made them into sixty.

If Caesar came to Rome as consul, the Senate knew too well what it might expect. What he had been before he would be again, but more severe as his power was greater. Their own guilty hearts perhaps made them fear another Marian proscription. Unless his command could be brought to an end in some far different form, their days of power were numbered, and the days of inquiry and punishment would begin.

[Sidenote: B.C. 50.] Cicero had for some time seen what was coming. He had preferred characteristically to be out of the way at the moment when he expected that the storm would break, and had accepted the government of Cilicia and Cyprus. He was thus absent while the active plot was in preparation. One great step had been gained—the Senate had secured Pompey. Caesar's greatness was too much for him. He could never again hope to be the first on the popular side, and he preferred being the saviour of the Constitution to playing second to a person whom he had patronized. Pompey ought long since to have been in Spain with his troops; but he had stayed at Rome to keep order, and he had lingered on with the same pretext. The first step was to weaken Caesar and to provide Pompey with a force in Italy. The Senate discovered suddenly that Asia Minor was in danger from, the Parthians. They voted that Caesar and Pompey must each spare a legion for the East. Pompey gave as his part the legion which he had lent to Caesar for the last campaign. Caesar was invited to restore it and to furnish another of his own. Caesar was then in Belgium. He saw the object of the demand perfectly clearly; but he sent the two legions without a word, contenting himself with making handsome presents to the officers and men on their leaving him. When they reached Italy the Senate found that they were wanted for home service, and they were placed under Pompey's command in Campania. The consuls chosen for the year 49 were Lucius Cornelius Lentulus and Caius Marcellus, both of them Caesar's open enemies. Caesar himself had been promised the consulship (there could be no doubt of his election, if his name was accepted in his absence) for the year 48. He was to remain with his troops till his term had run out, and to be allowed to stand while still in command. This was the distinct engagement which the assembly had ratified. After the consular election had been secured in the autumn of 50 to the conservative candidates, it was proposed that by a displacement of dates Caesar's government should expire, not at the close of the tenth year, but in the spring, on the 1st of March. Convenient constitutional excuses were found for the change. On the 1st of March he was to cease to be governor of Gaul. A successor was to be named to take over his army. He would then have to return to Rome, and would lie at the mercy of his enemies. Six months would intervene before the next elections, during which he might be impeached, incapacitated, or otherwise disposed of; while Pompey and his two legions could effectually prevent any popular disturbance in his favor. The Senate hesitated before decisively voting the recall. An intimation was conveyed to Caesar that he had been mistaken about his term, which would end sooner than he had supposed; and the world was waiting to see how he would take it. Atticus thought that he would give way. His having parted so easily with two legions did not look like resistance. Marcus Caelius, a correspondent of Cicero, who had been elected praetor for 49, and kept his friend informed how things were going on, wrote in the autumn:

"All is at a standstill about the Gallic government. The subject has been raised, and is again postponed. Pompey's view is plain that Caesar must leave his province after the 1st of March ... but he does not think that before that time the Senate can properly pass a resolution about it. After the 1st of March he will have no hesitation. When he was asked what he would do if a tribune interposed, he said it made no difference whether Caesar himself disobeyed the Senate or provided some one else to interfere with the Senate. Suppose, said one, Caesar wishes to be consul and to keep his army. Pompey answered, 'What if my son wishes to lay a stick on my back'.... It appears that Caesar will accept one or other of two conditions: either to remain in his province, and postpone his claim for the consulship; or, if he can be named for the consulship, then to retire. Curio is all against him. What he can accomplish, I know not; but I perceive this, that if Caesar means well, he will not be overthrown." [6]

The object of the Senate was either to ruin Caesar, if he complied with this order, or to put him in the wrong by provoking him to disobedience. The scheme was ingenious; but if the Senate could mine, Caesar could countermine. Caelius said that Curio was violent against him: and so Curio had been. Curio was a young man of high birth, dissolute, extravagant, and clever. His father, who had been consul five-and-twenty years before, was a strong aristocrat and a close friend of Cicero's. The son had taken the same line; but, among other loose companions, he had made the acquaintance, to his father's regret, of Mark Antony, and though they had hitherto been of opposite politics, the intimacy had continued. The Senate's influence had made Curio tribune for the year 49. Antony had been chosen tribune also. To the astonishment of everybody but Cicero, it appeared that these two, who were expected to neutralize each other, were about to work together, and to veto every resolution which seemed an unfair return for Caesar's services. Scandal said that young Curio was in money difficulties, and that Caesar had paid his debts for him. It was perhaps a lie invented by political malignity; but if Curio was purchasable, Caesar would not have hesitated to buy him. His habit was to take facts as they were, and, when satisfied that his object was just, to go the readiest way to it.

The desertion of their own tribune was a serious blow to the Senate. Caelius, who was to be praetor, was inclining to think that Caesar would win, and therefore might take his side also. The constitutional opposition would then be extremely strong; and even Pompey, fiercely as he had spoken, doubted what to do. The question was raised in the Senate, whether the tribunes' vetoes were to be regarded. Marcellus, who had flogged the citizen of Como, voted for defying them, but the rest were timid. Pompey did not know his own mind.[7] Caelius's account of his own feelings in the matter represented probably those of many besides himself.

"In civil quarrels," he wrote to Cicero, "we ought to go with the most honest party, as long as the contest lies within constitutional limits. When it is an affair of camps and battles, we must go with the strongest. Pompey will have the Senate and the men of consideration with him. All the discontented will go with Caesar. I must calculate the forces on both sides, before I decide on my own part." [8]

When the question next came on in the Senate, Curio, being of course instructed in Caesar's wishes, professed to share the anxiety lest there should be a military Dictatorship; but he said that the danger was as great from Pompey as from Caesar. He did not object to the recall of Caesar, but Pompey, he thought, should resign his province also, and the Constitution would then be out of peril. Pompey professed to be willing, if the Senate desired it; but he insisted that Caesar must take the first step. Curio's proposal was so fair, that it gained favor both in Forum and Senate. The populace, who hated Pompey, threw flowers upon the tribune as he passed. Marcellus, the consul, a few days later, put the question in the Senate: Was Caesar to be recalled? A majority answered Yes. Was Pompey to be deprived of his province? The same majority said No. Curio then proposed that both Pompey and Caesar should dismiss their armies. Out of three hundred and ninety-two senators present, three hundred and seventy agreed. Marcellus told them bitterly that they had voted themselves Caesar's slaves. But they were not all insane with envy and hatred, and in the midst of their terrors they retained some prudence, perhaps some conscience and sense of justice. By this time, however, the messengers who had been sent to communicate the Senate's views to Caesar had returned. They brought no positive answer from himself; but they reported that Caesar's troops were worn out and discontented, and certainly would refuse to support him in any violent action. How false their account of the army was, the Senate had soon reason to know; but it was true that one, and he the most trusted officer that Caesar had, Labienus, who had fought through so many battles with him in the Forum as well as in the field, whose high talents and character his Commentaries could never praise sufficiently—it was true that Labienus had listened to the offers made to him. Labienus had made a vast fortune in the war. He perhaps thought, as other distinguished officers have done, that he was the person that had won the victories; that without him Caesar, who was being so much praised and glorified, would have been nothing; and that he at least was entitled to an equal share of the honors and rewards that might be coming; while if Caesar was to be disgraced, he might have the whole recompense for himself. Caesar heard of these overtures; but he had refused to believe that Labienus could be untrue to him. He showed his confidence, and he showed at the same time the integrity of his own intentions, by appointing the officer who was suspected of betraying him Lieutenant-General of the Cisalpine Province. None the less it was true that Labienus had been won over. Labienus had undertaken for his comrades; and the belief that Caesar could not depend on his troops renewed Pompey's courage and gave heart to the faction which wished to precipitate extremities. The aspect of things was now altered. What before seemed rash and dangerous might be safely ventured. Caesar had himself followed the messengers to Ravenna. To raise the passions of men to the desired heat, a report was spread that he had brought his troops across and was marching on Rome. Curio hastened off to him, to bring back under his own hand a distinct declaration of his views.

