Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download History of Julius Caesar pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

down to us, a tradition has descended that Caesar built it during his
residence in Egypt, to commemorate the name of Pompey; but whether it
was his own victory over Pompey, or Pompey's own character and military
fame which the structure was intended to signalize to mankind, can not
now be known. There is even some doubt whether it was erected by
Caesar at all.

[Sidenote: Surrender of Pompey's officers.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's generosity.]

While Caesar was in Alexandria, many of Pompey's officers, now that
their master was dead, and there was no longer any possibility of their
rallying again under his guidance and command, came in and surrendered
themselves to him. He received them with great kindness, and, instead of
visiting them with any penalties for having fought against him, he
honored the fidelity and bravery they had evinced in the service of
their own former master. Caesar had, in fact, shown the same generosity
to the soldiers of Pompey's army that he had taken prisoners at the
battle of Pharsalia. At the close of the battle, he issued orders that
each one of his soldiers should have permission to _save_ one of the
enemy. Nothing could more strikingly exemplify both the generosity and
the tact that marked the great conqueror's character than this incident.
The hatred and revenge which had animated his victorious soldiery in the
battle and in the pursuit, were changed immediately by the permission to
compassion and good will. The ferocious soldiers turned at once from the
pleasure of hunting their discomfited enemies to death, to that of
protecting and defending them; and the way was prepared for their being
received into his service, and incorporated with the rest of his army as
friends and brothers.

[Sidenote: His position at Alexandria.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's interference in Egyptian affairs.]

Caesar soon found himself in so strong a position at Alexandria, that he
determined to exercise his authority as Roman consul to settle the
dispute in respect to the succession of the Egyptian crown. There was no
difficulty in finding pretexts for interfering in the affairs of Egypt.
In the first place, there was, as he contended, great anarchy and
confusion at Alexandria, people taking different sides in the
controversy with such fierceness as to render it impossible that good
government and public order should be restored until this great question
was settled. He also claimed a debt due from the Egyptian government,
which Photinus, Ptolemy's minister at Alexandria, was very dilatory in
paying. This led to animosities and disputes; and, finally, Caesar
found, or pretended to find, evidence that Photinus was forming plots
against his life. At length Caesar determined on taking decided action.
He sent orders both to Ptolemy and to Cleopatra to disband their forces,
to repair to Alexandria, and lay their respective claims before him for
his adjudication.

[Sidenote: Cleopatra.]

Cleopatra complied with this summons, and returned to Egypt with a view
to submitting her case to Caesar's arbitration. Ptolemy determined to
resist. He advanced toward Egypt, but it was at the head of his army,
and with a determination to drive Caesar and all his Roman
followers away.

[Sidenote: Caesar's guilty passion for Cleopatra.]

When Cleopatra arrived, she found that the avenues of approach to
Caesar's quarters were all in possession of her enemies, so that, in
attempting to join him, she incurred danger of falling into their hands
as a prisoner. She resorted to a stratagem, as the story is, to gain a
secret admission. They rolled her up in a sort of bale of bedding or
carpeting, and she was carried in in this way on the back of a man,
through the guards, who might otherwise have intercepted her. Caesar was
very much pleased with this device, and with the successful result of
it. Cleopatra, too, was young and beautiful, and Caesar immediately
conceived a strong but guilty attachment to her, which she readily
returned. Caesar espoused her cause, and decided that she and Ptolemy
should jointly occupy the throne.

[Sidenote: Resistance of Ptolemy.]
[Sidenote: The Alexandrine war.]

Ptolemy and his partisans were determined not to submit to this award.
The consequence was, a violent and protracted war. Ptolemy was not only
incensed at being deprived of what he considered his just right to the
realm, he was also half distracted at the thought of his sister's
disgraceful connection with Caesar. His excitement and distress, and the
exertions and efforts to which they aroused him, awakened a strong
sympathy in his cause among the people, and Caesar found himself
involved in a very serious contest, in which his own life was brought
repeatedly into the most imminent danger, and which seriously threatened
the total destruction of his power. He, however, braved all the
difficulty and dangers, and recklessly persisted in the course he had
taken, under the influence of the infatuation in which his attachment to
Cleopatra held him, as by a spell.

[Sidenote: The Pharos.]
[Sidenote: Great splendor of the Pharos.]

The war in which Caesar was thus involved by his efforts to give
Cleopatra a seat with her brother on the Egyptian throne, is called in
history the Alexandrine war. It was marked by many strange and romantic
incidents. There was a light-house, called the Pharos, on a small island
opposite the harbor of Alexandria, and it was so famed, both on account
of the great magnificence of the edifice itself, and also on account of
its position at the entrance to the greatest commercial port in the
world, that it has given its name, as a generic appellation, to all
other structures of the kind--any light-house being now called a Pharos,
just as any serious difficulty is called a Gordian knot. The Pharos was
a lofty tower--the accounts say that it was five hundred feet in height,
which would be an enormous elevation for such a structure--and in a
lantern at the top a brilliant light was kept constantly burning, which
could be seen over the water for a hundred miles. The tower was built in
several successive stories, each being ornamented with balustrades,
galleries, and columns, so that the splendor of the architecture by day
rivaled the brilliancy of the radiation which beamed from the summit by
night. Far and wide over the stormy waters of the Mediterranean this
meteor glowed, inviting and guiding the mariners in; and both its
welcome and its guidance were doubly prized in those ancient days, when
there was neither compass nor sextant on which they could rely. In the
course of the contest with the Egyptians, Caesar took possession of the
Pharos, and of the island on which it stood; and as the Pharos was then
regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, the fame of the
exploit, though it was probably nothing remarkable in a military point
of view, spread rapidly throughout the world.

[Sidenote: It is captured by Caesar.]

And yet, though the capture of a light-house was no very extraordinary
conquest, in the course of the contests on the harbor which were
connected with it Caesar had a very narrow escape from death. In all
such struggles he was accustomed always to take personally his full
share of the exposure and the danger. This resulted in part from the
natural impetuosity and ardor of his character, which were always
aroused to double intensity of action by the excitement of battle, and
partly from the ideas of the military duty of a commander which
prevailed in those days. There was besides, in this case, an additional
inducement to acquire the glory of extraordinary exploits, in Caesar's
desire to be the object of Cleopatra's admiration, who watched all his
movements, and who was doubly pleased with his prowess and bravery,
since she saw that they were exercised for her sake and in her cause.

[Sidenote: Situation of the Pharos.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's personal danger.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's narrow escape.]

The Pharos was built upon an island, which was connected by a pier or
bridge with the main land. In the course of the attack upon this bridge,
Caesar, with a party of his followers, got driven back and hemmed in by
a body of the enemy that surrounded them, in such a place that the only
mode of escape seemed to be by a boat, which might take them to a
neighboring galley. They began, therefore, all to crowd into the boat in
confusion, and so overloaded it that it was obviously in imminent danger
of being upset or of sinking. The upsetting or sinking of an overloaded
boat brings almost certain destruction upon most of the passengers,
whether swimmers or not, as they seize each other in their terror, and
go down inextricably entangled together, each held by the others in the
convulsive grasp with which drowning men always cling to whatever is
within their reach. Caesar, anticipating this danger, leaped over into
the sea and swam to the ship. He had some papers in his hand at the
time--plans, perhaps, of the works which he was assailing. These he held
above the water with his left hand, while he swam with the right. And to
save his purple cloak or mantle, the emblem of his imperial dignity,
which he supposed the enemy would eagerly seek to obtain as a trophy, he
seized it by a corner between his teeth, and drew it after him through
the water as he swam toward the galley. The boat which he thus escaped
from soon after went down, with all on board.

[Sidenote: The Alexandrian library.]
[Sidenote: Burning of the Alexandrian library.]

During the progress of this Alexandrine war one great disaster occurred,
which has given to the contest a most melancholy celebrity in all
subsequent ages: this disaster was the destruction of the Alexandrian
library. The Egyptians were celebrated for their learning, and, under
the munificent patronage of some of their kings, the learned men of
Alexandria had made an enormous collection of writings, which were
inscribed, as was the custom in those days, on parchment rolls. The
number of the rolls or volumes was said to be seven hundred thousand;
and when we consider that each one was written with great care, in
beautiful characters, with a pen, and at a vast expense, it is not
surprising that the collection was the admiration of the world. In fact,
the whole body of ancient literature was there recorded. Caesar set fire
to some Egyptian galleys, which lay so near the shore that the wind blew
the sparks and flames upon the buildings on the quay. The fire spread
among the palaces and other magnificent edifices of that part of the
city, and one of the great buildings in which the library was stored was
reached and destroyed. There was no other such collection in the world;
and the consequence of this calamity has been, that it is only detached
and insulated fragments of ancient literature and science that have come
down to our times. The world will never cease to mourn the
irreparable loss.

[Sidenote: Caesar returns to Rome.]

Notwithstanding the various untoward incidents which attended the war in
Alexandria during its progress, Caesar, as usual, conquered in the end.
The young king Ptolemy was defeated, and, in attempting to make his
escape across a branch of the Nile, he was drowned. Caesar then finally
settled the kingdom upon Cleopatra and a younger brother, and, after
remaining for some time longer in Egypt, he set out on his return
to Rome.

