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Alexander, and inform us that one Hagnothemis declared that he had
been told as much by Antipater; and that the poison was as cold as
ice, and was gathered like dew, from a certain rock near the city of
Nonakris, and preserved in the hoof of an ass: for no other vessel
could contain it, because it is so exceedingly cold and piercing. Most
historians, however, think that the whole story of Alexander's being
poisoned was a fiction; and this view is strongly supported by the
fact, that as Alexander's generals began to fight one another
immediately after his death, his body lay for many days unheeded, in
hot and close rooms, and yet showed no signs of decay, but remained
sweet and fresh. Roxana, who was pregnant, was regarded with great
respect by the Macedonians, and being jealous of Statira, she sent her
a forged letter, purporting to come from Alexander and asking her to
come to him. When Statira came, Roxana killed both her and her sister,
cast their bodies down a well, and filled up the well with earth. Her
accomplice in this crime was Perdikkas, who on the death of Alexander
at once became a very powerful man. He sheltered his authority under
the name of Arrhidæus, who became the nominal, while Perdikkas was the
virtual king of Macedonia. This Arrhidæus was the son of Philip by a
low and disreputable woman named Philinna, and was half-witted in
consequence of some bodily disorder with which he was afflicted. This
disease was not congenital nor produced by natural causes, for he had
been a fine boy and showed considerable ability, but Olympias
endeavoured to poison him, and destroyed his intellect by her drugs.


[Footnote 394: On the subject of serpent worship, see in Smith's
'Dictionary of the Bible,' art.: 'Serpent,' and 'Brazen Serpent.']

[Footnote 395: The Greek month Hekatombæon answers to the last half of
our July and the first half of August.]

[Footnote 396: Cf. Horace, _Carm._ iii. 22.]

[Footnote 397: Reciters of epic poems, the cantos of which were called

[Footnote 398: The same indifference to athletic sports, as practised
in Greece, is mentioned in the Life of Philopœmen. The pankratium is
sometimes called the pentathlum, and consisted of five contests, the
foot-race, leaping, throwing the quoit, hurling the javelin, and
wrestling. No one received the prize unless he was winner in all. In
earlier times boxing was part of the pentathlum, but hurling the
javelin was afterwards substituted for it.]

[Footnote 399: In Greek, this word is properly applied to the slave
whose duty it was to attend a boy to and from school, and generally to
keep him out of mischief. He was not supposed to teach him.]

[Footnote 400: The literal meaning of this word is "bull's head." It
is conjectured that this refers to the mark with which the horse was
branded, not to his appearance.]

[Footnote 401: I believe that the seal here mentioned was Philip's
own, and in no sense the "great seal of the kingdom," although Strabo
speaks of the public seal of a state.]

[Footnote 402: A tribe in the eastern part of Macedonia.]

[Footnote 403: Near Chæronea.]

[Footnote 404: It must be remembered that the ancients, although they
possessed chairs, always ate and drank reclining upon couches.]

[Footnote 405: The Karians, ever since the siege of Troy, were
regarded by the Greeks with the greatest contempt Cf. Il. ix. 378.]

[Footnote 406: Bacchus. Compare the Bacchæ of Euripides, passim.]

[Footnote 407: For a description of the Macedonian phalanx, see life
of Titus Flaminius, ch. viii., note.]

[Footnote 408: This inscription was no doubt written over such spoils
as were placed in the Greek temples. Compare Virgil's "Æneas hæc de
Danais victoribus arma."]

[Footnote 409: When the wind blew from the south, this road was
covered by such a depth of water as to be impracticable: for some time
before he reached the spot the wind had blown strong from the
south - but as he came near, the special providence of the gods (so he
and his friends conceived it) brought on a change of wind to the
north, so that the sea receded and left an available passage, though
his soldiers had the water up to their waists. Grote's History of
Greece, Part II. ch. xcii.]

[Footnote 410: See Smith's 'Biographical Dictionary' s.v.]

[Footnote 411: This dye was probably made from the murex or purple
fish, caught in the Hermionic gulf, in Argolis, which produced a dye
only second to that of Tyre.]

[Footnote 412: "No certainty is attainable about the ancient geography
of these regions. Mr. Long's Map of Ancient Persia shows how little
can be made out." (Grote's 'History of Greece,' part ii. chap. cxiii.,

[Footnote 413: Lykus in Greek signifies a wolf.]