It was at this crisis, in the middle of the winter 50-49, that Cicero returned to Rome. He had held his government but for two years, and instead of escaping the catastrophe, he found himself plunged into the heart of it. He had managed his province well. No one ever suspected Cicero of being corrupt or unjust. He had gained some respectable successes in putting down the Cilician banditti. He had been named imperator by his soldiers in the field after an action in which he had commanded; he had been flattering himself with the prospect of a triumph, and had laid up money to meet the cost of it. The quarrel between the two great men whom he had so long feared and flattered, and the necessity which might be thrown on him of declaring publicly on one side or the other, agitated him terribly. In October, as he was on his way home, he expressed his anxieties with his usual frankness to Atticus.

"Consider the problem for me," he said, "as it affects myself: you advised me to keep on terms both with Pompey and Caesar. You bade me adhere to one because he had been good to me, and to the other because he was strong. I have done so. I so ordered matters that no one could be dearer to either of them than I was. I reflected thus: while I stand by Pompey, I cannot hurt the Commonwealth; if I agree with Caesar, I need not quarrel with Pompey; so closely they appeared to be connected. But now they are at a sharp issue. Each regards me as his friend, unless Caesar dissembles; while Pompey is right in thinking that what he proposes I shall approve. I heard from both at the time at which I heard from you. Their letters were most polite. What am I to do? I don't mean in extremities. If it comes to fighting, it will be better to be defeated with one than to conquer with the other. But when I arrive at Rome, I shall be required to say if Caesar is to be proposed for the consulship in his absence, or if he is to dismiss his army. What must I answer? Wait till I have consulted Atticus? That will not do. Shall I go against Caesar? Where are Pompey's resources? I myself took Caesar's part about it. He spoke to me on the subject at Ravenna. I recommended his request to the tribunes as a reasonable one. Pompey talked with me also to the same purpose. Am I to change my mind? I am ashamed to oppose him now. Will you have a fool's opinion? I will apply for a triumph, and so I shall have an excuse for not entering the city. You will laugh. But oh, I wish I had remained in my province. Could I but have guessed what was impending! Think for me. How shall I avoid displeasing Caesar? He writes most kindly about a 'Thanksgiving' for my success." [9]

Caesar had touched the right point in congratulating Cicero on his military exploits. His friends in the Senate had been less delicate. Bibulus had. been thanked for hiding from the Parthians. When Cicero had hinted his expectations, the Senate had passed to the order of the day.

"Cato," he wrote, "treats me scurvily. He gives me praise for justice, clemency, and integrity, which I did not want. What I did want he will not let me have. Caesar promises me everything.—Cato has given a twenty days' thanksgiving to Bibulus. Pardon me, if this is more than I can bear.—But I am relieved from my worst fear. The Parthians have left Bibulus half alive." [10]

The shame wore off as Cicero drew near to Rome. He blamed the tribunes for insisting on what he had himself declared to be just. "Any way," he said, "I stick to Pompey. When they say to me, Marcus Tullius, what do you think? I shall answer, I go with Pompey; but privately I shall advise Pompey to come to terms.—We have to do with a man full of audacity and completely prepared. Every felon, every citizen who is in disgrace or ought to be in disgrace, almost all the young, the city mob, the tribunes, debtors, who are more numerous than I could have believed, all these are with Caesar. He wants nothing but a good cause, and war is always uncertain." [11]

Pompey had been unwell at the beginning of December, and had gone for a few days into the country. Cicero met him on the 10th. "We were two hours together," he said. "Pompey was delighted at my arrival. He spoke of my triumph, and promised to do his part. He advised me to keep away from the Senate, till it was arranged, lest I should offend the tribunes. He spoke of war as certain. Not a word did he utter pointing to a chance of compromise.—My comfort is that Caesar, to whom even his enemies had allowed a second consulship, and to whom fortune had given so much power, will not be so mad as to throw all this away." [12] Cicero had soon to learn that the second consulship was not so certain. On the 29th he had another long conversation with Pompey.

"Is there hope of peace?" he wrote, in reporting what had passed. "So far as I can gather from his very full expressions to me, he does not desire it. For he thinks thus: If Caesar be made consul, even after he has parted from his army, the constitution will be at an end. He thinks also that when Caesar hears of the preparations against him, he will drop the consulship for this year, to keep his province and his troops. Should he be so insane as to try extremities, Pompey holds him in utter contempt. I thought, when he was speaking, of the uncertainties of war; but I was relieved to hear a man of courage and experience talk like a statesman of the dangers of an insincere settlement.—Not only he does not seek for peace, but he seems to fear it.—My own vexation is, that I must pay Caesar my debt, and spend thus what I had set apart for my triumph. It is indecent to owe money to a political antagonist." [13]

Events were hurrying on. Cicero entered Rome the first week in January, to find that the Senate had begun work in earnest. Curio had returned from Ravenna with a letter from Caesar. He had offered three alternatives. First, that the agreement already made might stand, and that he might be nominated, in his absence, for the consulship; or that when he left his army, Pompey should disband his Italian legions; or, lastly, that he should hand over Transalpine Gaul to his successor, with eight of his ten legions, himself keeping the north of Italy and Illyria with two, until his election. It was the first of January. The new consuls, Lentulus and Caius Marcellus, with the other magistrates, had entered on their offices, and were in their places in the Senate. Pompey was present, and the letter was introduced. The consuls objected to it being read, but they were overruled by the remonstrances of the tribunes. The reading over, the consuls forbade a debate upon it, and moved that the condition of the Commonwealth should be taken into consideration. Lentulus, the more impassioned of them, said that if the Senate would be firm, he would do his duty; if they hesitated and tried conciliation, he should take care of himself, and go over to Caesar's side. Metellus Scipio, Pompey's father- in-law, spoke to the same purpose. Pompey, he said, was ready to support the constitution, if the Senate were resolute. If they wavered, they would look in vain for future help from him. Marcus Marcellus, the consul of the preceding year, less wild than he had been when he flogged the Como citizen, advised delay, at least till Pompey was better prepared. Calidius, another senator, moved that Pompey should go to his province. Caesar's resentment at the detention of the two legions from the Parthian war he thought, was natural and justifiable. Marcus Rufus agreed with Calidius. But moderation was borne down by the violence of Lentulus; and the Senate, in spite of themselves,[14] voted, at Scipio's dictation, that Caesar must dismiss his army before a day which was to be fixed, or, in default, would be declared an enemy to the State. Two tribunes, Mark Antony and Cassius Longinus, interposed. The tribunes' veto was as old as their institution. It had been left standing even by Sylla. But the aristocracy were declaring war against the people. They knew that the veto was coming, and they had resolved to disregard it. The more passionate the speakers, the more they were cheered by Caesar's enemies. The sitting ended in the evening without a final conclusion; but at a meeting afterwards, at his house, Pompey quieted alarms by assuring the senators that there was nothing to fear. Caesar's army he knew to be disaffected. He introduced the officers of the two legions that had been taken from Caesar, who vouched for their fidelity to the constitution. Some of Pompey's veterans were present, called up from their farms; they were enthusiastic for their old commander. Piso, Caesar's father-in-law, and Roscius, a praetor, begged for a week's delay, that they might go to Caesar, and explain the Senate's pleasure. Others proposed to send a deputation to soften the harshness of his removal. But Lentulus, backed by Cato, would listen to nothing. Cato detested Caesar as the representative of everything which he most abhorred. Lentulus, bankrupt and loaded with debts, was looking for provinces to ruin, and allied sovereigns to lay presents at his feet. He boasted that he would be a second Sylla.[15] When the Senate met again in their places, the tribunes' veto was disallowed. They ordered a general levy through Italy. The consuls gave Pompey the command-in-chief, with the keys of the treasury. The Senate redistributed the provinces; giving Syria to Scipio, and in Caesar's place appointing Domitius Ahenobarbus, the most inveterate and envenomed of his enemies. Their authority over the provinces had been taken from them by law, but law was set aside. Finally, they voted the State in danger, suspended the constitution, and gave the consuls absolute power.

The final votes were taken on the 7th of January. A single week had sufficed for a discussion of the resolutions on which the fate of Rome depended. The Senate pretended to be defending the constitution. They had themselves destroyed the constitution, and established on the ruins of it a senatorial oligarchy. The tribunes fled at once to Caesar. Pompey left the city for Campania, to join his two legions and superintend the levies.

