Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy online

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jointly, and as consorts; but soon the brother or rather his guardian
Pothinus had driven the sister from the kingdom and compelled her
to seek a refuge in Syria, whence she made preparations
to get back to her paternal kingdom. Ptolemaeus and Pothinus
lay with the whole Egyptian army at Pelusium for the sake
of protecting the eastern frontier against her, just when Pompeius
cast anchor at the Casian promontory and sent a request to the king
to allow him to land. The Egyptian court, long informed of the disaster
at Pharsalus, was on the point of refusing to receive Pompeius;
but the king's tutor Theodotus pointed out that, in that case
Pompeius would probably employ his connections in the Egyptian army
to instigate rebellion; and that it would be safer, and also preferable
with regard to Caesar, if they embraced the opportunity of making away
with Pompeius. Political reasonings of this sort did not readily fail
of their effect among the statesmen of the Hellenic world.

Death of Pompeius

Achillas the general of the royal troops and some of the former soldiers
of Pompeius went off in a boat to his vessel; and invited him
to come to the king and, as the water was shallow, to enter their barge.
As he was stepping ashore, the military tribune Lucius Septimius
stabbed him from behind, under the eyes of his wife and son
who were compelled to be spectators of the murder from the deck
of their vessel, without being able to rescue or revenge
(28 Sept. 706). On the same day, on which thirteen years before
he had entered the capital in triumph over Mithradates,(39)
the man, who for a generation had been called the Great and for years
had ruled Rome, died on the desert sands of the inhospitable
Casian shore by the hand of one of his old soldiers. A good officer
but otherwise of mediocre gifts of intellect and of heart,
fate had with superhuman constancy for thirty years allowed him
to solve all brilliant and toilless tasks; had permitted him to pluck
all laurels planted and fostered by others; had brought him
face to face with all the conditions requisite for obtaining
the supreme power - only in order to exhibit in his person an example
of spurious greatness, to which history knows no parallel.
Of all pitiful parts there is none more pitiful than that of passing
for more than one really is; and it is the fate of monarchy
that this misfortune inevitably clings to it, for barely once
in a thousand years does there arise among the people a man
who is a king not merely in name, but in reality. If this disproportion
between semblance and reality has never perhaps been so abruptly marked
as in Pompeius, the fact may well excite grave reflection that it was
precisely he who in a certain sense opened the series of Roman monarchs.

Arrival of Caesar

When Caesar following the track of Pompeius arrived in the roadstead
of Alexandria, all was already over. With deep agitation
he turned away when the murderer brought to his ship the head of the man,
who had been his son-in-law and for long years his colleague
in rule, and to get whom alive into his power he had come to Egypt.
The dagger of the rash assassin precluded an answer to the question,
how Caesar would have dealt with the captive Pompeius; but, while
the humane sympathy, which still found a place in the great soul
of Caesar side by side with ambition, enjoined that he should
spare his former friend, his interest also required that he should
annihilate Pompeius otherwise than by the executioner.
Pompeius had been for twenty years the acknowledged ruler
of Rome; a dominion so deeply rooted does not perish
with the ruler's death. The death of Pompeius did not break up
the Pompeians, but gave to them instead of an aged, incapable,
and worn-out chief in his sons Gnaeus and Sextus two leaders,
both of whom were young and active and the second was a man
of decided capacity. To the newly-founded hereditary monarchy
hereditary pretendership attached itself at once like a parasite,
and it was very doubtful whether by this change of persons Caesar
did not lose more than he gained.