[Footnote 414: In Persepolis, the capital of the district called

[Footnote 415: The ancients, whose bodies were anointed with oil or
unguents, used dust when wrestling, to enable them to hold one

[Footnote 416: The Sea of Azof.]

[Footnote 417: Antipater had been left by Alexander as his viceroy in

[Footnote 418: The word which I have translated 'striped' is mentioned
by Xenophon in the _Cyropædia_ as one of the ensigns of royalty
assumed by Cyrus.]

[Footnote 419: Probably Cabul or Ghuznee. The whole geography of
Alexander's Asiatic campaigns will be found most exhaustively
discussed in Grote's 'History of Greece,' part ii. ch. xcii., s. 99.]

[Footnote 420: The same name occurs in the Life of Sulla, c. 15, and
Life of Lucullus, c. 26.]

[Footnote 421: The river Jhelum in the Punjaub.]

[Footnote 422: A cubit is the space from the point of the elbow to
that of the little finger: a span is the space one can stretch over
with the thumb and the little finger.]

[Footnote 423: As distinguished from the Mediterranean. The ancients
gave the name of ocean to the sea by which they believed that their
world was surrounded.]

[Footnote 424: [Greek: daktylos] δάκτυλος, the shortest Greek measure,
a finger's breadth, about 7/20 of an inch. The modern Greek seamen
measure the distance of the sun from the horizon by fingers' breadths.
Newton's 'Halicarnassus.' (Liddell & Scott, s.v.)]

[Footnote 425: So called from their habit of going entirely naked. One
of them is said by Arrian to have said to Alexander. "You are a man
like all of us, Alexander - except that you abandon your home like a
meddlesome destroyer, to invade the most distant regions; enduring
hardships yourself, and inflicting hardships on others." (Arrian, vii,
1, 8.)]

[Footnote 426: To recompense his soldiers for their recent distress,
the king conducted them for seven days in drunken bacchanalian
procession through Karmania, himself and all his friends taking part
in the revelry; an imitation of the jovial festivity and triumph with
which the god Dionysus had marched back from the conquest of India.
(Grote's 'History of Greece,' part ii. ch. xciv.)]

[Footnote 427: The straits of Gibraltar.]

[Footnote 428: Her daughter, Alexander's sister.]

[Footnote 429: The district known to the ancients as Persis or Persia
proper, corresponds roughly to the modern province of Fars. Its
capital city was Persepolis, near the modern city of Schiraz.]

[Footnote 430: The capital of Macedonia, Alexander's native city.]

[Footnote 431: [Greek: chous] χοῦς a liquid measure containing 12
[Greek: kotulai] κοτύλαι of 5.46 pints apiece.]

[Footnote 432: The Greek word hero means a semi-divine personage, who
was worshipped, though with less elaborate ritual than a god.]

[Footnote 433: £2,300,000. Grote, following Diodorus, raises the total
even higher, to twelve thousand talents, or £2,760,000. "History of
Greece," part ii. ch. xciv.]

[Footnote 434: The Greek text here is corrupt. I have endeavoured to
give what appears to have been Plutarch's meaning.]


I.[435] When Sulla got possession of the supreme power, he confiscated
the marriage portion of Cornelia[436] the daughter of Cinna[437] who
had once enjoyed the supremacy in Rome, because he could not either by
promises or threats induce Cæsar to part with her. The cause of the
enmity between Cæsar and Sulla was Cæsar's relationship to Marius; for
the elder Marius was the husband of Julia the sister of Cæsar's
father, and Julia was the mother of the younger Marius, who was
consequently Cæsar's cousin. Cæsar was not content with being let
alone by Sulla, who was at first fully occupied with the
proscriptions and other matters, but he presented himself to the
people as a candidate for a priesthood,[438] though he had hardly
arrived at man's estate. But Sulla by his opposition contrived to
exclude him from this office, and even thought of putting him to
death; and when some observed that there was no reason in putting to
death such a youth, Sulla observed, that they had no sense if they did
not see many Marii in this boy. These words were conveyed to Cæsar,
who thereupon concealed himself by wandering about for some time in
the Sabine country. On one occasion when he was changing his place of
abode on account of sickness, he fell in by night with the soldiers of
Sulla who were scouring those parts and seizing on those who were
concealed. But Cæsar got away by giving Cornelius,[439] who was in
command of the soldiers, two talents, and going straightway down to
the coast he took ship and sailed to Bithynia to King Nicomedes,[440]
with whom he stayed no long time. On his voyage from Bithynia, he was
captured near the island Pharmacusa[441] by pirates,[442] who at that
time were in possession of the seas with a powerful force and numerous

