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Caesar: A Sketch by James Anthony Froude

Part 8 out of 8

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visitation of God, but here at home, by conspiracy within your own walls,
slain in the Senate-house, the warrior unarmed, the peacemaker naked to
his foes, the righteous judge in the seat of judgment. He whom no foreign
enemy could hurt has been killed by his fellow-countrymen--he, who had so
often shown mercy, by those whom he had spared. Where, Caesar, is your
love for mankind? Where is the sacredness of your life? Where are your
laws? Here you lie murdered--here in the Forum, through which so often you
marched in triumph wreathed with garlands; here upon the Rostra from which
you were wont to address your people. Alas for your gray hairs dabbled in
blood! alas for this lacerated robe in which you were dressed for the

Antony's words, as he well knew, were a declaration of irreconcilable war
against the murderers and their friends. As his impassioned language did
its work the multitude rose into fury. They cursed the conspirators. They
cursed the Senate who had sate by while the deed was being done. They had
been moved to fury by the murder of Clodius. Ten thousand Clodiuses, had
he been all which their imagination painted him, could not equal one
Caesar. They took on themselves the order of the funeral. They surrounded
the body, which was reverently raised by the officers of the Forum. Part
proposed to carry it to the Temple of Jupiter, in the Capitol, and to burn
it under the eyes of the assassins; part to take it into the Senate-house
and use the meeting-place of the Optimates a second time as the pyre of
the people's friend. A few legionaries, perhaps to spare the city a
general conflagration, advised that it should be consumed where it lay.
The platform was torn up and the broken timbers piled into a heap. Chairs
and benches were thrown on to it, the whole crowd rushing wildly to add a
chip or splinter. Actors flung in their dresses, musicians their
instruments, soldiers their swords. Women added their necklaces and
scarves. Mothers brought up their children to contribute toys and
playthings. On the pile so composed the body of Caesar was reduced to
ashes. The remains were collected with affectionate care and deposited in
the tomb of the Caesars, in the Campus Martius. The crowd, it was
observed, was composed largely of libertini and of provincials whom Caesar
had enfranchised. The demonstrations of sorrow were most remarkable among
the Jews, crowds of whom continued for many nights to collect and wail in
the Forum at the scene of the singular ceremony.

When the people were in such a mood, Rome was no place for the
conspirators. They scattered over the Empire; Decimus Brutus, Marcus
Brutus, Cassius, Cimber, Trebonius retreated to the provinces which Caesar
had assigned them, the rest clinging to the shelter of their friends. The
legions--a striking tribute to Roman discipline--remained by their eagles,
faithful to their immediate duties, and obedient to their officers, till
it could be seen how events would turn. Lepidus joined the army in Gaul;
Antony continued in Rome, holding the administration in his hands and
watching the action of the Senate. Caesar was dead. But Caesar still
lived. "It was not possible that the grave should hold him." The people
said that he was a god, and had gone back to heaven, where his star had
been seen ascending;[5] his spirit remained on earth, and the vain
blows of the assassins had been but "malicious mockery." "We have killed
the king," exclaimed Cicero in the bitterness of his disenchantment, "but
the kingdom is with us still;" "we have taken away the tyrant: the tyranny
survives." Caesar had not overthrown the oligarchy; their own incapacity,
their own selfishness, their own baseness had overthrown them. Caesar had
been but the reluctant instrument of the power which metes out to men the
inevitable penalties of their own misdeeds. They had dreamt that the
Constitution was a living force which would revive of itself as soon as
its enemy was gone. They did not know that it was dead already, and that
they had themselves destroyed it. The Constitution was but an agreement by
which the Roman people had consented to abide for their common good. It
had ceased to be for the common good. The experience of fifty miserable
years had proved that it meant the supremacy of the rich, maintained by
the bought votes of demoralized electors. The soil of Italy, the industry
and happiness of tens of millions of mankind, from the Rhine to the
Euphrates, had been the spoil of five hundred families and their relatives
and dependents, of men whose occupation was luxury, and whose appetites
were for monstrous pleasures. The self-respect of reasonable men could no
longer tolerate such a rule in Italy or out of it. In killing Caesar the
optimates had been as foolish as they were treacherous; for Caesar's
efforts had been to reform the Constitution, not to abolish it. The civil
war had risen from their dread of his second consulship, which they had
feared would make an end of their corruptions; and that the Constitution
should be purged of the poison in its veins was the sole condition on
which its continuance was possible. The obstinacy, the ferocity, the
treachery of the aristocracy had compelled Caesar to crush them; and the
more desperate their struggles the more absolute the necessity became. But
he alone could have restored as much of popular liberty as was consistent
with the responsibilities of such a government as the Empire required. In
Caesar alone were combined the intellect and the power necessary for such
a work; and they had killed him, and in doing so had passed final sentence
on themselves. Not as realities any more, but as harmless phantoms, the
forms of the old Republic were henceforth to persist. In the army only
remained the imperial consciousness of the honor and duty of Roman
citizens, To the army, therefore, the rule was transferred. The Roman
nation had grown as the oak grows, self-developed in severe morality, each
citizen a law to himself, and therefore capable of political freedom in an
unexampled degree. All organizations destined to endure spring from forces
inherent in themselves, and must grow freely, or they will not grow at
all. When the tree reaches maturity, decay sets in; if it be left
standing, the disintegration of the fibre goes swiftly forward; if the
stem is severed from the root, the destroying power is arrested, and the
timber will endure a thousand years. So it was with Rome. The Constitution
under which the Empire had sprung up was poisoned, and was brought to a
violent end before it had affected materially for evil the masses of the
people. The solid structure was preserved--not to grow any longer, not to
produce a new Camillus or a new Regulus, a new Scipio Africanus or a new
Tiberius Gracchus, but to form an endurable shelter for civilized mankind,
until a fresh spiritual life was developed out of Palestine to remodel the
conscience of humanity.

