Julius Caesar.

Cæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: online

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ceive how a person will hope for impossibilities ; but we can
think of any thing. While Pompey was thus encouraging him-
self and the others, but was, in reality, tortured by intense
anxiety, as far as I can learn, he remained for a great portion
of the night with his army in battle array : Caesar came forth
from his camp with the intention of marching in some direc-
tion, but, as soon as he was informed of the posture of the
enemy, he halted and formed in line of battle. The hostile
armies engaged with loud shouts and still greater fury, pro-
ceeding from inexpressible and undying hatred, and fought
resolutely and obstinately, and (enough to make us blush
for human frailty) never was Caesar engaged in a more


dubious struggle, either against foreign enemies or fellow-
citizens, and never was he nearer defeat. To such a degree
that (to borrow the eloquent words of Floras) fortune seemed
to be undecided in her deliberations, which were, I suppose,
whether she should attend on her favorite with a fidelity
rarely met with and quite unprecedented, or whether she
should desert him at the end of his career, and pass over to
another. And so long did she remain undecided, that in
the heat of the struggle, victory inclining to neither party, even
the veteran soldiers, the conquerors in a hundred fields, gradu-
ally retreated (a sight that never met Caesar's eyes before),
and were prevented by shame rather than courage from an
open flight. Caesar began to doubt and distrust, a thing which
he never did before, and even stood in front of his army with
a grief expressed in his features that never was witnessed be-
fore. Still he showed in that perilous hour all the qualities of
a consummate commander ; he sprang from his horse, and,
like a madman, rushed to the foremost ranks of the combatants,
shouting, reproaching, beseeching, and exhorting. Using not
only his voice and eyes, but also his hands and strength, to
stop the flight, he began at last to bring back by force to the
battle those that commenced to flee. Finally, so great was
the alarm, and so undecided the issue of the combat, that
several writers have recorded that Caesar thought of putting
an end to himself, and that his features bore the rigid im-
press of one who was meditating suicide ; and yet there is no
mention of this circumstance made by those who were on
the field. It is truly difficult, not only for the absent, but
even for the present, to divine a man's thoughts ; but I
have no hesitation in believing, that if Caesar once doubted
his success, he began to think of death at the same time.
For at what time or with what feelings could Caesar run
away from a youth ? Caesar, who had so often compelled so
distinguished an individual as the great Pompey, and so
many kings and generals, states and nations, to flee before
him. If, therefore, he was apprehensive of being conquered,
he must have wished to die, for he was the child of victory,
not of defeat. But who knows whether he was really afraid
of being conquered? Some, however, say that he was, and
others assert it as a positive fact. The battle remained
in this undecided state for some time, until five cohorts


of the enemy, which were sent by Labienus to assist his
camp, which was attacked, hastening along the line, presented
the appearance of flight. Oh, fortune, powerful in every thing,
as is the general belief, but by far the most powerful in war !
Caesar, either imagining that they were fleeing, or pretending
to think so, as he was a most skillful general, attacked them
as if they were running away, and thereby gave courage to his
. own men who supposed that they were pursuing a fleeing
enemy, and dispirited the enemy to such a degree that they
fled under the impression that their fellow soldiers were run-
ning away. Thus Labienus, who betrayed Caesar and deserted
from him, and was the implacable enemy of his old general,
was the means of procuring an unhoped-for victory for him
whose destruction he sought, and death for himself: for ho
fell in that battle, and along with him Attius Varus, and thirty
thousand men. A greater number would have perished, had
not the city been so near to shelter them. About three thou-
sand of the victors were slain, and a great number of the
cavalry and infantry were wounded. Therefore Caesar's troops
marched to storm the town over a dreadful and ghastly heap
of corpses, which were compacted by darts and swords, as if
imbedded in lime, and over this mound they mounted to scale
the city, the bodies of the slain serving as a wall. Go now,
misguided men, engage in civil wars, and while you envy
others, destroy yourselves. Behold the survivors are attacked
from your corpses. Do you seek any thing else, or is the
climax of your madness still wanting ? Or is Labienus with his
burning insults still restless ? Thousands have fallen the vic-
tims of your advice, Labienus ; though you lie among the dead
a single corpse, yet tombs were raised for you and Varus. And
as I am of opinion that your own party had not time to do this
while in such a wretched condition, I attribute them to the
generosity of Caesar, which you so little deserved : and I am
convinced that had it rested with you, you were so obstinate
that you would prefer to be left unburied. Cneius Pompey fled
from the battle through the midst of the carnage, wounded in
the shoulder and left leg. When he fled into the recesses of
the woods, in an abject and lowly plight (carried on a litter be-
cause he could not use either a horse or vehicle, and concealed
himself in the caves), Caesonius, one of Caesar's lieutenants,
followed him to Lauso (that is the name of the place), still