II. The pirates asked Cæsar twenty talents for his ransom, on which he
laughed at them for not knowing who their prize was, and he promised
to give them fifty talents. While he dispatched those about him to
various cities to raise the money, he was left with one friend and
two attendants among these Cilician pirates, who were notorious for
their cruelty, yet he treated them with such contempt that whenever he
was lying down to rest, he would send to them and order them to be
quiet. He spent eight and thirty days among them, not so much like a
prisoner as a prince surrounded by his guards, and he joined in their
sports and exercises with perfect unconcern. He also wrote poems and
some speeches which he read to them, and those who did not approve of
his compositions he would call to their faces illiterate fellows and
barbarians, and he would often tell them with a laugh that he would
hang them all. The pirates were pleased with his manners, and
attributed this freedom of speech to simplicity and a mirthful
disposition. As soon as the ransom came from Miletus and Cæsar had
paid it and was set at liberty, he manned some vessels in the port of
Miletus and went after the pirates, whom he found still on the island,
and he secured most of them. All their property he made his booty; but
the pirates, he lodged in prison at Pergamum, and then went to
Junius,[443] who, as governor of the provinces of Asia, was the proper
person to punish the captives. But as the governor was casting a
longing eye on the booty, which was valuable, and said he would take
time to consider about the captives, Cæsar without more ado, left him
and going straight to Pergamum took all the pirates out of prison and
crucified them, as he had often told them he would do in the island
when they thought he was merely jesting.

III. Sulla's power was now declining, and Cæsar's friends in Rome
recommended him to return. However, he first made a voyage to Rhodus
in order to have the instruction of Apollonius the son of Molon,[444]
of whom Cicero also was a hearer. This Apollonius was a distinguished
rhetorician, and had the reputation of being a man of a good
disposition. Cæsar is said to have had a great talent for the
composition of discourses on political matters, and to have cultivated
it most diligently, so as to obtain beyond dispute the second rank;
his ambition to be first in power and arms, made him from want of
leisure give up the first rank, to which his natural talents invited
him, and consequently his attention to military matters and political
affairs by which he got the supreme power, did not allow him to attain
perfection in oratory. Accordingly at a later period, in his reply to
Cicero about Cato,[445] he deprecates all comparison between the
composition of a soldier and the eloquence of an accomplished orator
who had plenty of leisure to prosecute his studies.

IV. On his return to Rome he impeached[446] Dolabella[447] for
maladministration in his province, and many of the cities of Greece
gave evidence in support of the charge. Dolabella, indeed, was
acquitted; but to make some return to the Greeks for their zeal in his
behalf, Cæsar assisted them in their prosecution of Publius
Antonius[448] for corruption before Marcus Lucullus, the governor of
Macedonia; and his aid was so effectual that Antonius appealed to the
tribunes, alleging that he had not a fair trial in Greece with the
Greeks for his accusers. At Rome Cæsar got a brilliant popularity by
aiding at trials with his eloquence; and he gained also much good will
by his agreeable mode of saluting people and his pleasant manners, for
he was more attentive to please than persons usually are at that age.
He was also gradually acquiring political influence by the splendour
of his entertainments and his table and of his general mode of living.
At first those who envied him, thinking that when his resources
failed his influence would soon go, did not concern themselves about
his flourishing popularity: but at last when his political power had
acquired strength and had become difficult to overthrow and was
manifestly tending to bring about a complete revolution, they
perceived that no beginnings should be considered too small to be
capable of quickly becoming great by uninterrupted endurance and
having no obstacle to their growth by reason of being despised.
Cicero, who is considered to have been the first to suspect and to
fear the smiling surface[449] of Cæsar's policy, as a man would the
smiling smoothness of a sea, and who observed the bold and determined
character which was concealed under a friendly and joyous exterior,
said that in all his designs and public measures he perceived a
tyrannical purpose; "but on the other hand," said he, "when I look at
his hair, which is arranged with so much care, and see him scratching
his head with one finger,[450] I cannot think that such a wicked
purpose will ever enter into this man's mind as the overthrow of the
Roman State." This, however, belongs to a later period.

