Part 2 - History of Julius Caesar Audiobook by Jacob Abbott (Chs 7-12)


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History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER VII.
THE BATTLE OF PHARSALIA.
The gathering of the armies of Caesar and Pompey on the opposite shores of the
Adriatic Sea was one of the grandest preparations for conflict that history has
recorded, and the whole world gazed upon
the spectacle at the time with an intense and eager interest, which was heightened by
the awe and terror which the danger inspired.
During the year while Caesar had been completing his work of subduing and
arranging all the western part of the empire, Pompey had been gathering from the
eastern division every possible
contribution to swell the military force under his command, and had been
concentrating all these elements of power on the coasts of Macedon and Greece,
opposite to Brundusium, where he knew that
Caesar would attempt to cross the Adriatic Sea, His camps, his detachments, his troops
of archers and slingers, and his squadrons of horse, filled the land, while every port
was guarded, and the line of the coast was
environed by batteries and castles on the rocks, and fleets of galleys on the water.
Caesar advanced with his immense army to Brundusium, on the opposite shore, in
December, so that, in addition to the formidable resistance prepared for him by
his enemy on the coast, he had to encounter
the wild surges of the Adriatic, rolling perpetually in the dark and gloomy
commotion always raised in such wide seas by wintery storms.
Caesar had no ships, for Pompey had cleared the seas of every thing which could aid him
in his intended passage.
By great efforts, however, he succeeded at length in getting together a sufficient
number of galleys to convey over a part of his army, provided he took the men alone,
and left all his military stores and baggage behind.
He gathered his army together, therefore, and made them an address, representing that
they were now drawing toward the end of all their dangers and toils.
They were about to meet their great enemy for a final conflict.
It was not necessary to take their servants, their baggage, and their stores
across the sea, for they were sure of victory, and victory would furnish them
with ample supplies from those whom they were about to conquer.
The soldiers eagerly imbibed the spirit of confidence and courage which Caesar himself
expressed.
A large detachment embarked and put to sea, and, after being tossed all night upon the
cold and stormy waters, they approached the shore at some distance to the northward of
the place where Pompey's fleets had expected them.
It was at a point where the mountains came down near to the sea, rendering the coast
rugged and dangerous with shelving rocks and frowning promontories.
Here Caesar succeeded in effecting a landing of the first division of his
troops, and then sent back the fleet for the remainder.
The news of his passage spread rapidly to all Pompey's stations along the coast, and
the ships began to gather, and the armies to march toward the point where Caesar had
effected his landing.
The conflict and struggle commenced. One of Pompey's admirals intercepted the
fleet of galleys on their return, and seized and burned a large number of them,
with all who were on board.
This, of course, only renewed the determined desperation of the remainder.
Caesar advanced along the coast with the troops which he had landed, driving
Pompey's troops before him, and subduing town after town as he advanced.
The country was filled with terror and dismay.
The portion of the army which Caesar had left behind could not now cross, partly on
account of the stormy condition of the seas, the diminished number of the ships,
and the redoubled vigilance with which
Pompey's forces now guarded the shores, but mainly because Caesar was now no longer
with them to inspire them with his reckless, though calm and quiet daring.
They remained, therefore, in anxiety and distress, on the Italian shore.
As Caesar, on the other hand, advanced along the Macedonian shore, and drove
Pompey back into the interior, he cut off the communication between Pompey's ships
and the land, so that the fleet was soon
reduced to great distress for want of provisions and water.
The men kept themselves from perishing with thirst by collecting the dew which fell
upon the decks of their galleys.
Caesar's army was also in distress, for Pompey's fleets cut off all supplies by
water, and his troops hemmed them in on the side of the land; and, lastly, Pompey
himself, with the immense army that was
under his command, began to be struck with alarm at the impending danger with which
they were threatened. Pompey little realized, however, how
dreadful a fate was soon to overwhelm him.
The winter months rolled away, and nothing effectual was done.
The forces, alternating and intermingled, as above described, kept each other in a
continued state of anxiety and suffering.
Caesar became impatient at the delay of that portion of his army that he had left
on the Italian shore.
The messages of encouragement and of urgency which he sent across to them did
not bring them over, and at length, one dark and stormy night, when he thought that
the inclemency of the skies and the heavy
surging of the swell in the offing would drive his vigilant enemies into places of
shelter, and put them off their guard, he determined to cross the sea himself and
bring his hesitating army over.
He ordered a galley to be prepared, and went on board of it disguised, and with his
head muffled in his mantle, intending that not even the officers or crew of the ship
which was to convey him should know of his design.
The galley, in obedience to orders, put off from the shore.
The mariners endeavored in vain for some time to make head against the violence of
the wind and the heavy concussions of the waves, and at length, terrified at the
imminence of the danger to which so wild
and tumultuous a sea on such a night exposed them, refused to proceed, and the
commander gave them orders to return.
Caesar then came forward, threw off his mantle, and said to them, "Friends! you
have nothing to fear. You are carrying Caesar."
The men were, of course, inspirited anew by this disclosure, but all was in vain.
The obstacles to the passage proved insurmountable, and the galley, to avoid
certain destruction, was compelled to return.
