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descended from a long line of noble ancestors. There had been, before
his day, a great many Caesars who had held the highest offices of the
state, and many of them had been celebrated in history. He naturally,
therefore, belonged to Sylla's side, as Sylla was the representative of
the patrician interest. But then Caesar had personally been inclined
toward the party of Marius. The elder Marius had married his aunt, and,
besides, Caesar himself had married the daughter of Cinna, who had been
the most efficient and powerful of Marius's coadjutors and friends.
Caesar was at this time a very young man, and he was of an ardent and
reckless character, though he had, thus far, taken no active part in
public affairs. Sylla overlooked him for a time, but at length was about
to put his name on the list of the proscribed. Some of the nobles, who
were friends both of Sylla and of Caesar too, interceded for the young
man; Sylla yielded to their request, or, rather, suspended his
decision, and sent orders to Caesar to repudiate his wife, the daughter
of Cinna. Her name was Cornelia. Caesar absolutely refused to repudiate
his wife. He was influenced in this decision partly by affection for
Cornelia, and partly by a sort of stern and indomitable
insubmissiveness, which formed, from his earliest years, a prominent
trait in his character, and which led him, during all his life, to brave
every possible danger rather than allow himself to be controlled. Caesar
knew very well that, when this his refusal should be reported to Sylla,
the next order would be for his destruction. He accordingly fled. Sylla
deprived him of his titles and offices, confiscated his wife's fortune
and his own patrimonial estate, and put his name upon the list of the
public enemies. Thus Caesar became a fugitive and an exile. The
adventures which befell him in his wanderings will be described in the
following chapter.

[Sidenote: Sylla made dictator.]
[Sidenote: He resigns his power.]

Sylla was now in the possession of absolute power. He was master of
Rome, and of all the countries over which Rome held sway. Still he was
nominally not a magistrate, but only a general returning victoriously
from his Asiatic campaign, and putting to death, somewhat irregularly,
it is true, by a sort of martial law persons whom he found, as he said,
disturbing the public peace. After having thus effectually disposed of
the power of his enemies, he laid aside, ostensibly, the government of
the sword, and submitted himself and his future measures to the control
of law. He placed himself ostensibly at the disposition of the city.
They chose him dictator, which was investing him with absolute and
unlimited power. He remained on this, the highest pinnacle of worldly
ambition, a short time, and then resigned his power, and devoted the
remainder of his days to literary pursuits and pleasures. Monster as he
was in the cruelties which he inflicted upon his political foes, he was
intellectually of a refined and cultivated mind, and felt an ardent
interest in the promotion of literature and the arts.

[Sidenote: Opinion of mankind in regard to Marius and Sylla.]

The quarrel between Marius and Sylla, in respect to every thing which
can make such a contest great, stands in the estimation of mankind as
the greatest personal quarrel which the history of the world has ever
recorded. Its origin was in the simple personal rivalry of two ambitious
men. It involved, in its consequences, the peace and happiness of the
world. In their reckless struggles, the fierce combatants trampled on
every thing that came in their way, and destroyed mercilessly, each in
his turn, all that opposed them. Mankind have always execrated their
crimes, but have never ceased to admire the frightful and almost
superhuman energy with which they committed them.



CHAPTER II.

CAESAR'S EARLY YEARS.

[Sidenote: Caesar's resolution.]

Caesar does not seem to have been much disheartened and depressed by his
misfortunes. He possessed in his early life more than the usual share of
buoyancy and light-heartedness of youth, and he went away from Rome to
enter, perhaps, upon years of exile and wandering, with a determination
to face boldly and to brave the evils and dangers which surrounded him,
and not to succumb to them.

[Sidenote: His person and character.]

Sometimes they who become great in their maturer years are thoughtful,
grave, and sedate when young. It was not so, however, with Caesar. He
was of a very gay and lively disposition. He was tall and handsome in
his person, fascinating in his manners, and fond of society, as people
always are who know or who suppose that they shine in it. He had seemed,
in a word, during his residence at Rome, wholly intent upon the
pleasures of a gay and joyous life, and upon the personal observation
which his rank, his wealth, his agreeable manners and his position in
society secured for him. In fact, they who observed and studied his
character in these early years, thought that, although his situation was
very favorable for acquiring power and renown, he would never feel any
strong degree of ambition to avail himself of its advantages. He was too
much interested, they thought, in personal pleasures ever to become
great, either as a military commander or a statesman.