V. He received the first proof of the good will of the people towards
him when he was a competitor against Caius Popilius for a military
tribuneship,[451] and was proclaimed before him. He received a second
and more conspicuous evidence of popular favour on the occasion of the
death of Julia[452] the wife of Marius, when Cæsar, who was her
nephew, pronounced over her a splendid funeral oration in the Forum,
and at the funeral ventured to exhibit the images[453] of Marius,
which were then seen for the first time since the administration of
Sulla, for Marius and his son had been adjudged enemies. Some voices
were raised against Cæsar on account of this display, but the people
responded by loud shouts, and received him with clapping of hands, and
admiration, that he was bringing back as from the regions of Hades,
after so long an interval, the glories of Marius to the city. Now it
was an ancient Roman usage to pronounce funeral orations[454] over
elderly women, but it was not customary to do it in the case of young
women, and Cæsar set the first example by pronouncing a funeral
oration over his deceased wife, which brought him some popularity and
won the many by sympathy to consider him a man of a kind disposition
and full of feeling. After the funeral of his wife he went to Iberia
as quæstor to the Prætor Vetus,[455] for whom he always showed great
respect, and whose son he made his own quæstor when he filled the
office of Prætor. After his quæstorship he married for his third wife
Pompeia[456] he had by his wife Cornelia a daughter, who afterwards
married Pompeius Magnus. Owing to his profuse expenditure (and indeed
men generally supposed that he was buying at a great cost a
short-lived popularity, though in fact he was purchasing things of the
highest value at a low price) it is said that before he attained any
public office he was in debt to the amount of thirteen hundred
talents. Upon being appointed curator of the Appian Road,[457] he laid
out upon it a large sum of his own; and during his ædileship[458] he
exhibited three hundred and twenty pair of gladiators, and by his
liberality and expenditure on the theatrical exhibitions, the
processions, and the public entertainments, he completely drowned all
previous displays, and put the people in such a humour, that every man
was seeking for new offices and new honours to requite him with.

VI. There were at this time two parties in the State, that of Sulla,
which was all-powerful, and that of Marius, which was cowed and
divided and very feeble. It was Cæsar's object to strengthen and gain
over the party of Marius, and accordingly, when the ambitious
splendour of his ædileship was at its height, he had images of Marius
secretly made, and triumphal Victories, which he took by night and set
up on the Capitol. At daybreak the people seeing the images glittering
with gold, and exquisitely laboured by art (and there were
inscriptions also which declared the Cimbrian victories of Marius),
were in admiration at the boldness of him who had placed them there,
for it was no secret who it was, and the report quickly circulating
through the city, brought everybody to the spot to see. Some exclaimed
that Cæsar had a design to make himself tyrant, which appeared by his
reviving those testimonials of honour which had been buried in the
earth by laws and decrees of the senate, and that it was done to try
if the people, who were already tampered with, were tamed to his
purpose by his splendid exhibitions, and would allow him to venture on
such tricks and innovations. But the partisans of Marius, encouraging
one another, soon collected in surprising numbers, and filled the
Capitol with their noise. Many also shed tears of joy at seeing the
likeness of Marius, and Cæsar was highly extolled as the only man
worthy to be a kinsman of Marius. The senate being assembled about
these matters, Catulus Lutatius, who had at that time the greatest
name of any man in Rome, got up, and charging Cæsar, uttered that
memorable expression: "Cæsar, no longer are you taking the state by
underground approaches, but by storming engines." Cæsar spoke in reply
to this charge, and satisfied the senate, on which his admirers were
still more elated, and urged him not to abate of his pretensions for
any one: with the favour of the people, they said, he would soon get
the better of all, and be the first man in the State.

