« PrécédentContinuer »
CÆSAR MASTER OF ROME.
166. It was time for decisive action. Cæsar crossed the Rubicon, a little river which separated his province from Roman Italy, and advanced with one legion, the troops in Gaul having received orders to follow without delay. To enter the country without resigning his command was itself a declaration of war. Panic seized Rome, and the Senate fled, leaving the public treasures behind. Fifteen thousand recruits, destined for Pompey's army, seized their officers and handed them over, with themselves and the town Corfin'ium, where they were quartered, to Cæsar. Other bodies of recruits followed their example. Pompey, having lost more than half his ten legions, retired to Brundisium; and though besieged by Cæsar, succeeded in escaping with 25,000 men to Greece.
The Roman world was now really divided between the two generals. Pompey controlled Spain, Africa, and the East, and hoped, by commanding the sea and the corn islands, to starve Italy into surrender. Cæsar had only Italy, Illyricum, and Gaul. If Pompey had acted with energy, he might speedily have created an army in the East and regained Rome, but by delay he allowed Cæsar to attack his provinces in detail, and wrest the entire empire from his grasp. The emigrated nobles assembled themselves at Thessalonica and re-organized a senate, in which they made a vain show of keeping up the constitutional forms, while, by their petty jealousies, they hampered every movement of their general-in-chief.
167. Cu'rio, the ablest of Cæsar's lieutenants, captured Sicily, and thus averted famine from Rome. In Africa he was less fortunate. Drawn into an unexpected combat with the whole army of King Juba, he was defeated, and chose to be slain rather than meet his general in disgrace. Instead of the anarchy and general proscription which his enemies had predicted, Cæsar soon restored order in Italy, and universal confidence, by the moderation and forbearance of his conduct. Friends and foes were equally protected. The moneyed class, which had most to gain from a settled government, came over to the side of Cæsar, and the "rich lords resumed their daily task of writing their rent-rolls.”
His first foreign enterprise was against Spain, where Pompey had seven legions. It was conquered by a severe and toilsome campaign of forty days. Returning through Gaul, Cæsar received the surrender of Massilia, and learned of his appointment to the dictatorship at Rome. He held this high office only eleven days, but long enough to preside at the election of consuls, in which he himself, of course, received the greatest number of votes; to pass laws relieving debtors, and restoring to the enjoyment of their estates the descendants of those whom Sulla had proscribed; and to begin his scheme of consolidating the provinces, by granting the full rights of Roman citizenship to the Gauls.
168. As consul, he then led his army to Brundisium and crossed into Greece. Pompey had assembled from the eastern countries a great army and fleet, the latter of which commanded the sea, and seemed to forbid the passage of Cæsar. But Bibulus, the admiral, confiding in his superior numbers and the wintry season, was off his guard until seven legions were landed in Epirus. The attempt to capture Pompey's camp and treasures, at Dyrrachium, failed; but the vain confidence inspired by their partial success, in the proud and frivolous young nobles of the refugee party, eventually proved their ruin.
Cæsar was, indeed, in a perilous position; his fleet was destroyed, and he was cut off in a hostile country where food must soon fail. Neverthe less, with his usual good fortune or consummate skill, he contrived to draw his victorious enemy after him to the interior of the country, where Pompey's fleet gave him no advantage, and then to choose his own battlefield at Pharsa ́lia, in Thessaly. The army of Pompey, in horse and foot, numbered 54,000 men; that of Cæsar, scarcely more than 22,000. The former was abundantly supplied both with provisions and military materials, while the latter was near the point of starvation, and compelled to stake its existence on one desperate venture. So certain did the result appear, that the patricians in Pompey's camp were already disputing among themselves the succession to Cæsar's pontificate.