[Illustration: Cleopatra's Barge]

[Sidenote: Subsequent adventures of Cleopatra.]

The subsequent adventures of Cleopatra were as romantic as to have given
her name a very wide celebrity. The lives of the virtuous pass smoothly
and happily away, but the tale, when told to others, possesses but
little interest or attraction; while those of the wicked, whose days are
spent in wretchedness and despair, and are thus full of misery to the
actors themselves, afford to the rest of mankind a high degree of
pleasure, from the dramatic interest of the story.

[Sidenote: Her splendid barge.]
[Sidenote: Anthony and Octavius.]
[Sidenote: Death of Cleopatra.]

Cleopatra led a life of splendid sin, and, of course, of splendid
misery. She visited Caesar in Rome after his return thither. Caesar
received her magnificently, and paid her all possible honors; but the
people of Rome regarded her with strong reprobation. When her young
brother, whom Caesar had made her partner on the throne, was old enough
to claim his share, she poisoned him. After Caesar's death, she went
from Alexandria to Syria to meet Antony, one of Caesar's successors, in
a galley or barge, which was so rich, so splendid, so magnificently
furnished and adorned, that it was famed throughout the world as
Cleopatra's barge. A great many beautiful vessels have since been called
by the same name. Cleopatra connected herself with Antony, who became
infatuated with her beauty and her various charms as Caesar had been.
After a great variety of romantic adventures, Antony was defeated in
battle by his great rival Octavius, and, supposing that he had been
betrayed by Cleopatra, he pursued her to Egypt, intending to kill her.
She hid herself in a sepulcher, spreading a report that she had
committed suicide, and then Antony stabbed himself in a fit of remorse
and despair. Before he died, he learned that Cleopatra was alive, and he
caused himself to be carried into her presence and died in her arms.
Cleopatra then fell into the hands of Octavius, who intended to carry
her to Rome to grace his triumph. To save herself from this humiliation,
and weary with a life which, full of sin as it had been, was a constant
series of sufferings, she determined to die. A servant brought in an asp
for her, concealed in a vase of flowers, at a great banquet. She laid
the poisonous reptile on her naked arm, and died immediately of the bite
which it inflicted.



[Sidenote: Caesar again at Rome.]
[Sidenote: Combinations against him.]
[Sidenote: Veni, vidi, vici.]

Although Pompey himself had been killed, and the army under his
immediate command entirely annihilated, Caesar did not find that the
empire was yet completely submissive to his sway. As the tidings of his
conquests spread over the vast and distant regions which were under the
Roman rule--although the story itself of his exploits might have been
exaggerated--the impression produced by his power lost something of its
strength, as men generally have little dread of remote danger. While he
was in Egypt, there were three great concentrations of power formed
against him in other quarters of the globe: in Asia Minor, in Africa,
and in Spain. In putting down these three great and formidable arrays of
opposition, Caesar made an exhibition to the world of that astonishing
promptness and celerity of military action on which his fame as a
general so much depends. He went first to Asia Minor, and fought a great
and decisive battle there, in a manner so sudden and unexpected to the
forces that opposed him that they found themselves defeated almost
before they suspected that their enemy was near. It was in reference to
this battle that he wrote the inscription for the banner, "_Veni, vidi,
vici_" The words may be rendered in English, "I came, looked, and
conquered," though the peculiar force of the expression, as well as the
alliteration, is lost in any attempt to translate it.

[Sidenote: Caesar made dictator.]

In the mean time, Caesar's prosperity and success had greatly
strengthened his cause at Rome. Rome was supported in a great measure by
the contributions brought home from the provinces by the various
military heroes who were sent out to govern them; and, of course, the
greater and more successful was the conqueror, the better was he
qualified for stations of highest authority in the estimation of the
inhabitants of the city. They made Caesar dictator even while he was
away, and appointed Mark Antony his master of horse. This was the same
Antony whom we have already mentioned as having been connected with
Cleopatra after Caesar's death. Rome, in fact, was filled with the fame
of Caesar's exploits, and, as he crossed the Adriatic and advanced
toward the city, he found himself the object of universal admiration
and applause.

[Sidenote: Opposition of Cato.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's sons.]

But he could not yet be contented to establish himself quietly at Rome.
There was a large force organized against him in Africa under Cato, a
stern and indomitable man, who had long been an enemy to Caesar, and who
now considered him as a usurper and an enemy of the republic, and was
determined to resist him to the last extremity. There was also a large
force assembled in Spain under the command of two sons of Pompey, in
whose case the ordinary political hostility of contending partisans was
rendered doubly intense and bitter by their desire to avenge their
father's cruel fate. Caesar determined first to go to Africa, and then,
after disposing of Cato's resistance, to cross the Mediterranean
into Spain.

[Sidenote: Complaints of the soldiers.]

Before he could set out, however, on these expeditions, he was involved
in very serious difficulties for a time, on account of a great
discontent which prevailed in his army, and which ended at last in open
mutiny. The soldiers complained that they had not received the rewards
and honors which Caesar had promised them. Some claimed offices, others
money others lands, which, as they maintained, they had been led to
expect would be conferred upon them at the end of the campaign. The fact
undoubtedly was, that, elated with their success, and intoxicated with
the spectacle of the boundless influence and power which their general
so obviously wielded at Rome, they formed expectations and hopes for
themselves altogether too wild and unreasonable to be realized by
soldiers; for soldiers, however much they may be flattered by their
generals in going into battle, or praised in the mass in official
dispatches, are after all but slaves, and slaves, too, of the very
humblest caste and character.

[Sidenote: The mutiny.]
[Sidenote: The army marches to Rome.]

The famous tenth legion, Cesar's favorite corps, took the most active
part in fomenting these discontents, as might naturally have been
expected, since the attentions and the praises which he had bestowed
upon them, though at first they tended to awaken their ambition, and to
inspire them with redoubled ardor and courage, ended, as such favoritism
always does, in making them vain, self-important, and unreasonable. Led
on thus by the tenth legion, the whole army mutinied. They broke up the
camp where they had been stationed at some distance beyond the walls of
Rome, and marched toward the city. Soldiers in a mutiny, even though
headed by their subaltern officers, are very little under command; and
these Roman troops, feeling released from their usual restraints,
committed various excesses on the way, terrifying the inhabitants and
spreading universal alarm. The people of the city were thrown into utter
consternation at the approach of the vast horde, which was coming like a
terrible avalanche to descend upon them.

[Sidenote: Plan of the soldiers.]

The army expected some signs of resistance at the gates, which, if
offered, they were prepared to encounter and overcome. Their plan was,
after entering the city, to seek Caesar and demand their discharge from
his service. They knew that he was under the necessity of immediately
making a campaign in Africa, and that, of course, he could not possibly,
as they supposed, dispense with them. He would, consequently, if they
asked their discharge, beg them to remain, and, to induce them to do it,
would comply with all their expectations and desires.

Such was their plan. To tender, however, a resignation of an office as a
means of bringing an opposite party to terms, is always a very hazardous
experiment. We easily overrate the estimation in which our own services
are held taking what is said to us in kindness or courtesy by friends
as the sober and deliberate judgment of the public; and thus it often
happens that persons who in such case offer to resign, are astonished to
find their resignations readily accepted.

[Sidenote: The army marches into the city.]

When Caesar's mutineers arrived at the gates, they found, instead of
opposition, only orders from Caesar, by which they were directed to
leave all their arms except their swords, and march into the city. They
obeyed. They were then directed to go to the Campus Martius, a vast
parade ground situated within the walls, and to await Caesar's
orders there.[3]

[Footnote 3: See map of the city of Rome, fronting the first page.]

[Sidenote: The Campus Martius.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's address to the army.]

Caesar met them in the Campus Martius, and demanded why they had left
their encampment without orders and come to the city. They stated in
reply, as they had previously planned to do, that they wished to be
discharged from the public service. To their great astonishment, Caesar
seemed to consider this request as nothing at all extraordinary, but
promised, an the other hand, very readily to grant it He said that they
should be at once discharged, and should receive faithfully all the
rewards which had been promised them at the close of the war for their
long and arduous services. At the same time, he expressed his deep
regret that, to obtain what he was perfectly willing and ready at any
time to grant, they should have so far forgotten their duties as Romans,
and violated the discipline which should always be held absolutely
sacred by every soldier. He particularly regretted that the tenth
legion, on which he had been long accustomed so implicitly to rely,
should have taken a part in such transactions.

[Sidenote: Its effects.]
[Sidenote: Attachment of Caesar's soldiers.]

In making this address, Caesar assumed a kind and considerate, and even
respectful tone toward his men, calling them _Quirites_ instead of
soldiers--an honorary mode of appellation, which recognized them as
constituent members of the Roman commonwealth. The effect of the whole
transaction was what might have been anticipated. A universal desire was
awakened throughout the whole army to return to their duty. They sent
deputations to Caesar, begging not to be taken at their word, but to be
retained in the service, and allowed to accompany him to Africa. After
much hesitation and delay, Caesar consented to receive them again, all
excepting the tenth legion, who, he said, had now irrevocably lost his
confidence and regard. It is a striking illustration of the strength of
the attachment which bound Caesar's soldiers to their commander, that
the tenth legion _would not_ be discharged, after all. They followed
Caesar of their own accord into Africa, earnestly entreating him again
and again to receive them. He finally did receive them in detachments,
which he incorporated with the rest of his army, or sent on distant
service, but he would never organize them as the tenth legion again.

