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to whatever of elevation he had attained, and he could put him down even
more easily than he had exalted him.

[Sidenote: Plans of the latter.]

In the mean time, the period was drawing near in which Caesar's command
in the provinces was to expire; and, anticipating the struggle with
Pompey which was about to ensue, he conducted several of his legions
through the passes of the Alps, and advanced gradually, as he had a
right to do, across the country of the Po toward the Rubicon, revolving
in his capacious mind, as he came, the various plans by which he might
hope to gain the ascendency over the power of his mighty rival, and make
himself supreme.

[Sidenote: Caesar arrives at Ravenna.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's demands.]

He concluded that it would be his wisest policy not to a'tempt to
intimidate Pompey by great and open preparations for war, which might
tend to arouse him to vigorous measures of resistance, but rather to
cover and conceal his designs, and thus throw his enemy off his guard.
He advanced, therefore, toward the Rubicon with a small force. He
established his headquarters at Ravenna, a city not far from the river,
and employed himself in objects of local interest there, in order to
avert as much as possible the minds of the people from imagining that he
was contemplating any great design. Pompey sent to him to demand the
return of a certain legion which he had lent him from his own army at a
time when they were friends. Caesar complied with this demand without
any hesitation, and sent the legion home. He sent with this legion,
also, some other troops which were properly his own, thus evincing a
degree of indifference in respect to the amount of the force retained
under his command which seemed wholly inconsistent with the idea that he
contemplated any resistance to the authority of the government at Rome.

[Sidenote: Caesar demands to be made consul.]
[Sidenote: Excitement in consequence.]

In the mean time, the struggle at Rome between the partisans of Caesar
and Pompey grew more and more violent and alarming. Caesar through his
friends in the city, demanded to be elected consul. The other side
insisted that he must first, if that was his wish, resign the command of
his army, come to Rome, and present himself as a candidate in the
character of a private citizen. This the constitution of the state very
properly required. In answer to this requisition, Caesar rejoined, that,
if Pompey would lay down his military commands, he would do so too; if
not, it was unjust to require it of him. The services, he added, which
he had performed for his country, demanded some recompense, which,
moreover, they ought to be willing to award, even if, in order to do it,
it were necessary to relax somewhat in his favor the strictness of
ordinary rules. To a large part of the people of the city these demands
of Caesar appeared reasonable. They were clamorous to have them allowed.
The partisans of Pompey, with the stern and inflexible Cato at their
head, deemed them wholly inadmissible, and contended with the most
determined violence against them. The whole city was filled with the
excitement of this struggle, into which all the active and turbulent
spirits of the capital plunged with the most furious zeal, while the
more considerate and thoughtful of the population, remembering the days
of Marius and Sylla, trembled at the impending danger. Pompey himself
had no fear. He urged the Senate to resist to the utmost all of Caesar's
claims, saying, if Caesar should be so presumptuous as to attempt to
march to Rome, he could raise troops enough by stamping with his foot to
put him down.

[Sidenote: Debates in the Senate.]
[Sidenote: Tumult and confusion.]
[Sidenote: Panic at Rome.]

It would require a volume to contain a full account of the disputes and
tumults, the maneuvers and debates, the votes and decrees which marked
the successive stages of this quarrel. Pompey himself was all the time
without the city. He was in command of an army there, and no general,
while in command, was allowed to come within the gates. At last an
exciting debate was broken up in the Senate by one of the consuls rising
to depart, saying that he would hear the subject discussed no longer.
The time had arrived for action, and he should send a commander, with an
armed force, to defend the country from Caesar's threatened invasion.
Caesar's leading friends, two tribunes of the people, disguised
themselves as slaves, and fled to the north to join their master. The
country was filled with commotion and panic. The Commonwealth had
obviously more fear of Caesar than confidence in Pompey. The country
was full of rumors in respect to Caesar's power, and the threatening
attitude which he was assuming, while they who had insisted on
resistance seemed, after all, to have provided very inadequate means
with which to resist. A thousand plans were formed, and clamorously
insisted upon by their respective advocates, for averting the danger.
This only added to the confusion, and the city became at length pervaded
with a universal terror.

