Caesar: A Sketch
James Anthony Froude

Part 3 out of 8

the champion of an injured people, he can cover the scandals of his own
character and appear as a hero and a liberator. Catiline had missed the
consulship, and was a ruined man. He had calculated on succeeding to a
province where he might gather a golden harvest and come home to live in
splendor, like Lucullus. He had failed, defeated by a mere plebeian whom
his brother-patricians had stooped to prefer to him. Were the secret
history known of the contest for the consulship, much might be discovered
there to explain Cicero's and Catiline's hatred of each other. Cicero had
once thought of coalescing with Catiline, notwithstanding his knowledge of
his previous crimes: Catiline had perhaps hoped to dupe Cicero, and had
been himself outwitted. He intended to stand again for the year 62, but
evidently on a different footing from that on which he had presented
himself before. That such a man should have been able to offer himself at
all, and that such a person as Cicero should have entered into any kind of
amicable relations with him, was a sign by itself that the Commonwealth
was already sickening for death.

Catiline was surrounded by men of high birth, whose fortunes were
desperate as his own. There was Lentulus, who had been consul a few years
before, and had been expelled from the Senate by the censors. There was
Cethegus, staggering under a mountain of debts. There was Autronius, who
had been unseated for bribery when chosen consul in 65. There was Manlius,
once a distinguished officer in Sylla's army, and now a beggar. Besides
these were a number of senators, knights, gentlemen, and dissolute young
patricians, whose theory of the world was that it had been created for
them to take their pleasure in, and who found their pleasures shortened by
emptiness of purse. To them, as to their betters, the Empire was but a
large dish out of which they considered that they had a right to feed
themselves. They were defrauded of their proper share, and Catiline was
the person who would help them to it.

Etruria was full of Sylla's disbanded soldiers, who had squandered their
allotments, and were hanging about, unoccupied and starving. Catiline sent
down Manlius, their old officer, to collect as many as he could of them
without attracting notice. He himself, as the election day approached, and
Cicero's year of office was drawing to an end, took up the character of an
aristocratic demagogue, and asked for the suffrages of the people as the
champion of the poor against the rich, as the friend of the wretched and
oppressed; and those who thought themselves wretched and oppressed in Rome
were so large a body, and so bitterly hostile were they all to the
prosperous classes, that his election was anticipated as a certainty. In
the Senate the consulship of Catiline was regarded as no less than an
impending national calamity. Marcus Cato, great-grandson of the censor,
then growing into fame by his acrid tongue and narrow republican
fanaticism, who had sneered at Pompey's victories as triumphs over women,
and had not spared even Cicero himself, threatened Catiline in the Curia.
Catiline answered, in a fully attended house, that if any agitation was
kindled against him he would put it out, not with water, but with
revolution. His language became so audacious that, on the eve of the
election day, Cicero moved for a postponement, that the Senate might take
his language into consideration. Catiline's conduct was brought on for
debate, and the consul called on him to explain himself. There was no
concealment in Catiline. Then and always Cicero admits he was perfectly
frank. He made no excuses. He admitted the truth of what had been reported
of him. The State, he said, had two bodies, one weak (the aristocracy),
with a weak leader (Cicero); the other, the great mass of the citizens--
strong in themselves, but without a head, and he himself intended to be
that head.[11] A groan was heard in the house, but less loud than in
Cicero's opinion it ought to have been; and Catiline sailed out in
triumph, leaving the noble lords looking in each other's faces.

[Sidenote: October, B.C. 63.]
Both Cicero and the Senate were evidently in the greatest alarm that
Catiline would succeed constitutionally in being chosen consul, and they
strained every sinew to prevent so terrible a catastrophe. When the
Comitia came on, Cicero admits that he occupied the voting place in the
Campus Martius with a guard of men who could be depended on. He was
violating the law, which forbade the presence of an armed force on those
occasions. He excused himself by pretending that Catiline's party intended
violence, and he appeared ostentatiously in a breastplate as if his own
life was aimed at. The result was that Catiline failed once more, and was
rejected by a small majority. Cicero attributes his defeat to the moral
effect produced by the breastplate. But from the time of the Gracchi
downwards the aristocracy had not hesitated to lay pressure on the
elections when they could safely do it; and the story must be taken with
reservation, in the absence of a more impartial account than we possess of
the purpose to which Cicero's guard was applied. Undoubtedly it was
desirable to strain the usual rules to keep a wretch like Catiline from
the consulship; but as certainly, both before the election and after it,
Catiline had the sympathies of a very large part of the resident
inhabitants of the city, and these sympathies must be taken into account
if we are to understand the long train of incidents of which this occasion
was the beginning.

Two strict aristocrats, Decimus Silanus and Lucius Murena,[12] were
declared elected. Pompey was on his way home, but had not yet reached
Italy. There were no regular troops in the whole peninsula, and the
nearest approach to an army was the body of Syllans, whom Manlius had
quietly collected at Fiesole. Cicero's colleague Antonius was secretly in
communication with Catiline, evidently thinking it likely that he would
succeed. Catiline determined to wait no longer, and to raise an
insurrection in the capital, with slave emancipation and a cancelling of
debt for a cry. Manlius was to march on Rome, and the Senate, it was
expected, would fall without a blow. Caesar and Crassus sent a warning to
Cicero to be on his guard. Caesar had called Catiline to account for his
doings at the time of the proscription, and knew his nature too well to
expect benefit to the people from a revolution conducted under the
auspices of bankrupt patrician adventurers. No citizen had more to lose
than Crassus from a crusade of the poor against the rich. But they had
both been suspected two years before, and in the excited temper of men's
minds they took precautions for their own reputation's sake, as well as
for the safety of the State. Quintus Curius, a senator, who was one of the
conspirators, was meanwhile betraying his accomplices, and gave daily
notice to the consuls of each step which was contemplated. But so weak was
authority and so dangerous the temper of the people that the difficulty
was to know what to do. Secret information was scarcely needed. Catiline,
as Cicero said, was "_apertissimus_," most frank in the declaration
of his intentions. Manlius's army at Fiesole was an open fact, and any day
might bring news that he was on the march to Rome. The Senate, as usual in
extreme emergencies, declared the State in danger, and gave the consuls
unlimited powers to provide for public security. So scornfully confident
was Catiline that he offered to place himself under surveillance at the
house of any senator whom Cicero might name, or to reside with Cicero
himself, if the consul preferred to keep a personal eye upon him. Cicero
answered that he dared not trust himself with so perilous a guest.

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 63.]
So for a few days matters hung in suspense, Manlius expecting an order to
advance, Catiline waiting apparently for a spontaneous insurrection in the
city before he gave the word. Intended attempts at various points had been
baffled by Cicero's precautions. At last, finding that the people remained
quiet, Catiline called a meeting of his friends one stormy night at the
beginning of November, and it was agreed that two of the party should go
the next morning at dawn to Cicero's house, demand to see him on important
business, and kill him in his bed. Curius, who was present, immediately
furnished Cicero with an account of what had passed. When his morning
visitors arrived they were told that they could not be admitted; and a
summons was sent round to the senators to assemble immediately at the
Temple of Jupiter Stator, one of the strongest positions in the city.[13]
The audacious Catiline attended, and took his usual seat; every one shrank
from him, and he was left alone on the bench. Then Cicero rose. In the
Senate, where to speak was the first duty of man, he was in his proper
element, and had abundant courage. He addressed himself personally to the
principal conspirator. He exposed, if exposure be the fitting word when
half the persons present knew as much as he could tell them, the history
of Catiline's proceedings. He described in detail the meeting of the past
evening, looking round perhaps in the faces of the senators who he was
aware had been present at it. He spoke of the visit designed to himself in
the morning, which had been baffled by his precautions. He went back over
the history of the preceding half-century. Fresh from the defence of
Rabirius, he showed how dangerous citizens, the Gracchi, Saturninus,
Glaucia, had been satisfactorily killed when they were meditating
mischief. He did not see that a constitution was already doomed when the
ruling powers were driven to assassinate their opponents, because a trial
with the forms of law would have ended in their acquittal. He told
Catiline that under the powers which the Senate had conferred on him he
might order his instant execution. He detailed Catiline's past enormities,
which he had forgotten when he sought his friendship, and he ended in
bidding him leave the city, go and join Manlius and his army.

Never had Cicero been greater, and never did oratory end in a more absurd
conclusion. He dared not arrest Catiline. He confessed that he dared not.
There was not a doubt that Catiline was meditating a revolution--but a
revolution was precisely what half the world was wishing for. Rightly
read, those sounding paragraphs, those moral denunciations, those appeals
to history and patriotic sentiment, were the funeral knell of the Roman

Let Catiline go into open war, Cicero said, and then there would no longer
be a doubt. Then all the world would admit his treason. Catiline went; and
what was to follow next? Antonius, the second consul, was notoriously not
to be relied on. The other conspirators, senators who sat listening while
Cicero poured out his eloquent indignation, remained still in the city
with the threads of insurrection in their hands, and were encouraged to
persevere by the evident helplessness of the government. The imperfect
record of history retains for us only the actions of a few individuals
whom special talent or special circumstances distinguished, and such
information is only fragmentary. We lose sight of the unnamed seething
multitudes by whose desires and by whose hatreds the stream of events was
truly guided. The party of revolution was as various as it was wide.
Powerful wealthy men belonged to it, who were politically dissatisfied;
ambitious men of rank, whose money embarrassments weighted them in the
race against their competitors; old officers and soldiers of Sylla, who
had spent the fortunes which they had won by violence, and were now trying
to bring him back from the dead to renew their lease of plunder; ruined
wretches without number, broken down with fines and proscriptions, and
debts and the accumulation of usurious interest. Add to these "the
dangerous classes," the natural enemies of all governments--parricides,
adulterers, thieves, forgers, escaped slaves, brigands, and pirates who
had lost their occupation; and, finally, Catiline's own chosen comrades,
the smooth-faced patrician youths with curled hair and redolent with
perfumes, as yet beardless or with the first down upon their chins,
wearing scarves and veils and sleeved tunics reaching to their ankles,
industrious but only with the dice-box, night-watchers but in the supper-
rooms, in the small hours before dawn, immodest, dissolute boys, whose
education had been in learning to love and to be loved, to sing and to
dance naked at the midnight orgies, and along with it to handle poniards
and mix poisoned bowls.[14]

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 64.]
Well might Cicero be alarmed at such a combination; well might he say that
if a generation of such youths lived to manhood there would be a
commonwealth of Catilines. But what was to be thought of the prospects of
a society in which such phenomena were developing themselves? Cicero bade
them all go--follow their chief into the war, and perish in the snow of
the Apennines. But how if they would not go? How if from the soil of Rome,
under the rule of his friends the Senate, fresh crops of such youths would
rise perennially? The Commonwealth needed more drastic medicine than
eloquent exhortations, however true the picture might be.

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 63.]
None of the promising young gentlemen took Cicero's advice. Catiline went
alone and joined Manlius, and had he come on at once he might perhaps have
taken Rome. The army was to support an insurrection, and the insurrection
was to support the army. Catiline waited for a signal from his friends in
the city, and Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius, and the rest of the leaders
waited for Catiline to arrive. Conspirators never think that they have
taken precautions enough or have gained allies enough; and in endeavoring
to secure fresh support they made a fatal mistake. An embassy of
Allobroges was in the city, a frontier tribe on the borders of the Roman
province in Gaul, who were allies of Rome, though not as yet subjects. The
Gauls were the one foreign nation whom the Romans really feared. The
passes of the Alps alone protected Italy from the hordes of German or
Gallic barbarians, whose numbers being unknown were supposed to be
exhaustless. Middle-aged men could still remember the panic at the
invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons, and it was the chief pride of the
democrats that the State had then been saved by their own Marius. At the
critical moment it was discovered that the conspirators had entered into a
correspondence with these Allobroges, and had actually proposed to them to
make a fresh inroad over the Alps. The suspicion of such an intention at
once alienated from Catiline the respectable part of the democratic party.
The fact of the communication was betrayed to Cicero. He intercepted the
letters; he produced them in the Senate with the seals unbroken, that no
suspicion might rest upon himself. Lentulus and Cethegus were sent for,
and could not deny their hands. The letters were then opened and read, and
no shadow of uncertainty any longer remained that they had really designed
to bring in an army of Gauls. Such of the conspirators as were known and
were still within reach were instantly seized.

[Sidenote: December 5, B.C. 63.]
Cicero, with a pardonable laudation of himself and of the Divine
Providence of which he professed to regard himself as the minister,
congratulated his country on its escape from so genuine a danger; and he
then invited the Senate to say what was to be done with these apostates
from their order, whose treason was now demonstrated. A plot for a mere
change of government, for the deposition of the aristocrats and the return
to power of the popular party, it might be impolitic, perhaps impossible,
severely to punish; but Catiline and his friends had planned the betrayal
of the State to the barbarians; and with persons who had committed
themselves to national treason there was no occasion to hesitate. Cicero
produced the list of those whom he considered guilty, and there were some
among his friends who thought the opportunity might be used to get rid of
dangerous enemies, after the fashion of Sylla, especially of Crassus and
Caesar. The name of Crassus was first mentioned, some said by secret
friends of Catiline, who hoped to alarm the Senate into inaction by
showing with whom they would have to deal. Crassus, it is possible, knew
more than he had told the consul. Catiline's success had, at one moment,
seemed assured; and great capitalists are apt to insure against
contingencies. But Cicero moved and carried a resolution that the charge
against him was a wicked invention. The attempt against Caesar was more
determined. Old Catulus, whom Caesar had defeated in the contest for the
pontificate, and Caius Calpurnius Piso,[15] a bitter aristocrat, whom
Caesar had prosecuted for misgovernment in Gaul, urged Cicero to include
his name. But Cicero was too honorable to lend himself to an accusation
which he knew to be false. Some of the young lords in their disappointment
threatened Caesar at the senate-house door with their swords; but the
attack missed its mark, and served only to show how dreaded Caesar already
was, and how eager a desire there was to make an end of him.