The unanimity which had appeared in the Senate's final determination was on the surface only. Cicero, though present in Rome, had taken no part, and looked on in despair. The "good" were shocked at Pompey's precipitation. They saw that a civil war could end only in a despotism. [16] "I have not met one man," Cicero said, "who does not think it would be better to make concessions to Caesar than to fight him.—Why fight now? Things are no worse than when we gave him his additional five years, or agreed to let him be chosen consul in his absence. You wish for my opinion. I think we ought to use every means to escape war. But I must say what Pompey says. I cannot differ from Pompey." [17]

A day later, before the final vote had been taken, he thought still that the Senate was willing to let Caesar keep his province, if he would dissolve his army. The moneyed interests, the peasant landholders, were all on Caesar's side; they cared not even if monarchy came so that they might have peace. "We could have resisted Caesar easily when he was weak," he wrote. "Now he has eleven legions and as many cavalry as he chooses with him, the Cisalpine provincials, the Roman populace, the tribunes, and the hosts of dissolute young men. Yet we are to fight with him, or take account of him unconstitutionally. Fight, you say, rather than be a slave. Fight for what? To be proscribed, if you are beaten; to be a slave still, if you win. What will you do then? you ask. As the sheep follows the flock and the ox the herd, so will I follow the 'good,' or those who are called good, but I see plainly what will come out of this sick state of ours. No one knows what the fate of war may be. But if the 'good' are beaten, this much is certain, that Caesar will be as bloody as Cinna, and as greedy of other men's properties as Sylla." [18]

Once more, and still in the midst of uncertainty:

"The position is this: We must either let Caesar stand for the consulship, he keeping his army with the Senate's consent, or supported by the tribunes; or we must persuade him to resign his province and his army, and so to be consul; or if he refuses, the elections can be held without him, he keeping his province; or if he forbids the election through the tribunes, we can hang on and come to an interrex; or, lastly, if he brings his army on us, we can fight. Should this be his choice, he will either begin at once, before we are ready, or he will wait till his election, when his friends will put in his name and it will not be received. His plea may then be the ill-treatment of himself, or it may be complicated further should a tribune interpose and be deprived of office, and so take refuge with him.... You will say persuade Caesar, then, to give up his army, and be consul. Surely, if he will agree, no objection can be raised; and if he is not allowed to stand while he keeps his army, I wonder that he does not let it go. But a certain person (Pompey) thinks that nothing is so much to be feared as that Caesar should be consul. Better thus, you will say, than with an army. No doubt. But a certain person holds that his consulship would be an irremediable misfortune. We must yield if Caesar will have it so. He will be consul again, the same man that he was before; then, weak as he was, he proved stronger than the whole of us. What, think you, will he be now? Pompey, for one thing, will surely be sent to Spain. Miserable every way; and the worst is, that Caesar cannot be refused, and by consenting will be taken into supreme favor by all the 'good.' They say, however, that he cannot be brought to this. Well, then, which is the worst of the remaining alternatives? Submit to what Pompey calls an impudent demand? Caesar has held his province for ten years. The Senate did not give it him. He took it himself by faction and violence. Suppose he had it lawfully, the time is up. His successor is named. He disobeys. He says that he ought to be considered. Let him consider us. Will he keep his army beyond the time for which the people gave it to him, in despite of the Senate? We must fight him then, and, as Pompey says, we shall conquer or die free men. If fight we must, time will show when or how. But if you have any advice to give, let me know it, for I am tormented day and night." [19]

These letters give a vivid picture of the uncertainties which distracted public opinion during the fatal first week of January. Caesar, it seems, might possibly have been consul had he been willing to retire at once into the condition of a private citizen, even though Pompey was still undisarmed. Whether in that position he would have lived to see the election-day is another question. Cicero himself, it will be seen, had been reflecting already that there were means less perilous than civil war by which dangerous persons might be got rid of. And there were weak points in his arguments which his impatience passed over. Caesar held a positive engagement about his consulship, which the people had ratified. Of the ten years which the people had allowed him, one was unexpired, and the Senate had no power to vote his recall without the tribunes' and the people's consent. He might well hesitate to put himself in the power of a faction so little scrupulous. It is evident, however, that Pompey and the two consuls were afraid that, if such overtures were made to him by a deputation from the Senate, he might perhaps agree to them; and by their rapid and violent vote they put an end to the possibility of an arrangement. Caesar, for no other crime than that as a brilliant democratic general he was supposed dangerous to the oligarchy, had been recalled from his command in the face of the prohibition of the tribunes, and was declared an enemy of his country unless he instantly submitted. After the experience of Marius and Sylla, the Senate could have paid no higher compliment to Caesar's character than in believing that he would hesitate over his answer.

[1] "Caelius ad Ciceronem," Ad Fam. viii. 10.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Suetonius, De Vita Julii Caesaris.

[4] "Marcellus foede do Comensi. Etsi ille magistratum non gesserat, erat tamen Transpadanus. Ita mihi videtur non minus stomachi nostro ac Caesari fecisse."—To Atticus, v. 11.

[5] "Quod ad Caesarem crebri et non belli de eo rumores. Sed susurratores dumtaxat veniunt.... Neque adhuc certi quidquam est, neque haec incerta tamen vulgo jactantur. Sed inter paucos, quos tu nosti, palam secreto narrantur. At Domitius cum manus ad os apposuit!"—Caelius to Cicero, Ad Fam. viii. 1.

[6] Caelius to Cicero, Ad Fam. viii. 8.

[7] Ibid., viii. 13.

[8] Caelius to Cicero, Ad Fam. viii. 14.

[9] To Atticus, vii. 1, abridged.

[10] Ibid., vii. 2.

[11] Ibid., vii. 3.

[12] To Atticus, vii. 4.

[13] "Mihi autem illud molestissimum est, quod solvendi sunt nummi Caesari, et instrumentum triumphi eo conferendum. Est [Greek: amorphon hantipoliteuomenou chreopheiletaen] esse."—Ibid., vii. 8.

[14] "Inviti et coacti" is Caesar's expression. He wished, perhaps, to soften the Senate's action. (De Bello Civili, i. 2.)

[15] "Seque alterum fore Sullam inter suos gloriatur."—De Bello Civili, i. 4.

[16] "Tum certe tyrannus existet."—To Atticus, vii. 5.

[17] To Atticus, vii. 6.

[18] Ibid., vii. 7, abridged.

[19] To Atticus, vii. 9, abridged.


Caesar, when the report of the Senate's action reached him, addressed his soldiers. He had but one legion with him, the 13th. But one legion would represent the rest. He told them what the Senate had done, and why they had done it. "For nine years he and his army had served their country loyally and with some success. They had driven the Germans over the Rhine; they had made Gaul a Roman province; and the Senate for answer had broken the constitution, and had set aside the tribunes because they spoke in his defence. They had voted the State in danger, and had called Italy to arms when no single act had been done by himself to justify them." The soldiers whom—Pompey supposed disaffected declared with enthusiasm that they would support their commander and the tribunes. They offered to serve without pay. Officers and men volunteered contributions for the expenses of the war. In all the army one officer alone proved false. Labienus kept his word to Pompey and stole away to Capua. He left his effects behind, and Caesar sent them after him untouched.

Finding that all the rest could be depended on, he sent back over the Alps for two more legions to follow him. He crossed the little river Rubicon, which bounded his province, and advanced to Rimini, where he met the tribunes, Antony, Cassius Longinus, and Curio, who were coming to him from Rome.[1] At Rimini the troops were again assembled. Curio told them what had passed. Caesar added a few more words. The legionaries, officers and privates, were perfectly satisfied; and Caesar, who, a resolution once taken, struck as swiftly as his own eagles, was preparing to go forward. He had but 5,000 men with him, but he understood the state of Italy, and knew that he had nothing to fear. At this moment Lucius Caesar, a distant kinsman, and the praetor Roscius arrived, as they said, with a private message from Pompey. The message was nothing. The object was no more than to gain time. But Caesar had no wish for war, and would not throw away a chance of avoiding it. He bade his kinsman tell Pompey that it was for him to compose the difficulties which had arisen without a collision. He had been himself misrepresented to his countrymen. He had been recalled from his command before his time; the promise given to him about his consulship had been broken. He had endured these injuries. He had proposed to the Senate that the forces on both sides should be disbanded. The Senate had refused. A levy had been ordered through Italy, and the legions designed for Parthia had been retained. Such an attitude could have but one meaning. Yet he was still ready to make peace. Let Pompey depart to Spain. His own troops should then be dismissed. The elections could be held freely, and Senate and people would be restored to their joint authority. If this was not enough, they two might meet and relieve each other's alarms and suspicions in a personal interview.