[Sidenote: Caesar at Ravenna.]

While this was the state of things at Rome, Caesar was quietly
established at Ravenna; thirty or forty miles from the frontier. He was
erecting a building for a fencing school there and his mind seemed to be
occupied very busily with the plans and models of the edifice which the
architects had formed. Of course, in his intended march to Rome, his
reliance was not to be so much on the force which he should take with
him, as on the co-operation and support which he expected to find there.
It was his policy, therefore, to move as quietly and privately as
possible, and with as little display of violence, and to avoid every
thing which might indicate his intended march to any spies which might
be around him, or to any other person! who might be disposed to report
what they observed at Rome. Accordingly, on the very eve of his
departure, he busied himself with his fencing school, and assumed with
his officers and soldiers a careless and unconcerned air, which
prevented any one from suspecting his design.

[Sidenote: Caesar's midnight march.]
[Sidenote: He loses his way.]

In the course of the day he privately sent forward some cohorts to the
southward, with orders for them to encamp on the banks of the Rubicon.
When night came he sat down to supper as usual, and conversed with his
friends in his ordinary manner, and went with them afterward to a public
entertainment. As soon as it was dark and the streets were still, he set
off secretly from the city, accompanied by a very few attendants.
Instead of making use of his ordinary equipage, the parading of which
would have attracted attention to his movements, he had some mules taken
from a neighboring bake-house, and harnessed into his chaise. There were
torch-bearers provided to light the way. The cavalcade drove on during
the night, finding, however, the hasty preparations which had been made
inadequate for the occasion. The torches went out, the guides lost their
way, and the future conqueror of the world wandered about bewildered and
lost, until, just after break of day, the party met with a peasant
who undertook to guide them. Under his direction they made their way to
the main road again, and advanced then without further difficulty to the
banks of the river, where they found that portion of the army which had
been sent forward encamped, and awaiting their arrival.


[Sidenote: Caesar at the Rubicon.]
[Sidenote: His hesitation at the river.]

Caesar stood for some time upon the banks of the stream, musing upon the
greatness of the undertaking in which simply passing across it would
involve him. His officers stood by his side. "We can retreat _now_" said
he, "but once across that river and we must go on." He paused for some
time, conscious of the vast importance of the decision, though he
thought only, doubtless, of its consequences to himself. Taking the step
which was now before him would necessarily end either in his realizing
the loftiest aspirations of his ambition, or in his utter and
irreparable ruin. There were vast public interests, too, at stake, of
which, however he probably thought but little. It proved, in the end,
that the history of the whole Roman world, for several centuries, was
depending upon the manner in which the question new in Caesar's mind
should turn.

[Sidenote: Story of the shepherd trumpeter.]

There was a little bridge across the Rubicon at the point where Caesar
was surveying it. While he was standing there, the story is, a peasant
or shepherd came from the neighboring fields with a shepherd's pipe - a
simple musical instrument, made of a reed, and used much by the rustic
musicians of those days. The soldiers and some of the officers gathered
around him to hear him play. Among the rest came some of Caesar's
trumpeters, with their trumpets in their hands. The shepherd took one of
these martial instruments from the hands of its possessor, laying aside
his own, and began to sound a charge - which is a signal for a rapid
advance - and to march at the same time over the bridge "An omen! a
prodigy!" said Caesar. "Let us march where we are called by such a
divine intimation. _The die is cast_."

[Sidenote: Caesar crosses the Rubicon.]

So saying, he pressed forward over the bridge, while the officers,
breaking up the encampment, put the columns in motion to follow him.

It was shown abundantly, on many occasions in the course of Caesar's
life, that he had no faith in omens. There are equally numerous
instances to show that he was always ready to avail himself of the
popular belief in them; to awaken his soldiers' ardor or to allay their
fears. Whether, therefore, in respect to this story of the shepherd
trumpeter, it was an incident that really and accidentally occurred, or
whether Caesar planned and arranged it himself, with reference to its
effect, or whether, which is, perhaps, after all, the most probable
supposition, the tale was only an embellishment invented out of
something or nothing by the story-tellers of those days, to give
additional dramatic interest to the narrative of the crossing of the
Rubicon, it must be left for each reader to decide.