The list submitted for judgment contained the names of none but those who
were indisputably guilty. The Senate voted at once that they were traitors
to the State. The next question was of the nature of their punishment. In
the first place the persons of public officers were sacred, and Lentulus
was at the time a praetor. And next the Sempronian law forbade distinctly
that any Roman citizen should be put to death without a trial, and without
the right of appeal to the assembly.[16] It did not mean simply that
Roman citizens were not to be murdered, or that at any time it had been
supposed that they might. The object was to restrain the extraordinary
power claimed by the Senate of setting the laws aside on exceptional
occasions. Silanus, the consul-elect for the following year, was,
according to usage, asked to give his opinion first. He voted for
immediate death. One after the other the voices were the same, till the
turn came of Tiberius Nero, the great-grandfather of Nero the Emperor.
Tiberius was against haste. He advised that the prisoners should be kept
in confinement till Catiline was taken or killed, and that the whole
affair should then be carefully investigated. Investigation was perhaps
what many senators were most anxious to avoid. When Tiberius had done,
Caesar rose. The speech which Sallust places in his mouth was not an
imaginary sketch of what Sallust supposed him likely to have said, but the
version generally received of what he actually did say, and the most
important passages of it are certainly authentic. For the first time we
see through the surface of Caesar's outward actions into his real mind.
During the three quarters of a century which had passed since the death of
the elder Gracchus one political murder had followed upon another. Every
conspicuous democrat had been killed by the aristocrats in some convenient
disturbance. No constitution could survive when the law was habitually set
aside by violence; and disdaining the suspicion with which he knew that
his words would be regarded, Caesar warned the Senate against another act
of precipitate anger which would be unlawful in itself, unworthy of their
dignity, and likely in the future to throw a doubt upon the guilt of the
men upon whose fate they were deliberating. He did not extenuate, he
rather emphasized, the criminality of Catiline and his confederates; but
for that reason and because for the present no reasonable person felt the
slightest uncertainty about it, he advised them to keep within the lines
which the law had marked out for them. He spoke with respect of Silanus.
He did not suppose him to be influenced by feelings of party animosity.
Silanus had recommended the execution of the prisoners, either because he
thought their lives incompatible with the safety of the State, or because
no milder punishment seemed adequate to the enormity of their conduct. But
the safety of the State, he said, with a compliment to Cicero, had been
sufficiently provided for by the diligence of the consul. As to
punishment, none could be too severe; but with that remarkable adherence
to _fact_, which always distinguished Caesar, that repudiation of
illusion and sincere utterance of his real belief, whatever that might be,
he contended that death was not a punishment at all. Death was the end of
human suffering. In the grave there was neither joy nor sorrow. When a man
was dead he ceased to be.[17]He became as he had been before he was born.
Probably almost every one in the Senate thought like Caesar on this
subject. Cicero certainly did. The only difference was that plausible
statesmen affected a respect for the popular superstition, and pretended
to believe what they did not believe. Caesar spoke his convictions out.
There was no longer any solemnity in an execution. It was merely the
removal out of the way of troublesome persons; and convenient as such a
method might be, it was of graver consequence that the Senate of Rome, the
guardians of the law, should not set an example of violating the law.
Illegality, Caesar told them, would be followed by greater illegalities.
He reminded them how they had applauded Sylla, how they had rejoiced when
they saw their political enemies summarily despatched; and yet the
proscription, as they well knew, had been perverted to the license of
avarice and private revenge. They might feel sure that no such consequence
need be feared under their present consul: but times might change. The
worst crimes which had been committed in Rome in the past century had
risen out of the imitation of precedents, which at the moment seemed
defensible. The laws had prescribed a definite punishment for treason.
Those laws had been gravely considered; they had been enacted by the great
men who had built up the Roman dominion, and were not to be set aside in
impatient haste. Caesar therefore recommended that the estates of the
conspirators should be confiscated, that they themselves should be kept in
strict and solitary confinement dispersed in various places, and that a
resolution should be passed forbidding an application for their pardon
either to Senate or people.

The speech was weighty in substance and weightily delivered, and it
produced its effect.[18] Silanus withdrew his opinion. Quintus Cicero,
the consul's brother, followed, and a clear majority of the Senate went
with them, till it came to the turn of a young man who in that year had
taken his place in the house for the first time, who was destined to make
a reputation which could be set in competition with that of the gods
themselves, and whose moral opinion could be held superior to that of the

Marcus Porcius Cato was born in the year 95, and was thus five years
younger than Caesar and eleven years younger than Cicero. He was the
great-grandson, as was said above, of the stern rugged censor who hated
Greek, preferred the teaching of the plough-tail and the Twelve Tables to
the philosophy of Aristotle, disbelieved in progress, and held by the
maxims of his father--the last, he of the Romans of the old type. The
young Marcus affected to take his ancestor for a pattern. He resembled him
as nearly as a modern Anglican monk resembles St. Francis or St. Bernard.
He could reproduce the form, but it was the form with the life gone out of
it. He was immeasurably superior to the men around him. He was virtuous,
if it be virtue to abstain from sin. He never lied. No one ever suspected
him of dishonesty or corruption. But his excellences were not of the
retiring sort. He carried them written upon him in letters for all to
read, as a testimony to a wicked generation. His opinions were as pedantic
as his life was abstemious, and no one was permitted to differ from him
without being held guilty rather of a crime than of a mistake. He was an
aristocratic pedant, to whom the living forces of humanity seemed but
irrational impulses of which he and such as he were the appointed school-
masters. To such a temperament a man of genius is instinctively hateful.
Cato had spoken often in the Senate, though so young a member of it,
denouncing the immoral habits of the age. He now rose to match himself
against Caesar; and with passionate vehemence he insisted that the
wretches who had plotted the overthrow of the State should be immediately
killed. He noticed Caesar's objections only to irritate the suspicion in
which he probably shared, that Caesar himself was one of Catiline's
accomplices. That Caesar had urged as a reason for moderation the absence
of immediate danger, was in Cato's opinion an argument the more for
anxiety. Naturally, too, he did not miss the opportunity of striking at
the scepticism which questioned future retribution. Whether Cato believed
himself in a future life mattered little, if Caesar's frank avowal could
be turned to his prejudice.

Cato spoke to an audience well disposed to go with him. Silanus went round
to his first view, and the mass of senators followed him. Caesar attempted
to reply; but so fierce were the passions that had been roused, that again
he was in danger of violence. The young knights who were present as a
senatorial guard rushed at him with their drawn swords. A few friends
protected him with their cloaks, and he left the Curia not to enter it
again for the rest of the year. When Caesar was gone, Cicero rose to
finish the debate. He too glanced at Caesar's infidelity, and as Caesar
had spoken of the wisdom of past generations, he observed that in the same
generations there had been a pious belief that the grave was not the end
of human existence. With an ironical compliment to the prudence of
Caesar's advice, he said that his own interest would lead him to follow
it; he would have the less to fear from the irritation of the people. The
Senate, he observed, must have heard with pleasure that Caesar condemned
the conspiracy. Caesar was the leader of the popular party, and from him
at least they now knew that they had nothing to fear. The punishment which
Caesar recommended was, in fact, Cicero admitted, more severe than death.
He trusted, therefore, that if the conspirators were executed, and he had
to answer to the people for the sentence to be passed upon them, Caesar
himself would defend him against the charge of cruelty. Meanwhile he said
that he had the ineffable satisfaction of knowing that he had saved the
State. The Senate might adopt such resolutions as might seem good to them
without alarm for the consequences. The conspiracy was disarmed. He had
made enemies among the bad citizens; but he had deserved and he had won
the gratitude of the good, and he stood secure behind the impregnable
bulwark of his country's love.

So Cicero, in the first effusion of self-admiration with which he never
ceased to regard his conduct on this occasion. No doubt he had acted
bravely, and he had shown as much adroitness as courage. But the whole
truth was never told. The Senate's anxiety to execute the prisoners arose
from a fear that the people would be against them if an appeal to the
assembly was allowed. The Senate was contending for the privilege of
suspending the laws by its own independent will; and the privilege, if it
was ever constitutional, had become so odious by the abuse of it, that to
a large section of Roman citizens a conspiracy against the oligarchy had
ceased to be looked on as treason at all. Cicero and Cato had their way.
Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius and their companions were strangled in their
cells, on the afternoon of the debate upon their fate. A few weeks later
Catiline's army was cut to pieces, and he himself was killed. So
desperately his haggard bands had fought that they fell in their ranks
where they stood, and never Roman commander gained a victory that cost him
more dear. So furious a resistance implied a motive and a purpose beyond
any which Cicero or Sallust records, and the commission of inquiry
suggested by Tiberius Nero in the Senate might have led to curious
revelations. The Senate perhaps had its own reasons for fearing such
revelations, and for wishing the voices closed which could have made them.

[1] "Nunc quis patrem decem annorum natus non modo aufert sed tollit nisi
veneno?"--_Varronis Fragmenta_, ed. Alexander Riese, p. 216.

[2] See the story in Cicero, _Pro Cluentio_.

[3] _Pro P. Sulla_, 4.

[4] "Catilina, si judicatum erit, meridie non lucere, certus erit
competitor."--_Epist. ad Atticum_, i. 1.

[5] "Hoc tempore Catilinam, competitorem nostrum, defendere cogitamus.
Judices habemus, quos volumus, summa accusatoris voluntate. Spero, si
absolutus erit, conjunctiorem illum nobis fore in ratione
petitionis."--_Ib_., i. 2.

[6] "Scito nihil tam exercitum nunc esse Romae quam candidatos omnibus
iniquitatibus."--_Ib_., i. 11.

[7] I use a word apparently modern, but Cicero himself gave the name of
Conservatores Reipublicae to the party to which he belonged.

[8] Suetonius, speaking of Augustus, says: "Quoties adesset, nihil
praeterea agebat, seu vitandi rumoris causa, quo patrem Caesarem vulgo
reprehensum commemorabat, quod inter spectandum epistolis libellisque
legendis aut rescribendis vacaret; seu studio spectandi et voluptate,"
etc.--_Vita Octavii_, 45.

[9] Writing three years later to Atticus, he says: "Confirmabam omnium
privatorum possessiones, is enim est noster exercitus, ut tute scis
locupletium."--_To Atticus_, i. 19. Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's
most intimate correspondent, was a Roman knight, who inheriting a
large estate from his father, increased it by contracts, banking,
money-lending, and slave-dealing, in which he was deeply engaged.
He was an accomplished, cultivated man, a shrewd observer of the
times, and careful of committing himself on any side. His acquaintance
with Cicero rested on similarity of temperament, with a solid
financial basis at the bottom of it. They were mutually useful to
each other.

[10] "Et nimium istud est, quod ab hoc tribuno plebis dictum est in
senatu: urbanam plebem nimium in republica posse: exhauriendam esse:
hoc enim verbo est usus; quasi de aliqua sentina, ac non de optimorum
civium genere loqueretur."--_Contra Rullum_, ii. 26.

[11] Cicero, _Pro Murena_, 25.

[12] Murena was afterward prosecuted for bribery at this election. Cicero
defended him; but even Cato, aristocrat as he was, affected to be
shocked at the virtuous consul's undertaking so bad a case. It is
observable that in his speech for Murena, Cicero found as many virtues
in Lucullus as in his speech on the Manilian law he had found vices.
It was another symptom of his change of attitude.

[13] "In loco munitissimo."

[14] This description of the young Roman aristocracy is given by Cicero in
his most powerful vein: "Postremum autem genus est, non solum numero,
verum etiam genere ipso atque vita, quod proprium est Catilinae, de
ejus delectu, immo vero de complexu ejus ac sinu: quos pexo capillo,
nitidos, aut imberbes, aut bene barbatos, videtis, manicatis et
talaribus tunicis; velis amictos, non togis: quorum omnis industria
vitae et vigilandi labor in antelucanis coenis expromitur. In his
gregibus omnes aleatores, omnes adulteri, omnes impuri impudicique
versantur. Hi pueri tam lepidi ac delicati non solum amare et amari
neque cantare et saltare, sed etiam sicas vibrare et spargere venena
didicerunt.... Nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt."--_In
Catilinam_, ii. 10. Compare _In Pisonem_, 10.

The Romans shaved their beards at full maturity, and therefore
"benebarbatos" does not mean grown men, but youths on the edge of

[15] Not to be confounded with Lucius Calpurnius Piso, who was Caesar's

[16] "Injussu populi."