169. On the 9th of August, B. C. 48, the Pompeians crossed the river which separated the two camps, and with their cavalry commenced the attack. Cæsar's horsemen were driven in, but a picked troop of his legionaries, tried on a hundred Gallic fields, unexpectedly charged the assailants. Their orders were to aim their javelins at the enemies' faces. Confused by this novel attack, the cavalry turned and fled; and Pompey, who had been urged by the reproaches of his self-appointed counselors to give battle, contrary to his better judgment, and who had never shared their confidence, did not wait to see the general attack, but galloped away to his
His army was completely routed; 15,000 lay dead upon the field, and 20,000 surrendered on the morning after the battle. Many of the aristocracy hastened to make their peace with the conqueror; the "irreconcilables" either betook themselves to the mountains or the sea, to carry on for years a predatory warfare; or to Africa, where King Juba, of Numidia, perceiving that Caesar's consolidating policy would deprive him of his kingdom, still stood firmly on the Pompeian side. The other client-states withdrew their quotas of ships and men as soon as they saw that Pompey's cause was lost.
170. Pompey fled to Egypt. The young queen, Cleopatra, was now in Syria, having been driven from her kingdom by her brother's guardian, Pothi'nus, who was with an army holding the eastern frontier against her.
The perfidious statesmen who surrounded the king, sent out a boat inviting the illustrious fugitive to land; but just as he had reached the shore, he was stabbed by a former centurion of his own, who was now in the service of Ptolemy. Pompey perceived his fate; without a word, he covered his face with his toga, and submitted to the swords of his executioners. His head was cut off, and his body cast out upon the sand, where it was buried by one of his own attendants.
Cæsar soon arrived in pursuit; but when the ghastly head was presented to him, he turned away weeping, and ordered the murderers to be put to death. He remained five months at Alexandria, regulating the affairs of the kingdom, which he secured to Cleopatra jointly with her brother. He thus became involved in war with the people, and in a naval battle was once compelled to save his life by swimming from ship to ship, holding his sword in his teeth, and the manuscript of his Commentaries upon the Gallic Wars in one hand over his head. He was victorious at last, and Ptolemy was drowned in the Nile.
171. Cæsar then turned rapidly toward Asia Minor, where Pharnaces of Pontus was trying to regain his father's lost dominions. The Roman army had been defeated at Nicopolis with great loss, but Cæsar won a decisive victory at Zieʻla, and finished the campaign in five days. It was on this occasion that he sent to the Senate his memorable dispatch, "Veni, vidi, vici."* The presence of the chief made a similar transformation of the war in Africa. The Pompeian party had re-established its senate at Utica, and during Cæsar's long delay in Egypt had raised an army fully equal to that which had been conquered at Pharsalia.
In attempting to carry the war into Africa, Cæsar met an unexpected obstacle in a mutiny of his veterans in southern Italy. Wearied out with the unusual hardships of their last campaigns, and imagining that their general could do nothing without them, they refused to embark for Sicily, and commenced their march toward Rome. Having provided for the security of the city, Cæsar suddenly appeared among the legions, and demanded to know what they wanted. Cries of "discharge!" were heard on every hand. He took them instantly at their word; and then addressing them as "citizens," not as "soldiers," promised them, at his approaching triumph, their full share in the treasure and lands which he had destined for his faithful followers, though in the triumph itself they could, of course, have no part.
His presence and his voice revived their old affection; they stood mute and ashamed at the sudden severing of the bond which had been their only glory in the past. At length they began to beg, even with tears, that they might be restored to favor, and honored again with the name of
*I came, I saw, I conquered.
"Cæsar's soldiers." After some delay their prayer was granted; the ringleaders were only punished by a reduction of one-third in their triumphal presents, and the revolt was at an end.
172. The campaign in Africa was not less difficult than the one in Greece. The Pompeians were well supplied with cavalry and elephants, and were able to fight on fields of their own choosing. They gained a battle near Rus'pina, but in the more decisive conflict at Thapsus, they were completely overthrown. The soldiers of Cæsar disregarded his orders to spare their fellow-citizens; they were determined to obtain rest from war at any cost of Roman blood, and 50,000 Pompeians were left dead upon the battle-field. Cæsar was now master of all Africa. Cato, commanding at Utica, provided for the safety of his friends either by flight or surrender; then shutting himself in his room, read all night the treatise of Plato on the Immortality of the Soul, and toward morning killed himself with his own sword.