[Sidenote: Caesar goes to Africa.]
[Sidenote: Cato shuts himself up in Africa.]

It was now early in the winter, a stormy season for crossing the
Mediterranean Sea. Caesar, however, set off from Rome immediately,
proceeded south to Sicily, and encamped on the sea-shore there till the
fleet was ready to convey his forces to Africa. The usual fortune
attended him in the African campaigns His fleet was exposed to imminent
dangers in crossing the sea, but, in consequence of the extreme
deliberation and skill with which his arrangements were made, he escaped
them all. He overcame one after another of the military difficulties
which were in his way in Africa. His army endured, in the depth of
winter, great exposures and fatigues, and they had to encounter a large
hostile force under the charge of Cato. They were, however, successful
in every undertaking. Cato retreated at last to the city of Utica, where
he shut himself up with the remains of his army; but finding, at length,
when Caesar drew near, that there was no hope or possibility of making
good his defense, and as his stern and indomitable spirit could not
endure the thought of submission to one whom he considered as an enemy
to his country and a traitor he resolved upon a very effectual mode of
escaping from his conqueror's power.

[Sidenote: He stabs himself.]
[Sidenote: Death of Cato.]

He feigned to abandon all hope of defending the city, and began to make
arrangements to facilitate the escape of his soldiers over the sea. He
collected the vessels in the harbor, and allowed all to embark who were
willing to take the risks of the stormy water. He took, apparently,
great interest in the embarkations, and, when evening came on, he sent
repeatedly down to the sea-side to inquire about the state of the wind
and the progress of the operations. At length he retired to his
apartment, and, when all was quiet in the house, he lay down upon his
bed and stabbed himself with his sword He fell from the bed by the blow,
or else from the effect of some convulsive motion which the penetrating
steel occasioned. His son and servants, hearing the fall, came rushing
into the room, raised him from the floor, and attempted to bind up and
stanch the wound. Cato would not permit them to do it. He resisted them
violently as soon as he was conscious of what they intended. Finding
that a struggle would only aggravate the horrors of the scene, and even
hasten its termination, they left the bleeding hero to his fate, and in
a few minutes he died.

[Sidenote: Folly of his suicide.]

The character of Cato, and the circumstances under which his suicide was
committed, make it, on the whole, the most conspicuous act of suicide
which history records; and the events which followed show in an equally
conspicuous manner the extreme folly of the deed. In respect to its
wickedness, Cato, not having had the light of Christianity before him,
is to be leniently judged. As to the folly of the deed, however, he is
to be held strictly accountable. If he had lived and yielded to his
conqueror, as he might have done gracefully and without dishonor, since
all his means of resistance were exhausted, Caesar would have treated
him with generosity and respect, and would have taken him to Rome; and
as within a year or two of this time Caesar himself was no more, Cato's
vast influence and power might have been, and un doubtedly would have
been, called most effectually into action for the benefit of his
country. If any one, in defending Cato, should say he could not foresee
this, we reply, he _could_ have foreseen it; not the precise events,
indeed, which occurred, but he could have foreseen that vast changes
must take place, and new aspects of affairs arise, in which his powers
would be called into requisition. We can _always_ foresee in the midst
of any storm, however dark and gloomy, that clear skies will certainly
sooner or later come again; and this is just as true metaphorically in
respect to the vicissitudes of human life, as it is literally in regard
to the ordinary phenomena of the skies.

[Sidenote: Caesar in Spain.]
[Sidenote: Defeat of Pompey's sons.]

From Africa Caesar returned to Rome, and from Rome he went to subdue the
resistance which was offered by the sons of Pompey in Spain. He was
equally successful here. The oldest son was wounded in battle, and was
carried off from the field upon a litter faint and almost dying. He
recovered in some degree, and, finding escape from the eager pursuit of
Caesar's soldiers impossible, he concealed himself in a cave, where he
lingered for a little time in destitution and misery. He was discovered
at last; his head was cut off by his captors and sent to Caesar, as his
father's had been. The younger son succeeded in escaping, but he became
a wretched fugitive and outlaw, and all manifestations of resistance to
Caesar's sway disappeared from Spain. The conqueror returned to Rome the
undisputed master of the whole Roman world.

[Illustration: The elephants made torch-bearers.]

[Sidenote: Caesar's triumphs.]
[Sidenote: The triumphal car breaks down.]
[Sidenote: Elephant torch-bearers.]

Then came his triumphs. Triumphs were great celebrations, by which
military heroes in the days of the Roman commonwealth signalized their
victories on their return to the city Caesar's triumphs were four, one
for each of his four great successful campaigns, viz., in Egypt, in Asia
Minor, in Africa, and in Spain. Each was celebrated on a separate day,
and there was an interval of several days between them, to magnify their
importance, and swell the general interest which they excited among the
vast population of the city. On one of these days, the triumphal car in
which Caesar rode, which was most magnificently adorned, broke down on
the way, and Caesar was nearly thrown out of it by the shock. The
immense train of cars, horses, elephants, flags, banners, captives, and
trophies which formed the splendid procession was all stopped by the
accident, and a considerable delay ensued. Night came on, in fact
before the column could again be put in motion to enter the city, and
then Caesar, whose genius was never more strikingly shown than when he
had opportunity to turn a calamity to advantage, conceived the idea of
employing the forty elephants of the train as torch-bearers; the long
procession accordingly advanced through the streets and ascended to the
Capitol, lighted by the great blazing flambeaus which the sagacious and
docile beasts were easily taught to bear, each elephant holding one in
his proboscis, and waving it above the crowd around him.

[Sidenote: Trophies and emblems.]

In these triumphal processions, every thing was borne in exhibition
which could serve as a symbol of the conquered country or a trophy of
victory, Flags and banners taken from the enemy; vessels of gold and
silver, and other treasures, loaded in vans; wretched captives conveyed
in open carriages or marching sorrowfully on foot, and destined, some of
them, to public execution when the ceremony of the triumph was ended;
displays of arms, and implements, and dresses, and all else which might
serve to give the Roman crowd an idea of the customs and usages of the
remote and conquered nations; the animals they used, caparisoned in the
manner in which they used them: these, and a thousand other trophies
and emblems, were brought into the line to excite the admiration of the
crowd, and to add to the gorgeousness of the spectacle. In fact, it was
always a great object of solicitude and exertion with all the Roman
generals, when on distant and dangerous expeditions, to possess
themselves of every possible prize in the progress of their campaign
which could aid in adding splendor to the triumph which was to
signalize its end.

[Sidenote: Banners and paintings.]

In these triumphs of Caesar, a young sister of Cleopatra was in the line
of the Egyptian procession. In that devoted to Asia Minor was a great
banner containing the words already referred to, Veni, Vidi, Vici. There
were great paintings, too, borne aloft, representing battles and other
striking scenes. Of course, all Rome was in the highest state of
excitement during the days of the exhibition of this pageantry. The
whole surrounding country flocked to the capital to witness it, and
Caesar's greatness and glory were signalized in the most conspicuous
manner to all mankind.

[Sidenote: Public entertainments.]
[Sidenote: Various spectacles and amusements.]
[Sidenote: Naval combats.]

After these triumphs, a series of splendid public entertainments were
given, over twenty thousand tables having been spread for the populace
of the city Shows of every possible character and variety were
exhibited. There were dramatic plays, and equestrian performances in the
circus, and gladiatorial combats, and battles with wild beasts, and
dances, and chariot races, and every other imaginable amusement which
could be devised and carried into effect to gratify a population highly
cultivated in all the arts of life, but barbarous and cruel in heart and
character. Some of the accounts which have come down to us of the
magnificence of the scale on which these entertainments were conducted
are absolutely incredible. It is said, for example, that an immense
basin was constructed near the Tiber, large enough to contain two fleets
of galleys, which had on board two thousand rowers each, and one
thousand fighting men. These fleets were then manned with captives, the
one with Asiatics and the other with Egyptians, and when all was ready,
they were compelled to fight a real battle for the amusement of the
spectators which thronged the shores, until vast numbers were killed,
and the waters of the lake were dyed with blood. It is also said that
the whole Forum, and some of the great streets in the neighborhood where
the principal gladiatorial shows were held, were covered with silken
awnings to protect the vast crowds of spectators from the sun, and
thousands of tents were erected to accommodate the people from the
surrounding country, whom the buildings of the city could not contain.

[Sidenote: Caesar's power.]
[Sidenote: Honors conferred upon him.]

All open opposition to Caesar's power and dominion now entirely
disappeared. Even the Senate vied with the people in rendering him every
possible honor. The supreme power had been hitherto lodged in the hands
of two consuls, chosen annually, and the Roman people had been extremely
jealous of any distinction for any one, higher than that of an _elective
annual office,_ with a return to private life again when the brief
period should have expired. They now, however, made Caesar, in the first
place, consul for ten years, and then Perpetual Dictator. They conferred
upon him the title of the Father of his Country. The name of the month
in which he was born was changed to Julius, from his praenomen, and we
still retain the name. He was made, also, commander-in-chief of all the
armies of the commonwealth, the title to which vast military power was
expressed in the Latin language by the word IMPERATOR.