The army, however, on the Italian side, hearing of Caesar's attempt to return to
them, fruitless though it was, and stimulated by the renewed urgency of the
orders which he now sent to them, made
arrangements at last for an embarkation, and, after encountering great dangers on
the way, succeeded in landing in safety.
Caesar, thus strengthened, began to plan more decided operations for the coming
spring. There were some attempts at negotiation.
The armies were so exasperated against each other on account of the privations and
hardships which each compelled the other to suffer, that they felt too strong a mutual
distrust to attempt any regular
communication by commissioners or ambassadors appointed for the purpose.
They came to a parley, however, in one or two instances, though the interviews led to
no result.
As the missiles used in those days were such as could only be thrown to a very
short distance, hostile bodies of men could approach much nearer to each other then
than is possible now, when projectiles of
the most terribly destructive character can be thrown for miles.
In one instance, some of the ships of Pompey's fleet approached so near to the
shore as to open a conference with one or two of Caesar's lieutenants who were
encamped there.
In another case, two bodies of troops from the respective armies were separated only
by a river, and the officers and soldiers came down to the banks on either side, and
held frequent conversations, calling to each other in loud voices across the water.
In this way they succeeded in so far coming to an agreement as to fix upon a time and
place for a more formal conference, to be held by commissioners chosen on each side.
This conference was thus held, but each party came to it accompanied by a
considerable body of attendants, and these, as might have been anticipated, came into
open collision while the discussion was
pending; thus the meeting consequently ended in violence and disorder, each party
accusing the other of violating the faith which both had plighted.
This slow and undecided mode of warfare between the two vast armies continued for
many months without any decisive results.
There were skirmishes, struggles, sieges, blockades, and many brief and partial
conflicts, but no general and decided battle.
Now the advantage seemed on one side, and now on the other.
Pompey so hemmed in Caesar's troops at one period, and so cut off his supplies, that
the men were reduced to extreme distress for food.
At length they found a kind of root which they dug from the ground, and, after drying
and pulverizing it, they made a sort of bread of the powder, which the soldiers
were willing to eat rather than either starve or give up the contest.
They told Caesar, in fact, that they would live on the bark of trees rather than
abandon his cause.
Pompey's soldiers, at one time, coming near to the walls of a town which they occupied,
taunted and jeered them on account of their wretched destitution of food.
Caesar's soldiers threw loaves of this bread at them in return, by way of symbol
that they were abundantly supplied.
After some time the tide of fortune turned Caesar contrived, by a succession of adroit
maneuvers and movements, to escape from his toils, and to circumvent and surround
Pompey's forces so as soon to make them
suffer destitution and distress in their turn.
He cut off all communication between them and the country at large, and turned away
the brooks and streams from flowing through the ground they occupied.
An army of forty or fifty thousand men, with the immense number of horses and
beasts of burden which accompany them, require very large supplies of water, and
any destitution or even scarcity of water
leads immediately to the most dreadful consequences.
Pompey's troops dug wells, but they obtained only very insufficient supplies.
Great numbers of beasts of burden died, and their decaying bodies so tainted the air as
to produce epidemic diseases, which destroyed many of the troops, and depressed
and disheartened those whom they did not destroy.
During all these operations there was no decisive general battle.
Each one of the great rivals knew very well that his defeat in one general battle would
be his utter and irretrievable ruin.
In a war between two independent nations, a single victory, however complete, seldom
terminates the struggle, for the defeated party has the resources of a whole realm to
fall back upon, which are sometimes called
forth with renewed vigor after experiencing such reverses; and then defeat in such
cases, even if it be final, does not necessarily involve the ruin of the
unsuccessful commander.
He may negotiate an honorable peace, and return to his own land in safety; and, if
his misfortunes are considered by his countrymen as owing not to any dereliction
from his duty as a soldier, but to the
influence of adverse circumstances which no human skill or resolution could have
controlled, he may spend the remainder of his days in prosperity and honor.
The contest, however, between Caesar and Pompey was not of this character.
One or the other of them was a traitor and a usurper--an enemy to his country.
The result of a battle would decide which of the two was to stand in this attitude.
Victory would legitimize and confirm the authority of one, and make it supreme over
the whole civilized world.
Defeat was to annihilate the power of the other, and make him a fugitive and a
vagabond, without friends, without home, without country.
It was a desperate stake; and it is not at all surprising that both parties lingered
and hesitated, and postponed the throwing of the die.
At length Pompey, rendered desperate by the urgency of the destitution and distress
into which Caesar had shut him, made a series of rigorous and successful attacks
upon Caesar's lines, by which he broke away
in his turn from his enemy's grasp, and the two armies moved slowly back into the
interior of the country, hovering in the vicinity of each other, like birds of prey
contending in the air, each continually
striking at the other, and moving onward at the same time to gain some position of
advantage, or to circumvent the other in such a design.
They passed on in this manner over plains, and across rivers, and through mountain
passes, until at length they reached the heart of Thessaly.
Here at last the armies came to a stand and fought the final battle.
The place was known then as the plain of Pharsalia, and the greatness of the contest
which was decided there has immortalized its name.
