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Read More Articles About: Famous Warriors
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
B. C. 100-44
"THE FOREMOST MAN OF ALL THE WORLD"
Caius Julius Caesar, whom Shakespeare called "the foremost man of all the world," was born in the year 100 B. C., on the twelfth day of the month Sextilis, the month afterward named in honor of his birthday, July. By Mommsen and one or two other historians, it is claimed that the year of his birth was 102 B. C., but this claim is now generally conceded to be erroneous. Roman history contains no other name as honored as that of Caesar. He was an orator, a statesman, a man of letters, and a warrior. In all of these capacities he was great, and in the last mentioned his genius excelled to an extraordinary degree. From his youth he remained steadfastly the friend and champion of the people. He began life during one of the most turbulent of the many critical periods experienced by the Roman Nation. He was, in his youth, persecuted owing to his political connections, to the extent that his property was confiscated and his life endangered. His aspirations and steadfastness of purpose, however, carried him to the highest honors that could be bestowed upon a Roman, and yet the conspirators who slew him in the Senate chamber and ran with reeking daggers through the streets boasting of their deed, were so powerful and so much feared by the partisans of Caesar, that his body lay where he fell, at the base of the Pompeiian statue, for many hours before anyone dared to bear it to his home. Had he been a traitor as was proclaimed, the custom would have been followed of dragging his body through the streets and casting it into the Tiber. His murderers favored such action, but the people were now aroused and his funeral services witnessed such a demonstration of popular grief and devotion as history does not record in any other instance. As leader of the Roman armies, his prompt and unfailing courage, his supreme confidence of victory in every venture, his keen insight and ready resource in every desperate undertaking, and the boldness with which he entered upon and executed his military plans and achievements, attained for him the just renown and greatness which all the world has conceded, and gave added brilliance to a career which has few parallels either in tradition or recorded history.
Casar came of pure patrician blood. His ancestors for many generations, the Julii, prior to the adoption of the name Caesar, had ranked high in Rome as statesmen and warriors, and had held some of the highest offices obtainable in the Nation. This Caesar knew, and he aspired, though not until manhood had been reached, to rival the honorable careers which they had lived. Before entering further upon the life and deeds of the "real founder of Imperial Rome," it will be necessary to briefly recite a few facts in Roman history which bear directly upon the time and conditions which surrounded Caesar's advent as a factor in that nation's history. The destruction of Corinth and Carthage left Rome without a rival in the civilized world. For the emolument of the Roman nobility, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece and its dependencies, with the exception of Crete, northern Italy, the south of Gaul and the northern coast of Africa, had been divided into satrapies. The practice of relieving the city of congestion by sending out colonies composed of every class of Roman citizens, had ceased. The bulk of the lands in the provinces which had long before joined Hannibal in his war against the Romans, had passed into the hands of the great families and was used chiefly for pastures, or was tilled by slaves. Money had decreased in value as a result of the influx of precious metals, in con-sequence of conquests, the freeholds had passed into the hands of the great proprietors, and the petty freeholders who were the strength and stability of ancient Rome, were ruined. The capital was overcrowded with this class and with the yeomanry, willing to work, but unable to secure it, owing to the preference for slave labor. Of manufacturing and commerce Rome had none. This vast population was therefore left without healthy activity, and gradually became uneasy, discontented, vicious, and ripe for revolution. Tiberius Gracchus was the first to attempt to apply a remedy to this dangerous condition. Part of his plan was to enforce the Licinian laws, which provided that no single person could rent more than 500 acres of land. He proposed to take the land away from the illegal holders and divide it among the needy. Naturally he met with resistance from the oligarchical faction. His term as Tribune was drawing to a close, and before he could put his plans into execution, it was necessary that he should be re-elected. The popular party supported him, and his re-election was assured, but on election day Tiberius and 300 of his adherents were attacked and murdered by the opposition. The conditions existing may readily be seen from the fact that although the blood of a Tribune had been illegally shed, the murderers remained unpunished. Ten years later Caius Gracchus, in spite of the fate that had befallen his brother, set about carrying out the same plans, and he would possibly have succeeded had not the bitterness he entertained as a result of his brother's murder, led him to excesses. Every needy citizen was supplied with corn from the public granaries, and this soon converted a great body into clamorous paupers. For two years he carried out his plans with a high hand, but by the, decree of the Senate at the beginning of the third year, he and his followers were condemned and slain to the number of 3,000. Affairs again returned to the previous condition. No champion of democracy now appeared until the year III B. C., when the Jugurthine War enabled the democracy once more to rally and elect Caius Marius first to the consulship and later to the greatest height of power. During his sixth consulship he repaid his obligations to his party by reviving the Gracchian laws, but placed their execution in unworthy hands, those of the Praetor Glaucias and the Tribune Saturninus, who were condemned by the Senate and treacherously slain by the oligarchists.