[Sidenote: Sylla's estimation of Caesar.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's friends intercede for him.]

Sylla, however, thought differently. He had penetration enough to
perceive, beneath all the gayety and love of pleasure which
characterized Caesar's youthful life, the germs of a sterner and more
aspiring spirit, which, he was very sorry to see, was likely to expend
its future energies in hostility to him. By refusing to submit to
Sylla's commands, Caesar had, in effect, thrown himself entirely upon
the other party, and would be, of course, in future identified with
them. Sylla consequently looked upon him now as a confirmed and settled
enemy. Some friends of Caesar among the patrician families interceded in
his behalf with Sylla again, after he had fled from Rome. They wished
Sylla to pardon him, saying that he was a mere boy and could do him no
harm. Sylla shook his head, saying that, young as he was, he saw in him
indications of a future power which he thought was more to be dreaded
than that of many Mariuses.

[Sidenote: Caesar's studies.]
[Sidenote: His ambition to be an orator.]

One reason which led Sylla to form this opinion of Caesar was, that the
young nobleman, with all his love of gayety and pleasure, had not
neglected his studies, but had taken great pains to perfect himself in
such intellectual pursuits as ambitious men who looked forward to
political influence and ascendency were accustomed to prosecute in those
days He had studied the Greek language, and read the works of Greek
historians; and he attended lectures on philosophy and rhetoric, and was
obviously interested deeply in acquiring power as a public speaker. To
write and speak well gave a public man great influence in those days.
Many of the measures of the government were determined by the action of
great assemblies of the free citizens, which action was itself, in a
great measure, controlled by the harangues of orators who had such
powers of voice and such qualities of mind as enabled them to gain the
attention and sway the opinions of large bodies of men.

[Sidenote: The Forum.]
[Sidenote: Its porticoes and statues.]
[Sidenote: Attractions of the Forum.]

It most not be supposed, however, that this popular power was shared by
all the inhabitants of the city. At one time, when the population of the
city was about three millions the number of free citizens was only three
hundred thousand. The rest were laborers, artisans, and slaves, who had
no voice in public affairs. The free citizens held very frequent public
assemblies. There were various squares and open spaces in the city where
such assemblies were convened, and where courts of justice were held.
The Roman name for such a square was _forum_. There was one which was
distinguished above all the rest, and was called emphatically The Forum.
It was a magnificent square, surrounded by splendid edifices, and
ornamented by sculptures and statues without number. There were ranges
of porticoes along the sides, where the people were sheltered from the
weather when necessary, though it is seldom that there is any necessity
for shelter under an Italian sky. In this area and under these porticoes
the people held their assemblies, and here courts of justice were
accustomed to sit. The Forum was ornamented continually with new
monuments, temples, statues, and columns by successful generals
returning in triumph from foreign campaigns, and by proconsuls and
praetors coming back enriched from their provinces, until it was
fairly choked up with its architectural magnificence, and it had at last
to be partially cleared again, as one would thin out too dense a forest,
in order to make room for the assemblies which it was its main function
to contain.

[Illustration: A ROMAN FORUM]

[Sidenote: Harangues and political discussions.]

The people of Rome had, of course, no printed books, and yet they were
mentally cultivated and refined, and were qualified for a very high
appreciation of intellectual pursuits and pleasures. In the absence,
therefore, of all facilities for private reading, the Forum became the
great central point of attraction. The same kind of interest which, in
our day, finds its gratification in reading volumes of printed history
quietly at home, or in silently perusing the columns of newspapers and
magazines in libraries and reading-rooms, where a whisper is seldom
heard, in Caesar's day brought every body to the Forum, to listen to
historical harangues, or political discussions, or forensic arguments in
the midst of noisy crowds. Here all tidings centered; here all questions
were discussed and all great elections held. Here were waged those
ceaseless conflicts of ambition and struggles of power on which the fate
of nations, and sometimes the welfare of almost half mankind depended.
Of course, every ambitious man who aspired to an ascendency over his
fellow-men, wished to make his voice heard in the Forum. To calm the
boisterous tumult there, and to hold, as some of the Roman orators could
do, the vast assemblies in silent and breathless attention, was a power
as delightful in its exercise as it was glorious in its fame. Caesar had
felt this ambition, and had devoted himself very earnestly to the study
of oratory.

