Julius Caesar




Caesar and Pompey

Pompey planned to cover the Mediterranean with fleets which were to starve Italy.

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CHAPTER XXII.

[April B.C. 49.] Pompey was gone, gone to cover the Mediterranean with fleets which were to starve Italy, and to raise an army which was to bring him back to play Sylla's game once more. The consuls had gone with him, more than half the Senate, and the young patricians, the descendants of the Metelli and the Scipios, with the noble nature melted out of them, and only the pride remaining. Caesar would have chased them at once, and have allowed them no time to organize, but ships were wanting, and he could not wait to form a fleet. Pompey's lieutenants, Afranius and Petreius and Varro, were in Spain, with six legions and the levies of the Province. These had to be promptly dealt with, and Sicily and Sardinia, on which Rome depended for its corn, had to be cleared of enemies, and placed in trustworthy hands. He sent Curio to Sicily and Valerius to Sardinia. Both islands surrendered without resistance, Cato, who was in command in Messina, complaining openly that he had been betrayed.

Pompey was gone to cover the Mediterranean with fleets which were to starve Italy, and to raise an army.

Caesar went himself to Rome, which he had not seen for ten years. He met Cicero by appointment on the road, and pressed him to attend the Senate. Cicero's example, he said, would govern the rest. If his account of the interview be true, Cicero showed more courage than might have been expected from his letters to Atticus. He inquired whether, if he went, he might speak as he pleased; he could not consent to blame Pompey, and he should say that he disapproved of attacks upon him, either in Greece or Spain. Caesar said that he could not permit language of this kind. Cicero answered that he thought as much, and therefore preferred to stay away. 1Caesar let him take his own course, and went on by himself. The consuls being absent, the Senate was convened by the tribunes, Mark Antony and Cassius Longinus, both officers in Caesar's army. The house was thin, but those present were cold and hostile. They knew by this time that they need fear no violence. They interpreted Caesar's gentleness into timidity, but they were satisfied that, let them do what they pleased, he would not injure them. He addressed the Senate with his usual clearness and simplicity. He had asked, he said, for no extraordinary honors. He had waited the legal period of ten years for a second consulship. A promise had been given that his name should be submitted, and that promise had been withdrawn. He dwelt on his forbearance, on the concessions which he had offered, and again on his unjust recall, and the violent suppression of the legal authority of the tribunes. He had proposed terms of peace, he said; he had asked for interviews, but all in vain. If the Senate feared to commit themselves by assisting him, he declared his willingness to carry on the government in his own name; but he invited them to send deputies to Pompey, to treat for an arrangement.

The Senate approved of sending a deputation; but Pompey had sworn, on leaving, that he would hold all who had not joined him as his enemies; no one, therefore, could be found willing to go. Three days were spent in unmeaning discussion, and Caesar's situation did not allow of trifling. With such people nothing could be done, and peace could be won only by the sword. By an edict of his own he restored the children of the victims of Sylla's proscription to their civil rights and their estates, the usurpers being mostly in Pompey's camp. The assembly of the people voted him the money in the treasury. Metellus, a tribune in Pompey's interest, forbade the opening of the doors, but he was pushed out of the way. Cesar took such money as he needed, and went with his best speed to join his troops in Gaul.

His singular gentleness had encouraged the opposition to him in Rome. In Gaul he encountered another result of his forbearance more practically trying. The Gauls themselves, though so lately conquered in so desperate a struggle, remained quiet. Then, if ever, they had an opportunity of reasserting their independence. They not only did not take advantage of it, but, as if they disdained the unworthy treatment of their great enemy, each tribe sent him, at his request, a body of horse, led by the bravest of their chiefs. His difficulty came from a more tainted source. Marseilles, the most important port in the western Mediterranean, the gate through which the trade of the Province passed in and out, had revolted to Pompey. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who had been dismissed at Corfinium, had been despatched to encourage and assist the townspeople with a squadron of Pompey's fleet. When Caesar arrived, Marseilles closed its gates, and refused to receive him. He could not afford to leave behind him an open door into the Province, and he could ill spare troops for a siege. Afranius and Petreius were already over the Ebro with 30,000 legionaries and with nearly twice as many Spanish auxiliaries. Yet Marseilles must be shut in, and quickly. Fabius was sent forward to hold the passes of the Pyrenees. Caesar's soldiers were set to work in the forest. Trees were cut down and sawn into planks. In thirty days twelve stout vessels, able to hold their own against Domitius, were built and launched and manned. The fleet thus extemporized was trusted to Decimus Brutus. Three legions were left to make approaches, and, if possible, to take the town on the land side; and, leaving Marseilles blockaded by sea and land, Caesar hurried on to the Spanish frontier. The problem before him was worthy of his genius. A protracted war in the peninsula would be fatal. Pompey would return to Italy, and there would be no one to oppose him there. The Spanish army had to be destroyed or captured, and that immediately; and it was stronger than Caesar's own, and was backed by all the resources of the province.