Pompey's forces were far more numerous than those of Caesar, and the advantage in all
the partial contests which had taken place for some time had been on his side; he
felt, consequently, sure of victory.
He drew up his men in a line, one flank resting upon the bank of a river, which
protected them from attack on that side.
From this point, the long line of legions, drawn up in battle array, extended out upon
the plain, and was terminated at the other extremity by strong squadrons of horse, and
bodies of slingers and archers, so as to
give the force of weapons and the activity of men as great a range as possible there,
in order to prevent Caesar's being able to outflank and surround them There was,
however, apparently very little danger of
this, for Caesar, according to his own story, had but about half as strong a force
as Pompey.
The army of the latter, he says, consisted of nearly fifty thousand men, while his own
number was between twenty and thirty thousand.
Generals, however, are prone to magnify the military grandeur of their exploits by
overrating the strength with which they had to contend, and under-estimating their own.
We are therefore to receive with some distrust the statements made by Caesar and
his partisans; and as for Pompey's story, the total and irreparable ruin in which he
himself and all who adhered to him were
entirely overwhelmed immediately after the battle, prevented its being ever told.
In the rear of the plain where Pompey's lines were extended was the camp from which
the army had been drawn out to prepare for the battle.
The camp fires of the preceding night were moldering away, for it was a warm summer
morning; the intrenchments were guarded, and the tents, now nearly empty, stood
extended in long rows within the inclosure.
In the midst of them was the magnificent pavilion of the general, furnished with
every imaginable article of luxury and splendor.
Attendants were busy here and there, some rearranging what had been left in disorder
by the call to arms by which the troops had been summoned from their places of rest,
and others providing refreshments-and food
for their victorious comrades when they should return from the battle.
In Pompey's tent a magnificent entertainment was preparing.
The tables were spread with every luxury, the sideboards were loaded with plate, and
the whole scene was resplendent with utensils and decorations of silver and
gold.
Pompey and all his generals were perfectly certain of victory.
In fact, the peace and harmony of their councils in camp had been destroyed for
many days by their contentions and disputes about the disposal of the high offices, and
the places of profit and power at Rome,
which were to come into their hands when Caesar should have been subdued.
The subduing of Caesar they considered only a question of time; and, as a question of
time, it was now reduced to very narrow limits.
A few days more, and they were to be masters of the whole Roman empire, and,
impatient and greedy, they disputed in anticipation about the division of the
spoils.
To make assurance doubly sure, Pompey gave orders that his troops should not advance
to meet the onset of Caesar's troops on the middle ground between the two armies, but
that they should wait calmly for the
attack, and receive the enemy at the posts where they had themselves been arrayed.
The hour at length arrived, the charge was sounded by the trumpets, and Caesar's
troops began to advance with loud shouts and great impetuosity toward Pompey's
lines.
There was a long and terrible struggle, but the forces of Pompey began finally to give
way.
Notwithstanding the precautions which Pompey had taken to guard and protect the
wing of his army which was extended toward the land, Caesar succeeded in turning his
flank upon that side by driving off the
cavalry and destroying the archers and slingers, and he was thus enabled to throw
a strong force upon Pompey's rear.
The flight then soon became general, and a scene of dreadful confusion and slaughter
ensued.
The soldiers of Caesar's army, maddened with the insane rage which the progress of
a battle never fails to awaken, and now excited to phrensy by the exultation of
success, pressed on after the affrighted
fugitives, who trampled one upon another, or fell pierced with the weapons of their
assailants, filling the air with their cries of agony and their shrieks of terror.
The horrors of the scene, far from allaying, only excited still more the
ferocity of their bloodthirsty foes, and they pressed steadily and fiercely on, hour
after hour, in their dreadful work of destruction.
It was one of those scenes of horror and woe such as those who have not witnessed
them can not conceive of, and those who have witnessed can never forget.
When Pompey perceived that all was lost, he fled from the field in a state of the
wildest excitement and consternation.
His troops were flying in all directions, some toward the camp, vainly hoping to find
refuge there, and others in various other quarters, wherever they saw the readiest
hope of escape from their merciless pursuers.
Pompey himself fled instinctively toward the camp.
As he passed the guards at the gate where he entered, he commanded them, in his
agitation and terror, to defend the gate against the coming enemy, saying that he
was going to the other gates to attend to the defenses there.
He then hurried on, but a full sense of the helplessness and hopelessness of his
condition soon overwhelmed him; he gave up all thought of defense, and, passing with a
sinking heart through the scene of
consternation and confusion which reigned every where within the encampment, he
sought his own tent, and, rushing into it, sank down, amid the luxury and splendor
which had been arranged to do honor to his
anticipated victory, in a state of utter stupefaction and despair.
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History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER VIII.
FLIGHT AND DEATH OF POMPEY.
Caesar pursued the discomfited and flying bodies of Pompey's army to the camp.
They made a brief stand upon the ramparts and at the gates in a vain and fruitless
struggle against the tide of victory which they soon perceived must fully overwhelm
them.
They gave way continually here and there along the lines of intrenchment, and column
after column of Caesar's followers broke through into the camp.