Caesar Regulates Egypt

Meanwhile in Egypt Caesar had now nothing further to do,
and the Romans and the Egyptians expected that he would
immediately set sail and apply himself to the subjugation of Africa,
and to the huge task of organization which awaited him after the victory.
But Caesar faithful to his custom - wherever he found himself
in the wide empire - of finally regulating matters at once and in person,
and firmly convinced that no resistance was to be expected
either from the Roman garrison or from the court, being, moreover,
in urgent pecuniary embarrassment, landed in Alexandria
with the two amalgamated legions accompanying him to the number
of 3200 men and 800 Celtic and German cavalry, took up his quarters
in the royal palace, and proceeded to collect the necessary sums of money
and to regulate the Egyptian succession, without allowing himself
to be disturbed by the saucy remark of Pothinus that Caesar
should not for such petty matters neglect his own so important affairs.
In his dealing with the Egyptians he was just and even indulgent.
Although the aid which they had given to Pompeius justified
the imposing of a war contribution, the exhausted land was spared
from this; and, while the arrears of the sum stipulated for in 695(40)
and since then only about half paid were remitted, there was required
merely a final payment of 10,000,000 -denarii- (400,000 pounds).
The belligerent brother and sister were enjoined immediately
to suspend hostilities, and were invited to have their dispute
investigated and decided before the arbiter. They submitted;
the royal boy was already in the palace and Cleopatra also presented
herself there. Caesar adjudged the kingdom of Egypt, agreeably
to the testament of Auletes, to the intermarried brother and sister
Cleopatra and Ptolemaeus Dionysus, and further gave unasked
the kingdom of Cyprus - cancelling the earlier act of annexation(41) -
as the appanageof the second-born of Egypt to the younger children
of Auletes, Arsinoe and Ptolemaeus the younger.

Insurrection in Alexandria

But a storm was secretly preparing. Alexandria was a cosmopolitan city
as well as Rome, hardly inferior to the Italian capital in the number
of its inhabitants, far superior to it in stirring commercial spirit,
in skill of handicraft, in taste for science and art: in the citizens
there was a lively sense of their own national importance,
and, if there was no political sentiment, there was at any rate
a turbulent spirit, which induced them to indulge in their
street riots as regularly and as heartily as the Parisians
of the present day: one may conceive their feelings, when they saw
the Roman general ruling in the palace of the Lagids and their kings
accepting the award of his tribunal. Pothinus and the boy-king,
both as may be conceived very dissatisfied at once with the peremptory
requisition of old debts and with the intervention in the throne-
dispute which could only issue, as it did, in favour of Cleopatra,
sent - in order to pacify the Roman demands - the treasures
of the temples and the gold plate of the king with intentional
ostentation to be melted at the mint; with increasing
indignation the Egyptians - who were pious even to superstition,
and who rejoiced in the world-renowned magnificence of their court
as if it were a possession of their own - beheld the bare walls
of their temples and the wooden cups on the table of their king.
The Roman army of occupation also, which had been essentially
denationalized by its long abode in Egypt and the many intermarriages
between the soldiers and Egyptian women, and which moreover
numbered a multitude of the old soldiers of Pompeius and runaway
Italian criminals and slaves in its ranks, was indignant at Caesar,
by whose orders it had been obliged to suspend its action
on the Syrian frontier, and at his handful of haughty legionaries.
The tumult even at the landing, when the multitude saw the Roman axes
carried into the old palace, and the numerous cases in which
his soldiers were assassinated in the city, had taught Caesar
the immense danger in which he was placed with his small force
in presence of that exasperated multitude. But it was difficult
to return on account of the north-west winds prevailing at this season
of the year, and the attempt at embarkation might easily become
a signal for the outbreak of the insurrection; besides, it was not
the nature of Caesar to take his departure without having accomplished
his work. He accordingly ordered up at once reinforcements
from Asia, and meanwhile, till these arrived, made a show
of the utmost self-possession. Never was there greater gaiety
in his camp than during this rest at Alexandria; and while
the beautiful and clever Cleopatra was not sparing of her charms
in general and least of all towards her judge, Caesar also appeared
among all his victories to value most those won over beautiful women.
It was a merry prelude to graver scenes. Under the leadership
of Achillas and, as was afterwards proved, by the secret orders
of the king and his guardian, the Roman army of occupation
stationed in Egypt appeared unexpectedly in Alexandria; and as soon as
the citizens saw that it had come to attack Caesar, they made
common cause with the soldiers.