[Sidenote: Statues of Caesar.]

Caesar was highly elated with all these substantial proofs of the
greatness and glory to which he had attained, and was also very
evidently gratified with smaller, but equally expressive proofs of the
general regard. Statues representing his person were placed in the
public edifices, and borne in processions like those of the gods.
Conspicuous and splendidly ornamented seats were constructed for him in
all the places of public assembly, and on these he sat to listen to
debates or witness spectacles, as if he were upon a throne He had,
either by his influence or by his direct power, the control of all the
appointments to office, and was, in fact, in every thing but the name, a
sovereign and an absolute king.

[Sidenote: His plans of internal improvement.]

He began now to form great schemes of internal improvement for the
general benefit of the empire. He wished to increase still more the
great obligations which the Roman people were under to him for what he
had already done. They really were under vast obligations to him; for,
considering Rome as a community which was to subsist by governing the
world, Caesar had immensely enlarged the means of its subsistence by
establishing its sway every where, and providing for an incalculable
increase of its revenues from the tribute and the taxation of conquered
provinces and kingdoms. Since this work of conquest was now completed,
he turned his attention to the internal affairs of the empire, and made
many improvements in the system of administration, looking carefully
into every thing, and introducing every where those exact and systematic
principles which such a mind as his seeks instinctively in every thing
over which it has any control.

[Sidenote: Ancient division of time.]
[Sidenote: Change effected by Caesar.]
[Sidenote: The old and new styles.]

One great change which he effected continues in perfect operation
throughout Europe to the present day. It related to the division of
time. The system of months in use in his day corresponded so imperfectly
with the annual circuit of the sun, that the months were moving
continually along the year in such a manner that the winter months came
at length in the summer, and the summer months in the winter. This led
to great practical inconveniences; for whenever, for example, any thing
was required by law to be done in certain months, intending to have them
done in the summer, and the specified month came at length to be a
winter month, the law would require the thing to be done in exactly the
wrong season. Caesar remedied all this by adopting a new system of
months, which should give three hundred and sixty-five days to the year
for three years, and three hundred and sixty-six for the fourth; and so
exact was the system which he thus introduced, that it went on unchanged
for sixteen centuries. The months were then found to be eleven days out
of the way, when a new correction was introduced,[4] and it will now go
on three thousand years before the error will amount to a single day.
Caesar employed a Greek astronomer to arrange the system that he
adopted; and it was in part on account of the improvement which he thus
effected that one of the months, as has already been mentioned, was
called July. Its name before was Quintilis.

[Footnote 4: By Pope Gregory XIII. at the time of the change from the
old style to the new]

[Sidenote: Magnificent schemes.]
[Sidenote: Caesar collects the means to carry out his vast schemes.]

Caesar formed a great many other vast and magnificent schemes. He
planned public buildings for the city, which were going to exceed in
magnitude and splendor all the edifices of the world. He commenced the
collection of vast libraries, formed plans for draining the Pontine
Marshes, for bringing great supplies of water into the city by an
aqueduct, for cutting a new passage for the Tiber from Rome to the sea,
and making an enormous artificial harbor at its mouth. He was going to
make a road along the Apennines, and cut a canal through the Isthmus of
Corinth, and construct other vast works, which were to make Rome the
center of the commerce of the world. In a word, his head was filled with
the grandest schemes, and he was gathering around him all the means and
resources necessary for the execution of them.



Caesar's greatness and glory came at last to a very sudden and violent
end. He was assassinated. All the attendant circumstances of this deed,
too, were of the most extraordinary character, and thus the dramatic
interest which adorns all parts of the great conqueror's history marks
strikingly its end.

[Sidenote: Jealousies awakened by Caesar's power.]
[Sidenote: The Roman Constitution.]
[Sidenote: Struggles and Conflicts.]

His prosperity and power awakened, of course, a secret jealousy and ill
will. Those who were disappointed in their expectations of his favor
murmured. Others, who had once been his rivals, hated him for having
triumphed over them. Then there was a stern spirit of democracy, too,
among certain classes of the citizens of Rome which could not brook a
master. It is true that the sovereign power in the Roman commonwealth
had never been shared by all the inhabitants. It was only in certain
privileged classes that the sovereignty was vested; but among these the
functions of government were divided and distributed in such a way as
to balance one interest against another, and to give all their proper
share of influence and authority. Terrible struggles and conflicts often
occurred among these various sections of society, as one or another
attempted from time to time to encroach upon the rights or privileges of
the rest. These struggles, however, ended usually in at last restoring
again the equilibrium which had been disturbed. No one power could ever
gain the entire ascendency; and thus, as all _monarchism_ seemed
excluded from their system, they called it a republic. Caesar, however,
had now concentrated in himself all the principal elements of power, and
there began to be suspicions that he wished to make himself in name and
openly, as well as secretly and in fact, a king.

[Sidenote: Roman repugnance to royalty.]
[Sidenote: Firmness of the Romans.]

The Romans abhorred the very name of king. They had had kings in the
early periods of their history, but they made themselves odious by their
pride and their oppressions, and the people had deposed and expelled
them. The modern nations of Europe have several times performed the same
exploit, but they have generally felt unprotected and ill at ease
without a personal sovereign over them and have accordingly, in most
cases, after a few years, restored some branch of the expelled dynasty
to the throne The Romans were more persevering and firm. They had
managed their empire now for five hundred years as a republic, and
though they had had internal dissensions, conflicts, and quarrels
without end, had persisted so firmly and unanimously in their
detestation of all regal authority, that no one of the long line of
ambitious and powerful statesmen, generals, or conquerors by which the
history of the empire had been signalized, had ever dared to aspire to
the name of king.

[Sidenote: Caesar's ambitious plans.]

There began, however, soon to appear some indications that Caesar, who
certainly now possessed regal power, would like the regal name.
Ambitious men, in such cases, do not directly assume themselves the
titles and symbols of royalty. Others make the claim for them, while
they faintly disavow it, till they have opportunity to gee what effect
the idea produces on the public mind. The following incidents occurred
which it was thought indicated such a design on the part of Caesar.

[Sidenote: American feeling.]

There were in some of the public buildings certain statues of kings; for
it must be understood that the Roman dislike to kings was only a dislike
to having kingly authority exercised over themselves. They respected and
sometimes admired the kings of other countries, and honored their
exploits, and made statues to commemorate their fame. They were willing
that kings should reign elsewhere, so long as there were no king of
Rome. The American feeling at the present day is much the same. If the
Queen of England were to make a progress through this country, she would
receive, perhaps, as many and as striking marks of attention and honor
as would be rendered to her in her own realm. We venerate the antiquity
of her royal line; we admire the efficiency of her government and the
sublime grandeur of her empire, and have as high an idea as any, of the
powers and prerogatives of her crown--and these feelings would show
themselves most abundantly on any proper occasion. We are willing, nay,
wish that she should continue to reign over Englishmen; and yet, after
all, it would take some millions of bayonets to place a queen securely
upon a throne over this land.

[Sidenote: Regal power.]

Regal power was accordingly, in the abstract, looked up to at Rome, as
it is elsewhere, with great respect; and it was, in fact, all the more
tempting as an object of ambition, from the determination felt by the
people that it should not be exercised there. There were, accordingly,
statues of kings at Rome. Caesar placed his own statue among them. Some
approved, others murmured.

[Sidenote: Caesar's seat in the theater.]

There was a public theater in the city, where the officers of the
government were accustomed to sit in honorable seats prepared expressly
for them, those of the Senate being higher and more distinguished than
the rest. Caesar had a seat prepared for himself there, similar in form
to a throne, and adorned it magnificently with gilding and ornaments of
gold, which gave it the entire pre-eminence over all the other seats.

He had a similar throne placed in the senate chamber, to be occupied by
himself when attending there, like the throne of the King of England in
the House of Lords.

[Sidenote: Public celebrations.]
[Sidenote: Caesar receives the Senate sitting.]
[Sidenote: Consequent excitement.]

He held, moreover, a great many public celebrations and triumphs in the
city in commemoration of his exploits and honors; and, on one of these
occasions, it was arranged that the Senate were to come to him at a
temple in a body, and announce to him certain decrees which they had
passed to his honor. Vast crowds had assembled to witness the ceremony
Caesar was seated in a magnificent chair, which might have been called
either a chair or a throne, and was surrounded by officers and
attendants When the Senate approached, Caesar did not rise to receive
them, but remained seated, like a monarch receiving a deputation of his
subjects. The incident would not seem to be in itself of any great
importance, but, considered as an indication of Caesar's designs, it
attracted great attention, and produced a very general excitement. The
act was adroitly managed so as to be somewhat equivocal in its
character, in order that it might be represented one way or the other on
the following day, according as the indications of public sentiment
might incline. Some said that Caesar was intending to rise, but was
prevented, and held down by those who stood around him. Others said that
an officer motioned to him to rise, but he rebuked his interference by a
frown, and continued his seat. Thus while, in fact, he received the
Roman Senate as their monarch and sovereign, his own intentions and
designs in so doing were left somewhat in doubt, in order to avoid
awakening a sudden and violent opposition.