With this answer the envoys went, and Caesar paused at Rimini. Meanwhile the report reached Rome that Caesar had crossed the Rubicon. The aristocracy had nursed the pleasant belief that his heart would fail him, or that his army would desert him. His heart had not failed, his army had not deserted; and, in their terror, they saw him already in their midst like an avenging Marius. He was coming. His horse had been seen on the Apennines. Flight, instant flight, was the only safety. Up they rose, consuls, praetors, senators, leaving wives and children and property to their fate, not halting even to take the money out of the treasury, but contenting themselves with leaving it locked. On foot, on horseback, in litters, in carriages, they fled for their lives to find safety under Pompey's wing in Capua. In this forlorn company went Cicero, filled with contempt for what was round him.

"You ask what Pompey means to do," he wrote to Atticus. "I do not think he knows himself. Certainly none of us know.—It is all panic and blunder. We are uncertain whether he will make a stand, or leave Italy. If he stays, I fear his army is too unreliable. If not, where will he go, and how and what are his plans? Like you, I am afraid that Caesar will be a Phalaris, and that we may expect the very worst. The flight of the Senate, the departure of the magistrates, the closing of the treasury, will not stop him.—I am broken-hearted; so ill-advisedly, so against all my counsels, the whole business has been conducted. Shall I turn my coat, and join the victors? I am ashamed. Duty forbids me; but I am miserable at the thought of my children." [2]

A gleam of hope came with the arrival of Labienus, but it soon clouded. "Labienus is a hero," Cicero said. "Never was act more splendid. If nothing else comes of it, he has at least made Caesar smart.—We have a civil war on us, not because we have quarrelled among ourselves, but through one abandoned citizen. But this citizen has a strong army, and a large party attached to him.—What he will do I cannot say; he cannot even pretend to do anything constitutionally; but what is to become of us, with a general that cannot lead?—To say nothing of ten years of blundering, what could have been worse than this flight from Rome? His next purpose I know not. I ask, and can have no answer. All is cowardice and confusion. He was kept at home to protect us, and protection there is none. The one hope is in two legions invidiously detained and almost not belonging to us. As to the levies, the men enlist unwillingly, and hate the notion of a war." [3]

In this condition of things Lucius Caesar arrived with the answer from Rimini. A council of war was held at Teano to consider it; and the flames which had burnt so hotly at the beginning of the month were found to have somewhat cooled. Cato's friend Favonius was still defiant; but the rest, even Cato himself, had grown more modest. Pompey, it was plain, had no army, and could not raise an army. Caesar spoke fairly. It might be only treachery; but the Senate had left their families and their property in Rome. The public money was in Rome. They were willing to consent that Caesar should be consul, since so it must be. Unluckily for themselves, they left Pompey to draw up their reply. Pompey intrusted the duty to an incapable person named Sestius, and the answer was ill-written, awkward, and wanting on the only point which would have proved his sincerity. Pompey declined the proposed interview. Caesar must evacuate Rimini, and return to his province; afterwards, at some time unnamed, Pompey would go to Spain, and other matters should be arranged to Caesar's satisfaction. Caesar must give securities that he would abide by his promise to dismiss his troops; and meanwhile the consular levies would be continued.[4]

To Cicero these terms seemed to mean a capitulation clumsily disguised. Caesar interpreted them differently. To him it appeared that he was required to part with his own army, while Pompey was forming another. No time was fixed for the departure to Spain. He might be himself named consul, yet Pompey might be in Italy to the end of the year with an army independent of him. Evidently there was distrust on both sides, yet on Caesar's part a distrust not undeserved. Pompey would not see him. He had admitted to Cicero that he desired a war to prevent Caesar from being consul, and at this very moment was full of hopes and schemes for carrying it on successfully. "Pompey writes," reported Cicero on the 28th of January, "that in a few days he will have a force on which he can rely. He will occupy Picenum,[5] and we are then to return to Rome. Labienus assures him that Caesar is utterly weak. Thus he is in better spirits." [6]

[Sidenote: February, B.C. 49.] A second legion had by this time arrived at Rimini. Caesar considered that if the Senate really desired peace, their disposition would be quickened by further pressure. He sent Antony across the mountains to Arezzo, on the straight road to Rome; and he pushed on himself toward Ancona, before Pompey had time to throw himself in the way. The towns on the way opened their gates to him. The municipal magistrates told the commandants that they could not refuse to entertain Caius Caesar, who had done such great things for the Republic. The officers fled. The garrisons joined Caesar's legions. Even a colony planted by Labienus sent a deputation with offers of service. Steadily and swiftly in gathering volume the army of the north came on. At Capua all was consternation. "The consuls are helpless," Cicero said. "There has been no levy. The commissioners do not even try to excuse their failure. With Caesar pressing forward and our general doing nothing, men will not give in their names. The will is not wanting, but they are without hope. Pompey, miserable and incredible though it be, is prostrate. He has no courage, no purpose, no force, no energy.... Caius Cassius came on the 7th to Capua, with an order from Pompey to the consuls to go to Rome and bring away the money from the treasury. How are they to go without an escort, or how return? The consuls say he must go himself first to Picenum. But Picenum is lost.—Caesar will soon be in Apulia, and Pompey on board ship. What shall I do? I should not doubt had there not been such shameful mis-management, and had I been myself consulted. Caesar invites me to peace, but his letter was written before his advance." [7]

Desperate at the lethargy of their commander, the aristocracy tried to force him into movement by acting on their own account. Domitius, who had been appointed Caesar's successor, was most interested in his defeat. He gathered a party of young lords and knights and a few thousand men, and flung himself into Corfinium, a strong position in the Apennines, directly in Caesar's path. Pompey had still his two legions, and Domitius sent an express to tell him that Caesar's force was still small, and that with a slight effort he might enclose him in the mountains. Meanwhile Domitius himself tried to break the bridge over the Pescara. He was too late. Caesar had by this time nearly 30,000 men. The Cisalpine territories in mere enthusiasm had raised twenty-two cohorts for him. He reached the Pescara while the bridge was still standing. He surrounded Corfinium with the impregnable lines which had served him so well in Gaul, and the messenger sent to Capua came back with cold comfort. Pompey had simply ordered Domitius to retreat from a position which he ought not to have occupied, and to join him in Apulia. It was easy to say Retreat! No retreat was possible. Domitius and his companions proposed to steal away in the night. They were discovered. Their own troops arrested them, and carried them as prisoners to Caesar. Fortune had placed in his hands at the outset of the campaign the man who beyond others had been the occasion of it. Domitius would have killed Caesar like a bandit if he had caught him. He probably expected a similar fate for himself. Caesar received his captives calmly and coldly. He told them that they had made an ungrateful return to him for his services to his country; and then dismissed them all, restoring even Domitius's well-filled military chest, and too proud to require a promise from him that he would abstain personally from further hostility. His army, such as it was, followed the general example, and declared for Caesar.

The capture of Corfinium and the desertion of the garrison made an end of hesitation. Pompey and the consuls thought only of instant flight, and hurried to Brindisi, where ships were waiting for them; and Caesar, hoping that the evident feeling of Italy would have its effect with the reasonable part of the Senate, sent Cornelius Balbus, who was on intimate terms with many of them, to assure them of his eagerness for peace, and to tell Cicero especially that he would be well contented to live under Pompey's rule if he could have a guarantee for his personal safety.[8]

