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CAESARIS COMMENTARII DE BELLO GALLICO, LIBER I.
LIFE OF CAESAR.
Gaius Julius CAESAR, the author of the Commentaries, was born at Rome, on the 12th of July, 100 B. C. He belonged to the illustrious Julian family, whose ancient lineage tradition traced to the early kings of Rome and the immortal heroes of the Iliad. At the time of his birth, his uncle, Gaius Marius, the intrepid champion of the popular party, had just won immortal honors by his victories over the Cimbri and the Teutones, while Lucius Cornelius Sulla, destined to be the bitter opponent of Marius, and the most formidable obstacle to the career of Caesar, was rapidly rising to power and influence.
In youth, Caesar not unfrequently yielded to the fascinations of luxury and pleasure. He lived in a degenerate age, when the sterner virtues of the old Roman character were rapidly disappearing from the fashionable life of the day. By the death of his father, he was left an orphan at the age of sixteen; but his mother, Aurelia, a woman of rare gifts and of superior wisdom, superintended his education with the greatest care, and exerted a powerful influence in moulding his character, and in preparing him for the brilliant career of greatness and glory upon which he was so soon to enter. By his marriage with Cornelia, the daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a prominent leader of the popular party, he early incurred the deadly hatred of Sulla, who had just been raised to the dictatorship, and was already entering upon his terrible career of proscription and bloodshed. The relentless dictator, by an act of tyranny in keeping with his general character, issued an order that all persons who had allied themselves by marriage with the party of Marius, should at once sever that alliance by divorce. Pompey and others, dreading the terrible vengeance of the despot, hastened to comply; but the youthful Caesar, taking counsel of his own dauntless spirit, and asserting his rights as a Roman citizen and a man, defied, with sovereign contempt, the mad edict of the tyrant. But he did it at his peril. He was at once deposed from the priestly office, to which he had been recently appointed, was deprived of his wife's dowry, and declared incapable of holding his own ancestral estates. Finding the hand of persecution heavy upon him, he left the city, and remained in concealment until the earnest solicitations of influential parties finally extorted from Sulla a reluctant pardon, accompanied by those memorable words, almost prophetic, “Be assured, friends, that he for whom you plead will one day ruin the cause for which we have fought; for in Caesar is many a Marius."
At the early age of twenty, Caesar distinguished himself, at the siege of Mitylenae, by gallant conduct in saving the life of a Roman soldier, and was rewarded by the praetor with the high honor of a civic crown.
On the death of Sulla, two years later, Caesar returned to Rome, and at once instituted prosecutions against Dolabella, and other influential partisan leaders, for crimes and misdemeanors committed under the administration of the dictator. His fearless defence of law, and his persuasive eloquence, attracted the attention of the people, who hailed the youthful orator as the champion of their imperilled rights. Encouraged by this success, Caesar determined to prepare himself, by a judicious course of study, for the attractive profession which seemed already to be opening before him a brilliant career of honor and influence. Accordingly, repairing to Rhodes, then the home of the most illustrious rhetoricians and philosophers, he placed himself under the instruction of that accomplished professor of eloquence, Apollonius Molo, the distinguished teacher of Cicero.
At the age of twenty-seven, Caesar was elected pontiff and military tribune; at thirty-two, quaestor ; at thirty-five, aedile; at thirty-seven, grand pontiff; at thirty-eight, praetor, and at forty, consul.
In the capacity of curule aedile, one of the three highest civil officers known to the republic, Caesar, in accordance with Roman custom, entertained the people with public festivities and amusements. Under his administration, the Forum and the Capitol were magnificently decorated; the gladiatorial exhibitions displayed unwonted pomp, and the Roman games were celebrated with a splendor never before witnessed. that moment, when all eyes were turned to him as the idol of the people, when the unprecedented splendor of his aedileship had won for him an unbounded personal influence, he resolved upon a bold stroke, both for himself and for his country. The popular cause had been for years without a leader. The terrible proscriptions of Sulla had silenced the friends of progress, and removed from the public gaze all memorials of their past successes and victories. Even the statues and trophies commemorative of the illustrious deeds of their favorite champion, Marius, had disappeared from the Capitol. But one morning the Romans awoke to find all these trophies restored to their former places. The unexpected sight filled the nobles with rage and terror, but awakened in the people glad memories of glory and liberty. The friends of progress gazed with joy upon these cherished memorials of their great champion, and hailed Caesar as his worthy successor. From that moment the aedile was their acknowledged head and leader.
The military career of Caesar dates from his appointment as propraetor of Spain. Though thirty-nine years of age, he was then, for the first time in his life, at the head of an army. IIe at once displayed the high qualities of a great commander, and won for himself an enviable military fame. The senate, though politically opposed to him, was compelled to acknowledge the greatness of his services, and in recognition of his brilliant achievements awarded him, by special decree, the honor of a triumph.