Caesar in Alexandria

With a presence of mind, which in some measure justifies
his earlier foolhardiness, Caesar hastily collected his scattered men;
seized the persons of the king and his ministers; entrenched himself
in the royal residence and the adjoining theatre; and gave orders,
as there was no time to place in safety the war-fleet stationed
in the principal harbour immediately in front of the theatre,
that it should be set on fire and that Pharos, the island
with the light-tower commanding the harbour, should be occupied
by means of boats. Thus at least a restricted position for defence
was secured, and the way was kept open to procure supplies
and reinforcements. At the same time orders were issued
to the commandant of Asia Minor as well as to the nearest
subject countries, the Syrians and Nabataeans, the Cretans
and the Rhodians, to send troops and ships in all haste to Egypt.
The insurrection at the head of which the princess Arsinoe
and her confidant the eunuch Ganymedes had placed themselves,
meanwhilehad free course in all Egypt and in the greater part
of the capital. In the streets of the latter there was daily fighting,
but without success either on the part of Caesar in gaining freer scope
and breaking through to the fresh water lake of Marea which lay behind
the town, where he could have provided himself with water and forage,
or on the part of the Alexandrians in acquiring superiority
over the besieged and depriving them of all drinking water; for,
when the Nile canals in Caesar's part of the town had been spoiled
by the introduction of salt water, drinkable water was unexpectedly found
in wells dug on the beach.

As Caesar was not to be overcome from the landward side,
the exertions of the besiegers were directed to destroy his fleet
and cut him off from the sea by which supplies reached him.
The island with the lighthouse and the mole by which this was connected
with the mainland divided the harbour into a western and an eastern half,
which were in communication with each other through two arched openings
in the mole. Caesar commanded the island and the east harbour,
while the mole and the west harbour were in possession
of the citizens; and, as the Alexandrian fleet was burnt,
his vessels sailed in and out without hindrance. The Alexandrians,
after having vainly attempted to introduce fire-ships from the western
into the eastern harbour, equipped with the remnant of their arsenal
a small squadron and with this blocked up the way of Caesar's vessels,
when these were towing in a fleet of transports with a legion
that had arrived from Asia Minor; but the excellent Rhodian mariners
of Caesar mastered the enemy. Not long afterwards, however,
the citizens captured the lighthouse- island,(42) and from that point
totally closed the narrow and rocky mouth of the east harbour
for larger ships; so that Caesar's fleet was compelled
to take its station in the open roads before the east harbour,
and his communication with the sea hung only on a weak thread.
Caesar's fleet, attacked in that roadstead repeatedly
by the superior naval force of the enemy, could neither shun
the unequal strife, since the loss of the lighthouse-island
closed the inner harbour against it, nor yet withdraw, for the loss
of the roadstead would have debarred Caesar wholly from the sea.
Though the brave legionaries, supported by the dexterity
of the Rhodian sailors, had always hitherto decided these conflicts
in favour of the Romans, the Alexandrians renewed and augmented
their naval armaments with unwearied perseverance; the besieged
had to fight as often as it pleased the besiegers, and if the former
should be on a single occasion vanquished, Caesar would be
totally hemmed in and probably lost.

It was absolutely necessary to make an attempt to recover
the lighthouse island. The double attack, which was made by boats
from the side of the harbour and by the war-vessels from the seaboard,
in reality brought not only the island but also the lower part
of the mole into Caesar's power; it was only at the second arch-
opening of the mole that Caesar ordered the attack to be stopped,
and the mole to be there closed towards the city by a transverse wall.
But while a violent conflict arose here around the entrenchers,
the Roman troops left the lower part of the mole adjoining
the island bare of defenders; a division of Egyptians landed there
unexpectedly, attacked in the rear the Roman soldiers and sailors
crowded together on the mole at the transverse wall, and drove
the whole mass in wild confusion into the sea. A part
were taken on board by the Roman ships; the most were drowned.
Some 400 soldiers and a still greater number of men belonging
to the fleet were sacrificed on this day; the general himself,
who had shared the fate of his men, had been obliged to seek refuge,
in his ship, and when this sank from having been overloaded with men,
he had to save himself by swimming to another. But, severe as was
the loss suffered, it was amply compensated by the recovery
of the lighthouse-island, which along with the mole as far as
the first arch-opening remained in the hands of Caesar.