The details of a Roman campaign are no longer interesting. The results, with an outline of the means by which they were brought about, alone concern the modern reader. Pompey's lieutenant, having failed to secure the passes, was lying at Lerida, in Catalonia, at the junction of the Segre and the Naguera, with the Ebro behind them, and with a mountain range, the Sierra de Llena, on their right flank. Their position was impregnable to direct attack. From their rear they drew inexhaustible supplies. The country in front had been laid waste to the Pyrenees, and everything which Caesar required had to be brought to him from Gaul. In forty days from the time at which the armies came in sight of each other Afranius and Petreius, with all their legions, were prisoners. Varro, in the south, was begging for peace, and all Spain lay at Caesar's feet. At one moment he was almost lost. The melting of the snows in the mountains brought a flood down the Segre. The bridges were carried away, the fords were impassable, and his convoys were at the mercy of the enemy. News flew to Rome that all was over, that Caesar's army was starving, that he was cut off between the rivers, and in a few days must surrender. Marseilles still held out. Pompey's, it seemed, was to be the winning side, and Cicero and many others, who had hung back to watch how events would turn, made haste to join their friends in Greece before their going had lost show of credit. 2

The situation was indeed most critical. Even Caesar's own soldiers became unsteady. He remarks that in civil wars generally men show less composure than in ordinary campaigns. But resource in difficulties is the distinction of great generals. He had observed in Britain that the coast fishermen used boats made out of frames of wicker covered with skins. The river banks were fringed with willows. There were hides in abundance on the carcasses of the animals in the camp. Swiftly in these vessels the swollen waters of the Segre were crossed; the convoys were rescued. The broken bridges were repaired. The communications of the Pompeians were threatened in turn, and they tried to fall back over the Ebro; but they left their position only to be intercepted, and after a few feeble struggles laid down their arms. Among the prisoners were found several of the young nobles who had been released at Corfinium. It appeared that they regarded Caesar as an outlaw with whom obligations were not binding. The Pompeian generals had ordered any of Caesar's soldiers who fell into their hands to be murdered. He was not provoked into retaliation. He again dismissed the whole of the captive force, officers and men, contenting himself with this time exacting a promise from them that they would not serve against him again. They gave their word and broke it. The generals and military tribunes made their way to Greece to Pompey. Of the rest, some enlisted in Caesar's legions; others scattered to combine again when opportunity allowed.

Varro, who commanded a legion in the south, behaved more honorably. He sent in his submission, entered into the same engagement, and kept it. He was an old friend of Caesar's, and better understood him. Caesar, after the victory at Lerida, went down to Cordova, and summoned the leading Spaniards and Romans to meet him there. All came and promised obedience. Varro gave in his accounts, with his ships, and stores, and money. Caesar then embarked at Cadiz, and went round to Tarragona, where his own legions were waiting for him. From Tarragona he marched back by the Pyrenees, and came in time to receive in person the surrender of Marseilles.

The siege had been a difficult one, with severe engagements both by land and sea. Domitius and his galleys had attacked the ungainly but useful vessels which Caesar had extemporized. He had been driven back with the loss of half his fleet. Pompey had sent a second squadron to help him, and this had fared no better. It had fled after a single battle and never reappeared. The land works had been assailed with ingenuity and courage. The agger had been burnt and the siege towers destroyed. But they had been repaired instantly by the industry of the legions, and Marseilles was at the last extremity when Caesar arrived. He had wished to spare the townspeople, and had sent orders that the place was not to be stormed. On his appearance the keys of the gates were brought to him without conditions. Again he pardoned every one; more, he said, for the reputation of the colony than for the merits of its inhabitants. Domitius had fled in a gale of wind, and once more escaped. A third time he was not to be so fortunate.

[B.C. 48] Two legions were left in charge of Marseilles; others returned to their quarters in Gaul. Well as the tribes had behaved, it was unsafe to presume too much on their fidelity, and Caesar was not a partisan chief, but the guardian of the Roman Empire. With the rest of his army he returned to Rome at the beginning of the winter. All had been quiet since the news of the capitulation at Lerida. The aristocracy had gone to Pompey. The disaffection among the people of which Cicero spoke had existed only in his wishes, or had not extended beyond the classes who had expected from Caesar a general partition of property, and had been disappointed. His own successes had been brilliant. Spain, Gaul, and Italy, Sicily and Sardinia, were entirely his own. Elsewhere and away from his own eye things had gone less well for him. An attempt to make a naval force in the Adriatic had failed; and young Curio, who had done Caesar such good service as tribune, had met with a still graver disaster. After recovering Sicily, Curio had been directed to cross to Africa and expel Pompey's garrisons from the Province. His troops were inferior, consisting chiefly of the garrison which had surrendered at Corfinium. Through military inexperience he had fallen into a trap laid for him by Juba, King of Mauritania, and had been killed.

Caesar regretted Curio personally. The African misfortune was not considerable in itself, but it encouraged hopes and involved consequences which he probably foresaw. There was no present leisure, however, to attend to Juba. On arriving at the city he was named Dictator. As Dictator he held the consular elections, and, with Servilius Isauricus for a colleague, he was chosen consul for the year which had been promised to him, though under circumstances so strangely changed. With curious punctiliousness he observed that the legal interval had expired since he was last in office, and that therefore there was no formal objection to his appointment.

Civil affairs were in the wildest confusion. The Senate had fled; the administration had been left to Antony, whose knowledge of business was not of a high order; and over the whole of Italy hung the terror of Pompey's fleet and of an Asiatic invasion. Public credit was shaken. Debts had not been paid since the civil war began. Moneylenders had charged usurious interest for default, and debtors were crying for novae tabulae, and hoped to clear themselves by bankruptcy. Caesar had but small leisure for such matters. Pompey had been allowed too long a respite, and unless he sought Pompey in Greece, Pompey would be seeking him at home, and the horrid scenes of Sylla's wars would be enacted over again. He did what he could, risking the loss of the favor of the mob by disappointing dishonest expectations. Estimates were drawn of all debts as they stood twelve months before. The principal was declared to be still due. The interest for the interval was cancelled. Many persons complained of injustice which they had met with in the courts of law during the time that Pompey was in power. Caesar refused to revise the sentences himself, lest he should seem to be encroaching on functions not belonging to him; but he directed that such causes should be heard again.