In the meantime, the freedom of the city had risen in value, and the Italian allies had become eager to participate in this privilege. In the year 95 B. C., a law was passed against allowing them to enjoy the franchise. This fomented the disaffection which was already prevalent. Four years later the social war burst out. It lasted three years, and is said to have resulted fatally to 300,000 sons of Italy, fighting one another. The leading Roman Generals who were employed in conducting this war were Caius Marius and his ancient rival, the aristocratic Cornelius Sulla. The latter had carried off the greater share of the glories of the war, and near its close he was elected consul, and at its termination was commissioned to avenge the wrongs which the Romans in Asia had suffered at the hands of King Mithridates. Marius, who was now in his 70th year, grudged this opportunity for greatness afforded his political antagonist and personal enemy. The Tribune Sulpicius had in the meantime placed himself at the head of the popular party and proposed a law whereby the allies should have representation in the Senate. Sulla, still consul, protested, but with his colleagues was compelled to flee before an armed force brought forward by Sulpicius. The old Senate, threatened with death, then passed the law, the council of the allies at once revoked the commission of Sulla and authorized Marius to lead the armies against Mithridates. Sulla's first step after having escaped was to visit the army, then in the vicinity of Nola. He called upon them to march with him to Rome to deliver the city from the lawless party in power. Soon was presented the spectacle of Rome's own consul marching against Rome with an army at his back. Rome was taken by storm, the Marians put to flight, Sulpicius slain and Marius himself, his son and nine leading senators of their party, proscribed and rewards offered for their murder. The Sulpician laws were repealed and Sulla's friends were given supreme power. As soon as the army was removed from Rome, however, the Consul, Cornelius Cinna, though bound by oaths to Sulla, proclaimed himself leader of the popular party. He was opposed by his colleague, Octavius. The two factions fought in the streets of Rome, and 10,000 lives were sacrificed. Cinna was defeated and fled from the city to appeal to the Italian allies and various bodies of troops. He gathered a considerable force and was joined by Marius, then marched upon Rome and starved the Senate into submission. In violation of the terms of capitulation, as soon as the gates were thrown open, an indiscriminate slaughter of all the Roman and Latin opponents who could be reached, took place. Marius entered upon his seventh consulship, but died soon after of an acute fever. For three years peace reigned in Rome, ruled despotically by Cinna after the death of Marius. Then Sulla returned with his victorious armies and once more assumed power.
These were the conditions in the midst of which Julius Caesar spent his early years. Marius was the uncle of Julius, and under Cinna's rule, his father, holding Praetorian rank, coincided with the opinions of the democratic party. He was therefore surrounded with those influences and imbued with them. As Caesar was born the twelfth of July, 100 B. C., and as Marius lived until the thirteenth of January, 86 B. C., the nephew had ample opportunity of imbibing the sentiments of his uncle from personal intercourse. He had also already had opportunity to witness actual scenes connected with war during the social war and the subsequent civil strifes of those years. Sulla, having once more established himself in power, did not fail to inaugurate persecutions against those who had opposed him, as well as against their families. One of the steps which he took in pursuance of this plan was to detach young men of the opposite party by ordering them to divorce wives married from among Marian partisans. Young Caesar had married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, and naturally Sulla did not fail to seek to bring the young man who naturally belonged to the highest rank of the patricians, away from the connections he had thus formed with the democracy. Like others, Caesar was ordered to divorce his wife. But the dictator was not obeyed in his mandate to this youth, who was destined to become a greater ruler than Sulla himself. Suetonius intimates that repeated efforts were made to compel him to comply with the dictatorial demand, as may be seen from the following expression : "He married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, fourth time Consul, who soon after gave birth to a daughter Julia, nor could he by any means be compelled by the dictator to divorce her."
Sulla therefore pronounced him a Marian at heart, and deprived him of rank and fortune, as well as his wife's dowry. Caesar had been appointed a priest of Jupiter, and of this honor he was also shorn. Moreover, Caesar had reason to believe that his life was in danger, not so much from Sulla himself as from some of his vengeful adherents. He disguised himself and fled to the Sabine Mountains, where he lived a wandering life, and, being as yet unaccustomed to hardships, was stricken with a severe fever. But the future ruler of Rome was not destined to die thus obscurely. He recovered, and, through the intervention of influential friends, who pressed Sulla to par-don so young and highborn an offender and restore to him his title and property, was enabled to return to Rome. Sulla yielded reluctantly to the pleadings of the fugitive's noble relatives, but, according to an ancient historian, quoted by Williams, uttered these prophetic words: "Have then your way and take him with you, but be assured that this young man, whom you are so anxious to preserve in all his rights, will, at a future period, be the destruction of the aristocratic party which you have assisted me to defend. For in Caesar there are many Marii." Having rescued him from the possible wrath of Sulla, these relatives became in a measure personally responsible for his good conduct, and he was therefore sent according to the law to give his term of service in the camp. The youth of the nobility during this service were usually attached to the staff of some General, and, while not commissioned, were often employed in important work. Caesar was sent to the camp of one of Sulla's lieutenant's, Minutius Thermus, who was engaged in the invasion of Chios for the purpose of inflicting punishment on the Mitylenians as a result of their conduct during the war against Mithridates. Through this plan it was thought Cesar could be kept away from contact with the Marians. During this campaign, Cesar distinguished himself at the storming of Mitylene and received from Thermus a civic crown for saving a Roman life. This was in the year 79 B. C. When these operations ceased his services were transferred to the camp of Servilius, also a partisan of Sulla. Suetonius writes that Caesar did not serve long under Servilius, but that on learning of the death of Sulla he hurried to Italy. This was in the year 78 B. C. He did not long remain in Rome, but proceeded to Rhodes for the purpose of perfecting himself in oratory. During the period of his stay at Rhodes, he appears to have diversified his studies by spending some of his time in military camps and visits to Asia. He returned again to Rome in the year 74 B. C., and was active in the plans of the democratic party, but it was not until the year 69 B. C. that he entered the arena of public life. He was then elected to the office of quaestor, although in the struggle for preference he was surrounded by antagonists of high standing and great ability and influence. Although the grandest days of the Roman Nation were even then past, the true conditions were concealed by surface facts and affairs. The Nation was in a condition favorable to quick transitions. Four factions were waging a bitter fight for supremacy, the oligarchical