A gleam of hope opened to Cicero in the summer. Octavius, who was in
Greece at the time of the murder, came to Rome to claim his inheritance.
He was but eighteen, too young for the burden which was thrown upon him;
and being unknown, he had the confidence of the legions to win. The army,
dispersed over the provinces, had as yet no collective purpose. Antony, it
is possible, was jealous of him, and looked on himself as Caesar's true
representative and avenger. Octavius, finding Antony hostile, or at least
indifferent to his claims, played with the Senate with cool foresight till
he felt the ground firm under his feet. Cicero boasted that he would use
Octavius to ruin Antony, and would throw him over when he had served his
purpose. "Cicero will learn," Octavius said, when the words were reported
to him, "that I shall not be played with so easily."

[Sidenote: B.C. 44-43.]
[Sidenote: B.C. 43.]
For a year the confusion lasted; two of Caesar's officers, Hirtius and
Pausa, were chosen consuls by the senatorial party, to please the legions;
and Antony contended dubiously with them and Decimus Brutus for some
months in the North of Italy. But Antony joined Lepidus, and the Gallic
legions with judicial fitness brought Cicero's dreams to the ground.
Cicero's friend, Plancus, who commanded in Normandy and Belgium, attempted
a faint resistance, but was made to yield to the resolution of his troops.
Octavius and Antony came to an understanding; and Caesar's two generals,
who were true to his memory, and Octavius, who was the heir of his name,
crossed the Alps, at the head of the united army of Gaul, to punish the
murder and restore peace to the world. No resistance was possible. Many of
the senators, like Cicero, though they had borne no part in the
assassination, had taken the guilt of it upon themselves by the enthusiasm
of their approval. They were all men who had sworn fidelity to Caesar, and
had been ostentatious in their profession of devotion to him. It had
become too plain that from such persons no repentance was to be looked
for. They were impelled by a malice or a fanaticism which clemency could
not touch or reason influence. So long as they lived they would still
conspire; and any weapons, either of open war or secret treachery, would
seem justifiable to them in the cause which they regarded as sacred.
Caesar himself would, no doubt, have again pardoned them. Octavius,
Antony, and Lepidus were men of more common mould. The murderers of
Caesar, and those who had either instigated them secretly or applauded
them afterward, were included in a proscription list, drawn by retributive
justice on the model of Sylla's. Such of them as were in Italy were
immediately killed. Those in the provinces, as if with the curse of Cain
upon their heads, came one by one to miserable ends. Brutus and Cassius
fought hard and fell at Philippi. In three years the tyrannicides of the
ides of March, with their aiders and abettors, were all dead, some killed
in battle, some in prison, some dying by their own hand--slain with the
daggers with which they had stabbed their master.

Out of the whole party the fate of one only deserves special notice, a man
whose splendid talents have bought forgiveness for his faults, and have
given him a place in the small circle of the really great whose memory is
not allowed to die.

