Julius Caesar.

C. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii rerum gestarum. Caesar's Commentaries: the Gallic war, books I-Iv, with selections from books V-VII and from the civil war; online

. (page 51 of 73)
Online LibraryJulius CaesarC. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii rerum gestarum. Caesar's Commentaries: the Gallic war, books I-Iv, with selections from books V-VII and from the civil war; → online text (page 51 of 73)
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Companion to Caesar


tinction rarely conferred, and most highly esteemed. It was
given only to the soldier who had saved the life of a Roman
citizen in battle, had killed his adversary, and held the posi-
tion where the rescue was made, without retreating. There is
a good representation of a Civic Crown
on a coin of the Emperor Augustus
(Fig. 155).

250. Returning to Rome, after Sulla's
death (78 b.c), Caesar brought charges
of extortion in provincial management
first against Gnaeus Dolabella, who
had been proconsul in Macedonia, and
afterwards against Gaius Antonius,
who had plundered Greece ; at that
time the bringing of delinquent officials
to justice was a common way of intro-
ducing one's self to public notice.
Though both Dolabella and Antonius
seem to have escaped punishment,
Caesar showed marked oratorical power, and in prosecuting
them attracted favorable attention.

Wishing to perfect himself in oratory, in 76 Caesar started
for Rhodes, to study under Apollonius Molo, the most eminent
teacher of the art. In the Eastern Mediterranean the pirates
were still active ; near Miletus his ship was captured, and he
was held a prisoner on an island for thirty-eight days, until
his retinue could return and bring to the pirates a ransom of
fifty talents, more than fifty thousand dollars. As a captive
he showed himself merry and sociable ; and he jokingly told
his captors that some day he would come back and crucify
them. Being released, he at once manned ships at Miletus,
attacked the pirates suddenly, and captured most of them.
True to his word, he crucified them, but ordered their throats
cut first — Suetonius adds, as an example of Caesar's humane-
ness — in order to spare needless suffering. The quioknefi
action, daring, and success of this adventure reveal in Caesar

Figure 155. — Civic Crown,

corona civica.

Silver coin of Augustus, de-
narius, struck in 16 or 15 b.c
The crown, of oak leaves, is tied
with a fillet. Inscription, ob
civis servatos, ' on account of
the saving of citizens.'


Life of Caesar


at the age of twenty-four the qualities that characterized his
entire career.

251. a. During the next sixteen years Caesar followed the
usual course of political
promotion, neglecting no
means by which he might
increase his popularity.
He bestowed gifts with
a free hand, assumed the
debts of bankrupt young
nobles who had squan-
dered their inheritance,
gave largesses to the
people. When his own
means were exhausted,
he borrowed large" sums
at high rates of interest,
with the design of obtain-
ing reimbursement from
the spoils of office, Ac-
cording to Plutarch his
indebtedness, before he
held a single office, had
reached the enormous sum
of thirteen hundred tal-
ents, about a million and
a half of dollars.

b. In 68 B.C. Caesar
was quaestor, and accom-
panied Antistius Vetus to
Spain. Here his duties
were chiefly financial ; the
provincial quaestor had
charge of the military
stores and supervised the keeping of accounts for the pro-
vincial governor. This was doubtless a good business training

Figure 156. — Ancient trophy, of marble.

Now on the Capitoline hill in Rome, badly
weatherworn ; by some thought to be one of the
very trophies set up by Marius and restored by
Julius Caesar.

This is an imitation of the trophies which were
made on battle-fields by fastening shields, helmets,
and other weapons of the enemy to trunks of
trees, or posts.


Companion to Caesar


for Caesar, which he turned to excellent use later in his ad-
ministration in Gaul.

c. In 65 b.c. Caesar was curule aedile, with Bibulus as
colleague; the curule aediles had charge of the streets ami
public buildings, the markets, and the celebration of the public
games. In this office, by extravagant expenditures on games
and public improvements, he raised the enthusiasm of the
populace to the highest pitch. He even dared by night to set
up in the Capitol the statue of Marius, and trophies of
victories in the Jugurthine and Cimbrian wars, which had
been thrown down by Sulla seventeen years before ; and the
people wept for joy at the revival of old memories (Fig. 156).
He secured so many gladiators for public shows that the
Senate became alarmed, on account of
the presence of so great an armed force,
and passed a law restricting the num-
ber ; but he nevertheless exhibited
three hundred and twenty pairs, all
resplendent in silver armor. Caesar's
political methods were not unlike those
of his contemporaries, but he excelled
them in daring and foresight — and

252. It has been believed by many
that Caesar was connected with the
Catilinarian conspiracy of 65 b.c, if
not also with that of 63 ; but the evi-
dence is meager. Much more important
was his election, in 63 b.c, after a
bitter contest, to the office of Supreme
Pontiff, Pontifex Maximus. The ten*
ure of this office was for life. As the
head of the college of pontiffs, then
fifteen in number, the Supreme Pontiff was virtually the head
of the Roman religious system. He decided questions relat-
ing to religious law and usage, and he had charge of the

Figure 157. — Symbols of
Caesar's office, as Su-
preme Pontiff.
Middle, axe used in sacrifices,
with wolf's head above.