[Sidenote: Caesar's statute crowned.]

Not long after this, as he was returning in public from some great
festival, the streets being full of crowds, and the populace following
him in great throngs with loud acclamations, a man went up to his
statue as he passed it, and placed upon the head of it a laurel crown,
fastened with a white ribbon, which was a badge of royalty. Some
officers ordered the ribbon to be taken down, and sent the man to
prison. Caesar was very much displeased with the officers, and dismissed
them from their office. He wished, he said, to have the opportunity to
disavow, himself, such claims, and not to have others disavow them
for him.

[Sidenote: Caesar's disavowals.]

Caesar's disavowals were, however, so faint, and people had so little
confidence in their sincerity, that the cases became more and more
frequent in which the titles and symbols of royalty were connected with
his name. The people who wished to gain his favor saluted him in public
with the name of _Rex_, the Latin word for king. He replied that his
name was Caesar, not _Rex_, showing, however, no other signs of
displeasure. On one great occasion, a high public officer, a near
relative of his, repeatedly placed a diadem upon his head, Caesar
himself, as often as he did it, gently putting it off. At last he sent
the diadem away to a temple that was near, saying that there was no king
in Rome but Jupiter. In a word, all his conduct indicated that he wished
to have it appear that the people were pressing the crown upon him,
when he himself was steadily refusing it.

[Sidenote: Some willing to make Caesar king.]
[Sidenote: Others oppose it.]

This state of things produced a very strong and universal, though
suppressed excitement in the city. Parties were formed. Some began to be
willing to make Caesar king; others were determined to hazard their
lives to prevent it. None dared, however, openly to utter their
sentiments on either side. They expressed them by mysterious looks and
dark intimations. At the time when Caesar refused to rise to receive the
Senate, many of the members withdrew in silence, and with looks of
offended dignity When the crown was placed upon his statue or upon his
own brow, a portion of the populace would applaud with loud
acclamations; and whenever he disavowed these acts, either by words or
counter-actions of his own, an equally loud acclamation would arise from
the other side. On the whole, however, the idea that Caesar was
gradually advancing toward the kingdom steadily gained ground.

[Sidenote: Caesar's pretexts.]
[Sidenote: His assumed humility.]

And yet Caesar himself spoke frequently with great humility in respect
to his pretensions and claims; and when he found public sentiment
turning against the ambitious schemes he seems secretly to have
cherished, he would present some excuse or explanation for his conduct
plausible enough to answer the purpose of a disavowal. When he received
the Senate, sitting like a king, on the occasion before referred to,
when they read to him the decrees which they had passed in his favor, he
replied to them that there was more need of diminishing the public
honors which he received than of increasing them. When he found, too,
how much excitement his conduct on that occasion had produced, he
explained it by saying that he had retained his sitting posture on
account of the infirmity of his health, as it made him dizzy to stand.
He thought, probably, that these pretexts would tend to quiet the strong
and turbulent spirits around him, from whose envy or rivalry he had most
to fear, without at all interfering with the effect which the act itself
would have produced upon the masses of the population. He wished, in a
word, to accustom them to see him assume the position and the bearing of
a sovereign, while, by his apparent humility in his intercourse with
those immediately around him, he avoided as much as possible irritating
and arousing the jealous and watchful rivals who were next to him
in power.

[Sidenote: Progress of Caesar's plans.]

If this were his plan, it seemed to be advancing prosperously toward
its accomplishment. The population of the city seemed to become more and
more familiar with the idea that Caesar was about to become a king. The
opposition which the idea had at first awakened appeared to subside, or,
at least, the public expression of it, which daily became more and more
determined and dangerous, was restrained. At length the time arrived
when it appeared safe to introduce the subject to the Roman Senate.
This, of course, was a hazardous experiment. It was managed, however, in
a very adroit and ingenious manner.

[Sidenote: The Sibylline books.]
[Sidenote: Declaration of the Sibylline books.]
[Sidenote: Plan for crowning Caesar.]

There were in Rome, and, in fact, in many other cities and countries of
the world in those days, a variety of prophetic books, called the
Sibylline Oracles, in which it was generally believed that future events
were foretold. Some of these volumes or rolls, which were very ancient
and of great authority, were preserved in the temples at Rome, under the
charge of a board of guardians, who were to keep them with the utmost
care, and to consult them on great occasions, in order to discover
beforehand what would be the result of public measures or great
enterprises which were in contemplation. It happened that at this time
the Romans were engaged in a war with the Parthians, a very wealthy and
powerful nation of Asia. Caesar was making preparations for an
expedition to the East to attempt to subdue this people. He gave orders
that the Sibylline Oracles should be consulted. The proper officers,
after consulting them with the usual solemn ceremonies, reported to the
Senate that they found it recorded in these sacred prophecies that the
Parthians could not be conquered except by a _king_, A senator proposed,
therefore, that, to meet the emergency, Caesar should be made king
during the war. There was at first no decisive action on this proposal.
It was dangerous to express any opinion. People were thoughtful,
serious, and silent, as on the eve of some great convulsion. No one knew
what others were meditating, and thus did not dare to express his own
wishes or designs. There soon, however, was a prevailing understanding
that Caesar's friends were determined on executing the design of
crowning him, and that the fifteenth of March, called, in their
phraseology, the _Ides of March_, was fixed upon as the coronation day.

[Sidenote: The conspiracy.]

In the mean time, Caesar's enemies, though to all outward appearance
quiet and calm, had not been inactive. Finding that his plans were now
ripe for execution, and that they had no, open means of resisting them,
they formed a conspiracy to assassinate Caesar himself, and thus bring
his ambitious schemes to an effectual and final end. The name of the
original leader of this conspiracy was Cassius.

[Sidenote: Cassius.]

Cassius had been for a long time Caesar's personal rival and enemy. He
was a man of a very violent and ardent temperament, impetuous and
fearless, very fond of exercising power himself, but very restless and
uneasy in having it exercised over him. He had all the Roman repugnance
to being under the authority of a master, with an additional personal
determination of his own not to submit to Caesar. He determined to slay
Caesar rather than to allow him to be made a king, and he went to work,
with great caution, to bring other leading and influential men to join
him in this determination. Some of those to whom he applied said that
they would unite with him in his plot provided he would get Marcus
Brutus to join them.

[Sidenote: Marcus Brutus.]

Brutus was the praetor of the city. The praetorship of the city was a
very high municipal office. The conspirators wished to have Brutus join
them partly on account of his station as a magistrate, as if they
supposed that by having the highest public magistrate of the city for
their leader in the deed, the destruction of their victim would appear
less like a murder, and would be invested, instead, in some respects,
with the sanctions and with the dignity of an official execution.

[Sidenote: Character of Brutus.]
[Sidenote: His firmness and courage.]

Then, again, they wished for the moral support which would be afforded
them in their desperate enterprise by Brutus's extraordinary personal
character. He was younger than Cassius, but he was grave, thoughtful,
taciturn, calm--a man of inflexible integrity, of the coolest
determination, and, at the same time, of the most undaunted courage. The
conspirators distrusted one another, for the resolution of impetuous men
is very apt to fail when the emergency arrives which puts it to the
test; but as for Brutus, they knew very well that whatever he undertook
he would most certainly do.

[Sidenote: The ancient Brutus.]
[Sidenote: His expulsion of the kings.]

There was a great deal even in his name. It was a Brutus that five
centuries before had been the main instrument of the expulsion of the
Roman kings. He had secretly meditated the design, and, the better to
conceal it, had feigned idiocy, as the story was, that he might not be
watched or suspected until the favorable hour for executing his design
should arrive. He therefore ceased to speak, and seemed to lose his
reason; he wandered about the city silent and gloomy, like a brute. His
name had been Lucius Junius before. They added Brutus now, to designate
his condition. When at last, however, the crisis arrived which he judged
favorable for the expulsion of the kings, he suddenly reassumed his
speech and his reason, called the astonished Romans to arms, and
triumphantly accomplished his design. His name and memory had been
cherished ever since that day as of a great deliverer.

[Sidenote: The history of Brutus.]

They, therefore, who looked upon Caesar as another king, naturally
turned their thoughts to the Brutus of their day, hoping to find in him
another deliverer. Brutus found, from time to time, inscriptions on his
ancient namesake's statue expressing the wish that he were now alive. He
also found each morning, as he came to the tribunal where he was
accustomed to sit in the discharge of the duties of his office, brief
writings, which had been left there during the night, in which few words
expressed deep meaning, such as "Awake, Brutus, to thy duty;" and "Art
thou indeed a Brutus?"

[Sidenote: His obligations to Caesar.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's friendship for Brutus.]