Relieving Army from Asia Minor

At length the longed-for relief arrived. Mithradates of Pergamus,
an able warrior of the school of Mithradates Eupator, whose natural son
he claimed to be, brought up by land from Syria a motley army -
the Ityraeans of the prince of the Libanus,(43) the Bedouins
of Jamblichus, son of Sampsiceramus,(44) the Jews under the minister
Antipater, and the contingents generally of the petty chiefs
and communities of Cilicia and Syria. From Pelusium, which Mithradates
had the fortune to occupy on the day of his arrival, he took
the great road towards Memphis with the view of avoiding
the intersected ground of the Delta and crossing the Nile
before its division; during which movement his troops received
manifold support from the Jewish peasants who were settled
in peculiar numbers in this part of Egypt. The Egyptians,
with the young king Ptolemaeus now at their head, whom Caesar
had released to his people in the vain hope of allaying the insurrection
by his means, despatched an army to the Nile, to detain Mithradates
on its farther bank. This army fell in with the enemy
even beyond Memphis at the so-called Jews'-camp, between Onion
and Heliopolis; nevertheless Mithradates, trained in the Roman fashion
of manoeuvring and encamping, amidst successful conflicts gained
the opposite bank at Memphis. Caesar, on the other hand, as soon as
he obtained news of the arrival of the relieving army, conveyed a part
of his troops in ships to the end of the lake of Marea to the west
of Alexandria, and marched round this lake and down the Nile
to meet Mithradates advancing up the river.

Battle at the Nile

The junction took place without the enemy attempting to hinder it.
Caesar then marched into the Delta, whither the king had retreated,
overthrew, notwithstanding the deeply cut canal in their front,
the Egyptian vanguard at the first onset, and immediately stormed
the Egyptian camp itself. It lay at the foot of a rising ground
between the Nile - from which only a narrow path separated it -
and marshes difficult of access. Caesar caused the camp to be assailed
simultaneously from the front and from the flank on the path
along the Nile; and during this assault ordered a third detachment
to ascend unseen the heights behind the camp. The victory was complete
the camp was taken, and those of the Egyptians who did not fal
beneath the sword of the enemy were drowned in the attempt to escape
to the fleet on the Nile. With one of the boats, which sank
overladen with men, the young king also disappeared in the waters
of his native stream.

Pacificatin of Alexandria

Immediately after the battle Caesar advanced at the head
of his cavalry from the land-side straight into the portion
of the capital occupied by the Egyptians. In mourning attire,
with the images of their gods in their hands, the enemy received him
and sued for peace; and his troops, when they saw him return as victor
from the side opposite to that by which he had set forth, welcomed him
with boundless joy. The fate of the town, which had ventured
to thwart the plans of the master of the world and had brought him
within a hair's-breadth of destruction, lay in Caesar's hands;
but he was too much of a ruler to be sensitive, and dealt with
the Alexandrians as with the Massiliots. Caesar - pointing
to their city severely devastated and deprived of its granaries,
of its world-renowned library, and of other important public buildings
on occasion of the burning of the fleet - exhorted the inhabitants
in future earnestly to cultivate the arts of peace alone, and to heal
the wounds which they had inflicted on themselves; for the rest,
he contented himself with granting to the Jews settled in Alexandria
the same rights which the Greek population of the city enjoyed,
and with placing in Alexandria, instead of the previous Roman army
of occupation which nominally at least obeyed the kings of Egypt,
a formal Roman garrison - two of the legions besieged there,
and a third which afterwards arrived from Syria - under a commander
nominated by himself. For this position of trust a man
was purposely selected, whose birth made it impossible for him
to abuse it - Rufio, an able soldier, but the son of a freedman.
Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemaeus obtained the sovereignty
of Egypt under the supremacy of Rome; the princess Arsinoe
was carried off to Italy, that she might not serve once more as a pretext
for insurrections to the Egyptians, who were after the Oriental fashion
quite as much devoted to their dynasty as they were indifferent
towards the individual dynasts; Cyprus became again a part
of the Roman province of Cilicia.

Course of Things during Caesar's Absence in Alexandria

This Alexandrian insurrection, insignificant as it was in itself
and slight as was its intrinsic connection with the events
of importance in the world's history which took place at the same time
in the Roman state, had nevertheless so far a momentous influence
on them that it compelled the man, who was all in all and without whom
nothing could be despatched and nothing could be solved,
to leave his proper tasks in abeyance from October 706 up to March 707
in order to fight along with Jews and Bedouins against a city rabble.
The consequences of personal rule began to make themselves felt.
They had the monarchy; but the wildest confusion prevailed everywhere,
and the monarch was absent. The Caesarians were for the moment,
just like the Pompeians, without superintendence; the ability
of the individual officers and, above all, accident
decided matters everywhere.

