Julius Caesar in Roman Biography

Caesar, (Julius,) [Fr. Jules Cesar, zhiil sa'ziR'; It Giulio Cesare, joo'leo cha'sa-ra ; Ger. Julius Casar, (or Caksar,) yoo'le-us tsa'zar,] or, more fully, Ca'iua Ju'lius Cae'sar.one of the greatest generals and greatest men that ever lived, was born in July, 100 B.C. He be longed to the Julian tribe or family, (Julia gens,) one of the most ancient in Rome, since it boasted its descent from Julus or lulus, the son of ^Eneas. Through the influence of Marius, who had married Cassar's aunt Julia, he was elected priest of Jupiter ( Flamen Dialis) while yet a mere boy. In 83 B.C. he married Cornelia, the daughter of ('inn.-.. This act gave great offence to Sulla, who commanded him to divorce his wife ; and, on his refusing to do so, he was proscribed. He escaped from Rome, and concealed himself for a time in the country of the Sabines. At length, at the intercession of some of Sulla's friends, he was reluctantly pardoned by the dictator, who remarked, it is said, that the young Cassar would some day be the ruin of the aristocratic party, adding, " In that boy there are many Mariuses." Soon after Cassar went to Nicomedes, King of Bithynia, and subsequently served with distinction in the Roman army in Cilicia. Having heard, while here, of the death of Sulla, he returned at once to Rome. About 76 B.C., while on his way to Rhodes for the purpose of studying oratory under Apollonius Molo, (who was also the instructor of Cicero,) he was taken prisoner by the pirates with whom the Mediterranean was at that time greatly infested. He was detained by them more than a month, until his friends could raise the sum demanded for his ransom. According to Plutarch, he treated his captors with great contempt, and, whenever he wished to sleep, used to send and order them to keep silence. He even threatened-in jest, as they supposed-to crucify them when he got his liberty. The ransom having at length been paid, he manned some Milesian vessels, pursued and took the pirates prisoners in their turn, and crucified them according to his promise. Having remained for some time in Rhodes, he returned to Rome, and became a candidate for popular favour. His patrimonial estate being insufficient to supply the means for that unbounded liberality by which he sought to ingratiate himself with the people, he borrowed for this purpose vast sums from the usurers. It was cast upon him as a reproach, by his enemies, that he was always in debt, and that his poverty ceased only when he had turned his arms against Rome and robbed the " public treasury. Then for the first time," says Lucan, " Rome was poorer than Caesar."* Caesar was elected quaestor in 68 B.C. ; and in the same year his wife Cornelia died. In 67 he married Pompeia, a relative of Pompey the Great, and granddaughter of Sulla the dictator. This was especially intended to conciliate Pompey ; and by various other means he sought to ingratiate himself with that great leader. He became aedile in 65 B.C., and purchased the favour of the populace by the exhibition of public games surpassing in magnificence anything of the kind ever before seen in Rome. In 64 B.C. he was elected pontifex maximus. Catiline's conspiracy occurred in 63, and Caesar was by many suspected of being accessory to it. When Cicero called for the opinion of the senators as to the punishment which should be inflicted on the conspirators, all the others gave judgment in favour of their death, until it came to Caesar's turn to speak. He contended that it was contrary to justice and to the usage of the Roman commonwealth to put men of their birth and dignity to death without an open trial, except in a case of extreme necessity. He recommended that they should be kept in prison in any of the cities of Italy which Cicero might fix upon, and that these cities should be bound by the severest penalties to keep them safely. Caesar's argu ments had great influence with the senate ; but Cato, following in an earnest and powerful speech, in which he accused Caesar of being connected with the conspiracy, carried most of the senators with him : the conspirators were condemned to death ; and Caesar himself narrowly escaped. As he was leaving the senate-house, his life was threatened by some of the Roman knights ; and, had it not been for the fear of the common people, it is probable that he might have been included in the accusation with Lentulus, Cethegus, and the rest. He became praetor in 62 B.C., and the next year was sent as propraetor to Spain, where he gained no little distinction both as a general and a civil magistrate, and was