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The Caesars by Thomas de Quincey

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The condition of the Roman Emperors has never yet been fully appreciated;
nor has it been sufficiently perceived in what respects it was absolutely
unique. There was but one Rome: no other city, as we are satisfied by the
collation of many facts, either of ancient or modern times, has ever
rivalled this astonishing metropolis in the grandeur of magnitude; and not
many--if we except the cities of Greece, none at all--in the grandeur of
architectural display. Speaking even of London, we ought in all reason to
say--the _Nation of London,_ and not the City of London; but of Rome
in her palmy days, nothing less could be said in the naked severity of
logic. A million and a half of souls--that population, apart from any
other distinctions, is _per se_ for London a justifying ground for
such a classification; _ą fortiori_, then, will it belong to a city
which counted from one horn to the other of its mighty suburbs not less
than four millions of inhabitants [Footnote: Concerning this question--
once so fervidly debated, yet so unprofitably for the final adjudication,
and in some respects, we may add, so erroneously--on a future occasion.]
at the very least, as we resolutely maintain after reviewing all that has
been written on that much vexed theme, and very probably half as many
more. Republican Rome had her _prerogative_ tribe; the earth has its
_prerogative_ city; and that city was Rome.

As was the city, such was its prince--mysterious, solitary, unique. Each
was to the other an adequate counterpart, each reciprocally that perfect
mirror which reflected, as it were _in alia materia,_ those incommunicable
attributes of grandeur, that under the same shape and denomination never
upon this earth were destined to be revived. Rome has not been repeated;
neither has Cęsar. _Ubi Cęsar, ibi Roma_--was a maxim of Roman
jurisprudence. And the same maxim may be translated into a wider meaning;
in which it becomes true also for our historical experience. Cęsar and
Rome have flourished and expired together. The illimitable attributes of
the Roman prince, boundless and comprehensive as the universal air,--like
that also bright and apprehensible to the most vagrant eye, yet in parts
(and those not far removed) unfathomable as outer darkness, (for no
chamber in a dungeon could shroud in more impenetrable concealment a deed
of murder than the upper chambers of the air,)--these attributes, so
impressive to the imagination, and which all the subtlety of the Roman
[Footnote: Or even of modern wit; witness the vain attempt of so many
eminent sort, and illustrious _Antecessors_, to explain in self-
consistency the differing functions of the Roman Cęsar, and in what sense
he was _legibus solutus_. The origin of this difficulty we shall soon
understand.] wit could as little fathom as the fleets of Cęsar could
traverse the Polar basin, or unlock the gates of the Pacific, are best
symbolized, and find their most appropriate exponent, in the illimitable
city itself--that Rome, whose centre, the Capitol, was immovable as
Teneriffe or Atlas, but whose circumference was shadowy, uncertain,
restless, and advancing as the frontiers of her all-conquering empire. It
is false to say, that with Cęsar came the destruction of Roman greatness.
Peace, hollow rhetoricians! Until Cęsar came, Rome was a minor; by him,
she attained her majority, and fulfilled her destiny. Caius Julius, you
say, deflowered the virgin purity of her civil liberties. Doubtless, then,
Rome had risen immaculate from the arms of Sylla and of Marius. But, if it
were Caius Julius who deflowered Rome, if under him she forfeited her
dowery of civic purity, if to him she first unloosed her maiden zone, then
be it affirmed boldly--that she reserved her greatest favors for the
noblest of her wooers, and we may plead the justification of Falconbridge
for his mother's trangression with the lion-hearted king--such a sin was
self-ennobled. Did Julius deflower Rome? Then, by that consummation, he
caused her to fulfill the functions of her nature; he compelled her to
exchange the imperfect and inchoate condition of a mere _fęmina_ for the
perfections of a _mulier_. And, metaphor apart, we maintain that Rome lost
no liberties by the mighty Julius. That which in tendency, and by the
spirit of her institutions--that which, by her very corruptions and abuses
co-operating with her laws, Rome promised and involved in the germ--even
that, and nothing less or different, did Rome unfold and accomplish under
this Julian violence. The rape [if such it were] of Cęsar, her final
Romulus, completed for Rome that which the rape under Romulus, her
earliest Cęsar, had prosperously begun. And thus by one godlike man was a
nation-city matured; and from the everlasting and nameless [Footnote:
"_Nameless city_."--The true name of Rome it was a point of religion to
conceal; and, in fact, it was never revealed.] city was a man produced--
capable of taming her indomitable nature, and of forcing her to immolate
her wild virginity to the state best fitted for the destined "Mother of
empires." Peace, then, rhetoricians, false threnodists of false liberty!
hollow chanters over the ashes of a hollow republic! Without Cęsar, we
affirm a thousand times that there would have been no perfect Rome; and,
but for Rome, there could have been no such man as Cęsar.

Both then were immortal; each worthy of each. And the _Cui viget nihil
simile aut secundum_ of the poet, was as true of one as of the other.
For, if by comparison with Rome other cities were but villages, with even
more propriety it may be asserted, that after the Roman Cęsars all modern
kings, kesars, or emperors, are mere phantoms of royalty. The Cęsar of
Western Rome--he only of all earthly potentates, past or to come, could be
said to reign as a _monarch_, that is, as a solitary king. He was not
the greatest of princes, simply because there was no other but himself.
There were doubtless a few outlying rulers, of unknown names and titles
upon the margins of his empire, there were tributary lieutenants and
barbarous _reguli_, the obscure vassals of his sceptre, whose homage
was offered on the lowest step of his throne, and scarcely known to him
but as objects of disdain. But these feudatories could no more break the
unity of his empire, which embraced the whole _oichomeni_;--the total
habitable world as then known to geography, or recognised by the muse of
History--than at this day the British empire on the sea can be brought
into question or made conditional, because some chief of Owyhee or
Tongataboo should proclaim a momentary independence of the British
trident, or should even offer a transient outrage to her sovereign flag.
Such a _tempestas in matulā_ might raise a brief uproar in his little
native archipelago, but too feeble to reach the shores of Europe by an
echo--or to ascend by so much as an infantine _susurrus_ to the ears
of the British Neptune. Parthia, it is true, might pretend to the dignity
of an empire. But her sovereigns, though sitting in the seat of the great
king, (_o basileus_,) were no longer the rulers of a vast and polished
nation. They were regarded as barbarians--potent only by their standing
army, not upon the larger basis of civic strength; and, even under this
limitation, they were supposed to owe more to the circumstances of their
position--their climate, their remoteness, and their inaccessibility
except through arid and sultry deserts--than to intrinsic resources, such
as could be permanently relied on in a serious trial of strength between
the two powers. The kings of Parthia, therefore, were far enough from
being regarded in the light of antagonist forces to the majesty of Rome.
And, these withdrawn from the comparison, who else was there--what prince,
what king, what potentate of any denomination, to break the universal
calm, that through centuries continued to lave, as with the quiet
undulations of summer lakes, the sacred footsteps of the Cęsarean throne?
The Byzantine court, which, merely as the inheritor of some fragments from
that august throne, was drunk with excess of pride, surrounded itself with
elaborate expressions of a grandeur beyond what mortal eyes were supposed
able to sustain.

These fastidious, and sometimes fantastic ceremonies, originally devised
as the very extremities of anti-barbarism, were often themselves but too
nearly allied in spirit to the barbaresque in taste. In reality, some
parts of the Byzantine court ritual were arranged in the same spirit as
that of China or the Birman empire; or fashioned by anticipation, as one
might think, on the practice of that Oriental Cham, who daily proclaims by
sound of trumpet to the kings in the four corners of the earth--that they,
having dutifully awaited the close of _his_ dinner, may now with his
royal license go to their own.

From such vestiges of _derivative_ grandeur, propagated to ages so
remote from itself, and sustained by manners so different from the spirit
of her own,--we may faintly measure the strength of the original impulse
given to the feelings of men by the _sacred_ majesty of the Roman
throne. How potent must that splendor have been, whose mere reflection
shot rays upon a distant crown, under another heaven, and across the
wilderness of fourteen centuries! Splendor, thus transmitted, thus
sustained, and thus imperishable, argues a transcendent in the basis of
radical power. Broad and deep must those foundations have been laid, which
could support an "arch of empire" rising to that giddy altitude--an
altitude which sufficed to bring it within the ken of posterity to the
sixtieth generation.

Power is measured by resistance. Upon such a scale, if it were applied
with skill, the _relations_ of greatness in Rome to the greatest of
all that has gone before her, and has yet come after her, would first be
adequately revealed. The youngest reader will know that the grandest forms
in which the _collective_ might of the human race has manifested
itself, are the four monarchies. Four times have the distributive forces
of nations gathered themselves, under the strong compression of the sword,
into mighty aggregates--denominated _Universal Empires_, or Monarchies.
These are noticed in the Holy Scriptures; and it is upon _their_ warrant
that men have supposed no fifth monarchy or universal empire possible in
an earthly sense; but that, whenever such an empire arises, it will have
Christ for its head; in other words, that no fifth _monarchia_ can take
place until Christianity shall have swallowed up all other forms of
religion, and shall have gathered the whole family of man into one fold
under one all-conquering Shepherd. Hence [Footnote: This we mention,
because a great error has been sometimes committed in exposing _their_
error, that consisted, not in supposing that for a fifth time men were to
be gathered under one sceptre, and that sceptre wielded by Jesus Christ,
but in supposing that this great era had then arrived, or that with no
deeper moral revolution men could be fitted for that yoke.] the fanatics
of 1650, who proclaimed Jesus for their king, and who did sincerely
anticipate his near advent in great power, and under some personal
manifestation, were usually styled _Fifth-Monarchists_.

However, waiving the question (interesting enough in itself)--Whether upon
earthly principles a fifth universal empire could by possibility arise in
the present condition of knowledge for man individually, and of
organization for man in general--this question waived, and confining
ourselves to the comparison of those four monarchies which actually have
existed,--of the Assyrian or earliest, we may remark, that it found men in
no state of cohesion. This cause, which came in aid of its first
foundation, would probably continue; and would diminish the _intensity_ of
the power in the same proportion as it promoted its _extension_. This
monarchy would be absolute only by the personal presence of the monarch;
elsewhere, from mere defect of organization, it would and must betray the
total imperfections of an elementary state, and of a first experiment.
More by the weakness inherent in such a constitution, than by its own
strength, did the Persian spear prevail against the Assyrian. Two
centuries revolved, seven or eight generations, when Alexander found
himself in the same position as Cyrus for building a third monarchy, and
aided by the selfsame vices of luxurious effeminacy in his enemy,
confronted with the self-same virtues of enterprise and hardihood in his
compatriot soldiers. The native Persians, in the earliest and very limited
import of that name, were a poor and hardy race of mountaineers. So were
the men of Macedon; and neither one tribe nor the other found any adequate
resistance in the luxurious occupants of Babylonia. We may add, with
respect to these two earliest monarchies, that the Assyrian was undefined
with regard to space, and the Persian fugitive with regard to time. But
for the third--the Grecian or Macedonian--we know that the arts of
civility, and of civil organization, had made great progress before the
Roman strength was measured against it. In Macedon, in Achaia, in Syria,
in Asia Minor, in Egypt,--every where the members of this empire had begun
to knit; the cohesion was far closer, the development of their resources
more complete; the resistance therefore by many hundred degrees more
formidable: consequently, by the fairest inference, the power in that
proportion greater which laid the foundations of this last great monarchy.
It is probable, indeed, both _ą priori_, and upon the evidence of various
facts which have survived, that each of the four great empires
successively triumphed over an antagonist, barbarous in comparison of
itself, and each _by_ and through that very superiority in the arts and
policy of civilization.

Rome, therefore, which came last in the succession, and swallowed up the
three great powers that had _seriatim_ cast the human race into one
mould, and had brought them under the unity of a single will, entered by
inheritance upon all that its predecessors in that career had
appropriated, but in a condition of far ampler development. Estimated
merely by longitude and latitude, the territory of the Roman empire was
the finest by much that has ever fallen under a single sceptre. Amongst
modern empires, doubtless, the Spanish of the sixteenth century, and the
British of the present, cannot but be admired as prodigious growths out of
so small a stem. In that view they will be endless monuments in
attestation of the marvels which are lodged in civilization. But
considered in and for itself, and with no reference to the proportion of
the creating forces, each of these empires has the great defect of being
disjointed, and even insusceptible of perfect union. It is in fact no
_vinculum_ of social organization which held them together, but the
ideal _vinculum_ of a common fealty, and of submission to the same
sceptre. This is not like the tie of manners, operative even where it is
not perceived, but like the distinctions of geography--existing to-day,
forgotten to-morrow--and abolished by a stroke of the pen, or a trick of
diplomacy. Russia, again, a mighty empire, as respects the simple grandeur
of magnitude, builds her power upon sterility. She has it in her power to
seduce an invading foe into vast circles of starvation, of which the radii
measure a thousand leagues. Frost and snow are confederates of her
strength. She is strong by her very weakness. But Rome laid a belt about
the Mediterranean of a thousand miles in breadth; and within that zone she
comprehended not only all the great cities of the ancient world, but so
perfectly did she lay the garden of the world in every climate, and for
every mode of natural wealth, within her own ring-fence, that since that
era no land, no part and parcel of the Roman empire, has ever risen into
strength and opulence, except where unusual artificial industry has
availed to counteract the tendencies of nature. So entirely had Rome
engrossed whatsoever was rich by the mere bounty of native endowment.