[Sidenote: March B.C. 49.] Cicero's trials had been great, and were not diminishing. The account given by Balbus was simply incredible to him. If Caesar was really as well disposed as Balbus represented, then the senatorial party, himself included, had acted like a set of madmen. It might be assumed, therefore, that Caesar was as meanly ambitious, as selfish, as revolutionary as their fears had represented him, and that his mildness was merely affectation. But what then? Cicero wished for himself to be on the right side, but also to be on the safe side. Pompey's was the right side, the side, that is, which, for his own sake, he would prefer to see victorious. But was Pompey's the safe side? or rather, would it be safe to go against him? The necessity for decision was drawing closer. If Pompey and the consuls went abroad, all loyal senators would be expected to follow them, and to stay behind would be held treason. Italy was with Caesar; but the East, with its treasures, its fleets, its millions of men, this was Pompey's, heart and soul. The sea was Pompey's. Caesar might win for the moment, but Pompey might win in the long run. The situation was most perplexing. Before the fall of Corfinium, Cicero had poured himself out upon it to his friend. "My connections, personal and political," he said, "attach me to Pompey. If I stay behind, I desert my noble and admirable companions, and I fall into the power of a man whom I know not how far I can trust. He shows in many ways that he wishes me well. I saw the tempest impending, and I long ago took care to secure his good-will. But suppose him to be my friend indeed, is it becoming in a good and valiant citizen, who has held the highest offices and done such distinguished things, to be in the power of any man? Ought I to expose myself to the danger, and perhaps disgrace, which would lie before me, should Pompey recover his position? This on one side; but now look at the other. Pompey has shown neither conduct nor courage, and he has acted throughout against my advice and judgment. I pass over his old errors: how he himself armed this man against the constitution; how he supported his laws by violence in the face of the auspices; how he gave him Further Gaul, married his daughter, supported Clodius, helped me back from exile indeed, but neglected me afterward; how he prolonged Caesar's command, and backed him up in everything; how in his third consulship, when he had begun to defend the constitution, he yet moved the tribunes to curry a resolution for taking Caesar's name in his absence, and himself sanctioned it by a law of his own; how he resisted Marcus Marcellus, who would have ended Caesar's government on the 1st of March. Let us forget all this: but what was ever more disgraceful than the flight from Rome? What conditions would not have been preferable? He will restore the constitution, you say, but when? by what means? Is not Picenum lost? Is not the road open to the city? Is not our money, public and private, all the enemy's? There is no cause, no rallying point for the friends of the constitution.... The rabble are all for Caesar, and many wish for revolution.... I saw from the first that Pompey only thought of flight: if I now follow him, whither are we to go? Caesar will seize my brother's property and mine, ours perhaps sooner than others', as an assault on us would be popular. If I stay, I shall do no more than many good men did in Cinna's time.—Caesar may be my friend, not certainly, but perhaps; and he may offer me a triumph which it would be dangerous to refuse, and invidious with the "good" to accept. Oh, most perplexing position!—while I write, word comes that Caesar is at Corfinium. Domitius is inside, with a strong force and eager to fight. I cannot think Pompey will desert him." [9]

[Sidenote: February, B.C. 49.] Pompey did desert Domitius, as has been seen. The surrender of Corfinium, and the circumstances of it, gave Cicero the excuse which he evidently desired to find for keeping clear of a vessel that appeared to him to be going straight to shipwreck. He pleased himself with inventing evil purposes for Pompey, to justify his leaving him. He thought it possible that Domitius and his friends might have been purposely left to fall into Caesar's hands, in the hope that Caesar would kill them and make himself unpopular. Pompey, he was satisfied, meant as much to be a despot as Caesar. Pompey might have defended Rome, if he had pleased; but his purpose was to go away and raise a great fleet and a great Asiatic army, and come back and ruin Italy, and be a new "Sylla." [10] In his distress Cicero wrote both to Caesar and to Pompey, who was now at Brindisi. To Caesar he said that, if he wished for peace, he might command his services. He had always considered that Caesar had been wronged in the course which had been pursued toward him. Envy and ill-nature had tried to rob him of the honors which had been conferred on him by the Roman people. He protested that he had himself supported Caesar's claims, and had advised others to do the same. But he felt for Pompey also, he said, and would gladly be of service to him.[11]

To Pompey he wrote:

[Sidenote: March, B.C. 49.] "My advice was always for peace, even on hard terms. I wished you to remain in Rome. You never hinted that you thought of leaving Italy. I accepted your opinion, not for the constitution's sake, for I despaired of saving it. The constitution is gone, and cannot be restored without a destructive war; but I wished to be with you, and if I can join you now, I will. I know well that my conduct has not pleased those who desired to fight. I urged peace; not because I did not fear what they feared, but because I thought peace a less evil than war. When the war had begun and overtures were made to you, you responded so amply and so honorably that I hoped I had prevailed.... I was never more friendly with Caesar than they were; nor were they more true to the State than I. The difference between us is this, that while they and I are alike good citizens, I preferred an arrangement, and you, I thought, agreed with me. They chose to fight, and as their counsels have been taken, I can but do my duty as a member of the Commonwealth, and as a friend to you." [12]

* * * * *

In this last sentence Cicero gives his clear opinion that the aristocracy had determined upon war, and that for this reason and no other the attempted negotiations had failed. Caesar, hoping that a better feeling might arise after his dismissal of Domitius, had waited a few days at Corfinium. Finding that Pompey had gone to Brindisi, he then followed, trusting to overtake him before he could leave Italy, and again by messengers pressed him earnestly for an interview. By desertions, and by the accession of volunteers, Caesar had now six legions with him. If Pompey escaped, he knew that the war would be long and dangerous. If he could capture him, or persuade him to an agreement, peace could easily be preserved. When he arrived outside the town, the consuls with half the army had already gone. Pompey was still in Brindisi, with 12,000 men, waiting till the transports could return to carry him after them. Pompey again refused to see Caesar, and, in the absence of the consuls, declined further discussion. Caesar tried to blockade him, but for want of ships was unable to close the harbor. The transports came back, and Pompey sailed for Durazzo.[13]

A few extracts and abridgments of letters will complete the picture of this most interesting time.

Cicero to Atticus.[14]

"Observe the man into whose hands we have fallen. How keen he is, how alert, how well prepared! By Jove, if he does not kill any one, and spares the property of those who are so terrified, he will be in high favor. I talk with the tradesmen and farmers. They care for nothing but their lands, and houses, and money. They have gone right round. They fear the man they trusted, and love the man they feared; and all this through our own blunders. I am sick to think of it."

Balbus to Cicero.[15]

"Pompey and Caesar have been divided by perfidious villains. I beseech you, Cicero, use your influence to bring them together again. Believe me, Caesar will not only do all you wish, but will hold you to have done him essential service. Would that I could say as much of Pompey, who I rather wish than hope may be brought to terms! You have pleased Caesar by begging Lentulus to stay in Italy, and you have more than pleased me. If he will listen to you, will trust to what I tell him of Caesar, and will go back to Rome, between you and him and the Senate, Caesar and Pompey may be reconciled. If I can see this, I shall have lived long enough. I know you will approve of Caesar's conduct at Corfinium."

Cicero to Atticus.[16]

"My preparations are complete. I wait till I can go by the upper sea; I cannot go by the lower at this season. I must start soon, lest I be detained. I do not go for Pompey's sake. I have long known him to be the worst of politicians, and I know him now for the worst of generals. I go because I am sneered at by the optimates. Precious optimates! What are they about now? Selling themselves to Caesar? The towns receive Caesar as a god. When this Pisistratus does them no harm, they are as grateful to him as if he had protected them from others. What receptions will they not give him? What honors will they not heap upon him? They are afraid, are they? By Hercules, it is Pompey that they are afraid of. Caesar's treacherous clemency enchants them. Who are these optimates, that insist that I must leave Italy, while they remain? Let them be who they may, I am ashamed to stay, though I know what to expect. I shall join a man who means not to conquer Italy, but to lay it waste."

Cicero to Atticus.[17]

"Ought a man to remain in his country after it has fallen under a tyranny? Ought a man to use any means to overthrow a tyranny, though he may ruin his country in doing it? Ought he not rather to try to mend matters by argument as opportunity offers? Is it right to make war on one's country for the sake of liberty? Should a man adhere at all risks to one party, though he considers them on the whole to have been a set of fools? Is a person who has been his country's greatest benefactor, and has been rewarded by envy and ill usage, to volunteer into danger for such a party? May he not retire, and live quietly with his family, and leave public affairs to their fate?

"I amused myself as times passes with these speculations."

Cicero to Atticus.[18]

"Pompey has sailed. I am pleased to find that you approve of my remaining. My efforts now are to persuade Caesar to allow me to be absent from the Senate, which is soon to meet. I fear he will refuse. I have been deceived in two points. I expected an arrangement; and now I perceive that Pompey has resolved upon a cruel and deadly war. By Heaven, he would have shown himself a better citizen, and a better man, had he borne anything sooner than have taken in hand such a purpose."