Insubordination of Pharnaces

In Asia Minor there was, at the time of Caesar's departure for Egypt,
no enemy. But Caesar's lieutenant there, the able Gnaeus Domitius
Calvinus, had received orders to take away again from king Pharnaces
what he had without instructions wrested from the allies of Pompeius;
and, as Pharnaces, an obstinate and arrogant despot like his father,
perseveringly refused to evacuate Lesser Armenia, no course remained
but to march against him. Calvinus had been obliged to despatch
to Egypt two out of the three legions left behind with him and formed
out of the Pharsalian prisoners of war; he filled up the gap
by one legion hastily gathered from the Romans domiciled in Pontus
and two legions of Deiotarus exercised after the Roman manner,
and advanced into Lesser Armenia. But the Bosporan army,
tried in numerous conflicts with the dwellers on the Black Sea,
showed itself more efficient than his own.

Calvinus Defeated at Nicopolis
Victory of Caesar at Ziela

In an engagement at Nicopolis the Pontic levy of Calvinus
was cut to pieces and the Galatian legions ran off; only the one old
legion of the Romans fought its way through with moderate loss.
Instead of conquering Lesser Armenia, Calvinus could not even prevent
Pharnaces from repossessing himself of his Pontic "hereditary states,"
and pouring forth the whole vials of his horrible sultanic caprices
on their inhabitants, especially the unhappy Amisenes
(winter of 706-707). When Caesar in person arrived in Asia Minor
and intimated to him that the service which Pharnaces had rendered
to him personally by having granted no help to Pompeius could not be
taken into account against the injury inflicted on the empire,
and that before any negotiation he must evacuate the province of Pontus
and send back the property which he had pillaged, he declared himself
doubtless ready to submit; nevertheless, well knowing how good reason
Caesar had for hastening to the west, he made no serious preparations
for the evacuation. He did not know that Caesar finished
whatever he took in hand. Without negotiating further,
Caesar took with him the one legion which he brought from Alexandria
and the troops of Calvinus and Deiotarus, and advanced against
the camp of Pharnaces at Ziela. When the Bosporans saw him approach,
they boldly crossed the deep mountain-ravine which covered their front,
and charged the Romans up the hill. Caesar's soldiers
were still occupied in pitching their camp, and the ranks wavered
for a moment; but the veterans accustomed to war rapidly rallied
and set the example for a general attack and for a complete victory
(2 Aug. 707). In five days the campaign was ended - an invaluable piece
of good fortune at this time, when every hour was precious.

Regulation of Asia Minor

Caesar entrusted the pursuit of the king, who had gone home by way
of Sinope to Pharnaces' illegitimate brother, the brave Mithradates
of Pergamus, who as a reward for the services rendered by him in Egypt
received the crown of the Bosporan kingdom in room of Pharnaces.
In other respects the affairs of Syria and Asia Minor were peacefully
settled; Caesar's own allies were richly rewarded, those of Pompeius
were in general dismissed with fines or reprimands. Deiotarus alone,
the most powerful of the clients of Pompeius, was again confined
to his narrow hereditary domain, the canton of the Tolistobogii.
In his stead Ariobarzanes king of Cappadocia was invested with
Lesser Armenia, and the tetrarchy of the Trocmi usurped by Deiotarus
was conferred on the new king of the Bosporus, who was descended
by the maternal side from one of the Galatian princely houses
as by the paternal from that of Pontus.

War by Land and Sea in Illyria
Defeat of Gabinius
Naval Victory at Tauris

In Illyria also, while Caesar was in Egypt, incidents of a very grave
nature had occurred. The Dalmatian coast had been for centuries
a sore blemish on the Roman rule, and its inhabitants had been
at open feud with Caesar since the conflicts around Dyrrhachium;
while the interior also since the time of the Thessalian war,
swarmed with dispersed Pompeians. Quintus Cornificius
had however, with the legions that followed him from Italy,
kept both the natives and the refugees in check and had
at the same time sufficiently met the difficult task of provisioning
the troops in these rugged districts. Even when the able
Marcus Octavius, the victor of Curicta,(45) appeared with a part



Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy → online text (page 42 of 65)