resisting, and still cherishing the expiring embers of hope. His
head was brought to Caesar who was accustomed to gifts of this
nature, but by no means delighted with them. They say that
fortune concealed his brother Sextus Pompey in Celtiberia, lest
food for civil wars should ever be wanting. Munda was after-
ward taken by storm by Caesar, but not without great blood-
shed. At the same period Corduba was attacked a second
time : I do not find it stated in what manner it revolted. There
were then great commotions and great dissensions in the state,
one part inclining to Caesar, the other to the contrary faction ;
and when they had recourse to arms, the party which favored
Caesar conquered, and gave up the town to him. Twenty-two
thousand of the opposite party fell, a remarkable havoc for the
citizens of even the largest city. Caesar left Hispalis on the
ides of April and went to Gades. He went back again to His-
palis to finally arrange the affairs of Spain, as he did not intend
to return again. Then having convened a public assembly, he
recounted both his former and recent favors to that city.
Fin-illy, he accused them of returning evil for good in every
case, and of being seditious in peace and cowardly in war. Be-
cause Cneius Pompey who was a mere youth, supported by
their aid had slain his fellow-citizens, and laid waste their
country and the vicinity, and had assumed the fasces and
military authority there against him, or rather against the
Roman people, of whom he had the control. What! could
the inhabitants of Hispalis imagine that they could conquer the
Romans, because they laid waste their province ? Did they not
know that even if Caesar died, who was a mere mortal, still the
Romans were immortal, and had at present ten legions, which
were able not only to resist the inhabitants of Hispalis, but even
to pull down heaven itself. In which expression there is not
only the lofty diction evident to all, but also a latent meaning,
because, in enumerating the forces of Rome, he recounts not all,
but only his own legions, as if he considered the rest of no
value, and not even worth being mentioned. Many other cir-
cumstances are related in this part of the history, but they are
so confused by the carelessness of transcribers, that I pass them
by, as I am anxious to conclude the subject. This was the
termination of the civil wars. 1

1 Gerardus Johannes Vossius, in his treatise on Latin Historians,
attributes this fragment of the Spanish war to Julius Celsus, because it is
taken from his Commentaries on the life of Julius Caesar.





Although I merely saw our mutual friend Furnius, 2 and he
had not an opportunity of addressing me, or listening to my
instructions, as I was in a hurry, and was advancing to meet
my 3 legions whom I had sent on before me, yet I could not
neglect the opportunity of writing and sending him to you and
-returning my thanks :* although I have often before executed
the same duty, yet I think that I will do it oftener ; you have
laid me under so many obligations to you v , I particularly re-
quest of you, that 5 as I trust that I shall soon arrive in the city,

1 It is not at all strange that Caesar, after his many great exploits in
Gaul, should style himself Imperator, but few know the reason why Cice-
ro, whose military achievements are but little celebrated, should receive
that title from Caesar. This, however, is explained in one of Cicero's
epistles to Atticus, in which he writes that he was saluted Imperator on
the occasion of his slaying a great number of Cilician robbers who were
sheltered in the numerous fastnesses of Mount Amanus. Plutarch bears
testimony to the same circumstance in his life of Cicero. Caesar is not
the only one that called Cicero Imperator, but also Pompey, in his letter
to him.

2 As far as we can infer from the epistles to Atticus, Furnius appears
* to have espoused Caesar's party. After the assassination of Caesar, he

became the lieutenant-general of Plancus, and it was through him that
Cicero endeavored to win over Plancus to the republic.