[Sidenote: Apollonius.]
[Sidenote: Caesar studies under him.]

His teacher was Apollonius, a philosopher and rhetorician from Rhodes.
Rhodes is a Grecian island, near the southwestern coast of Asia Minor
Apollonius was a teacher of great celebrity, and Caesar became a very
able writer and speaker under his instructions. His time and attention
were, in fact, strangely divided between the highest and noblest
intellectual avocations, and the lowest sensual pleasures of a gay and
dissipated life. The coming of Sylla had, however, interrupted all; and,
after receiving the dictator's command to give up his wife and abandon
the Marian faction, and determining to disobey it, he fled suddenly from
Rome, as was stated at the close of the last chapter, at midnight, and
in disguise.

[Sidenote: Caesar's wanderings.]
[Sidenote: He is seized by a centurion.]

He was sick, too, at the time, with an intermittent fever. The paroxysm
returned once in three or four days, leaving him in tolerable health
during the interval. He went first into the country of the Sabines,
northeast of Rome, where he wandered up and down, exposed continually to
great dangers from those who knew that he was an object of the great
dictator's displeasure, and who were sure of favor and of a reward if
they could carry his head to Sylla He had to change his quarters every
day, and to resort to every possible mode of concealment. He was,
however, at last discovered, and seized by a centurion. A centurion was
a commander of a hundred men; his rank and his position therefore,
corresponded somewhat with those of a _captain_ in a modern army. Caesar
was not much disturbed at this accident. He offered the centurion a
bribe sufficient to induce him to give up his prisoner, and so escaped.

[Sidenote: Caesar in Asia Minor.]
[Sidenote: He joins the court of Nicomedes.]

The two ancient historians, whose records contain nearly all the
particulars of the early life of Caesar which are now known, give
somewhat contradictory accounts of the adventures which befell him
during his subsequent wanderings. They relate, in general, the same
incidents, but in such different connections, that the precise
chronological order of the events which occurred can not now be
ascertained. At all events, Caesar, finding that he was no longer safe
in the vicinity of Rome, moved gradually to the eastward, attended by a
few followers, until he reached the sea, and there he embarked on board
a ship to leave his native land altogether. After various adventures and
wanderings, he found himself at length in Asia Minor, and he made his
way at last to the kingdom of Bithynia, on the northern shore. The name
of the king of Bithynia was Nicomedes. Caesar joined himself to
Nicomedes's court, and entered into his service. In the mean time, Sylla
had ceased to pursue him, and ultimately granted him a pardon, but
whether before or after this time is not now to be ascertained. At all
events, Caesar became interested in the scenes and enjoyments of
Nicomedes's court, and allowed the time to pass away without forming any
plans for returning to Rome.

[Sidenote: Cilicia.]
[Sidenote: Character of its inhabitants.]

On the opposite side of Asia Minor, that is, on the southern shore,
there was a wild and mountainous region called Cilicia. The great chain
of mountains called Taurus approaches here very near to the sea, and the
steep conformations of the land, which, in the interior, produce lofty
ranges and summits, and dark valleys and ravines, form, along the line
of the shore, capes and promontories, bounded by precipitous sides, and
with deep bays and harbors between them. The people of Cilicia were
accordingly half sailors, half mountaineers. They built swift galleys,
and made excursions in great force over the Mediterranean Sea for
conquest and plunder. They would capture single ships, and sometimes
even whole fleets of merchantmen. They were even strong enough on many
occasions to land and take possession of a harbor and a town, and hold
it, often, for a considerable time, against all the efforts of the
neighboring powers to dislodge them. In case, however, their enemies
became at any time too strong for them, they would retreat to their
harbors, which were so defended by the fortresses which guarded them,
and by the desperate bravery of the garrisons, that the pursuers
generally did not dare to attempt to force their way in; and if, in any
case, a town or a port was taken, the indomitable savages would continue
their retreat to the fastnesses of the mountains, where it was utterly
useless to attempt to follow them.

[Sidenote: The Cilicians wanting in poets and historians.]
[Sidenote: Robbers and pirates.]

But with all their prowess and skill as naval combatants, and their
hardihood as mountaineers, the Cilicians lacked one thing which is very
essential in every nation to an honorable military fame. They had no
poets or historians of their own, so that the story of their deeds had
to be told to posterity by their enemies. If they had been able to
narrate their own exploits, they would have figured, perhaps, upon the
page of history as a small but brave and efficient maritime power,
pursuing for many years a glorious career of conquest, and acquiring
imperishable renown by their enterprise and success. As it was, the
Romans, their enemies, described their deeds and gave them their
designation. They called them robbers and pirates; and robbers and
pirates they must forever remain.

[Sidenote: Depredations of the Cilicians.]

And it is, in fact, very likely true that the Cilician commanders did
not pursue their conquests and commit their depredations on the rights
and the property of others in quite so systematic and methodical a
manner as some other conquering states have done. They probably seized
private property a little more unceremoniously than is customary; though
all belligerent nations, even in these Christian ages of the world, feel
at liberty to seize and confiscate private property when they find it
afloat at sea, while, by a strange inconsistency, they respect it on
the land. The Cilician pirates considered themselves at war with all
mankind, and, whatever merchandise they found passing from port to port
along the shores of the Mediterranean, they considered lawful spoil.
They intercepted the corn which was going from Sicily to Rome, and
filled their own granaries with it. They got rich merchandise from the
ships of Alexandria, which brought, sometimes, gold, and gems, and
costly fabrics from the East; and they obtained, often, large sums of
money by seizing men of distinction and wealth, who were continually
passing to and fro between Italy and Greece, and holding them for a
ransom. They were particularly pleased to get possession in this way of
Roman generals and officers of state, who were going out to take the
command of armies, or who were returning from their provinces with the
wealth which they had accumulated there.

[Sidenote: Expeditions sent against them.]
[Sidenote: Boldness and courage of the Cilicians.]

Many expeditions were fitted out and many naval commanders were
commissioned to sup press and subdue these common enemies of mankind, as
the Romans called them. At one time, while a distinguished general,
named Antonius, was in pursuit of them at the head of a fleet, a party
of the pirates made a descent upon the Italian coast, south of Rome, at
Nicenum, where the ancient patrimonial mansion of this very Antonius was
situated, and took away several members of his family as captives, and
so compelled him to ransom them by paying a very large sum of money. The
pirates grew bolder and bolder in proportion to their success. They
finally almost stopped all intercourse between Italy and Greece, neither
the merchants daring to expose their merchandise, nor the passengers
their persons to such dangers. They then approached nearer and nearer to
Rome, and at last actually entered the Tiber, and surprised and carried
off a Roman fleet which was anchored there. Caesar himself fell into the
hands of these pirates at some time during the period of his wanderings.

[Sidenote: They capture Caesar.]

The pirates captured the ship in which he was sailing near Pharmacusa, a
small island in the northeastern part of the Aegean Sea. He was not at
this time in the destitute condition in which he had found himself on
leaving Rome, but was traveling with attendants suitable to his rank,
and in such a style and manner as at once made it evident to the pirates
that he was a man of distinction. They accordingly held him for ransom,
and, in the mean time, until he could take measures for raising the
money, they kept him a prisoner on board the vessel which had
captured him.

[Sidenote: Caesar's air of superiority.]
[Sidenote: His ransom.]

