« IndietroContinua »
THE LIFE OF CESAR.
CAIUS JULIUS CESAR was born, by the common account, July 12, B.C. 100; or, by a probable reckoning, two years earlier.* When "almost a boy," he was made a priest of Jupiter by Marius, his uncle by marriage. When still a youth of 18 or 20, he boldly refused to divorce his wife Cornelia, daughter of Cinna, and barely escaped the proscription of Sulla, who "saw many a Marius in that young man."
Though of patrician birth, Cæsar was thus early allied with the popular party, which began to make head directly after the dictator's death. He went through the usual course of political honors to which a Roman of the higher ranks felt himself entitled. At the age of 35 (assuming the earlier date) he was Quæstor in Further Spain. Two years later he was Curule Edile, an office which gave great opportunity to court popular honor, in its charge of public games and exhibitions. By this time he was recognized as a party leader who would not scruple at the most daring and questionable measures, and was even suspected of having a hand in the schemes of Catiline.
*The common date rests on the statement of Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian, that he died at the age of 56. On the other hand: 1. Marius, who died B.c. 86, would hardly have given a priesthood to a child of 13; 2. he received the usual honors, by the common reckoning, each two years earlier than the legal age; 3. certain coins struck by him in B.C. 49 have the date LII., apparently the years of his age.
In Cæsar's games, "all the equipments, even the cages of the wild beasts, appeared of massive silver; and by a liberality which was all the more princely, that it was based solely on the contraction of debt" (in Latin phrase, "paid by other men's money").
In B.C. 63 he was elected Pontifex Maximus, - that is, official head of the state religion, in opposition to the leader of the aristocracy, Quintus Catulus. This was an open declaration of war against the governing aristocracy. Cæsar, it is said, refused a large offer made by Catulus to buy him off the course; and when the day of election came said to his mother, who would have kept him out of the struggle,To-day shall see me pontifex maximus or an exile." The holy office alone could protect him from his creditors.
At this period Cæsar was chiefly known as a dissolute debtor and demagogue. Before leaving for his province, he was obliged to find security to the amount of 800 talents, -more than a million dollars. He is reported to have said, in his reckless way, that he wanted four million sesterces to be worth just nothing at all. But in Further Spain, as pro-prætor (B.C. 62), he displayed the civil and military ability which afterwards made him famous, as well as the financial ability which enabled him to pay off his debts in one campaign.
He returned to Rome the following year, and soon formed a political coalition with Pompey and Crassus, his contribution to the common stock being his influence in the political clubs and control of votes. This coalition is sometimes called "the first triumvirate." * One part of the bargain was that Cæsar should have the consulship for the next year (B.C. 59), and after that the government of Gaul for five years.† This embraced the three provinces of Gallia Nar
* The term "triumvirate" means properly a commission or board of three men, invested by law with special powers and functions. This was the case with the triumvirate of Octavianus (Augustus), Antony and Lepidus; but this earlier one was only a private knot of political aspirants.
It was a law that both consuls and prætors should have their power (imperium) continued for a year after their term of office, and, under the title proconsul or proprætor, govern one of the military provinces. If the proconsul was not relieved at the end of the year, his power continued by the necessity of the case. In one
bonensis, Gallia Cisalpina (North Italy), and Illyricum. Crassus and Pompey received no special authority at first, but remained in the city, ostensibly as private persons, to look after the interests of the coalition. This was further strengthened by the marriage of Pompey with Cæsar's young and beautiful daughter Julia.
After two successful campaigns in Gaul, in the spring of B.C. 56, Cæsar met his two confederates at Luca, in Etruria, to arrange their future schemes. The conference was held with great display, almost like a royal court. More than 200 senators were present, and 120 lictors were in attendance, attached to the several magistrates. At this conference it was agreed that Pompey and Crassus should hold the consulship the following year, and, after their term of office, should receive by popular vote a similar command to that held by Cæsar, namely, that Pompey should command in Spain and Crassus in Syria for five years each; also that, when Cæsar's five years were up, he should receive in the same way a second term of five years. His ten years' administration would then close at the end of B.C. 49; after which time an interval of ten years having elapsed he would be eligible again as consul. The programme was duly carried out.