[Sidenote: Dec. 7, B.C. 43.]
After the dispersion of the conspirators which followed Caesar's funeral,
Cicero had remained in Rome. His timidity seemed to have forsaken him, and
he had striven, with an energy which recalled his brightest days, to set
the Constitution again upon its feet. Antony charged him in the Senate
with having been the contriver of Caesar's death. He replied with
invectives fierce and scurrilous as those which he had heaped upon
Catiline and Clodius. A time had been when he had affected to look on
Antony as his preserver. Now there was no imaginable infamy in which he
did not steep his name. He spoke of the murder as the most splendid
achievement recorded in history, and he regretted only that he had not
been taken into counsel by the deliverers of their country. Antony would
not then have been alive to rekindle civil discord. When Antony left Rome,
Cicero was for a few months again the head of the State. He ruled the
Senate, controlled the Treasury, corresponded with the conspirators in the
provinces, and advised their movements. He continued sanguine himself, and
he poured spirit into others. No one can refuse admiration to the last
blaze of his expiring powers. But when he heard that Antony and Lepidus
and Octavius had united, and were coming into Italy with the whole Western
army, he saw that all was over. He was now sixty-three--too old for hope.
He could hardly have wished to live, and this time he was well assured
that there would be no mercy for him. Caesar would have spared a man whom
he esteemed in spite of his infirmities. But there was no Caesar now, and
fair speeches would serve his turn no longer. He retired from the city
with his brother Quintus, and had some half-formed purpose of flying to
Brutus, who was still in arms in Macedonia. He even embarked, but without
a settled resolution, and he allowed himself to be driven back by a storm.
Theatrical even in extremities, he thought of returning to Rome and of
killing himself in Caesar's house, that he might bring the curse of his
blood upon Octavius. In these uncertainties he drifted into his own villa
at Formiae,[6] saying in weariness, and with a sad note of his old
self-importance, that he would die in the country which he had so often
saved. Here, on the 4th of December, B.C. 43, Popilius Loenas, an officer
of Antony's, came to find him. Peasants from the neighborhood brought news
to the villa that the soldiers were approaching. His servants thrust him
into a litter and carried him down through the woods toward the sea.
Loenas followed and overtook him. To his slaves he had been always the
gentlest of masters. They would have given their lives in his defence if
he would have allowed them; but he bade them set the litter down and save
themselves. He thrust out his head between the curtains, and it was
instantly struck off.

So ended Cicero, a tragic combination of magnificent talents, high
aspirations, and true desire to do right, with an infirmity of purpose and
a latent insincerity of character which neutralized and could almost make
us forget his nobler qualities. It cannot be said of Cicero that he was
blind to the faults of the party to which he attached himself. To him we
owe our knowledge of what the Roman aristocrats really were, and of the
hopelessness of expecting that they could have been trusted any longer
with the administration of the Empire, if the Empire itself was to endure.
Cicero's natural place was at Caesar's side; but to Caesar alone of his
contemporaries he was conscious of an inferiority which was intolerable to
him. In his own eyes he was always the first person. He had been made
unhappy by the thought that posterity might rate Pompey above himself.
Closer acquaintance had reassured him about Pompey, but in Caesar he was
conscious of a higher presence, and he rebelled against the humiliating
acknowledgment. Supreme as an orator he could always be, and an order of
things was, therefore, most desirable where oratory held the highest
place. Thus he chose his part with the "_boni_," whom he despised
while he supported them, drifting on through vacillation into treachery,
till "the ingredients of the poisoned chalice" were "commended to his own

In Cicero Nature half-made a great man and left him uncompleted. Our
characters are written in our forms, and the bust of Cicero is the key to
his history. The brow is broad and strong, the nose large, the lips
tightly compressed, the features lean and keen from restless intellectual
energy. The loose bending figure, the neck, too weak for the weight of the
head, explain the infirmity of will, the passion, the cunning, the vanity,
the absence of manliness and veracity. He was born into an age of violence
with which he was too feeble to contend. The gratitude of mankind for his
literary excellence will forever preserve his memory from too harsh a

[1] _Philippic_ ii. 35.

[2] Abridged from Dion Cassius, who probably gives no more than the
traditionary version of Cicero's words.

[3] [Greek: emphutos chraestotaes] are Dion Cassius's words. Antony's
language was differently reported, and perhaps there was no literal
record of it. Dion Cassius, however, can hardly have himself composed
the version which he gives in his history, for he calls the speech as
ill-timed as it was brilliant.

[4] Abridged from Dion Cassius. xliv. 36.

[5] "In deorum numerum relatus est non ore modo decernentium sed et
persuasione vulgi."--_Suetonius_.

[6] Near Gaeta.


It remains to offer a few general remarks on the person whose life and
actions I have endeavored to describe in the preceding pages.

In all conditions of human society distinguished men are the subjects of
legend; but the character of the legend varies with the disposition of the
time. In ages which we call heroic the saint works miracles, the warrior
performs exploits beyond the strength of natural man. In ages less
visionary which are given to ease and enjoyment the tendency is to bring a
great man down to the common level, and to discover or invent faults which
shall show that he is or was but a little man after all. Our vanity is
soothed by evidence that those who have eclipsed us in the race of life
are no better than ourselves, or in some respects are worse than
ourselves; and if to these general impulses be added political or personal
animosity, accusations of depravity are circulated as surely about such
men, and are credited as readily, as under other influences are the
marvellous achievements of a Cid or a St. Francis. In the present day we
reject miracles and prodigies; we are on our guard against the mythology
of hero worship, just as we disbelieve in the eminent superiority of any
one of our contemporaries to another. We look less curiously into the
mythology of scandal; we accept easily and willingly stories disparaging
to illustrious persons in history, because similar stories are told and
retold with so much confidence and fluency among the political adversaries
of those who have the misfortune to be their successful rivals. The
absurdity of a calumny may be as evident as the absurdity of a miracle;
the ground for belief may be no more than a lightness of mind, and a less
pardonable wish that it may be true. But the idle tale floats in society,
and by and by is written down in books and passes into the region of
established realities.