Pompey, hearing from his tent the increasing noise and uproar, was at length
aroused from his stupor, and began to summon his faculties to the question what
he was to do.
At length a party of fugitives, hotly pursued by some of Caesar's soldiers, broke
into his tent. "What!" said Pompey, "into my tent too!"
He had been for more than thirty years a victorious general, accustomed to all the
deference and respect which boundless wealth, extended and absolute power, and
the highest military rank could afford.
In the encampments which he had made, and in the cities which he had occupied from
time to time, he had been the supreme and unquestioned master, and his tent, arranged
and furnished, as it had always been, in a
style of the utmost magnificence and splendor, had been sacred from all
intrusion, and invested with such a dignity that potentates and princes were impressed
when they entered, with a feeling of deference and awe.
Now, rude soldiers burst wildly into it, and the air without was filled with an
uproar and confusion, drawing every moment nearer and nearer, and warning the fallen
hero that there was no longer any
protection there against the approaching torrent which was coming on to overwhelm
him.
Pompey aroused himself from his stupor, threw off the military dress which belonged
to his rank and station, and assumed a hasty disguise, in which he hoped he might
make his escape from the immediate scene of his calamities.
He mounted a horse and rode out of the camp at the easiest place of egress in the rear,
in company with bodies of troops and guards who were also flying in confusion, while
Caesar and his forces on the other side
were carrying the intrenchments and forcing their way in.
As soon is he had thus made his escape from the immediate scene of danger, he
dismounted and left his horse, that he might assume more completely the appearance
of a common soldier, and, with a few
attendants who were willing to follow his fallen fortunes, he went on to the
eastward, directing his weary steps toward the shores of the Aegean Sea.
The country through which he was traveling was Thessaly.
Thessaly is a vast amphitheater, surrounded by mountains, from whose sides streams
descend, which, after watering many fertile valleys and plains, combine to form one
great central river that flows to the
eastward, and after various meanderings, finds its way into the Aegean Sea through a
romantic gap between two mountains, called the Vale of Tempe--a vale which has been
famed in all ages for the extreme
picturesqueness of its scenery, and in which, in those days, all the charms both
of the most alluring beauty and of the sublimest grandeur seemed to be combined.
Pompey followed the roads leading along the banks of this stream, weary in body, and
harassed and disconsolate in mind.
The news which came to him from time to time, by the flying parties which were
moving through the country in all directions, of the entire and overwhelming
completeness of Caesar's victory,
extinguished all remains of hope, and narrowed down at last the grounds of his
solicitude to the single point of his own personal safety.
He was well aware that he should be pursued, and, to baffle the efforts which
he knew that his enemies would make to follow his track, he avoided large towns,
and pressed forward in by-ways and
solitudes, bearing as patiently as he was able his increasing destitution and
distress.
He reached, at length, the Vale of Tempe, and there, exhausted with hunger, thirst,
and fatigue, he sat down upon the bank of the stream to recover by a little rest
strength enough for the remainder of his weary way.
He wished for a drink, but he had nothing to drink from.
And so the mighty potentate, whose tent was full of delicious beverages, and cups and
goblets of silver and gold, extended himself down upon the sand at the margin of
the river, and drank the warm water directly from the stream.
While Pompey was thus anxiously and toilsomely endeavoring to gain the sea-
shore, Caesar was completing his victory over the army which he had left behind him.
When Caesar had carried the intrenchments of the camp, and the army found that there
was no longer any safety for them there, they continued their retreat under the
guidance of such generals as remained.
Caesar thus gained undisputed possession of the camp.
He found every where the marks of wealth and luxury, and indications of the
confident expectation of victory which the discomfited army had entertained.
The tents of the generals were crowned with myrtle, the beds were strewed with flowers,
and tables every where were spread for feasts, with cups and bowls of wine all
ready for the expected revelers.
Caesar took possession of the whole, stationed a proper guard to protect the
property, and then pressed forward with his army in pursuit of the enemy.
Pompey's army made their way to a neighboring rising ground, where they threw
up hasty intrenchments to protect themselves for the night.
A rivulet ran near the hill, the access to which they endeavored to secure, in order
to obtain supplies of water. Caesar and his forces followed them to this
spot.
The day was gone, and it was too late to attack them.
Caesar's soldiers, too, were exhausted with the intense and protracted excitement and
exertions which had now been kept up for many hours in the battle and in the
pursuit, and they needed repose.
They made, however, one effort more.
They seized the avenue of approach to the rivulet, and threw up a temporary
intrenchment to secure it which intrenchment they protected with a guard;
and then the army retired to rest, leaving
their helpless victims to while away the hours of the night, tormented with thirst,
and overwhelmed with anxiety and despair. This could not long be endured.
They surrendered in the morning, and Caesar found himself in possession of over twenty
thousand prisoners.
In the mean time, Pompey passed on through the Vale of Tempe toward the sea,
regardless of the beauty and splendor that surrounded him, and thinking only of his
fallen fortunes, and revolving despairingly
in his mind the various forms in which the final consummation of his ruin might
ultimately come.
At length he reached the sea-shore, and found refuge for the night in a fisherman's
cabin. A small number of attendants remained with
him, some of whom were slaves.