Eleven days were all he could afford to Rome. So swift was Caesar that his greatest exploits were measured by days. He had to settle accounts with Pompey while it was still winter, and while Pompey's preparations for the invasion of Italy were still incomplete; and he and his veterans, scarcely allowing themselves a breathing-time, went down to Brindisi.

It was now the beginning of January by the unreformed calendar (by the seasons the middle of October)--a year within a few days since Caesar had crossed the Rubicon. He had nominally twelve legions under him. But long marches had thinned the ranks of his old and best-tried troops. The change from the dry climate of Gaul and Spain to the south of Italy in a wet autumn had affected the health of the rest, and there were many invalids. The force available for field service was small for the work which was before it: in all not more than 30,000 men. Pompey's army lay immediately opposite Brindisi, at Durazzo. It was described afterward as inharmonious and ill-disciplined, but so far as report went at the time Caesar had never encountered so formidable an enemy. There were nine legions of Roman citizens with their complements full. Two more were coming up with Scipio from Syria. Besides these there were auxiliaries from the allied princes in the East; corps from Greece and Asia Minor, slingers and archers from Crete and the islands. Of money, of stores of all kinds, there was abundance, for the Eastern revenue had been all paid for the last year to Pompey, and he had levied impositions at his pleasure.

Such was the Senate's land army, and before Caesar could cross swords with it a worse danger lay in his path. It was not for nothing that Cicero said that Pompey had been careful of his fleet. A hundred and thirty ships, the best which were to be had, were disposed in squadrons along the east shore of the Adriatic; the head-quarters were at Corfu; and the one purpose was to watch the passage and prevent Caesar from crossing over.

[January, B.C. 48.] Transports run down by vessels of war were inevitably sunk. Twelve fighting triremes, the remains of his attempted Adriatic fleet, were all that Caesar could collect for a convoy. The weather was wild. Even of transports he had but enough to carry half his army in a single trip. With such a prospect and with the knowledge that if he reached Greece at all he would have to land in the immediate neighborhood of Pompey's enormous host, surprise has been expressed that Caesar did not prefer to go round through Illyria, keeping his legions together. But Caesar had won many victories by appearing where he was least expected. He liked well to descend like a bolt out of the blue sky; and, for the very reason that no ordinary person would under such circumstances have thought of attempting the passage, he determined to try it. Long marches exhausted the troops. In bad weather the enemy's fleet preferred the harbors to the open sea; and perhaps he had a further and special ground of confidence in knowing that the officer in charge at Corfu was his old acquaintance, Bibulus-- Bibulus, the fool of the aristocracy, the butt of Cicero, who had failed in everything which he had undertaken, and had been thanked by Cato for his ill successes. Caesar knew the men with whom he had to deal. He knew Pompey's incapacity; he knew Bibulus's incapacity. He knew that public feeling among the people was as much on his side in Greece as in Italy. Above all, he knew his own troops, and felt that he could rely on them, however heavy the odds might be. He was resolved to save Italy at all hazards from becoming the theatre of war, and therefore the best road for him was that which would lead most swiftly to his end.

On the 4th January, then, by unreformed time, Caesar sailed with 15,000 men and 500 horses from Brindisi. The passage was rough but swift, and he landed without adventure at Acroceraunia, now Cape Linguetta, on the eastern shore of the Straits of Otranto. Bibulus saw him pass from the heights of Corfu, and put to sea, too late to intercept him--in time, however, unfortunately, to fall in with the returning transports. Caesar had started them immediately after disembarking, and had they made use of the darkness they might have gone over unperceived; they lingered and were overtaken; Bibulus captured thirty of them, and, in rage at his own blunder, killed every one that he found on board.

Ignorant of this misfortune, and expecting that Antony would follow him in a day or two with the remainder of the army, Caesar advanced at once toward Durazzo, occupied Apollonia, and entrenched himself on the left bank of the river Apsus. The country, as he anticipated, was well-disposed and furnished him amply with supplies. He still hoped to persuade Pompey to come to terms with him. He trusted, perhaps not unreasonably, that the generosity with which he had treated Marseilles and the Spanish legions might have produced an effect; and he appealed once more to Pompey's wiser judgment. Vibullius Rufus, who had been taken at Corfinium, and a second time on the Lerida, had since remained with Caesar. Rufus, being personally known as an ardent member of the Pompeian party, was sent forward to Durazzo with a message of peace.

"Enough had been done," Caesar said, "and Fortune ought not to be tempted further. Pompey had lost Italy, the two Spains, Sicily, and Sardinia, and a hundred and thirty cohorts of his soldiers had been captured. Caesar had lost Curio and the army of Africa. They were thus on an equality, and might spare their country the consequences of further rivalry. If either he or Pompey gained a decisive advantage, the victor would be compelled to insist on harder terms. If they could not agree, Caesar was willing to leave the question between them to the Senate and people of Rome, and for themselves, he proposed that they should each take an oath to disband their troops in three days."

Pompey, not expecting Caesar, was absent in Macedonia when he heard of his arrival, and was hurrying back to Durazzo. Caesar's landing had produced a panic in his camp. Men and officers were looking anxiously in each other's faces. So great was the alarm, so general the distrust, that Labienus had sworn in the presence of the army that he would stand faithfully by Pompey. Generals, tribunes, and centurions had sworn after him. They had then moved up to the Apsus and encamped on the opposite side of the river, waiting for Pompey to come up.

There was now a pause on both sides. Antony was unable to leave Brindisi, Bibulus being on the watch day and night. A single vessel attempted the passage. It was taken, and every one on board was massacred. The weather was still wild, and both sides suffered. If Caesar's transports could not put to sea, Bibulus's crews could not land either for fuel or water anywhere south of Apollonia. Bibulus held on obstinately till he died of exposure to wet and cold, so ending his useless life; but his death did not affect the situation favorably for Caesar; his command fell into abler hands.