faction, consisting of families of chiefs, who directed the Senate, was represented by Cicero at home and by Cn. Pompey, the successful General, abroad. This party practically governed the republic. Marcus Crassus, formerly Pompey's colleague but now his personal rival, led the aristocratic faction, composed of a mass of Senators who were anxious to obtain the power usurped by their colleagues. Catiline headed the military faction. His one object, like that of dissolute adherents was to incite some revolution, and thereby replenish purses grown lean since the time of Sulla. Caesar was identified with the Marian faction, and naturally became its chief. By far the leading figure in the ruling aristocratic faction, and probably in the republic, at this time, was Pompey. ,He had been a lieutenant under Sulla, and in that capacity his career had been distinguished. He had won fresh laurels by his forceful management of two campaigns, in which important Roman interests were at stake. The first achievement was the suppression of a revolution under the formidable leadership of Sertorius (77-72 B. C.), the other was the crushing out of a revolt brought about by Spartacus, the leader of a band of gladiators. This small body of men, supported by a force of discontented citizens, had kept Italy in a state of alarm for three years (73-71 B. C.). Made a popular favorite by these exploits, Pompey was rewarded in the year 70 B. C. with a position as Consul together with Crassus, the rich Senator. At the expiration of the year Pompey retired. It was not long after-ward, however, before he became weary of the life of repose which he was leading, and again left Rome, in the spring of 67 B. C. In the meantime Caesar returned from a trip to Spain, where he had begun the acquaintance with the provinces of the West, which he was later to renew under different circumstances and on a more extensive scale. Pompey went forth and cleared the seas of piracy. The following year he superseded Lucullus in command of the war against Mithridates. He did not return to Rome until 61 B. C. He had completely rid the seas of pirates, annihilated the forces of Mithridates, received the submission of Tigranes of Armenia, and added to the Empire the greater portions of the possessions of both monarchs. Pompey was the man of the hour. Had he been as great a statesman as he was a successful general, his power in Rome might have been extended without limit. But during his long absence plotting and intrigue had been prevalent. Caesar had completed his term of office as Quaestor and had readily been made ZEdile. As such, he had charge of the amusements and decorations of the city. In each department he made startling innovations. He began and continued his administration with a recklessly profuse display. He restored to their former places the trophies and statues of Marius and thereby caused many of the old democratic soldiers to come forth from their retreats and weep for joy at what they believed to be the dawning of a new Marian era. His expenditures were not less bold than his political moves. His prodigality resulted in fabulous outlays, in order to pre-sent to the public entertainments never before witnessed in Rome, 300 pairs of gladiators, equipped in silver armor were sent into the arena to combat for the amusement of the people. Rome forgot the dismal calamities of the past and remembered Caesar. His term as AEdile over, Caesar set about to obtain the office of Pontifix Maximus. Although opposed by men of great eminence, he so adroitly manipulated his friends and enemies alike that he was triumphantly elected.
In the year 61 B. C., as Praetor, he became Governor of Spain and was in the west at the time of Pompey's return to Rome. His labors in the provinces placed him on the way to the fulfillment of his cherished ambition to achieve military power. Then, for the first time, the real .genius of the man began to make itself apparent. He incidentally made use of his position to pay off the enormous debts which he had contracted while holding the position of AEdile. He ate the common food on which his soldiers subsisted, he swam icy streams with them, withstood the rigors of camp life and made progress with the passing of each day. He was at this time pale, slender, shaken by excesses, prematurely bald as a result of the dissipated life he had led in Rome, according to Chamberlin, and was a victim of epilepsy. In spite of these physical impediments to personal success, he at this time started on a career as a General, Statesman, Orator, Historian and Lawgiver, which was to continue for seventeen years and leave its impress on the civilization of twenty centuries. For the purposes of his ambition it was necessary for Caesar to obtain command of an army for a number of years. In order to secure such a command he decided to return to Rome and have himself made Consul. With characteristic promptness he carried out his plan, not even taking time to indulge in a triumph upon the occasion of his entrance into the Eternal City. In order that he might the more easily obtain the desired consulship, he brought about a reconciliation between Pompey and Crassus. His only daughter was given in marriage to Pompey, and the friendship was begun between the two great men which was to change to rivalry and ultimately to personal hatred. Pompey had influence. Crassus, possessed wealth, as Caesar had occasion to know, having had the rich senator as his security for the great debts he owed prior to receiving the Governorship of Spain, which enabled him to clear him-self of debt. By making promises to the two men Casar induced them to join their fortunes with his and thus the first Triumvirate was formed. Caesar was to have the consulship and be Governor afterward. Pompey was to see his plan for the distribution of lands to his veterans carried out and the capitalists were to be favored as an equivalent for the support lent by Crassus. Caesar was elected without difficulty as Consul together with a non-entity purposely chosen so that the youngest of the triumvirs should have supreme power in the consulate. It was not long afterward that laws were passed authorizing Casar to take charge of the three legions stationed in Cisalpine Gaul. His command was to extend over five years. His jurisdiction was to reach south as far as the Rubicon and was to include Lucca and Ravenna. Before departing to assume the government of his province, Casar took care to leave his interests in Rome in friendly and competent hands. Publius Clodius Pulcher was chosen the Proconsul's representative. Clodius was of Patrician birth and upon the advice of Caesar, he secured his adoption into a Plebeian family, so that he might be elected to the Tribunate. Clodius became active immediately after he assumed the duties of Tribune and proposed four new measures which were adopted. The first law provided for free distribution of corn ; the second placed a ban upon the practice of censors in impeding legislation on the pretext of augury; the third revived the old time associations which formerly had exercised considerable political influence throughout the State, and the fourth stripped the censors of a part of their powers. Not satisfied with these radical steps Clodius introduced resolutions which were intended to deprive the Senate of its leaders. By their provisions the resolutions forced Cicero into exile and compelled Cato to take the Governorship of Cyprus, which effectually removed Cicero's friend from the seat of Roman affairs. Cicero pleaded in vain against the order. He besought the inter-cession of Pompey but the sentence was carried out and the great orator went into exile.
Lucius Calpurnius Piso, Caesar's father-in-law, had been elected Consul and thus he felt safe in leaving Rome to take up his five year term as Governor of the two Gauls and Illyricum. Pompey was assigned to the Governorship of Italy and the East was given into the charge of Crassus.
Upon reaching Cisalpine Gaul with eight legions of soldiers Caesar was informed that the Helvetians were preparing to leave their pent-up territories between the Jura and the Rhine and settle in a more fertile region. In the commentaries which the General himself wrote, he claims to have come to the conclusion that the proposed emigration was not compatible with the good of the province. Accordingly he reached the Rhone by forced marches and constructed a line of fortifications from Lake Lemanus to the Jura. In this way he hoped to prevent the passage of the Helvetians. The tribe made an attempt to secure egress by another route but Caesar overtook them at Bibracte and dealt them such a blow that the nation was practically annihilated. The remaining members of the tribe were forced to return to their original territory.
This problem had scarcely been solved when the Roman legions were called upon to combat 120,000 Suevi, who had crossed the Rhine and entered Gaul under the leadership of Ariovistus. The latter declared he had come thither to settle differences between Gaulish tribes. He and his forces were driven back across the Rhine and Caesar found himself in the country of the Belgae. This race, which had become accustomed to warfare through continual battle with the Germans, was subdued by the Romans during the year 57 B. C. Caesar completed the conquest of all Gaul within a year, by overthrowing the Veneti on land and sea and subduing the Morini and Menapii. Caesar's naval victory over the Veneti was the first great engagement on the Atlantic Ocean and it served to illustrate the versatility of the Roman. Caesar was now prepared for a German war and in the year 55 B. C. he devoted his attention to this campaign. Several Teutonic tribes had crossed the Rhine and it was Caesar's purpose to beat them back to their former possessions. He engaged in an important battle and then built a bridge across the river, a formidable undertaking, and then made his way into Germany. The result of his invasion proved a great success and Casar led his thus far invincible legions to the seacoast. He made a voyage to Britain but soon after-ward transported his army back to the mainland and with-drew to winter quarters in Gaul. In the succeeding summer he returned to the British Isle and defeated the armies who opposed his progress under the leadership of Cassivellaunus. Britain speedily acknowledged dependence and gave the aggressive Roman tribute and hostages.
While Casar was winning these splendid victories, Rome was celebrating what was believed to be the return of the Republic's former power. All praised the Proconsul who was making additions of territory to the Nation with as great rapidity and display of genius as was exhibited by Alexander the Great in the interests of Greece.
Reverses seemed imminent, however, during the winter of 54-53. The Roman army was dispersed to several quarters in order to make a supply of provisions possible and the Gallic tribes seized upon the opportunity to start a general revolt. The Aduatici attacked and drove into confused retreat what remained of one portion of the army. Sixty thousand Nervii and soldiers of other native tribes surrounded the camp of Quintus Cicero. When it seemed that the legions were about to be annihilated Caesar suddenly fell upon the swarming tribes and punished their boldness by causing fearful loss of life in their ranks. He also compelled them to give up great treasure. In order to break the power of a combination which had again formed between the Gallic tribes and the Germans, Caesar undertook a second campaign in Germany. He took this step in the latter part of the year 54 B. C. and early in the next year brought his scheme to a successful outcome by punishing the Eburones, the leading spirits in the coalition and revolt. In 52 B. C. he was obliged to meet a general insurrection in all parts of ulterior Gaul. With characteristic promptness Caesar made his way back over the mountains, fell upon the city of Genabum, which the natives had recaptured. Caesar burned the city and was laying plans for immediate action before the enemy had recovered from his surprise at his sudden return. Vercingetorix, the leader of the strong Arverni and for that reason generally regarded as the proper leader of the tribes, adopted a plan of wasting the country and thus preventing Caesar from obtaining adequate supplies. The Roman got the better of his antagonist by taking Avaricum and possessing himself of all the supplies stored there. Disaster attended the next movements of the army. Siege was laid to Gergovia, capital of the Arvernian territory, but Caesar was set upon and so signally defeated that he was forced to retreat in order to escape destruction. It was the first real defeat suffered by the aggressive Romans and the news traveled over Gaul like wildfire. Hope was once more fired in the savage breasts and all the barbarian tribes with but one exception, reentered the lists against the Roman host. They poured down upon the small army of invaders like an avalanche. In the face of grave danger Caesar's genius only shone the brighter. He called for reinforcements from the Cisalpine province. His forces were concentrated and the barbarian hordes thus had but one army to fight. His ten legions swept aside the defenders of Alesia. In spite of the almost countless hosts at the back of the leader Vercingetorix, that intrepid leader and dangerous enemy was captured. His life was spared in order that he might be used in the triumph which Caesar felt certain would follow his campaigns. Other Gauls were reduced to slavery. Thousands of them laid aside their spears and shields and submitted to become servants of the Roman soldiers. The army of savages was completely overthrown. The tribes sought terms of peace. It was the successful outcome of a long campaign, the realization of hopes cherished by Caesar while that conqueror was a young man studying the business of government and arranging his chessmen so that he might reach the goal of his ambition. Gaul was conquered but Caesar's labors were not completed. He spent the following winter in settling the terms of peace. He organized the vast territory into the provinces, Gallia and Belgica. The General's task done, the duties of the statesman and the diplomat opened. Caesar met all emergencies with promptness and judgment. There was no further persecution of the Gauls. Their leaders were treated with magnanimity. They were honored and made to appreciate the fact that they were dealing with kindly victors. Some of them were honored with Roman citizen-ship and others were admitted to the Roman Senate. Being Roman provinces, a successful effort was made to intro-duce the Latin tongue into the conquered territories and the usual system of Romanizing the peoples was introduced along substantial and enduring lines.
Caesar in the campaigns thus concluded had arrested the emigration of the Helvetians and expelled the Germans under Ariovistus in 58 B. C. He subdued the Belgae in 57 B. C. and in 56 B. C. he overcame the Aquitani. He had made successful invasions of Britain twice in 55 and 54 B. C. From 53 to 51 B. C. he had penetrated Germany, had overthrown the Gauls after their repeated revolts, had conquered and taken Vercingetorix and completely subdued the country. In this way he had improved the opportunity afforded his genius during the five years granted him to be "Governor" of the two Gauls and Illyricum.