These he now dismissed, directing them to return and surrender themselves to Caesar,
saying that he was a generous foe, and that they had nothing to fear from him.
His other attendants he retained, and he made arrangements for a boat to take him
the next day along the coast.
It was a river boat, and unsuited to the open sea, but it was all that he could
obtain.
He arose the next morning at break of day, and embarked in the little vessel, with two
or three attendants, and the oarsmen began to row away along the shore.
They soon came in sight of a merchant ship just ready to sail.
The master of this vessel, it happened, had seen Pompey, and knew his countenance, and
he had dreamed, as a famous historian of the times relates, on the night before,
that Pompey had come to him hi the guise of
a simple soldier and in great distress, and that he had received and rescued him.
There was nothing extraordinary in such a dream at such a time, as the contest
between Caesar and Pompey, and the approach of the final collision which was to destroy
one or the other of them, filled the minds and occupied the conversation of the world.
The shipmaster, therefore, having seen and known one of the great rivals in the
approaching conflict, would naturally find both his waking and sleeping thoughts
dwelling on the subject; and his fancy, in
his dreams, might easily picture the scene of his rescuing and saving the fallen hero
in the hour of his distress.
However this may be, the shipmaster is said to have been relating his dream to the
seamen on the deck of his vessel when the boat which was conveying Pompey came into
view.
Pompey himself, having escaped from the land, supposed all immediate danger over,
not imagining that seafaring men would recognize him in such a situation and in
such a disguise.
The shipmaster did, however, recognize him. He was overwhelmed with grief at seeing him
in such a condition.
With a countenance and with gestures expressive of earnest surprise and sorrow,
he beckoned to Pompey to come on board.
He ordered his own ship's boat to be immediately let down to meet and receive
him. Pompey came on board.
The ship was given up to his possession, and every possible arrangement was made to
supply his wants, to contribute to his comfort, and to do him honor.
The vessel conveyed him to Amphipolis, a city of Macedonia near the sea, and to the
northward and eastward of the place where he had embarked.
When Pompey arrived at the port he sent proclamations to the shore, calling upon
the inhabitants to take arms and join his standard.
He did not, however, land, or take any other measures for carrying these
arrangements into effect.
He only waited in the river upon which Amphipolis stands long enough to receive a
supply of money from some of his friends on the shore, and stores for his voyage, and
then get sail again.
Whether he learned that Caesar was advancing in that direction with a force
too strong for him to encounter, or found that the people were disinclined to espouse
his cause, or whether the whole movement
was a feint to direct Caesar's attention to Macedon as the field of his operations, in
order that he might escape more secretly and safely beyond the sea, can not now be
ascertained.
Pompey's wife Cornelia was on the island of Lesbos, at Mitylene, near the western coast
of Asia Minor.
She was a lady of distinguished beauty, and of great intellectual superiority and moral
worth.
She was extremely well versed in all the learning of the times, and yet was entirely
free from those peculiarities and airs which, as her historian says, were often
observed in learned ladies in those days.
Pompey had married her after the death of Julia, Caesar's daughter.
They were strongly devoted to each other.
Pompey had provided for her a beautiful retreat on the island of Lesbos, where she
was living in elegance and splendor, beloved for her own intrinsic charms, and
highly honored on account of the greatness and fame of her husband.
Here she had received from time to time glowing accounts of his success all
exaggerated as they came to her, through the eager desire of the narrators to give
her pleasure.
From this high elevation of honor and happiness the ill-fated Cornelia suddenly
fell, on the arrival of Pompey's solitary vessel at Mitylene, bringing as it did, at
the same time, both the first intelligence
of her husband's fall, and himself in person, a ruined and homeless fugitive and
wanderer. The meeting was sad and sorrowful.
Cornelia was overwhelmed at the suddenness and violence of the shock which it brought
her, and Pompey lamented anew the dreadful disaster that he had sustained, at finding
how inevitably it must involve his beloved
wife as well as himself in its irreparable ruin.
The pain, however, was not wholly without some mingling of pleasure.
A husband finds a strange sense of protection and safety in the presence and
sympathy of an affectionate wife in the hour of his calamity.
She can, perhaps do nothing, but her mute and sorrowful concern and pity comfort and
reassure him. Cornelia, however, was able to render her
husband some essential aid.
She resolved immediately to accompany him wherever he should go; and, by their joint
endeavors, a little fleet was gathered, and such supplies as could be hastily obtained,
and such attendants and followers as were
willing to share his fate, were taken on board.
During all this time Pompey would not go on shore himself, but remained on board, his
ship in the harbor.
Perhaps he was afraid of some treachery or surprise, or perhaps, in his fallen and
hopeless condition, he was unwilling to expose himself to the gaze of those who had
so often seen him in all the splendor of his former power.
At length, when all was ready, he sailed away.
He passed eastward along the Mediterranean, touching at such ports as he supposed most
likely to favor his cause.
Vague and uncertain, but still alarming rumors that Caesar was advancing in pursuit
of him met him every where, and the people of the various provinces were taking sides,
some in his favor and some against him, the
excitement being every where so great that the utmost caution and circumspection were
required in all his movements.