Right, priest's cap, with point
(apex), and bands for tying
under the chin.

Left, sprinkler for holy
water, and underneath, wine-

Silver coin, denarius, struck
by Caesar in Gaul, probably in
50 b.c. Obverse in Fig. 164.

§254] Life of Caesar 593

Calendar ; the priests of Jupiter and of other divinities, as
well as the Vestal Virgins, were under his jurisdiction. The
first coin struck by Caesar in Gaul on one side bears the
symbols of his sacred office (Fig. 157), the ax for striking
victims in offering sacrifice, the close-fitting cap, with point of
olive wood, worn by certain priests, the brush-shaped sprinkler
for holy water, and the ladle for dipping up wine, for use in
pouring libations.

253. In 62 b.c. Caesar held the office of praetor, in the dis-
charge of which, amid scenes of violence, he carried himself
with firmness and dignity ; the functions of the praetor were
judicial, and in stormy times the administration of justice is
doubly difficult. The next year he was propraetor in Further
Spain, where he won distinction by subduing several tribes
along the Atlantic in Gallaecia and Lusitania. Eeturning to
Rome in the summer of 60, with abundant means of satisfying
his creditors, he was decreed a public thanksgiving for his
victories, and was soon elected consul for the year 59.

In the year of his consulship, 59, Caesar married Calpurnia,
familiar to readers of Shakespeare's " Julius Caesar " ; she
was the daughter of Calpurnius Piso (I. 12), and was Caesar's
fourth wife. For his first wife, Cossutia, was divorced before
he married Cornelia, his second wife (248), who had died
before his quaestorship ; and Pompeia, whom Caesar married
in 67 b.c, as his third wife, was divorced six years later.

254. For some years Pompey had been the most conspicuous
Roman. His successes in the campaign against the pirates
and the war with Mithridates, and his conquest of Syria and
Palestine, had made him the national hero (Fig. 147). But
in the qualities needful for a political leader he was quite
lacking ; so that even from his own party, the aristocratic, he
was unable to win either the recognition he desired or the
privileges to which he was entitled. More than once the
Senate snubbed him outright. Here Caesar saw an opportunity.
Relying on his own popularity, he proposed to Pompey that
they work in harmony, and by uniting their influence accom-


Companion to Caesar


plish what either might desire. Pompey agreed; and with
these two, Crassus, the wealthiest man of Rome, was joined,
making a political coalition really supreme, which is known as
the First Triumvirate. It had no official existence ; it was
simply a political ring, of only three members but of un-
limited power. It was to cement this union that Pompey,
then a widower for the third time, married Caesar's daughter
Julia (248), who was less than half his age.

255. During his consulship, in 59, among other measures
Caesar caused a law to be passed regarding the division of the

public lands, which, though bitterly
opposed by the Senate, pleased the
people greatly. With his aid, too,
Pompey gained the favors previously
denied. While consul he seems to have
used his influence with the Senate to
secure a recognition of Ariovistus, the
German ruler, with whom he after-
wards fought (I. 33, 35, 40).

At the close of his consulship, as it
was the custom to give to ex-consuls
the charge of provinces, Caesar easily
obtained for five years the govern-
ment of both Cisalpine Gaul (28 Ji) ami
Illyricum (298), together with the part

of Transalpine Gaul previously subdued, which in this book

is called the Province (290).

256. Caesar was soon engaged in the conquest of Trans-
alpine Gaul beyond the Province. The first summer (58 B.C.)
he drove back to their homes the Helvetians, who had at-
tempted to migrate from the country now called Switzerland,
to the west of Gaul ; and he annihilated the army of the Ger-
man king, Ariovistus. The following year he subdued the
Belgic States in the north.

The third campaign (56 b.c.) was against the peoples of nortli-
west Gaul, that had leagued together to resist Caesar. In April

Figure 158. — Goddess of
Silver coin, denarius, struck
about 53 b.c. to symbolize the
harmony between the members
of the Triumvirate. Inscription,
CONCORDIAI = Concordiae, ' To


Life of Caesar


of this year at Luca, near the southern border of Cisalpine Gaul,
Caesar had renewed his compact with Pompey and Crassus, who
agreed to see to it that his command should be extended for
five years longer (Fig. 158). A part of every winter except one
(54-53), he spent in Cisalpine Gaul, so as to be near Rome and
retain his influence in home politics ; it was contrary to law that
a provincial governor having an army should enter Italy while
in office.