3 In the direction of Brundusium, to which Pompey had retreated, as
Caesar was determined to pursue him wherever he went.

* Cicero remained in Italy, and this was the reason why Caesar was so
grateful to him.

5 Cicero, by his prudence and care, crushed Catiline's conspiracy in
his consulate, and thereby acquired vast influence, particularly among
the aristocracy. Caesar and Pompey made great efforts at the com-



f may see you there ; that I may avail myself of your 1 advice,
influence, dignity, and assistance in every thing. I must re-
sume business : you will excuse my haste and the brevity of my
letter : you will learn the rest from Furnius. Farewell. Cicero
to Atticus, 9, 6.


You were right in the opinion you entertained of me (for you
know my character well), that nothing is more foreign to my
nature than cruelty, 2 and in addition to the pleasure that I de-
rive from that very circumstance, I am also highly delighted
that my conduct in this respect has earned your approbation :
nor has it any influence on me that those who have been
pardoned by me are reported to have departed, with a view to

mencement of the civil "War, to attach him to their different parties.
Cicero, in his seventh epistle to Atticus, tells us what his sentiments
really were in the following passage : " Both of them [Caesar and Pom-
pey] consider me their own, unless, perhaps Caesar is only pretending ;
for Pompey has no doubts (and he judges right) that his sentiments on
the state of the republic are highly approved of by me. I received let-
ters from both at the same time that I received yours, so that each of
them seems to value no man's support more highly than mine." Cicero
refers to the present letter.

1 No one can interpret this place better than Caesar, who, in his eleventh
epistle to Atticus, writes in the following manner : " The very base and
mean individual who asserts that the elections for appointing a consul
can be held by a praetor is the same as ever he was in matters connected
with the commonwealth. Therefore, what Cassar writes in the letter of
which I have sent you a copy is surprising, viz., that he wished to avail
himself of my advice. "Well, suppose this to be a general expression ;"
influence " this is rather absurd, but I suppose he refers to my getting
him the support of some of the senators." Dignity! "Perhaps my
opinion as a man of consular rank. The last expression is, assistance in
any thing. I began to suspect that this had the following meaning, or
something very like it. It is a matter of great importance that the
government should not come to an interregnum. Caesar gains his object
if consuls are appointed by praetors. But we have it stated in our

.books that praetors have not the right of appointing consuls, or even of
appointing one another. They have not the right of appointing consuls
because it is against the law that a higher magistrate should be appointed
by a less. But the praetors, because they are elected in such a manner
that they are considered colleagues of the consuls, whose magistracy is
a greater one. He will be very likely to refer this to me, and not to rest
satisfied with the opinion of Galba, Scaevbla, Cassius, and Antonius.
Then may the wide earth open to swallow me."

2 Caesar, on the capture of Corfinium, had shown great clemency to
such of Pompey's party as fell into his hands, and had spared Domitiua
and Vibullius, as wo read in the first book of tho civil wur.


make war against me again. 1 For I would wish nothing more
than that I should be always like myself, and they like them-
selves. I should like your presence in Rome, that I might
avail myself of your advice and assistance in every thing as
usual. Be assured that nothing gives me greater delight than
the society of your friend Dolabella, I take so much pleasure in
it. Nor can he fail to he agreeable, so great is his natural
politeness, and such his feelings and good-will toward me.
Farewell. Cicero to Atticus, 9, 16.


Although I was of opinion that you were not likely to do
any thing rashly or imprudently, yet being influenced by the re-
port 2 of these men, I thought that I ought to write to you and
request that you would concede to our friendship,* that you
would not go to any greater lengths in the declining state of
Pompey's affairs than you would have thought it necessary to
go to when his power was still unbroken. 4 For by doing so
you will err most grievously against our friendship, and you
will act with less judgment for your own interests, if you
should appear to be influenced not by the course of events j(for
all things seem to have turned out most favorable to us, 6 and
most adverse to our enemies), nor by attachment to the cause
(for it was the same then when you came to the determination
of absenting yourself from their councils), 9 but by condem-
nation of some act of mine: and no conduct on your part
toward me could be more distressing ; now I beseech you, by
the claims of friendship, not to do so. Lastly, what conduct is
more suitable to a good man, and a good and quiet citizen,
than to keep aloof from all civil broils ; although several ap-
proved of his conduct, yet they were prevented from adopting
it by personal danger ; you, after a careful examination of the
testimony of my life, and the esteem of friendship, will find no

1 Domitiua did this at Massilia and in Thessaly, and Vibullius in Spain.
9 A report spread at this time that Cicero was going over to Pompey.
8 For they were mutual friends, and Quintus Cicero, the orator'a
brother, had been one of Caesar's lieutenants in Gaul.