Sometimes he was refused permission to land; at others, his friends were too few
to afford him protection; and at others still, though the authorities professed
friendship, he did not dare to trust them.
He obtained, however, some supplies of money and some accessions to the number of
ships and men under his command, until at length he had quite a little fleet in his
train.
Several men of rank and influence, who had served under him in the days of his
prosperity, nobly adhered to him now, and formed a sort of court or council on board
his galley, where they held with their
great though fallen commander frequent conversations on the plan which it was best
to pursue. It was finally decided that it was best to
seek refuge in Egypt.
There seemed to be, in fact, no alternative.
All the rest of the world was evidently going over to Caesar.
Pompey had been the means, some years before, of restoring a certain king of
Egypt to his throne, and many of his soldiers had been left in the country, and
remained there still.
It is true that the king himself had died. He had left a daughter named Cleopatra, and
also a son, who was at this time very young.
The name of this youthful prince was Ptolemy.
Ptolemy and Cleopatra bad been made by their father joint heirs to the throne.
But Ptolemy, or, rather, the ministers and counselors who acted for him and in his
name, had expelled Cleopatra, that they might govern alone.
Cleopatra had raised an army in Syria, and was on her way to the frontiers of Egypt to
regain possession of what she deemed her rights.
Ptolemy's ministers had gone forth to meet her at the head of their own troops,
'Ptolemy himself being also with them.
They had reached Pelusium, which is the frontier town between Egypt and Syria on
the coast of the Mediterranean.
Here their armies had assembled in vast encampments upon the land, and their
galleys and transports were riding at anchor along the shore of the sea.
Pompey and his-counselors thought that the government of Ptolemy would receive him as
a friend, on account of the services he had rendered to the young prince's father,
forgetting that gratitude has never a place on the list of political virtues.
Pompey's little squadron made its way slowly over the waters of the Mediterranean
toward Pelusium and the camp of Ptolemy.
As they approached the shore, both Pompey himself and Cornelia felt many anxious
forebodings.
A messenger was sent to the land to inform the young king of Pompey's approach, and to
solicit his protection. The government of Ptolemy held a council,
and took the subject into consideration.
Various opinions were expressed, and various plans were proposed.
The counsel which was finally followed was this.
It would be dangerous to receive Pompey, since that would make Caesar their enemy.
It would be dangerous to refuse to receive him, as that would make Pompey their enemy,
and, though powerless now, he might one day be in a condition to seek vengeance.
It was wisest, therefore, to destroy him.
They would invite him to the shore, and kill him when he landed.
This would please Caesar; and Pompey himself, being dead, could never revenge
it.
"Dead dogs," as the orator said who made this atrocious proposal, "do not bite."
An Egyptian, named Achillas, was appointed to execute the assassination thus decreed.
An invitation was sent to Pompey to land, accompanied with a promise of protection;
and, when his fleet had approached near enough to the shore, Achillas took a small
party in a boat, and went out to meet his galley.
The men in this boat, of course, were armed.
The officers and attendants of Pompey watched all these movements from the deck
of his galley.
They scrutinized every thing that occurred with the closest attention and the greatest
anxiety, to see whether the indications denoted an honest friendship or intentions
of treachery.
The appearances were not favorable. Pompey's friends observed that no
preparations were making along the shore for receiving him with the honors due, as
they thought, to his rank and station.
The manner, too, in which the Egyptians seemed to expect him to land was ominous of
evil.
Only a single insignificant boat for a potentate who recently had commanded half
the world!
Then, besides, the friends of Pompey observed that several of the principal
galleys of Ptolemy's fleet were getting up their anchors, and preparing apparently to
be ready to move at a sudden call These and
other indications appeared much more like preparations for seizing an enemy than
welcoming a friend.
Cornelia, who, with her little son, stood upon the deck of Pompey's galley, watching
the scene with a peculiar intensity of solicitude which the hardy soldiers around
her could not have felt, became soon exceedingly alarm ad.
She begged her husband Dot to go on shore. But Pompey decided that it was now too late
to retreat.
He could not escape from the Egyptian galleys if they had received orders to
intercept him, nor could he resist violence if violence were intended.
To do any thing like that would evince distrust, and to appear like putting
himself upon his guard would be to take at once, himself, the position of an enemy,
and invite and justify the hostility of the Egyptians in return.
As to flight, he could not hope to escape from the Egyptian galleys if they had
received orders to prevent it; and, besides, if he were determined on
attempting an escape, whither should he fly?
The world was against him.
His triumphant enemy was on his track in full pursuit, with all the vast powers and
resources of the whole Roman empire at his command.
There remained for Pompey only the last forlorn hope of a refuge in Egypt, or else,
as the sole alternative, a complete and unconditional submission to Caesar.
His pride would not consent to this, and he determined, therefore, dark as the
indications were, to place himself, without any appearance of distrust, in Ptolemy's
hands, and abide the issue.
The boat of Achillas approached the galley.
When it touched the side, Achillas and the other officers on board of it hailed Pompey
in the most respectful manner, giving him the title of Imperator, the highest title
known in the Roman state.
