Images de page

The perfidious statesmen who surrounded the king, sent out a boɛt 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 Zie'la, 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 Caesar'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, Caesar 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.

Caesar now applied himself with diligence AEGYPTO



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

A. H.-21.

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 Terracina, 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.

176. Though occupying the highest rank as a general, Cæsar was more a statesman than a warrior, and desired to base his government, not upon military power, but upon the confidence of the people. He was already in his fortieth year when he first assumed the command of an army. Still, his great works as a ruler had all to be executed in the brief intervals of military affairs. The five and a half years which followed his accession to supreme power were occupied by seven important campaigns; and he was about undertaking an expedition against Parthia, to avenge the overthrow of Crassus, when a violent death ended his career. It is said that he desired, before his departure, to receive the title of king.

A conspiracy had already been formed among his personal enemies. It was now strengthened by the accession of several honest republicans, who dreamed that the death of the dictator would restore freedom to the state. At the festival of the Lupercalia, Feb. 15, B. C. 44, the crown was offered to Cæsar, by Antony, his colleague in the consulship; but, perceiving the consternation of the people, he declined it. On the 15th of the following month, in spite of many warnings, Cæsar repaired to the Senate-house. He had just taken his seat, when one of the conspirators stooped and touched his robe. At this signal, Casca stabbed him in the shoulder; the others thronged around with their drawn swords or daggers.

Instead of the flattering crowd, nothing but murderous faces and the gleam of steel met his eye on every side. Still he stood at bay, wounding one assailant with his stylus, throwing back another, and disarming a third, until he received a wound from the hand of Brutus, whom, though an adherent of Pompey, he had honored with his confidence and loaded with benefits. Then drawing his mantle about him, with the reproachful exclamation, And thou, Brutus!" he fell at the base of Pompey's statue and expired.

[ocr errors]

177. Brutus, raising aloft his bloody dagger, cried aloud to Cicero, Rejoice, father of our country, for Rome is free!" Never was rejoicing more unfounded. If Brutus and his accomplices could have restored to the Roman people the simple and self-denying virtues of the olden time, Rome would indeed have been free. But Cæsar understood the times better than his assassins. In cutting off the only man who was capable of ruling with clear insight, firmness, and beneficence, they had plunged the state again into the horrors of civil war, and made it the easy prey of a less able and less liberal despot. Senate and people were at first paralyzed by the suddenness of the change, and by fear of a return to the old scenes of proscription. Antony, now sole consul, had time to possess himself of Cæsar's papers and treasures; and by his funeral oration over the body of the dictator-especially by reading his will, in which all the Roman people were remembered with great liberality - he roused the indignant passions of the crowd against the murderers.

Antony was for a time the most popular man in Rome, but a rival soon appeared in the person of Octavia'nus, the grand-nephew and adopted son of Julius Cæsar. This young man, who had been educated with great care under the eye of his adoptive father, arrived from the camp at Apollonia and claimed his inheritance, out of which he carefully dis ibuted the legacies to soldiers and people. Cicero was led to look upon him as the hope of the state, and in his third great series of orations, called the Philip'pics, he destroyed the popularity of Antony and his influence with the Senate. Two of Antony's legions deserted to Octavian, and Antony himself, in two battles, was routed and driven across the Alps.

178. The two consuls for the year 43 B. C. were slain in the battle before Mu'tina. Octavian, returning to Rome, compelled the popular assembly to elect him to that office, though he was only nineteen years of age. He was appointed to carry on the war against Antony, who had now been joined by Lepidus - formerly master of the horse to Julius Cæsar and was now descending from the Alps with a formidable army of seventeen legions. But the Senate, almost equally afraid of Antony and Octavian, revoked the outlawry of the former; and the latter, disgusted with its vacillations, resolved upon a league with the two commanders, whose forces alone could give him victory over the assassins.

On a small island in the Reno, near Bono'nia (Bologna), the three met, and the Second Triumvirate, of Antony, Cæsar Octavianus, and Lepidus, was then formed, B. C. 43, proposing to share between them for five years the government of the Roman world. A proscription followed, in which Cicero, though the friend of Cæsar, was sacrificed to the hatred of Antony. The illustrious orator was murdered near his own villa at Forʼmiæ, and his head and right hand were nailed to the rostrum at Rome, from which he had so often discoursed of the sacred rights of citizens. Two thousand knights and three hundred senators perished in this proscription. Those who could escape took refuge with Sextus Pompey in Sicily, or with Brutus and Cassius in Greece.

179. Antony and Octavian crossed the Adriatic, and defeated the last of the conspirators in two battles at Philippi, in the autumn of 42 B. C. Both Brutus and Cassius ended their lives by suicide. Cæsar returned to Italy, where a new civil war was stirred up by Fulvia, the wife of Antony, and Lucius, his brother. Lucius Antonius threw himself into Perusia, where he was besieged and taken by Octavian. The common citizens were spared, but 300 or 400 nobles were slain at the altar of Julius Cæsar, on the anniversary of his death, March 15, B. C. 40. Fulvia died in Greece, and a new agreement between the triumvirs, called the Peace of Brundisium, was sealed by the marriage of Antony with Octavia, the sister of the younger Cæsar. In the new division of the civilized world, Antony received the East; Octavian, Italy and Spain; and Lepidus, Africa. Sextus Pompey, whose

« PrécédentContinuer »