(B.C. 54) to his province, where he was defeated the next year by the Parthians in the battle of Carrhæ, and shortly after entrapped and killed. Pompey put his province in the hands of one of his subordinates, and remained in the neighborhood of Rome, unwilling to remove from the seat of his personal influence. The death of his wife Julia (B.c. 54) soon sundered the ties which bound him to Cæsar.
instance, that of Pompey, an extraordinary power was conferred upon the proconsul by act of the people (the Manilian Law). Regularly, however, the assignment of provinces was reckoned a part of the administrative powers of the Senate; and a law of Caius Gracchus directed that the consular provinces should be determined before the election, - that is, a year and a half in advance, and then that the consuls should draw lots which to have.
Jealous from the first, he gradually became openly hostile to him; and at last he found himself leader of the Senate and the aristocracy against his revolutionary schemes.
The remainder of Cæsar's life belongs to the general history of Rome. At the close of the Gallic war, the senatorial party required that he should disband his army. This he refused to do, unless Pompey should make an equal surrender of military force. From these demands. grew the charge of false play on each side, until the Civil War broke out (B.c. 49), and Pompey fled to Greece, where he was defeated the following year at Pharsalia. After his death, and the complete destruction of his party, Cæsar returned to Rome; * where, under the title and authority of Perpetual Dictator, he laid the first foundations of the imperial constitution. His reforms some of them necessary, some enlightened and wise far beyond the statesmanship of his time provoked the hate of a fanatic party, who vainly thought to restore the Republic; and on the Ides of March, B.C. 44, he was murdered in the Senate-house, by a conspiracy under the lead of Marcus Brutus.
GAUL AND GERMANY.
The district upon whose government Cæsar entered in the spring of B.C. 58 consisted primarily of the two Gallic provinces, Cisalpine and Transalpine. Cisalpine Gaul was the northern portion of Italy, which had been several centuries earlier occupied by invaders from Gaul proper, and which was not yet reckoned as politically a part of Italy: it was a wealthy, populous, and orderly country, the proconsul's main dependence for troops and supplies, and his regular winter residence. Transalpine or Narbonnese Gaul received its name from its capital, the Roman colony Narbo.
*It is a remarkable illustration of Roman feeling, that, on the day of his triumph, Cæsar, the epicurean rationalist, mounted on his knees the long flight of steps that led up to the Capitol, that by this act of ostentatious humility he might avert those divine judgments supposed to be provoked by inordinate felicity.
It contained some thriving cities and peaceful districts; but it had as a whole been only recently brought under the authority of Rome, and was still essentially a foreign country. It comprised the whole coast of the Mediterranean, from the Pyrenees to the Alps, its northern boundary being an irregular and uncertain line, separating the conquered nations of Gaul from those which were still free. To these two provinces was attached Illyricum, which was a source of strength, but did not receive much of his attention.
The authority of the governor over his province was that of a military commander, who was not amenable to the laws which protected the citizens in Rome. A few privileged cities or nations, as the old Greek city Massilia, and the allied tribe of the Ædui (after they were brought within the limits of the empire), were wholly exempted from his authority; but all other parts of the province, even Roman colonies like Narbo, were liable to tribute, and more or less under the jurisdiction of the governor. Each province had its financial officer, or quæstor, who ranked next the governor himself: the commander was likewise attended by staff-officers, legati (usually three in number), appointed by the Senate from persons of rank and position; and by an indefinite number of aids, contubernales or comites, who composed what was sometimes, but incorrectly, called the prætorian cohort. A consular army consisted regularly of two legions (at this time of from 3,000 to 3,600 men); to these were added auxiliaries, both foot and horse, while the governor had power to levy new legions as he required them. Thus we find that Cæsar had six legions in his campaign against the Nervii.
The free territories adjoining a Roman province were in no respect under the authority of the governor; but they were regarded as a legitimate field for his ambition, and there was no lack of pretexts for war. The Roman policy was to enter into friendly relations with one of the parties or tribes in the free territory, load this with favors and privileges, and make use of it to overcome their rivals; in Gaul the Ædui were the favored nation.