[February, B.C. 48.] At length Pompey arrived. Vibullius Rufus delivered his message. Pompey would not hear him to the end. "What care I," he said, "for life or country if I am to hold both by the favor of Caesar? All men will think thus of me if I make peace now.... I left Italy. Men will say that Caesar has brought me back."

In the legions the opinion was different. The two armies were divided only by a narrow river. Friends met and talked. They asked each other for what purpose so desperate a war had been undertaken. The regular troops all idolized Caesar. Deputations from both sides were chosen to converse and consult, with Caesar's warmest approval. Some arrangement might have followed. But Labienus interposed. He appeared at the meeting as if to join in the conference; he was talking in apparent friendliness to Cicero's acquaintance, Publius Vatinius, who was serving with Caesar. Suddenly a shower of darts were hurled at Vatinius. His men flung themselves in front of him and covered his body; but most of them were wounded, and the assembly broke up in confusion, Labienus shouting, "Leave your talk of composition; there can be no peace till you bring us Caesar's head."

[April, B.C. 48.] Cool thinkers were beginning to believe that Caesar was in a scrape from which his good fortune would this time fail to save him. Italy was on the whole steady, but the slippery politicians in the capital were on the watch. They had been disappointed on finding that Caesar would give no sanction to confiscation of property, and a spark of fire burst out which showed that the elements of mischief were active as ever. Cicero's correspondent, Marcus Caelius, had thrown himself eagerly on Caesar's side at the beginning of the war. He had been left as praetor at Rome when Caesar went to Greece. He in his wisdom conceived that the wind was changing, and that it was time for him to earn his pardon from Pompey. He told the mob that Caesar would do nothing for them, that Caesar cared only for his capitalists. He wrote privately to Cicero that he was bringing them over to Pompey, 3 and he was doing it in the way in which pretended revolutionists so often play into the hands of reactionaries. He proposed a law in the Assembly in the spirit of Jack Cade, that no debts should be paid in Rome for six years, and that every tenant should occupy his house for two years free of rent. The administrators of the government treated him as a madman, and deposed him from office. He left the city pretending that he was going to Caesar. The once notorious Milo, who had been in exile since his trial for the murder of Clodius, privately joined him; and together they raised a band of gladiators in Campania, professing to have a commission from Pompey. Milo was killed. Caelius fled to Thurii, where he tried to seduce Caesar's garrison, and was put to death for his treachery. The familiar actors in the drama were beginning to drop. Bibulus was gone, and now Caelius and Milo. Fools and knaves are usually the first to fall in civil distractions, as they and their works are the active causes of them.

Meantime months passed away. The winter wore through in forced inaction, and Caesar watched in vain for the sails of his coming transports. The Pompeians had for some weeks blockaded Brindisi. Antony drove them off with armed boats; but still he did not start, and Caesar thought that opportunities had been missed. 4 He wrote to Antony sharply. The legions, true as steel, were ready for any risks sooner than leave their commander in danger. A south wind came at last, and they sailed. They were seen in mid-channel, and closely pursued. Night fell, and in the darkness they were swept past Durazzo, to which Pompey had again withdrawn, with the Pompeian squadron in full chase behind them. They ran into the harbor of Nymphaea, three miles north of Lissa, and were fortunate in entering it safely. Sixteen of the pursuers ran upon the rocks, and the crews owed their lives to Caesar's troops, who saved them. So Caesar mentions briefly, in silent contrast to the unvarying ferocity of the Pompeian leaders. Two only of the transports which had left Brindisi were missing in the morning. They had gone by mistake into Lissa, and were surrounded by the boats of the enemy, who promised that no one should be injured if they surrendered. "Here," says Caesar, in a characteristic sentence, "may be observed the value of firmness of mind." One of the vessels had two hundred and twenty young soldiers on board, the other two hundred veterans. The recruits were sea-sick and frightened. They trusted the enemy's fair words, and were immediately murdered. The others forced their pilot to run the ship ashore. They cut their way through a band of Pompey's cavalry, and joined their comrades without the loss of a man.

Antony's position was most dangerous, for Pompey's whole army lay between him and Caesar; but Caesar marched rapidly round Durazzo, and had joined his friend before Pompey knew that he had moved.

[May, B.C. 48.] Though still far outnumbered, Caesar was now in a condition to meet Pompey in the field, and desired nothing so much as a decisive action. Pompey would not give him the opportunity, and kept within his lines. To show the world, therefore, how matters stood between them, Caesar drew a line of strongly fortified posts round Pompey's camp and shut him in. Force him to surrender he could not, for the sea was open, and Pompey's fleet had entire command of it. But the moral effect on Italy of the news that Pompey was besieged might, it was hoped, force him out from his entrenchments. If Pompey could not venture to engage Caesar on his own chosen ground, and surrounded by his Eastern friends, his cause at home would be abandoned as lost. Nor was the active injury which Caesar was able to inflict inconsiderable. He turned the streams on which Pompey's camp depended for water. The horses and cattle died. Fever set in with other inconveniences. The labor of the siege was, of course, severe. The lines were many miles in length, and the difficulty of sending assistance to a point threatened by a sally was extremely great. The corn in the fields was still green, and supplies grew scanty. Meat Caesar's army had, but of wheat little or none; they were used to hardship, however, and bore it with admirable humor. They made cakes out of roots, ground into paste and mixed with milk; and thus, in spite of privation and severe work, they remained in good health, and deserters daily came into them.

So the siege of Durazzo wore on, diversified with occasional encounters, which Caesar details with the minuteness of a scientific general writing for his profession, and with those admiring mentions of each individual act of courage which so intensely endeared him to his troops. Once an accidental opportunity offered itself for a successful storm, but Caesar was not on the spot. The officer in command shrank from responsibility; and, notwithstanding the seriousness of the consequences, Caesar said that the officer was right.