Vast, therefore, unexampled, immeasurable, was the basis of natural power
upon which the Roman throne reposed. The military force which put Rome in
possession of this inordinate power, was certainly in some respects
artificial; but the power itself was natural, and not subject to the ebbs
and flows which attend the commercial empires of our days, (for all are in
part commercial.) The depression, the reverses, of Rome, were confined to
one shape--famine; a terrific shape, doubtless, but one which levies its
penalty of suffering, not by elaborate processes that do not exhaust their
total cycle in less than long periods of years. Fortunately for those who
survive, no arrears of misery are allowed by this scourge of ancient days;
[Footnote: "_Of ancient days_."--For it is remarkable, and it serves
to mark an indubitable progress of mankind, that, before the Christian
era, famines were of frequent occurrence in countries the most civilized;
afterwards they became rare, and latterly have entirely altered their
character into occasional dearths.] the total penalty is paid down at
once. As respected the hand of man, Rome slept for ages in absolute
security. She could suffer only by the wrath of Providence; and, so long
as she continued to be Rome, for many a generation she only of all the
monarchies has feared no mortal hand [Footnote: Unless that hand were her
own armed against herself; upon which topic there is a burst of noble
eloquence in one of the ancient Panegyrici, when haranguing the Emperor
Theodosius: "Thou, Rome! that, having once suffered by the madness of
Cinna, and of the cruel Marius raging from banishment, and of Sylla, that
won his wreath of prosperity from thy disasters, and of Cęsar,
compassionate to the dead, didst shudder at every blast of the trumpet
filled by the breath of civil commotion,--thou, that, besides the wreck of
thy soldiery perishing on either side, didst bewail, amongst thy
spectacles of domestic woe, the luminaries of thy senate extinguished, the
heads of thy consuls fixed upon a halberd, weeping for ages over thy self-
slaughtered Catos, thy headless Ciceros (_truncosque Cicerones_), and
unburied Pompeys;--to whom the party madness of thy own children had
wrought in every age heavier woe than the Carthaginian thundering at thy
gates, or the Gaul admitted within thy walls; on whom OEmathia, more fatal
than the day of Allia,--Collina, more dismal than Cannę,--had inflicted
such deep memorials of wounds, that, from bitter experience of thy own
valor, no enemy was to thee so formidable as thyself;--thou, Rome! didst
now for the first time behold a civil war issuing in a hallowed
prosperity, a soldiery appeased, recovered Italy, and for thyself liberty
established. Now first in thy long annals thou didst rest from a civil war
in such a peace, that righteously, and with maternal tenderness, thou
mightst claim for it the honors of a civic triumph."]

--"God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued she nor shunned."

That the possessor and wielder of such enormous power--power alike
admirable for its extent, for its intensity, and for its consecration from
all counterforces which could restrain it, or endanger it--should be
regarded as sharing in the attributes of supernatural beings, is no more
than might naturally be expected. All other known power in human hands has
either been extensive, but wanting in intensity--or intense, but wanting
in extent--or, thirdly, liable to permanent control and hazard from some
antagonist power commensurate with itself. But the Roman power, in its
centuries of grandeur, involved every mode of strength, with absolute
immunity from all kinds and degrees of weakness. It ought not, therefore,
to surprise us that the emperor, as the depositary of this charmed power,
should have been looked upon as a _sacred_ person, and the imperial family
considered a "_divina_ domus." It is an error to regard this as excess of
adulation, or as built _originally_ upon hypocrisy. Undoubtedly the
expressions of this feeling are sometimes gross and overcharged, as we
find them in the very greatest of the Roman poets: for example, it shocks
us to find a fine writer in anticipating the future canonization of his
patron, and his instalment amongst the heavenly hosts, begging him to keep
his distance warily from this or that constellation, and to be cautious of
throwing his weight into either hemisphere, until the scale of proportions
were accurately adjusted. These doubtless are passages degrading alike to
the poet and his subject. But why? Not because they ascribe to the emperor
a sanctity which he had not in the minds of men universally, or which even
to the writer's feeling was exaggerated, but because it was expressed
coarsely, and as a _physical_ power: now, every thing physical is
measurable by weight, motion, and resistance; and is therefore definite.
But the very essence of whatsoever is supernatural lies in the indefinite.
That power, therefore, with which the minds of men invested the emperor,
was vulgarized by this coarse translation into the region of physics. Else
it is evident, that any power which, by standing above all human control,
occupies the next relation to superhuman modes of authority, must be
invested by all minds alike with some dim and undefined relation to the
sanctities of the next world. Thus, for instance, the Pope, as the father
of Catholic Christendom, could not _but_ be viewed with awe by any
Christian of deep feeling, as standing in some relation to the true and
unseen Father of the spiritual body. Nay, considering that even false
religions, as those of Pagan mythology, have probably never been utterly
stripped of all vestige of truth, but that every such mode of error has
perhaps been designed as a process, and adapted by Providence to the case
of those who were capable of admitting no more perfect shape of truth;
even the heads of such superstitions (the Dalai Lama, for instance) may
not unreasonably be presumed as within the cognizance and special
protection of Heaven. Much more may this be supposed of him to whose care
was confided the weightier part of the human race; who had it in his power
to promote or to suspend the progress of human improvement; and of whom,
and the motions of whose will, the very prophets of Judea took cognizance.
No nation, and no king, was utterly divorced from the councils of God.
Palestine, as a central chamber of God's administration, stood in some
relation to all. It has been remarked, as a mysterious and significant
fact, that the founders of the great empires all had some connection, more
or less, with the temple of Jerusalem. Melancthon even observes it in his
Sketch of Universal History, as worthy of notice--that Pompey died, as it
were, within sight of that very temple which he had polluted. Let us not
suppose that Paganism, or Pagan nations, were therefore excluded from the
concern and tender interest of Heaven. They also had their place allowed.
And we may be sure that, amongst them, the Roman emperor, as the great
accountant for the happiness of more men, and men more cultivated, than
ever before were intrusted to the motions of a single will, had a special,
singular, and mysterious relation to the secret counsels of Heaven.

Even we, therefore, may lawfully attribute some sanctity to the Roman
emperor. That the Romans did so with absolute sincerity is certain. The
altars of the emperor had a twofold consecration; to violate them, was the
double crime of treason and heresy, In his appearances of state and
ceremony, the fire, the sacred fire _epompeue_ was carried in ceremonial
solemnity before him; and every other circumstance of divine worship
attended the emperor in his lifetime. [Footnote: The fact is, that the
emperor was more of a sacred and divine creature in his lifetime than
after his death. His consecrated character as a living ruler was a truth;
his canonization, a fiction of tenderness to his memory.]

To this view of the imperial character and relations must be added one
single circumstance, which in some measure altered the whole for the
individual who happened to fill the office. The emperor _de facto_
might be viewed under two aspects: there was the man, and there was the
office. In his office he was immortal and sacred: but as a question might
still be raised, by means of a mercenary army, as to the claims of the
particular individual who at any time filled the office, the very sanctity
and privilege of the character with which he was clothed might actually be
turned against himself; and here it is, at this point, that the character
of Roman emperor became truly and mysteriously awful. Gibbon has taken
notice of the extraordinary situation of a subject in the Roman empire who
should attempt to fly from the wrath of the crown. Such was the ubiquity
of the emperor that this was absolutely hopeless. Except amongst pathless
deserts or barbarous nomads, it was impossible to find even a transient
sanctuary from the imperial pursuit. If he went down to the sea, there he
met the emperor: if he took the wings of the morning, and fled to the
uttermost parts of the earth, there also was the emperor or his
lieutenants. But the same omnipresence of imperial anger and retribution
which withered the hopes of the poor humble prisoner, met and confounded
the emperor himself, when hurled from his giddy elevation by some
fortunate rival. All the kingdoms of the earth, to one in that situation,
became but so many wards of the same infinite prison. Flight, if it were
even successful for the moment, did but a little retard his inevitable
doom. And so evident was this, that hardly in one instance did the fallen
prince _attempt_ to fly; but passively met the death which was inevitable,
in the very spot where ruin had overtaken him. Neither was it possible
even for a merciful conqueror to show mercy; for, in the presence of an
army so mercenary and factious, his own safety was but too deeply involved
in the extermination of rival pretenders to the crown.

Such, amidst the sacred security and inviolability of the office, was the
hazardous tenure of the individual. Nor did his dangers always arise from
persons in the rank of competitors and rivals. Sometimes it menaced him in
quarters which his eye had never penetrated, and from enemies too obscure
to have reached his ear. By way of illustration we will cite a case from
the life of the Emperor Commodus, which is wild enough to have furnished
the plot of a romance--though as well authenticated as any other passage
in that reign. The story is narrated by Herodian, and the circumstances
are these: A slave of noble qualities, and of magnificent person, having
liberated himself from the degradations of bondage, determined to avenge
his own wrongs by inflicting continual terror upon the town and
neighborhood which had witnessed his humiliation. For this purpose he
resorted to the woody recesses of the province, (somewhere in the modern
Transylvania,) and, attracting to his wild encampment as many fugitives as
he could, by degrees he succeeded in forming and training a very
formidable troop of freebooters. Partly from the energy of his own nature,
and partly from the neglect and remissness of the provincial magistrates,
the robber captain rose from less to more, until he had formed a little
army, equal to the task of assaulting fortified cities. In this stage of
his adventures, he encountered and defeated several of the imperial
officers commanding large detachments of troops; and at length grew of
consequence sufficient to draw upon himself the emperor's eye, and the
honor of his personal displeasure. In high wrath and disdain at the
insults offered to his eagles by this fugitive slave, Commodus fulminated
against him such an edict as left him no hope of much longer escaping with

Public vengeance was now awakened; the imperial troops were marching from
every quarter upon the same centre; and the slave became sensible that in
a very short space of time he must be surrounded and destroyed. In this
desperate situation he took a desperate resolution: he assembled his
troops, laid before them his plan, concerted the various steps for
carrying it into effect, and then dismissed them as independent wanderers.
So ends the first chapter of the tale.

The next opens in the passes of the Alps, whither by various routes, of
seven or eight hundred miles in extent, these men had threaded their way
in manifold disguises through the very midst of the emperor's camps.
According to this man's gigantic enterprise, in which the means were as
audacious as the purpose, the conspirators were to rendezvous, and first
to recognise each other at the gates of Rome. From the Danube to the Tiber
did this band of robbers severally pursue their perilous routes through
all the difficulties of the road and the jealousies of the military
stations, sustained by the mere thirst of vengeance--vengeance against
that mighty foe whom they knew only by his proclamations against
themselves. Every thing continued to prosper; the conspirators met under
the walls of Rome; the final details were arranged; and those also would
have prospered but for a trifling accident. The season was one of general
carnival at Rome; and, by the help of those disguises which the license of
this festal time allowed, the murderers were to have penetrated as maskers
to the emperor's retirement, when a casual word or two awoke the
suspicions of a sentinel. One of the conspirators was arrested; under the
terror and uncertainty of the moment, he made much ampler discoveries than
were expected of him; the other accomplices were secured: and Commodus was
delivered from the uplifted daggers of those who had sought him by months
of patient wanderings, pursued through all the depths of the Illyrian
forests, and the difficulties of the Alpine passes. It is not easy to find
words commensurate to the energetic hardihood of a slave--who, by way of
answer and reprisal to an edict which consigned him to persecution and
death, determines to cross Europe in quest of its author, though no less a
person than the master of the world--to seek him out in the inner recesses
of his capital city and his private palace--and there to lodge a dagger in
his heart, as the adequate reply to the imperial sentence of proscription
against himself.

Such, amidst his superhuman grandeur and consecrated powers of the Roman
emperor's office, were the extraordinary perils which menaced the
individual, and the peculiar frailties of his condition. Nor is it
possible that these circumstances of violent opposition can be better
illustrated than in this tale of Herodian. Whilst the emperor's mighty
arms were stretched out to arrest some potentate in the heart of Asia, a
poor slave is silently and stealthily creeping round the base of the Alps,
with the purpose of winning his way as a murderer to the imperial
bedchamber; Cęsar is watching some mighty rebel of the Orient, at a
distance of two thousand leagues, and he overlooks the dagger which is at
his own heart. In short, all the heights and the depths which belong to
man as aspirers, all the contrasts of glory and meanness, the extremities
of what is his highest and lowest in human possibility,--all met in the
situation of the Roman Cęsars, and have combined to make them the most
interesting studies which history has furnished.

This, as a general proposition, will be readily admitted. But meantime, it
is remarkable that no field has been less trodden than the private
memorials of those very Cęsars; whilst at the same time it is equally
remarkable, in concurrence with that subject for wonder, that precisely
with the first of the Cęsars commences the first page of what in modern
times we understand by anecdotes. Suetonius is the earliest writer in that
department of biography; so far as we know, he may be held first to have
devised it as a mode of history. The six writers, whose sketches are
collected under the general title of the _Augustan History_, followed
in the same track. Though full of entertainment, and of the most curious
researches, they are all of them entirely unknown, except to a few
elaborate scholars. We purpose to collect from these obscure, but most
interesting memorialists, a few sketches and biographical portraits of
these great princes, whose public life is sometimes known, but very rarely
any part of their private and personal history. We must of course commence
with the mighty founder of the Cęsars. In his case we cannot expect so
much of absolute novelty as in that of those who succeed. But if, in this
first instance, we are forced to touch a little upon old things, we shall
confine ourselves as much as possible to those which are susceptible of
new aspects. For the whole gallery of those who follow, we can undertake
that the memorials which we shall bring forward, may be looked upon as
belonging pretty much to what has hitherto been a sealed book.


The character of the first Cęsar has perhaps never been worse appreciated
than by him who in one sense described it best--that is, with most force
and eloquence wherever he really _did_ comprehend it. This was Lucan,
who has nowhere exhibited more brilliant rhetoric, nor wandered more from
the truth, than in the contrasted portraits of Cęsar and Pompey. The
famous line, "_Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum_," is a fine
feature of the real character, finely expressed. But if it had been
Lucan's purpose (as possibly, with a view to Pompey's benefit, in some
respects it was) utterly and extravagantly to falsify the character of the
great Dictator, by no single trait could he more effectually have
fulfilled that purpose, nor in fewer words, than by this expressive
passage, "_Gaudensque viam fecisse ruina_." Such a trait would be almost
extravagant applied even to Marius, who (though in many respects a perfect
model of Roman grandeur, massy, columnar, imperturbable, and more perhaps
than any one man recorded in history capable of justifying the bold
illustration of that character in Horace, "_Si fractus illabatur orbis,
impavidum ferient ruinę_") had, however, a ferocity in his character, and
a touch of the devil in him, very rarely united with the same tranquil
intrepidity. But for Cęsar, the all-accomplished statesman, the splendid
orator, the man of elegant habits and polished taste, the patron of the
fine arts in a degree transcending all example of his own or the previous
age, and as a man of general literature so much beyond his contemporaries,
except Cicero, that he looked down even upon the brilliant Sylla as an
illiterate person,--to class such a man with the race of furious
destroyers exulting in the desolations they spread, is to err not by an
individual trait, but by the whole genus. The Attilas and the Tamerlanes,
who rejoice in avowing themselves the scourges of God, and the special
instruments of his wrath, have no one feature of affinity to the polished
and humane Cęsar, and would as little have comprehended his character, as
he could have respected theirs. Even Cato, the unworthy hero of Lucan,
might have suggested to him a little more truth in this instance, by a
celebrated remark which he made on the characteristic distinction of
Cęsar, in comparison with other revolutionary disturbers; for, whereas
others had attempted the overthrow of the state in a continued paroxysm of
fury, and in a state of mind resembling the lunacy of intoxication, that
Cęsar, on the contrary, among that whole class of civil disturbers, was
the only one who had come to the task in a temper of sobriety and
moderation, (_unum accessisse sobrium ad rempublicam delendam_.)

In reality, Lucan did not think as he wrote. He had a purpose to serve;
and in an age when to act like a freeman was no longer possible, he
determined at least to write in that character. It is probable, also, that
he wrote with a vindictive or a malicious feeling towards Nero; and, as
the single means he had for gratifying _that_, resolved upon sacrificing
the grandeur of Cęsar's character wherever it should be found possible.
Meantime, in spite of himself, Lucan for ever betrays his lurking
consciousness of the truth. Nor are there any testimonies to Cęsar's vast
superiority more memorably pointed, than those which are indirectly and
involuntarily extorted from this Catonic poet, by the course of his
narration. Never, for example, was there within the same compass of words,
a more emphatic expression of Cęsar's essential and inseparable grandeur
of thought, which could not be disguised or be laid aside for an instant,
than is found in the three casual words--_Indocilis privata loqui_. The
very mould, it seems, by Lucan's confession, of his trivial conversation
was regal; nor could he, even to serve a purpose, abjure it for so much as
a casual purpose. The acts of Cęsar speak also the same language; and as
these are less susceptible of a false coloring than the features of a
general character, we find this poet of liberty, in the midst of one
continuous effort to distort the truth, and to dress up two scenical
heroes, forced by the mere necessities of history into a reluctant homage
to Cęsar's supremacy of moral grandeur.

Of so great a man it must be interesting to know all the well attested
opinions which bear upon topics of universal interest to human nature; as
indeed no others stood much chance of preservation, unless it were from as
minute and curious a collector of _anecdotage_ as Suetonius. And, first,
it would be gratifying to know the opinion of Cęsar, if he had any
peculiar to himself, on the great theme of Religion. It has been held,
indeed, that the constitution of his mind, and the general cast of his
character, indisposed him to religious thoughts. Nay, it has been common
to class him amongst deliberate atheists; and some well known anecdotes
are current in books, which illustrate his contempt for the vulgar class
of auguries. In this, however, he went no farther than Cicero, and other
great contemporaries, who assuredly were no atheists. One mark perhaps of
the wide interval which, in Cęsar's age, had begun to separate the Roman
nobility from the hungry and venal populace who were daily put up to sale,
and bought by the highest bidder, manifested itself in the increasing
disdain for the tastes and ruling sympathies of the lowest vulgar. No mob
could be more abjectly servile than was that of Rome to the superstition
of portents, prodigies, and omens. Thus far, in common with his order, and
in this sense, Julius Cęsar was naturally a despiser of superstition. Mere
strength of understanding would, perhaps, have made him so in any age, and
apart from the circumstances of his personal history. This natural
tendency in him would doubtless receive a further bias in the same
direction from the office of Pontifex Maximus, which he held at an early
stage of his public career. This office, by letting him too much behind
the curtain, and exposing too entirely the base machinery of ropes and
pulleys, which sustained the miserable jugglery played off upon the
popular credulity, impressed him perhaps even unduly with contempt for
those who could be its dupes. And we may add--that Cęsar was
constitutionally, as well as by accident of position, too much a man of
the world, had too powerful a leaning to the virtues of active life, was
governed by too partial a sympathy with the whole class of _active_ forces
in human nature, as contradistinguished from those which tend to
contemplative purposes, under any circumstances, to have become a profound
believer, or a steadfast reposer of his fears and anxieties, in religious
influences. A man of the world is but another designation for a man
indisposed to religious awe or contemplative enthusiasm. Still it is a
doctrine which we cherish--that grandeur of mind in any one department
whatsoever, supposing only that it exists in excess, disposes a man to
some degree of sympathy with all other grandeur, however alien in its
quality or different in its form. And upon this ground we presume the
great Dictator to have had an interest in religious themes by mere
compulsion of his own extraordinary elevation of mind, after making the
fullest allowance for the special quality of that mind, which did
certainly, to the whole extent of its characteristics, tend entirely to
estrange him from such themes. We find, accordingly, that though sincerely
a despiser of superstition, and with a frankness which must sometimes have
been hazardous in that age, Cęsar was himself also superstitious. No man
could have been otherwise who lived and conversed with that generation and
people. But if superstitious, he was so after a mode of his own. In his
very infirmities Cęsar manifested his greatness: his very littlenesses
were noble.

"Nec licuit populis parvum te, Nile, videre."

That he placed some confidence in dreams, for instance, is certain:
because, had he slighted them unreservedly, he would not have dwelt upon
them afterwards, or have troubled himself to recall their circumstances.
Here we trace his human weakness. Yet again we are reminded that it was
the weakness of Cęsar; for the dreams were noble in their imagery, and
Cęsarean (so to speak) in their tone of moral feeling. Thus, for example,
the night before he was assassinated, he dreamt at intervals that he was
soaring above the clouds on wings, and that he placed his hand within the
right hand of Jove. It would seem that perhaps some obscure and half-
formed image floated in his mind, of the eagle, as the king of birds;
secondly, as the tutelary emblem under which his conquering legions had so
often obeyed his voice; and, thirdly, as the bird of Jove. To this triple
relation of the bird his dream covertly appears to point. And a singular
coincidence appears between this dream and a little anecdote brought down
to us, as having actually occurred in Rome about twenty-four hours before
his death. A little bird, which by some is represented as a very small
kind of sparrow, but which, both to the Greeks and the Romans, was known
by a name implying a regal station (probably from the ambitious courage
which at times prompted it to attack the eagle), was observed to direct
its flight towards the senate-house, consecrated by Pompey, whilst a crowd
of other birds were seen to hang upon its flight in close pursuit. What
might be the object of the chase, whether the little king himself, or a
sprig of laurel which he bore in his mouth, could not be determined. The
whole train, pursuers and pursued, continued their flight towards Pompey's
hall. Flight and pursuit were there alike arrested; the little king was
overtaken by his enemies, who fell upon him as so many conspirators, and
tore him limb from limb.

If this anecdote were reported to Cęsar, which is not at all improbable,
considering the earnestness with which his friends labored to dissuade him
from his purpose of meeting the senate on the approaching Ides of March,
it is very little to be doubted that it had a considerable effect upon his
feelings, and that, in fact, his own dream grew out of the impression
which it had made. This way of linking the two anecdotes, as cause and
effect, would also bring a third anecdote under the same _nexus_. We
are told that Calpurnia, the last wife of Cęsar, dreamed on the same
night, and to the same ominous result. The circumstances of _her_ dream
are less striking, because less figurative; but on that account its import
was less open to doubt: she dreamed, in fact, that after the roof of their
mansion had fallen in, her husband was stabbed in her bosom. Laying all
these omens together, Cęsar would have been more or less than human had he
continued utterly undepressed by them. And if so much superstition as even
this implies, must be taken to argue some little weakness, on the other
hand let it not be forgotten, that this very weakness does but the more
illustrate the unusual force of mind, and the heroic will, which
obstinately laid aside these concurring prefigurations of impending
destruction; concurring, we say, amongst themselves—and concurring also
with a prophecy of older date, which was totally independent of them all.

There is another and somewhat sublime story of the same class, which
belongs to the most interesting moment of Cęsar's life; and those who are
disposed to explain all such tales upon physiological principles, will
find an easy solution of this, in particular, in the exhaustion of body,
and the intense anxiety which must have debilitated even Cęsar under the
whole circumstances of the case. On the ever memorable night when he had
resolved to take the first step (and in such a case the first step, as
regarded the power of retreating, was also the final step) which placed
him in arms against the state, it happened that his headquarters were at
some distance from the little river Rubicon, which formed the boundary of
his province. With his usual caution, that no news of his motions might
run before himself, on this night Cęsar gave an entertainment to his
friends, in the midst of which he slipped away unobserved, and with a
small retinue proceeded through the woods to the point of the river at
which he designed to cross. The night [Footnote: It is an interesting
circumstance in the habits of the ancient Romans, that their journeys were
pursued very much in the night-time, and by torchlight. Cicero, in one of
his letters, speaks of passing through the towns of Italy by night, as a
serviceable scheme for some political purpose, either of avoiding too much
to publish his motions, or of evading the necessity (else perhaps not
avoidable), of drawing out the party sentiments of the magistrates in the
circumstances of honor or neglect with which they might choose to receive
him. His words, however, imply that the practice was by no means an
uncommon one. And, indeed, from some passages in writers of the Augustan
era, it would seem that this custom was not confined to people of
distinction, but was familiar to a class of travellers so low in rank as
to be capable of abusing their opportunities of concealment for the
infliction of wanton injury upon the woods and fences which bounded the
margin, of the high-road. Under the cloud of night and solitude, the
mischief-loving traveller was often in the habit of applying his torch to
the withered boughs of woods, or to artificial hedges; and extensive
ravages by fire, such as now happen, not unfrequently in the American
woods, (but generally from carelessness in scattering the glowing embers
of a fire, or even the ashes of a pipe,) were then occasionally the result
of mere wantonness of mischief. Ovid accordingly notices, as one amongst
the familiar images of daybreak, the half-burnt torch of the traveller;
and, apparently, from the position which it holds in his description,
where it is ranked with the most familiar of all circumstances in all
countries,--that of the rural laborer going out to his morning tasks,--it
must have been common indeed:

"Semiustamque facem vigilatā nocte viator
Ponet; et ad solitum rusticus ibit opus."

This occurs in the _Fasti_;--elsewhere he notices it for its danger:

"Ut facibus sepes ardent, cum forte viator
Vel nimis admovit, vel jam sub luce reliquit."

He, however, we see, good-naturedly ascribes the danger to mere
carelessness, in bringing the torch too near to the hedge, or tossing it
away at daybreak. But Varro, a more matter-of-fact observer, does not
disguise the plain truth, that these disasters were often the product of
pure malicious frolic. For instance, in recommending a certain kind of
quickset fence, he insists upon it, as one of its advantages, that it will
not readily ignite under the torch of the mischievous wayfarer: "Naturale
sepimentum," says he, "quod obseri solet virgultis aut spinis,
_prętereuntis lascivi non metuet facem._" It is not easy to see the origin
or advantage of this practice of nocturnal travelling (which must have
considerably increased the hazards of a journey), excepting only in the
heats of summer. It is probable, however, that men of high rank and public
station may have introduced the practice by way of releasing corporate
bodies in large towns from the burdensome ceremonies of public receptions;
thus making a compromise between their own dignity and the convenience of
the provincial public. Once introduced, and the arrangements upon the road
for meeting the wants of travellers once adapted to such a practice, it
would easily become universal. It is, however, very possible that mere
horror of the heats of day-time may have been the original ground for it.
The ancients appear to have shrunk from no hardship so trying and
insufferable as that of heat. And in relation to that subject, it is
interesting to observe the way in which the ordinary use of language has
accommodated itself to that feeling. Our northern way of expressing
effeminacy is derived chiefly from the hardships of cold. He that shrinks
from the trials and rough experience of real life in any department, is
described by the contemptuous prefix of _chimney-corner_, as if shrinking
from the cold which he would meet on coming out into the open air amongst
his fellow-men. Thus, a _chimney-corner_ politician, for a mere
speculator or unpractical dreamer. But the very same indolent habit of
aerial speculation, which courts no test of real life and practice, is
described by the ancients under the term _umbraticus_, or seeking the cool
shade, and shrinking from the heat. Thus, an _umbraticus doctor_ is one
who has no practical solidity in his teaching. The fatigue and hardship of
real life, in short, is represented by the ancients under the uniform
image of heat, and by the moderns under that of cold.] was stormy, and by
the violence of the wind all the torches of his escort were blown out, so
that the whole party lost their road, having probably at first
intentionally deviated from the main route, and wandered about through the
whole night, until the early dawn enabled them to recover their true
course. The light was still gray and uncertain, as Cęsar and his retinue
rode down upon the banks of the fatal river--to cross which with arms in
his hands, since the further bank lay within the territory of the
Republic, _ipso facto_ proclaimed any Roman a rebel and a traitor. No man,
the firmest or the most obtuse, could be otherwise than deeply agitated,
when looking down upon this little brook--so insignificant in itself, but
invested by law with a sanctity so awful, and so dire a consecration. The
whole course of future history, and the fate of every nation, would
necessarily be determined by the irretrievable act of the next half hour.

In these moments, and with this spectacle before him, and contemplating
these immeasurable consequences consciously for the last time that could
allow him a retreat,--impressed also by the solemnity and deep
tranquillity of the silent dawn, whilst the exhaustion of his night
wanderings predisposed him to nervous irritation,--Cęsar, we may be sure,
was profoundly agitated. The whole elements of the scene were almost
scenically disposed; the law of antagonism having perhaps never been
employed with so much effect: the little quiet brook presenting a direct,
antithesis to its grand political character; and the innocent dawn, with
its pure, untroubled repose, contrasting potently, to a man of any
intellectual sensibility, with the long chaos of bloodshed, darkness, and
anarchy, which was to take its rise from the apparently trifling acts of
this one morning. So prepared, we need not much wonder at what followed.
Cęsar was yet lingering on the hither bank, when suddenly, at a point not
far distant from himself, an apparition was descried in a sitting posture,
and holding in its hand what seemed a flute. This phantom was of unusual
size, and of beauty more than human, so far as its lineaments could be
traced in the early dawn. What is singular, however, in the story, on any
hypothesis which would explain it out of Cęsar's individual condition, is,
that others saw it as well as he; both pastoral laborers, (who were
present, probably, in the character of guides,) and some of the sentinels
stationed at the passage of the river. These men fancied even that a
strain of music issued from this aerial flute. And some, both of the
shepherds and the Roman soldiers, who were bolder than the rest, advanced
towards the figure. Amongst this party, it happened that there were a few
Roman trumpeters. From one of these, the phantom, rising as they advanced
nearer, suddenly caught a trumpet, and blowing through it a blast of
superhuman strength, plunged into the Rubicon, passed to the other bank,
and disappeared in the dusky twilight of the dawn. Upon which Cęsar
exclaimed:--"It is finished--the die is cast--let us follow whither the
guiding portents from Heaven, and the malice of our enemy, alike summon us
to go." So saying, he crossed the river with impetuosity; and, in a sudden
rapture of passionate and vindictive ambition, placed himself and his
retinue upon the Italian soil; and, as if by inspiration from Heaven, in
one moment involved himself and his followers in treason, raised the
standard of revolt, put his foot upon the neck of the invincible republic
which had humbled all the kings of the earth, and founded an empire which
was to last for a thousand and half a thousand years. In what manner this
spectral appearance was managed--whether Cęsar were its author, or its
dupe--will remain unknown for ever. But undoubtedly this was the first
time that the advanced guard of a victorious army was headed by an
apparition; and we may conjecture that it will be the last. [Footnote:
According to Suetonius, the circumstances of this memorable night were as
follows:--As soon as the decisive intelligence was received, that the
intrigues of his enemies had prevailed at Rome, and that the interposition
of the popular magistrates (the tribunes) was set aside, Cęsar sent
forward the troops, who were then at his head-quarters, but in as private
a manner as possible. He himself, by way of masque, (_per
dissimulationem_,) attended a public spectacle, gave an audience to an
architect who wished to lay before him a plan for a school of gladiators
which Cęsar designed to build, and finally presented himself at a banquet,
which was very numerously attended. From this, about sunset, he set
forward in a carriage, drawn by mules, and with a small escort (_modico
comitatu_.) Losing his road, which was the most private he could find
(_occultissimum_), he quitted his carriage and proceeded on foot. At
dawn he met with a guide; after which followed the above incidents.]

In the mingled yarn of human life, tragedy is never far asunder from
farce; and it is amusing to retrace in immediate succession to this
incident of epic dignity, which has its only parallel by the way in the
case of Vasco de Gama, (according to the narrative of Camoens,) when met
and confronted by a sea phantom, whilst attempting to double the Cape of
Storms, (Cape of Good Hope,) a ludicrous passage, in which one felicitous
blunder did Cęsar a better service than all the truths which Greece and
Rome could have furnished. In our own experience, we once witnessed a
blunder about as gross. The present Chancellor, in his first
electioneering contest with the Lowthers, upon some occasion where he was
recriminating upon the other party, and complaining that stratagems, which
_they_ might practise with impunity, were denied to him and his, happened
to point the moral of his complaint, by alleging the old adage, that one
man might steal a horse with more hope of indulgence than another could
look over the hedge. Whereupon, by benefit of the universal mishearing in
the outermost ring of the audience, it became generally reported that Lord
Lowther had once been engaged in an affair of horse stealing; and that he,
Henry Brougham, could (had he pleased) have lodged an information against
him, seeing that he was then looking over the hedge. And this charge
naturally won the more credit, because it was notorious and past denying
that his lordship was a capital horseman, fond of horses, and much
connected with the turf. To this hour, therefore, amongst some worthy
shepherds and others, it is a received article of their creed, and (as
they justly observe in northern pronunciation,) a _sham_ful thing to be
told, that Lord Lowther was once a horse stealer, and that he escaped
_lagging_ by reason of Harry Brougham's pity for his tender years and
hopeful looks. Not less was the blunder which, on the banks of the
Rubicon, befriended Cęsar. Immediately after crossing, he harangued the
troops whom he had sent forward, and others who there met him from the
neighboring garrison of Ariminium. The tribunes of the people, those great
officers of the democracy, corresponding by some of their functions to our
House of Commons, men personally, and by their position in the state,
entirely in his interest, and who, for his sake, had fled from home, there
and then he produced to the soldiery; thus identified his cause, and that
of the soldiers, with the cause of the people of Rome and of Roman
liberty; and perhaps with needless rhetoric attempted to conciliate those
who were by a thousand ties and by claims innumerable, his own already;
for never yet has it been found, that with the soldier, who, from youth
upwards, passes his life in camps, could the duties or the interests of
citizens survive those stronger and more personal relations connecting him
with his military superior. In the course of this harangue, Cęsar often
raised his left hand with Demosthenic action, and once or twice he drew
off the ring, which every Roman gentleman--simply _as_ such--wore as the
inseparable adjunct and symbol of his rank. By this action he wished to
give emphasis to the accompanying words, in which he protested, that,
sooner than fail in satisfying and doing justice to any the least of those
who heard him and followed his fortunes, he would be content to part with
his own birthright, and to forego his dearest claims. This was what he
really said; but the outermost circle of his auditors, who rather saw his
gestures than distinctly heard his words, carried off the notion, (which
they were careful every where to disperse amongst the legions afterwards
associated with them in the same camps,) that Cęsar had vowed never to lay
down his arms until he had obtained for every man, the very meanest of
those who heard him, the rank, privileges and appointments of a Roman
knight. Here was a piece of sovereign good luck. Had he really made such a
promise, Cęsar might have found that he had laid himself under very
embarrassing obligations; but, as the case stood, he had, through all his
following campaigns, the total benefit of such a promise, and yet could
always absolve himself from the penalties of responsibility which it
imposed, by appealing to the evidence of those who happened to stand in
the first ranks of his audience. The blunder was gross and palpable; and
yet, with the unreflecting and dull-witted soldier, it did him service
greater than all the subtilties of all the schools could have
accomplished, and a service which subsisted to the end of the war.

Great as Cęsar was by the benefit of his original nature, there can--be no
doubt that he, like others, owed something to circumstances; and perhaps,
amongst these which were most favorable to the premature development of
great self-dependence, we must reckon the early death of his father. It
is, or it is not, according to the nature of men, an advantage to be
orphaned at an early age. Perhaps utter orphanage is rarely or never such:
but to lose a father betimes profits a strong mind greatly. To Cęsar it
was a prodigious benefit that he lost his father when not much more than
fifteen. Perhaps it was an advantage also to his father that he died thus
early. Had he stayed a year longer, he would have seen himself despised,
baffled, and made ridiculous. For where, let us ask, in any age, was the
father capable of adequately sustaining that relation to the unique Caius
Julius--to him, in the appropriate language of Shakspeare,

"The foremost man of all this world?"

And, in this fine and Cęsarean line, "this world" is to be understood not
of the order of co-existences merely, but also of the order of
successions; he was the foremost man not only of his contemporaries, but
also of men generally--of all that ever should come after him, or should
sit on thrones under the denominations of Czars, Kesars, or Cęsars of the
Bosphorus and the Danube; of all in every age that should inherit his
supremacy of mind, or should subject to themselves the generations of
ordinary men by qualities analogous to his. Of this infinite superiority
some part must be ascribed to his early emancipation from paternal
control. There are very many cases in which, simply from considerations of
sex, a female cannot stand forward as the head of a family, or as its
suitable representative. If they are even ladies paramount, and in
situations of command, they are also women. The staff of authority does
not annihilate their sex; and scruples of female delicacy interfere for
ever to unnerve and emasculate in their hands the sceptre however
otherwise potent. Hence we see, in noble families, the merest boys put
forward to represent the family dignity, as fitter supporters of that
burden than their mature mothers. And of Cęsar's mother, though little is
recorded, and that little incidentally, this much at least, we learn--
that, if she looked down upon him with maternal pride and delight, she
looked up to him with female ambition as the re-edifier of her husband's
honors, with reverence as to a column of the Roman grandeur, and with fear
and feminine anxieties as to one whose aspiring spirit carried him but too
prematurely into the fields of adventurous honor. One slight and
evanescent sketch of the relations which subsisted between Cęsar and his
mother, caught from the wrecks of time, is preserved both by Plutarch and
Suetonius. We see in the early dawn the young patrician standing upon the
steps of his paternal portico, his mother with her arms wreathed about his
neck, looking up to his noble countenance, sometimes drawing auguries of
hope from features so fitted for command, sometimes boding an early blight
to promises so prematurely magnificent. That she had something of her
son's aspiring character, or that he presumed so much in a mother of his,
we learn from the few words which survive of their conversation. He
addressed to her no language that could tranquillize her fears. On the
contrary, to any but a Roman mother his valedictory words, taken in
connection with the known determination of his character, were of a nature
to consummate her depression, as they tended to confirm the very worst of
her fears. He was then going to stand his chance in a popular election for
an office of dignity, and to launch himself upon the storms of the Campus
Martius. At that period, besides other and more ordinary dangers, the
bands of gladiators, kept in the pay of the more ambitious amongst the
Roman nobles, gave a popular tone of ferocity and of personal risk to the
course of such contests; and either to forestall the victory of an
antagonist, or to avenge their own defeat, it was not at all impossible
that a body of incensed competitors might intercept his final triumph by
assassination. For this danger, however, he had no leisure in his thoughts
of consolation; the sole danger which _he_ contemplated, or supposed
his mother to contemplate, was the danger of defeat, and for that he
reserved his consolations. He bade her fear nothing; for that without
doubt he would return with victory, and with the ensigns of the dignity he
sought, or would return a corpse.

Early indeed did Cęsar's trials commence; and it is probable, that, had
not the death of his father, by throwing him prematurely upon his own
resources, prematurely developed the masculine features of his character,
forcing him whilst yet a boy under the discipline of civil conflict and
the yoke of practical life, even _his_ energies would have been
insufficient to sustain them. His age is not exactly ascertained, but it
is past a doubt that he had not reached his twentieth year when he had the
hardihood to engage in a struggle with Sylla, then Dictator, and
exercising the immoderate powers of that office with the license and the
severity which history has made so memorable. He had neither any distinct
grounds of hope, nor any eminent example at that time, to countenance him
in this struggle--which yet he pushed on in the most uncompromising style,
and to the utmost verge of defiance. The subject of the contrast gives it
a further interest. It was the youthful wife of the youthful Cęsar who
stood under the shadow of the great Dictator's displeasure; not
personally, but politically, on account of her connections: and her it
was, Cornelia, the daughter of a man who had been four times consul, that
Cęsar was required to divorce: but he spurned the haughty mandate, and
carried his determination to a triumphant issue, notwithstanding his life
was at stake, and at one time saved only by shifting his place of
concealment every night; and this young lady it was who afterwards became
the mother of his only daughter. Both mother and daughter, it is
remarkable, perished prematurely, and at critical periods of Cęsar's life;
for it is probable enough that these irreparable wounds to Cęsar's
domestic affections threw him with more exclusiveness of devotion upon the
fascinations of glory and ambition than might have happened under a
happier condition of his private life. That Cęsar should have escaped
destruction in this unequal contest with an enemy then wielding the whole
thunders of the state, is somewhat surprising; and historians have sought
their solution of the mystery in the powerful intercessions of the vestal
virgins, and several others of high rank amongst the connections of his
great house. These may have done something; but it is due to Sylla, who
had a sympathy with every thing truly noble, to suppose him struck with
powerful admiration for the audacity of the young patrician, standing out
in such severe solitude among so many examples of timid concession; and
that to this magnanimous feeling in the Dictator, much of his indulgence
was due. In fact, according to some accounts, it was not Sylla, but the
creatures of Sylla (_adjutores_), who pursued Cęsar. We know, at all
events, that Sylla formed a right estimate of Cęsar's character, and that,
from the complexion of his conduct in this one instance, he drew his
famous prophecy of his future destiny; bidding his friends beware of that
slipshod boy, "for that in him lay couchant many a Marius." A grander
testimony to the awe which Cęsar inspired, or from one who knew better the
qualities of that man by whom he measured him, cannot be imagined.

It is not our intention, or consistent with our plan, to pursue this great
man through the whole circumstances of his romantic career; though it is
certain that many parts of his life require investigation much keener than
has ever been applied to them, and that many might easily be placed in a
new light. Indeed, the whole of this most momentous section of ancient
history ought to be recomposed with the critical scepticism of a Niebuhr,
and the same comprehensive collation of authorities. In reality it is the
hinge upon which turned the future destiny of the whole earth, and having
therefore a common relation to all modern nations whatsoever, should
naturally have been cultivated with the zeal which belongs to a personal
concern. In general, the anecdotes which express most vividly the splendid
character of the first Cęsar, are those which illustrate his defiance of
danger in extremity,--the prodigious energy and rapidity of his decisions
and motions in the field; the skill with which he penetrated the designs
of his enemies, and the exemplary speed with which he provided a remedy
for disasters; the extraordinary presence of mind which he showed in
turning adverse omens to his own advantage, as when, upon stumbling in
coming on shore, (which was esteemed a capital omen of evil,) he
transfigured as it were in one instant its whole meaning by exclaiming,
"Thus do I take possession of thee, oh Africa!" in that way giving to an
accident the semblance of a symbolic purpose; the grandeur of fortitude
with which he faced the whole extent of a calamity when palliation could
do no good, "non negando, minuendove, sed insuper amplificando,
_ementiendoque_;" as when, upon finding his soldiery alarmed at the
approach of Juba, with forces really great, but exaggerated by their
terrors, he addressed them in a military harangue to the following effect:
"Know that within a few days the king will come up with us, bringing with
him sixty thousand legionaries, thirty thousand cavalry, one hundred
thousand light troops, besides three hundred elephants. Such being the
case, let me hear no more of conjectures and opinions, for you have now my
warrant for the fact, whose information is past doubting. Therefore, be
satisfied; otherwise, I will put every man of you on board some crazy old
fleet, and whistle you down the tide--no matter under what winds, no
matter towards what shore." Finally, we might seek for the
_characteristic_ anecdotes of Cęsar in his unexampled liberalities
and contempt of money. [Footnote: Middleton's Life of Cicero, which still
continues to be the most readable digest of these affairs, is feeble and
contradictory. He discovers that Cęsar was no general! And the single
merit which his work was supposed to possess, viz. the better and more
critical arrangement of Cicero's Letters, in respect to their chronology,
has of late years been detected as a robbery from the celebrated
Bellenden, of James the First's time.]

Upon this last topic it is the just remark of Casaubon, that some
instances of Cęsar's munificence have been thought apocryphal, or to rest
upon false readings, simply from ignorance of the heroic scale upon which
the Roman splendors of that age proceeded. A forum which Cęsar built out
of the products of his last campaign, by way of a present to the Roman
people, cost him--for the ground merely on which it stood--nearly eight
hundred thousand pounds. To the _citizens_ of Rome (perhaps 300,000
persons) he presented, in one _congiary_, about two guineas and a half a
head. To his army, in one _donation_, upon the termination of the civil
war, he gave a sum which allowed about two hundred pounds a man to the
infantry, and four hundred to the cavalry. It is true that the legionary
troops were then much reduced by the sword of the enemy, and by the
tremendous hardships of their last campaigns. In this, however, he did
perhaps no more than repay a debt. For it is an instance of military
attachment, beyond all that Wallenstein or any commander, the most beloved
amongst his troops, has ever experienced, that, on the breaking out of the
civil war, not only did the centurions of every legion severally maintain
a horse soldier, but even the privates volunteered to serve without pay--
and (what might seem impossible) without their daily rations. This was
accomplished by subscriptions amongst themselves, the more opulent
undertaking for the maintenance of the needy. Their disinterested love for
Cęsar appeared in another and more difficult illustration: it was a
traditionary anecdote in Rome, that the majority of those amongst Cęsar's
troops, who had the misfortune to fall into the enemy's hands, refused to
accept their lives under the condition of serving against _him_.

In connection with this subject of his extraordinary munificence, there is
one aspect of Cęsar's life which has suffered much from the
misrepresentations of historians, and that is--the vast pecuniary
embarrassments under which he labored, until the profits of war had turned
the scale even more prodigiously in his favor. At one time of his life,
when appointed to a foreign office, so numerous and so clamorous were his
creditors, that he could not have left Rome on his public duties, had not
Crassus come forward with assistance in money, or by promises, to the
amount of nearly two hundred thousand pounds. And at another, he was
accustomed to amuse himself with computing how much money it would require
to make him worth exactly nothing (_i. e._ simply to clear him of debts);
this, by one account, amounted to upwards of two millions sterling. Now
the error of historians has been--to represent these debts as the original
ground of his ambition and his revolutionary projects, as though the
desperate condition of his private affairs had suggested a civil war to
his calculations as the best or only mode of redressing it. But, on the
contrary, his debts were the product of his ambition, and contracted from
first to last in the service of his political intrigues, for raising and
maintaining a powerful body of partisans, both in Rome and elsewhere.
Whosoever indeed will take the trouble to investigate the progress of
Cęsar's ambition, from such materials as even yet remain, may satisfy
himself that the scheme of revolutionizing the Republic, and placing
himself at its head, was no growth of accident or circumstances; above
all, that it did not arise upon any so petty and indirect an occasion as
that of his debts; but that his debts were in their very first origin
purely ministerial to his ambition; and that his revolutionary plans were
at all periods of his life a direct and foremost object. In this there was
in reality no want of patriotism; it had become evident to every body that
Rome, under its present constitution, must fall; and the sole question
was--by whom? Even Pompey, not by nature of an aspiring turn, and prompted
to his ambitious course undoubtedly by circumstances and the friends who
besieged him, was in the habit of saying, "Sylla potuit, ego non potero?"
And the fact was, that if, from the death of Sylla, Rome recovered some
transient show of constitutional integrity, that happened not by any
lingering virtue that remained in her republican forms, but entirely
through the equilibrium and mechanical counterpoise of rival factions.

In a case, therefore, where no benefit of choice was allowed to Rome as to
the thing, but only as to the person--where a revolution was certain, and
the point left open to doubt simply by whom that revolution should be
accomplished--Cęsar had (to say the least) the same right to enter the
arena in the character of candidate as could belong to any one of his
rivals. And that he _did_ enter that arena constructively, and by
secret design, from his very earliest manhood, may be gathered from this--
that he suffered no openings towards a revolution, provided they had any
hope in them, to escape his participation. It is familiarly known that he
was engaged pretty deeply in the conspiracy of Catiline, [Footnote:
Suetonius, speaking of this conspiracy, says, that Cęsar was _nominatos
inter socios Catilinę_, which has been erroneously understood to mean
that he was _talked of_ as an accomplice; but in fact, as Casaubon
first pointed out, _nominatus_ is a technical term of the Roman
jurisprudence, and means that he was formally denounced.] and that he
incurred considerable risk on that occasion; but it is less known, and has
indeed escaped the notice of historians generally, that he was a party to
at least two other conspiracies. There was even a fourth, meditated by
Crassus, which Cęsar so far encouraged as to undertake a journey to Rome
from a very distant quarter, merely with a view to such chances as it
might offer to him; but as it did not, upon examination, seem to him a
very promising scheme, he judged it best to look coldly upon it, or not to
embark in it by any personal co-operation. Upon these and other facts we
build our inference--that the scheme of a revolution was the one great
purpose of Cęsar, from his first entrance upon public life. Nor does it
appear that he cared much by whom it was undertaken, provided only there
seemed to be any sufficient resources for carrying it through, and for
sustaining the first collision with the regular forces of the existing
government. He relied, it seems, on his own personal superiority for
raising him to the head of affairs eventually, let who would take the
nominal lead at first. To the same result, it will be found, tended the
vast stream of Cęsar's liberalities. From the senator downwards to the
lowest _fęx Romuli_, he had a hired body of dependents, both in and
out of Rome, equal in numbers to a nation. In the provinces, and in
distant kingdoms, he pursued the same schemes. Every where he had a body
of mercenary partisans; kings are known to have taken his pay. And it is
remarkable that even in his character of commander in chief, where the
number of legions allowed to him for the accomplishment of his mission
raised him for a number of years above all fear of coercion or control, he
persevered steadily in the same plan of providing for the day when he
might need assistance, not from the state, but _against_ the state.
For amongst the private anecdotes which came to light under the researches
made into his history after his death, was this--that, soon after his
first entrance upon his government in Gaul, he had raised, equipped,
disciplined, and maintained, from his own private funds, a legion
amounting, perhaps, to six or seven thousand men, who were bound by no
sacrament of military obedience to the state, nor owed fealty to any
auspices except those of Cęsar. This legion, from the fashion of their
crested helmets, which resembled the crested heads of a small bird of the
lark species, received the popular name of the _Alauda_ (or Lark)
legion. And very singular it was that Cato, or Marcellus, or some amongst
those enemies of Cęsar, who watched his conduct during the period of his
Gaulish command with the vigilance of rancorous malice, should not have
come to the knowledge of this fact; in which case we may be sure that it
would have been denounced to the senate.

Such, then, for its purpose and its uniform motive, was the sagacious
munificence of Cęsar. Apart from this motive, and considered in and for
itself, and simply with a reference to the splendid forms which it often
assumed, this munificence would furnish the materials for a volume. The
public entertainments of Cęsar, his spectacles and shows, his naumachię,
and the pomps of his unrivalled triumphs, (the closing triumphs of the
Republic,) were severally the finest of their kind which had then been
brought forward. Sea-fights were exhibited upon the grandest scale,
according to every known variety of nautical equipment and mode of
conflict, upon a vast lake formed artificially for that express purpose.
Mimic land-fights were conducted, in which all the circumstances of real
war were so faithfully rehearsed, that even elephants "indorsed with
towers," twenty on each side, took part in the combat. Dramas were
represented in every known language, (_per omnium linguarum histriones_.)
And hence [that is, from the conciliatory feeling thus expressed towards
the various tribes of foreigners resident in Rome] some have derived an
explanation of what is else a mysterious circumstance amongst the
ceremonial observances at Cęsar's funeral--that all people of foreign
nations then residing at Rome, distinguished themselves by the conspicuous
share which they took in the public mourning; and that, beyond all other
foreigners, the Jews for night after night kept watch and ward about the
emperor's grave. Never before, according to traditions which lasted
through several generations in Rome, had there been so vast a conflux of
the human race congregated to any one centre, on any one attraction of
business or of pleasure, as to Rome, on occasion of these spectacles
exhibited by Cęsar.

In our days, the greatest occasional gatherings of the human race are in
India, especially at the great fair of the _Hurdwar_, in the northern
part of Hindostan; a confluence of many millions is sometimes seen at that
spot, brought together under the mixed influences of devotion and
commercial business, and dispersed as rapidly as they had been convoked.
Some such spectacle of nations crowding upon nations, and some such
Babylonian confusion of dresses, complexions, languages, and jargons, was
then witnessed at Rome. Accommodations within doors, and under roofs of
houses, or of temples, was altogether impossible. Myriads encamped along
the streets, and along the high-roads in the vicinity of Rome. Myriads of
myriads lay stretched on the ground, without even the slight protection of
tents, in a vast circuit about the city. Multitudes of men, even senators,
and others of the highest rank, were trampled to death in the crowds. And
the whole family of man seemed at that time gathered together at the
bidding of the great Dictator. But these, or any other themes connected
with the public life of Cęsar, we notice only in those circumstances which
have been overlooked, or partially represented by historians. Let us now,
in conclusion, bring forward, from the obscurity in which they have
hitherto lurked, the anecdotes which describe the habits of his private
life, his tastes, and personal peculiarities.

In person, he was tall, fair, and of limbs distinguished for their elegant
proportions and gracility. His eyes were black and piercing. These
circumstances continued to be long remembered, and no doubt were
constantly recalled to the eyes of all persons in the imperial palaces, by
pictures, busts, and statues; for we find the same description of his
personal appearance three centuries afterwards, in a work of the Emperor
Julian's. He was a most accomplished horseman, and a master
(_peritissimus_) in the use of arms. But, notwithstanding his skill
in horsemanship, it seems that, when he accompanied his army on marches,
he walked oftener than he rode; no doubt, with a view to the benefit of
his example, and to express that sympathy with his soldiers which gained
him their hearts so entirely. On other occasions, when travelling apart
from his army, he seems more frequently to have rode in a carriage than on
horseback. His purpose, in making this preference, must have been with a
view to the transport of luggage. The carriage which he generally used was
a _rheda_, a sort of gig, or rather curricle, for it was a four-
wheeled carriage, and adapted (as we find from the imperial regulations
for the public carriages, &c.) to the conveyance of about half a ton. The
mere personal baggage which Cęsar carried with him, was probably
considerable, for he was a man of the most elegant habits, and in all
parts of his life sedulously attentive to elegance of personal appearance.
The length of journeys which he accomplished within a given time, appears
even to us at this day, and might well therefore appear to his
contemporaries, truly astonishing. A distance of one hundred miles was no
extraordinary day's journey for him in a _rheda_, such as we have
described it. So elegant were his habits, and so constant his demand for
the luxurious accommodations of polished life, as it then existed in Rome,
that he is said to have carried with him, as indispensable parts of his
personal baggage, the little lozenges and squares of ivory, and other
costly materials, which were wanted for the tessellated flooring of his
tent. Habits such as these will easily account for his travelling in a
carriage rather than on horseback.

The courtesy and obliging disposition of Cęsar were notorious, and both
were illustrated in some anecdotes which survived for generations in Rome.
Dining on one occasion at a table, where the servants had inadvertently,
for salad-oil, furnished some sort of coarse lamp-oil, Cęsar would not
allow the rest of the company to point out the mistake to their host, for
fear of shocking him too much by exposing the mistake. At another time,
whilst halting at a little _cabaret_, when one of his retinue was
suddenly taken ill, Cęsar resigned to his use the sole bed which the house
afforded. Incidents, as trifling as these, express the urbanity of Cęsar's
nature; and, hence, one is the more surprised to find the alienation of
the senate charged, in no trifling degree, upon a failure in point of
courtesy. Cęsar neglected to rise from his seat, on their approaching him
in a body with an address of congratulation. It is said, and we can
believe it, that he gave deeper offence by this one defect in a matter of
ceremonial observance, than by all his substantial attacks upon their
privileges. What we find it difficult to believe, however, is not that
result from the offence, but the possibility of the offence itself, from
one so little arrogant as Cęsar, and so entirely a man of the world. He
was told of the disgust which he had given, and we are bound to believe
his apology, in which he charged it upon sickness, which would not at the
moment allow him to maintain a standing attitude. Certainly the whole
tenor of his life was not courteous only, but kind; and, to his enemies,
merciful in a degree which implied so much more magnanimity than men in
general could understand, that by many it was put down to the account of

Weakness, however, there was none in Caius Cęsar; and, that there might be
none, it was fortunate that conspiracy should have cut him off in the full
vigor of his faculties, in the very meridian of his glory, and on the
brink of completing a series of gigantic achievements. Amongst these are
numbered--a digest of the entire body of laws, even then become unwieldy
and oppressive; the establishment of vast and comprehensive public
libraries, Greek as well as Latin; the chastisement of Dacia; the conquest
of Parthia; and the cutting a ship canal through the Isthmus of Corinth.
The reformation of the calendar he had already accomplished. And of all
his projects it may be said, that they were equally patriotic in their
purpose, and colossal in their proportions.

As an orator, Cęsar's merit was so eminent, that, according to the general
belief, had he found time to cultivate this department of civil exertion,
the precise supremacy of Cicero would have been made questionable, or the
honors would have been divided. Cicero himself was of that opinion; and on
different occasions applied the epithet _Splendidus_ to Cęsar, as though
in some exclusive sense, or with a peculiar emphasis, due to him. His
taste was much simpler, chaster, and disinclined to the _florid_ and
ornamental, than that of Cicero. So far he would, in that condition of
the Roman culture and feeling, have been less acceptable to the public;
but, on the other hand, he would have compensated this disadvantage by
much more of natural and Demosthenic fervor.

In literature, the merits of Cęsar are familiar to most readers. Under the
modest title of _Commentaries_, he meant to offer the records of his
Gallic and British campaigns, simply as notes, or memoranda, afterwards to
be worked up by regular historians; but, as Cicero observes, their merit
was such in the eyes of the discerning, that all judicious writers shrank
from the attempt to alter them. In another instance of his literary
labors, he showed a very just sense of true dignity. Rightly conceiving
that every thing patriotic was dignified, and that to illustrate or polish
his native language, was a service of real patriotism, he composed a work
on the grammar and orthoepy of the Latin language. Cicero and himself were
the only Romans of distinction in that age, who applied themselves with
true patriotism to the task of purifying and ennobling their mother
tongue. Both were aware of the transcendent quality of the Grecian
literature; but that splendor did not depress their hopes of raising their
own to something of the same level. As respected the natural wealth of the
two languages, it was the private opinion of Cicero, that the Latin had
the advantage; and if Cęsar did not accompany him to that length, he yet
felt that it was but the more necessary to draw forth any single advantage
which it really had. [Footnote: Cęsar had the merit of being the first
person to propose the daily publication of the acts and votes of the
senate. In the form of public and official dispatches, he made also some
useful innovations; and it may be mentioned, for the curiosity of the
incident, that the cipher which he used in his correspondence, was the
following very simple one:--For every letter of the alphabet he
substituted that which stood fourth removed from it in the order of
succession. Thus, for A, he used D; for D, G, and so on.]

Was Cęsar, upon the whole, the greatest of men? Dr. Beattie once observed,
that if that question were left to be collected from the suffrages already
expressed in books, and scattered throughout the literature of all
nations, the scale would be found to have turned prodigiously in Cęsar's
favor, as against any single competitor; and there is no doubt whatsoever,
that even amongst his own countrymen, and his own contemporaries, the same
verdict would have been returned, had it been collected upon the famous
principle of Themistocles, that _he_ should be reputed the first,
whom the greatest number of rival voices had pronounced the second.


The situation of the Second Cęsar, at the crisis of the great Dictator's
assassination, was so hazardous and delicate, as to confer interest upon a
character not otherwise attractive. To many, we know it was positively
repulsive, and in the very highest degree. In particular, it is recorded
of Sir William Jones, that he regarded this emperor with feelings of
abhorrence so _personal_ and deadly, as to refuse him his customary
titular honors whenever he had occasion to mention him by name. Yet it was
the whole Roman people that conferred upon him his title of _Augustus_.
But Sir William, ascribing no force to the acts of a people who had sunk
so low as to exult in their chains, and to decorate with honors the very
instruments of their own vassalage, would not recognise this popular
creation, and spoke of him always by his family name of Octavius. The
flattery of the populace, by the way, must, in this instance, have been
doubly acceptable to the emperor, first, for what it gave, and secondly,
for what it concealed. Of his grand-uncle, the first Cęsar, a tradition
survives--that of all the distinctions created in his favor, either by the
senate or the people, he put most value upon the laurel crown which was
voted to him after his last campaigns--a beautiful and conspicuous
memorial to every eye of his great public acts, and at the same time an
overshadowing veil of his one sole personal defect. This laurel diadem at
once proclaimed his civic grandeur, and concealed his baldness, a defect
which was more mortifying to a Roman than it would be to ourselves, from
the peculiar theory which then prevailed as to its probable origin. A
gratitude of the same mixed quality must naturally have been felt by the
Second Cęsar for his title of _Augustus_, which, whilst it illustrated his
public character by the highest expression of majesty, set apart and
sequestrated to public functions, had also the agreeable effect of
withdrawing from the general remembrance his obscure descent. For the
Octavian house [_gens_] had in neither of its branches risen to any great
splendor of civic distinction, and in his own, to little or none. The same
titular decoration, therefore, so offensive to the celebrated Whig, was,
in the eyes of Augustus, at once a trophy of public merit, a monument of
public gratitude, and an effectual obliteration of his own natal

But, if merely odious to men of Sir William's principles, to others the
character of Augustus, in relation to the circumstances which surrounded
him, was not without its appropriate interest. He was summoned in early
youth, and without warning, to face a crisis of tremendous hazard, being
at the same time himself a man of no very great constitutional courage;
perhaps he was even a coward. And this we say without meaning to adopt as
gospel truths all the party reproaches of Anthony. Certainly he was
utterly unfurnished by nature with those endowments which seemed to be
indispensable in a successor to the power of the great Dictator. But
exactly in these deficiencies, and in certain accidents unfavorable to his
ambition, lay his security. He had been adopted by his grand-uncle,
Julius. That adoption made him, to all intents and purposes of law, the
son of his great patron; and doubtless, in a short time, this adoption
would have been applied to more extensive uses, and as a station of
vantage for introducing him to the public favor. From the inheritance of
the Julian estates and family honors, he would have been trained to mount,
as from a stepping-stone, to the inheritance of the Julian power and
political station; and the Roman people would have been familiarized to
regard him in that character. But, luckily for himself, the finishing, or
ceremonial acts, were yet wanting in this process--the political heirship
was inchoate and imperfect. Tacitly understood, indeed, it was; but, had
it been formally proposed and ratified, there cannot be a doubt that the
young Octavius would have been pointed out to the vengeance of the
patriots, and included in the scheme of the conspirators, as a fellow-
victim with his nominal father; and would have been cut off too suddenly
to benefit by that reaction of popular feeling which saved the partisans
of the Dictator, by separating the conspirators, and obliging them,
without loss of time, to look to their own safety. It was by this
fortunate accident that the young heir and adopted son of the first Cęsar
not only escaped assassination, but was enabled to postpone indefinitely
the final and military struggle for the vacant seat of empire, and in the
mean time to maintain a coequal rank with the leaders in the state, by
those arts and resources in which he was superior to his competitors. His
place in the favor of Caius Julius was of power sufficient to give him a
share in any triumvirate which could be formed; but, wanting the formality
of a regular introduction to the people, and the ratification of their
acceptance, that place was not sufficient to raise him permanently into
the perilous and invidious station of absolute supremacy which he
afterwards occupied. The _felicity_ of Augustus was often vaunted by
antiquity, (with whom success was not so much a test of merit as itself a
merit of the highest quality,) and in no instance was this felicity more
conspicuous than in the first act of his entrance upon the political
scene. No doubt his friends and enemies alike thought of him, at the
moment of Cęsar's assassination, as we now think of a young man heir-elect
to some person of immense wealth, cut off by a sudden death before he has
had time to ratify a will in execution of his purposes. Yet in fact the
case was far otherwise. Brought forward distinctly as the successor of
Cęsar's power, had he even, by some favorable accident of absence from
Rome, or otherwise, escaped being involved in that great man's fate, he
would at all events have been thrown upon the instant necessity of
defending his supreme station by arms. To have left it unasserted, when
once solemnly created in his favor by a reversionary title, would have
been deliberately to resign it. This would have been a confession of
weakness liable to no disguise, and ruinous to any subsequent pretensions.
Yet, without preparation of means, with no development of resources nor
growth of circumstances, an appeal to arms would, in his case, have been
of very doubtful issue. His true weapons, for a long period, were the arts
of vigilance and dissimulation. Cultivating these, he was enabled to
prepare for a contest which, undertaken prematurely, must have ruined him,
and to raise himself to a station of even military pre-eminence to those
who naturally, and by circumstances, were originally every way superior to

The qualities in which he really excelled, the gifts of intrigue,
patience, long-suffering, dissimulation, and tortuous fraud, were thus
brought into play, and allowed their full value. Such qualities had every
chance of prevailing in the long run, against the noble carelessness and
the impetuosity of the passionate Anthony--and they _did_ prevail.
Always on the watch to lay hold of those opportunities which the generous
negligence of his rival was but too frequently throwing in his way--unless
by the sudden reverses of war and the accidents of battle, which as much
as possible, and as long as possible, he declined--there could be little
question in any man's mind, that eventually he would win his way to a
solitary throne, by a policy so full of caution and subtlety. He was sure
to risk nothing which could be had on easier terms; and nothing, unless
for a great overbalance of gain in prospect; to lose nothing which he had
once gained; and in no case to miss an advantage, or sacrifice an
opportunity, by any consideration of generosity. No modern insurance
office but would have guaranteed an event depending upon the final success
of Augustus, on terms far below those which they must in prudence have
exacted from the fiery and adventurous Anthony. Each was an ideal in his
own class. But Augustus, having finally triumphed, has met with more than
justice from succeeding ages. Even Lord Bacon says, that, by comparison
with Julius Cęsar, he was "_non tam impar quam dispar_," surely a
most extravagant encomium, applied to whomsoever. On the other hand,
Anthony, amongst the most signal misfortunes of his life, might number it,
that Cicero, the great dispenser of immortality, in whose hands (more
perhaps than in any one man's of any age) were the vials of good and evil
fame, should happen to have been his bitter and persevering enemy. It is,
however, some balance to this, that Shakspeare had a just conception of
the original grandeur which lay beneath that wild tempestuous nature
presented by Anthony to the eye of the undiscriminating world. It is to
the honor of Shakspeare, that he should have been able to discern the true
coloring of this most original character, under the smoke and tarnish of
antiquity. It is no less to the honor of the great triumvir, that a
strength of coloring should survive in his character, capable of baffling
the wrongs and ravages of time. Neither is it to be thought strange that a
character should have been misunderstood and falsely appreciated for
nearly two thousand years. It happens not uncommonly, especially amongst
an unimaginative people like the Romans, that the characters of men are
ciphers and enigmas to their own age, and are first read and interpreted
by a far distant posterity. Stars are supposed to exist, whose light has
been travelling for many thousands of years without having yet reached our
system; and the eyes are yet unborn upon which their earliest rays will
fall. Men like Mark Anthony, with minds of chaotic composition--light
conflicting with darkness, proportions of colossal grandeur disfigured by
unsymmetrical arrangement, the angelic in close neighborhood with the
brutal--are first read in their true meaning by an age learned in the
philosophy of the human heart. Of this philosophy the Romans had, by the
necessities of education and domestic discipline not less than by original
constitution of mind, the very narrowest visual range. In no literature
whatsoever are so few tolerable notices to be found of any great truths in
Psychology. Nor could this have been otherwise amongst a people who tried
every thing by the standard of _social_ value; never seeking for a
canon of excellence, in man considered abstractedly in and for himself,
and as having an independent value--but always and exclusively in man as a
gregarious being, and designed for social uses and functions. Not man in
his own peculiar nature, but man in his relations to other men, was the
station from which the Roman speculators took up their philosophy of human
nature. Tried by such standard, Mark Anthony would be found wanting. As a
citizen, he was irretrievably licentious, and therefore there needed not
the bitter personal feud, which circumstances had generated between them,
to account for the _acharnement_ with which Cicero pursued him. Had
Anthony been his friend even, or his near kinsman, Cicero must still have
been his public enemy. And not merely for his vices; for even the grander
features of his character, his towering ambition, his magnanimity, and the
fascinations of his popular qualities,--were all, in the circumstances of
those times, and in _his_ position, of a tendency dangerously uncivic.

So remarkable was the opposition, at all points, between the second Cęsar
and his rival, that whereas Anthony even in his virtues seemed dangerous
to the state, Octavius gave a civic coloring to his most indifferent
actions, and, with a Machiavelian policy, observed a scrupulous regard to
the forms of the Republic, after every fragment of the republican
institutions, the privileges of the republican magistrates, and the
functions of the great popular officers, had been absorbed into his own
autocracy. Even in the most prosperous days of the Roman State, when the
democratic forces balanced, and were balanced by, those of the
aristocracy, it was far from being a general or common praise, that a man
was of a civic turn of mind, _animo civili_. Yet this praise did Augustus
affect, and in reality attain, at a time when the very object of all civic
feeling was absolutely extinct; so much are men governed by words.
Suetonius assures us, that many evidences were current even to his times
of this popular disposition (_civilitas_) in the emperor; and that it
survived every experience of servile adulation in the Roman populace, and
all the effects of long familiarity with irresponsible power in himself.
Such a moderation of feeling, we are almost obliged to consider as a
genuine and unaffected expression of his real nature; for, as an artifice
of policy, it had soon lost its uses. And it is worthy of notice, that
with the army he laid aside those popular manners as soon as possible,
addressing them as _milites_, not (_according_ to his earlier practice) as
_commilitones_. It concerned his own security, to be jealous of
encroachments on his power. But of his rank, and the honors which
accompanied it, he seems to have been uniformly careless. Thus, he would
never leave a town or enter it by daylight, unless some higher rule of
policy obliged him to do so; by which means he evaded a ceremonial of
public honor which was burdensome to all the parties concerned in it.
Sometimes, however, we find that men, careless of honors in their own
persons, are glad to see them settling upon their family and immediate
connections. But here again Augustus showed the sincerity of his
moderation. For upon one occasion, when the whole audience in the Roman
theatre had risen upon the entrance of his two adopted sons, at that time
not seventeen years old, he was highly displeased, and even thought it
necessary to publish his displeasure in a separate edict. It is another,
and a striking illustration of his humility, that he willingly accepted of
public appointments, and sedulously discharged the duties attached to
them, in conjunction with colleagues who had been chosen with little
regard to his personal partialities. In the debates of the senate, he
showed the same equanimity; suffering himself patiently to be
contradicted, and even with circumstances of studied incivility. In the
public elections, he gave his vote like any private citizen; and, when he
happened to be a candidate himself, he canvassed the electors with the
same earnestness of personal application, as any other candidate with the
least possible title to public favor from present power or past services.
But, perhaps by no expressions of his civic spirit did Augustus so much
conciliate men's minds, as by the readiness with which he participated in
their social pleasures, and by the uniform severity with which he refused
to apply his influence in any way which could disturb the pure
administration of justice. The Roman juries (_judices_ they were called),
were very corrupt; and easily swayed to an unconscientious verdict, by the
appearance in court of any great man on behalf of one of the parties
interested: nor was such an interference with the course of private
justice any ways injurious to the great man's character. The wrong which
he promoted did but the more forcibly proclaim the warmth and fidelity of
his friendships. So much the more generally was the uprightness of the
emperor appreciated, who would neither tamper with justice himself, nor
countenance any motion in that direction, though it were to serve his very
dearest friend, either by his personal presence, or by the use of his
name. And, as if it had been a trifle merely to forbear, and to show his
regard to justice in this negative way, he even allowed himself to be
summoned as a witness on trials, and showed no anger when his own evidence
was overborne by stronger on the other side. This disinterested love of
justice, and an integrity, so rare in the great men of Rome, could not but
command the reverence of the people. But their affection, doubtless, was
more conciliated by the freedom with which the emperor accepted
invitations from all quarters, and shared continually in the festal
pleasures of his subjects. This practice, however, he discontinued, or
narrowed, as he advanced in years. Suetonius, who, as a true anecdote-
monger, would solve every thing, and account for every change by some
definite incident, charges this alteration in the emperor's condescensions
upon one particular party at a wedding feast, where the crowd incommoded
him much by their pressure and heat. But, doubtless, it happened to
Augustus as to other men; his spirits failed, and his powers of supporting
fatigue or bustle, as years stole upon him. Changes, coming by insensible
steps, and not willingly acknowledged, for some time escape notice; until
some sudden shock reminds a man forcibly to do that which he has long
meditated in an irresolute way. The marriage banquet may have been the
particular occasion from which Augustus stepped into the habits of old
age, but certainly not the cause of so entire a revolution in his mode of

It might seem to throw some doubt, if not upon the fact, yet at least upon
the sincerity, of his _civism_, that undoubtedly Augustus cultivated
his kingly connections with considerable anxiety. It may have been upon
motives merely political that he kept at Rome the children of nearly all
the kings then known as allies or vassals of the Roman power: a curious
fact, and not generally known. In his own palace were reared a number of
youthful princes; and they were educated jointly with his own children. It
is also upon record, that in many instances the fathers of these princes
spontaneously repaired to Rome, and there assuming the Roman dress--as an
expression of reverence to the majesty of the omnipotent State--did
personal 'suit and service' (_more clientum_) to Augustus. It is an
anecdote of not less curiosity, that a whole 'college' of kings subscribed
money for a temple at Athens, to be dedicated in the name of Augustus.
Throughout his life, indeed, this emperor paid a marked attention to all
the royal houses then known to Rome, as occupying the thrones upon the
vast margin of the empire. It is true that in part this attention might be
interpreted as given politically to so many lieutenants, wielding a remote
or inaccessible power for the benefit of Rome. And the children of these
kings might be regarded as hostages, ostensibly entertained for the sake
of education, but really as pledges for their parents' fidelity, and also
with a view to the large reversionary advantages which might be expected
to arise upon the basis of so early and affectionate a connection. But it
is not the less true, that, at one period of his life, Augustus did
certainly meditate some closer personal connection with the royal families
of the earth. He speculated, undoubtedly, on a marriage for himself with
some barbarous princess, and at one time designed his daughter Julia as a
wife for Cotiso, the king of the Getę. Superstition perhaps disturbed the
one scheme, and policy the other. He married, as is well known, for his
final wife, and the partner of his life through its whole triumphant
stage, Livia Drusilla; compelling her husband, Tiberius Nero, to divorce
her, notwithstanding she was then six months advanced in pregnancy. With
this lady, who was distinguished for her beauty, it is certain that he was
deeply in love; and that might be sufficient to account for the marriage.
It is equally certain, however, upon the concurring evidence of
independent writers, that this connection had an oracular sanction--not to
say, suggestion; a circumstance _which was long remembered_, and was
afterwards noticed by the Christian poet Prudentius:

"Idque Deūm sortes et Apollinis antra dederunt
Consilium: nunquam meliłs nam cędere tędas
Responsum est, quąm cum pręgnans nova nupta jugatur."

His daughter Julia had been promised by turns, and always upon reasons of
state, to a whole muster-roll of suitors; first of all, to a son of Mark
Anthony; secondly, to the barbarous king; thirdly, to her first cousin--
that Marcellus, the son of Octavia, only sister to Augustus, whose early
death, in the midst of great expectations, Virgil has so beautifully
introduced into the vision of Roman grandeurs as yet unborn, which Ęneas
beholds in the shades; fourthly, she was promised (and this time the
promise was kept) to the fortunate soldier, Agrippa, whose low birth was
not permitted to obscure his military merits. By him she had a family of
children, upon whom, if upon any in this world, the wrath of Providence
seems to have rested; for, excepting one, and in spite of all the favors
that earth and heaven could unite to shower upon them, all came to an
early, a violent, and an infamous end. Fifthly, upon the death of Agrippa,
and again upon motives of policy, and in atrocious contempt of all the
ties that nature and the human heart and human laws have hallowed, she was
promised, (if that word may be applied to the violent obtrusion upon a
man's bed of one who was doubly a curse--first, for what she brought, and,
secondly, for what she took away,) and given to Tiberius, the future
emperor. Upon the whole, as far as we can at this day make out the
connection of a man's acts and purposes, which, even to his own age, were
never entirely cleared up, it is probable that, so long as the triumvirate
survived, and so long as the condition of Roman power or intrigues, and
the distribution of Roman influence, were such as to leave a possibility
that any new triumvirate should arise--so long Augustus was secretly
meditating a retreat for himself at some barbarous court, against any
sudden reverse of fortune, by means of a domestic connection, which should
give him the claim of a kinsman. Such a court, however unable to make head
against the collective power of Rome, might yet present a front of
resistance to any single partisan who should happen to acquire a brief
ascendancy; or, at the worst, as a merely defensive power, might offer a
retreat, secure in distance, and difficult access; or might be available
as a means of delay for recovering from some else fatal defeat. It is
certain that Augustus viewed Egypt with jealousy as a province, which
might be turned to account in some such way by any aspiring insurgent. And
it must have often struck him as a remarkable circumstance, which by good
luck had turned out entirely to the advantage of his own family, but which
might as readily have had an opposite result, that the three decisive
battles of Pharsalia, of Thapsus, and of Munda, in which the empire of the
world was three times over staked as the prize, had severally brought upon
the defeated leaders a ruin which was total, absolute, and final. One hour
had seen the whole fabric of their aspiring fortunes demolished; and no
resource was left to them but either in suicide, (which, accordingly, even
Cęsar had meditated at one stage of the battle of Munda, when it seemed to
be going against him,) or in the mercy of the victor.

That a victor in a hundred fights should in his hundred-and-first,
"The painful warrior, famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honor razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd."
_Shakespeare's Sonnets._]
as in his first, risk the loss of that particular battle, is inseparable
from the condition of man, and the uncertainty of human means; but that
the loss of this one battle should be equally fatal and irrecoverable with
the loss of his first, that it should leave him with means no more
cemented, and resources no better matured for retarding his fall, and
throwing a long succession of hindrances in the way of his conqueror,
argues some essential defect of system. Under our modern policy, military
power--though it may be the growth of one man's life--soon takes root; a
succession of campaigns is required for its extirpation; and it revolves
backwards to its final extinction through all the stages by which
originally it grew. On the Roman system this was mainly impossible from
the solitariness of the Roman power; co-rival nations who might balance
the victorious party, there were absolutely none; and all the underlings
hastened to make their peace, whilst peace was yet open to them, on the
known terms of absolute treachery to their former master, and instant
surrender to the victor of the hour. For this capital defect in the tenure
of Roman power, no matter in whose hands deposited, there was no absolute
remedy. Many a sleepless night, during the perilous game which he played
with Anthony, must have familiarized Octavius with that view of the risk,
which to some extent was inseparable from his position as the leader in
such a struggle carried on in such an empire. In this dilemma, struck with
the extreme necessity of applying some palliation to the case, we have no
doubt that Augustus would devise the scheme of laying some distant king
under such obligations to fidelity as would suffice to stand the first
shock of misfortune. Such a person would have power enough, of a direct
military kind, to face the storm at its outbreak. He would have power of
another kind in his distance. He would be sustained by the courage of
hope, as a kinsman having a contingent interest in a kinsman's prosperity.
And, finally, he would be sustained by the courage of despair, as one who
never could expect to be trusted by the opposite party. In the worst case,
such a prince would always offer a breathing time and a respite to his
friends, were it only by his remoteness, and if not the _means_ of
rallying, yet at least the _time_ for rallying, more especially as
the escape to his frontier would be easy to one who had long forecast it.
We can hardly doubt that Augustus meditated such schemes; that he laid
them aside only as his power began to cement and to knit together after
the battle of Actium; and that the memory and the prudential tradition of
this plan survived in the imperial family so long as itself survived.
Amongst other anecdotes of the same tendency, two are recorded of Nero,
the emperor in whom expired the line of the original Cęsars, which
strengthen us in a belief of what is otherwise in itself so probable.
Nero, in his first distractions, upon receiving the fatal tidings of the
revolt in Gaul, when reviewing all possible plans of escape from the
impending danger, thought at intervals of throwing himself on the
protection of the barbarous King Vologesus. And twenty years afterwards,
when the Pseudo-Nero appeared, he found a strenuous champion and protector
in the king of the Parthians. Possibly, had an opportunity offered for
searching the Parthian chancery, some treaty would have been found binding
the kings of Parthia, from the age of Augustus through some generations
downwards, in requital of services there specified, or of treasures
lodged, to secure a perpetual asylum to the prosperity of the Julian

The cruelties of Augustus were perhaps equal in atrocity to any which are
recorded; and the equivocal apology for those acts (one which might as
well be used to aggravate as to palliate the case) is, that they were not
prompted by a ferocious nature, but by calculating policy. He once
actually slaughtered upon an altar, a large body of his prisoners; and
such was the contempt with which he was regarded by some of that number,
that, when led out to death, they saluted their other proscriber, Anthony,
with military honors, acknowledging merit even in an enemy, but Augustus
they passed with scornful silence, or with loud reproaches. Too certainly
no man has ever contended for empire with unsullied conscience, or laid
pure hands upon the ark of so magnificent a prize. Every friend to
Augustus must have wished that the twelve years of his struggle might for
ever be blotted out from human remembrance. During the forty-two years of
his prosperity and his triumph, being above fear, he showed the natural
lenity of his temper.