Cicero to Atticus.[19]

"Pompey is aiming at a monarchy after the type of Sylla. I know what I say. Never did he show his hand more plainly. Has he not a good cause? The very best. But mark me, it will be carried out most foully. He means to strangle Rome and Italy with famine, and then waste and burn the country, and seize the property of all who have any. Caesar may do as ill; but the prospect is frightful. The fleets from Alexandria, Colchis, Sidon, Cyprus, Pamphylia, Lycia, Rhodes, Chios, Byzantium, will be employed to cut off our supplies, and then Pompey himself will come in his wrath."

Cicero to Atticus.[20]

"I think I have been mad from the beginning of this business. Why did not I follow Pompey when things were at their worst? I found him (at Capua) full of fears. I knew then what he would do, and I did not like it. He made blunder on blunder. He never wrote to me, and only thought of flight. It was disgraceful. But now my love for him revives. Books and philosophy please me no more. Like the sad bird, I gaze night and day over the sea, and long to fly away.[21] Were flight the worst, it would be nothing, but I dread this terrible war, the like of which has never been seen. The word will be, 'Sylla could do thus and thus; and why should not I?' Sylla, Marius, Cinna, had each a constitutional cause, yet how cruel was their victory! I shrank from war because I saw that something still more cruel was now intended. I, whom some have called the saviour and parent of my country! I to bring Getes, and Armenians, and Colchians upon Italy! I to famish my fellow-citizens and waste their lands! Caesar, I reflected, was in the first place but mortal; and then there were many ways in which he might be got rid of.[22] But, as you say, the sun has fallen out of the sky. The sick man thinks that while there is life there is hope. I continued to hope as long as Pompey was in Italy. Now your letters are my only consolation."

* * * * *

"Caesar was but mortal!" The rapture with which Cicero hailed Caesar's eventual murder explains too clearly the direction in which his thoughts were already running. If the life of Caesar alone stood between his country and the resurrection of the constitution, Cicero might well think, as others have done, that it was better that one man should die rather than the whole nation perish. We read the words with sorrow, and yet with pity. That Cicero, after his past flatteries of Caesar, after the praises which he was yet to heap on him, should yet have looked on his assassination as a thing to be desired, throws a saddening light upon his inner nature. But the age was sick with a moral plague, and neither strong nor weak, wise nor unwise, bore any antidote against infection.

[1] The vision on the Rubicon, with the celebrated saying that "the die is cast," is unauthenticated, and not at all consistent with Caesar's character.

[2] Ibid., vii. 12.

[3] "Delectus ... invitorum est et pugnando ab horrentium."—To Atticus, vii. 13.

[4] Compare Caesar's account of these conditions, De Bello Civili, i. 10, with Cicero to Atticus, vii. 17.

[5] Between the Apennines and the Adriatic, about Ancona; in the line of Caesar's march should he advance from Kimini.

[6] To Atticus, vii. 16.

[7] Ibid., vii. 21.

[8] "Balbus quidem major ad me scribit, nihil malle Caesarem, quam principe Pompeio sine metu vivere. Tu puto haec credis."—To Atticus, viii. 9.

[9] To Atticus, viii. 3.

[10] To Atticus, viii. 11.

[11] "Judicavique te bello violari, contra cujus honorem, populi Romani beneficio concessum, inimici atque invidi niterentur. Sed ut eo tempore non modo ipse fautor dignitatis tuae fui, verum etiam caeteris auctor ad te adjuvandum, sic me nunc Pompeii dignitas vehementer movet," etc.—Cicero to Caesar, enclosed in a letter to Atticus, ix. 11.

[12] Enclosed to Atticus, viii. 11.

[13] Pompey had for two years meditated on the course which he was now taking. Atticus had spoken of the intended flight from Italy as base. Cicero answers: "Hoc turpe Cnaeus noster biennio ante cogitavit: ita Sullaturit animus ejus, et diu proscripturit;" "so he apes Sylla and longs for a proscription."—To Atticus, ix. 10.

[14] To Atticus, viii. 13.

[15] Enclosed to Atticus, viii. 15.

[16] To Atticus, viii. 16.

[17] To Atticus, ix. 4.

[18] Ibid., ix. 6.

[19] To Atticus, ix. 7 and 9.

[20] Ibid.

[21] "Ita dies et noctes tanquam avis illa mare prospecto, evolare cupio."

[22] "Hunc primum mortalem esse, deinde etiam multis modis extingui posse cogitabam."—To Atticus, ix. 10.


[Sidenote: April B.C. 49.] Pompey was gone, gone to cover the Mediterranean with fleets which were to starve Italy, and to raise an army which was to bring him back to play Sylla's game once more. The consuls had gone with him, more than half the Senate, and the young patricians, the descendants of the Metelli and the Scipios, with the noble nature melted out of them, and only the pride remaining. Caesar would have chased them at once, and have allowed them no time to organize, but ships were wanting, and he could not wait to form a fleet. Pompey's lieutenants, Afranius and Petreius and Varro, were in Spain, with six legions and the levies of the Province. These had to be promptly dealt with, and Sicily and Sardinia, on which Rome depended for its corn, had to be cleared of enemies, and placed in trustworthy hands. He sent Curio to Sicily and Valerius to Sardinia. Both islands surrendered without resistance, Cato, who was in command in Messina, complaining openly that he had been betrayed. Caesar went himself to Rome, which he had not seen for ten years. He met Cicero by appointment on the road, and pressed him to attend the Senate. Cicero's example, he said, would govern the rest. If his account of the interview be true, Cicero showed more courage than might have been expected from his letters to Atticus. He inquired whether, if he went, he might speak as he pleased; he could not consent to blame Pompey, and he should say that he disapproved of attacks upon him, either in Greece or Spain. Caesar said that he could not permit language of this kind. Cicero answered that he thought as much, and therefore preferred to stay away.[1]Caesar let him take his own course, and went on by himself. The consuls being absent, the Senate was convened by the tribunes, Mark Antony and Cassius Longinus, both officers in Caesar's army. The house was thin, but those present were cold and hostile. They knew by this time that they need fear no violence. They interpreted Caesar's gentleness into timidity, but they were satisfied that, let them do what they pleased, he would not injure them. He addressed the Senate with his usual clearness and simplicity. He had asked, he said, for no extraordinary honors. He had waited the legal period of ten years for a second consulship. A promise had been given that his name should be submitted, and that promise had been withdrawn. He dwelt on his forbearance, on the concessions which he had offered, and again on his unjust recall, and the violent suppression of the legal authority of the tribunes. He had proposed terms of peace, he said; he had asked for interviews, but all in vain. If the Senate feared to commit themselves by assisting him, he declared his willingness to carry on the government in his own name; but he invited them to send deputies to Pompey, to treat for an arrangement.

The Senate approved of sending a deputation; but Pompey had sworn, on leaving, that he would hold all who had not joined him as his enemies; no one, therefore, could be found willing to go. Three days were spent in unmeaning discussion, and Caesar's situation did not allow of trifling. With such people nothing could be done, and peace could be won only by the sword. By an edict of his own he restored the children of the victims of Sylla's proscription to their civil rights and their estates, the usurpers being mostly in Pompey's camp. The assembly of the people voted him the money in the treasury. Metellus, a tribune in Pompey's interest, forbade the opening of the doors, but he was pushed out of the way. Cesar took such money as he needed, and went with his best speed to join his troops in Gaul.

His singular gentleness had encouraged the opposition to him in Rome. In Gaul he encountered another result of his forbearance more practically trying. The Gauls themselves, though so lately conquered in so desperate a struggle, remained quiet. Then, if ever, they had an opportunity of reasserting their independence. They not only did not take advantage of it, but, as if they disdained the unworthy treatment of their great enemy, each tribe sent him, at his request, a body of horse, led by the bravest of their chiefs. His difficulty came from a more tainted source. Marseilles, the most important port in the western Mediterranean, the gate through which the trade of the Province passed in and out, had revolted to Pompey. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who had been dismissed at Corfinium, had been despatched to encourage and assist the townspeople with a squadron of Pompey's fleet. When Caesar arrived, Marseilles closed its gates, and refused to receive him. He could not afford to leave behind him an open door into the Province, and he could ill spare troops for a siege. Afranius and Petreius were already over the Ebro with 30,000 legionaries and with nearly twice as many Spanish auxiliaries. Yet Marseilles must be shut in, and quickly. Fabius was sent forward to hold the passes of the Pyrenees. Caesar's soldiers were set to work in the forest. Trees were cut down and sawn into planks. In thirty days twelve stout vessels, able to hold their own against Domitius, were built and launched and manned. The fleet thus extemporized was trusted to Decimus Brutus. Three legions were left to make approaches, and, if possible, to take the town on the land side; and, leaving Marseilles blockaded by sea and land, Caesar hurried on to the Spanish frontier. The problem before him was worthy of his genius. A protracted war in the peninsula would be fatal. Pompey would return to Italy, and there would be no one to oppose him there. The Spanish army had to be destroyed or captured, and that immediately; and it was stronger than Caesar's own, and was backed by all the resources of the province.