saluted by his army imperator. He was elected consul, with L. Calpurnius Bibulus as his colleague, in 60, and in 59 B.C. entered upon the duties of his office. One of his first measures was to propose an agrarian law, by which a rich tract of public land was to be distributed among the poorer citizens, especially those who had several children. Although this measure was strongly opposed by his colleague Bibulus, it was carried, chiefly through the influence of Pompey and Crassus. In order that he might strengthen his interest with Pompey still more, he gave him his daughter Julia in marriage, although she had previously been affianced to Servilius Caepio. Soon after Caesar himself married Calpuniia, the daughter of L. Piso, for whom he procured the consulship the ensuing year. He formed a secret alliance with Pompey and Crassus, known as the first triumvirate. Supported by such influence, Caesar had no difficulty in carrying through the senate whatever measures he pleased. The government both of Transalpine and Cisalpine Gaul, with that of Illyricum, was decreed to him for five years. The following spring, ("58 B.C.,) when L. Piso and A. Gabinius were consuls, Caesar left Rome for Transalpine Gaul, and before winter had ended triumphantly two formidable wars, the one with the Helvetii, and the other with Ariovistus, a German prince who had some time before crossed the Rhine and, being supported by a powerful army, had established himself in the eastern part of Gaul. The next year he subdued the various Belgic tribes or nations dwelling between the Rhine and the Seine. In 56 B.C., having divided his forces, assigning a part of them to his different generals (legati) respectively, he overran nearly all the rest of Gaul, besides quelling the insurrections of several nations who had been subdued the year before. In 55 he surprised and cut to pieces two powerful German tribes who had attempted to establish themselves in Gaul. In order more effectually to strike terror into the Germans, he crossed the Rhine by a bridge which he had constructed for that purpose, and, after ravaging the territories of the Sigambri, he recrossed the river and destroyed the bridge. The same year he invaded Britain, and compelled the submission of several of the tribes. The following year he made another expedition into Britain, defeated Cassivellaunus, one of their princes, who had been chosen generalissimo by the different tribes, and, having demanded hostages and fixed the tribute whicli Britain should pay to the Romans, he returned to Gaul. The ensuing autumn a most formidable revolt occurred among the Eburones, under their king Ambiorix, who succeeded, by stratagem or treachery, in surprising and cutting to pieces a considerable body of Caesar's troops under the generals Sabinus and Cotta. Fortunately, Caesar had not yet set out for Italy, as he was accustomed to do on the approach of winter. Ambiorix, whose army had become much increased in consequence of his recent victory, was soon after defeated by Caesar with great loss; but the latter deemed it most prudent to remain in Gaul through the entire winter. During the summer of 53 B.C. Caesar was chiefly occupied in repressing an extensive conspiracy which had been formed among the different Gallic nations, and in reducing to subjection such as had broken out into an open revolt. The following year a general insurrection took place among the Gauls. It was headed by Vercingetorix, a young nobleman of the Arverni, who proved himself to be a general of no mean capacity ; so that Caesar's situation was for a time extremely critical. There appeared to be the greatest unanimity among the various Gallic nations. Even the ^Edui, who, from the time when Caesar first obtained the government of Gaul, had been faithful allies to the Romans until now, made common cause with the rest, and joined the revolt. They took Noviodunum, a walled town which Caesar had made the chief depository of his stores ; and he was obliged to retreat to his lieutenant Labienus, beyond the Loire. But, having received reinforcements, he besieged Vercingetorix in Alesia, and at length compelled him to surrender. In the next year (51 B.C.) Caesar completed the pacification of Gaul. His daughter Julia, the wife of Pompey, had died in 54 B.C. Crassus, the other member of the triumvirate, had lost his life in the war against the Parthians. A coldness had gradually sprung up between him and Pompey, who appears to have become jealous of the recent brilliant successes of his colleague. From his first entrance into public life Caesar had attached himself to