In 55 b.c. Caesar chastised several German tribes and bridged
the Rhine ; then he crossed over to Britain. The campaign of
the next summer (54) was principally
against the Britons, part of whom he
reduced to nominal subjection. In the
fall a division of his army in Belgium,
under the command of Sabinus and
Cotta, was cut off by a sudden uprising
of the enemy.

In 53 Caesar had to face an extensive
rebellion of the Gallic states, which,
however, he speedily crushed. But the
next year almost all Gaul rose against
him, and under the leadership of Ver-
cingetorix taxed his powers to the
utmost. He finally prevailed ; and
after the fall of Alesia (52 b.c), the
strength of the Gauls was forever

In the eighth campaign, summer of
51, the states that had not submitted

were one by one reduced to complete subjection. The following
spring, in 50 b.c, Caesar left his army and went into Cisalpine
Gaul. Here he resolved to remain till the expiration of his
command in 49, returning to Transalpine Gaul only for a
short time during the summer to review the troops.

257. Caesar's Gallic victories are symbolically portrayed on
several coins. On one (Fig. 159), we see in the middle a trophy,

Figure 159. — Symbols of
victories over the Gauls.

Middle, trophy, draped; at
the top, a Gallic helmet, horned.

Hanging from the trophy at
the left is an oval shield ; at the
right, a Gallic war-trumpet.

Behind the war-trumpet is
a sacrificiai axe, above which
is the head of an animal.

Gold coin, aureus, struck by
Caesar in Rome in 49 b.c


Companion to Caesar

B 258

draped ; on the top is a Gallic helmet, with a bull's horns.
Suspended on one side of the trophy is an oval shield ; opposite
is a Gallic war trumpet, with the mouth carved to represent
the head of a serpent; then, nearer the edge of the coin, a
sacrificial ax. The base of the trophy divides the victor's
name, Caesar. A trophy appears less distinctly on another
coin of Caesar, but at the foot is Vercingetorix, sitting, with
his hands tied behind him ; his head is turned toward the left
as he looks upward (cf. Fig. 161).

258. During Caesar's absence in Gaul, in 55 B.C., Crassus
undertook a campaign of conquest against the Parthians, in
the Far East; 'he was defeated and
killed in 53 b.c The triumvirate was
thus brought to an end, and with it
speedily ended the cooperation be-
tween Caesar and Pompey.

Pompey began to view Caesar's suc-
cesses with distrust and alarm. He
entered into alliance again with the
aristocracy. In 50 b.c the Senate in
Pompey's interest passed a decree that
he and Caesar should each give up a
legion for service in, the East. Since
53 Caesar had had one of Pompey's
legions ; this was now demanded back.
Caesar let it go, and one of his own
too, without a complaint, although the
intent of the whole action was evidently to weaken his forces.
As it was not lawful for him to proceed in person to Rome, he
stationed himself in Ravenna, the town of Cisalpine Gaul nearest
the boundary of Italy (288), on the east side ; thence he sent
agents and friends to the City to negotiate for him, to try to
offset the influence now openly brought to bear against him,
but the negotiations were fruitless.

Pompey (Fig. 160) and the Senate both hated and tVan.l
Caesar. A decree was passed that he should disband his army

Figure 160. — Pompey the
Silver coin struck by Pom-
pey's admiral, Nasidius, some
years after his death. The tri-
dent, the dolphin, and the in-
scription NEPTUNI, 'Of Nep-
tune,' refer to the fleet of his son,
Sextus Pompey. Cf. Fig. 146.

§261] Life of Caesar 597


by a certain date^ or be considered an outlaw. In the state of
public affairs at the time, this was simply to wrest from him
the fruits of his hard-won successes, without leaving him even a
guaranty of his personal safety. Caesar hesitated. The Senate
voted further, that the consuls should " provide that the state
receive no hurt," which is like a proclamation of martial law in
our day.

259. This action of the Senate was virtually a declaration of
war against Caesar, inspired by the jealousy of his opponent.
With one legion he at once (in January, 49 b.c.) crossed the
Rubicon, the boundary of his province (283), and marched south.
Soon all Italy was in his power ; Pompey, the Senate, and their
followers had fled to Macedonia, on the east side of the Adri-
atic (299).