* Before the disastrous events of Corfinium and Brundusium.

5 Caesar, at this time, had driven Pompey from Italy, and was com-
pletely in possession of it.

6 For it was not until Corfinium was lost that Pompey acquainted
Cicero with his plans.


course more safe or honorable than to keep aloof from all strife.
The 15th of the calends of May, on my journey. Farewell.
Cicero to Atticus, 10, 8.

I shall make your protege M. Orsius, either king of Gaul, or
lieutenant of Lepta : send another if you choose to me, and I
will likwise do him honor. Cicero Epist. ad Fam. 7, 5.

You ask what Caesar has written to me. What he has fre-
quently said ; that he was much pleased with my remaining
quiet, and he begs me to continue so. Cicero to Atticus, 8, 1 1.

With regard to what you write about the tribunate, I re-
quested it for Curtius, and mentioned his name, and Caesar sent
back to me that it was ready for Curtius. Cicero to his brother
Quintus, 3, 1, 3.

From Caesar's letter it appears that I might almost do this
with his consent ; for he says that I can do nothing more
honorable or more safe than to withdraw from all contention.
Cicero to Atticus, 10, 9.

Caesar by letter excuses me for not going up, and says that
he takes it in good part. I do not regard what he adds, that
Tullius and Servius have complained of his not granting the
same liberty to them as to me. Cicero to Atticus, 10, 3.

I have had Sestius with me ; and yesterday Theopompus
arrived. He reported that letters had been received from
Caesar, who said that he had determined to remain at Rome,
and added the same reason which was mentioned in my letter,
namely, lest in his absence his laws 1 should be disregarded,
as had been the case with the sumptuary law. Cicero to
Atticus, 13, 7.

On the sumptuary law see Suetonius, Julius Caesar, ch. 43, and Cicero
ad Fam. 9, 15.

But, my brother, I think that you are not aware what opinion
Caesar expressed about our verses. For he wrote to me that
he had formerly read the first book, and his opinion of the
first was, that he had never read better verses even in Greek.
He says that the rest in some places were rather careless, for
this is the word that he uses, etc. Cicero to Quintus his
brother, 2, 16.

From Britain Caesar wrote to me on the calends of Septem-
ber, and I received his letter the fourth day before the calends

1 The laws which Caesar enacted a short time before he went to Spain
to carry on war against the sons of Pompey.


of October, it contained satisfactory information concerning
Britain ; in which letter he informed me that you were not with
him when he went down to the sea, to prevent my being sur-
prised at receiving no letter from you, etc. Cicero to his brother
Quintus, 3, 1.

When I was folding up this letter, carriers came from
you on the eleventh day before the calends of September,
after being twenty days on their journey. Oh ! my anxieties,
how deeply I sympathized with Caesar's misery on perusing
his feeling letter, but the more feeling it was the more grief
did his misfortune 1 cause. Cicero to his brother Quinttis,
3, 1, 5.



I am truly delighted that you have declared to me by letter
how highly you approve of ^jfche transactions that took place at
Corfinium. I will gladly adopt your advice, and the more
cheerfully because I myself had determined to be as merciful
as possible, and to exert myself to reconcile Pompey. Let us
endeavor, iu this manner, to win the affections of all, and
make our victory a lasting one ; since others 3 could not escape
the hatred that arises after a time, nor continue in the pos-
session of victory, except Lucius Sulla 4 alone, whom I am very

1 It is probable that the misfortune here alluded to is the death of
Julia, Caesar's daughter, of which he was informed on his return from
Spain. Her death broke the ties between Pompey and Ca3sar, and was
followed by the civil war.