[Sidenote: Caesar assembles his troops.]
[Sidenote: His address to them.]

As soon as the bridge was crossed, Caesar called an assembly of his
troops, and, with signs of great excitement and agitation, made an
address to them on the magnitude of the crisis through which they were
passing. He showed them how entirely he was in their power; he urged
them, by the most eloquent appeals, to stand by him, faithful and true,
promising them the most ample rewards when he should have attained the
object at which he aimed. The soldiers responded to this appeal with
promises of the most unwavering fidelity.

[Sidenote: Surrender of various towns.]

The first town on the Roman side of the Rubicon was Ariminum. Caesar
advanced to this town. The authorities opened its gates to him - very
willing, as it appeared, to receive him as their commander. Caesar's
force was yet quite small, as he had been accompanied by only a single
legion in crossing the river. He had, however, sent orders for the other
legions, which had been left in Gaul, to join him without any delay,
though any re-enforcement of his troops seemed hardly necessary, as he
found no indications of opposition to his progress. He gave his soldiers
the strictest injunctions to do no injury to any property, public or
private, as they advanced, and not to assume, in any respect, a hostile
attitude toward the people of the country. The inhabitants, therefore,
welcomed him wherever he came, and all the cities and towns followed the
example of Ariminum, surrendering, in fact, faster than he could take
possession of them.

[Sidenote: Domitius appointed to supersede Caesar.]

In the confusion of the debates and votes in the Senate at Rome before
Caesar crossed the Rubicon, one decree had been passed deposing him from
his command of the army, and appointing a successor. The name of the
general thus appointed was Domitius. The only real opposition which
Caesar encountered in his progress toward Rome was from him. Domitius
had crossed the Apennines at the head of an army on his way northward to
supersede Caesar in his command, and had reached the town of Corfinium,
which was perhaps one third of the way between Rome and the Rubicon.
Caesar advanced upon him here and shut him in.

[Sidenote: Caesar's treatment of Domitius.]

After a brief siege the city was taken, and Domitius and his army were
made prisoners. Every body gave them up for lost, expecting that Caesar
would wreak terrible vengeance upon them. Instead of this, he received
the troops at once into his own service, and let Domitius go free.

[Sidenote: Dismay at Rome.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's distress.]

In the mean time, the tidings of Caesar's having passed the Rubicon, and
of the triumphant success which he was meeting with at the commencement
of his march toward Rome, reached the Capitol, and added greatly to the
prevailing consternation. The reports of the magnitude of his force and
of the rapidity of his progress were greatly exaggerated. The party of
Pompey and the Senate had done every thing to spread among the people
the terror of Caesar's name, in order to arouse them to efforts for
opposing his designs; and now, when he had broken through the barriers
which had been intended to restrain him, and was advancing toward the
city in an unchecked and triumphant career, they were overwhelmed with
dismay. Pompey began to be terrified at the danger which was impending.
The Senate held meetings without the city - councils of war, as it were,
in which they looked to Pompey in vain for protection from the danger
which he had brought upon them. He had said that he could raise an army
sufficient to cope with Caesar at any time by stamping with his foot.
They told him they thought now that it was high time for him to stamp.

[Sidenote: He leaves Rome.]

In fact, Pompey found the current setting every where strongly against
him. Some recommended that commissioners should be sent to Caesar to
make proposals for peace. The leading men, however, knowing that any
peace made with him under such circumstances would be their own ruin,
resisted and defeated the proposal. Cato abruptly left the city and
proceeded to Sicily, which had been assigned him as his province. Others
fled in other directions. Pompey himself, uncertain what to do, and not
daring to remain, called upon all his partisans to join him, and set off
at night, suddenly, and with very little preparation and small supplies,
to retreat across the country toward the shores of the Adriatic Sea, His
destination was Brundusium, the usual port of embarkation for Macedon
and Greece.