Achillas addressed Pompey in Greek. The Greek was the language of educated men
in all the Eastern countries in those days.
He told him that the water was too shallow for his galley to approach nearer to the
shore, and invited him to come on board of his boat, and he would take him to the
beach, where, as he said, the king was waiting to receive him.
With many anxious forebodings, that were but ill concealed, Pompey made preparations
to accept the invitation.
He bade his wife farewell, who clung to him as they were about to part with a gloomy
presentiment that they should never meet again.
Two centurions who were to accompany Pompey, and two servants, descended into
the boat.
Pompey himself followed, and then the boatmen pushed off from the galley and made
toward the shore.
The decks of all the vessels in Pompey's little squadron, as well as those of the
Egyptian fleet, were crowded with spectators, and lines of soldiery and
groups of men, all intently watching the
operations of the landing, were scattered along the shore.
Among the men whom Achillas had provided to aid him in the assassination was an offieer
of the Roman army who had formerly served under Pompey.
As soon as Pompey was seated in the boat, he recognized the countenance of this man,
and addressed him, saying, "I think I remember you as having been in former days
my fellow-soldier."
The man replied merely by a nod of assent.
Feeling somewhat guilty and self-condemned at the thoughts of the treachery which he
was about to perpetrate, he was little inclined to renew the recollection of the
days when he was Pompey's friend.
In fact, the whole company in the boat, filled on the one part with awe in
anticipation of the terrible deed which they were soon to commit, and on the other
with a dread suspense and alarm, were
little disposed for conversation, and Pompey took out a manuscript of an address
in Greek which he had prepared to make to the young king at his approaching interview
with him, and occupied himself in reading it over.
Thus they advanced in a gloomy and solemn silence, hearing no sound but the dip of
the oars in the water, and the gentle dash of the waves along the line of the shore.
At length the boat touched the sand, while Cornelia still stood on the deck of the
galley, watching every movement with great solicitude and concern.
One of the two servants whom Pompey had taken with him, named Philip, his favorite
personal attendant, rose to assist his master in landing.
He gave Pompey his hand to aid him in rising from his seat, and at that moment
the Roman officer whom Pompey had recognized as his fellow-soldier, advanced
behind him and stabbed him in the back.
At the same instant Achillas and the others drew their swords.
Pompey saw that all was lost.
He did not speak, and he uttered no cry of alarm, though Cornelia's dreadful shriek
was so loud and piercing that it was heard upon the shore.
From the suffering victim himself nothing was heard but an inarticulate groan
extorted by his agony. He gathered his mantle over his face, and
sank down and died.
Of course, all was now excitement and confusion.
As soon as the deed was done, the perpetrators of it retired from the scene,
taking the head of their unhappy victim with them, to offer to Caesar as proof that
his enemy was really no more.
The officers who remained in the fleet which had brought Pompey to the coast made
all haste to sail away, bearing the wretched Cornelia with them, utterly
distracted with grief and despair, while
Philip and his fellow-servant remained upon the beach, standing bewildered and
stupefied over the headless body of their beloved master.
Crowds of spectators came in succession to look upon the hideous spectacle a moment in
silence, and then to turn, shocked and repelled, away.
At length, when the first impulse of excitement had in some measure spent its
force, Philip and his comrades so far recovered their composure as to begin to
turn their thoughts to the only consolation
that was now left to them, that of performing the solemn duties of sepulture.
They found the wreck of a fishing boat upon the strand, from which they obtained wood
enough for a rude funeral pile.
They burned what remained of the mutilated body, and, gathering up the ashes, they put
them in an urn and sent them to Cornelia, who afterward buried them at Alba with many
bitter tears.
>
History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER IX.
CAESAR IN EGYPT.
Caesar surveyed the field of battle after the victory of Pharsalia, not with the
feelings of exultation which might have been expected in a victorious general, but
with compassion and sorrow for the fallen
soldiers whose dead bodies covered the ground.
After gazing upon the scene sadly and in silence for a time, he said, "They would
have it so," and thus dismissed from his mind all sense of his own responsibility
for the consequences which had ensued.
He treated the immense body of prisoners which had fallen into his hands with great
clemency, partly from the natural impulses of his disposition, which were always
generous and noble, and partly from policy,
that he might conciliate them all, officers and soldiers, to acquiescence in his future
rule.
He then sent back a large portion of his force to Italy, and, taking a body of
cavalry from the rest, in order that he might advance with the utmost possible
rapidity, he set off through Thessaly and Macedon in pursuit of his fugitive foe.
He had no naval force at his command, and he accordingly kept upon the land.
Besides, he wished, by moving through the country at the head of an armed force, to
make a demonstration which should put down any attempt that might be made in arty
quarter to rally or concentrate a force in Pompey's favor.
He crossed the Hellespont, and moved down the coast of Asia Minor.
There was a great temple consecrated to Diana at Ephesus, which, for its wealth and
magnificence, was then the wonder of the world.
The authorities who had it in their charge, not aware of Caesar's approach, had
concluded to withdraw the treasures from the temple and loan them to Pompey, to be
repaid when he should have regained his Dower.