The details of a Roman campaign are no longer interesting. The results, with an outline of the means by which they were brought about, alone concern the modern reader. Pompey's lieutenant, having failed to secure the passes, was lying at Lerida, in Catalonia, at the junction of the Segre and the Naguera, with the Ebro behind them, and with a mountain range, the Sierra de Llena, on their right flank. Their position was impregnable to direct attack. From their rear they drew inexhaustible supplies. The country in front had been laid waste to the Pyrenees, and everything which Caesar required had to be brought to him from Gaul. In forty days from the time at which the armies came in sight of each other Afranius and Petreius, with all their legions, were prisoners. Varro, in the south, was begging for peace, and all Spain lay at Caesar's feet. At one moment he was almost lost. The melting of the snows in the mountains brought a flood down the Segre. The bridges were carried away, the fords were impassable, and his convoys were at the mercy of the enemy. News flew to Rome that all was over, that Caesar's army was starving, that he was cut off between the rivers, and in a few days must surrender. Marseilles still held out. Pompey's, it seemed, was to be the winning side, and Cicero and many others, who had hung back to watch how events would turn, made haste to join their friends in Greece before their going had lost show of credit.[2]

The situation was indeed most critical. Even Caesar's own soldiers became unsteady. He remarks that in civil wars generally men show less composure than in ordinary campaigns. But resource in difficulties is the distinction of great generals. He had observed in Britain that the coast fishermen used boats made out of frames of wicker covered with skins. The river banks were fringed with willows. There were hides in abundance on the carcasses of the animals in the camp. Swiftly in these vessels the swollen waters of the Segre were crossed; the convoys were rescued. The broken bridges were repaired. The communications of the Pompeians were threatened in turn, and they tried to fall back over the Ebro; but they left their position only to be intercepted, and after a few feeble struggles laid down their arms. Among the prisoners were found several of the young nobles who had been released at Corfinium. It appeared that they regarded Caesar as an outlaw with whom obligations were not binding. The Pompeian generals had ordered any of Caesar's soldiers who fell into their hands to be murdered. He was not provoked into retaliation. He again dismissed the whole of the captive force, officers and men, contenting himself with this time exacting a promise from them that they would not serve against him again. They gave their word and broke it. The generals and military tribunes made their way to Greece to Pompey. Of the rest, some enlisted in Caesar's legions; others scattered to combine again when opportunity allowed.

Varro, who commanded a legion in the south, behaved more honorably. He sent in his submission, entered into the same engagement, and kept it. He was an old friend of Caesar's, and better understood him. Caesar, after the victory at Lerida, went down to Cordova, and summoned the leading Spaniards and Romans to meet him there. All came and promised obedience. Varro gave in his accounts, with his ships, and stores, and money. Caesar then embarked at Cadiz, and went round to Tarragona, where his own legions were waiting for him. From Tarragona he marched back by the Pyrenees, and came in time to receive in person the surrender of Marseilles.

The siege had been a difficult one, with severe engagements both by land and sea. Domitius and his galleys had attacked the ungainly but useful vessels which Caesar had extemporized. He had been driven back with the loss of half his fleet. Pompey had sent a second squadron to help him, and this had fared no better. It had fled after a single battle and never reappeared. The land works had been assailed with ingenuity and courage. The agger had been burnt and the siege towers destroyed. But they had been repaired instantly by the industry of the legions, and Marseilles was at the last extremity when Caesar arrived. He had wished to spare the townspeople, and had sent orders that the place was not to be stormed. On his appearance the keys of the gates were brought to him without conditions. Again he pardoned every one; more, he said, for the reputation of the colony than for the merits of its inhabitants. Domitius had fled in a gale of wind, and once more escaped. A third time he was not to be so fortunate.

[Sidenote: B.C. 48] Two legions were left in charge of Marseilles; others returned to their quarters in Gaul. Well as the tribes had behaved, it was unsafe to presume too much on their fidelity, and Caesar was not a partisan chief, but the guardian of the Roman Empire. With the rest of his army he returned to Rome at the beginning of the winter. All had been quiet since the news of the capitulation at Lerida. The aristocracy had gone to Pompey. The disaffection among the people of which Cicero spoke had existed only in his wishes, or had not extended beyond the classes who had expected from Caesar a general partition of property, and had been disappointed. His own successes had been brilliant. Spain, Gaul, and Italy, Sicily and Sardinia, were entirely his own. Elsewhere and away from his own eye things had gone less well for him. An attempt to make a naval force in the Adriatic had failed; and young Curio, who had done Caesar such good service as tribune, had met with a still graver disaster. After recovering Sicily, Curio had been directed to cross to Africa and expel Pompey's garrisons from the Province. His troops were inferior, consisting chiefly of the garrison which had surrendered at Corfinium. Through military inexperience he had fallen into a trap laid for him by Juba, King of Mauritania, and had been killed.

Caesar regretted Curio personally. The African misfortune was not considerable in itself, but it encouraged hopes and involved consequences which he probably foresaw. There was no present leisure, however, to attend to Juba. On arriving at the city he was named Dictator. As Dictator he held the consular elections, and, with Servilius Isauricus for a colleague, he was chosen consul for the year which had been promised to him, though under circumstances so strangely changed. With curious punctiliousness he observed that the legal interval had expired since he was last in office, and that therefore there was no formal objection to his appointment.

Civil affairs were in the wildest confusion. The Senate had fled; the administration had been left to Antony, whose knowledge of business was not of a high order; and over the whole of Italy hung the terror of Pompey's fleet and of an Asiatic invasion. Public credit was shaken. Debts had not been paid since the civil war began. Moneylenders had charged usurious interest for default, and debtors were crying for novae tabulae, and hoped to clear themselves by bankruptcy. Caesar had but small leisure for such matters. Pompey had been allowed too long a respite, and unless he sought Pompey in Greece, Pompey would be seeking him at home, and the horrid scenes of Sylla's wars would be enacted over again. He did what he could, risking the loss of the favor of the mob by disappointing dishonest expectations. Estimates were drawn of all debts as they stood twelve months before. The principal was declared to be still due. The interest for the interval was cancelled. Many persons complained of injustice which they had met with in the courts of law during the time that Pompey was in power. Caesar refused to revise the sentences himself, lest he should seem to be encroaching on functions not belonging to him; but he directed that such causes should be heard again.

Eleven days were all he could afford to Rome. So swift was Caesar that his greatest exploits were measured by days. He had to settle accounts with Pompey while it was still winter, and while Pompey's preparations for the invasion of Italy were still incomplete; and he and his veterans, scarcely allowing themselves a breathing-time, went down to Brindisi.

It was now the beginning of January by the unreformed calendar (by the seasons the middle of October)—a year within a few days since Caesar had crossed the Rubicon. He had nominally twelve legions under him. But long marches had thinned the ranks of his old and best-tried troops. The change from the dry climate of Gaul and Spain to the south of Italy in a wet autumn had affected the health of the rest, and there were many invalids. The force available for field service was small for the work which was before it: in all not more than 30,000 men. Pompey's army lay immediately opposite Brindisi, at Durazzo. It was described afterward as inharmonious and ill-disciplined, but so far as report went at the time Caesar had never encountered so formidable an enemy. There were nine legions of Roman citizens with their complements full. Two more were coming up with Scipio from Syria. Besides these there were auxiliaries from the allied princes in the East; corps from Greece and Asia Minor, slingers and archers from Crete and the islands. Of money, of stores of all kinds, there was abundance, for the Eastern revenue had been all paid for the last year to Pompey, and he had levied impositions at his pleasure.

Such was the Senate's land army, and before Caesar could cross swords with it a worse danger lay in his path. It was not for nothing that Cicero said that Pompey had been careful of his fleet. A hundred and thirty ships, the best which were to be had, were disposed in squadrons along the east shore of the Adriatic; the head-quarters were at Corfu; and the one purpose was to watch the passage and prevent Caesar from crossing over.