[Sidenote: Enthusiasm of Caesar's soldiers.]

Caesar was all this time gradually advancing toward Rome. His soldiers
were full of enthusiasm in his cause. As his connection with the
government at home was sundered the moment he crossed the Rubicon, all
supplies of money and of provisions were cut off in that quarter until
he should arrive at the Capitol and take possession of it. The soldiers
voted, however, that they would serve him without pay. The officers,
too, assembled together, and tendered him the aid of their
contributions. He had always observed a very generous policy in his
dealings with them, and he was now greatly gratified at receiving their
requital of it.

[Sidenote: His policy in releasing Domitius.]

The further he advanced, too, the more he found the people of the
country through which he passed disposed to espouse his cause. They were
struck with his generosity in releasing Domitius. It is true that it was
a very sagacious policy that prompted him to release him. But then it
was generosity too. In fact, there must be something of a generous
spirit in the soul to enable a man even to see the policy of
generous actions.

[Sidenote: Letter of Caesar.]

Among the letters of Caesar that remain to the present day, there is one
written about this time to one of his friends, in which he speaks of
this subject. "I am glad," says he, "that you approve of my conduct at
Corfinium. I am satisfied that such a course is the best one for us to
pursue, as by so doing we shall gain the good will of all parties, and
thus secure a permanent victory. Most conquerors have incurred the
hatred of mankind by their cruelties, and have all, in consequence of
the enmity they have thus awakened, been prevented from long enjoying
their power. Sylla was an exception; but his example of successful
cruelty I have no disposition to imitate. I will conquer after a new
fashion, and fortify myself in the possession of the power I acquire by
generosity and mercy."

[Sidenote: Ingratitude of Domitius.]

Domitius had the ingratitude, after this release, to take up arms again,
and wage a new war against Caesar. When Caesar heard of it, he said it
was all right. "I will act out the principles of my nature," said he,
"and he may act out his."

[Sidenote: Caesar's generosity.]

Another instance of Caesar's generosity occurred, which is even more
remarkable than this. It seems that among the officers of his army there
were some whom he had appointed at the recommendation of Pompey, at the
time when he and Pompey were friends. These men would, of course, feel
under obligations of gratitude to Pompey, as they owed their military
rank to his friendly interposition in their behalf. As soon as the war
broke out, Caesar gave them all his free permission to go over to
Pompey's side, if they chose to do so.

[Sidenote: Modern politicians.]

Caesar acted thus very liberally in all respects. He surpassed Pompey
very much in the spirit of generosity and mercy with which he entered
upon the great contest before them. Pompey ordered every citizen to join
his standard, declaring that he should consider all neutrals as his
enemies. Caesar, on the other hand, gave free permission to every one to
decline, if he chose, taking any part in the contest, saying that he
should consider all who did not act against him as his friends. In the
political contests of our day, it is to be observed that the combatants
are much more prone to imitate the bigotry of Pompey than the generosity
of Caesar, condemning, as they often do, those who choose to stand aloof
from electioneering struggles, more than they do their most determined
opponents and enemies.

[Sidenote: Caesar arrives at Brundusium.]

When, at length, Caesar arrived at Brundusium, he found that Pompey had
sent a part of his army across the Adriatic into Greece, and was
waiting for the transports to return that he might go over himself with
the remainder. In the mean time, he had fortified himself strongly in
the city. Caesar immediately laid siege to the place, and he commenced
some works to block up the mouth of the harbor. He built piers on each
side, extending out as far into the sea as the depth of the water would
allow them to be built. He then constructed a series of rafts, which he
anchored on the deep water, in a line extending from one pier to the
other. He built towers upon these rafts, and garrisoned them with
soldiers, in hopes by this means to prevent all egress from the fort. He
thought that, when this work was completed, Pompey would be entirely
shut in, beyond all possibility of escape.

[Sidenote: He besieges Pompey.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's plan of escape.]