The tendency to idolize great men and the tendency to depreciate them
arises alike in emotion; but the slanders of disparagement are as truly
legends as the wonder-tales of saints and warriors; and anecdotes related
of Caesar at patrician dinner-parties at Rome as little deserve attention
as the information so freely given upon the habits of modern statesmen in
the _salons_ of London and Paris. They are read now by us in classic
Latin, but they were recorded by men who hated Caesar and hated all that
he had done; and that a poem has survived for two thousand years is no
evidence that the author of it, even though he might be a Catullus, was
uninfluenced by the common passions of humanity.

Caesar, it is allowed, had extraordinary talents, extraordinary energy,
and some commendable qualities; but he was, as the elder Curio said,
"omnium mulierum vir et omnium virorum mulier;" he had mistresses in every
country which he visited, and he had _liaisons_ with half the ladies
in Rome. That Caesar's morality was altogether superior to that of the
average of his contemporaries is in a high degree improbable. He was a man
of the world, peculiarly attractive to women, and likely to have been
attracted by them. On the other hand, the undiscriminating looseness
attributed to him would have been peculiarly degrading in a man whose
passions were so eminently under control, whose calmness was never known
to be discomposed, and who, in everything which he did, acted always with
deliberate will. Still worse would it be if, by his example, he made
ridiculous his own laws against adultery and indulged himself in vices
which he punished in others. What, then, is the evidence? The story of
Nicomedes may be passed over. All that is required on that subject has
been already said. It was never heard of before Caesar's consulship, and
the proofs are no more than the libels of Bibulus, the satire of Catullus,
and certain letters of Cicero's which were never published, but were
circulated privately in Roman aristocratic society.[1] A story is
suspicious which is first produced after twenty years in a moment of
political excitement. Caesar spoke of it with stern disgust. He replied to
Catullus with an invitation to dinner; otherwise he passed it over in
silence--the only answer which an honorable man could give. Suetonius
quotes a loose song sung by Caesar's soldiers at his triumph. We know in
what terms British sailors often speak of their favorite commanders.
Affection, when it expresses itself most emphatically, borrows the
language of its opposites. Who would dream of introducing into a serious
life of Nelson catches chanted in the forecastle of the "Victory"? But
which of the soldiers sang these verses? Does Suetonius mean that the army
sang them in chorus as they marched in procession? The very notion is
preposterous. It is proved that during Caesar's lifetime scandal was busy
with his name; and that it would be so busy, whether justified or not, is
certain from the nature of things. Cicero says that no public man in Rome
escaped from such imputations. He himself flung them broadcast, and they
were equally returned upon himself. The surprise is rather that Caesar's
name should have suffered so little, and that he should have been admitted
on reflection by Suetonius to have been comparatively free from the
abominable form of vice which was then so common.

As to his _liaisons_ with women, the handsome, brilliant Caesar,
surrounded by a halo of military glory, must have been a Paladin of
romance to any woman who had a capacity of admiration in her. His own
distaste for gluttony and hard drinking, and for the savage amusements in
which the male Romans so much delighted, may have made the society of
cultivated ladies more agreeable to him than that of men, and if he showed
any such preference the coarsest interpretation would be inevitably placed
upon it. These relations, perhaps, in so loose an age assumed occasionally
a more intimate form; but it is to be observed that the first public act
recorded of Caesar was his refusal to divorce his wife at Sylla's bidding;
that he was passionately attached to his sister; that his mother, Aurelia,
lived with him till she died, and that this mother was a Roman matron of
the strictest and severest type. Many names were mentioned in connection
with him, yet there is no record of any natural child save Brutus, and one
other whose claims were denied and disproved.

Two intrigues, it may be said, are beyond dispute. His connection with the
mother of Brutus was notorious. Cleopatra, in spite of Oppius, was living
with him in his house at the time of his murder. That it was so believed a
hundred years after his death is, of course, indisputable; but in both
these cases the story is entangled with legends which show how busily
imagination had been at work. Brutus was said to be Caesar's son, though
Caesar was but fifteen when he was born; and Brutus, though he had the
temper of an Orestes, was devotedly attached to his mother in spite of the
supposed adultery, and professed to have loved Caesar when he offered him
as a sacrifice to his country's liberty. Cleopatra is said to have joined
Caesar at Rome after his return from Spain, and to have resided openly
with him as his mistress. Supposing that she did come to Rome, it is still
certain that Calpurnia was in Caesar's house when he was killed. Cleopatra
must have been Calpurnia's guest as well as her husband's; and her
presence, however commented upon in society, could not possibly have borne
the avowed complexion which tradition assigned to it. On the other hand,
it is quite intelligible that the young Queen of Egypt, who owed her
position to Caesar, might have come, as other princes came, on a visit of
courtesy, and that Caesar after their acquaintance at Alexandria should
have invited her to stay with him. But was Cleopatra at Rome at all? The
only real evidence for her presence there is to be found in a few words of
Cicero: "Reginae fuga mihi non molesta."--"I am not sorry to hear of the
flight of the queen." [2] There is nothing to show that the "queen" was
the Egyptian queen. Granting that the word Egyptian is to be understood,
Cicero may have referred to Arsinoe, who was called Queen as well as her
sister, and had been sent to Rome to be shown at Caesar's triumph.