[Sidenote: January, B.C. 48.] Transports run down by vessels of war were inevitably sunk. Twelve fighting triremes, the remains of his attempted Adriatic fleet, were all that Caesar could collect for a convoy. The weather was wild. Even of transports he had but enough to carry half his army in a single trip. With such a prospect and with the knowledge that if he reached Greece at all he would have to land in the immediate neighborhood of Pompey's enormous host, surprise has been expressed that Caesar did not prefer to go round through Illyria, keeping his legions together. But Caesar had won many victories by appearing where he was least expected. He liked well to descend like a bolt out of the blue sky; and, for the very reason that no ordinary person would under such circumstances have thought of attempting the passage, he determined to try it. Long marches exhausted the troops. In bad weather the enemy's fleet preferred the harbors to the open sea; and perhaps he had a further and special ground of confidence in knowing that the officer in charge at Corfu was his old acquaintance, Bibulus— Bibulus, the fool of the aristocracy, the butt of Cicero, who had failed in everything which he had undertaken, and had been thanked by Cato for his ill successes. Caesar knew the men with whom he had to deal. He knew Pompey's incapacity; he knew Bibulus's incapacity. He knew that public feeling among the people was as much on his side in Greece as in Italy. Above all, he knew his own troops, and felt that he could rely on them, however heavy the odds might be. He was resolved to save Italy at all hazards from becoming the theatre of war, and therefore the best road for him was that which would lead most swiftly to his end.

On the 4th January, then, by unreformed time, Caesar sailed with 15,000 men and 500 horses from Brindisi. The passage was rough but swift, and he landed without adventure at Acroceraunia, now Cape Linguetta, on the eastern shore of the Straits of Otranto. Bibulus saw him pass from the heights of Corfu, and put to sea, too late to intercept him—in time, however, unfortunately, to fall in with the returning transports. Caesar had started them immediately after disembarking, and had they made use of the darkness they might have gone over unperceived; they lingered and were overtaken; Bibulus captured thirty of them, and, in rage at his own blunder, killed every one that he found on board.

Ignorant of this misfortune, and expecting that Antony would follow him in a day or two with the remainder of the army, Caesar advanced at once toward Durazzo, occupied Apollonia, and entrenched himself on the left bank of the river Apsus. The country, as he anticipated, was well-disposed and furnished him amply with supplies. He still hoped to persuade Pompey to come to terms with him. He trusted, perhaps not unreasonably, that the generosity with which he had treated Marseilles and the Spanish legions might have produced an effect; and he appealed once more to Pompey's wiser judgment. Vibullius Rufus, who had been taken at Corfinium, and a second time on the Lerida, had since remained with Caesar. Rufus, being personally known as an ardent member of the Pompeian party, was sent forward to Durazzo with a message of peace.

"Enough had been done," Caesar said, "and Fortune ought not to be tempted further. Pompey had lost Italy, the two Spains, Sicily, and Sardinia, and a hundred and thirty cohorts of his soldiers had been captured. Caesar had lost Curio and the army of Africa. They were thus on an equality, and might spare their country the consequences of further rivalry. If either he or Pompey gained a decisive advantage, the victor would be compelled to insist on harder terms. If they could not agree, Caesar was willing to leave the question between them to the Senate and people of Rome, and for themselves, he proposed that they should each take an oath to disband their troops in three days."

Pompey, not expecting Caesar, was absent in Macedonia when he heard of his arrival, and was hurrying back to Durazzo. Caesar's landing had produced a panic in his camp. Men and officers were looking anxiously in each other's faces. So great was the alarm, so general the distrust, that Labienus had sworn in the presence of the army that he would stand faithfully by Pompey. Generals, tribunes, and centurions had sworn after him. They had then moved up to the Apsus and encamped on the opposite side of the river, waiting for Pompey to come up.

There was now a pause on both sides. Antony was unable to leave Brindisi, Bibulus being on the watch day and night. A single vessel attempted the passage. It was taken, and every one on board was massacred. The weather was still wild, and both sides suffered. If Caesar's transports could not put to sea, Bibulus's crews could not land either for fuel or water anywhere south of Apollonia. Bibulus held on obstinately till he died of exposure to wet and cold, so ending his useless life; but his death did not affect the situation favorably for Caesar; his command fell into abler hands.

[Sidenote: February, B.C. 48.] At length Pompey arrived. Vibullius Rufus delivered his message. Pompey would not hear him to the end. "What care I," he said, "for life or country if I am to hold both by the favor of Caesar? All men will think thus of me if I make peace now.... I left Italy. Men will say that Caesar has brought me back."

In the legions the opinion was different. The two armies were divided only by a narrow river. Friends met and talked. They asked each other for what purpose so desperate a war had been undertaken. The regular troops all idolized Caesar. Deputations from both sides were chosen to converse and consult, with Caesar's warmest approval. Some arrangement might have followed. But Labienus interposed. He appeared at the meeting as if to join in the conference; he was talking in apparent friendliness to Cicero's acquaintance, Publius Vatinius, who was serving with Caesar. Suddenly a shower of darts were hurled at Vatinius. His men flung themselves in front of him and covered his body; but most of them were wounded, and the assembly broke up in confusion, Labienus shouting, "Leave your talk of composition; there can be no peace till you bring us Caesar's head."

[Sidenote: April, B.C. 48.] Cool thinkers were beginning to believe that Caesar was in a scrape from which his good fortune would this time fail to save him. Italy was on the whole steady, but the slippery politicians in the capital were on the watch. They had been disappointed on finding that Caesar would give no sanction to confiscation of property, and a spark of fire burst out which showed that the elements of mischief were active as ever. Cicero's correspondent, Marcus Caelius, had thrown himself eagerly on Caesar's side at the beginning of the war. He had been left as praetor at Rome when Caesar went to Greece. He in his wisdom conceived that the wind was changing, and that it was time for him to earn his pardon from Pompey. He told the mob that Caesar would do nothing for them, that Caesar cared only for his capitalists. He wrote privately to Cicero that he was bringing them over to Pompey,[3] and he was doing it in the way in which pretended revolutionists so often play into the hands of reactionaries. He proposed a law in the Assembly in the spirit of Jack Cade, that no debts should be paid in Rome for six years, and that every tenant should occupy his house for two years free of rent. The administrators of the government treated him as a madman, and deposed him from office. He left the city pretending that he was going to Caesar. The once notorious Milo, who had been in exile since his trial for the murder of Clodius, privately joined him; and together they raised a band of gladiators in Campania, professing to have a commission from Pompey. Milo was killed. Caelius fled to Thurii, where he tried to seduce Caesar's garrison, and was put to death for his treachery. The familiar actors in the drama were beginning to drop. Bibulus was gone, and now Caelius and Milo. Fools and knaves are usually the first to fall in civil distractions, as they and their works are the active causes of them.

Meantime months passed away. The winter wore through in forced inaction, and Caesar watched in vain for the sails of his coming transports. The Pompeians had for some weeks blockaded Brindisi. Antony drove them off with armed boats; but still he did not start, and Caesar thought that opportunities had been missed.[4] He wrote to Antony sharply. The legions, true as steel, were ready for any risks sooner than leave their commander in danger. A south wind came at last, and they sailed. They were seen in mid-channel, and closely pursued. Night fell, and in the darkness they were swept past Durazzo, to which Pompey had again withdrawn, with the Pompeian squadron in full chase behind them. They ran into the harbor of Nymphaea, three miles north of Lissa, and were fortunate in entering it safely. Sixteen of the pursuers ran upon the rocks, and the crews owed their lives to Caesar's troops, who saved them. So Caesar mentions briefly, in silent contrast to the unvarying ferocity of the Pompeian leaders. Two only of the transports which had left Brindisi were missing in the morning. They had gone by mistake into Lissa, and were surrounded by the boats of the enemy, who promised that no one should be injured if they surrendered. "Here," says Caesar, in a characteristic sentence, "may be observed the value of firmness of mind." One of the vessels had two hundred and twenty young soldiers on board, the other two hundred veterans. The recruits were sea-sick and frightened. They trusted the enemy's fair words, and were immediately murdered. The others forced their pilot to run the ship ashore. They cut their way through a band of Pompey's cavalry, and joined their comrades without the loss of a man.

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