[June, B.C. 48.] Pompey's army was not yet complete. Metellus Scipio had not arrived with the Syrian legions. Scipio had come leisurely through Asia Minor, plundering cities and temples and flaying the people with requisitions. He had now reached Macedonia, and Domitius Calvinus had been sent with a separate command to watch him. Caesar's own force, already too small for the business on hand, was thus further reduced, and at this moment there fell out one of those accidents which overtake at times the ablest commanders, and gave occasion for Caesar's observation, that Pompey knew not how to conquer.

There were two young Gauls with Caesar whom he had promoted to important positions. They were reported to have committed various peculations. Caesar spoke to them privately. They took offence and deserted. There was a weak spot in Caesar's lines at a point the furthest removed from the body of the army. The Gauls gave Pompey notice of it, and on this point Pompey flung himself with his whole strength. The attack was a surprise. The engagement which followed was desperate and unequal, for the reliefs were distant and came up one by one. For once Caesar's soldiers were seized with panic, lost their order, and forgot their discipline. On the news of danger he flew himself to the scene, threw himself into the thickest of the fight, and snatched the standards from the flying bearers. But on this single occasion he failed in restoring confidence. The defeat was complete; and, had Pompey understood his business, Caesar's whole army might have been overthrown. Nearly a thousand men were killed, with many field officers and many centurions. Thirty-two standards were lost, and some hundreds of legionaries were taken. Labienus begged the prisoners of Pompey. He called them mockingly old comrades. He asked them how veterans came to fly. They were led into the midst of the camp and were all killed.

Caesar's legions had believed themselves invincible. The effect of this misfortune was to mortify and infuriate them. They were eager to fling themselves again upon the enemy and win back their laurels; but Caesar saw that they were excited and unsteady, and that they required time to collect themselves. He spoke to them with his usual calm cheerfulness. He praised their courage. He reminded them of their many victories, and bade them not be cast down at a misadventure which they would soon repair; but he foresaw that the disaster would affect the temper of Greece and make his commissariat more difficult than it was already. He perceived that he must adopt some new plan of campaign, and with instant decision he fell back upon Apollonia.

[July, B.C 48.] The gleam of victory was the cause of Pompey's ruin. It was unlooked for, and the importance of it exaggerated. Caesar was supposed to be flying with the wreck of an army completely disorganized and disheartened. So sure were the Pompeians that it could never rally again that they regarded the war as over; they made no efforts to follow up a success which, if improved, might have been really decisive; and they gave Caesar the one thing which he needed, time to recover from its effects. After he had placed his sick and wounded in security at Apollonia, his first object was to rejoin Calvinus, who had been sent to watch Scipio, and might now be cut off. Fortune was here favorable. Calvinus, by mere accident, learnt his danger, divined where Caesar would be, and came to meet him. The next thing was to see what Pompey would do. He might embark for Italy. In this case Caesar would have to follow him by Illyria and the head of the Adriatic. Cisalpine Gaul was true to him, and could be relied on to refill his ranks. Or Pompey might pursue him in the hope to make an end of the war in Greece, and an opportunity might offer itself for an engagement under fairer terms. On the whole he considered the second alternative the more likely one, and with this expectation he led his troops into the rich plains of Thessaly for the better feeding which they so much needed. The news of his defeat preceded him. Gomphi, an important Thessalian town, shut its gates upon him; and, that the example might not be followed, Gomphi was instantly stormed and given up to plunder. One such lesson was enough. No more opposition was ventured by the Greek cities.

[August 9, B.C. 48.] Pompey meanwhile had broken up from Durazzo, and after being joined by Scipio was following leisurely. There were not wanting persons who warned him that Caesar's legions might still be dangerous. Both Cicero and Cato had advised him to avoid a battle, to allow Caesar to wander about Greece till his supplies failed and his army was worn out by marches. Pompey himself was inclined to the same opinion. But Pompey was no longer able to act on his own judgment. The senators who were with him in the camp considered that in Greece, as in Rome, they were the supreme rulers of the Roman Empire. All along they had held their sessions and their debates, and they had voted resolutions which they expected to see complied with. They had never liked Pompey. If Cicero was right in supposing that Pompey meant to be another Sylla, the senators had no intention of allowing it. They had gradually wrested his authority out of his hands, and reduced him to the condition of an officer of the Senatorial Directory. These gentlemen, more especially the two late consuls, Scipio and Lentulus, were persuaded that a single blow would now make an end of Caesar. His army was but half the size of theirs, without counting the Asiatic auxiliaries. The men, they were persuaded, were dispirited by defeat and worn out. So sure were they of victory that they were impatient of every day which delayed their return to Italy. They accused Pompey of protracting the war unnecessarily, that he might have the honor of commanding such distinguished persons as themselves. They had arranged everything that was to be done. Caesar and his band of cutthroats were in imagination already despatched. They had butchered hitherto every one of them who had fallen into their hands, and the same fate was designed for their political allies. They proposed to establish a senatorial court after their return to Italy, in which citizens of all kinds who had not actually fought on the Senate's side were to be brought up for trial. Those who should be proved to have been active for Caesar were to be at once killed, and their estates confiscated. Neutrals were to fare almost as badly, Not to have assisted the lawful rulers of the State was scarcely better than to have rebelled against them. They, too, were liable to death or forfeiture, or both. A third class of offenders was composed of those who had been within Pompey's lines, but had borne no part in the fighting. These cold-hearted friends were to be tried and punished according to the degree of their criminality. Cicero was the person pointed at in the last division. Cicero's clear judgment had shown him too clearly what was likely to be the result of a campaign conducted as he found it on his arrival, and he had spoken his thoughts with sarcastic freedom. The noble lords came next to a quarrel among themselves as to how the spoils of Caesar were to be divided. Domitius Ahenobarbus, Lentulus Spinther, and Scipio were unable to determine which of them was to succeed Caesar as Pontifex Maximus, and which was to have his palace and gardens in Rome. The Roman oligarchy were true to their character to the eve of their ruin. It was they, with their idle luxury, their hunger for lands and office and preferment, who had brought all this misery upon their country; and standing, as it were, at the very bar of judgment, with the sentence of destruction about to be pronounced upon them, their thoughts were still bent upon how to secure the largest share of plunder for themselves.