173. Cæsar returned to Rome in possession of absolute power. Instead of the proscriptions, which, in similar circumstances, had marked the return of Marius and Sulla, he proclaimed amnesty to all, and sought to avail himself of the wisdom of all parties in reorganizing civil affairs. As he had never triumphed, he now celebrated four days for his victories in Gaul, Egypt, Pontus, and Numidia; but the rejoicings were only for the conquest of foreign foes, for it was regarded as unseemly to triumph over Roman citizens. Twenty thousand tables were spread in the streets and public squares, gifts of grain and money were distributed among soldiers and people, and the games were celebrated with a splendor never before approached.
Cæsar now applied himself with diligence to regulate the disorders of the state; and the benefit of one, at least, of his provisions is felt even to the present day. The reckoning of time, through the carelessness or corruption of the pontiffs (see ? 29), had fallen into hopeless confusion: harvest festivals took place in spring, and those of the late vintage at midsummer. Cæsar, as chief pontiff, reformed the calendar, by adding ninety days to the current year, and then, with the aid of an Alexandrian astronomer, adapted the reckoning to the sun's course. He made the Roman year consist of 365 days, and added a day every fourth year. The Julian Calendar, with only
Coin of Cæsar, enlarged twice the size.
one emendation, * is that which we now follow. In acknowledgment of his service in this matter, the Senate ordered the month of Cæsar's birth to be called henceforth from his clan-name, July. His successor, Augustus, on occasion of some trifling improvement in the calendar, gave his own surname to the following month.
174. The Pompeians made one more rally in Spain, but they were defeated and overthrown by Cæsar, in the severe and decisive battle of Munda, March 17, B, C. 45. Cneius Pompey, the younger, was slain; his brother Sextus soon submitted, and received the family estates. He was proscribed during the disorders which followed the death of Cæsar, and for eight years kept up a piratical warfare upon the sea. Having settled the affairs of Spain, Cæsar celebrated a fifth triumph, and was loaded by the servile Senate with unlimited powers and dignities. He became dictator and censor for life, the latter office now receiving its new title, præfecture of morals. He was permitted to make peace or war without consulting either Senate or people. In his highest and most distinctive power, that of perpetual imperator, he was to name his successor. His person was declared sacred, and all the senators bound themselves by oath to watch over his safety. His statues were ordered to be placed in all the temples, and his name in civil oaths was associated with those of the gods.
175. Cæsar availed himself of his unprecedented power to plan many great works of general utility. He projected a much-needed digest of Roman laws, and the founding of a Latin and Greek library on the model of that of Alexandria, which had been almost destroyed by fire during the recent siege. He proposed to turn the course of the Tiber, so as at once to drain the Pontine marshes, to add to the city an extensive tract of land available for building, and to connect with Rome the large and convenient port of Terraci'na, instead of the inferior one of Ostia.
Above all, he desired to substitute a great Mediterranean empire for the mere city government which, for more than a hundred years, had ruled Italy and the world. To atone for the narrow policy of municipal Rome, he rebuilt the two great commercial cities, Carthage and Corinth, which Roman jealousy had demolished; and he effaced, as far as possible, the distinctions between Italy and the provinces. In the many colonies which he founded in Europe, Asia, and Africa, he provided homes for 80,000 emigrants, mostly from the crowded tenement houses of Rome itself. His plans embraced the varied interests of every class and nation within the empire, and aimed to reach, by the union of all, a higher civilization than either had attained alone. In the wildest regions of Germany, Dalmatia, or Spain, the Roman soldier was followed by the Greek school-master and the Jewish trader.
That of Pope Gregory XIII., A. D. 1582.