[17] The real opinion of educated Romans on this subject was expressed in
the well-known lines of Lucretius, which were probably written near
this very time:

"Nil igitur mors est, ad nos neque pertinet hilum,
Quandoquidem natura animi mortalis habetur:
Et, velut ante acto nil tempore sensimus aegri,
Ad confligendum venientibus undique Poenis;
Omnia cum belli trepido concussa tumultu,
Horrida, contremuere sub altis aetheris auris;
In dubioque fuit sub utrorum regna cadendum
Omnibus humanis esset, terraque, marique:
Sic, ubi non erimus, cum corporis atque animai
Discidium fuerit, quibus e sumus uniter apti,
Scilicet haud nobis quicquam, qui non erimus tum,
Accidere omnino poterit, sensumque movere:
Non, si terra mari miscebitur, et mare coelo."

LUCRETIUS, lib. iii. 11. 842-854.

[18] In the following century when Caesar's life had become mythic, a
story was current that when Caesar was speaking on this occasion a
note was brought in to him, and Cato, suspecting that it referred to
the conspiracy, insisted that it should be read. Caesar handed it to
Cato, and it proved to be a love letter from Cato's sister, Servilia,
the mother of Brutus. More will be said of the supposed liaison
between Caesar and Servilia hereafter. For the present it is enough to
say that there is no contemporary evidence for the story at all; and
that if it be true that a note of some kind from Servilia was given to
Caesar, it is more consistent with probability and the other
circumstances of the case, that it was an innocent note of business.
Ladies do not send in compromising letters to their lovers when they
are on their feet in Parliament; nor, if such an accident should
happen, do the lovers pass them over to be read by the ladies'

[19] "Victrix causa Deis placuit, sed victa Catoni."--LUCAN.


[Sidenote: B.C. 62.]
The execution of Lentulus and Cethegus was received in Rome with the
feeling which Caesar had anticipated. There was no active sympathy with
the conspiracy, but the conspiracy was forgotten in indignation at the
lawless action of the consul and the Senate. It was still violence--always
violence. Was law, men asked, never to resume its authority?--was the
Senate to deal at its pleasure with the lives and properties of
citizens?--criminals though they might be, what right had Cicero to
strangle citizens in dungeons without trial? If this was to be allowed,
the constitution was at an end; Rome was no longer a republic, but an
arbitrary oligarchy. Pompey's name was on every tongue. When would Pompey
come? Pompey, the friend of the people, the terror of the aristocracy!
Pompey, who had cleared the sea of pirates, and doubled the area of the
Roman dominions! Let Pompey return and bring his army with him, and give
to Rome the same peace and order which he had already given to the world.

A Roman commander, on landing in Italy after foreign service, was expected
to disband his legions, and relapse into the position of a private person.
A popular and successful general was an object of instinctive fear to the
politicians who held the reins of government. The Senate was never pleased
to see any individual too much an object of popular idolatry; and in the
case of Pompey their suspicion was the greater on account of the greatness
of his achievements, and because his command had been forced upon them by
the people, against their will. In the absence of a garrison, the city was
at the mercy of the patricians and their clients. That the noble lords
were unscrupulous in removing persons whom they disliked they had shown in
a hundred instances, and Pompey naturally enough hesitated to trust
himself among them without security. He required the protection of office,
and he had sent forward one of his most distinguished officers, Metellus
Nepos, to prepare the way and demand the consulship for him. Metellus, to
strengthen his hands, had stood for the tribuneship; and, in spite of the
utmost efforts of the aristocracy, had been elected. It fell to Metellus
to be the first to give expression to the general indignation in a way
peculiarly wounding to the illustrious consul. Cicero imagined that the
world looked upon him as its saviour. In his own eyes he was another
Romulus, a second founder of Rome. The world, unfortunately, had formed an
entirely different estimate of him. The prisoners had been killed on the
5th of December. On the last day of the year it was usual for the outgoing
consuls to review the events of their term of office before the Senate;
and Cicero had prepared a speech in which he had gilded his own
performances with all his eloquence. Metellus commenced his tribunate with
forbidding Cicero to deliver his oration, and forbidding him on the
special ground that a man who had put Roman citizens to death without
allowing them a hearing did not himself deserve to be heard. In the midst
of the confusion and uproar which followed, Cicero could only shriek that
he had saved his country: a declaration which could have been dispensed
with, since he had so often insisted upon it already without producing the
assent which he desired.

Notwithstanding his many fine qualities, Cicero was wanting in dignity.
His vanity was wounded in its tenderest point, and he attacked Metellus a
day or two after, in one of those violently abusive outpourings of which
so many specimens of his own survive, and which happily so few other
statesmen attempted to imitate. Metellus retorted with a threat of
impeaching Cicero, and the grave Roman Curia became no better than a
kennel of mad dogs. For days the storm raged on with no symptom of
abatement. At last Metellus turned to the people and proposed in the
assembly that Pompey should be recalled with his army to restore law and

Caesar, who was now praetor, warmly supported Metellus. To him, if to no
one else, it was clear as the sun at noonday, that unless some better
government could be provided than could be furnished by five hundred such
gentlemen as the Roman senators, the State was drifting on to destruction.
Resolutions to be submitted to the people were generally first drawn in
writing, and were read from the Rostra. When Metellus produced his
proposal, Cato, who was a tribune also, sprang to his side, ordered him to
be silent, and snatched the scroll out of his hands. Metellus went on,
speaking from memory Cato's friends shut his mouth by force. The
patricians present drew their swords and cleared the Forum; and the
Senate, in the exercise of another right to which they pretended, declared
Caesar and Metullus degraded from their offices. Metullus, probably at
Caesar's advice, withdrew and went off to Asia, to describe what had
passed to Pompey. Caesar remained, and, quietly disregarding the Senate's
sentence, continued to sit and hear cases as praetor. His court was
forcibly closed. He yielded to violence and retired under protest, being
escorted to the door of his house by an enormous multitude. There he
dismissed his lictors and laid aside his official dress, that he might
furnish no excuse for a charge against him of resisting the established
authorities. The mob refused to be comforted. They gathered day after day.
They clustered about the pontifical palace. They cried to Caesar to place
himself at their head, that they might tear down the senate-house, and
turn the caitiffs into the street. Caesar neither then nor ever lent
himself to popular excesses. He reminded the citizens that if others broke
the law, they must themselves set an example of obeying it, and he bade
them return to their homes.

Terrified at the state of the city, and penitent for their injustice to
Caesar, the Senate hurriedly revoked their decree of deposition, sent a
deputation to him to apologize, and invited him to resume his place among
them. The extreme patrician section remained irreconcilable. Caesar
complied, but only to find himself denounced again with passionate
pertinacity as having been an accomplice of Catiline. Witnesses were
produced, who swore to having seen his signature to a treasonable bond.
Curius, Cicero's spy, declared that Catiline himself had told him that
Caesar was one of the conspirators. Caesar treated the charge with
indignant disdain. He appealed to Cicero's conscience, and Cicero was
obliged to say that he had derived his earliest and most important
information from Caesar himself. The most violent of his accusers were
placed under arrest. The informers, after a near escape from being
massacred by the crowd, were thrown into prison, and for the moment the
furious heats were able to cool.

All eyes were now turned to Pompey. The war in Asia was over. Pompey, it
was clear, must now return to receive the thanks of his countrymen; and as
he had triumphed in spite of the aristocracy, and as his victories could
neither be denied nor undone, the best hope of the Senate was to win him
over from the people, and to prevent a union between him and Caesar.
Through all the recent dissensions Caesar had thrown his weight on
Pompey's side. He, with Cicero, had urged Pompey's appointment to his
successive commands. When Cicero went over to the patricians, Caesar had
stood by Pompey's officers against the fury of the Senate. Caesar had the
people behind him, and Pompey the army. Unless in some way an apple of
discord could be thrown between them, the two favorites would overshadow
the State, and the Senate's authority would be gone. Nothing could be done
for the moment politically. Pompey owed his position to the democracy, and
he was too great as yet to fear Caesar as a rival in the Commonwealth. On
the personal side there was better hope. Caesar was as much admired in the
world of fashion as he was detested in the Curia. He had no taste for the
brutal entertainments and more brutal vices of male patrician society. He
preferred the companionship of cultivated women, and the noble lords had
the fresh provocation of finding their hated antagonist an object of
adoration to their wives and daughters. Here, at any rate, scandal had the
field to itself. Caesar was accused of criminal intimacy with many ladies
of the highest rank, and Pompey was privately informed that his friend had
taken advantage of his absence to seduce his wife, Mucia. Pompey was
Agamemnon; Caesar had been Aegisthus; and Pompey was so far persuaded that
Mucia had been unfaithful to him, that he divorced her before his return.

Charges of this kind have the peculiar advantage that even when disproved
or shown to be manifestly absurd, they leave a stain behind them. Careless
equally of probability and decency, the leaders of the Senate sacrificed
without scruple the reputation of their own relatives if only they could
make Caesar odious. The name of Servilia has been mentioned already.
Servilia was the sister of Marcus Cato and the mother of Marcus Brutus.
She was a woman of remarkable ability and character, and between her and
Caesar there was undoubtedly a close acquaintance and a strong mutual
affection. The world discovered that she was Caesar's mistress, and that
Brutus was his son. It might be enough to say that when Brutus was born
Caesar was scarcely fifteen years old, and that, if a later intimacy
existed between them, Brutus knew nothing of it or cared nothing for it.
When he stabbed Caesar at last it was not as a Hamlet or an Orestes, but
as a patriot sacrificing his dearest friend to his country. The same doubt
extends to the other supposed victims of Caesar's seductiveness. Names
were mentioned in the following century, but no particulars were given.
For the most part his alleged mistresses were the wives of men who
remained closely attached to him notwithstanding. The report of his
intrigue with Mucia answered its immediate purpose, in producing a
temporary coldness on Pompey's part toward Caesar; but Pompey must either
have discovered the story to be false or else have condoned it, for soon
afterward he married Caesar's daughter. Two points may be remarked about
these legends: first, that on no single occasion does Caesar appear to
have been involved in any trouble or quarrel on account of his love
affairs; and secondly, that, with the exception of Brutus and of
Cleopatra's Caesarion, whose claims to be Caesar's son were denied and
disproved, there is no record of any illegitimate children as the result
of these amours--a strange thing if Caesar was as liberal of his favors as
popular scandal pretended. It would be idle to affect a belief that Caesar
was particularly virtuous. He was a man of the world, living in an age as
corrupt as has been ever known. It would be equally idle to assume that
all the ink blots thrown upon him were certainly deserved, because we find
them in books which we call classical. Proof deserving to be called proof
there is none; and the only real evidence is the town talk of a society
which feared and hated Caesar, and was glad of every pretext to injure him
when alive, or to discredit him after his death. Similar stories have been
spread, are spread, and will be spread of every man who raises himself a
few inches above the level of his fellows. We know how it is with our
contemporaries. A single seed of fact will produce in a season or two a
harvest of calumnies, and sensible men pass such things by, and pay no
attention to them. With history we are less careful or less charitable. An
accusation of immorality is accepted without examination when brought
against eminent persons who can no longer defend themselves, and to raise
a doubt of its truth passes as a sign of a weak understanding. So let it
be. It is certain that Caesar's contemporaries spread rumors of a variety
of intrigues, in which they said that he was concerned. It is probable
that some were well founded. It is possible that all were well founded.
But it is no less indubitable that they rest on evidence which is not
evidence at all, and that the most innocent intimacies would not have
escaped misrepresentation from the venomous tongues of Roman society.
Caesar comes into court with a fairer character than those whose virtues
are thought to overshadow him. Marriage, which under the ancient Romans
was the most sacred of ties, had become the lightest and the loosest.
Cicero divorced Tereutia when she was old and ill-tempered, and married a
young woman. Cato made over his Marcia, the mother of his children, to his
friend Hortensius, and took her back as a wealthy widow when Hortensius
died. Pompey put away his first wife at Sylla's bidding, and took a second
who was already the wife of another man. Caesar, when little more than a
boy, dared the Dictator's displeasure rather than condescend to a similar
compliance. His worst enemies admitted that from the gluttony, the
drunkenness, and the viler forms of sensuality, which were then so common,
he was totally free. For the rest, it is certain that no friend ever
permanently quarrelled with him on any question of domestic injury; and
either there was a general indifference on such subjects, which lightens
the character of the sin, or popular scandals in old Rome were of no
sounder material than we find them composed of in other countries and in
other times.

Turning from scandal to reality, we come now to a curious incident, which
occasioned a fresh political convulsion, where Caesar appears, not as an
actor in an affair of gallantry, but as a sufferer.

Pompey was still absent. Caesar had resumed his duties as praetor, and was
living in the official house of the Pontifex Maximus, with his mother
Aurelia and his wife Pompeia. The age was fertile of new religions. The
worship of the Bona Dea, a foreign goddess of unknown origin, had recently
been introduced into Rome, and an annual festival was held in her honor in
the house of one or other of the principal magistrates. The Vestal virgins
officiated at the ceremonies, and women only were permitted to be present.
This year the pontifical palace was selected for the occasion, and
Caesar's wife Pompeia was to preside.

The reader may remember a certain youth named Clodius, who had been with
Lucullus in Asia, and had been a chief instigator of the mutiny in his
army. He was Lucullus's brother-in-law, a member of the Claudian family, a
patrician of the patricians, and connected by blood and marriage with the
proudest members of the Senate. If Cicero is to be believed, he had
graduated even while a boy in every form of vice, natural and unnatural.
He was bold, clever, unprincipled, and unscrupulous, with a slender
diminutive figure and a delicate woman's face. His name was Clodius
Pulcher. Cicero played upon it and called him Pulchellus Puer, "the pretty
boy." Between this promising young man and Caesar's wife Pompeia there had
sprung up an acquaintance, which Clodius was anxious to press to further
extremes. Pompeia was difficult of access, her mother-in-law Aurelia
keeping a strict watch over her; and Clodius, who was afraid of nothing,
took advantage of the Bona Dea festival to make his way into Caesar's
house dressed as a woman. Unfortunately for him, his disguise was
detected. The insulted Vestals and the other ladies who were present flew
upon him like the dogs of Actaeon, tore his borrowed garments from him,
and drove him into the street naked and wounded. The adventure became
known. It was mentioned in the Senate, and the College of Priests was
ordered to hold an inquiry. The college found that Clodius had committed
sacrilege, and the regular course in such cases was to send the offender
to trial. There was general unwillingness, however, to treat this matter
seriously. Clodius had many friends in the house, and even Cicero, who was
inclined at first to be severe, took on reflection a more lenient view.
Clodius had a sister, a light lady who, weary of her conquests over her
fashionable admirers, had tried her fascinations on the great orator. He
had escaped complete subjugation, but he had been flattered by the
attention of the seductive beauty, and was ready to help her brother out
of his difficulty. Clodius was not yet the dangerous desperado which he
afterward became; and immorality, though seasoned with impiety, might
easily, it was thought, be made too much of. Caesar himself did not press
for punishment. As president of the college, he had acquiesced in their
decision, and he divorced the unfortunate Pompeia; but he expressed no
opinion as to the extent of her criminality, and he gave as his reason for
separating from her, not that she was guilty, but that Caesar's wife must
be above suspicion.

Cato, however, insisted on a prosecution. Messala, one of the consuls, was
equally peremptory. The hesitation was regarded by the stricter senators
as a scandal to the order; and in spite of the efforts of the second
consul Piso, who was a friend of Clodius, it was decided that a bill for
his indictment should be submitted to the assembly in the Forum. Clodius,
it seems, was generally popular. No political question was raised by the
proceedings against him; for the present his offence was merely a personal
one; the wreck of Catiline's companions, the dissolute young aristocrats,
the loose members of all ranks and classes, took up the cause, and
gathered to support their favorite, with young Curio, whom Cicero called
in mockery _Filiola_, at their head. The approaches to the Forum were
occupied by them. Piso, by whom the bill was introduced, himself advised
the people to reject it. Cato flew to the Rostra and railed at the consul.
Hortensius, the orator, and many others spoke on the same side. It
appeared at last that the people were divided, and would consent to the
bill being passed, if it was recommended to them by both the consuls.
Again, therefore, the matter was referred to the Senate. One of the
tribunes introduced Clodius, that he might speak for himself. Cicero had
now altered his mind, and was in favor of the prosecution.

[Sidenote: February, B.C. 61.]
The "pretty youth" was alternately humble and violent, begging pardon, and
then bursting into abuse of his brother-in-law, Lucullus, and more
particularly of Cicero, whom he suspected of being the chief promoter of
the proceedings against him. When it came to a division, the Senate voted
by a majority of four hundred to fifteen that the consuls must recommend
the bill. Piso gave way, and the tribune also who had been in Clodius's
favor. The people were satisfied, and a court of fifty-six judges was
appointed, before whom the trial was to take place. It seemed that a
conviction must necessarily follow, for there was no question about the
facts, which were all admitted. There was some manoeuvring, however, in
the constitution of the court, which raised Cicero's suspicions. The
judges, instead of being selected by the praetor, were chosen by lot, and
the prisoner was allowed to challenge as many names as he pleased. The
result was that in Cicero's opinion a more scandalous set of persons than
those who were finally sworn were never collected round a gaming table--
"disgraced senators, bankrupt knights, disreputable tribunes of the
treasury, the few honest men that were left appearing to be ashamed of
their company"--and Cicero considered that it would have been better if
Hortensius, who was prosecuting, had withdrawn, and had left Clodius to be
condemned by the general sense of respectable people, rather than risk the
credit of Roman justice before so scandalous a tribunal.[1] Still the
case as it proceeded appeared so clear as to leave no hope of an
acquittal. Clodius's friends were in despair, and were meditating an
appeal to the mob. The judges, on the evening of the first day of the
trial, as if they had already decided on a verdict of guilty, applied for
a guard to protect them while they delivered it. The Senate complimented
them in giving their consent. With a firm expectation present in all men's
minds the second morning dawned. Even in Rome, accustomed as it was to
mockeries of justice, public opinion was shocked when the confident
anticipation was disappointed. According to Cicero, Marcus Crassus, for
reasons known to himself, had been interested in Clodius. During the night
he sent for the judges one by one. He gave them money. What else he either
gave or promised them, must continue veiled in Cicero's Latin.[2] Before
these influences the resolution of the judges melted away, and when the
time came, thirty-one out of fifty-six high-born Roman peers and gentlemen
declared Clodius innocent.

The original cause was nothing. That a profligate young man should escape
punishment for a licentious frolic was comparatively of no consequence;
but the trial acquired a notoriety of infamy which shook once more the
already tottering constitution.

"Why did you ask for a guard?" old Catulus growled to the judges: "was it
that the money you have received might not be taken from you?"

"Such is the history of this affair," Cicero wrote to his friend Atticus.
"We thought that the foundation of the Commonwealth had been surely re-
established in my consulship, all orders of good men being happily united.
You gave the praise to me and I to the gods; and now unless some god looks
favorably on us, all is lost in this single judgment. Thirty Romans have
been found to trample justice under foot for a bribe, and to declare an
act not to have been committed, about which not only not a man, but not a
beast of the field, can entertain the smallest doubt."

Cato threatened the judges with impeachment; Cicero stormed in the Senate,
rebuked the consul Piso, and lectured Clodius in a speech which he himself
admired exceedingly. The "pretty boy" in reply taunted Cicero with wishing
to make himself a king. Cicero rejoined with asking Clodius about a man
named "King," whose estates he had appropriated, and reminded him of a
misadventure among the pirates, from which he had come off with nameless
ignominy. Neither antagonist very honorably distinguished himself in this
encounter of wit. The Senate voted at last for an inquiry into the judges'
conduct; but an inquiry only added to Cicero's vexation, for his special
triumph had been, as he conceived, the union of the Senate with the
equites; and the equites took the resolution as directed against
themselves, and refused to be consoled.[3]

Caesar had been absent during these scenes. His term of office having
expired, he had been despatched as propraetor to Spain, where the ashes of
the Sertorian rebellion were still smouldering; and he had started for his
province while the question of Clodius's trial was still pending. Portugal
and Gallicia were still unsubdued. Bands of robbers lay everywhere in the
fastnesses of the mountain ranges. Caesar was already favorably known in
Spain for his service as quaestor. He now completed the conquest of the
peninsula. He put down the banditti. He reorganized the administration
with the rapid skill which always so remarkably distinguished him. He sent
home large sums of money to the treasury. His work was done quickly, but
it was done completely. He nowhere left an unsound spot unprobed. He never
contented himself with the superficial healing of a wound which would
break out again when he was gone. What he began he finished, and left it
in need of no further surgery. As his reward, he looked for a triumph, and
the consulship, one or both; and the consulship he knew could not well be
refused to him, unwelcome as it would be to the Senate.

Pompey meanwhile was at last coming back. All lesser luminaries shone
faint before the sun of Pompey, the subduer of the pirates, the conqueror
of Asia, the glory of the Roman name. Even Cicero had feared that the fame
of the saviour of his country might pale before the lustre of the great
Pompey. "I used to be in alarm," he confessed with naive simplicity, "that
six hundred years hence the merits of Sampsiceramus[4] might seem to
have been more than mine." [5] But how would Pompey appear? Would he come
at the head of his army, like Sylla, the armed soldier of the democracy,
to avenge the affront upon his officers, to reform the State, to punish
the Senate for the murder of the Catiline conspirators? Pompey had no such
views, and no capacity for such ambitious operations. The ground had been
prepared beforehand. The Mucia story had perhaps done its work, and the
Senate and the great commander were willing to meet each other, at least
with outward friendliness.

His successes had been brilliant; but they were due rather to his honesty
than to his military genius. He had encountered no real resistance, and
Cato had sneered at his exploits as victories over women. He had put down
the buccaneers, because he had refused to be bribed by them. He had
overthrown Mithridates and had annexed Asia Minor and Syria to the Roman
dominions. Lucullus could have done it as easily as his successor, if he
could have turned his back upon temptations to increase his own fortune or
gratify his own passions. The wealth of the East had lain at Pompey's
feet, and he had not touched it. He had brought millions into the
treasury. He returned, as he had gone out, himself moderately provided
for, and had added nothing to his private income. He understood, and
practised strictly, the common rules of morality. He detested dishonesty
and injustice. But he had no political insight; and if he was ambitious,
it was with the innocent vanity which desires, and is content with,
admiration. In the time of the Scipios he would have lived in an
atmosphere of universal applause, and would have died in honor with an
unblemished name. In the age of Clodius and Catiline he was the easy dupe
of men of stronger intellect than his own, who played upon his
unsuspicious integrity. His delay in coming back had arisen chiefly from
anxiety for his personal safety. He was eager to be reconciled to the
Senate, yet without deserting the people. While in Asia, he had reassured
Cicero that nothing was to be feared from him.[6] His hope was to find
friends on all sides and in all parties, and he thought that he had
deserved their friendship.

[Sidenote: December, B.C. 62.]
Thus when Pompey landed at Brindisi his dreaded legions were disbanded,
and he proceeded to the Capitol, with a train of captive princes, as the
symbols of his victories, and wagons loaded with treasure as an offering
to his country. He was received as he advanced with the shouts of
applauding multitudes. He entered Rome in a galaxy of glory. A splendid
column commemorated the cities which he had taken, the twelve million
human beings whom he had slain or subjected. His triumph was the most
magnificent which the Roman citizens had ever witnessed, and by special
vote he was permitted to wear his triumphal robe in the Senate as often
and as long as might please him. The fireworks over, and with the aureole
of glory about his brow, the great Pompey, like another Samson shorn of
his locks, dropped into impotence and insignificance. In February, 61,
during the debate on the Clodius affair, he made his first speech in the
Senate. Cicero, listening with malicious satisfaction, reported that
"Pompey gave no pleasure to the wretched; to the bad he seemed without
backbone; he was not agreeable to the well-to-do; the wise and good found
him wanting in substance;" [7] in short, the speech was a failure. Pompey
applied for a second consulship. He was reminded that he had been consul
eight years previously, and that the ten years' interval prescribed by
Sylla, between the first and the second term, had not expired. He asked
for lands for his soldiers, and for the ratification of his acts in Asia.
Cato opposed the first request, as likely to lead to another agrarian law.
Lucullus, who was jealous of him, raised difficulties about the second,
and thwarted him with continual delays.

[Sidenote: February 1, B.C. 60.]
Pompey, being a poor speaker, thus found himself entirely helpless in the
new field. Cicero, being relieved of fear from him as a rival, was wise
enough to see that the collapse might not continue, and that his real
qualities might again bring him to the front. The Clodius business had
been a frightful scandal, and, smooth as the surface might seem, ugly
cracks were opening all round the constitution. The disbanded legions were
impatient for their farms. The knights, who were already offended with the
Senate for having thrown the disgrace of the Clodius trial upon them, had
a fresh and more substantial grievance. The leaders of the order had
contracted to farm the revenues in Asia. They found that the terms which
they had offered were too high, and they claimed an abatement, which the
Senate refused to allow. The Catiline conspiracy should have taught the
necessity of a vigorous administration. Caecilius Metellus and Lucius
Afranius, who had been chosen consuls for the year 60, were mere nothings.
Metellus was a vacant aristocrat,[8] to be depended on for resisting
popular demands, but without insight otherwise; the second, Afranius, was
a person "on whom only a philosopher could look without a groan;" [9] and
one year more might witness the consulship of Caesar. "I have not a
friend," Cicero wrote, "to whom I can express my real thoughts. Things
cannot long stand as they are. I have been vehement: I have put out all my
strength in the hope of mending matters and healing our disorders, but we
will not endure the necessary medicine. The seat of justice has been
publicly debauched. Resolutions are introduced against corruption, but no
law can be carried. The knights are alienated. The Senate has lost its
authority. The concord of the orders is gone, and the pillars of the
Commonwealth which I set up are overthrown. We have not a statesman, or
the shadow of one. My friend Pompey, who might have done something, sits
silent, admiring his fine clothes.[10] Crassus will say nothing to make
himself unpopular, and the rest are such idiots as to hope that although
the constitution fall they will save their own fish-ponds.[11] Cato, the
best man that we have, is more honest than wise. For these three months he
has been worrying the revenue farmers, and will not let the Senate satisfy
them." [12]

It was time for Cicero to look about him. The Catiline affair was not
forgotten. He might still be called to answer for the executions, and he
felt that he required some stronger support than an aristocracy, who would
learn nothing and seemed to be bent on destroying themselves. In letter
after letter he pours out his contempt for his friends "of the fish-
ponds," as he called them, who would neither mend their ways nor let
others mend them. He would not desert them altogether, but he provided for
contingencies. The tribunes had taken up the cause of Pompey's
legionaries. Agrarian laws were threatened, and Pompey himself was most
eager to see his soldiers satisfied. Cicero, who had hitherto opposed an
agrarian law with all his violence, discovered now that something might be
said in favor of draining "the sink of the city" [13] and repeopling
Italy. Besides the public advantage, he felt that he would please the
mortified but still popular Pompey; and he lent his help in the Senate to
improving a bill introduced by the tribunes, and endeavoring, though
unsuccessfully, to push it through.

[Sidenote: July, B.C. 60.]
So grateful was Pompey for Cicero's support that he called him, in the
Senate, "the saviour of the world." [14]Cicero was delighted with the
phrase, and began to look to Pompey as a convenient ally. He thought that
he could control and guide him and use his popularity for moderate
measures. Nay, even in his despair of the aristocracy, he began to regard
as not impossible a coalition with Caesar. "You caution me about Pompey,"
he wrote to Atticus in the following July. "Do not suppose that I am
attaching myself to him for my own protection; but the state of things is
such, that if we two disagree the worst misfortunes may be feared. I make
no concessions to him, I seek to make him better, and to cure him of his
popular levity; and now he speaks more highly by far of my actions than of
his own. He has merely done well, he says, while I have saved the State.
However this may affect me, it is certainly good for the Commonwealth.
What if I can make Caesar better also, who is now coming on with wind and
tide? Will that be so bad a thing? Even if I had no enemies, if I was
supported as universally as I ought to be, still a medicine which will
cure the diseased parts of the State is better than the surgery which
would amputate them. The knights have fallen off from the Senate. The
noble lords think they are in heaven when they have barbel in their ponds
that will eat out of their hands, and they leave the rest to fate. You
cannot love Cato more than I love him, but he does harm with the best
intentions. He speaks as if he was in Plato's Republic, instead of being
in the dregs of that of Romulus. Most true that corrupt judges ought to be
punished! Cato proposed it, the Senate agreed; but the knights have
declared war upon the Senate. Most insolent of the revenue farmers to
throw up their contract! Cato resisted them, and carried his point; but
now when seditions break out, the knights will not lift a finger to
repress them. Are we to hire mercenaries? Are we to depend on our slaves
and freedmen?.... But enough."[15]

[Sidenote: October, B.C. 60.]
[Sidenote: November, B.C. 60.]
Cicero might well despair of a Senate who had taken Cato to lead them.
Pompey had come home in the best of dispositions. The Senate had offended
Pompey, and, more than that, had offended his legionaries. They had
quarrelled with the knights. They had quarrelled with the moneyed
interests. They now added an entirely gratuitous affront to Caesar. His
Spanish administration was admitted by every one to have been admirable.
He was coming to stand for the consulship, which could not be refused; but
he asked for a triumph also, and as the rule stood there was a difficulty,
for if he was to have a triumph, he must remain outside the walls till the
day fixed for it, and if he was a candidate for office, he must be present
in person on the day of the election. The custom, though convenient
in itself, had been more than once set aside. Caesar applied to the Senate
for a dispensation, which would enable him to be a candidate in his
absence; and Cato, either from mere dislike of Caesar or from a hope that
he might prefer vanity to ambition, and that the dreaded consulship might
be escaped, persuaded the Senate to refuse. If this was the expectation,
it was disappointed. Caesar dropped his triumph, came home, and went
through the usual forms, and it at once appeared that his election was
certain, and that every powerful influence in the State was combined in
his favor. From Pompey he met the warmest reception. The Mucia bubble had
burst. Pompey saw in Caesar only the friend who had stood by him in every
step of his later career, and had braved the fury of the Senate at the
side of his officer Metellus Nepos. Equally certain it was that Caesar, as
a soldier, would interest himself for Pompey's legionaries, and that they
could be mutually useful to each other. Caesar had the people at his back,
and Pompey had the army. The third great power in Rome was that of the
capitalists, and about the attitude of these there was at first some
uncertainty. Crassus, who was the impersonation of them, was a friend of
Caesar, but had been on bad terms with Pompey. Caesar, however, contrived
to reconcile them; and thus all parties outside the patrician circle were
combined for a common purpose. Could Cicero have taken his place frankly
at their side, as his better knowledge told him to do, the inevitable
revolution might have been accomplished without bloodshed, and the course
of history have been different. Caesar wished it. But it was not so to be.
Cicero perhaps found that he would have to be content with a humbler
position than he had anticipated, that in such a combination he would have
to follow rather than to lead. He was tempted. He saw a promise of peace,
safety, influence, if not absolute, yet considerable. But he could not
bring himself to sacrifice the proud position which he had won for himself
in his consulship, as leader of the Conservatives; and he still hoped to
reign in the Senate, while using the protection of the popular chiefs as a
shelter in time of storms. Caesar was chosen consul without opposition.
His party was so powerful that it seemed at one time as if he could name
his colleague, but the Senate succeeded with desperate efforts in securing
the second place. They subscribed money profusely, the immaculate Cato
prominent among them. The machinery of corruption was well in order. The
great nobles commanded the votes of their _clientele_, and they
succeeded in giving Caesar the same companion who had accompanied him
through the aedileship and the praetorship, Marcus Bibulus, a dull,
obstinate fool, who could be relied on, if for nothing else, yet for
dogged resistance to every step which the Senate disapproved. For the
moment they appeared to have thought that with Bibulus's help they might
defy Caesar and reduce his office to a nullity. Immediately on the
election of the consuls, it was usual to determine the provinces to which
they were to be appointed when their consulate should expire. The
regulation lay with the Senate, and, either in mere spleen or to prevent
Caesar from having the command of an army, they allotted him the
department of the "Woods and Forests." [16] A very few weeks had
to pass before they discovered that they had to do with a man who was not
to be turned aside so slightingly.

Hitherto Caesar had been feared and hated, but his powers were rather
suspected than understood. As the nephew of Marius and the son-in-law of
Cinna, he was the natural chief of the party which had once governed Rome
and had been trampled under the hoof of Sylla. He had shown on many
occasions that he had inherited his uncle's principles, and could be
daring and skilful in asserting them. But he had held carefully within the
constitutional lines; he had kept himself clear of conspiracies; he had
never, like the Gracchi, put himself forward as a tribune or attempted the
part of a popular agitator. When he had exerted himself in the political
world of Rome, it had been to maintain the law against violence, to resist
and punish encroachments of arbitrary power, or to rescue the Empire from
being gambled away by incapable or profligate aristocrats. Thus he had
gathered for himself the animosity of the fashionable upper classes and
the confidence of the body of the people. But what he would do in power,
or what it was in him to do, was as yet merely conjectural.

[Sidenote: B.C. 50.]
At all events, after an interval of a generation there was again a popular
consul, and on every side there was a harvest of iniquities ready for the
sickle. Sixty years had passed since the death of the younger Gracchus;
revolution after revolution had swept over the Commonwealth, and Italy was
still as Tiberius Gracchus had found it. The Gracchan colonists had
disappeared. The Syllan military proprietors had disappeared--one by one
they had fallen to beggary, and had sold their holdings, and again the
country was parcelled into enormous estates cultivated by slave-gangs. The
Italians had been emancipated, but the process had gone no further. The
libertini, the sons of the freedmen, still waited for equality of rights.
The rich and prosperous provinces beyond the Po remained unenfranchised,
while the value of the franchise itself was daily diminishing as the
Senate resumed its control over the initiative of legislation. Each year
the elections became more corrupt. The Clodius judgment had been the most
frightful instance which had yet occurred of the depravity of the law
courts; while, by Cicero's own admission, not a single measure could pass
beyond discussion into act which threatened the interests of the
oligarchy. The consulship of Caesar was looked to with hope from the
respectable part of the citizens, with alarm from the high-born
delinquents as a period of genuine reform. The new consuls were to enter
office on the 1st of January. In December it was known that an agrarian
law would be at once proposed under plea of providing for Pompey's troops;
and Cicero had to decide whether he would act in earnest in the spirit
which he had begun to show when the tribunes' bill was under discussion,
or would fall back upon resistance with the rest of his party, or evade
the difficult dilemma by going on foreign service, or else would simply
absent himself from Rome while the struggle was going on. "I may either
resist," he said, "and there will be an honorable fight; or I may do
nothing, and withdraw into the country, which will be honorable also; or I
may give active help, which I am told Caesar expects of me. His friend,
Cornelius Balbus, who was with me lately, affirms that Caesar will be
guided in everything by my advice and Pompey's, and will use his endeavor
to bring Pompey and Crassus together. Such a course has its advantages; it
will draw me closely to Pompey and, if I please, to Caesar. I shall have
no more to fear from my enemies. I shall be at peace with the people. I
can look to quiet in my old age. But the lines still move me which
conclude the third book (of my Poem on my consulship): 'Hold to the track
on which thou enteredst in thy early youth, which thou pursuedst as consul
so valorously and bravely. Increase thy fame, and seek the praise of the
good.'" [17]

It had been proposed to send Cicero on a mission to Egypt. "I should like
well, and I have long wished," he said, "to see Alexandria and the rest of
that country. They have had enough of me here at present, and they may
wish for me when I am away. But to go now, and to go on a commission from
Caesar and Pompey!

I should blush
To face the men and long-robed dames of Troy.[18]

What will our optimates say, if we have any optimates left? Polydamas will
throw in my teeth that I have been bribed by the opposition--I mean Cato,
who is one out of a hundred thousand to me. What will history say of me
six hundred years hence? I am more afraid of that than of the chatter of
my contemporaries."[19]

So Cicero meditated, thinking as usual of himself first and of his duty
afterward--the fatalest of all courses then and always.

[1] "Si causam quaeris absolutionis, egestas judicum fuit et turpitudo....
Non vidit (Hortensius) satius esse illum in infamia relinqui ac
sordibus quam infirmo judicio committi."--_To Atticus_, i. 16.

[2] "Jam vero, oh Dii Boni! rem perditam! etiam noctes certarum mulierum,
atque _adolescentulorum nobilium_ introductiones nonnullis
judicibus pro mercedis cumulo fuerunt."--_Ad Atticum_, i. 16.

[3] "Nos hic in republica infirma, misera commutabilique versamur. Credo
enim te audisse, nostros equites paene a senatu esse disjunctos; qui
primum illud valde graviter tulerund, promulgatum ex senatus consulto
fuisse, ut de iis, qui ob judicaudum pecuniam accepissent queareretur.
Qua in re decernenda cum ego casu non affuissem, sensissemque id
equestrem ordinem ferre moleste, neque aperte dicere: objurgavi
senatum, ut mihi visus sum, summa cum auctoritate, et in causa non
verecunda admodum gravis et copiosus fui."--_To Atticus_, i. 17.

[4] A nickname under which Cicero often speaks of Pompey.

[5] "Solebat enim me pungere, ne Sampsicerami merita in patriam ad annos
DC majora viderentur, quam nostra."--_To Atticus_, ii. 17.

[6] "Pompeius nobis amicissimus esse constat."--_To Atticus_, i. 13.

[7] "Non jucunda miseris, inanis improbis, beatis non grata, bonis non
gravis. Itaque frigebat."--_To Atticus_, i. 14.

[8] "Metellus non homo, sed litus atque aer, et solitudo mera."--_To
Atticus_, i. 18.

[9] "Consul est impositus is nobis, quem nemo, praeter nos philosophos,
aspicere sine suspiratu potest."--_Ib_. i. 18.

[10] "Pompeius togulam illam pictam silentio tuetur suam."--_Ib_.
The "picta togula" means the triumphal robe which Pompey was allowed
to wear.

[11] "Ceteros jam nosti; qui ita sunt stulti, ut amissa republica piscinas
suas fore salvas sperare videantur."--_Ib_.

[12] _Ib_., abridged.

[13] "Sentinam urbis," a worse word than he had blamed in Rullus three
years before.--_To Atticus_, i. 19.

[14] "Pompeium adduxi in eam voluntatem, ut in Senatu non semel, sed
saepe, multisque verbis, hujus mihi salutem imperii atque orbis
terrarum adjudicarit."--_ib_.

[15] _To Atticus_, ii. 1, abridged.

[16] _Silvae Callesque_--to which "woods and forests" is a near

[17] "Interea cursus, quos prima a parte juventae,
Quosque ideo consul virtute animoque petisti,
Hos retine atquae auge famam laudesque bonorum."
_To Atticus_, ii. 3.

[18] Iliad, vi. 442. Lord Derby's translation.

[19] _To Atticus_, ii. 5.