Still it seemed hardly probable that Brutus could be led to take a
decided stand against Caesar, for they had been warm personal friends
ever since the conclusion of the civil wars. Brutus had, indeed, been on
Pompey's side while that general lived; he fought with him at the battle
of Pharsalia, but he had been taken prisoner there, and Caesar, instead
of executing him as a traitor, as most victorious generals in a civil
war would have done, spared his life, forgave him for his hostility,
received him into his own service, and afterward raised him to very high
and honorable stations. He gave him the government of the richest
province, and, after his return from it, loaded with wealth and honors,
he made him praetor of the city. In a word, it would seem that he had
done every thing which it was possible to do to make him one of his most
trustworthy and devoted friends. The men, therefore, to whom Cassius
first applied, perhaps thought that they were very safe in saying that
they would unite in the intended conspiracy if he would get Brutus to
join them. They expected Cassius himself to make the attempt to secure
the co-operation of Brutus, as Cassius was on terms of intimacy with him
on account of a family connection. Cassius's wife was the sister of
Brutus. This had made the two men intimate associates and warm friends
in former years, though they had been recently somewhat estranged from
each other on account of having been competitors for the same offices
and honors. In these contests Caesar had decided in favor of Brutus.
"Cassius," said he, on one such occasion, "gives the best reasons; but I
can not refuse Brutus any thing he asks for." In fact, Caesar had
conceived a strong personal friendship for Brutus, and believed him to
be entirely devoted to his cause.

[Sidenote: Interview between Brutus and Cassius.]

Cassius, however, sought an interview with Brutus, with a view of
engaging him in his design. He easily effected his own reconciliation
with him, as he had himself been the offended party in their
estrangement from each other. He asked Brutus whether he intended to be
present in the Senate on the Ides of March, when the friends of Caesar,
as was understood, were intending to present him with the crown. Brutus
said he should not be there. "But suppose," said Cassius, "we are
specially summoned." "Then," said Brutus, "I shall go, and shall be
ready to die if necessary to defend the liberty of my country."

[Sidenote: Arguments of Cassius.]

Cassius then assured Brutus that there were many other Roman citizens,
of the highest rank, who were animated by the same determination, and
that they all looked up to him to lead and direct them in the work which
it was now very evident must be done. "Men look," said Cassius, "to
other praetors to entertain them with games, spectacles, and shows, but
they have very different ideas in respect to you. Your character, your
name, your position, your ancestry, and the course of conduct which you
have already always pursued, inspire the whole city with the hope that
you are to be their deliverer. The citizens are all ready to aid you,
and to sustain you at the hazard of their lives; but they look to you to
go forward, and to act in their name and in their behalf, in the crisis
which is now approaching."

[Sidenote: Effect on Brutus.]
[Sidenote: Brutus engages in the conspiracy.]

Men of a very calm exterior are often susceptible of the profoundest
agitations within, the emotions seeming to be sometimes all the more
permanent and uncontrollable from the absence of outward display. Brutus
said little, but his soul was excited and fired by Cassius's words.
There was a struggle in his soul between his grateful sense of his
political obligations to Caesar and his personal attachment to him on
the one hand, and, on the other, a certain stern Roman conviction that
every thing should be sacrificed, even friendship and gratitude, as
well as fortune and life, to the welfare of his country. He acceded to
the plan, and began forthwith to enter upon the necessary measures for
putting it into execution.

[Sidenote: Ligurius.]

There was a certain general, named Ligurius, who had been in Pompey's
army, and whose hostility to Caesar had never been really subdued. He
was now sick. Brutus went to see him. He found him in his bed. The
excitement in Rome was so intense, though the expressions of it were
suppressed and restrained, that every one was expecting continually some
great event, and every motion and look was interpreted to have some deep
meaning. Ligurius read in the countenance of Brutus, as he approached
his bedside, that he had not come on any trifling errand. "Ligurius,"
said Brutus, "this is not a time for _you_ to be sick." "Brutus,"
replied Ligurius, rising at once from his couch, "if you have any
enterprise in mind that is worthy of you, I am well." Brutus explained
to the sick man their design, and he entered into it with ardor.

[Sidenote: Consultations of the conspirators.]
[Sidenote: Their bold plan.]
[Sidenote: Final arrangements.]

The plan was divulged to one after another of such men as the
conspirators supposed most worthy of confidence in such a desperate
undertaking, and meetings for consultation were held to determine what
plan to adopt for finally accomplishing their end. It was agreed that
Caesar must be slain; but the time, the place, and the manner in which
the deed should be performed were all yet undecided. Various plans were
proposed in the consultations which the conspirators held; but there was
one thing peculiar to them all, which was, that they did not any of them
contemplate or provide for any thing like secrecy in the commission of
the deed. It was to be performed in the most open and public manner.
With a stern and undaunted boldness, which has always been considered by
mankind as truly sublime, they determined that, in respect to the actual
execution itself of the solemn judgment which they had pronounced, there
should be nothing private or concealed. They thought over the various
public situations in which they might find Caesar, and where they might
strike him down, only to select the one which would be most public of
all. They kept, of course, their preliminary counsels private, to
prevent the adoption of measures for counteracting them; but they were
to perform the deed in such a manner as that, so soon as it was
performed, they should stand out to view, exposed fully to the gaze of
all mankind as the authors, of it. They planned no retreat, no
concealment, no protection whatever for themselves, seeming to feel that
the deed which they were about to perform, of destroying the master and
monarch of the world, was a deed in its own nature so grand and sublime
as to raise the perpetrators of it entirely above all considerations
relating to their own personal safety. Their plan, therefore, was to
keep their consultations and arrangements secret until they were
prepared to strike the blow, then to strike it in the most public and
imposing manner possible, and calmly afterward to await the

[Sidenote: The place and the day.]

In this view of the subject, they decided that the chamber of the Roman
Senate was the proper place, and the Ides of March, the day on which he
was appointed to be crowned, was the propel time for Caesar to be slain.



[Sidenote: Caesar receives many warnings of his approaching fate.]

According to the account given by his historians, Caesar received many
warnings of his approaching fate, which, however, he would not heed.
Many of these warnings were strange portents and prodigies, which the
philosophical writers who recorded them half believed themselves, and
which they were always ready to add to their narratives even if they did
not believe them, on account of the great influence which such an
introduction of the supernatural and the divine had with readers in
those days in enhancing the dignity and the dramatic interest of the
story. These warnings were as follows:

[Sidenote: The tomb and inscription.]

At Capua, which was a great city at some distance south of Rome, the
second, in fact, in Italy, and the one which Hannibal had proposed to
make his capital, some workmen were removing certain ancient sepulchers
to make room for the foundations of a splendid edifice which, among his
other plans for the embellishment of the cities of Italy, Caesar was
intending to have erected there. As the excavations advanced, the
workmen came at last to an ancient tomb, which proved to be that of the
original founder of Capua; and, in bringing out the sarcophagus, they
found an inscription, worked upon a brass plate, and in the Greek
character, predicting that if those remains were ever disturbed, a great
member of the Julian family would be assassinated by his own friends,
and his death would be followed by extended devastations throughout
all Italy.

[Sidenote: Caesar's horses.]

The horses, too, with which Caesar had passed the Rubicon, and which had
been, ever since that time, living in honorable retirement in a splendid
park which Caesar had provided for them, by some mysterious instinct, or
from some divine communication, had warning of the approach of their
great benefactor's end. They refused their food, and walked about with
melancholy and dejected looks, mourning apparently, and in a manner
almost human, some impending grief.

[Sidenote: The soothsayers.]

There was a class of prophets in those days called by a name which has
been translated _soothsayers_. These soothsayers were able, as was
supposed, to look somewhat into futurity--dimly and doubtfully, it is
true, but really, by means of certain appearances exhibited by the
bodies of the animals offered in sacrifices These soothsayers were
consulted on all important occasions; and if the auspices proved
unfavorable when any great enterprise was about to be undertaken, it was
often, on that account, abandoned or postponed. One of these
soothsayers, named Spurinna, came to Caesar one day, and informed him
that he had found, by means of a public sacrifice which he had just been
offering, that there was a great and mysterious danger impending over
him, which was connected in some way with the Ides of March, and he
counseled him to be particularly cautious and circumspect until that day
should have passed.

[Sidenote: The hawks and the wren.]

The Senate were to meet on the Ides of March in a new and splendid
edifice, which had been erected for their use by Pompey. There was in
the interior of the building, among other decorations, a statue of
Pompey. The day before the Ides of March, some birds of prey from a
neighboring grove came flying into this hall, pursuing a little wren
with a sprig of laurel in its mouth. The birds tore the wren to pieces,
the laurel dropping from its bill to the marble pavement of the floor
below. Now, as Caesar had been always accustomed to wear a crown of
laurel on great occasions, and had always evinced a particular fondness
for that decoration, that plant had come to be considered his own proper
badge, and the fall of the laurel, therefore, was naturally thought to
portend some great calamity to him.

[Sidenote: Caesar's agitation of mind.]
[Sidenote: His dream.]
[Sidenote: Calpurnia's dream.]
[Sidenote: The effect of a disturbed mind.]