The battle of Pharsalia was not the most severe, still less was it the last, action of the war. But it acquired a special place in history, because it was a battle fought by the Roman aristocracy in their own persons in defence of their own supremacy. Senators and the sons of senators; the heirs of the names and fortunes of the ancient Roman families; the leaders of society in Roman saloons, and the chiefs of the political party of the optimates in the Curia and Forum, were here present on the field; representatives in person and in principle of the traditions of Sylla, brought face to face with the representative of Marius. Here were the men who had pursued Caesar through so many years with a hate so inveterate. Here were the haughty Patrician Guard, who had drawn their swords on him in the senate-house, young lords whose theory of life was to lounge through it in patrician insouciance. The other great actions were fought by the ignoble multitude whose deaths were of less significance. The plains of Pharsalia were watered by the precious blood of the elect of the earth. The battle there marked an epoch like no other in the history of the world.

For some days the two armies had watched each other's movements. Caesar, to give his men confidence, had again offered Pompey an opportunity of fighting. But Pompey had kept to positions where he could not be attacked. To draw him into more open ground, Caesar had shifted his camp continually. Pompey had followed cautiously, still remaining on his guard. His political advisers were impatient of these dilatory movements. They taunted him with cowardice. They insisted that he should set his foot on this insignificant adversary promptly and at once; and Pompey, gathering courage from their confidence, and trusting to his splendid cavalry, agreed at last to use the first occasion that presented itself.

One morning, on the Enipeus, near Larissa, the 9th of August, old style, or toward the end of May by real time, Caesar had broken up his camp and was preparing for his usual leisurely march, when he perceived a movement in Pompey's lines which told him that the moment which he had so long expected was come. Labienus, the evil genius of the Senate, who had tempted them into the war by telling them that his comrades were as disaffected as himself, and had fired Caesar's soldiers into intensified fierceness by his barbarities at Durazzo, had spoken the deciding word: "Believe not," Labienus had said, "that this is the army which defeated the Gauls and the Germans. I was in those battles, and what I say I know. That army has disappeared. Part fell in action; part perished of fever in the autumn in Italy. Many went home. Many were left behind unable to move. The men you see before you are levies newly drawn from the colonies beyond the Po. Of the veterans that were left, the best were killed at Durazzo."

A council of war had been held at dawn. There had been a solemn taking of oaths again. Labienus swore that he would not return to the camp except as a conqueror; so swore Pompey; so swore Lentulus, Scipio, Domitius; so swore all the rest. They had reason for their high spirits. Pompey had forty-seven thousand Roman infantry, not including his allies, and seven thousand cavalry. Caesar had but twenty-two thousand, and of horse only a thousand. Pompey's position was carefully chosen. His right wing was covered by the Enipeus, the opposite bank of which was steep and wooded. His left spread out into the open plain of Pharsalia. His plan of battle was to send forward his cavalry outside over the open ground, with clouds of archers and slingers, to scatter Caesar's horse, and then to wheel round and envelop his legions. Thus he had thought they would lose heart and scatter at the first shock. Caesar had foreseen what Pompey would attempt to do. His own scanty cavalry, mostly Gauls and Germans, would, he well knew, be unequal to the weight which would be thrown on them. He had trained an equal number of picked active men to fight in their ranks, and had thus doubled their strength. Fearing that this might be not enough, he had taken another precaution. The usual Roman formation in battle was in triple line. Caesar had formed a fourth line of cohorts specially selected to engage the cavalry; and on them, he said, in giving them their instructions, the result of the action would probably depend.

Pompey commanded on his own left with the two legions which he had taken from Caesar; outside him on the plain were his flying companies of Greeks and islanders, with the cavalry covering them. Caesar, with his favorite 10th, was opposite Pompey. His two faithful tribunes, Mark Antony and Cassius Longinus, led the left and centre. Servilia's son, Marcus Brutus, was in Pompey's army. Caesar had given special directions that Brutus, if recognized, should not be injured. Before the action began he spoke a few general words to such of his troops as could hear him. They all knew, he said, how earnestly he had sought for peace, how careful he had always been of his soldiers' lives, how unwilling to deprive the State of the services of any of her citizens, to whichever party they might belong. Crastinus, a centurion, of the 10th legion, already known to Caesar for his gallantry, called out, "Follow me, my comrades, and strike, and strike home, for your general. This one battle remains to be fought, and he will have his rights and we our liberty. General," he said, looking to Caesar, "I shall earn your thanks this day, dead or alive."

Pompey had ordered his first line to stand still to receive Caesar's charge. 5 They would thus be fresh, while the enemy would reach them exhausted--a mistake on Pompey's part, as Caesar thought; "for a fire and alacrity," he observes, "is kindled in all men when they meet in battle, and a wise general should rather encourage than repress their fervor."

