Julius Caesar




Roman Civil War

Seizing Caesar's officers when they could find them, they put them invariably to death without remorse.

Annourbis.com > Julius Caesar > Chapter 24

CHAPTER XXIV.

Cicero considered that the Civil War ought to have ended with Pharsalia; and in this opinion most reasonable men among the conservatives were agreed. They had fought one battle; and it had gone against them. To continue the struggle might tear the Empire to pieces, but could not retrieve a lost cause; and prudence and patriotism alike recommended submission to the verdict of fortune. It is probable that this would have been the result, could Caesar have returned to Italy immediately after his victory. Cicero himself refused to participate in further resistance. Cato offered him a command at Corcyra, but he declined it with a shudder, and went back to Brindisi; and all but those whose consciences forbade them to hope for pardon, or who were too proud to ask for it, at first followed his example. Scipio, Cato, Labienus, Afranius, Petreius, were resolute to fight on to the last; but even they had no clear outlook, and they wandered about the Mediterranean, uncertain what to do, or whither to turn. Time went on, however, and Caesar did not appear. Rumor said at one time that he was destroyed at Alexandria. The defeat of Calvinus by Pharnaces was an ascertained fact. Spain was in confusion.

The roman Civil War

The legions in Italy were disorganized, and society, or the wealthy part of society, threatened by the enemies of property, began to call for some one to save it. All was not lost. Pompey's best generals were still living. His sons, Sextus and Cnaeus, were brave and able. The fleet was devoted to them and to their father's cause, and Caesar's officers had failed, in his absence, to raise a naval force which could show upon the sea. Africa was a convenient rallying point. Since Curio's defeat, King Juba had found no one to dispute his supremacy, and between Juba and the aristocracy who were bent on persisting in the war, an alliance was easily formed. While Caesar was perilling his own interest to remain in Asia to crush Pharnaces, Metellus Scipio was offering a barbarian chief the whole of Roman Africa, as the price of his assistance, in a last effort to reverse the fortune of Pharsalia. Under these scandalous conditions, Scipio, Labienus, Cato, Afranius, Petreius, Faustus Sylla, the son of the Dictator, Lucius Caesar, and the rest of the irreconcilables, made Africa their new centre of operations. Here they gathered to themselves the inheritors of the Syllan traditions, and made raids on the Italian coasts and into Sicily and Sardinia. Seizing Caesar's officers when they could find them, they put them invariably to death without remorse. Cicero protested honorably against the employment of treacherous savages, even for so sacred a cause as the defence of the constitution; 1 but Cicero was denounced as a traitor seeking favor with the conqueror, and the desperate work went on. Caesar's long detention in the East gave the confederates time. The young Pompeys were strong at sea. From Italy there was an easy passage for adventurous disaffection. The shadow of a Pompeian Senate sat once more, passing resolutions, at Utica; while Cato was busy organizing an army, and had collected as many as thirteen legions out of the miscellaneous elements which drifted in to him. Caesar had sent orders to Cassius Longinus to pass into Africa from Spain, and break up these combinations; but Longinus had been at war with his own provincials. He had been driven out of the Peninsula, and had lost his own life in leaving it. Caesar, like Cicero, had believed that the war had ended at Pharsalia. He found that the heads of the Hydra had sprouted again, and were vomiting the old fire and fury. Little interest could it give Caesar to match his waning years against the blinded hatred of his countrymen. Ended the strife must be, however, before order could be restored in Italy, and wretched men take up again the quiet round of industry. Heavy work had to be done in Rome. Caesar was consul now--annual consul, with no ten years' interval any longer possible. Consul, dictator, whatever name the people gave him, he alone held the reins; he alone was able to hold them. Credit had to be restored; debtors had to be brought to recognize their liabilities. Property had fallen in value since the Civil Wars, and securities had to be freshly estimated. The Senate required reformation; men of fidelity and ability were wanted for the public offices. Pompey and Pompey's friends would have drowned Italy in blood. Caesar disappointed expectation by refusing to punish any one of his political opponents. He killed no one. He deprived no one of his property. He even protected the money-lenders, and made the Jews his constant friends. Debts he insisted must be paid, bonds fulfilled, the rights of property respected, no matter what wild hopes imagination might have indulged in. Something only he remitted of the severity of interest, and the poor in the city were allowed their lodgings rent free for a year.