The night before the Ides of March Caesar could not sleep. It would not
seem, however, to be necessary to suppose any thing supernatural to
account for his wakefulness. He lay upon his bed restless and excited,
or if he fell into a momentary slumber, his thoughts, instead of finding
repose, were only plunged into greater agitations, produced by strange,
and, as he thought, supernatural dreams. He imagined that he ascended
into the skies, and was received there by Jupiter, the supreme divinity,
as an associate and equal. While shaking hands with the great father of
gods and men, the sleeper was startled by a frightful sound. He awoke,
and found his wife Calpurnia groaning and struggling in her sleep. He
saw her by the moonlight which was shining into the room. He spoke to
her, and aroused her. After staring wildly for a moment till she had
recovered her thoughts, she said that she had had a dreadful dream. She
had dreamed that the roof of the house had fallen in, and that, at the
same instant, the doors had been burst open, and some robber or assassin
had stabbed her husband as he was lying in her arms. The philosophy of
those days found in these dreams mysterious and preternatural warnings
of impending danger; that of ours, however, sees nothing either in the
absurd sacrilegiousness of Caesar's thoughts, or his wife's incoherent
and inconsistent images of terror--nothing more than the natural and
proper effects, on the one hand, of the insatiable ambition of man, and,
on the other, of the conjugal affection and solicitude of woman. The
ancient sculptors carved out images of men, by the forms and lineaments
of which we see that the physical characteristics of humanity have not
changed. History seems to do the same with the affections and passions
of the soul. The dreams of Caesar and his wife on the night before the
Ides of March, as thus recorded, form a sort of spiritual statue, which
remains from generation to generation, to show us how precisely all the
inward workings of human nature are from age to age the same.

[Sidenote: Caesar hesitates.]

When the morning came Caesar and Calpurnia arose, both restless and ill
at ease. Caesar ordered the auspices to be consulted with reference to
the intended proceedings of the day. The soothsayers came in in due
time, and reported that the result was unfavorable. Calpurnia, too,
earnestly entreated her husband not to go to the senate-house that day.
She had a very strong presentiment that, if he did go, some great
calamity would ensue. Caesar himself hesitated. He was half inclined to
yield, and postpone his coronation to another occasion.

[Sidenote: Decimus Brutus.]

In the course of the day, while Caesar was in this state of doubt and
uncertainty, one of the conspirators, named Decimus Brutus, came in.
This Brutus was not a man of any extraordinary courage or energy, but he
had been invited by the other conspirators to join them, on account of
his having under his charge a large number of gladiators, who, being
desperate and reckless men, would constitute a very suitable armed force
for them to call in to their aid in case of any emergency arising which
should require it.

[Sidenote: Decimus Brutus waits upon Caesar.]

The conspirators having thus all their plans arranged, Decimus Brutus
was commissioned to call at Caesar's house when the time approached for
the assembling of the Senate, both to avert suspicion from Caesar's
mind, and to assure himself that nothing had been discovered It was in
the afternoon, the time for the meeting of the senators having been
fixed at five o'clock. Decimus Brutus found Caesar troubled and
perplexed, and uncertain what to do. After hearing what he had to say,
he replied by urging him to go by all means to the senate-house, as he
had intended. "You have formally called the Senate together," said he,
"and they are now assembling. They are all prepared to confer upon you
the rank and title of king, not only in Parthia, while you are
conducting this war but every where, by sea and land, except in Italy.
And now, while they are all in their places, waiting to consummate the
great act, how absurd will it be for you to send them word to go home
again, and come back some other day, when Calpurnia shall have had
better dreams!"

[Sidenote: He persuades him to go.]

He urged, too, that, even if Caesar was determined to put off the action
of the Senate to another day, he was imperiously bound to go himself and
adjourn the session in person. So saying, he took the hesitating
potentate by the arm, and adding to his arguments a little gentle force,
conducted him along.

[Sidenote: Artemidorus discovers the plot.]
[Sidenote: He warns Caesar.]

The conspirators supposed that all was safe The fact was, however, that
all had been discovered. There was a certain Greek, a teacher of
oratory, named Artemidorus. He had contrived to learn something of the
plot from some of the conspirators who were his pupils. He wrote a brief
statement of the leading particulars, and, having no other mode of
access to Caesar, he determined to hand it to him on the way as he went
to the senate-house. Of course, the occasion was one of great public
interest, and crowds had assembled in the streets to see the great
conqueror as he went along. As usual at such times, when powerful
officers of state appear in public, many people came up to present
petitions to him as he passed. These he received, and handed them,
without reading, to his secretary who attended him, as if to have them
preserved for future examination. Artemidorus, who was waiting for his
opportunity, when he perceived what disposition Caesar made of the
papers which were given to him, began to be afraid that his own
communication would not be attended to until it was too late. He
accordingly pressed up near to Caesar, refusing to allow any one else to
pass the paper in; and when, at last, he obtained an opportunity, he
gave it directly into Caesar's hands saying to him, "Read this
immediately: it concerns yourself, and is of the utmost importance"

Caesar took the paper and attempted to read it, but new petitions and
other interruptions constantly prevented him; finally he gave up the
attempt, and went on his way, receiving and passing to his secretary all
other papers, but retaining this paper of Artemidorus in his hand.

[Sidenote: Caesar and Spurinna.]

Caesar passed Spurinna on his way to the senate-house--the soothsayer
who had predicted some great danger connected with the Ides of March. As
soon as he recognized him, he accosted him with the words, "Well,
Spurinna, the Ides of March have come, and I am safe." "Yes," replied
Spurinna, "they have come, but they are not yet over."

[Sidenote: Caesar arrives at the senate house.]

At length he arrived at the senate-house, with the paper of Artemidorus
still unread in his hand. The senators were all convened, the leading
conspirators among them. They all rose to receive Caesar as he entered.
Caesar advanced to the seat provided for him, and, when he was seated,
the senators themselves sat down. The moment had now arrived, and the
conspirators, with pale looks and beating hearts, felt that now or never
the deed was to be done.

[Sidenote: Resolution of the Conspirators.]

It requires a very considerable degree of physical courage and
hardihood for men to come to a calm and deliberate decision that they
will kill one whom they hate, and, still more, actually to strike the
blow, even when under the immediate impulse of passion. But men who are
perfectly capable of either of these often find their resolution fail
them as the time comes for striking a dagger into the living flesh of
their victim, when he sits at ease and unconcerned before them, unarmed
and defenseless, and doing nothing to excite those feelings of
irritation and anger which are generally found so necessary to nerve the
human arm to such deeds. Utter defenselessness is accordingly,
sometimes, a greater protection than an armor of steel.

[Sidenote: Caesar and Pompey's statue.]

Even Cassius himself, the originator and the soul of the whole
enterprise, found his courage hardly adequate to the work now that the
moment had arrived; and, in order to arouse the necessary excitement in
his soul, he looked up to the statue of Pompey, Caesar's ancient and
most formidable enemy, and invoked its aid. It gave him its aid. It
inspired him with some portion of the enmity with which the soul of its
great original had burned; and thus the soul of the living assassin was
nerved to its work by a sort of sympathy with a block of stone.

[Sidenote: Plan of the conspirators.]

Foreseeing the necessity of something like a stimulus to action when the
immediate moment for action should arrive, the conspirators had agreed
that, as soon as Caesar was seated, they would approach him with a
petition, which he would probably refuse, and then, gathering around
him, they would urge him with their importunities, so as to produce, in
the confusion, a sort of excitement that would make it easier for them
to strike the blow.

[Sidenote: Marc Antony.]

There was one person, a relative and friend of Caesar's, named Marcus
Antonius, called commonly, however, in English narratives, Marc Antony,
the same who has been already mentioned as having been subsequently
connected with Cleopatra. He was a very energetic and determined man,
who, they thought, might possibly attempt to defend him. To prevent
this, one of the conspirators had been designated to take him aside, and
occupy his attention with some pretended subject of discourse, ready, at
the same time, to resist and prevent his interference if he should show
himself inclined to offer any.

[Sidenote: The petition.]
[Sidenote: Caesar assaulted.]

Things being thus arranged, the petitioner, as had been agreed, advanced
to Caesar with his petition, others coming up at the same time as if to
second the request. The object of the petition was to ask for the pardon
of the brother of one of the conspirators. Caesar declined granting it.
The others then crowded around him, urging him to grant the request with
pressing importunities, all apparently reluctant to strike the first
blow. Caesar began to be alarmed, and attempted to repel them. One of
them then pulled down his robe from his neck to lay it bare. Caesar
arose, exclaiming, "But this is violence." At the same instant, one of
the conspirators struck at him with his sword, and wounded him slightly
in the neck.

[Sidenote: He resists.]

All was now terror, outcry, and confusion Caesar had no time to draw his
sword, but fought a moment with his style, a sharp instrument of iron
with which they wrote, in those days, on waxen tablets, and which he
happened then to have in his hand. With this instrument he ran one of
his enemies through the arm.

[Illustration: POMPEY'S STATUE.]

[Sidenote: Caesar is overcome.]
[Sidenote: Pompey's statue.]
[Sidenote: Caesar's death.]

This resistance was just what was necessary to excite the conspirators,
and give them the requisite resolution to finish their work. Caesar soon
saw the swords, accordingly, gleaming all around him, and thrusting
themselves at him on every side. The senators rose in confusion and
dismay, perfectly thunderstruck at the scene, and not knowing what to
do. Antony perceived that all resistance on his part would be
unavailing, and accordingly did not attempt any. Caesar defended himself
alone for a few minutes as well as he could, looking all around him in
vain for help, and retreating at the same time toward the pedestal of
Pompey's statue. At length, when he saw Brutus among his murderers, he
exclaimed, "And you too, Brutus?" and seemed from that moment to give up
in despair. He drew his robe over his face, and soon fell under the
wounds which he received. His blood ran out upon the pavement at the
foot of Pompey's statue, as if his death were a sacrifice offered to
appease his ancient enemy's revenge.