While he had been winning battles in the provinces Caesar's enemies at home had been making new plots. They were silenced for the time by the Triumvir's victorious career in Gaul. In celebration of the continued successes the Senate granted fifteen days "supplicatio" to the gods. From the Senators and Politicians who went to Ravenna to confer with Caesar he learned that one of the supporters of the motion to award him this unprecedented honor was Cicero. The Orator had returned from exile upon permission of the Senate, granted only after the bitterest sort of opposition by Clodius. Cicero realized that his residence in Rome might be terminated any time at the pleasure of leaders who had got start of the world and were bearing the palm alone. It behooved him, therefore, to secure the confidence of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. In the meantime he secretly looked and longed for a breach between the members of the powerful Triumvirate which might enable himself and his sympathizers to obtain a foothold in the government. But Cicero was sorely disappointed. Before the beginning of his third campaign in 56 B. C. Caesar made his way to the Roman colony at Lucca and called a rendezvous. He had had intimations that Pompey and Crassus had again become jealous of one another. Pompey was attempting to heal the breach between him-self and the senatorial party. Cesar was not through with the services of his two fellow members of the Triumvirate, and the conference at Lucca was intended to mend the broken machinery of their administration. As usual, he broke down opposition and succeeded completely. Two hundred Senators who attended the conference were practically ignored while Caesar, Pompey and Crassus made plans looking toward the maintenance of their power. By the agreement reached Pompey and Crassus were to hold the joint consulship during the following year, and after the year's time had expired, they were to have the proconsular governments of Spain and Syria. Before Caesar's five years' governorship of Gaul expired, Pompey and Crassus were to secure for him a reappointment to another five years. In the year 55 B. C. laws were passed making the terms of Pompey and Crassus five years in Spain and Syria. By this renewed demonstration of the power of the triumvirate Cicero saw the downfall of his hopes for immediate preference and Cato saw the passing of republican institutions.
In 54 B. C. Crassus set out with seven legions, with the purpose to vanquish the Parthians. The millionaire-Senator-General was led into the desert by an Arab traitor. The Roman army was suddenly surrounded by Parthian horsemen. The legions fled over the burning sands, but could not escape disastrous defeat. Crassus, a few days afterward ( June 9, 53 B. C.) was called to a conference with the Parthian commander and treacherously assassinated. The next year Pompey lent Caesar a legion, but despite this ostensible cooperation he was beginning to feel that natural antagonism against Caesar which had formerly existed. In the meantime Pompey's wife died, and as she was the only daughter of Caesar, another strong tie between the men was broken.
While T. Annius Milo and Clodius, one the candidate for the consulship, and the other working to secure the praetorship, were turning the streets of Rome into a gladiatorial arena, Pompey was quietly resting in his beautiful villa, fondly hoping that dictatorial power would be vested in him. Instead he was named sole Consul February 4, 52 B. C., and in five months he had his new father-in-law Metellus as his colleague. It was the notion of Cato that giving Pompey the legal position of Consul would deter him from taking active steps toward securing a larger and less constitutional administrative office. He was allowed to maintain control over Spain and all Africa, his annual charge out of the public treasury being a thousand talents. Pompey was beginning to fully realize the influence of Caesar. All that either of the two men needed to become the greatest man in Rome was the overthrow of the other. They had long since secretly resolved upon this very thing. Pompey had undoubtedly harbored such an idea from the commencement of his career, but Casar had looked upon his son-in-law as a leader to be despised and shorn of power at will. Pompey had been spoken of as a fit man to become dictator, and he had been secretly striving to obtain that position. He had not the temerity to seize it with the aid of his legions. Affairs were in this condition when Marcellus was named consul for the year 51 B. C. The crisis advanced a step nearer upon the request of Caesar for the consulship and the continuance of his provinces. Marcellus openly defied Caesar and heaped insults upon him. After the term of Marcellus had expired Casar became active in establishing himself in the favor of the leaders in Rome. From the wealth taken in Gaul he paid the debts of Curio, the tribune; gave Paulus, the Consul, 1,500 talents wherewith to build the Court of Justice adjoining the Forum. At these preparations Pompey organized his friends and immediately demanded of Caesar the legion which he had lent him several years before. Caesar returned the soldiers, giving each one a gift of 250 drachmae. In order to settle the now open dispute Caesar proposed that both he and Pompey should lay down their arms and retire to private life. Curio and Antony, the latter being tribune, made this proposal to the people, and the scheme met with popular approval. Caesar wrote letters to be read publicly in which he offered to relinquish all except Gaul within the Alps, Illyricum and two legions. His reason for expressing this wish was that he did not think it expedient to go to Rome as a private citizen seeking the consulate. Cicero now offered his services toward effecting an amicable settlement of the differences. He interceded with Pompey, who was willing to accept Caesar's proposition with the exception that he did not want the conqueror of Gaul to retain his soldiers. Finally Cicero prevailed upon Pompey and his friends to consent to Caesar's keeping the provinces and a small army of 6,000 men. But Lentulus, the Consul, appeared in the Senate and opposed the plan with fiery energy. He heaped insult and abuse upon Antony and Curio, and those two men left the Senate. They were compelled to flee Rome disguised as slaves. At this time Caesar was at Ravenna, and his available forces consisted of but 300 horse and 5,000 foot. The rest of his army was across the Alps, but his plans, made up after the flight of his friends from Rome, did not require a large force. He decided upon a sudden and bold step. Rome was to remain no longer in ignorance of the extent of his power and ambition. The Senate had passed a resolution to the effect that if he did not lay down his arms he should be considered a public enemy, and Caesar had no idea of laying down his arms.