That prosperity, in a public sense, has been rarely equalled; but far
different was his fate, and memorable was the contrast, within the circuit
of his own family. This lord of the universe groaned as often as the
ladies of his house, his daughter and grand-daughter, were mentioned. The
shame which he felt on their account, led him even to unnatural designs,
and to wishes not less so; for at one time he entertained a plan for
putting the elder Julia to death--and at another, upon hearing that Phoebe
(one of the female slaves in his household) had hanged herself, he
exclaimed audibly,--"Would that I had been the father of Phoebe!" It must,
however, be granted, that in this miserable affair he behaved with very
little of his usual discretion. In the first paroxysms of his rage, on
discovering his daughter's criminal conduct, he made a communication of
the whole to the senate. That body could do nothing in such a matter,
either by act or by suggestion; and in a short time, as every body could
have foreseen, he himself repented of his own want of self-command. Upon
the whole, it cannot be denied, that, according to the remark of Jeremy
Taylor, of all the men signally decorated by history, Augustus Cęsar is
that one who exemplifies, in the most emphatic terms, the mixed tenor of
human life, and the equitable distribution, even on this earth, of good
and evil fortune. He made himself master of the world, and against the
most formidable competitors; his power was absolute, from the rising to
the setting sun; and yet in his own house, where the peasant who does the
humblest chares, claims an undisputed authority, he was baffled,
dishonored, and made ridiculous. He was loved by nobody; and if, at the
moment of his death, he desired his friends to dismiss him from this world
by the common expression of scenical applause, (_vos plaudite!_) in
that valedictory injunction he expressed inadvertently the true value of
his own long life, which, in strict candor, may be pronounced one
continued series of histrionic efforts, and of excellent acting, adapted
to selfish ends.


The three next emperors, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, were the last
princes who had any connection by blood [Footnote: And this was entirely
by the female side. The family descent of the first six Cęsars is so
intricate, that it is rarely understood accurately; so that it may be well
to state it briefly. Augustus was grand nephew to Julius Cęsar, being the
son of his sister's daughter. He was also, by adoption, the _son_ of
Julius. He himself had one child only, viz. the infamous Julia, who was
brought him by his second wife Scribonia; and through this Julia it was
that the three princes, who succeeded to Tiberius, claimed relationship to
Augustus. On that emperor's last marriage with Livia, he adopted the two
sons whom she had borne to her divorced husband. These two noblemen, who
stood in no degree of consanguinity whatever to Augustus, were Tiberius
and Drusus. Tiberius left no children; but Drusus, the younger of the two
brothers, by his marriage with the younger Antonia, (daughter of Mark
Anthony,) had the celebrated Germanicus, and Claudius, (afterwards
emperor.) Germanicus, though adopted by his uncle Tiberius, and destined
to the empire, died prematurely. But, like Banquo, though he wore no
crown, he left descendants who did. For, by his marriage with Agrippina, a
daughter of Julia's by Agrippa, (and therefore grand-daughter of
Augustus,) he had a large family, of whom one son became the Emperor
Caligula; and one of the daughters, Agrippina the younger, by her marriage
with a Roman nobleman, became the mother of the Emperor Nero. Hence it
appears that Tiberius was uncle to Claudius, Claudius was uncle to
Caligula, Caligula was uncle to Nero. But it is observable, that Nero and
Caligula stood in another degree of consanguinity to each other through
their grandmothers, who were both daughters of Mark Anthony the triumvir;
for the elder Antonia married the grandfather of Nero; the younger Antonia
(as we have stated, above) married Drusus, the grandfather of Caligula;
and again, by these two ladies, they were connected not only with each
other, but also with the Julian house, for the two Antonias were daughters
of Mark Anthony by Octavia, sister to Augustus.] with the Julian house. In
Nero, the sixth emperor, expired the last of the Cęsars, who was such in
reality. These three were also the first in that long line of monsters,
who, at different times, under the title of Cęsars, dishonored humanity
more memorably, than was possible, except in the cases of those (if any
such can be named) who have abused the same enormous powers in times of
the same civility, and in defiance of the same general illumination. But
for them it is a fact, than some crimes, which now stain the page of
history, would have been accounted fabulous dreams of impure romancers,
taxing their extravagant imaginations to create combinations of wickedness
more hideous than civilized men would tolerate, and more unnatural than
the human heart could conceive. Let us, by way of example, take a short
chapter from the diabolic life of Caligula: In what way did he treat his
nearest and tenderest female connections? His mother had been tortured and
murdered by another tyrant almost as fiendish as himself. She was happily
removed from his cruelty. Disdaining, however, to acknowledge any
connection with the blood of so obscure a man as Agrippa, he publicly gave
out that his mother was indeed the daughter of Julia, but by an incestuous
commerce with her father Augustus. His three sisters he debauched. One
died, and her he canonized; the other two he prostituted to the basest of
his own attendants. Of his wives, it would be hard to say whether they
were first sought and won with more circumstances of injury and outrage,
or dismissed with more insult and levity. The one whom he treated best,
and with most profession of love, and who commonly rode by his side,
equipped with spear and shield, to his military inspections and reviews of
the soldiery, though not particularly beautiful, was exhibited to his
friends at banquets in a state of absolute nudity. His motive for treating
her with so much kindness, was probably that she brought him a daughter;
and her he acknowledged as his own child, from the early brutality with
which she attacked the eyes and cheeks of other infants who were presented
to her as play-fellows. Hence it would appear that he was aware of his own
ferocity, and treated it as a jest. The levity, indeed, which he mingled
with his worst and most inhuman acts, and the slightness of the occasions
upon which he delighted to hang his most memorable atrocities, aggravated
their impression at the time, and must have contributed greatly to sharpen
the sword of vengeance. His palace happened to be contiguous to the
circus. Some seats, it seems, were open indiscriminately to the public;
consequently, the only way in which they could be appropriated, was by
taking possession of them as early as the midnight preceding any great
exhibitions. Once, when it happened that his sleep was disturbed by such
an occasion, he sent in soldiers to eject them; and with orders so
rigorous, as it appeared by the event, that in this singular tumult,
twenty Roman knights, and as many mothers of families, were cudgelled to
death upon the spot, to say nothing of what the reporter calls "innumeram
turbam ceteram."

But this is a trifle to another anecdote reported by the same authority:--
On some occasion it happened that a dearth prevailed, either generally of
cattle, or of such cattle as were used for feeding the wild beasts
reserved for the bloody exhibitions of the amphitheatre. Food could be
had, and perhaps at no very exorbitant price, but on terms somewhat higher
than the ordinary market price. A slight excuse served with Caligula for
acts the most monstrous. Instantly repairing to the public jails, and
causing all the prisoners to pass in review before him (_custodiarum
seriem recognoscens_), he pointed to two bald-headed men, and ordered
that the whole file of intermediate persons should be marched off to the
dens of the wild beasts: "Tell them off," said he, "from the bald man to
the bald man." Yet these were prisoners committed, not for punishment, but
trial. Nor, had it been otherwise, were the charges against them equal,
but running through every gradation of guilt. But the _elogia_ or
records of their commitment, he would not so much as look at. With such
inordinate capacities for cruelty, we cannot wonder that he should in his
common conversation have deplored the tameness and insipidity of his own
times and reign, as likely to be marked by no wide-spreading calamity."
Augustus," said he, "was happy; for in his reign occurred the slaughter of
Varus and his legions. Tiberius was happy; for in his occurred that
glorious fall of the great amphitheatre at Fidenę. But for me--alas!
alas!" And then he would pray earnestly for fire or slaughter--pestilence
or famine. Famine indeed was to some extent in his own power; and
accordingly, as far as his courage would carry him, he did occasionally
try that mode of tragedy upon the people of Rome, by shutting up the
public granaries against them. As he blended his mirth and a truculent
sense of the humorous with his cruelties, we cannot wonder that he should
soon blend his cruelties with his ordinary festivities, and that his daily
banquets would soon become insipid without them. Hence he required a daily
supply of executions in his own halls and banqueting rooms; nor was a
dinner held to be complete without such a dessert. Artists were sought out
who had dexterity and strength enough to do what Lucan somewhere calls
_ensem rotare_, that is, to cut off a human head with one whirl of
the sword. Even this became insipid, as wanting one main element of misery
to the sufferer, and an indispensable condiment to the jaded palate of the
connoisseur, viz., a lingering duration. As a pleasant variety, therefore,
the tormentors were introduced with their various instruments of torture;
and many a dismal tragedy in that mode of human suffering was conducted in
the sacred presence during the emperor's hours of amiable relaxation.

The result of these horrid indulgences was exactly what we might suppose,
that even such scenes ceased to irritate the languid appetite, and yet
that without them life was not endurable. Jaded and exhausted as the sense
of pleasure had become in Caligula, still it could be roused into any
activity by nothing short of these murderous luxuries. Hence, it seems,
that he was continually tampering and dallying with the thought of murder;
and like the old Parisian jeweller Cardillac, in Louis XIV.'s time, who
was stung with a perpetual lust for murdering the possessors of fine
diamonds--not so much for the value of the prize (of which he never hoped
to make any use), as from an unconquerable desire of precipitating himself
into the difficulties and hazards of the murder,--Caligula never failed to
experience (and sometimes even to acknowledge) a secret temptation to any
murder which seemed either more than usually abominable, or more than
usually difficult. Thus, when the two consuls were seated at his table, he
burst out into sudden and profuse laughter; and, upon their courteously
requesting to know what witty and admirable conceit might be the occasion
of the imperial mirth, he frankly owned to them, and doubtless he did not
improve their appetites by this confession, that in fact he was laughing,
and that he could not but laugh, (and then the monster laughed
immoderately again,) at the pleasant thought of seeing them both headless,
and that with so little trouble to himself, (_uno suo nutu_,) he
could have both their throats cut. No doubt he was continually balancing
the arguments for and against such little escapades; nor had any person a
reason for security in the extraordinary obligations, whether of
hospitality or of religious vows, which seemed to lay him under some
peculiar restraints in that case above all others; for such circumstances
of peculiarity, by which the murder would be stamped with unusual
atrocity, were but the more likely to make its fascinations irresistible.
Hence he dallied with the thoughts of murdering her whom he loved best,
and indeed exclusively--his wife Cęsonia; and whilst fondling her, and
toying playfully with her polished throat, he was distracted (as he half
insinuated to her) between the desire of caressing it, which might be
often repeated, and that of cutting it, which could be gratified but once.

Nero (for as to Claudius, he came too late to the throne to indulge any
propensities of this nature with so little discretion) was but a variety
of the same species. He also was an amateur, and an enthusiastic amateur
of murder. But as this taste, in the most ingenious hands, is limited and
monotonous in its modes of manifestation, it would be tedious to run
through the long Suetonian roll-call of his peccadilloes in this way. One
only we shall cite, to illustrate the amorous delight with which he
pursued any murder which happened to be seasoned highly to his taste by
enormous atrocity, and by almost unconquerable difficulty. It would really
be pleasant, were it not for the revolting consideration of the persons
concerned, and their relation to each other, to watch the tortuous pursuit
of the hunter, and the doubles of the game, in this obstinate chase. For
certain reasons of state, as Nero attempted to persuade himself, but in
reality because no other crime had the same attractions of unnatural
horror about it, he resolved to murder his mother Agrippina. This being
settled, the next thing was to arrange the mode and the tools. Naturally
enough, according to the custom then prevalent in Rome, he first attempted
the thing by poison. The poison failed: for Agrippina, anticipating tricks
of this kind, had armed her constitution against them, like Mithridates;
and daily took potent antidotes and prophylactics. Or else (which is more
probable) the emperor's agent in such purposes, fearing his sudden
repentance and remorse on first hearing of his mother's death, or possibly
even witnessing her agonies, had composed a poison of inferior strength.
This had certainly occurred in the case of Britannicus, who had thrown off
with ease the first dose administered to him by Nero. Upon which he had
summoned to his presence the woman employed in the affair, and compelling
her by threats to mingle a more powerful potion in his own presence, had
tried it successively upon different animals, until he was satisfied with
its effects; after which, immediately inviting Britannicus to a banquet,
he had finally dispatched him. On Agrippina, however, no changes in the
poison, whether of kind or strength, had any effect; so that, after
various trials, this mode of murder was abandoned, and the emperor
addressed himself to other plans. The first of these was some curious
mechanical device, by which a false ceiling was to have been suspended by
bolts above her bed; and in the middle of the night, the bolt being
suddenly drawn, a vast weight would have descended with a ruinous
destruction to all below. This scheme, however, taking air from the
indiscretion of some amongst the accomplices, reached the ears of
Agrippina; upon which the old lady looked about her too sharply to leave
much hope in that scheme: so _that_ also was abandoned. Next, he
conceived the idea of an artificial ship, which, at the touch of a few
springs, might fall to pieces in deep water. Such a ship was prepared, and
stationed at a suitable point. But the main difficulty remained, which was
to persuade the old lady to go on board. Not that she knew in this case
_who_ had been the ship-builder, for that would have ruined all; but
it seems that she took it ill to be hunted in this murderous spirit, and
was out of humor with her son; besides, that any proposal coming from him,
though previously indifferent to her, would have instantly become
suspected. To meet this difficulty, a sort of reconciliation was proposed,
and a very affectionate message sent, which had the effect of throwing
Agrippina off her guard, and seduced her to Baię for the purpose of
joining the emperor's party at a great banquet held in commemoration of a
solemn festival. She came by water in a sort of light frigate, and was to
return in the same way. Meantime Nero tampered with the commander of her
vessel, and prevailed upon him to wreck it. What was to be done? The great
lady was anxious to return to Rome, and no proper conveyance was at hand.
Suddenly it was suggested, as if by chance, that a ship of the emperor's,
new and properly equipped, was moored at a neighboring station. This was

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