The consulship of Caesar was the last chance for the Roman aristocracy. He
was not a revolutionist. Revolutions are the last desperate remedy when
all else has failed. They may create as many evils as they cure, and wise
men always hate them. But if revolution was to be escaped, reform was
inevitable, and it was for the Senate to choose between the alternatives.
Could the noble lords have known then, in that their day, the things that
belonged to their peace--could they have forgotten their fish-ponds and
their game-preserves, and have remembered that, as the rulers of the
civilized world, they had duties which the eternal order of nature would
exact at their hands--the shaken constitution might again have regained
its stability, and the forms and even the reality of the Republic might
have continued for another century. It was not to be. Had the Senate been
capable of using the opportunity, they would long before have undertaken a
reformation for themselves. Even had their eyes been opened, there were
disintegrating forces at work which the highest political wisdom could do
no more than arrest; and little good is really effected by prolonging
artificially the lives of either constitutions or individuals beyond their
natural period. From the time when Rome became an empire, mistress of
provinces to which she was unable to extend her own liberties, the days of
her self-government were numbered. A homogeneous and vigorous people may
manage their own affairs under a popular constitution so long as their
personal characters remain undegenerate. Parliaments and Senates may
represent the general will of the community, and may pass laws and
administer them as public sentiment approves. But such bodies can preside
successfully only among subjects who are directly represented in them.
They are too ignorant, too selfish, too divided, to govern others; and
imperial aspirations draw after them, by obvious necessity, an imperial
rule. Caesar may have known this in his heart, yet the most far-seeing
statesman will not so trust his own misgivings as to refuse to hope for
the regeneration of the institutions into which he is born. He will
determine that justice shall be done. Justice is the essence of
government, and without justice all forms, democratic or monarchic, are
tyrannies alike. But he will work with the existing methods till the
inadequacy of them has been proved beyond dispute. Constitutions are never
overthrown till they have pronounced sentence on themselves.

Caesar accordingly commenced office by an endeavor to conciliate. The army
and the moneyed interests, represented by Pompey and Crassus, were already
with him; and he used his endeavors, as has been seen, to gain Cicero, who
might bring with him such part of the landed aristocracy as were not
hopelessly incorrigible. With Cicero he but partially succeeded. The great
orator solved the problem of the situation by going away into the country
and remaining there for the greater part of the year, and Caesar had to do
without an assistance which, in the speaking department, would have been
invaluable to him. His first step was to order the publication of the
"Acta Diurna," a daily journal of the doings of the Senate. The light of
day being thrown in upon that august body might prevent honorable members
from laying hands on each other as they had lately done, and might enable
the people to know what was going on among them--on a better authority
than rumor. He then introduced his agrarian law, the rough draft of which
had been already discussed, and had been supported by Cicero in the
preceding year. Had he meant to be defiant, like the Gracchi, he might
have offered it at once to the people. Instead of doing so, he laid it
before the Senate, inviting them to amend his suggestions, and promising
any reasonable concessions if they would co-operate. No wrong was to be
done to any existing occupiers. No right of property was to be violated
which was any real right at all. Large tracts in Campania which belonged
to the State were now held on the usual easy terms by great landed
patricians. These Caesar proposed to buy out, and to settle on the ground
twenty thousand of Pompey's veterans. There was money enough and to spare
in the treasury, which they had themselves brought home. Out of the large
funds which would still remain land might be purchased in other parts of
Italy for the rest, and for a few thousand of the unemployed population
which was crowded into Rome. The measure in itself was admitted to be a
moderate one. Every pains had been taken to spare the interests and to
avoid hurting the susceptibilities of the aristocrats. But, as Cicero
said, the very name of an agrarian law was intolerable to them. It meant
in the end spoliation and division of property, and the first step would
bring others after it. The public lands they had shared conveniently among
themselves from immemorial time. The public treasure was their treasure,
to be laid out as they might think proper. Cato headed the opposition. He
stormed for an entire day, and was so violent that Caesar threatened him
with arrest. The Senate groaned and foamed; no progress was made or was
likely to be made; and Caesar, as much in earnest as they were, had to
tell them that if they would not help him he must appeal to the assembly.
"I invited you to revise the law," he said; "I was willing that if any
clause displeased you it should be expunged. You will not touch it. Well,
then, the people must decide."

The Senate had made up their minds to fight the battle. If Caesar went to
the assembly, Bibulus, their second consul, might stop the proceedings. If
this seemed too extreme a step, custom provided other impediments to which
recourse might be had. Bibulus might survey the heavens, watch the birds,
or the clouds, or the direction of the wind, and declare the aspects
unfavorable; or he might proclaim day after day to be holy, and on holy
days no legislation was permitted. Should these religious cobwebs be
brushed away, the Senate had provided a further resource in three of the
tribunes whom they had bribed. Thus they held themselves secure, and dared
Caesar to do his worst. Caesar on his side was equally determined. The
assembly was convoked. The Forum was choked to overflowing. Caesar and
Pompey stood on the steps of the Temple of Castor, and Bibulus and his
tribunes were at hand ready with their interpellations. Such passions had
not been roused in Rome since the days of Cinna and Octavius, and many a
young lord was doubtless hoping that the day would not close without
another lesson to ambitious demagogues and howling mobs. In their eyes the
one reform which Rome needed was another Sylla.

Caesar read his law from the tablet on which it was inscribed; and, still
courteous to his antagonist, he turned to Bibulus and asked him if he had
any fault to find. Bibulus said sullenly that he wanted no revolutions,
and that while he was consul there should be none. The people hissed; and
he then added in a rage, "You shall not have your law this year though
every man of you demand it." Caesar answered nothing, but Pompey and
Crassus stood forward. They were not officials, but they were real forces.
Pompey was the idol of every soldier in the State, and at Caesar's
invitation he addressed the assembly. He spoke for his veterans. He spoke
for the poor citizens. He said that he approved the law to the last letter
of it.

"Will you then," asked Caesar, "support the law if it be illegally
opposed?" "Since," replied Pompey, "you consul, and you my fellow-
citizens, ask aid of me, a poor individual without office and without
authority, who nevertheless has done some service to the State, I say that
I will bear the shield if others draw the sword." Applause rang out from a
hundred thousand throats. Crassus followed to the same purpose, and was
received with the same wild delight. A few senators, who retained their
senses, saw the uselessness of the opposition, and retired. Bibulus was of
duller and tougher metal. As the vote was about to be taken, he and his
tribunes rushed to the rostra. The tribunes pronounced their veto. Bibulus
said that he had consulted the sky; the gods forbade further action being
taken that day, and he declared the assembly dissolved. Nay, as if a man
like Caesar could be stopped by a shadow, he proposed to sanctify the
whole remainder of the year, that no further business might be transacted
in it. Yells drowned his voice. The mob rushed upon the steps; Bibulus was
thrown down, and the rods of the lictors were broken; the tribunes who had
betrayed their order were beaten. Cato held his ground, and stormed at
Caesar till he was led off by the police, raving and gesticulating. The
law was then passed, and a resolution besides that every senator should
take an oath to obey it.

So in ignominy the Senate's resistance collapsed: the Caesar whom they had
thought to put off with their "woods and forests" had proved stronger than
the whole of them; and, prostrate at the first round of the battle, they
did not attempt another. They met the following morning. Bibulus told his
story and appealed for support. Had the Senate complied, they would
probably have ceased to exist. The oath was unpalatable, but they made the
best of it. Metellus Celer, Cato, and Favonius, a senator whom men called
Cato's ape, struggled against their fate, but, "swearing they would ne'er
consent, consented." The unwelcome formula was swallowed by the whole of
them; and Bibulus, who had done his part and had been beaten and kicked
and trampled upon, and now found his employers afraid to stand by him,
went off sulkily to his house, shut himself up there, and refused to act
as consul further during the remainder of the year.

There was no further active opposition. A commission was appointed by
Caesar to carry out the land act, composed of twenty of the best men that
could be found, one of them being Atius Balbus, the husband of Caesar's
only sister, and grandfather of a little child now three years old, who
was known afterward to the world as Augustus. Cicero was offered a place,
but declined. The land question having been disposed of, Caesar then
proceeded with the remaining measures by which his consulship was
immortalized. He had redeemed his promise to Pompey by providing for his
soldiers. He gratified Crassus by giving the desired relief to the farmers
of the taxes. He confirmed Pompey's arrangements for the government of
Asia, which the Senate had left in suspense. The Senate was now itself
suspended. The consul acted directly with the assembly, without
obstruction and without remonstrance, Bibulus only from time to time
sending out monotonous admonitions from within doors that the season was
consecrated, and that Caesar's acts had no validity. Still more
remarkably, and as the distinguishing feature of his term of office,
Caesar carried, with the help of the people, the body of admirable laws
which are known to jurists as the "Leges Juliae," and mark an epoch in
Roman history. They were laws as unwelcome to the aristocracy as they were
essential to the continued existence of the Roman State, laws which had
been talked of in the Senate, but which could never pass through the
preliminary stage of resolutions, and were now enacted over the Senate's
head by the will of Caesar and the sovereign power of the nation. A mere
outline can alone be attempted here. There was a law declaring the
inviolability of the persons of magistrates during their term of
authority, reflecting back on the murder of Saturninus, and touching by
implication the killing of Lentulus and his companions. There was a law
for the punishment of adultery, most disinterestedly singular if the
popular accounts of Caesar's habits had any grain of truth in them. There
were laws for the protection of the subject from violence, public or
private; and laws disabling persons who had laid hands illegally on Roman
citizens from holding office in the Commonwealth. There was a law,
intended at last to be effective, to deal with judges who allowed
themselves to be bribed. There were laws against defrauders of the
revenue; laws against debasing the coin; laws against sacrilege; laws
against corrupt State contracts; laws against bribery at elections.
Finally, there was a law, carefully framed, _De repetundis_, to exact
retribution from proconsuls or propraetors of the type of Verres who had
plundered the provinces. All governors were required, on relinquishing
office, to make a double return of their accounts, one to remain for
inspection among the archives of the province, and one to be sent to Rome;
and where peculation or injustice could be proved, the offender's estate
was made answerable to the last sesterce.[1]

Such laws were words only without the will to execute them; but they
affirmed the principles on which Roman or any other society could alone
continue. It was for the officials of the constitution to adopt them, and
save themselves and the Republic, or to ignore them as they had ignored
the laws which already existed, and see it perish as it deserved. All that
man could do for the preservation of his country from revolution Caesar
had accomplished. Sylla had re-established the rule of the aristocracy,
and it had failed grossly and disgracefully. Cinna and Marius had tried
democracy, and that had failed. Caesar was trying what law would do, and
the result remained to be seen. Bibulus, as each measure was passed,
croaked that it was null and void. The leaders of the Senate threatened
between their teeth that all should be undone when Caesar's term was over.
Cato, when he mentioned the "Leges Juliae," spoke of them as enactments,
but refused them their author's name. But the excellence of these laws was
so clearly recognized that they survived the irregularity of their
introduction; and the "Lex de Repetundis" especially remained a terror to
evil-doers, with a promise of better days to the miserable and pillaged
subjects of the Roman Empire.

So the year of Caesar's consulship passed away. What was to happen when it
had expired? The Senate had provided "the woods and forests" for him. But
the Senate's provision in such a matter could not be expected to hold. He
asked for nothing, but he was known to desire an opportunity of
distinguished service. Caesar was now forty-three. His life was ebbing
away, and, with the exception of his two years in Spain, it had been spent
in struggling with the base elements of Roman faction. Great men will bear
such sordid work when it is laid on them, but they loathe it
notwithstanding, and for the present there was nothing more to be done. A
new point of departure had been taken. Principles had been laid down for
the Senate and people to act on, if they could and would. Caesar could
only wish for a long absence in some new sphere of usefulness, where he
could achieve something really great which his country would remember.

And on one side only was such a sphere open to him. The East was Roman to
the Euphrates. No second Mithridates could loosen the grasp with which the
legions now held the civilized parts of Asia. Parthians might disturb the
frontier, but could not seriously threaten the Eastern dominions; and no
advantage was promised by following on the steps of Alexander and annexing
countries too poor to bear the cost of their maintenance. To the west it
was different. Beyond the Alps there was still a territory of unknown
extent, stretching away to the undefined ocean, a territory peopled with
warlike races, some of whom in ages long past had swept over Italy and
taken Rome, and had left their descendants and their name in the northern
province, which was now called Cisalpine Gaul. With these races the Romans
had as yet no clear relations, and from them alone could any serious
danger threaten the State. The Gauls had for some centuries ceased their
wanderings, had settled down in fixed localities. They had built towns and
bridges; they had cultivated the soil, and had become wealthy and partly
civilized. With the tribes adjoining Provence the Romans had alliances
more or less precarious, and had established a kind of protectorate over
them. But even here the inhabitants were uneasy for their independence,
and troubles were continually arising with them; while into these
districts and into the rest of Gaul a fresh and stormy element was now
being introduced. In earlier times the Gauls had been stronger than the
Germans, and not only could they protect their own frontier, but they had
formed settlements beyond the Rhine. These relations were being changed.
The Gauls, as they grew in wealth, declined in vigor. The Germans, still
roving and migratory, were throwing covetous eyes out of their forests on
the fields and vineyards of their neighbors, and enormous numbers of them
were crossing the Rhine and Danube, looking for new homes. How feeble a
barrier either the Alps or the Gauls themselves might prove against such
invaders had been but too recently experienced. Men who were of middle age
at the time of Caesar's consulship could still remember the terrors which
had been caused by the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons. Marius had
saved Italy then from destruction, as it were, by the hair of its head.
The annihilation of those hordes had given Rome a passing respite. But
fresh generations had grown up. Fresh multitudes were streaming out of
the North. Germans in hundreds of thousands were again passing the Upper
Rhine, rooting themselves in Burgundy, and coming in collision with tribes
which Rome protected. There were uneasy movements among the Gauls
themselves, whole nations of them breaking up from their homes and again
adrift upon the world. Gaul and Germany were like a volcano giving signs
of approaching eruption; and at any moment, and hardly with warning,
another lava-stream might be pouring down into Venetia and Lombardy.

To deal with this danger was the work marked out for Caesar. It is the
fashion to say that he sought a military command that he might have an
army behind him to overthrow the constitution. If this was his object,
ambition never chose a more dangerous or less promising route for itself.
Men of genius who accomplish great things in this world do not trouble
themselves with remote and visionary aims. They encounter emergencies as
they rise, and leave the future to shape itself as it may. It would seem
that at first the defence of Italy was all that was thought of. "The woods
and forests" were set aside, and Caesar, by a vote of the people, was
given the command of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria for five years; but either
he himself desired, or especial circumstances which were taking place
beyond the mountains recommended, that a wider scope should be allowed
him. The Senate, finding that the people would act without them if they
hesitated, gave him in addition Gallia Comata, the land of the Gauls with
the long hair, the governorship of the Roman province beyond the Alps,
with untrammelled liberty to act as he might think good throughout the
country which is now known as France and Switzerland and the Rhine
provinces of Germany.

He was to start early in the approaching year. It was necessary before he
went to make some provision for the quiet government of the capital. The
alliance with Pompey and Crassus gave temporary security. Pompey had less
stability of character than could have been wished, but he became attached
to Caesar's daughter Julia; and a fresh link of marriage was formed to
hold them together. Caesar himself married Calpurnia, the daughter of
Calpurnius Piso. The Senate having temporarily abdicated, he was able to
guide the elections; and Piso and Pompey's friend Gabinius, who had
obtained the command of the pirate war for him, were chosen consuls for
the year 58. Neither of them, if we can believe a tithe of Cicero's
invective, was good for much; but they were stanch partisans, and were to
be relied on to resist any efforts which might be made to repeal the
"Leges Juliae." These matters being arranged, and his own term having
expired, Caesar withdrew, according to custom, to the suburbs beyond the
walls to collect troops and prepare for his departure. Strange things,
however, had yet to happen before he was gone.

[Sidenote: B. C. 58.]
It is easy to conceive how the Senate felt at these transactions, how ill
they bore to find themselves superseded and the State managed over their
heads. Fashionable society was equally furious, and the three allies went
by the name of Dynasts, or "Reges Superbi." After resistance had been
abandoned, Cicero came back to Rome to make cynical remarks from which all
parties suffered equally. His special grievance was the want of
consideration which he conceived to have been shown for himself. He mocked
at the Senate; he mocked at Bibulus, whom he particularly abominated; he
mocked at Pompey and the agrarian law. Mockery turned to indignation when
he thought of the ingratitude of the Senate, and his chief consolation in
their discomfiture was that it had fallen on them through the neglect of
their most distinguished member. "I could have saved them if they would
have let me," he said. "I could save them still if I were to try; but I
will go study philosophy in my own family." [2] "Freedom is gone," he
wrote to Atticus; "and if we are to be worse enslaved, we shall bear it.
Our lives and properties are more to us than liberty. We sigh, and we do
not even remonstrate." [3]

Cato, in the desperation of passion, called Pompey a dictator in the
assembly, and barely escaped being killed for his pains.[4] The
patricians revenged themselves in private by savage speeches and plots and
purposes. Fashionable society gathered in the theatres and hissed the
popular leaders. Lines were introduced into the plays reflecting on
Pompey, and were encored a thousand times. Bibulus from his closet
continued to issue venomous placards, reporting scandals about Caesar's
life, and now for the first time bringing up the story of Nicomedes. The
streets were impassable where these papers were pasted up, from the crowds
of loungers which were gathered to read them, and Bibulus for the moment
was the hero of patrician saloons. Some malicious comfort Cicero gathered
out of these manifestations of feeling. He had no belief in the noble
lords, and small expectations from them. Bibulus was, on the whole, a fit
representative for the gentry of the fish-ponds. But the Dynasts were at
least heartily detested in quarters which had once been powerful, and
might be powerful again; and he flattered himself, though he affected to
regret it, that the animosity against them was spreading. To all parties
there is attached a draggled trail of disreputables, who hold themselves
entitled to benefits when their side is in power, and are angry when they
are passed over.

"The State," Cicero wrote in the autumn of 59 to Atticus, "is in a worse
condition than when you left us; then we thought that we had fallen under
a power which pleased the people, and which, though abhorrent to the good,
yet was not totally destructive to them. Now all hate it equally, and we
are in terror as to where the exasperation may break out. We had
experienced the ill-temper and irritation of those who in their anger with
Cato had brought ruin on us; but the poison worked so slowly that it
seemed we might die without pain. I hoped, as I often told you, that the
wheel of the constitution was so turning that we should scarcely hear a
sound or see any visible track; and so it would have been could men have
waited for the tempest to pass over them. But the secret sighs turned to
groans, and the groans to universal clamor; and thus our friend Pompey,
who so lately swam in glory and never heard an evil word of himself, is
broken-hearted and knows not whither to turn. A precipice is before him,
and to retreat is dangerous. The good are against him; the bad are not his
friends. I could scarce help weeping the other day when I heard him
complaining in the Forum of the publication of Bibulus. He who but a short
time since bore himself so proudly there, with the people in raptures with
him, and with the world on his side, was now so humble and abject as to
disgust even himself, not to say his hearers. Crassus enjoyed the scene,
but no one else. Pompey had fallen down out of the stars--not by a gradual
descent, but in a single plunge; and as Apelles if he had seen his Venus,
or Protogenes his Ialysus, all daubed with mud, would have been vexed and
annoyed, so was I grieved to the very heart to see one whom I had painted
out in the choicest colors of art thus suddenly defaced.[5] Pompey is
sick with irritation at the placards of Bibulus. I am sorry about them.
They give such excessive annoyance to a man whom I have always liked; and
Pompey is so prompt with his sword, and so unaccustomed to insult, that I
fear what he may do. What the future may have in store for Bibulus I know
not. At present he is the admired of all." [6]

"Sampsiceramus," Cicero wrote a few days later, "is greatly penitent. He
would gladly be restored to the eminence from which he has fallen.
Sometimes he imparts his griefs to me, and asks me what he should do,
which I cannot tell him." [7]

Unfortunate Cicero, who knew what was right, but was too proud to do it!
Unfortunate Pompey, who still did what was right, but was too sensitive to
bear the reproach of it, who would so gladly not leave his duty
unperformed, and yet keep the "sweet voices" whose applause had grown so
delicious to him! Bibulus was in no danger. Pompey was too good-natured to
hurt him; and Caesar let fools say what they pleased, as long as they were
fools without teeth, who would bark but could not bite. The risk was to
Cicero himself, little as he seemed to be aware of it. Caesar was to be
long absent from Rome, and he knew that as soon as he was engaged in Gaul
the extreme oligarchic faction would make an effort to set aside his land
commission and undo his legislation. When he had a clear purpose in view,
and was satisfied that it was a good purpose, he was never scrupulous
about his instruments. It was said of him that when he wanted any work
done he chose the persons best able to do it, let their general character
be what it might. The rank and file of the patricians, proud, idle,
vicious, and self-indulgent, might be left to their mistresses and their
gaming-tables. They could do no mischief unless they had leaders at their
head who could use their resources more effectively than they could do
themselves. There were two men only in Rome with whose help they could be
really dangerous--Cato, because he was a fanatic, impregnable to argument,
and not to be influenced by temptation of advantage to himself; Cicero, on
account of his extreme ability, his personal ambition, and his total want
of political principle. Cato he knew to be impracticable. Cicero he had
tried to gain; but Cicero, who had played a first part as consul, could
not bring himself to play a second, and, if the chance offered, had both
power and will to be troublesome. Some means had to be found to get rid of
these two, or at least to tie their hands and to keep them in order. There
would be Pompey and Crassus still at hand. But Pompey was weak, and
Crassus understood nothing beyond the art of manipulating money. Gabinius
and Piso, the next consuls, had an indifferent reputation and narrow
abilities, and at best they would have but their one year of authority.
Politics, like love, makes strange bedfellows. In this difficulty accident
threw in Cesar's way a convenient but most unexpected ally.

Young Clodius, after his escape from prosecution by the marvellous methods
which Crassus had provided for him, was more popular than ever. He had
been the occasion of a scandal which had brought infamy on the detested
Senate. His offence in itself seemed slight in so loose an age, and was as
nothing compared with the enormity of his judges. He had come out of his
trial with a determination to be revenged on the persons from whose
tongues he had suffered most severely in the senatorial debates. Of these
Cato had been the most savage; but Cicero had been the most exasperating,
from his sarcasms, his airs of patronage, and perhaps his intimacy with
his sister. The noble youth had exhausted the common forms of pleasure. He
wanted a new excitement, and politics and vengeance might be combined. He
was as clever as he was dissolute, and, as clever men are fortunately rare
in the licentious part, of society, they are always idolized, because they
make vice respectable by connecting it with intellect. Clodius was a
second, an abler Catiline, equally unprincipled and far more dexterous and
prudent. In times of revolution there is always a disreputable wing to the
radical party, composed of men who are the natural enemies of established
authority, and these all rallied about their new leader with devout
enthusiasm. Clodius was not without political experience. His first public
appearance had been as leader of a mutiny. He was already quaestor, and so
a senator; but he was too young to aspire to the higher magistracies which
were open to him as a patrician. He declared his intention of renouncing
his order, becoming a plebeian, and standing for the tribuneship of the
people. There were precedents for such a step, but they were rare. The
abdicating noble had to be adopted into a plebeian family, and the consent
was required of the consuls and of the Pontifical College. With the
growth of political equality the aristocracy had become more insistent
upon the privilege of birth, which could not be taken from them; and for a
Claudius to descend among the canaille was as if a Howard were to seek
adoption from a shopkeeper in the Strand.

At first there was universal amazement. Cicero had used the intrigue with
Pompeia as a text for a sermon on the immoralities of the age. The
aspirations of Clodius to be a tribune he ridiculed as an illustration of
its follies, and after scourging him in the Senate, he laughed at him and
jested with him in private.[8] Cicero did not understand with how
venomous a snake he was playing. He even thought Clodius likely to turn
against the Dynasts, and to become a serviceable member of the
conservative party. Gradually he was forced to open his eyes. Speeches
were reported to him as coming from Clodius or his allies threatening an
inquiry into the death of the Catilinarians. At first he pushed his alarms
aside, as unworthy of him. What had so great a man as he to fear from a
young reprobate like "the pretty boy"? The "pretty boy," however, found
favor where it was least looked for. Pompey supported his adventure for
the tribuneship. Caesar, though it was Caesar's house which he had
violated, did not oppose. Bibulus refused consent, but Bibulus had
virtually abdicated and went for nothing. The legal forms were complied
with. Clodius found a commoner younger than himself who was willing to
adopt him, and who, the day after the ceremony, released him from the new
paternal authority. He was now a plebeian, and free. He remained a senator
in virtue of his quaestorship, and he was chosen tribune of the people for
the year 58.

Cicero was at last startled out of his security. So long as the consuls,
or one of them, could be depended on, a tribune's power was insignificant.
When the consuls were of his own way of thinking, a tribune was a very
important personage indeed. Atticus was alarmed for his friend, and
cautioned him to look to himself. Warnings came from all quarters that
mischief was in the wind. Still it was impossible to believe the peril to
be a real one. Cicero, to whom Rome owed its existence, to be struck at by
a Clodius! It could not be. As little could a wasp hurt an elephant.

There can be little doubt that Caesar knew what Clodius had in his mind;
or that, if the design was not his own, he had purposely allowed it to go
forward. Caesar did not wish to hurt Cicero. He wished well to him, and
admired him; but he did not mean to leave him free in Rome to lead a
senatorial reaction. A prosecution for the execution of the prisoners was
now distinctly announced. Cicero as consul had put to death Roman citizens
without a trial. Cicero was to be called to answer for the illegality
before the sovereign people. The danger was unmistakable; and Caesar, who
was still in the suburbs making his preparations, invited Cicero to avoid
it, by accompanying him as second in command into Gaul. The offer was made
in unquestionable sincerity. Caesar may himself have created the situation
to lay Cicero under a pressure, but he desired nothing so much as to take
him as his companion, and to attach him to himself. Cicero felt the
compliment and hesitated to refuse, but his pride again came in his way.
Pompey assured him that not a hair of his head should be touched. Why
Pompey gave him this encouragement Cicero could never afterwards
understand. The scenes in the theatres had also combined to mislead him,
and he misread the disposition of the great body of citizens. He imagined
that they would all start up in his defence, Senate, aristocracy, knights,
commoners, and tradesmen. The world, he thought, looked back upon his
consulship with as much admiration as he did himself, and was always
contrasting him with his successors. Never was mistake more profound. The
Senate, who had envied his talents and resented his assumption, now
despised him as a trimmer. His sarcasms had made him enemies among those
who acted with him politically. He had held aloof at the crisis of
Caesar's election and in the debates which followed, and therefore all
sides distrusted him; while throughout the body of the people there was,
as Caesar had foretold, a real and sustained resentment at the conduct of
the Catiline affair. The final opinion of Rome was that the prisoners
ought to have been tried; and that they were not tried was attributed not
unnaturally to a desire, on the part of the Senate, to silence an inquiry
which might have proved inconvenient.