The transports, however, returned before the work was completed. Its
progress was, of course, slow, as the constructions were the scene of a
continued conflict; for Pompey sent out rafts and galleys against them
every day, and the workmen had thus to build in the midst of continual
interruptions, sometimes from showers of darts, arrows, and javelins,
sometimes from the conflagrations of fireships, and sometimes from the
terrible concussions of great vessels of war, impelled with prodigious
force against them. The transports returned, therefore, before the
defenses were complete, and contrived to get into the harbor. Pompey
immediately formed his plan for embarking the remainder of his army.

[Sidenote: It is made known to Caesar.]
[Sidenote: Success of Pompey's plan.]

He filled the streets of the city with barricades and pitfalls,
excepting two streets which led to the place of embarkation. The object
of these obstructions was to embarrass Caesar's progress through the
city in case he should force an entrance while his men were getting on
board the ships. He then, in order to divert Caesar's attention from his
design, doubled the guards stationed upon the walls on the evening of
his intended embarkation, and ordered them to make vigorous attacks upon
all Caesar's forces outside. He then, when the darkness came on, marched
his troops through the two streets which had been left open, to the
landing place, and got them as fast as possible on board the transports.
Some of the people of the town contrived to make known to Caesar's army
what was going on, by means of signals from the walls; the army
immediately brought scaling ladders in great numbers, and, mounting the
walls with great ardor and impetuosity, they drove all before them, and
soon broke open the gates and got possession of the city. But the
barricades and pitfalls, together with the darkness, so embarrassed
their movements, that Pompey succeeded in completing his embarkation and
sailing away.

[Sidenote: Caesar's conduct at Rome.]

Caesar had no ships in which to follow. He returned to Rome. He met, of
course, with no opposition. He re-established the government there,
organized the Senate anew, and obtained supplies of corn from the public
granaries, and of money from the city treasury in the Capitol. In going
to the Capitoline Hill after this treasure, he found the officer who had
charge of the money stationed there to defend it. He told Caesar that it
was contrary to law for him to enter. Caesar said that, for men with
swords in their hands, there was no law. The officer still refused to
admit him. Caesar then told him to open the doors, or he would kill him
on the spot. "And you must understand," he added, "that it will be
easier for me to do it than it has been to say it." The officer resisted
no longer, and Caesar went in.

[Sidenote: Caesar subdues various countries.]
[Sidenote: He turns his thoughts to Pompey.]

After this, Caesar spent some time in rigorous campaigns in Italy,
Spain, Sicily, and Gaul, wherever there was manifested any opposition
to his sway. When this work was accomplished, and all these countries
were completely subjected to his dominion, he began to turn his thoughts
to the plan of pursuing Pompey across the Adriatic Sea.



[Sidenote: The gathering armies.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's preparations.]
[Sidenote: Caesar at Brundusium.]

The gathering of the armies of Caesar and Pompey on the opposite shores
of the Adriatic Sea was one of the grandest preparations for conflict
that history has recorded, and the whole world gazed upon the spectacle
at the time with an intense and eager interest, which was heightened by
the awe and terror which the danger inspired. During the year while
Caesar had been completing his work of subduing and arranging all the
western part of the empire, Pompey had been gathering from the eastern
division every possible contribution to swell the military force under
his command, and had been concentrating all these elements of power on
the coasts of Macedon and Greece, opposite to Brundusium, where he knew
that Caesar would attempt to cross the Adriatic Sea, His camps, his
detachments, his troops of archers and slingers, and his squadrons of
horse, filled the land, while every port was guarded, and the line of
the coast was environed by batteries and castles on the rocks, and
fleets of galleys on the water. Caesar advanced with his immense army to
Brundusium, on the opposite shore, in December, so that, in addition to
the formidable resistance prepared for him by his enemy on the coast, he
had to encounter the wild surges of the Adriatic, rolling perpetually in
the dark and gloomy commotion always raised in such wide seas by
wintery storms.

[Sidenote: His address to his army.]

Caesar had no ships, for Pompey had cleared the seas of every thing
which could aid him in his intended passage. By great efforts, however,
he succeeded at length in getting together a sufficient number of
galleys to convey over a part of his army, provided he took the men

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Online LibraryJacob AbbottHistory of Julius Caesar → online text (page 7 of 13)