Sending the most of his troops ahead of him, he made a night march south from Ravenna in the direction of Ariminum. In his path lay the River Rubicon, a stream formed by the union of three mountain currents and marking the frontier of Italy. To cross it meant that Caesar had directed himself against his own government. It was in the month of November, 49 B. C., and the river had grown into a torrent. Authorities differ as to the hesitation of Caesar before he took this final step. He has been pictured as standing on the .northern bank of the stream pondering for hours over the advisability of his course. Few of them allege that this hesitation was due to fear, however. It has been written that Casar addressed him-self in an impassioned speech to his soldiers shouting at last "The die is cast" and leaped into the river. However this may be, Caesar does not enlighten us in his commentaries and, in fact, he does not mention the commission of this irrevocable act in his own account. Merivale is of opinion that instead of thinking upon the effects of the move upon posterity his mind was probably absorbed in plans for the marching of his legions and the approaching combat at Ariminumn. Caesar crossed the Rubicon and paused at the latter city. There messages went to and fro between Caesar and Pompey, all of them seeking a reconciliation. Each demanded that the other abandon his position. The correspondence was finally terminated by a demand upon Caesar to retire from Ariminum and disperse his army. Seeing that further negotiations were useless, Cesar sent a portion of his small army further into Roman territory. Arezzo was occupied by Mark Antony with five cohorts, and Caesar took possession of three other cities, using one cohort for each. From the fact that Pompey did not attack and drive back the intrepid invader Trollope draws the conclusion that although Pompey had the command of a great army his soldiers could not be depended upon to make war against the popular Caesar. Although the conqueror's power had been shorn by the forced withdrawal of two of his legions he was still strong enough to frighten Pompey, the Consuls and a host of Senators out of Rome and southwards to Brundusium, whence they expected to leave Italy. Casar also made for the south, and the first battle in this historic civil war was fought at Corfinium. Caesar took possession of this town after coming out of a small engagement, victor. As the future founder of a line of despots traveled through his native country many soldiers who had followed him over mountains and across plains in Gaul, but who had been taken from him and placed under the command of Pompey, once more joined his army and pre-pared to fight under his standards. Caesar passed the capital and advanced rapidly toward Brundusium. Here were gathered with Pompey the Consuls, Senators, remnants of the nobility and all prominent adherents of that party which depended for its success and indeed for its very existence upon the genius and ability of Pompey. The fleeing host continued to retreat and Caesar advanced by the forced marches he knew so well how to conduct. Caesar laid siege to Brundusium, and Pompey, who had made the boast that he had but to stamp on Italian soil and legions of soldiers would arise to obey his behests, took flight from his native shores with his Consuls and Senators never more to see the sunny slopes of Italy or the Eternal City.
Pompey's fleet sailed to Dyrrachium in Illyria. After making an effort to intercept him and his fleet, and failing, Caesar proceeded to Rome, he could not follow Pompey because he had no transportation facilities. He therefore decided to arrange the Government of Italy during a short stay in Rome and then set out for Spain, whose valuable resources and government were in the hands of Pompey's lieutenants. In accordance with these plans he called together such of the Senators who had dared to remain in and around Rome and obtained their sanction to his various acts. He did not himself enter the city, thus showing a scrupulous regard for legal forms, which might scarcely have been expected of him. The appropriation of the sacred treasure heaped up in the vaults of the temple of Saturn was authorized upon his recommendation. This wealth had been reserved for generations and was to have been used for no purpose except the repelling of Gallic invasion, which danger had been threatening the Romans for many years. Casar insisted that because he had put an end to that fear he was entitled to the treasure. Cesar obtained these funds and laid the foundations of government in the month of April, 49 B. C.
Pompey's design was evidently to gather a great army in the East and then return and overthrow the "usurper." Casar resolved to secure the submission of all the West before he followed Pompey into Greece. Each sought the mastery in Rome and each left that city, going in opposite directions, in their preliminary preparations for the final conflict. Casar now had legions and he possessed the advantage of having his headquarters in Italy. Before departing for Spain he sent Claudius Fabius with three legions from Southern Gaul to take possession and maintain control of principal Spanish roads and the passes of the Pyrenees. Fabius fulfilled his mission with commendable zeal and energy. When Caesar arrived in the West his representative was confronting the Pompeian forces at Ilerda on the river Sicoris, this place having been chosen for the scene of battle. Afranius and Petreius, the Generals in command of the armies of Pompey in Spain, had five legions of hardy and seasoned veterans and were supported by a considerable number of native allies. Caesar's army was of about the same proportions. The Pompeian forces arrived first on the spot, however, and had all the advantage of position. The river had been spanned by a substantial stone bridge and their ranks were being supplied with provisions supplied by the entire surrounding country. Casar was compelled to build temporary bridges. A storm and subsequent flood swept these structures away, and left the invading army under still more disheartening circumstances. In spite of natural impediments Caesar succeeded in driving the enemy from their superior position. Upon their retreat he intercepted them and without any general engagement, forced them to surrender unconditionally.
This campaign, which had occupied but forty days and which gave to Caesar final supremacy in all Spain, was one of the most brilliant of the General's achievements. It was won by mere force of strategy and military skill and energy. After his decisive victory Caesar turned his attention to the Greek city of Massilia. This place was supposed to be independent and an ally of Rome. All about Massilia the Gallic tribes had been subdued. Despite these conditions the city had refused to open its gates for Caesar when the latter set out upon his advance against Spain.