After arranging matters at Rome to suit himself, in April, 49
b.c, Caesar went to Spain, where lieutenants devoted to Pom-
pey, Afranius and Petreius, had a strong army. They were
soon crushed, the main force being captured near Ilerda in
August of 49. On his return from Spain to Italy, Massilia
(Marseilles), which had closed its gates to him on the way out,
and had been besieged with great energy in his absence by
Trebonius, gave itself into his hands ; its fleet had been de-
stroyed, in two engagements, by Decimus Brutus (p. 425).

260. Operations in Africa in 49 were not so fortunate ; for
the force dispatched under Curio to defeat the followers of
Pompey in Africa, led by Varus, was utterly destroyed through
the aid of the wily Numidian king, Juba.

261. At the end of 49 Caesar had control of all Roman
territories west of the Adriatic ; the provinces east of the
Adriatic, however, were in the hands of Pompey, who was
mobilizing forces in Macedonia obviously for a descent upon
Italy from across the sea ; in consequence Caesar also now
gathered his forces on the east side of the Adriatic. For
some months, in the earlier part of 48, the armies of Pompey
and Caesar faced each other near Dyrrachium (Durazzo) ; but
Caesar was obliged to withdraw into the interior. The decisive

598 Companion to Caesar [§ 262

battle was fought August 9, 48 b.c, near the city of Pharsalus,
in Thessaly. Caesar's forces numbered about twenty-two thou-
sand men, with one thousand cavalry ; Pompey had forty-seven
thousand infantry, seven thousand cavalry, and some light-
armed troops. But superior generalship and the courage of
desperation won the day against overwhelming odds. The
Senatorial forces were entirely routed. Pompey fled to Egypt,
where he was treacherously murdered.

262. Caesar also went with a small force to Egypt, where,
in Alexandria, he became involved in the Alexandrine War.
For a time this war occasioned him great difficulty because of
his inability to secure reinforcements ; but finally Mithridates
of Pergamum came to his assistance with an army, marching
down through Cilicia and Syria to Egypt. By April of 47 B.C.
Caesar had the country under complete control ; but he him-
self is said to have fallen a victim to the charms of the young
and beautiful Egyptian princess, Cleopatra.

263. Leaving Cleopatra and a younger brother on the Egyp-
tian throne, Caesar in June proceeded through Syria north to
Pontus, where at Zela he easily crushed the rebellious King
Phamaces, reporting the quick victory to a friend in the
laconic message, vim, vldi, vici. He soon afterwards returned
to Rome.

264. Caesar had only three months in Rome before he was
obliged to take the field against the Pompeian forces, now
gathered in Africa under the leadership of Scipio and Labienus.
In January, 46, he landed with a small army near Hadrumetum,
southeast from Carthage, where he maintained his position
until sufficient forces could be brought over. At the battle of
Thapsus, April 6, 46 b.c, he won a complete victory over the
Pompeians and Juba, who was still helping them.

265. Caesar was now everywhere master. In accordance
with legal forms he promulgated several laws of great benefit
to the people. He reformed the calendar also {241, c). In
August of 46 in Rome Caesar celebrated his great triumph. On
four ditfe rent days triumphal processions wound along the


Life of Caesar


Sacred Way through the Forum and up the Capitoline Hill,
displaying to the astonished multitudes the spoils of victories
in Gaul, Egypt, and Pontus, and over Juba in Africa.
Treasure amounting to 65,000 talents (more than $70,000,000)
was carried in the procession ; and a conspicuous figure was
the Gallic commander-in-chief, Vercingetorix, who had been
kept in prison six years awaiting this event. In honor of the
triumph twenty-two thousand tables
were spread for the feasting of the
populace, and games and gladiatorial
shows were given with a magnificence
previously unheard of.

266. In 45 b.c. a large army was
collected against Caesar in Spain, com-
manded by the two sons of Pompey.
Caesar marched against it, and at the
battle of Munda (March 17) totally
defeated it. On a coin struck in Spain
in 45, and perhaps put into circulation
in order to pay his soldiers, Caesar
commemorates Spanish as well as
Gallic victories (Fig. 161). A large
trophy supports, in the middle, a coat
of mail, above which is a helmet ; on
either side is a spear (disproportion-
ately short), then a shield, and a war-
trumpet. At the foot, on the right, is a seated captive, with
his hands tied behind him and face turned backward, looking
up, his hair streaming down ; this we may safely identify as
Vercingetorix. At the left sits a female figure, weeping, a
personification of Hispania.