But enough and too much on this miserable subject. Men will continue to
form their opinions about it, not upon the evidence, but according to
their preconceived notions of what is probable or improbable. Ages of
progress and equality are as credulous of evil as ages of faith are
credulous of good, and reason will not modify convictions which do not
originate in reason.

Let us pass on to surer ground.

In person Caesar was tall and slight. His features were more refined than
was usual in Roman faces; the forehead was wide and high, the nose large
and thin, the lips full, the eyes dark gray like an eagle's, the neck
extremely thick and sinewy. His complexion was pale. His beard and
mustache were kept carefully shaved. His hair was short and naturally
scanty, falling off toward the end of his life and leaving him partially
bald. His voice, especially when he spoke in public, was high and shrill.
His health was uniformly strong until his last year, when he became
subject to epileptic fits. He was a great bather, and scrupulously clean
in all his habits, abstemious in his food, and careless in what it
consisted, rarely or never touching wine, and noting sobriety as the
highest of qualities when describing any new people. He was an athlete in
early life, admirable in all manly exercises, and especially in riding. In
Gaul, as has been said already, he rode a remarkable horse, which he had
bred himself, and which would let no one but Caesar mount him. From his
boyhood it was observed of him that he was the truest of friends, that he
avoided quarrels, and was most easily appeased when offended. In manner he
was quiet and gentlemanlike, with the natural courtesy of high-breeding.
On an occasion when he was dining somewhere the other guests found the oil
too rancid for them. Caesar took it without remark, to spare his
entertainer's feelings. When on a journey through a forest with his friend
Oppius, he came one night to a hut where there was a single bed. Oppius
being unwell, Caesar gave it up to him, and slept on the ground.

In his public character he may be regarded under three aspects, as a
politician, a soldier, and a man of letters.

Like Cicero, Caesar entered public life at the bar. He belonged by birth
to the popular party, but he showed no disposition, like the Gracchi, to
plunge into political agitation. His aims were practical. He made war only
upon injustice and oppression; and when he commenced as a pleader he was
noted for the energy with which he protected a client whom he believed to
have been wronged. At a later period, before he was praetor, he was
engaged in defending Masintha, a young Numidian prince, who had suffered
some injury from Hiempsal, the father of Juba. Juba himself came to Rome
on the occasion, bringing with him the means of influencing the judges
which Jugurtha had found so effective. Caesar in his indignation seized
Juba by the beard in the court; and when Masintha was sentenced to some
unjust penalty Caesar carried him off, concealed him in his house, and
took him to Spain in his carriage. When he rose into the Senate, his
powers as a speaker became strikingly remarkable. Cicero, who often heard
him, and was not a favorable judge, said that there was a pregnancy in his
sentences and a dignity in his manner which no orator in Rome could
approach. But he never spoke to court popularity; his aim from first to
last was better government, the prevention of bribery and extortion, and
the distribution among deserving citizens of some portion of the public
land which the rich were stealing. The Julian laws, which excited the
indignation of the aristocracy, had no other objects than these; and had
they been observed they would have saved the Constitution. The obstinacy
of faction and the civil war which grew out of it obliged him to extend
his horizon, to contemplate more radical reforms--a large extension of the
privileges of citizenship, with the introduction of the provincial
nobility into the Senate, and the transfer of the administration from the
Senate and annually elected magistrates to the permanent chief of the
army. But his objects throughout were purely practical. The purpose of
government he conceived to be the execution of justice; and a
constitutional liberty under which justice was made impossible did not
appear to him to be liberty at all.