the popular party, and had constantly studied how he might reduce or overthrow the power of the aristocracy. Pompey, on the other hand, a favourite and connection of Sulla, had been one of the staunchest adherents of the senatorial faction, and, after the death of the dictator, was generally regarded as the chief of the aristocratic party. And although, through the arts and influence of Caesar, he had been induced for a time to take the other side, on the breaking up of their friendship he naturally fell back to his former position. There had been for some time, on the part of the aristocracy, a growing jealousy of Caesar's power and influence in the state. Some of the more violent were resolved to crush him, if possible, at all hazards. In the year 50 B.C. it was proposed to the senate, by Claudius Marcellus, that Caesar, having now finished the Gallic war, should be required to lay down his command. But the tribune Curio, whom Caesar had by large bribes gained over to his interest, interposed his veto. Caesar was, however, on different pretexts, deprived of two of his legions. Yet, desirous-or seeming to be so-of avoiding a rupture, if possible, he proposed to the senate, through Curio, to resign his command on condition that Pompey would do the same. The senate, however, refused even to consider the proposition. Afterwards, on the motion of Scipio, it was decreed that Caesar should disband his army against a certain clay, otherwise he should be held to be an enemy of the republic. This was a virtual declaration of war ; for few, if any, could suppose that Caesar would give up his army without a struggle. On being informed of the resolution of the senate, he assembled his soldiers and harangued them on the subject of his wrongs. When he found that they eagerly espoused his cause, he determined to Strike at once, while his enemies were yet unprepared. With only 5000 infantry and 300 horse-for his other forces were still beyond the Alps-he marched towards the confines of Italy, which, with its then limits, was separated on the east from Cisalpine Gaul by the small river Rubicon. When he arrived at the banks of this stream, as Plutarch informs us, he hesitated for some time, revolving in his mind the arguments for and against the momentous step which he was about to take. At last, " exclaiming, The die is cast !" he crossed the river, and, advancing with the utmost expedition, he occupied successively Ariminum, Arretium, Pisaurum, Ancona, Auximum, besides other places. Owing partly to his popularity and partly to the fear which his name inspired, all the towns of Italy seemed ready to open their gates at his approach. His triumphant progress filled Rome with consternation. In the general panic, Pompey, the two consuls, and most of the senators fled from the city in the direction of Capua. Pompey continued his flight to Brundisium, whither he was closely pursued by Caesar. He escaped, however, to Greece. Caesar, being unable to follow, for want of ships, returned to Rome, and not long after set out for Spain, where Afranius and Petreius, Pompey's lieutenants, were at the head of a formidable army. In his first engagement with them Caesar was worsted ; but, after encountering for a time great hardships from the want of provisions, he at length triumphed over every obstacle, and compelled Afranius and Petreius to sue for peace, which he granted on condition that they should disband their forces and not again take arms against him during the war. Having overcome all opposition in Spain,-the conquest of which occupied him only about forty days,-and subsequently reduced Massilia, (Marseilles,) he hastened to Rome. During his absence in Spain he had been declared dictator by the prsetor M. Lepidus. After eleven days, during which time several important laws had been passed, he abdicated the dictatorship, and immediately set out for Brundisium, where he had ordered his forces to assemble. But he found it impossible to obtain vessels sufficient for their transportation : he was therefore under the necessity of carrying over to Greece only a part of his troops at the first passage. Meanwhile, his situation was critical in the extreme ; for Pompey, on account of the multitude of his ships, had command of the sea, and a strict watch was kept upon the movements of Caesar's vessels, so that the forces of the latter were for a considerable time divided, one part having been landed in Epirus, while the other was compelled to remain in Italy. At length Bibulus, the commander of Pompey's fleet, died ; and, his place not being at once supplied, each of the