He restored quiet, and gave as much satisfaction as circumstances permitted. His real difficulty was with the legions, who had come back from Greece. They had deserved admirably well, but they were unfortunately over-conscious of their merits. Ill-intentioned officers had taught them to look for extravagant rewards. Their expectations had not been fulfilled; and when they supposed that their labors were over, they received orders to prepare for a campaign in Africa. Sallust, the historian, was in command of their quarters in Campania. They mutinied, and almost killed him. He fled to Rome. The soldiers of the favored 10th legion pursued him to the gates, and demanded speech with Caesar. He bade them come to him, and with his usual fearlessness told them to bring their swords.

The army was Caesar's life. In the army lay the future of Rome, if Rome was to have a future. There, if anywhere, the national spirit survived. It was a trying moment; but there was a calmness in Caesar, a rising from a profound indifference to what man or fortune could give or take from him, which no extremity could shake.

The legionaries entered the city, and Caesar directed them to state their complaints. They spoke of their services and their sufferings. They said that they had been promised rewards, but their rewards so far had been words, and they asked for their discharge. They did not really wish for it. They did not expect it. But they supposed that Caesar could not dispense with them, and that they might dictate their own terms.

During the wars in Gaul, Caesar had been most munificent to his soldiers. He had doubled their ordinary pay. He had shared the spoils of his conquests with them. Time and leisure had alone been wanting to him to recompense their splendid fidelity in the campaigns in Spain and Greece. He had treated them as his children; no commander had ever been more careful of his soldiers' lives; when addressing the army he had called them always "commilitones," "comrades," "brothers-in-arms."

The familiar word was now no longer heard from him. "You say well, quirites," 2 he answered; "you have labored hard, and you have suffered much; you desire your discharge--you have it. I discharge you who are present. I discharge all who have served their time. You shall have your recompense. It shall never be said of me that I made use of you when I was in danger, and was ungrateful to you when the peril was past."

"Quirites" he had called them; no longer Roman legionaries, proud of their achievements, and glorying in their great commander, but "quirites"--plain citizens. The sight of Caesar, the familiar form and voice, the words, every sentence of which they knew that he meant, cut them to the heart. They were humbled, they begged to be forgiven. They said they would go with him to Africa, or to the world's end. He did not at once accept their penitence. He told them that lands had been allotted to every soldier out of the ager publicus, or out of his own personal estates. Suetonius says that the sections had been carefully taken so as not to disturb existing occupants; and thus it appeared that he had been thinking of them and providing for them when they supposed themselves forgotten. Money, too, he had ready for each, part in hand, part in bonds bearing interest, to be redeemed when the war should be over. Again, passionately, they implored to be allowed to continue with him. He relented, but not entirely.

"Let all go who wish to go," he said; "I will have none serve with me who serve unwillingly."

"All, all!" they cried; "not one of us will leave you"--and not one went. The mutiny was the greatest peril, perhaps, to which Caesar had ever been exposed. No more was said; but Caesar took silent notice of the officers who had encouraged the discontented spirit. In common things, Dion Cassius says, he was the kindest and most considerate of commanders. He passed lightly over small offences; but military rebellion in those who were really responsible he never forgave.

[B.C. 46.] The African business could now be attended to. It was again midwinter. Winter campaigns were trying, but Caesar had hitherto found them answer to him; the enemy had suffered more than himself; while, as long as an opposition Senate was sitting across the Mediterranean, intrigue and conspiracy made security impossible at home. Many a false spirit now fawning at home on Caesar was longing for his destruction. The army with which he would have to deal was less respectable than that which Pompey had commanded at Durazzo, but it was numerically as strong or stronger. Cato, assisted by Labienus, had formed into legions sixty thousand Italians. They had a hundred and twenty elephants, and African cavalry in uncounted multitudes. Caesar perhaps despised an enemy too much whom he had so often beaten. He sailed from Lilybaeum on the 19th of December, with a mere handful of men, leaving the rest of his troops to follow as they could. No rendezvous had been positively fixed, for between the weather and the enemy it was uncertain where the troops would be able to land, and the generals of the different divisions were left to their discretion. Caesar on arriving seized and fortified a defensible spot at Ruspinum. 3 The other legions dropped in slowly, and before a third of them had arrived the enemy were swarming about the camp, while the Pompeys were alert on the water to seize stray transports or provision ships. There was skirmishing every day in front of Caesar's lines. The Numidian horse surrounded his thin cohorts like swarms of hornets. Labienus himself rode up on one occasion to a battalion which was standing still under a shower of arrows, and asked in mockery who they were. A soldier of the 10th legion lifted his cap that his face might be recognized, hurled his javelin for answer, and brought Labienus's horse to the ground. But courage was of no avail in the face of overwhelming numbers. Scipio's army collected faster than Caesar's, and Caesar's young soldiers showed some uneasiness in a position so unexpected. Caesar, however, was confident and in high spirits. 4 Roman residents in the African province came gradually in to him, and some African tribes, out of respect, it was said, for the memory of Marius. A few towns declared against the Senate in indignation at Scipio's promise that the province was to be abandoned to Juba. Scipio replied with burning the Roman country houses and wasting the lands, and still killing steadily every friend of Caesar that he could lay hands on. Caesar's steady clemency had made no difference. The senatorial faction went on as they had begun till at length their ferocity was repaid upon them.