267. On Caesar's return to Rome the Senate, whose mem-
bers were now mainly of his own choosing, loaded him with
honors. By conferring upon him all the important offices,
especially the dictatorship in life tenure, it centered the whole
authority in his hands. Finally it ordered his portrait struck

Figure 161. — Commemo-
ration of Gallic and
Spanish victories.
Middle, trophy with Gallic

and Spanish arms ; cuirass,

helmet, two spears, two oval

shields, two trumpets.

Below, at right, Vercing-e-

torix, seated, with hands bound

behind him ; at left, Hispania,

personified, weeping.

Silver coin, denarius, struck

by Caesar in Spain in 45 b.c.


Companion to Caesar


Figure 162. — Caesar.

Silver coin, denarius, struck
in Rome in 44 b.c.

Obverse, head of Caesar
with laurel wreath. Inscription :
PETUO, ' Dictator for Life.'

on coins, from which previously faces of living men had been

excluded (Fig. 162), and decreed that statues of him should be
placed in the temples of the gods in

268. Caesar's use of absolute power
was marked by unexpected clemency
towards former opponents ; in recog-
nition of this the Senate shortly before
his death ordered a temple built and
dedicated to 'Caesar's Mercifulness,'
personified as a divinity (Fig. 163).
He contemplated large projects for the
public weal ; nevertheless his foresight
and breadth of view counted for noth-
ing in the bitter hatred of his political
enemies. A conspiracy was formed to
take his life. On March 15, 44 b.c,

as Caesar had just entered the hall where the Senate met,

near Pompey's Theater, he was set

upon with daggers, and fell, pierced

by twenty-three wounds, at the foot of

a statue of his vanquished rival.
Though the assassination of Caesar

was commemorated by a coin (Fig.

167), the plans of the murderers all

miscarried. It is said that not one of

them died a natural death ; and before

many years Caesar's nephew and heir,

Octavianus, afterwards called Augus-
tus, was Emperor of the Roman world.
269. Caesar was tall and of com-
manding presence. His features were

angular and prominent. He had a

fair complexion, with keen black eyes.

In later years he was bald ; at no time of life did he worn a

beard. Suetonius says that among all the honors conferred

Figure 163. — Temple of
Caesar's Mercifulness.
Front of the Temple, with
four columns, and double doors
closed. Inscription, CLEMEN-
tiae caesaris. ' To the Mer-
cifulness of Caesar.'

Silver coin, denarius, struck
in 44 b.c.

§271] The Name Caesar 601

upon Caesar by the Senate and the People none was more
acceptable to him than the privilege of wearing at all times a
laurel crown, by which his baldness was concealed (Fig. 162).
Though endowed with a constitution naturally by no means
robust, he became inured to hardship, and exhibited astonish-
ing powers of endurance. In matters of dress he was par-
ticular to the verge of effeminacy.

270. Of all the Romans Caesar was without doubt the
greatest. In him the most varied talents were united with a
restless ambition and tireless energy. While deliberate and
far-seeing in forming his plans, in carrying them out he often
acted with a haste that seemed like recklessness. He could
occasion scenes of the most shocking cruelty ; yet none could
be more forgiving, or more gracious in granting pardon. Ap-
parently believing, with the Epicurean philosophy, that death
ends all and life is worth living only for the pleasure to be
gotten out of it, he mingled freely with the dissolute society
of Rome ; yet when it was time for action he spurned indul-
gences, gave himself to the severest toil, and endured priva-
tions without a murmur.

In regard to all these things, however, we may say that
Caesar's faults were those he shared in common with his age ;
his genius belongs to all ages. Chateaubriand declares that
Caesar was the most complete man of all history ; for his
genius was transcendent in three directions — 'in politics, in
war, and in literature.


271. Roman surnames, which in many cases became family
names, were generally derived from some personal character-
istic or association. For the name Caesar scholars in antiquity
suggested four derivations, of which one was, that the first of
the Julii to bear the name Caesar received it because he was
born with a thick head of hair, caesaries ; another was, that
it came from the color of the eyes, bluish gray, caesius.


Companion to Caesar


Figure 164. — Elephant
trampling upon a ser-
pent-headed Gallic war-
Silver coin, denarius, struck

by Caesar in Gaul, probably in

50 b.c

The reverse of the same coin

ts shown in Fig. 157.

There was also a tradition that the first Julius to be called
Caesar had killed an elephant and received the name from the
word for elephant in the language of
the Mauri, in A Erica, from whose coun-
try elephants came. This derivation
seems to have commended itself to
Julius Caesar ; for on a coin struck by
him in Gaul (Fig. 164), we see, over

Online LibraryJulius CaesarC. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii rerum gestarum. Caesar's Commentaries: the Gallic war, books I-Iv, with selections from books V-VII and from the civil war; → online text (page 51 of 73)