officers acted according to his own judgment and independently of the others. After a time, the vigilance of the blockade having been somewhat relaxed, the remainder of Caesar's forces were carried over, under the conduct of his faithful friends Mark Antony and Fufius Calenus. In his first encounter with Pompey, near Dyrrachium, Caesar was repulsed with some loss, and compelled to retreat. He withdrew to Thessaly, whither he was pursued by Pompey. At last the two opposing armies met on the plains of Pharsalia ; and although the forces of Pompey (consisting of about 45,000 infantry and 7000 cavalry) were more than double those of his rival, who had about 22,000 foot-soldiers and 1000 horse, they sustained a disastrous defeat According to Caesar's own statement, about 15,000 of Pompey's men fell in the conflict, and more than 24,000 were taken prisoners. Pompey escaped to Egypt, where he was treacherously murdered. (See Pompey.) The result of the civil war may be said to have been decided by the battle of Pharsalia. But there still remained a formidable army of the Pompeians in Africa, under the command of Scipio and Cato. Caesar did not, however, proceed at once against these enemies. Having followed Pompey to Egypt, he became involved in a dispute respecting the claims of Ptolemy and his sister Cleopatra to the throne of that country. Captivated by the charms of Cleopatra, ht supported her cause against her elder brother, who perished during the war which ensued. Cleopatra was declared Queen of Egypt ; but her younger brother, called also Ptolemy, was associated with her on the throne. Before returning to Rome, Caesar inarched against Pharnaces, son of Mithridates the Great, King of Pontus, and totally defeated him near Zela. It was concerning this victory that he wrote to the senate the famous letter comprised in three words, "l-'erti, vidi, vici," ("I came, I saw, I conquered.") He arrived at Rome in September, 47 B.C., and before the end of that year set out for Africa. The opposing armies met at Thapsus, near the sea-coast, to the southeast of Carthage. The result was the total defeat, and ail-but extermination, of the forces under Scipio. The Caesarean soldiers, exasperated by the obstinacy with which the war had been protracted, cut to pieces all whom they overtook, killing without mercy even those who offered themselves as prisoners, in spite of the remonstrances and entreaties of Caesar. The cause of the senatorial party having become utterly desperate, Scipio, Juba, Cato, and several others of the leaders, unwilling to fall into the power of the conqueror, put an end to their lives with their own hands. Caesar returned to Rome, the undisputed master of the world. But he had scarcely completed the celebration of his recent victories, when intelligence arrived that Pompey's sons, Cneius and Sextus, had assembled a powerful army in Spain. Caesar hastened with his usual promptitude to meet the new danger. He engaged his enemies near Munda, and, after a very severe action, put them to a total rout. According to Plutarch, when Caesar saw his men hard pressed and making but a feeble resistance, he rushed into the thickest of the fight, exclaiming, " Are you not ashamed to deliver up your general into the hands of these boys ?"-alluding to me youth of Pompey's sons. After the battle he said to his friends that he had often fought for victory ; but then, for the first time, he had fought for his life. ' This was the last of Caesar's wars. Although he had thus risen to the summit of power on the ruins of the republic, in the exercise of that power he appears never to have lost sight of the true interests of his country and of the world. One of the first subjects that claimed his attention was the regulation of the Roman calendar. For this purpose, though well versed himself both in mathematics and astronomy, he availed himself of the skill of the most eminent mathematicians of that age. The improved mode of computing time introduced by him has, with some slight modifications, been adopted by all civilized nations, and his name has become inseparably associated with the new calendar, both in the name of the month July, and in the phrases "Julian year," "Julian period," etc. He procured the enactment of several important and salutary laws, and was revolving in his mind vast projects of public improvements, including the preparation of a complete digest of the Roman laws, the clearing out and enlarging of the harbour of Ostia, (at the mouth of the Tiber,) the draining of the Pontine marshes, the cutting of a canal across the Isthmus of Corinth, and