[Sidenote: Flight of the senators.]
[Sidenote: Great commotion.]

In the midst of the scene Brutus made an attempt to address the
senators, and to vindicate what they had done, but the confusion and
excitement were so great that it was impossible that any thing could be
heard. The senators were, in fact, rapidly leaving the place, going off
in every direction, and spreading the tidings over the city. The event,
of course, produced universal commotion. The citizens began to close
their shops, and some to barricade their houses, while others hurried to
and fro about the streets, anxiously inquiring for intelligence, and
wondering what dreadful event was next to be expected. Antony and
Lepidus, who were Caesar's two most faithful and influential friends,
not knowing how extensive the conspiracy might be, nor how far the
hostility to Caesar and his party might extend, fled, and, not daring to
go to their own houses, lest the assassins or their confederates might
pursue them there, sought concealment in the houses of friends on whom
they supposed they could rely and who were willing to receive them.

[Sidenote: The Conspirators proceed to the Capitol.]
[Sidenote: They glory in their deed.]

In the mean time, the conspirators, glorying In the deed which they had
perpetrated, and congratulating each other on the successful issue of
their enterprise, sallied forth together from the senate-house, leaving
the body of their victim weltering in its blood, and marched, with drawn
swords in their hands, along the streets from the senate-house to the
Capitol. Brutus went at the head of them, preceded by a liberty cap
borne upon the point of a spear, and with his bloody dagger in his hand.
The Capitol was the citadel, built magnificently upon the Capitoline
Hill, and surrounded by temples, and other sacred and civil edifices,
which made the spot the architectural wonder of the world. As Brutus and
his company proceeded thither, they announced to the citizens, as they
went along, the great deed of deliverance which they had wrought out for
the country. Instead of seeking concealment, they gloried in the work
which they had done, and they so far succeeded in inspiring others with
a portion of their enthusiasm, that some men who had really taken no
part in the deed joined Brutus and his company in their march, to obtain
by stealth a share in the glory.

[Sidenote: Number of Caesar's wounds.]

The body of Caesar lay for some time unheeded where it had fallen, the
attention of every one being turned to the excitement, which was
extending through the city, and to the expectation of other great events
which might suddenly develop themselves in other quarters of Rome. There
were left only three of Caesar's slaves, who gathered around the body to
look at the wounds. They counted them, and found the number
twenty-three. It shows, however, how strikingly, and with what
reluctance, the actors in this tragedy came up to their work at last,
that of all these twenty-three wounds only one was a mortal one. In
fact, it is probable that, while all of the conspirators struck the
victim in their turn, to fulfill the pledge which they had given to one
another that they would every one inflict a wound, each one hoped that
the fatal blow would be given, after all, by some other hand than
his own.

[Sidenote: His slaves convey his body home.]

At last the slaves decided to convey the body home. They obtained a sort
of chair, which was made to be borne by poles, and placed the body upon
it. Then, lifting at the three handles, and allowing the fourth to hang
unsupported for want of a man, they bore the ghastly remains home to the
distracted Calpurnia.

[Sidenote: Address of the conspirators.]

The next day Brutus and his associates called an assembly of the people
in the Forum, and made an address to them, explaining the motives which
had led them to the commission of the deed, and vindicating the
necessity and the justice of it. The people received these explanations
in silence. They expressed neither approbation nor displeasure. It was
not, in fact, to be expected that they would feel or evince any
satisfaction at the loss of their master. He had been their champion,
and, as they believed, their friend. The removal of Caesar brought no
accession of power nor increase of liberty to them. It might have been a
gain to ambitious senators, or powerful generals, or high officers of
state, by removing a successful rival out of their way, but it seemed to
promise little advantage to the community at large, other than the
changing of one despotism for another. Besides, a populace who know that
they mast be governed, prefer generally, if they must submit to some
control, to yield their submission to some one master spirit whom they
can look up to as a great and acknowledged superior. They had rather
have a Caesar than a Senate to command them.

[Sidenote: Feelings of the populace.]

The higher authorities, however, were, at might have been expected,
disposed to acquiesce in the removal of Caesar from his intended throne.
The Senate met, and passed an act of indemnity, to shield the
conspirators from all legal liability for the deed they had done. In
order, however, to satisfy the people too, as far as possible, they
decreed divine honors to Caesar, confirmed and ratified all that he had
done while in the exercise of supreme power, and appointed a time for
the funeral, ordering arrangements to be made for a very pompous
celebration of it.

[Sidenote: Caesar's will.]
[Sidenote: Its provisions.]

A will was soon found, which Caesar, it seems, had made some time
before. Calpurnia's father proposed that this will should be opened and
read in public at Antony's house; and this was accordingly done. The
provisions of the will were, many of them, of such a character as
renewed the feelings of interest and sympathy which the people of Rome
had begun to cherish for Caesar's memory. His vast estate was divided
chiefly among the children of his sister, as he had no children of his
own, while the very men who had been most prominent in his assassination
were named as trustees and guardians of the property; and one of them,
Decimus Brutus, the one who had been so urgent to conduct him to the
senate-house, was a second heir. He had some splendid gardens near the
Tiber, which he bequeathed to the citizens of Rome, and a large amount
of money also, to be divided among them, sufficient to give every man a
considerable sum.

[Sidenote: Preparations for Caesar's funeral.]
[Sidenote: The Field of Mars.]

The time for the celebration of the funeral ceremonies was made known by
proclamation, and, as the concourse of strangers and citizens of Rome
was likely to be so great as to forbid the forming of all into one
procession without consuming more than one day, the various classes of
the community were invited to come, each in their own way, to the Field
of Mars, bringing with them such insignia, offerings, and oblations as
they pleased. The Field of Mars was an immense parade ground, reserved
for military reviews, spectacles, and shows. A funeral pile was erected
here for the burning of the body There was to be a funeral discourse
pronounced, and Marc Antony had been designated to perform this duty.
The body had been placed in a gilded bed, under a magnificent canopy in
the form of a temple, before the rostra where the funeral discourse was
to be pronounced. The bed was covered with scarlet and cloth of gold and
at the head of it was laid the robe in which Caesar had been slain. It
was stained with blood, and pierced with the holes that the swords and
daggers of the conspirators had made.

[Sidenote: Marc Antony's oration.]
[Sidenote: The funeral pile.]

Marc Antony, instead of pronouncing a formal panegyric upon his deceased
friend, ordered a crier to read the decrees of the Senate, in which all
honors, human and divine, had been ascribed to Caesar. He then added a
few words of his own. The bed was then taken up, with the body upon it,
and borne out into the Forum, preparatory to conveying it to the pile
which had been prepared for it upon the Field of Mars, A question,
however, here arose among the multitude assembled in respect to the
proper place for burning the body. The people seemed inclined to select
the most honorable place which could be found within the limits of the
city. Some proposed a beautiful temple on the Capitoline Hill. Others
wished to take it to the senate-house, where he had been slain. The
Senate, and those who were less inclined to pay extravagant honors to
the departed hero, were in favor of some more retired spot, under
pretense that the buildings of the city would be endangered by the fire.
This discussion was fast becoming a dispute, when it was suddenly ended
by two men, with swords at their sides and knees in their hands, forcing
their way through the crowd with lighted torches, and setting the bed
and its canopy on fire where it lay.


[Sidenote: The body burned in the Forum.]

This settled the question, and the whole company were soon in the
wildest excitement with the work of building up a funeral pile upon the
spot. At first they brought fagots and threw upon the fire, then benches
from the neighboring courts and porticoes, and then any thing
combustible which came to hand. The honor done to the memory of a
deceased hero was, in some sense, in proportion to the greatness of his
funeral pile, and all the populace on this occasion began soon to seize
every thing they could find, appropriate and unappropriate, provided
that it would increase the flame. The soldiers threw on their lances and
spears, the musicians their instruments, and others stripped off the
cloths and trappings from the furniture of the procession, and heaped
them upon the burning pile.

[Sidenote: The conflagration.]

So fierce and extensive was the fire, that it spread to some of the
neighboring houses, and required great efforts to prevent a general
conflagration. The people, too, became greatly excited by the scene.
They lighted torches by the fire, and went to the houses of Brutus and
Cassius, threatening vengeance upon them for the murder of Caesar. The
authorities succeeded though with infinite difficulty, in protecting
Brutus and Cassius from the violence of the mob, but they seized one
unfortunate citizen of the name of Cinna, thinking it a certain Cinna
who had been known as an enemy of Caesar. They cut off his head,
notwithstanding his shrieks and cries, and carried it about the city on
the tip of a pike, a dreadful symbol of their hostility to the enemies
of Caesar. As frequently happens, however, in such deeds of sudden
violence, these hasty and lawless avengers found afterward that they had
made a mistake, and beheaded the wrong man.

[Sidenote: Caesar's monument.]
[Sidenote: The comet.]

The Roman people erected a column to the memory of Caesar, on which they
placed the inscription, "To THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY." They fixed the
figure of a star upon the summit of it, and some time afterward, while
the people were celebrating some games in honor of his memory, a great
comet blazed for seven nights in the sky, which they recognized as the
mighty hero's soul reposing in heaven.

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest