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At the age of forty, Caesar, on his return from Spain, came forward as a candidate for the consulship, the highest civil office in the state. His towering ambition, his fearless independence, and his attachment to the popular cause, made him the recognized champion of the people; but he desired to win to his standard some of the illustrious men whose fame had given such prestige to the senatorial party. His efforts were not without success. Soon the three leading spirits of the age, Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus, made common cause, and, wielding a united influence, which was absolutely irresistible, assumed the control of the destinies of the republic.
Caesar was unanimously elected consul, and at once brought forward radical propositions for reform, which his colleague, Marcus Bibulus, opposed with great bitterness and vigor. But the contest was of short duration. Bibulus, finding himself no match for the determined reformer, after the most humiliating defeats, withdrew from all participation in the government, leaving Caesar the undisputed master of the situation. This fact gave rise to the playful remark that the two consuls for the year were Julius and Caesar.
Thus relieved from the factious opposition of his colleague, Caesar at once signalized his consulship by several bold and remarkable measures. He made himself the idol of the people by procuring the enactment of an agrarian law, by which twenty thousand families received allotments of public lands; he won the favor of the equestrian order by relieving it from an oppressive contract, and bound Pompey still more closely to his person and his destinies by giving him in marriage his accomplished daughter Julia, and by procuring for him the ratification of all his acts in Asia.
At the close of his term of office, Caesar was made proconsul of Gaul for a period of five years, which was afterwards extended to ten. His province, including Transalpine and Cisalpine Gaul, with Illyricum, opened to him a new career directly in the line of his aspiring ambition, his cherished hopes, and his lofty military genius; but that career was beset
with the most appalling difficulties and dangers. The Gauls were an energetic and warlike people. While Rome was yet in its infancy, they had scaled the Alps, taken possession of the fertile valley of the Po, and converted Northern Italy into a Gallic province. In the fourth century B. C., they suddenly passed the Apennines, descended upon Latium, won the victory of the Allia, and entering Rome in triumph, burned the greater portion of the city. Three centuries later the hordes of the Cimbri and Teutones, descending in their desolating march upon Southern Europe, threatened the very existence of the Roman republic. But at length the brilliant victories of Marius and other Roman generals checked the encroachments of these hardy nations of the north, and even made conquests on either side of the Alps.
When Caesar received his commission, Cisalpine Gaul had already, for a century and a half, been a Roman province; and even beyond the Alps, the colony of Narbo and the conquest of the Allobroges had led to the organization of a small Roman province.
Caesar arrived early in the spring of 58 B. C. in the province of Narbo. The warlike Helvetii, three hundred and fifty thousand in number, had burned their own towns and villages, and were already commencing their hostile movements; one hundred and fifty thousand Germans had crossed the Rhine, and established themselves in Gaul, and one hundred thousand more were preparing to follow their example. The countless hordes of the north were again in motion. Caesar saw the magnitude of the danger; he well knew that a reverse to his arms would be a crushing calamity to the republic and to all Italy. With a lively appreciation. of the great trusts committed to his hands, he entered boldly upon a career of Transalpine conquest as complete as it was glorious. His genius speedily converted Gaul into one vast battle-field of victory and glory. His very first campaign was crowned with signal success. It not only annihilated the power of the Helvetii, and established the prestige of the Roman arms, but also humbled the haughty Ariovistus, and extended the Roman province to the banks
of the Rhine. His second campaign, scarcely less brilliant than the first, added Belgic Gaul to the Roman dominions, and assured the final triumph of his arms throughout the whole extent of Gaul.
The effect of these successes was felt on both sides of the Alps. One Gallic people after another presented to the conqueror their protestations of allegiance, while the tidings of victory filled Rome with joy and gladness. Political animosity was for the hour laid aside, and the Roman senate, Caesar's bitterest partisan foe, decreed a public thanksgiving for fifteen days in honor of the great achievements of the people's favorite.
But the Gauls, though repeatedly vanquished upon the field of battle, were not yet subjugated. Those hardy warriors loved liberty too well to bear with meekness any foreign rulé. The spirit of revolt, ever rife among them, was moreover fostered by their warlike neighbors, the Britons and the Germans. But the decree had gone forth that Gaul should be subdued and Romanized. Accordingly Caesar gave himself, year after year, to the great work which had been committed to his hands. Twice he crossed the Rhine and struck terror into the hearts of the Germans; twice he stood upon the hitherto unknown soil of Britain; and when at length, after six years of toil and war, the conquest seemed almost complete, the Gauls rose in one final and desperate struggle for independence. Nations and tribes hitherto jealous and hostile to each other took their places side by side under one common standard, for one common cause.
Vercingetorix, the intrepid leader of the Gauls, at length established himself, with eighty thousand men, in the strongly fortified town of Alesia, the capital of the Mandubii. Caesar at once invested the city, and for forty days lay intrenched before it, between two concentric lines of almost impregnable works; but at length a mighty array of confederate Gauls, two hundred and fifty thousand strong, arrived in the rear of his intrenchments. A simultaneous assault was made upon the Roman lines, by the besieged on the one hand, and by the army of relief on the other. Utter de
struction seemed inevitably to await Caesar and his cause; but the genius of the great commander rose with the magnitude of the occasion. Roman valor and discipline, inspired and guided by that genius, triumphed over all obstacles, and wrested victory from the hands of the enemy. A few days later, the despatches of Caesar announced to the Roman senate the fall of Alesia and the triumph of the Roman
Another year of warfare followed, and the conquest of Gaul was complete. Eight years of heroic daring and bloody strife had added a mighty realm to the Roman dominions.
But already the question of the recall of Caesar was discussed in the senate, and a few months later, at the instance of Pompey, who had become his bitter rival, a decree was passed requiring him, under penalty of being declared a traitor to his country, to resign the governorship of both Gauls and disband his army. The news of this action reached Caesar at Ravenna, on the 10th of January, 49 B. C. Scarcely a day elapsed before his decision was made. With a single legion he crossed the Rubicon, the southern boundary of his province, and advanced into Italy. The prestige of his name gathered numerous recruits to his standard; town after town threw open its gates to the conqueror, and in sixty days after the edict of the senate declaring him a traitor to his country, the proscribed outlaw entered the capital the undisputed master of Italy. A bloodless victory and a triumphal march from the Rubicon to Rome, had accomplished one of the most remarkable revolutions recorded in the annals of the world.
The senatorial party, panic-stricken, had fled from the city in anticipation of the reënactment of the bloody scenes of proscription which had marked the triumphs of Marius and Sulla. But the magnanimity of Caesar disappointed both friends and foes. The frantic passion of the aristocracy, in their impotence and exile breathing out threats of proscription, contrasted strangely with the calm moderation of the victor in all the plenitude of his power.
During the next twelve months, by a series of rapid military movements, Caesar secured Sicily, the great granary of the republic, conquered the senatorial forces in Spain, and finally, at Pharsalia, achieved a decisive victory over Pompey and his entire army.
The remaining four years of Caesar's life were divided between military campaigns abroad and political reforms at home. We hear of him successively in Egypt, placing the disputed crown upon the head of Cleopatra; in Pontus, crushing the power of Pharnaces, and reporting his victory in those memorable words, " Veni, vidi, vici;" in Numidia, winning the signal victory of Thapsus; and finally in Spain, annihilating, in the desperate and bloody conflict at Munda, the last army which upheld the banner of Pompey. These varied military movements left him but little time for his contemplated work in the capital; yet the civil and political reforms which he actually accomplished, to say nothing of the magnificent schemes which he conceived, excite our wonder and admiration. With the comprehensive views of the true statesman, with marvellous power to arrange and organize, and with a keen perception of all the conditions of success, he entered with zeal upon the great work of reconstructing the Roman state. He corrected abuses, enriched the public treasury, reformed the calendar, equalized the public burdens, and strove in every way, as the head of a great nation, to give unity and symmetry to the new empire. But while he was yet in the midst of his wonderful career, with gigantic plans yet unaccomplished, designing men were plotting his ruin and his death. He had been loaded with titles and honors, and had been declared dictator for life; but his greatness had excited the envy of the nobles, while his insatiable ambition had awakened the fears of the people. He was suspected of aiming at the sceptre and the crown, and he paid the penalty with his life. He was assassinated in the senate house, on the 15th of March, 44 B. C.
Such was the tragic death of this remarkable man. He had achieved success in almost every field in which he had