The practicality which showed itself in his general aims appeared also in
his mode of working. Caesar, it was observed, when anything was to be
done, selected the man who was best able to do it, not caring particularly
who or what he might be in other respects. To this faculty of discerning
and choosing fit persons to execute his orders may be ascribed the
extraordinary success of his own provincial administration, the enthusiasm
which was felt for him in the North of Italy, and the perfect quiet of
Gaul after the completion of the conquest. Caesar did not crush the Gauls
under the weight of Italy. He took the best of them into the Roman
service, promoted them, led them to associate the interests of the Empire
with their personal advancement and the prosperity of their own people. No
act of Caesar's showed more sagacity then the introduction of Gallic
nobles into the Senate; none was more bitter to the Scipios and Metelli,
who were compelled to share their august privileges with these despised

It was by accident that Caesar took up the profession of a soldier; yet
perhaps no commander who ever lived showed greater military genius. The
conquest of Gaul was effected by a force numerically insignificant, which
was worked with the precision of a machine. The variety of uses to which
it was capable of being turned implied, in the first place, extraordinary
forethought in the selection of materials. Men whose nominal duty was
merely to fight were engineers, architects, mechanics of the highest
order. In a few hours they could extemporize an impregnable fortress on an
open hillside. They bridged the Rhine in a week. They built a fleet in a
month. The legions at Alesia held twice their number pinned within their
works, while they kept at bay the whole force of insurgent Gaul, entirely
by scientific superiority. The machine, which was thus perfect, was
composed of human beings who required supplies of tools, and arms, and
clothes, and food, and shelter, and for all these it depended on the
forethought of its commander. Maps there were none. Countries entirely
unknown had to be surveyed; routes had to be laid out; the depths and
courses of rivers, the character of mountain passes, had all to be
ascertained. Allies had to be found among tribes as yet unheard of.
Countless contingent difficulties had to be provided for, many of which
must necessarily arise, though the exact nature of them could not be
anticipated. When room for accidents is left open, accidents do not fail
to be heard of. Yet Caesar was never defeated when personally present,
save once at Gergovia, and once at Durazzo; and the failure at Gergovia
was caused by the revolt of the Aedui; and the manner in which the failure
at Durazzo was retrieved showed Caesar's greatness more than the most
brilliant of his victories. He was rash, but with a calculated rashness,
which the event never failed to justify. His greatest successes were due
to the rapidity of his movements, which brought him on the enemy before
they heard of his approach. He travelled sometimes a hundred miles a day,
reading or writing in his carriage, though countries without roads, and
crossing rivers without bridges. No obstacles stopped him when he had a
definite end in view. In battle he sometimes rode; but he was more often
on foot, bareheaded, and in a conspicuous dress, that he might be seen and
recognized. Again and again by his own efforts he recovered a day that was
half lost. He once seized a panic-stricken standard-bearer, turned him
round, and told him that he had mistaken the direction of the enemy. He
never misled his army as to an enemy's strength, or if he mis-stated their
numbers it was only to exaggerate. In Africa, before Thapsus, when his
officers were nervous at the reported approach of Juba, he called them
together and said briefly, "You will understand that within a day King
Juba will be here with the legions, thirty thousand horse, a hundred
thousand skirmishers, and three hundred elephants. You are not to think or
ask questions. I tell you the truth, and you must prepare for it. If any
of you are alarmed, I shall send you home."

Yet he was singularly careful of his soldiers. He allowed his legions
rest, though he allowed none to himself. He rarely fought a battle at a
disadvantage. He never exposed his men to unnecessary danger, and the loss
by wear and tear in the campaigns in Gaul was exceptionally and even
astonishingly slight. When a gallant action was performed, he knew by whom
it had been done, and every soldier, however humble, might feel assured
that if he deserved praise he would have it. The army was Caesar's family.
When Sabinus was cut off, he allowed his beard to grow, and he did not
shave it till the disaster was avenged. If Quintus Cicero had been his own
child, he could not have run greater personal risk to save him when shut
up at Charleroy. In discipline he was lenient to ordinary faults, and not
careful to make curious inquiries into such things. He liked his men to
enjoy themselves. Military mistakes in his officers too he always
endeavored to excuse, never blaming them for misfortunes, unless there had
been a defect of courage as well as judgment. Mutiny and desertion only he
never overlooked. And thus no general was ever more loved by, or had
greater power over, the army which served under him. He brought the
insurgent 10th legion into submission by a single word. When the civil war
began and Labienus left him, he told all his officers who had served under
Pompey that they were free to follow if they wished. Not another man
forsook him.

Suetonius says that he was rapacious, that he plundered tribes in Spain
who were allies of Rome, that he pillaged shrines and temples in Gaul, and
destroyed cities merely for spoil. He adds a story which Cicero would not
have left untold and uncommented on if he had been so fortunate as to hear
of it: that Caesar when first consul took three thousand pounds weight of
gold out of the Capitol and replaced it with gilded brass. A similar story
is told of the Cid and of other heroes of fiction. How came Cicero to be
ignorant of an act which, if done at all, was done under his own eyes?
When praetor Caesar brought back money from Spain to the treasury; but he
was never charged at the time with peculation or oppression there. In Gaul
the war paid its own expenses; but what temples were there in Gaul which
were worth spoiling? Of temples, he was, indeed, scrupulously careful.
Varro had taken gold from the Temple of Hercules at Cadiz. Caesar replaced
it. Metellus Scipio had threatened to plunder the Temple of Diana at
Ephesus. Caesar protected it. In Gaul the Druids were his best friends;
therefore he certainly had not outraged religion there; and the quiet of
the province during the civil war is a sufficient answer to the accusation
of gratuitous oppression.