VII. About this time Metellus,[459] the Pontifex Maximus, died, and
though Isauricus and Catulus were candidates for the priesthood, which
was a great object of ambition, and were men of the highest rank and
greatest influence in the senate, Cæsar would not give way to them,
but he presented himself to the people as a competitor. The favour of
the people appearing equally divided, Catulus, as the more
distinguished candidate, being more afraid of the uncertainty of the
event, sent and offered Cæsar a large sum of money if he would retire
from his canvass; but Cæsar replied that he would stand it out even if
he had to borrow still more. On the day of the election, his mother,
with tears, accompanied him to the door, when Cæsar embracing her,
said, "Mother, to-day you shall see your son either Pontifex Maximus,
or an exile." After the voting was over, which was conducted with
great spirit, Cæsar prevailed, a circumstance which alarmed the senate
and the nobles, who feared that he would lead on the people to the
boldest measures. Accordingly, Piso and Catulus blamed Cicero for
having spared Cæsar, who, in the matter of Catiline's[460] conspiracy,
had given him a handle. Now Catiline designed not only to alter the
form of government, but to subvert the whole Commonwealth, and throw
all into confusion, but he was ejected from the city on being
convicted of some minor charges, and before the extent of his designs
was discovered. He left behind him in the city Lentulus and Cethegus,
to carry his plans into execution. It is uncertain if Cæsar secretly
lent them any countenance and aid, but when they were completely
convicted in the senate, and Cicero the consul put it to each senator
to give his opinion on their punishment, all who spoke declared for
death till it came to Cæsar's turn to speak. Cæsar rose and delivered
a studied oration, to the effect that it was not consistent with the
constitution, nor was it just to put to death without a trial men
distinguished for their high character and their family, unless there
was the most urgent necessity; and he added that, if they were
imprisoned in the Italian cities which Cicero himself might choose,
until the war against Catiline was brought to an end, the senate might
have time to deliberate on the case of each prisoner when peace was

VIII. This proposal appeared so humane, and was supported by so
powerful a speech, that not only those who rose after Cæsar sided
with, him, but many of those who had already spoken changed their
opinions and went over to that of Cæsar, till it came to the turn of
Cato and Catulus to speak. After they had made a vigorous opposition,
and Cato in his speech had also urged suspicious matter against Cæsar
and strongly argued against him, the conspirators were handed over to
the executioner, and as Cæsar was leaving the Senate many of the young
men who then acted as a guard to Cicero, crowded together and
threatened Cæsar with their naked swords.[461] But Curio[462] is said
to have thrown his toga round Cæsar, and to have carried him off; and
Cicero also, when the young men looked to him, is said to have checked
them by a motion, either through fear of the people or because he
thought that the death of Cæsar would be most unjust and a violation
of law. If this is true, I cannot conceive why Cicero said nothing
about it in the book on his Consulship;[463] but Cicero was blamed
afterwards for not having taken advantage of so favourable an
opportunity to get rid of Cæsar, and for having feared the people, who
were extravagantly attached to Cæsar. And indeed a few days after,
when Cæsar had gone to the Senate and defended himself in a speech
against the imputations that had been cast on him, and his speech was
received with loud marks of disapprobation and the sitting of the
Senate was lasting longer than usual, the people came with loud cries
and surrounded the Senate-house calling for Cæsar and bidding the
Senate let him go. Accordingly, Cato apprehending danger mainly from
some movement of the needy part of the people, who were like a
firebrand among the rest of the citizens, as they had all their hopes
in Cæsar, prevailed on the Senate to give them a monthly allowance of
corn, which produced an addition to the rest of the expenditure of
seven millions[464] five hundred thousands. However, the immediate
alarm was manifestly quenched by this measure, which snapped off the
best part of Cæsar's influence and scattered it, at a time when he was
going to enter on his office of Prætor which made him more

IX. No tumults occurred in Cæsar's Prætorship,[465] but a disagreeable
incident happened in his family. Publius Clodius,[466] a man of
Patrician rank, was distinguished both by wealth and eloquence, but in
arrogance and impudence he was not inferior to the most notorious
scoundrels in Rome. Clodius was in love with Pompeia, Cæsar's wife,
and Pompeia was in no way averse to him. But a strict watch was kept
over the woman's apartment, and Aurelia, Cæsar's mother, who was a
prudent woman, by always observing Pompeia, made it difficult and
hazardous for the lovers to have an interview. Now the Romans have a
goddess whom they call Bona, as the Greeks have a Gynæceia. The
Phrygians, who claim this goddess, say she was the mother of King
Midas; the Romans say she was a Dryad and the wife of Faunus; but the
Greeks say she is one of the mothers of Dionysus, whose name must not

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 36 of 55)