Thus suddenly out of a clear sky the thunder-clouds gathered over Cicero's
head. "Clodius," says Dion Cassius, "had discovered that among the
senators Cicero was more feared than loved. There were few of them who had
not been hit by his irony, or irritated by his presumption." Those who
most agreed in what he had done were not ashamed to shuffle off upon him
their responsibilities. Clodius, now omnipotent with the assembly at his
back, cleared the way by a really useful step; he carried a law abolishing
the impious form of declaring the heavens unfavorable when an inconvenient
measure was to be stopped or delayed. Probably it formed a part of his
engagement with Caesar. The law may have been meant to act
retrospectively, to prevent a question being raised on the interpellations
of Bibulus. This done, and without paying the Senate the respect of first
consulting it, he gave notice that he would propose a vote to the
assembly, to the effect that any person who had put to death a Roman
citizen without trial, and without allowing him an appeal to the people,
had violated the constitution of the State. Cicero was not named directly;
every senator who had voted for the execution of Cethegus and Lentulus and
their companions was as guilty as he; but it was known immediately that
Cicero was the mark that was being aimed at; and Caesar at once renewed
the offer, which he made before, to take Cicero with him. Cicero, now
frightened in earnest, still could not bring himself to owe his escape to
Caesar. The Senate, ungrateful as they had been, put on mourning with an
affectation of dismay. The knights petitioned the consuls to interfere for
Cicero's protection. The consuls declined to receive their request. Caesar
outside the city gave no further sign. A meeting of the citizens was held
in the camp. Caesar's opinion was invited. He said that he had not changed
his sentiments. He had remonstrated at the time against the execution. He
disapproved of it still, but he did not directly advise legislation upon
acts that were past. Yet, though he did not encourage Clodius, he did not
interfere. He left the matter to the consuls, and one of them was his own
father-in-law, and the other was Gabinius, once Pompey's favorite officer.
Gabinius, Cicero thought, would respect Pompey's promise to him. To Piso
he made a personal appeal. He found him, he said afterwards,[9] at
eleven in the morning, in his slippers, at a low tavern. Piso came out,
reeking with wine, and excused himself by saying that his health required
a morning draught. Cicero attempted to receive his apology, and he stood
for a while at the tavern door, till he could no longer bear the smell and
the foul language and expectorations of the consul. Hope in that quarter
there was none. Two days later the assembly was called to consider
Clodius's proposal. Piso was asked to say what he thought of the treatment
of the conspirators; he answered gravely, and, as Cicero described him,
with one eye in his forehead, that he disapproved of cruelty. Neither
Pompey nor his friends came to help. What was Cicero to do? Resist by
force? The young knights rallied about him eager for a fight, if he would
but give the word. Sometimes as he looked back in after-years he blamed
himself for declining their services, sometimes he took credit to himself
for refusing to be the occasion of bloodshed.[10]

"I was too timid," he said once; "I had the country with me, and I should
have stood firm. I had to do with a band of villains only, with two
monsters of consuls, and with the male harlot of rich buffoons, the
seducer of his sister, the high-priest of adultery, a poisoner, a forger,
an assassin, a thief. The best and bravest citizens implored me to stand
up to him. But I reflected that this Fury asserted that he was supported
by Pompey and Crassus and Caesar. Caesar had an army at the gates. The
other two could raise another army when they pleased; and when they knew
that their names were thus made use of, they remained silent. They were
alarmed perhaps, because the laws which they had carried in the preceding
year were challenged by the new praetors, and were held by the Senate to
be invalid; and they were unwilling to alienate a popular tribune."[11]

And again elsewhere: "When I saw that the faction of Catiline was in
power, that the party which I had led, some from envy of myself, some from
fear for their own lives, had betrayed and deserted me; when the two
consuls had been purchased by promises of provinces, and had gone over to
my enemies, and the condition of the bargain was that I was to be
delivered over, tied and bound, to my enemies; when the Senate and knights
were in mourning, but were not allowed to bring my cause before the
people; when my blood had been made the seal of the arrangement under
which the State had been disposed of; when I saw all this, although 'the
good' were ready to fight for me, and were willing to die for me, I would
not consent, because I saw that victory or defeat would alike bring ruin
to the Commonwealth. The Senate was powerless. The Forum was ruled by
violence. In such a city there was no place for me." [12]

So Cicero, as he looked back afterwards, described the struggle in his own
mind. His friends had then rallied; Caesar was far away; and he could tell
his own story, and could pile his invectives on those who had injured him.
His matchless literary power has given him exclusive command over the
history of his time. His enemies' characters have been accepted from his
pen as correct portraits. If we allow his description of Clodius and the
two consuls to be true to the facts, what harder condemnation can be
pronounced against a political condition in which such men as these could
be raised to the first position in the State?[13] Dion says that Cicero's
resolution to yield did not wholly proceed from his own prudence, but was
assisted by advice from Cato and Hortensius the orator. Anyway, the blow
fell, and he went down before the stroke. His immortal consulship, in
praise of which he had written a poem, brought after it the swift
retribution which Caesar had foretold. When the vote proposed by Clodius
was carried, he fled to Sicily, with a tacit confession that he dared not
abide his trial, which would immediately have followed. Sentence was
pronounced upon him in his absence. His property was confiscated. His
houses in town and country were razed. The site of his palace in Rome was
dedicated to the Goddess of Liberty, and he himself was exiled. He was
forbidden to reside within four hundred miles of Rome, with a threat of
death if he returned; and he retired to Macedonia, to pour out his sorrows
and his resentments in lamentations unworthy of a woman.

[1] See a list of the Leges Juliae in the 48th Book of the Corpus Juris

[2] _To Atticus_, ii. 16.

[3] "Tenemur undique, neque jam, quo minus serviamus, recusamus, sed
mortem et ejectionem quasi majora timemus, quae multo sunt minora.
Atque hic status, qui una voce omnium gemitur neque verbo cujusdam
sublevatur."--_To Atticus_, ii. 18.

[4] "In concionem ascendit et Pompeium privatus dictatorem appellavit.
Propius nihil est factum quam ut occideretur."--Cicero, _Ad Quintum
Fratrem_, i. 2.

[5] _To Athens_, ii, 21. In this comparison Cicero betrays his naive
conviction that Pompey was indebted to him and to his praises for his
reputation. Here, as always, Cicero was himself the centre round
which all else revolved or ought to revolve.

[6] _Ib_.

[7] To Atticus, ii. 22.

[8] "Jam familiariter cum illo etiam cavillor ac jocor."--_To
Atticus_, ii. 1.

[9] _Oratio in L. Pisonem_.

[10] He seems to have even thought of suicide.--_To Atticus_, iii. 9.

[11] Abridged from the _Oratio pro P. Sextio_.

[12] _Oratio post reditum ad Quirites_.

[13] In a letter to his brother Quintus, written at a time when he did
not know the real feelings of Caesar and Pompey, and had supposed
that he had only to deal with Clodius, Cicero announced a distinct
intention of resisting by force. He expected that the whole of Italy
would be at his side. He said: "Si diem nobis Clodius dixerit, tota
Italia concurret, ut multiplicata gloria discedamus. Sin autem vi
agere conabitur, spero fore, studiis non solum amicorum, sedetiam
alienorum, ut vi resistamus. Omnes et se et suos liberos, amicos,
clientes, libertos, servos, pecunias denique suas pollicentur. Nostra
antiqua manus bonorum ardet studio nostri atque amore. Si qui antea
aut alieniores fuerant, ant languidiores, nunc horum regum odio se
cum bonis conjungunt. Pompeius omnia pollicetur et Caesar, do quibus
ita credo, ut nihil de mea comparatione deminuam."--_Ad Quintum
Fratrem_, i. 2.


From the fermentation of Roman politics, the passions of the Forum and
Senate, the corrupt tribunals, the poisoned centre of the Empire, the
story passes beyond the frontier of Italy. We no longer depend for our
account of Caesar on the caricatures of rival statesmen. He now becomes
himself our guide. We see him in his actions and in the picture of his
personal character which he has unconsciously drawn. Like all real great
men, he rarely speaks of himself. He tells us little or nothing of, his
own feelings or his own purposes. Cicero never forgets his individuality.
In every line that he wrote Cicero was attitudinizing for posterity, or
reflecting on the effect of his conduct upon his interests or his
reputation. Caesar is lost in his work; his personality is scarcely more
visible than Shakespeare's. He was now forty-three years old. His
abstemious habits had left his health unshaken. He was in the fullest
vigor of mind and body, and it was well for him that his strength had not
been undermined. He was going on an expedition which would make
extraordinary demands upon his energies. That he had not contemplated
operations so extended as those which were forced upon him is evident from
the nature of his preparations. His command in Further Gaul had been an
afterthought, occasioned probably by news which had been received of
movements in progress there during his consulship. Of the four legions
which were allowed to him, one only was beyond the Alps; three were at
Aquileia. It was late in life for him to begin the trade of a soldier; and
as yet, with the exception of his early service in Asia and a brief and
limited campaign in Spain when propraetor, he had no military experience
at all. His ambition hitherto had not pointed in that direction; nor is it
likely that a person of so strong an understanding would have contemplated
beforehand the deliberate undertaking of the gigantic war into which
circumstances immediately forced him. Yet he must have known that he had
to deal with a problem of growing difficulty. The danger to Italy from
inroads across the Alps was perpetually before the minds of thoughtful
Roman statesmen. Events were at that moment taking place among the Gallic
tribes which gave point to the general uneasiness. And unwilling as the
Romans were to extend their frontiers and their responsibilities in a
direction so unknown and so unpromising, yet some interference either by
arms or by authority beyond those existing limits was being pressed upon
them in self-defence.

The Transalpine Gaul of Caesar was the country included between the Rhine,
the ocean, the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean, and the Alps. Within these
limits, including Switzerland, there was at this time a population vaguely
estimated at six or seven millions. The Roman Province stretched along the
coast to the Spanish border; it was bounded on the north by the Cevennes
mountains, and for some generations by the Isere; but it had been found
necessary lately[1] to annex the territory of the Allobroges (Dauphine
and Savoy), and the proconsular authority was now extended to within a few
miles of Geneva. The rest was divided into three sections, inhabited by
races which, if allied, were distinctly different in language, laws, and
institutions. The Aquitani, who were connected with the Spaniards or
perhaps the Basques, held the country between the Pyrenees and the
Garonne. The Belgae, whom Caesar believed to have been originally Germans,
extended from the mouth of the Seine to the mouth of the Rhine, and inland
to the Marne and Moselle. The people whom the Romans meant especially when
they spoke of Gauls occupied all the remainder. At one time the Celts had
probably been masters of the whole of France, but had gradually yielded to
encroachment. According to the Druids, they came out of darkness, _ab
Dite Patre_; they called themselves Children of Night, counting time by
nights instead of days, as we say fortnight and sennight. Comparison of
language has taught us that they were a branch of the great Aryan race,
one of the first which rolled westward into Europe, before Greeks or
Latins had been heard of.

This once magnificent people was now in a state of change and
decomposition. On Aquitaine and Belgium Roman civilization had as yet
produced no effect. The severe habits of earlier generations remained
unchanged. The Gauls proper had yielded to contact with the Province and
to intercourse with Italian traders. They had built towns and villages.
They had covered the land with farms and homesteads. They had made roads.
They had bridged their rivers, even such rivers as the Rhone and the
Loire. They had amassed wealth, and had adopted habits of comparative
luxury, which, if it had not abated their disposition to fight, had
diminished their capacity for fighting. Their political and perhaps their
spiritual system was passing through analogous transformations. The
ancient forms remained, but an altered spirit was working under them. From
the earliest antiquity they had been divided into tribes and sub-tribes:
each tribe and sub-tribe being practically independent, or united only by
common objects and a common sentiment of race. The rule was the rule of
the strong, under the rudest forms of tribal organization. The chief was
either hereditary or elected, or won his command by the sword. The mass of
the people were serfs. The best fighters were self-made nobles, under the
chief's authority. Every man in the tribe was the chief's absolute
subject; the chief, in turn, was bound to protect the meanest of them
against injury from without. War, on a large scale or a small, had been
the occupation of their lives. The son was not admitted into his father's
presence till he was old enough to be a soldier. When the call to arms
went out, every man of the required age was expected at the muster, and
the last comer was tortured to death in the presence of his comrades as a
lesson against backwardness.

As the secular side of things bore a rude resemblance to feudalism, so on


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