The Gauls paid the expenses of their conquest in the prisoners taken in
battle, who were sold to the slave merchants; and this is the real blot on
Caesar's career. But the blot was not personally upon Caesar, but upon the
age in which he lived. The great Pomponius Atticus himself was a dealer in
human chattels. That prisoners of war should be sold as slaves was the law
of the time, accepted alike by victors and vanquished; and the crowds of
libertini who assisted at Caesar's funeral proved that he was not regarded
as the enemy of these unfortunates, but as their special friend.

His leniency to the Pompeian faction has already been spoken of
sufficiently. It may have been politic, but it arose also from the
disposition of the man. Cruelty originates in fear, and Caesar was too
indifferent to death to fear anything. So far as his public action was
concerned, he betrayed no passion save hatred of injustice; and he moved
through life calm and irresistible, like a force of nature.

Cicero has said of Caesar's oratory that he surpassed those who had
practised no other art. His praise of him as a man of letters is yet more
delicately and gracefully emphatic. Most of his writings are lost; but
there remain seven books of commentaries on the wars in Gaul (the eighth
was added by another hand), and three books upon the civil war, containing
an account of its causes and history. Of these it was that Cicero said, in
an admirable image, that fools might think to improve on them, but that no
wise man would try it; they were _nudi omni ornatu orationis, tanquam
veste detracta_--bare of ornament, the dress of style dispensed with,
like an undraped human figure perfect in all its lines as nature made it.
In his composition, as in his actions, Caesar is entirely simple. He
indulges in no images, no labored descriptions, no conventional
reflections. His art is unconscious, as the highest art always is. The
actual fact of things stands out as it really was, not as mechanically
photographed, but interpreted by the calmest intelligence, and described
with unexaggerated feeling. No military narrative has approached the
excellence of the history of the war in Gaul. Nothing is written down
which could be dispensed with; nothing important is left untold; while the
incidents themselves are set off by delicate and just observations on
human character. The story is rendered attractive by complimentary
anecdotes of persons; while details of the character and customs of an
unknown and remarkable people show the attention which Caesar was always
at leisure to bestow on anything which was worthy of interest, even when
he was surrounded with danger and difficulty. The books on the civil war
have the same simplicity and clearness, but a vein runs through them of
strong if subdued emotion. They contain the history of a great revolution
related by the principal actor in it; but no effort can be traced to set
his own side in a favorable light, or to abuse or depreciate his
adversaries. The coarse invectives which Cicero poured so freely upon
those who differed from him are conspicuously absent. Caesar does not
exult over his triumphs or parade the honesty of his motives. The facts
are left to tell their own story; and the gallantry and endurance of his
own troops are not related with more feeling than the contrast between the
confident hopes of the patrician leaders at Pharsalia and the luxury of
their camp with the overwhelming disaster which fell upon them. About
himself and his own exploits there is not one word of self-complacency or
self-admiration. In his writings, as in his life, Caesar is always the
same--direct, straightforward, unmoved save by occasional tenderness,
describing with unconscious simplicity how the work which had been forced
upon him was accomplished. He wrote with extreme rapidity in the intervals
of other labor; yet there is not a word misplaced, not a sign of haste
anywhere, save that the conclusion of the Gallic war was left to be
supplied by a weaker hand. The Commentaries, as an historical narrative,
are as far superior to any other Latin composition of the kind as the
person of Caesar himself stands out among the rest of his contemporaries.

His other compositions have perished, in consequence, perhaps, of the
unforgiving republican sentiment which revived among men of letters after
the death of Augustus--which rose to a height in the "Pharsalia" of
Lucan--and which leaves so visible a mark in the writings of Tacitus and
Suetonius. There was a book "De Analogia," written by Caesar after the
conference at Lucca, during the passage of the Alps. There was a book on
the Auspices, which, coming from the head of the Roman religion, would
have thrown a light much to be desired on this curious subject. In
practice Caesar treated the auguries with contempt. He carried his laws in
open disregard of them. He fought his battles careless whether the sacred
chickens would eat or the calves' livers were of the proper color. His own
account of such things in his capacity of Pontifex would have had a
singular interest.