4 This Oppius was an intimate friend of Caesar's. Some attribute to
him the eighth book of the Gallic "War, and the others usually assigned to
Hirtius. We find mention of Balbus in the nineteenth chapter of the
third book of the Civil "War. He was wounded at a conference.

3 As, for instance, Marius and Cinna.

4 The following extract from Plutarch will well explain the reason why
Caesar was so unlikely to imitate Sylla : " When Sylla had made himself
roaster of Rome, he endeavored to bring Cassar to repudiate Cornelia,
daughter of Cinna, one of the late tyrants, and, finding he could not
effect it either by hopes or fears, he confiscated her dowry. Indeed,
Ca3sar, as a relation of Marius, was naturally an enemy to Sylla. Old


unlikely to imitate. It would be a novel plan of conquest to
secure ourselves by mercy and liberality ; many suggestions
present themselves to my mind as to the best way of carrying
it into operation, and many plans can be devised. I ask you to
consider these things ; I took Cneius Magius, Pompey's prefect,
prisoner ; of course I acted on my previous resolution, and
released him immediately. Already two officers of Pompey's
engineers have fallen into my hands, and have been sent away
by me. If they should wish to prove their gratitude, they
ought to advise Pompey to prefer being my friend rather than
the friend of those who have always been most hostile, both
to him and me ; to whose machinations it is owing that the
commonwealth has come to such a state. Cicero to Atticus,


I reached Brundusium on the seventh day before the ides of
March, and encamped before the walls. Pompey is in Brun-
dusium, and sent 1 to me Cneius Magius to negotiate. I made
a fitting reply ; I wished you to know it at once. Whenever I
shall begin to entertain hopes that I have made some progress
toward a reconciliation, I will immediately acquaint you.
Cicero to Atticus, 9, 13.

I had forgotten to write to you about Caesar ; for I see the
letters which you expected. But he wrote to Balbus that the
packet of letters which contained my letter and that of Balbus,
was given to him completely soaked with water ; to such

Marius had marred Julia, Caesar's aunt, and, therefore, young Marius, the
son he had by her, was Caesar's cousin-german. At first Sylla, amid the
vast number of proscriptions that engaged his attention, overlooked this
enemy ; but Cassar, not contented with escaping so, presented himself
to the people as a candidate for the priesthood, though he had not yet
arrived to the age of manhood. Sylla, however, exerted his influence
against him, and prevented his obtaining it. The dictator afterward
thought of having him slain, and when some said there was no need to
put such a boy to death, he answered, ' Their sagacity was small if
they did not in that boy see many Mariuses.' "

1 Yet Caesar says, in the first book of the Civil War, that he was sent
by him, and not sent back by Pompey. These statements can be recon-
ciled in the following manner. Pompey first sent Cneius Magius to
Caesar. Caesar made a fitting reply, and sent the same Magius to Pom-
pey to bring back his answer, and thought he would return. But Pom-
pey, being displeased with Caesar's answer, did not allow him to do so.


A degree that he did not even know that there was a letter of
mine there at all. But he understood a few words in Balbus's
letter, to which he replied in the following language : " I see
that you have written something concerning Cicero, which
I did not understand ; but as far as I could conjecture the
meaning, the communication was of such a nature as I would
consider the object of my wishes rather than my hopes." On
that account I subsequently sent to Caesar a copy of the same
letter. But that you may not despise his jest about his own
party, etc. Cicero to his brother Quintus, 2, 12.

There are the books of the epistles of Caius Caesar to Caius
Oppius and Balbus Cornelius, who managed his affairs in his
absence. In these epistles single letters are found in several
places without any connection in syllables, and such as you
would consider placed there without any arrangement ; for no
words can be formed from these letters. But there was a
secret understanding between them about changing the position
of the letters, so that one should occupy the name and import
of another ; but in reading the epistle, the proper arrange-
ment and meaning should be restored. There is in existence
rather an interesting treatise written by Probus the grammarian
concerning the secret meaning of the letters in the epistles of
Caesar. 1 Gellius, 17, 9.


Pompey confines himself within the town ; we are encamped
at the gate ; we are endeavoring to raise a difficult work, one

Online LibraryJulius CaesarCæsar's Commentaries on the Gallic and civil wars: → online text (page 51 of 59)