In this situation, Caesar, though entirely in the power and at the mercy
of his lawless captors, assumed such an air of superiority and command
in all his intercourse with them as at first awakened their
astonishment, then excited their admiration, and ended in almost
subjecting them to his will. He asked them what they demanded for his
ransom. They said twenty talents, which was quite a large amount, a
talent itself being a considerable sum of money. Caesar laughed at this
demand, and told them it was plain that they did not know who he was, He
would give them _fifty_ talents. He then sent away his attendants to the
shore, with orders to proceed to certain cities where he was known, in
order to procure the money, retaining only a physician and two servants
for himself. While his messengers were gone, he remained on board
the ship of his captors, assuming in every respect the air and manner of
their master. When he wished to sleep, if they made a noise which
disturbed him, he sent them orders to be still. He joined them in their
sports and diversions on the deck, surpassing them in their feats, and
taking the direction of every thing as if he were their acknowledged
leader. He wrote orations and verses which he read to them, and if his
wild auditors did not appear to appreciate the literary excellence of
his compositions, he told them that they were stupid fools without any
taste, adding, by way of apology, that nothing better could be expected
of such barbarians.

The pirates asked him one day what he should do to them if he should
ever, at any future time, take them prisoners. Caesar said that he would
crucify every one of them.

[Sidenote: Caesar at liberty.]
[Sidenote: He captures the pirates in his turn.]

The ransom money at length arrived. Caesar paid it to the pirates, and
they, faithful to their covenant, sent him in a boat to the land. He was
put ashore on the coast of Asia Minor. He proceeded immediately to
Miletus, the nearest port, equipped a small fleet there, and put
to sea. He sailed at once to the roadstead where the pirates had been
lying, and found them still at anchor there, in perfect security.[1] He
attacked them, seized their ships, recovered his ransom money, and took
the men all prisoners. He conveyed his captives to the land, and there
fulfilled his threat that he would crucify them by cutting their
throats and nailing their dead bodies to crosses which his men erected
for the purpose along the shore.

[Footnote 1: See Frontispiece]

[Sidenote: Caesar at Rhodes.]

During his absence from Rome Caesar went to Rhodes, where his former
preceptor resided, and he continued to pursue there for some time his
former studies. He looked forward still to appearing one day in the
Roman Forum. In fact, he began to receive messages from his friends at
home that they thought it would be safe for him to return. Sylla had
gradually withdrawn from power, and finally had died. The aristocratical
party were indeed still in the ascendency, but the party of Marius had
begun to recover a little from the total overthrow with which Sylla's
return, and his terrible military vengeance, had overwhelmed them.
Caesar himself, therefore, they thought, might, with prudent management,
be safe in returning to Rome.

[Sidenote: He returns to Rome.]
[Sidenote: Caesar impeaches Dolabella.]
[Sidenote: Excitement in consequence.]

He returned, but not to be prudent or cautious; there was no element of
prudence or caution in his character. As soon as he arrived, he openly
espoused the popular party. His first public act was to arraign the
governor of the great province of Macedonia, through which he had passed
on his way to Bithynia. It was a consul whom he thus impeached, and a
strong partisan of Sylla's. His name was Dolabella. The people were
astonished at his daring in thus raising the standard of resistance to
Sylla's power, indirectly, it is true, but none the less really on that
account. When the trial came on, and Caesar appeared at the Forum, he
gained great applause by the vigor and force of his oratory. There was,
of course, a very strong and general interest felt in the case; the
people all seeming to understand that, in this attack on Dolabella,
Caesar was appearing as their champion, and their hopes were revived at
having at last found a leader capable of succeeding Marius, and building
up their cause again. Dolabella was ably defended by orators on the
other side, and was, of course, acquitted, for the power of Sylla's
party was still supreme. All Rome, however, was aroused and excited by
the boldness of Caesar's attack, and by the extraordinary ability which
he evinced in his mode of conducting it. He became, in fact, at once one
of the most conspicuous and prominent men in the city.

[Sidenote: Caesar's increasing power.]

Encouraged by his success, and the applauses which he received, and
feeling every day a greater and greater consciousness of power, he
began to assume more and more openly the character of the leader of the
popular party. He devoted himself to public speaking in the Forum, both
before popular assemblies and in the courts of justice, where he was
employed a great deal as an advocate to defend those who were accused of
political crimes. The people, considering him as their rising champion,


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Online LibraryJacob AbbottHistory of Julius Caesar → online text (page 2 of 13)