the establishment of public libraries, when death put an end to his labours and undertakings. After the total overthrow of the partisans of Pompey, he had received from the senate the title of Imperator (whence comes our word "emperor") for life; he was also declared dictator, and Prafectus AJorum, (" prefect of manners," or " customs,") both offices being perpetual. As pontifcx maximus, or high-priest, he had control of the religion of the state. To all these honours he wished to add the title of king, {rex,) and thus to hand down his power and dignities to his successor. Having no legitimate children, he adopted his grand-nephew Octavius, whose mother Atia was the daughter of Julia the sister of Caesar, as his successor and the inheritor of his name. His devoted adherent Mark Antony, on the occasion of the festival called Lupercalia, perhaps with a view to sound the feelings of the people, publicly offered to Caesar a regal crown ; but he, perceiving that it displeased the multitude, refused it, though, as it was thought, with some reluctance. The name of king, from the time of the Tarquins, had always been, and still was, peculiarly odious to all classes of the Romans ; and this consideration encouraged Caesar's bitter enemies, of whom there vyere not a few concealed among the aristocracy, to believe that the taking of his life would meet with many approvers even among the people. There was at length formed against him a conspiracy, in which more than sixty persons were implicated. The principal instigator and leader of the enterprise was Cassius, who had distinguished himself as the lieutenant of Crassus in the Parthian war. M. Brutus was also prominent among the conspirators. He appears to have been actuated by a sincere though mistaken patriotism; while Cassius, there is leason to believe, was chiefly influenced by personal animosity. It is said that Caesar had many warnings of his approaching fate, and that the night before his death his wife Calpurnia dreamed that he was murdered in her arms. In the morning she entreated him with te;js not to go to the senate-house, as he had intended. When he had almost decided to stay at home, Decimui Brutus, one of the conspirators, to whom, as well as to M. Brutus, Caesar had shown many favours, and in whom he had the greatest confidence, came in, and at length prevailed on him to go with him to meet the senate. It had been arranged, as it appears, that while one of the conspirators, L. Tillius Cimber, was presenting a petition to Caesar, some of the others should crowd around, as if to urge the same request, when an attack upon him should be made by all at once. At first Caesar resolutely resisted; but, when he perceived the number of his assailants, he wrapped himself in his toga and resigned himself to his fate. According to one account, Cxsar defended himself with spirit until he saw the dagger of M. Brutus among the rest, when he exclaimed, " Et tu, Brute !" (" Thou too, Brutus !") and yielded without any further struggle. Shakspeare, in his tragedy of "Julius Caesar," appears to have followed scrupulously and minutely the popular traditions respecting the death of Caesar. After his death it was found that his body had been pierced with twenty-three wounds. He was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Caesar was tall in stature, and of a noble and commanding presence. He was naturally of a delicate constitution ; but by continual exercise and by a frequent exposure to hardships, with the aid of an indomitable will, he became so hardy that few if any could surpass him in enduring the fatigues and privations of a military life. It would seem, however, that his unremitting mental exertions and anxieties began at last to tell upon his health ; for Suetonius speaks of his suffering from ill health, assigning it as a reason why he was so reckless of the warnings given him by the soothsayers, as if his life had not been worth the trouble necessary for its preservation. He was subject to occasional attacks of epilepsy ; but they were so rare that they do not appear to have seriouslv interfered with his attention to his multitudinous affairs. Considered as a general, a statesman, and a ruler, we must admit that few, if any,-even among the most remarkable men that ever lived,-have equalled him, especially if we take into account the versatility as well as the greatness of his talents. " As a soldier," says Suetonius, "it is hard to say whether he was more cautious or mor; daring. He never marched his army where he was liable to any ambush from the enemy without taking all possible