Not willing to overlook this unfriendly act, Caesar left three legions before the city and went on his way with his materially diminished army. He ordered a fleet to be built for cooperation with the land forces in the siege which followed. The army was under command of Trebonius, and Decimus Brutus was given charge of the naval force. When Caesar returned from Spain he found the beleaguered city had undertaken extensive engineering operations against the Roman army, but was now ready to surrender. Caesar incurred the anger of his soldiers by refusing to destroy and sack the city. His veterans had expected rich booty, and their disappointment led to a dangerous mutiny soon afterward, at Placentia. In the meantime Curio had led an expedition into Africa, whose provinces were also governed by lieutenants of Pompey. Curio was slain at the battle of Bragadas. The disasters attending this campaign were more than offset by subsequent seizure of the granaries of Sicily, which were used to supply Caesar's army. In 48 B. C. Caesar was elected Consul. He thus legalized the establishment of his authority in Italy, Gaul and Spain. He now prepared to cross the Adriatic sea and force issues with Pompey. He arrived at Brundusium in January and prepared to take ship. He had few vessels at his command and was able to transport only 15,500 men. With-this army he landed at Palaeste on the coast of Epirus. He had difficulty in making his way through the fleets of his enemy, which far outnumbered his own, and the second detachment of his army was prevented by Pompey's vigilant cruisers from joining him until the winter had nearly passed. Many of the ships which had been sent back to Italy to bring over the remainder of Caesar's army had been destroyed. But before the arrival of Mark Antony, Caesar had boldly made his way into Macedonia, taking towns in his path and reducing fortresses. Caesar was anxious to confront Pompey, whose army now numbered nearly 100,000 men, gathered in Macedonia during the months Caesar had been busy in the West. With his small army Caesar pressed for a battle, but was unable to precipitate an engagement. Antony joined him, and the rein-forced army pushed after the enemy.
Pompey withdrew his hosts into a strongly fortified camp at Petra and defied Caesar to force him out. Pompey's enemy, however, was in no hurry to dislodge him and undertook to wall the immense camp on the seacoast on the land side by ramparts and towers reaching across the country seventeen miles. Caesar found his forces insufficient for the undertaking and was placed in great peril by a sudden flank movement by Pompey. His plans were disconcerted, and he suffered serious loss. While Caesar was recovering from this blow, Pompey and his adherents celebrated their victory. Caesar withdrew into the interior of the country to intercept reinforcements then on the way to join Pompey. As he had expected, Pompey followed him. This gave Caesar the opportunity he had sought of arraying his trained legions against the motley hosts of the enemy in an open country. On the plain of Pharsalia, in Thessaly, on August 9, 48 B. C., the decisive battle was fought. In spite of the fact that his foot soldiers were outnumbered two to one and that he had but few horsemen to meet the cavalry of Pompey, composed largely of young Roman nobles, Caesar broke the ranks of the enemy and speedily turned the defeat into a rout.
Pompey, utterly crushed, fled to Alexandria with a few attendants. When he landed in the harbor of Pelusium and set foot in Egypt, he was assassinated by a man sent to commit the bloody deed in the hope that the Court of Alexandria would thereby win the favor of Caesar. Other leaders of the Senatorial party escaped. Brutus and a few companions submitted to Cesar. When Caesar carried his pursuit of Pompey to Alexandria and was shown the gory head of his late opponent, former colleague and friend, he turned sadly. away and refused fellowship with the murderers of his daughter's husband. Upon his order Pompey's ashes were buried with every mark of honor. Caesar then undertook to settle a civil broil between the forces of Cleopatra and those of her brother, Ptolemy. An attempt had been made to expel "The Sorceress of the Nile." Both factions appealed to Caesar and he threw his fortunes into the balance with those of the beautiful Princess. It has been claimed that Caesar's decision in this matter was influenced by the personal charms of Cleopatra, and his attachment to the woman who was in later years to win the heart of another Casar. During the conflict, extending over nine months, the forces of Ptolemy were defeated and dispersed and Cleopatra was able to maintain possession of half of the Kingdom left to her by the will of her father.
While Caesar was engaged in this civil strife in foreign land, rumors were circulated in Rome to the effect that his army had mutinied and that Pompey's victor had lost his ability to win further battles. Moved by such reports as these, Pharnaces, son of Mithridates, resolved to regain the Kingdom of his father. He had proven traitor to his father, and for this treachery Pompey had rewarded him with the small Kingdom of Bosporus in the Crimea. Pharnaces now sought to obtain possession of Pontus, Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia. Domitius Calvinus, Caesar's lieutenant in Asia Minor, attacked Pharnaces at Nicopolis in 48 B. C., with a small force, but was defeated. Although he was needed in Rome, Casar determined to restore Roman dominion in Asia Minor before returning to the Imperial City. At the battle of Zela he struck the forces of Pharnaces a blow which shattered the throne and the hopes of the young King. It was after this battle that the laconic words, "Veni, Vidi, Vici," were penned as a message to Italy. Casar set out for Italy and arrived at Tarentum before any one was aware that he was coming. At a point between Tarentum and Brundusiurn Casar met Cicero, who had been awaiting his return for a year. The General embraced his old friend and one-time enemy. The two men walked side by side for some distance, and during the conversation it is supposed that Cicero was influenced to retire to private life. The orator separated himself from public affairs and spent the remaining years of Caesar's lifetime in literary labors.
Caesar's progress toward Rome had a salutary effect upon the seditious tendencies of the people. Rome became quiet. The government was in Caesar's hands. He had been made Dictator and administered affairs much like an absolute Monarch. For three months be busied himself raising money, passing bills, recruiting the Senate and appointing Magistrates and provincial Governors.
He proved himself enough of a skilled leader and keen judge of human nature to quell a serious mutiny in the army and made preparations to wrest Africa from his enemies. The Senatorial party had made headquarters in the city of Utica. Juba, the Numidian King, was their active ally. They had gathered a formidable army during Caesar's absence. Near the end of the year 47 B. C. Caesar assembled his forces at Lilybaeum and sailed with a detachment for Africa. Troops which were to follow were delayed by storms, and he was placed in a perilous position before their arrival. Upon arrival of the reinforcements he forced a battle at Thapsus, a coast town in possession of the senatorial party. The first charge of the Roman legions won the battle. Cesar lost but fifty men, while the enemy had 10,000 killed. The battle was fought April 6, 46 B. C. Scipio, the commander of the Senatorial forces, attempted to flee to Spain, but was intercepted and took his own life. Cato also committed suicide and the Numidian King followed his example. Numidia became a Roman province, and almost the last vestige of Pompey's former strength was swept away. There was one more battle which Caesar had to win before he could return to Rome and enjoy the fruits of his many campaigns. Cnaeus Pompey, son of the former Triumvir, had brought together in Spain a new army of disaffected officers and soldiers. Cesar sped over the Alps and the Pyrenees, and after a number of minor engagements, met and defeated Pompey in the decisive battle of Munda, on March 17, B. C. 45. It was a desperate conflict, but at its close 30,000 dead lay on the field and only Sextus Pompeius remained of the leaders of Caesar's enemies.
In Rome, Caesar was now regarded as a demigod and his praises were sounded from one end of Italy to the other. A statue inscribed "To the Invincible God" was raised to him in the Empire of Quirinus. The Conqueror returned to Rome in September, 45 B. C., entering without a triumph. That celebration was reserved until the following month.
Caesar was now supreme, and many citizens of Rome believed he would wreak summary vengeance on his enemies at home. He surprised these persons by restoring the statues of Sulla and Pompey. He pardoned Cassius, who had sought to assassinate him. The same magnanimous clemency was extended to Marcellus, who had stirred up war against him and to Quintus Sigarius, who had betrayed him in Africa. He maintained the existing institutions, only centering public action in himself by combining all the republican offices in his own hands.
In other days it had been the custom for a General to lay aside, after his triumph, his title of Imperator, but Caesar received sanction from the Senate for a departure from this course. Caesar retained for life absolute control over the army, the judicial department and the administrative power. The right was also accorded him to draw freely from the public treasury. Members of the magistracy were sworn to do nothing contrary to the acts of the Dictator, such acts being laws.
Caesar's seat in the tribunal, at the circus or at the theater was a throne of gold. His robe was of the royal purple and his image was stamped upon the coins of the realm, The Senate became a Mere committee to consult upon the propositions of the Dictator, if so be the Dictator took the trouble to ask their advice. This was the power vested in one man. He is said to have desired a crown and the title of Monarch. The question of a kingship caused vague alarms in Rome, and the Optimates were well pleased at the uneasiness. The members of the broken-down party had sworn to protect the life of Casar. Taking them at their word, the Dictator went daily to the Senate unarmed and apparently unafraid. Caesar was at the mercy of the men whom he had pardoned, and who hated him because he was able to show such clemency. A conspiracy, involving sixty Senators, was, formed with the assassination of the Imperator as its chief purpose. The co-operation of Marcus Brutus was secured. This was a valuable acquisition to the ranks of the conspirators, because Brutus was the only member of the Senatorial party whom Casar really trusted. Cato was his uncle, and Brutus had expressed deep gratitude to Caesar for sparing him his life and liberty after all that had transpired.
Notwithstanding these facts Brutus became with Cassius the leader of the conspiracy. The date upon which Caesar's life was to be taken was set for the Ides of March. Caesar was to set out in a few days for Parthia. The party for which Pompey died would be separated by appointments to distant offices within a few weeks. There was to be an important meeting of the Senate on March 15. It was whispered that the question of making Caesar King was to come up for consideration by the Pontifices. The night of the fourteenth, a meeting of the conspirators was held in Cassius' house. The Senate hour was chosen for the time of the murder. Caesar would attend unarmed. The Senators were to carry poniards in their paper boxes. A gang of gladiators was engaged to lie in readiness in an adjoining building in case some unforseen circumstance should disconcert the plans. Antony was to be detained in conversation at the door so that there would be no friendly hand to stay the poniards. The date arrived, but when the Senate convened Caesar's chair was vacant. His friend Decimus Brutus was sent to his house to bring him, as delay was considered dangerous. Caesar was uneasy and depressed. He shook off this feeling and started up to accompany Brutus to the Senate. As he crossed the hall his statue fell and was shivered to fragments on the floor. On the way to the Senate a man thrust a manuscript into Caesar's hand, with the request that he read it immediately. Caesar placed the roll, which contained an exposť of the entire plot, among his other papers and walked on. Upon taking his place he was surrounded by Senators. Under some pretext, one after another joined the group of conspirators. Tullius Cimber came forward with a request, and caught the Imperator's gown as if in entreaty. The folds of Caesar's robe were pulled tightly about his arms. Cassius, from behind, stabbed him in the throat. Caesar started up, and seized Cassius' arm, but at that instant another poniard entered his breast, inflicting a mortal wound. He looked about him, and seeing poniards flashing in scores of hands, he gathered his robes over his head and about his farm and fell. The Senate rose in confusion, and ran into the forum. The news of the assassination caused intense excitement and fear in the city. Antony fled for his life. The murderers ran through the streets announcing the fact that the tyrant was dead and Rome was free.
The far-reaching effect of the life-work of Julius Caesar was probably not appreciated or anticipated by the Dictator himself, nor by his contemporaries. In carving out the ideal of his own ambition the man of genius had brought civilization to hundreds of thousands of savages in the North.
He undoubtedly enabled the tribes in Gaul to advance farther in the line of progress in government and civilization than they would otherwise have done for centuries. He opened the country where Christianity took root in later years and left the impress of his genius upon all with which he came in contact.
He died before he could carry out gigantic schemes for the advancement of commerce, science and letters, but left the world a reformed calendar, which has been in use more than 2,000 years.
What he might have done for the state if his career had not been terminated so soon after the close of his series of military campaigns, has been the subject of much conjecture. Recent writers have inclined to the belief that too much glamour has been written into his history, but the weight of authority still tends toward accepting the statement that he was the greatest man of his century, and one of the greatest of all centuries.