An assembly was accordingly convened to witness the delivery of the treasures, and
take note of their value, which ceremony was to be performed with great formality
and parade, when they learned that Caesar
had crossed the Hellespont and was drawing near.
The whole proceeding was thus arrested, and the treasures were retained.
Caesar passed rapidly on through Asia Minor, examining and comparing, as he
advanced, the vague rumors which were continually coming in in respect to
Pompey's movements.
He learned at length that he had gone to Cyprus; he presumed that his destination
was Egypt, and he immediately resolved to provide himself with a fleet, and follow
him thither by sea.
As time passed on, and the news of Pompey's defeat and flight, and of Caesar's
triumphant pursuit of him, became generally extended and confirmed, the various powers
ruling in all that region of the world
abandoned one after another the hopeless cause, and began to adhere to Caesar.
They offered him such resources and aid as he might desire.
He did not, however, stop to organize a large fleet or to collect an army.
He depended, like Napoleon, in all the great movements of his life, not on
grandeur of preparation, but on celerity of action.
He organized at Rhodes a small but very efficient fleet of ten galleys, and,
embarking his best troops in them, he made sail for the coasts of Egypt.
Pompey had landed at Pelusium, on the eastern frontier, having heard that the
young king and his court were there to meet and resist Cleopatra's invasion.
Caesar, however, with the characteristic boldness and energy of his character,
proceeded directly to Alexandria, the capital.
Egypt was, in those days, an ally of the Romans, as the phrase was; that is, the
country, though it preserved its independent organization and its forms of
royalty, was still united to the Roman
people by an intimate league, so as to form an integral part of the great empire.
Caesar, consequently, in appearing there with an armed force, would naturally be
received as a friend.
He found only the garrison which Ptolemy's government had left in charge of the city.
At first the officers of this garrison gave him an outwardly friendly reception, but
they soon began to take offense at the air of authority and command which he assumed,
and which seemed to them to indicate a
spirit of encroachment on the sovereignty of their own king.
Feelings of deeply-seated alienation and animosity sometimes find their outward
expression in contests about things intrinsically of very little importance.
It was so in this case.
The Roman consuls were accustomed to use a certain badge of authority called the
fasces. It consisted of a bundle of rods, bound
around the handle of an ax.
Whenever a consul appeared in public, he was preceded by two officers called
lictors, each of whom carried the fasces as a symbol of the power which was vested in
the distinguished personage who followed them.
The Egyptian officers and the people of the city quarreled with Caesar on account of
his moving about among them in his imperial state, accompanied by a life guard, and
preceded by the lictors.
Contests occurred between his troops and those of the garrison, and many
disturbances were created in the streets of the city.
Although no serious collision took place, Caesar thought it prudent to strengthen his
force, and he sent back to Europe for additional legions to come to Egypt and
join him.
The tidings of Pompey's death came to Caesar at Alexandria, and with them the
head of the murdered man, which was sent by the government of Ptolemy, they supposing
that it would be an acceptable gift to Caesar.
Instead of being pleased with it, Caesar turned from the shocking spectacle in
horror.
Pompey had been, for many years now gone by, Caesar's colleague and friend.
He had been his son-in-law, and thus had sustained to him a very near and endearing
relation.
In the contest which had at last unfortunately arisen, Pompey had done no
wrong either to Caesar or to the government at Rome.
He was the injured party, so far as there was a right and a wrong to such a quarrel.
And now, after being hunted through half the world by his triumphant enemy, he had
been treacherously murdered by men pretending to receive him as a friend.
The natural sense of justice, which formed originally so strong a trait in Caesar's
character, was not yet wholly extinguished.
He could not but feel some remorse at the thoughts of the long course of violence and
wrong which he had pursued against his old champion and friend, and which had led at
last to so dreadful an end.
Instead of being pleased with the horrid trophy which the Egyptians sent him, he
mourned the death of his great rival with sincere and unaffected grief, and was
filled with indignation against his murderers.
Pompey had a signet ring upon his finger at the time of his assassination, which was
taken off by the Egyptian officers and carried away to Ptolemy, together with the
other articles of value which had been found upon his person.
Ptolemy sent this seal to Caesar to complete the proof that its possessor was
no more.
Caesar received this memorial with eager though mournful pleasure, and he preserved
it with great care.
And in many ways, during all the remainder of his life, he manifested every outward
indication of cherishing the highest respect for Pompey's memory.
There stands to the present day, among the ruins of Alexandria, a beautiful column,
about one hundred feet high, which has been known in all modern times as POMPEY'S
PILLAR.
It is formed of stone, and is in three parts.
One stone forms the pedestal, another the shaft, and a third the capital.
The beauty of this column, the perfection of its workmanship, which still continues
in excellent preservation, and its antiquity, so great that all distinct
record of its origin is lost, have combined
to make it for many ages the wonder and admiration of mankind.
Although no history of its origin has come 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
>
History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER X.
CAESAR IMPERATOR.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
>
History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER XI
THE CONSPIRACY.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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 consequences.
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.
>
History of Julius Caesar by Jacob Abbott CHAPTER XII.
THE ASSASSINATION.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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