precaution by his scouts. Nor did he pass over into Britain until he had made due inquiry respecting the harbours and what convenience there was for landing his troops. Yet when information was brought him of the siege of a camp of his in Germany, he made his way to his men in a Gallic dress through the enemy's guards. He also went over from Brundisium to Dyrrachium in winter in the midst of the hostile fleets." In the fertility of his resources he appears to have been superior to every other commander of whom history makes mention. He rarely if ever repeated the same stratagem ; but he seems to have had a new expedient or invention for every new occasion, and one which was always adequate to the emergency. Speaking of those extraordinary men who have compelled "nations unaccustomed to control" to bow obedient to their will, Macaulay remarks that "in this class three men stand pre-eminent,-Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte. The highest place in this remarkable triumvirate belongs undoubtedly to Caesar. He united the talents of Bonaparte to those of Cromwell ; and he possessed also what neither Cromwell nor Bonaparte possessed,-learning, taste, wit, eloquence, the sentiments and the manners of an accomplished gentleman." (See his article on Hallam's " Constitutional History," in the "Edinburgh Review," 1828.) In Caesar the intellect, the passions, and the will appear to have maintained a perfect equipoise. For, strong and fierce as were his passions, he never allowed them to rule him ; thus justifying the well-known line of Pope's "Temple of Fame,"- "Cjesar, the world's great master, and his own." He never permitted personal pique or animosity to interfere in any way with the grand purposes of his life. Although he was, it must be confessed, very far from being a virtuous man, even in the pagan acceptation of the word, he possessed some very noble and rare moral qualities. He appears to have shunned, as by " an immortal instinct," everything that was petty, narrow, or vindictive. Generosity and magnanimity seem to have been inseparable parts of his nature. Suetonius, who certainly did not err on the side of partiality, says Caesar was always obliging and kind to his friends, mentioning as an example that when he was on a journey through a wild country with C. Oppius, and the latter was suddenly taken ill, Caesar gave up to him the only sleeping-apartment, and lay himself on the ground in the open air. The same writer also observes that he never carried a quarrel so far but that he was always ready to lay it down when a reasonable occasion offered. His clemency and generosity were conspicuous in every part of his life, but especially so towards the conquered party in the civil war. He was not only a perfect master in the use of arms, and a most skilful horseman, but he was accustomed, when occasion required, to swim across rivers rather than permit the slightest delay. In oratory he was, in that age, second only to Cicero ; and it is thought that had he devoted himself more fully to the study he might have surpassed Cicero himself. He is said to have been a perfect master of all the learning and science of his time. Besides being a general, statesman, jurist, orator, and historian, he was also a poet, a mathematician, an astronomer, and an architect. As a historian he justly holds a very high rank. His style is distinguished for clearness, ease, and simplicity, and is not without elegance. His historical writings consist of the first seven books of the commentaries relating to the Gallic war and the three books concerning the civil war. Besides the above, he wrote various other works, of which only fragments remain. A few of his letters have been preserved among the letters of Cicero. See Plutarch, "Lives;" Suetonius, "Lives of the Twelve Caesars:" C«sak, "Commentaries;" Dion Cassius, "History of Rome ;" Appian, " Bellum Civile ;"Drumann, "Geschichte Roms;" Julius Celsus, "De Vita et Rebus gestis C. J. Caesaris," 169; ; Richard de Burv, " Histoire de la Vie de J. Cesar," 2 vols., 1758; At pim\-sE DK Beauchamp, "Vie de J. Cesar," 1823: Napoleon Bonaparte, "Precis des Guerres de J. Ce'sar, ecrit par M. Marchaud sous la Dieted de l'Empereur," 1836; Enrico Bindi, "Sulla Vita e sulle Opere di C. G. Cesare discorso," 1844 • P- VAN Limburg- Brouwer, "Cesar en zijne Tijdgenooten," 4 vols., 1845-46; Jacob Abbott, "Life of Julius Caesar," 1849; Napoleon III., "Histoire de Jules C^sar," 2 vols., 1867-68; Lucan, "Pharsalia;" also Byron, "Childe Harold," canto iv., 90th stanza.

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