The reports from the interior became unbearable. Caesar sent an impatient message to Sicily that, storm or calm, the remaining legions must come to him, or not a house would be left standing in the province. The officers were no longer what they had been. The men came, but bringing only their arms and tools, without change of clothes and without tents, though it was the rainy season. Good will and good hearts, however, made up for other shortcomings. Deserters dropped in thick from the Senate's army. King Juba, it appeared, had joined them, and Roman pride had been outraged, when Juba had been seen taking precedence in the council of war, and Metellus Scipio exchanging his imperial purple in the royal presence for a plain dress of white.

[April 6, B.C. 46.] The time of clemency was past. Publius Ligarius was taken in a skirmish. He had been one of the captives at Lerida who had given his word to serve no further in the war. He was tried for breaking his engagement, and was put to death. Still, Scipio's army kept the field in full strength, the loss by desertions being made up by fresh recruits sent from Utica by Cato. Caesar's men flinched from facing the elephants, and time was lost while other elephants were fetched from Italy, that they might handle them and grow familiar with them. Scipio had been taught caution by the fate of Pompey, and avoided a battle, and thus three months wore away before a decisive impression had been made. But the clear dark eyes of the conqueror of Pharsalia had taken the measure of the situation and comprehended the features of it. By this time he had an effective squadron of ships, which had swept off Pompey's cruisers; and if Scipio shrank from an engagement it was possible to force him into it. A division of Scipio's troops were in the peninsula of Thapsus. 5 If Thapsus was blockaded at sea and besieged by land, Scipio would be driven to come to its relief, and would have to fight in the open country. Caesar occupied the neck of the peninsula, and the result was what he knew it must be. Scipio and Juba came down out of the hills with their united armies. Their legions were beginning to form intrenchments, and Caesar was leisurely watching their operations, when at the sight of the enemy an irresistible enthusiasm ran through his lines. The cry rose for instant attack; and Caesar, yielding willingly to the universal impulse, sprang on his horse and led the charge in person. There was no real fighting. The elephants which Scipio had placed in front wheeled about and plunged back into the camp, trumpeting and roaring. The vallum was carried at a rush, and afterward there was less a battle than a massacre. Officers and men fled for their lives like frightened antelopes, or flung themselves on their knees for mercy. This time no mercy was shown. The deliberate cruelty with which the war had been carried on had done its work at last. The troops were savage, and killed every man that they overtook. Caesar tried to check the carnage, but his efforts were unavailing. The leaders escaped for the time by the speed of their horses. They scattered with a general purpose of making for Spain. Labienus reached it, but few besides him. Afranius and Faustus Sylla with a party of cavalry galloped to Utica, which they expected to hold till one of the Pompeys could bring vessels to take them off. The Utican towns-people had from the first shown an inclination for Caesar. Neither they nor any other Romans in Africa liked the prospect of being passed over to the barbarians.

[B.C. 46.] Cowards smarting under defeat are always cruel. The fugitives from Thapsus found that Utica would not be available for their purpose, and in revenge they began to massacre the citizens. Cato was still in the town. Cato was one of those better natured men whom revolution yokes so often with base companionship. He was shocked at the needless cruelty, and bribed the murderous gang to depart. They were taken soon afterward by Caesar's cavalry. Afranius and Sylla were brought into the camp as prisoners. There was a discussion in the camp as to what was to be done with them. Caesar wished to be lenient, but the feeling in the legions was too strong. The system of pardons could not be continued in the face of hatred so envenomed. The two commanders were executed; Caesar contenting himself with securing Sylla's property for his wife, Pompeia, the great Pompey's daughter. Cato Caesar was most anxious to save; but Cato's enmity was so ungovernable that he grudged Caesar the honor of forgiving him. His animosity had been originally the natural antipathy which a man of narrow understanding instinctively feels for a man of genius. It had been converted by perpetual disappointment into a monomania, and Caesar had become to him the incarnation of every quality and every principle which he most abhorred. Cato was upright, unselfish, incorruptibly pure in deed and word; but he was a fanatic whom no experience could teach, and he adhered to his convictions with the more tenacity, because fortune or the disposition of events so steadily declared them to be mistaken. He would have surrendered Caesar to the Germans as a reward for having driven them back over the Rhine. He was one of those who were most eager to impeach him for the acts of his consulship, though the acts themselves were such as, if they had been done by another, he would himself have most warmly approved; and he was tempted by personal dislike to attach himself to men whose object was to reimpose upon his country a new tyranny of Sylla. His character had given respectability to a cause which, if left to its proper defenders, would have appeared in its natural baseness, and thus on him rested the responsibility for the color of justice in which it was disguised. That after all which had passed he should be compelled to accept his pardon at Caesar's hands was an indignity to which he could not submit, and before the conqueror could reach Utica he fell upon his sword and died. Ultimus Romanorum has been the epitaph which posterity has written on the tomb of Cato. Nobler Romans than he lived after him; and a genuine son of the old Republic would never have consented to surrender an imperial province to a barbarian prince. But at least he was an open enemy. He would not, like his nephew Brutus, have pretended to be Caesar's friend, that he might the more conveniently drive a dagger into his side.