From the time of his boyhood he kept a common-place book, in which he
entered down any valuable or witty sayings, inquiring carefully, as Cicero
takes pains to tell us, after any smart observation of his own. Niebuhr
remarks that no pointed sentences of Caesar's can have come down to us.
Perhaps he had no gift that way, and admired in others what he did not

He left in verse "an account of the stars"--some practical almanac,
probably, in a shape to be easily remembered; and there was a journal in
verse also, written on the return from Munda. Of all the lost writings,
however, the most to be regretted is the "Anti-Cato." After Cato's death
Cicero published a panegyric upon him. To praise Cato was to condemn
Caesar; and Caesar replied with a sketch of the Martyr of Utica as he had
himself known him. The pamphlet, had it survived, would have shown how far
Caesar was able to extend the forbearance so conspicuous in his other
writings to the most respectable and the most inveterate of his enemies.
The verdict of fact and the verdict of literature on the great controversy
between them have been summed up in the memorable line of Lucan--

Victrix causa Deis placuit, sed victa Catoni.

Was Cato right, or were the gods right? Perhaps both. There is a legend
that at the death of Charles V. the accusing angel appeared in heaven with
a catalogue of deeds which no advocate could palliate--countries laid
desolate, cities sacked and burnt, lists of hundreds of thousands of
widows and children brought to misery by the political ambition of a
single man. The evil spirit demanded the offender's soul, and it seemed as
if mercy itself could not refuse him the award. But at the last moment the
Supreme Judge interfered. The Emperor, He said, had been sent into the
world at a peculiar time, for a peculiar purpose, and was not to be tried
by the ordinary rules. Titian has painted the scene: Charles kneeling
before the Throne, with the consciousness, as became him, of human
infirmities, written upon his countenance, yet neither afraid nor abject,
relying in absolute faith that the Judge of all mankind would do right.

Of Caesar, too, it may be said that he came into the world at a special
time and for a special object. The old religions were dead, from the
Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates and the Nile, and the principles on
which human society had been constructed were dead also. There remained of
spiritual conviction only the common and human sense of justice and
morality; and out of this sense some ordered system of government had to
be constructed, under which quiet men could live and labor and eat the
fruit of their industry. Under a rule of this material kind there can be
no enthusiasm, no chivalry, no saintly aspirations, no patriotism of the
heroic type. It was not to last forever. A new life was about to dawn for
mankind. Poetry, and faith, and devotion were to spring again out of the
seeds which were sleeping in the heart of humanity. But the life which is
to endure grows slowly; and as the soil must be prepared before the wheat
can be sown, so before the Kingdom of Heaven could throw up its shoots
there was needed a kingdom of this world where the nations were neither
torn in pieces by violence nor were rushing after false ideals and
spurious ambitions. Such a kingdom was the Empire of the Caesars--a
kingdom where peaceful men could work, think, and speak as they pleased,
and travel freely among provinces ruled for the most part by Gallios, who
protected life and property, and forbade fanatics to tear each other in
pieces for their religious opinions. "It is not lawful for us to put any
man to death," was the complaint of the Jewish priests to the Roman
governor. Had Europe and Asia been covered with independent nations, each
with a local religion represented in its ruling powers, Christianity must
have been stifled in its cradle. If St. Paul had escaped the Sanhedrim at
Jerusalem, he would have been torn to pieces by the silver-smiths at
Ephesus. The appeal to Caesar's judgment-seat was the shield of his
mission, and alone made possible his success.

And this spirit, which confined government to its simplest duties, while
it left opinion unfettered, was especially present in Julius Caesar
himself. From cant of all kinds he was totally free. He was a friend of
the people, but he indulged in no enthusiasm for liberty. He never dilated
on the beauties of virtue, or complimented, as Cicero did, a Providence in
which he did not believe. He was too sincere to stoop to unreality. He
held to the facts of this life and to his own convictions; and as he found
no reason for supposing that there was a life beyond the grave he did not
pretend to expect it. He respected the religion of the Roman State as an
institution established by the laws. He encouraged or left unmolested the
creeds and practices of the uncounted sects or tribes who were gathered
under the eagles. But his own writings contain nothing to indicate that he
himself had any religious belief at all. He saw no evidence that the gods
practically interfered in human affairs. He never pretended that Jupiter
was on his side. He thanked his soldiers after a victory, but he did not
order _Te Deums _to be sung for it; and in the absence of these
conventionalisms he perhaps showed more real reverence than he could have
displayed by the freest use of the formulas of pietism.

He fought his battles to establish some tolerable degree of justice in the
government of this world; and he succeeded, though he was murdered for
doing it.

Strange and startling resemblance between the fate of the founder of the
kingdom of this world and of the Founder of the kingdom not of this world,
for which the first was a preparation. Each was denounced for making
himself a king. Each was maligned as the friend of publicans and sinners;
each was betrayed by those whom he had loved and cared for; each was put
to death; and Caesar also was believed to have risen again and ascended
into heaven and become a divine being.

[1] Suetonius, _Julius Caesar_, 49.

[2] _To Atticus_, xiv. 8.

[Illustration: GALLIA in the time of Caesar]

Transcriber's note: A sidenote in chapter nine gives Caesar's age as 32
in B.C. 77. I have corrected this evident misprint to 23.

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