The signal was given. Caesar's front rank advanced running. Seeing the Pompeians did not move, they halted, recovered breath, then rushed on, flung their darts, and closed sword in hand. At once Pompey's horse bore down, outflanking Caesar's right wing, with the archers behind and between them raining showers of arrows. Caesar's cavalry gave way before the shock, and the outer squadrons came wheeling round to the rear, expecting that there would be no one to encounter them. The fourth line, the pick and flower of the legions, rose suddenly in their way. Surprised and shaken by the fierceness of the attack on them, the Pompeians turned, they broke, they galloped wildly off. The best cavalry in those Roman battles were never a match for infantry when in close formation, and Pompey's brilliant squadrons were carpet-knights from the saloon and the circus. They never rallied, or tried to rally; they made off for the nearest hills. The archers were cut to pieces; and the chosen corps, having finished so easily the service for which they had been told off, threw themselves on the now exposed flank of Pompey's left wing. It was composed, as has been said, of the legions which had once been Caesar's, which had fought under him at the Vingeanne and at Alesia. They ill liked, perhaps, the change of masters, and were in no humor to stand the charge of their old comrades coming on with the familiar rush of victory. Caesar ordered up his third line, which had not yet been engaged; and at once on all sides Pompey's great army gave way, and fled. Pompey himself, the shadow of his old name, long harasssd out of self-respect by his senatorial directors, a commander only in appearance, had left the field in the beginning of the action. He had lost heart on the defeat of the cavalry, and had retired to his tent to wait the issue of the day.

The stream of fugitives pouring in told him too surely what the issue had been. He sprang upon his horse and rode off in despair. His legions were rushing back in confusion. Caesar, swift always at the right moment, gave the enemy no leisure to re-form, and fell at once upon the camp. It was noon, and the morning had been sultry; but heat and weariness were forgotten in the enthusiasm of a triumph which all then believed must conclude the war. A few companies of Thracians, who had been left on guard, made a brief resistance, but they were soon borne down. The beaten army, which a few hours before were sharing in imagination the lands and offices of their conquerors, fled out through the opposite gates, throwing away their arms, flinging down their standards, and racing, officers and men, for the rocky hills which at a mile's distance promised them shelter.

The camp itself was a singular picture. Houses of turf had been built for the luxurious patricians, with ivy trained over the entrances to shade their delicate faces from the summer sun; couches had been laid out for them to repose on after their expected victory; tables were spread with plate and wines, and the daintiest preparations of Roman cookery. Caesar commented on the scene with mournful irony. "And these men," he said, "accused my patient, suffering army, which had not even common necessaries, of dissoluteness and profligacy!"

Two hundred only of Caesar's men had fallen. The officers had suffered most. The gallant Crastinus, who had nobly fulfilled his promise, had been killed, among many others, in opening a way for his comrades. The Pompeians, after the first shock, had been cut down unresisting. Fifteen thousand of them lay scattered dead about the ground. There were few wounded in these battles. The short sword of the Romans seldom left its work unfinished.

"They would have it so," Caesar is reported to have said, as he looked sadly over the littered bodies in the familiar patrician dress. 6 "After all that I had done for my country, I, Caius Caesar, should have been condemned by them as a criminal if I had not appealed to my army."

[B.C. 48.] But Caesar did not wait to indulge in reflections. His object was to stamp the fire out on the spot, that it might never kindle again. More than half the Pompeians had reached the hills and were making for Larissa. Leaving part of his legions in the camp to rest, Caesar took the freshest the same evening, and by a rapid march cut off their line of retreat. The hills were waterless, the weather suffocating. A few of the guiltiest of the Pompeian leaders, Labienus, Lentulus, Afranius, Petreius, and Metellus Scipio (Cicero and Cato had been left at Durazzo), contrived to escape in the night. The rest, twenty-four thousand of them, surrendered at daylight. They came down praying for mercy, which they had never shown, sobbing out their entreaties on their knees that the measure which they had dealt to others might not be meted out to them. Then and always Caesar hated unnecessary cruelty, and never, if he could help it, allowed executions in cold blood. He bade them rise, said a few gentle words to relieve their fears, and sent them back to the camp. Domitius Ahenobarbus, believing that for him at least there could be no forgiveness, tried to escape, and was killed. The rest were pardoned.

So ended the battle of Pharsalia. A hundred and eighty standards were taken and all the eagles of Pompey's legions. In Pompey's own tent was found his secret correspondence, implicating persons, perhaps, whom Caesar had never suspected, revealing the mysteries of the past three years. Curiosity and even prudence might have tempted him to look into it. His only wish was that the past should be forgotten: he burnt the whole mass of papers unread.

Would the war now end? That was the question. Caesar thought that it would not end as long as Pompey was at large. The feelings of others may be gathered out of abridgments from Cicero's letters:

Cicero to Plancius. 7

"Victory on one side meant massacre, on the other slavery. It consoles me to remember that I foresaw these things, and as much feared the success of our cause as the defeat of it. I attached myself to Pompey's party more in hope of peace than from desire of war; but I saw, if we had the better, how cruel would be the triumph of an exasperated, avaricious, and insolent set of men; if we were defeated, how many of our wealthiest and noblest citizens must fall. Yet when I argued thus and offered my advice I was taunted for being a coward."

Cicero to Caius Cassius. 8

"We were both opposed to a continuance of the war [after Pharsalia]. I, perhaps, more than you; but we agreed that one battle should be accepted as decisive, if not of the whole cause, yet of our own judgment upon it. Nor were there any who differed from us save those who thought it better that the Constitution should be destroyed altogether than be preserved with diminished prerogatives. For myself I could hope nothing from the overthrow of it, and much if a remnant could be saved.... And I thought it likely that, after that decisive battle, the victors would consider the welfare of the public, and that the vanquished would consider their own."

To Varro. 9

"You were absent [at the critical moment]. I for myself perceived that our friends wanted war, and that Caesar did not want it, but was not afraid of it. Thus much of human purpose was in the matter. The rest came necessarily; for one side or the other would, of course, conquer. You and I both grieved to see how the State would suffer from the loss of either army and its generals; we knew that victory in a civil war was itself a most miserable disaster. I dreaded the success of those to whom I had attached myself. They threatened most cruelly those who had stayed quietly at home. Your sentiments and my speeches were alike hateful to them. If our side had won, they would have shown no forbearance."

To Marcus Marius. 10

"When you met me on the 13th of May (49), you were anxious about the part which I was to take. If I stayed in Italy, you feared that I should be wanting in duty. To go to the war you thought dangerous for me. I was myself so disturbed that I could not tell what it was best for me to do. I consulted my reputation, however, more than my safety; and if I afterwards repented of my decision it was not for the peril to myself, but on account of the state of things which I found on my arrival at Pompey's camp. His forces were not very considerable, nor good of their kind. For the chiefs, if I except the general and a few others, they were rapacious in their conduct of the war, and so savage in their language that I dreaded to see them victorious. The most considerable among them were overwhelmed with debt. There was nothing good about them but their cause. I despaired of success and recommended peace. When Pompey would not hear of it, I advised him to protract the war. This for the time he approved, and he might have continued firm but for the confidence which he gathered from the battle at Durazzo. From that day the great man ceased to be a general. With a raw and inexperienced army he engaged legions in perfect discipline. On the defeat he basely deserted his camp and fled by himself. For me this was the end: I retired from a war in which the only alternatives before me were either to be killed in action or be taken prisoner, or fly to Juba in Africa, or hide in exile, or destroy myself."

To Caecina. 11

"I would tell you my prophecies but that you would think I had made them after the event. But many persons can bear me witness that I first warned Pompey against attaching himself to Caesar, and then against quarrelling with him. Their union (I said) had broken the power of the Senate; their discord would cause a civil war. I was intimate with Caesar; I was most attached to Pompey; but my advice was for the good of them both.... I thought that Pompey ought to go to Spain. Had he done so, the war would not have been. I did not so much insist that Caesar could legally stand for the consulship as that his name should be accepted, because the people had so ordered at Pompey's own instance. I advised, I entreated. I preferred the most unfair peace to the most righteous war. I was overborne, not so much by Pompey (for on him I produced an effect) as by men who relied on Pompey's leadership to win them a victory, which would be convenient for their personal interests and private ambitions. No misfortune has happened in the war which I did not predict."

[1] To Atticus, ix. 18.

[2] "Tullia bids me wait till I see how things go in Spain, and she says you are of the same opinion. The advice would be good, if I could adapt my conduct to the issue of events there. But one of three alternatives must happen. Either Caesar will be driven back, which would please me best, or the war will be protracted, or he will be completely victorious. If he is defeated, Pompey will thank me little for joining him. Curio himself will then go over to him. If the war hangs on, how long am I to wait? If Caesar conquers, it is thought we may then have peace. But I consider, on the other hand, that it would be more decent to forsake Caesar in success than when beaten and in difficulties. The victory of Caesar means massacre, confiscation, recall of exiles, a clean sweep of debts, every worst man raised to honor, and a rule which not only a Roman citizen but a Persian could not endure.... Pompey will not lay down his arms for the loss of Spain; he holds with Themistocles that those who are masters at sea will be the victors in the end. He has neglected Spain. He has given all his care to his ships. When the time comes he will return to Italy with an overwhelming fleet. And what will he say to me if he finds me still sitting here?--Let alone duty, I must think of the danger.... Every course has its perils; but I should surely avoid a course which is both ignominious and perilous also.

"I did not accompany Pompey when he went himself? I could not. I had not time. And yet, to confess the truth, I made a mistake which, perhaps, I should not have made. I thought there would be peace, and I would not have Caesar angry with me after he and Pompey had become friends again. Thus I hesitated; but I can overtake my fault if I lose no more time, and I am lost if I delay.--I see that Caesar cannot stand long. He will fall of himself if we do nothing. When his affairs were most flourishing, he became unpopular with the hungry rabble of the city in six or seven days. He could not keep up the mask. His harshness to Metellus destroyed his credit for clemency, and his taking money from the treasury destroyed his reputation for riches.

"As to his followers, how can men govern provinces who cannot manage their own affairs for two months together? Such a monarchy could not last half a year. The wisest men have miscalculated.... If that is my case, I must bear the reproach ... but I am sure it will be as I say. Caesar will fall, either by his enemies or by himself, who is his worst enemy.... I hope I may live to see it, though you and I should be thinking more of the other life than of this transitory one: but so it come, no matter whether I see it or foresee it."--To Atticus, x. 8.

[3] "Nam hic nunc praeter foeneratores paucos nec homo nec ordo quisquam est nisi Pompeianus. Equidem jam effeci ut maxime plebs et qui antea noster fuit populus vester esset."--Caelius to Cicero, Ad Fam., viii. 71.

[4] Caesar says nothing of his putting to sea in a boat, meaning to go over in person, and being driven back by the weather. The story is probably no more than one of the picturesque additions to reality made by men who find truth too tame for them.

[5] I follow Caesar's own account of the action. Appian is minutely circumstantial, and professes to describe from the narratives of eye- witnesses. But his story varies so far from Caesar's as to be irreconcilable with it, and Caesar's own authority is incomparably the best.

[6] Suetonius, quoting from Asinius Pollio, who was present at the battle.

[7] Ad Familiares, iv. 14.

[8] Ibid., xv. 15.

[9] Ad Fam., ix. 6.

[10] Ibid., vii. 3.

[11] Ad Fam., vi. 6.


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