The rest of the party was broken up. Scipio sailed for Spain, but was driven back by foul weather into Hippo, where he was taken and killed. His correspondence was found and taken to Caesar, who burnt it unread, as he had burnt Pompey's. The end of Juba and Petreius had a wild splendor about it. They had fled together from Thapsus to Zama, Juba's own principal city, and they were refused admission. Disdaining to be taken prisoners, as they knew they inevitably would be, they went to a country house in the neighborhood belonging to the king. There, after a last sumptuous banquet, they agreed to die like warriors by each other's hand. Juba killed Petreius, and then ran upon his own sword.

So the actors in the drama were passing away. Domitius, Pompey, Lentulus, Ligarius, Metellus Scipio, Afranius, Cato, Petreius, had sunk into bloody graves. Labienus had escaped clear from the battle; and knowing that if Caesar himself would pardon him Caesar's army never would, he made his way to Spain, where one last desperate hope remained. The mutinous legions of Cassius Longinus had declared for the Senate. Some remnants of Pompey's troops who had been dismissed after Lerida had been collected again and joined them; and these, knowing, as Labienus knew, that they had sinned beyond forgiveness, were prepared to fight to the last and die at bay.

One memorable scene in the African campaign must not be forgotten. While Caesar was in difficulty at Ruspinum, and was impatiently waiting for his legions from Sicily, there arrived a general officer of the 10th, named Caius Avienus, who had occupied the whole of one of the transports with his personal servants, horses, and other conveniences, and had not brought with him a single soldier. Avienus had been already privately noted by Caesar as having been connected with the mutiny in Campania. His own habits in the field were simple in the extreme, and he hated to see his officers self-indulgent. He used the opportunity to make an example of him and of one or two others at the same time.

He called his tribunes and centurions together. "I could wish," he said, "that certain persons would have remembered for themselves parts of their past conduct which, though I overlooked them, were known to me; I could wish they would have atoned for these faults by special attention to their duties. As they have not chosen to do this, I must make an example of them as a warning to others.

"You, Caius Avienus, instigated soldiers in the service of the State to mutiny against their commanders. You oppressed towns which were under your charge. Forgetting your duty to the army and to me, you filled a vessel with your own establishment which was intended for the transport of troops; and at a difficult moment we were thus left, through your means, without the men whom we needed. For these causes, and as a mark of disgrace, I dismiss you from the service, and I order you to leave Africa by the first ship which sails.

"You, Aulus Fonteius [another tribune], have been a seditious and a bad officer. I dismiss you also.

"You, Titus Salienus, Marcus Tiro, Caius Clusinas, centurions, obtained your commissions by favor, not by merit. You have shown want of courage in the field; your conduct otherwise has been uniformly bad; you have encouraged a mutinous spirit in your companies. You are unworthy to serve under my command. You are dismissed, and will return to Italy."

The five offenders were sent under guard on board ship, each noticeably being allowed a single slave to wait upon him, and so were expelled from the country.

This remarkable picture of Caesar's method of enforcing discipline is described by a person who was evidently present; 6 and it may be taken as a correction to the vague stories of his severity to these officers which are told by Dion Cassius.

[1] To Atticus, xi. 7.

[2] Citizens.

[3] Where the African coast turns south from Cape Bon.

[4] "Animum enim altum et erectum prae se gerebat."--De Bello Africano.

[5] Between Carthage and Utica.

[6] De Bella Africano, c. 54. This remarkably interesting narrative is attached to Caesar's Commentaries. The author is unknown.


Back - Next








caesar
Advertisements: