Julius Caesar

Caesar Consolidates His Power

Caesar once more in Rome.--General Amnesty.--The Surviving Optimates pretend to submit.--Increase in the Number of Senators.--Introduction of Foreigners.--New Colonies.--Carthage.--Corinth.--Sumptuary Regulations.-- Digest of the Law.--Intended Parthian War.

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Caesar came back to Rome to resume the suspended work of practical reform. His first care was to remove the fears which the final spasm of rebellion had again provoked. He had already granted an amnesty. But the optimates were conscious that they had desired and hoped that the Pompeys might be victorious in Spain. Caesar invited the surviving leaders of the party to sue for pardon on not unbecoming conditions. Hitherto they had kept no faith with him, and on the first show of opportunity had relapsed into defiance. His forbearance had been attributed to want of power rather than of will to punish; when they saw him again triumphant, they assumed that the representative of the Marian principles would show at last the colors of his uncle, and that Rome would again run with blood. He knew them all. He knew that they hated him, and would continue to hate him; but he supposed that they had recognized the hopelessness and uselessness of farther conspiracy. By destroying him they would fall only under the rod of less scrupulous conquerors; and therefore he was content that they should ask to be forgiven. To show further that the past was really to be forgotten, he drew no distinction between his enemies and his friends, and he recommended impartially for office those whose rank or services to the State entitled them to look for promotion. Thus he pardoned and advanced Caius Cassius, who would have killed him in Cilicia. 1 But Cassius had saved Syria from being overrun by the Parthians after the death of Crassus; and the service to the State outweighed the injury to himself. So he pardoned and advanced Marcus Brutus, his friend Servilia's son, who had fought against him at Pharsalia, and had been saved from death there by his special orders. So he pardoned and protected Cicero; so Marcus Marcellus, who, as consul, had moved that he should be recalled from his government, and had flogged the citizen of Como, in scorn of the privileges which Caesar had granted to the colony. So he pardoned also Quintus Ligarius, 2 who had betrayed his confidence in Africa; so a hundred others, who now submitted, accepted his favors, and bound themselves to plot against him no more. To the widows and children of those who had fallen in the war he restored the estates and honors of their families. Finally, as some were still sullen, and refused to sue for a forgiveness which might imply an acknowledgment of guilt, he renewed the general amnesty of the previous year; and, as a last evidence that his victory was not the triumph of democracy, but the consolidation of a united Empire, he restored the statues of Sylla and Pompey, which had been thrown down in the revolution, and again dedicated them with a public ceremonial.

Caesar's Plans for a War Against Parthia

Having thus proved that, so far as he was concerned, he nourished no resentment against the persons of the optimates, or against their principles, so far as they were consistent with the future welfare of the Roman State, Caesar set himself again to the reorganization of the administration. Unfortunately, each step that he took was a fresh crime in the eyes of men whose pleasant monopoly of power he had overthrown. But this was a necessity of the revolution. They had fought for their supremacy, and had lost the day.

He increased the number of the Senate to nine hundred, filling its ranks from eminent provincials; introducing even barbarian Gauls, and, still worse, libertini, the sons of liberated slaves, who had risen to distinction by their own merit. The new members came in slowly, and it is needless to say were unwillingly received; a private handbill was sent round, recommending the coldest of greetings to them. 3

The inferior magistrates were now responsible to himself as Dictator. He added to their numbers also, and to check the mischiefs of the annual elections, he ordered that they should be chosen for three years. He cut short the corn grants, which nursed the city mob in idleness; and from among the impoverished citizens he furnished out masses of colonists to repair the decay of ancient cities. Corinth rose from its ashes under Caesar's care. Eighty thousand Italians were settled down on the site of Carthage. As inspector of morals, Caesar inherited in an invigorated form the power of the censors. Senators and officials who had discredited themselves by dishonesty were ruthlessly degraded. His own private habits and the habits of his household were models of frugality. He made an effort, in which Augustus afterward imitated him, to check the luxury which was eating into the Roman character. He forbade the idle young patricians to be carried about by slaves in litters. The markets of the world had been ransacked to provide dainties for these gentlemen. He appointed inspectors to survey the dealers' stalls, and occasionally prohibited dishes were carried off from the dinner table under the eyes of the disappointed guests, 4 Enemies enough Caesar made by these measures; but it could not be said of him that he allowed indulgences to himself which he interdicted to others. His domestic economy was strict and simple, the accounts being kept to a sesterce. His frugality was hospitable. He had two tables always, one for his civilian friends, another for his officers, who dined in uniform. The food was plain, but the best of its kind; and he was not to be played with in such matters. An unlucky baker who supplied his guests with bread of worse quality than he furnished for himself was put in chains. Against moral offences he was still more severe. He, the supposed example of licentiousness with women, executed his favorite freedman for adultery with a Roman lady. A senator had married a woman two days after her divorce from her first husband; Caesar pronounced the marriage void.

[B.C. 45-44.] Law reforms went on. Caesar appointed a commission to examine the huge mass of precedents, reduce them to principles, and form a Digest. He called in Marcus Varro's help to form libraries in the great towns. He encouraged physicians and men of science to settle in Rome, by offering them the freedom of the city. To maintain the free population of Italy, he required the planters and farmers to employ a fixed proportion of free laborers on their estates. He put an end to the pleasant tours of senators at the expense of the provinces; their proper place was Italy, and he allowed them to go abroad only when they were in office or in the service of the governors. He formed large engineering plans, a plan to drain the Pontine marches and the Fucine lake, a plan to form a new channel for the Tiber, another to improve the roads, another to cut the Isthmus of Corinth. These were his employments during the few months of life which were left to him after the close of the war. His health was growing visibly weaker, but his superhuman energy remained unimpaired. He was even meditating and was making preparation for a last campaign. The authority of Rome on the eastern frontier had not recovered from the effects of the destruction of the army of Crassus. The Parthians were insolent and aggressive. Caesar had determined to go in person to bring them to their senses as soon as he could leave Rome. Partly, it was said that he felt his life would be safer with the troops; partly, he desired to leave the administration free from his overpowering presence, that it might learn to go alone; partly and chiefly, he wished to spend such time as might remain to him where he could do most service to his country. But he was growing weary of the thankless burden. He was heard often to say that he had lived long enough. Men of high nature do not find the task of governing their fellow-creatures particularly delightful.

The Senate meanwhile was occupied in showing the sincerity of their conversion by inventing honors for their new master, and smothering him with distinctions since they had failed to defeat him in the field. Few recruits had yet joined them, and they were still substantially the old body. They voted Caesar the name of Liberator. They struck medals for him, in which he was described as Pater Patriae, an epithet which Cicero had once with quickened pulse heard given to himself by Pompey. "Imperator" had been a title conferred hitherto by soldiers in the field on a successful general. It was now granted to Caesar in a special sense, and was made hereditary in his family, with the command-in-chief of the army for his life. The Senate gave him also the charge of the treasury. They made him consul for ten years. Statues were to be erected to him in the temples, on the Rostra, and in the Capitol, where he was to stand as an eighth among the seven Kings of Rome. In the excess of their adoration, they desired even to place his image in the Temple of Quirinus himself, with an inscription to him as [Greek: Theos animaetos], the invincible god. Golden chairs, gilt chariots, triumphal robes were piled one upon another with laurelled fasces and laurelled wreaths. His birthday was made a perpetual holiday, and the month Quinctilis 5 was renamed, in honor of him, July. A temple to Concord was to be erected in commemoration of his clemency. His person was declared sacred, and to injure him by word or deed was to be counted sacrilege. The Fortune of Caesar was introduced into the constitutional oath, and the Senate took a solemn pledge to maintain his acts inviolate. Finally, they arrived at a conclusion that he was not a man at all; no longer Caius Julius, but Divus Julius, a god or the son of god. A temple was to be built to Caesar as another Quirinus, and Antony was to be his priest.

Caesar knew the meaning of all this. He must accept their flattery and become ridiculous, or he must appear to treat with contumely the Senate which offered it. The sinister purpose started occasionally into sight. One obsequious senator proposed that every woman in Rome should be at his disposition, and filthy libels against him were set floating under the surface. The object, he perfectly understood, "was to draw him into a position more and more invidious, that he might the sooner perish." 6 The praise and the slander of such men were alike indifferent to him. So far as he was concerned, they might call him what they pleased; god in public, and devil in their epigrams, if it so seemed good to them. It was difficult for him to know precisely how to act, but he declined his divine honors; and he declined the ten years' consulship. Though he was sole consul for the year, he took a colleague, and when his colleague died on the last day of office, he named another, that the customary forms might be observed. Let him do what he would, malice still misconstrued him. Cicero, the most prominent now of his senatorial flatterers, was the sharpest with his satire behind the scenes. "Caesar," he said, "had given so active a consul that there was no sleeping under him." 7

Caesar was more and more weary of it. He knew that the Senate hated him; he knew that they would kill him, if they could. All these men whose lips were running over with adulation, were longing to drive their daggers into him. He was willing to live, if they would let him live; but, for himself, he had ceased to care about it. He disdained to take precautions against assassination. On his first return from Spain, he had been attended by a guard; but he dismissed it in spite of the remonstrances of his friends, and went daily into the senate-house alone and unarmed. He spoke often of his danger with entire openness; but he seemed to think that he had some security in the certainty that, if he was murdered, the Civil War would break out again, as if personal hatred was ever checked by fear of consequences. It was something to feel that he had not lived in vain. The Gauls were settling into peaceful habits. The soil of Gaul was now as well cultivated as Italy. Barges loaded with merchandise were passing freely along the Rhone and the Saōne, the Loire, the Moselle, and the Rhine. 8 The best of the chiefs were made senators of Rome, and the people were happy and contented. What he had done for Gaul he might, if he lived, do for Spain, and Africa, and the East. But it was the concern of others more than of himself. "Better," he said, "to die at once than live in perpetual dread of treason."

[B.C. 44.] But Caesar was aware that conspiracies were being formed against him; and that he spoke freely of his danger, appears from a speech delivered in the middle of the winter by Cicero in Caesar's presence. It has been seen that Cicero had lately spoken of Caesar's continuance in life as a disgrace to the State. It has been seen also that he had long thought of assassination as the readiest means of ending it. He asserted afterward that he had not been consulted when the murder was actually accomplished; but the perpetrators were assured of his approbation, and when Caesar was killed he deliberately claimed for himself a share of the guilt, if guilt there could be in what he regarded as the most glorious achievement in human history, 9 It maybe assumed, therefore, that Cicero's views upon the subject had remained unchanged since the beginning of the Civil War, and that his sentiments were no secret among his intimate friends.

Cicero is the second great figure in the history of the time. He has obtained the immortality which he so much desired, and we are, therefore, entitled and obliged to scrutinize his conduct with a niceness which would be ungracious and unnecessary in the case of a less distinguished man. After Pharsalia he had concluded that the continuance of the war would be unjustifiable. He had put himself in communication with Antony and Caesar's friend and secretary Oppius, and at their advice he went from Greece to Brindisi, to remain there till Caesar's pleasure should be known. He was very miserable. He had joined Pompey with confessed reluctance, and family quarrels had followed on Pompey's defeat. His brother Quintus, whom he had drawn away from Caesar, regretted having taken his advice. His sons and nephews were equally querulous and dissatisfied; and for himself, he dared not appear in the streets of Brindisi, lest Caesar's soldiers should insult or injure him. Antony, however, encouraged him to hope. He assured him that Caesar was well disposed to him, and would not only pardon him, but would show him every possible favor, 10 and with these expectations he contrived for a while to comfort himself. He had regarded the struggle as over, and Caesar's side as completely victorious. But gradually the scene seemed to change. Caesar was long in returning. The optimates rallied in Africa, and there was again a chance that they might win after all. His first thought was always for himself. If the constitution survived under Caesar, as he was inclined to think that in some shape it would, he had expected that a place would be found in it for him. 11 But how if Caesar himself should not survive? How if he should be killed in Alexandria? How if he should be defeated by Metellus Scipio? He described himself as excruciated with anxiety. 12 Through the year which followed he wavered from day to day as the prospect varied, now cursing his folly for having followed the Senate to Greece, now for having deserted them, blaming himself at one time for his indecision, at another for having committed himself to either side. 13

Gradually his alarms subsided. The Senate's party was finally overthrown. Caesar wrote to him affectionately, and allowed him to retain his title as Imperator. When it appeared that he had nothing personally to fear, he recovered his spirits, and he recovered along with them a hope that the constitution might be restored, after all, by other means than war. "Caesar could not live forever, and there were many ways in which a man might die."

Caesar had dined with him in the country, on his way home from Spain. He had been as kind as Cicero could wish, but had avoided politics. When Caesar went on to Rome, Cicero followed him, resumed his place in the Senate, which was then in the full fervor of its affected adulation, and took an early opportunity of speaking. Marcus Marcellus had been in exile since Pharsalia. The Senate had interceded for his pardon, and Caesar had granted it, and granted it with a completeness which exceeded expectation. Cicero rose to thank him in his presence, in terms which most certainly did not express his real feelings, whatever may have been the purpose which they concealed.

"He had long been silent," he said, "not from fear, but from grief and diffidence. The time for silence was past. Thenceforward he intended to speak his thoughts freely in his ancient manner. Such kindness, such unheard-of generosity, such moderation in power, such incredible and almost godlike wisdom, he felt himself unable to pass over without giving expression to his emotions." 14 No flow of genius, no faculty of speech or writing, could adequately describe Caesar's actions, yet on that day he had achieved a yet greater glory. Often had Cicero thought, and often had said to others, that no king or general had ever performed such exploits as Caesar. In war, however, officers, soldiers, allies, circumstances, fortune, claimed a share in the result; and there were victories greater than could be won on the battlefield, where the honor was undivided.

"To have conquered yourself," he said, addressing Caesar directly, "to have restrained your resentment, not only to have restored a distinguished opponent to his civil rights, but to have given him more than he had lost, is a deed which raises you above humanity, and makes you most like to God. Your wars will be spoken of to the end of time in all lands and tongues; but in tales of battles we are deafened by the shoutings and the blare of trumpets. Justice, mercy, moderation, wisdom, we admire even in fiction, or in persons whom we have never seen; how much more must we admire them in you, who are present here before us, and in whose face we read a purpose to restore us to such remnants of our liberty as have survived the war! How can we praise, how can we love you sufficiently? By the gods, the very walls of this house are eloquent with gratitude.... No conqueror in a civil war was ever so mild as you have been. To-day you have surpassed yourself. You have overcome victory in giving back the spoils to the conquered. By the laws of war we were under your feet, to be destroyed, if you so willed. We live by your goodness.... Observe, conscript fathers, how comprehensive is Caesar's sentence. We were in arms against him, how impelled I know not. He cannot acquit us of mistake, but he holds us innocent of crime, for he has given us back Marcellus at your entreaty. Me, of his own free will, he has restored to myself and to my country. He has brought back the most illustrious survivors of the war. You see them gathered here in this full assembly. He has not regarded them as enemies. He has concluded that you entered into the conflict with him rather in ignorance and unfounded fear than from any motives of ambition or hostility.

"For me, I was always for peace. Caesar was for peace, so was Marcellus. There were violent men among you, whose success Marcellus dreaded. Each party had a cause. I will not compare them. I will compare rather the victory of the one with the possible victory of the other. Caesar's wars ended with the last battle. The sword is now sheathed. Those whom we have lost fell in the fury of the fight, not one by the resentment of the conqueror. Caesar, if he could, would bring back to life many who lie dead. For the others, we all feared what they might do if the day had been theirs. They not only threatened those who were in arms against them, but those who sate quietly at home."

Cicero then said that he had heard a fear of assassination expressed by Caesar. By whom, he asked, could such an attempt be made? Not by those whom he had forgiven, for none were more attached to him. Not by his comrades, for they could not be so mad as to conspire against the general to whom they owed all that they possessed. Not by his enemies, for he had no enemies. Those who had been his enemies were either dead through their own obstinacy, or were alive through his generosity. It was possible, however, he admitted, that there might be some such danger.

"Be you, therefore," he said, again speaking to Caesar,--"be you watchful, and let us be diligent. Who is so careless of his own and the common welfare as to be ignorant that on your preservation his own depends, and that all our lives are bound up in yours? I, as in duty bound, think of you by night and day; I ponder over the accidents of humanity, the uncertainty of health, the frailty of our common nature, and I grieve to think that the Commonwealth which ought to be immortal should hang on the breath of a single man. If to these perils be added a nefarious conspiracy, to what god can we turn for help? War has laid prostrate our institutions; you alone can restore them. The courts of justice need to be reconstituted, credit to be recovered, license to be repressed, the thinned ranks of the citizens to be repaired. The bonds of society are relaxed. In such a war, and with such a temper in men's hearts, the State must have lost many of its greatest ornaments, be the event what it would. These wounds need healing, and you alone can heal them. With sorrow I have heard you say that you have lived long enough. For nature it may be that you have, and perhaps for glory. But for your country you have not. Put away, I beseech you, this contempt of death. Be not wise at our expense. You repeat often, I am told, that you do not wish for longer life. I believe you mean it; nor should I blame you, if you had to think only of yourself. But by your actions you have involved the welfare of each citizen and of the whole Commonwealth in your own. Your work is unfinished: the foundations are hardly laid, and is it for you to be measuring calmly your term of days by your own desires?... If, Caesar, the result of your immortal deeds is to be no more than this, that, after defeating your enemies, you are to leave the State in the condition in which it now stands, your splendid qualities will be more admired than honored. It remains for you to rebuild the constitution. Live till this is done. Live till you see your country tranquil, and at peace. Then, when your last debt is paid, when you have filled the measure of your existence to overflowing, then say, if you will, that you have had enough of life. Your life is not the life which is bounded by the union of your soul and body, your life is that which shall continue fresh in the memory of ages to come, which posterity will cherish, and eternity itself keep guard over. Much has been done which men will admire: much remains to be done, which they can praise. They will read with wonder of empires and provinces, of the Rhine, the ocean, and the Nile, of battles without number, of amazing victories, of countless monuments and triumphs; but unless this Commonwealth be wisely re-established in institutions by you bestowed upon us, your name will travel widely over the world, but will have no stable habitation; and those who come after us will dispute about you as we have disputed. Some will extol you to the skies, others will find something wanting and the most important element of all. Remember the tribunal before which you will hereafter stand. The ages that are to be will try you, with minds, it may be, less prejudiced than ours, uninfluenced either by desire to please you or by envy of your greatness.

"Our dissensions have been crushed by the arms, and extinguished by the lenity of the conqueror. Let all of us, not the wise only, but every citizen who has ordinary sense, be guided by a single desire. Salvation there can be none for us, Caesar, unless you are preserved. Therefore, we exhort you, we beseech you, to watch over your own safety. You believe that you are threatened by a secret peril. From my own heart I say, and I speak for others as well as myself, we will stand as sentries over your safety, and we will interpose our own bodies between you and any danger which may menace you." 15

Such, in compressed form, for necessary brevity, but deserving to be studied in its own brilliant language, was the speech delivered by Cicero, in the Senate in Caesar's presence, within a few weeks of his murder. The authenticity of it has been questioned, but without result beyond creating a doubt whether it was edited and corrected, according to his usual habit, by Cicero himself. The external evidence of genuineness is as good as for any of his other orations, and the Senate possessed no other speaker known to us, to whom, with any probability, so splendid an illustration of Roman eloquence could be assigned.

Now, therefore, let us turn to the second Philippic delivered in the following summer when the deed had been accomplished which Cicero professed to hold in so much abhorrence. Then, fiercely challenging for himself a share in the glory of tyrannicide, he exclaimed:

"What difference is there between advice beforehand and approbation afterward? What does it matter whether I wished it to be done, or rejoiced that it was done? Is there a man, save Antony and those who were glad to have Caesar reign over us, that did not wish him to be killed, or that disapproved when he was killed? All were in fault, for all the Boni joined in killing him, so far as lay in them. Some were not consulted, some wanted courage, some opportunity. All were willing," 16

Expressions so vehemently opposite compel us to compare them. Was it that Cicero was so carried away by the stream of his oratory, that he spoke like an actor, under artificial emotion which the occasion called for? Was it that he was deliberately trying to persuade Caesar that from the Senate he had nothing to fear, and so to put him off his guard? If, as he declared, he himself and the Boni, who were listening to him, desired so unanimously to see Caesar killed, how else can his language be interpreted? Cicero stands before the tribunal of posterity, to which he was so fond of appealing. In him, too, while "there is much to admire," "something may be found wanting."

Meanwhile the Senate went its way, still inventing fresh titles and conferring fresh powers. Caesar said that these vain distinctions needed limitation, rather than increase; but the flattery had a purpose in it, and would not be checked.

One day a deputation waited on him with the proffer of some "new marvel." 17 He was sitting in front of the Temple of Venus Genetrix, and when the senators approached he neglected to rise to receive them. Some said that he was moving, but that Cornelius Balbus pulled him down. Others said that he was unwell. Pontius Aquila, a tribune, had shortly before refused to rise to Caesar. The senators thought he meant to read them a lesson in return. He intended to be king, it seemed; the constitution was gone, another Tarquin was about to seize the throne of Republican Rome.

Caesar was king in fact, and to recognize facts is more salutary than to ignore them. An acknowledgment of Caesar as king might have made the problem of reorganization easier than it proved. The army had thought of it. He was on the point of starting for Parthia, and a prophecy had said that the Parthians could only be conquered by a king.--But the Roman people were sensitive about names. Though their liberties were restricted for the present, they liked to hope that one day the Forum might recover its greatness. The Senate, meditating on the insult which they had received, concluded that Caesar might be tempted, and that if they could bring him to consent he would lose the people's hearts. They had already made him Dictator for life; they voted next that he really should be King, and, not formally perhaps, but tentatively, they offered him the crown. He was sounded as to whether he would accept it. He understood the snare, and refused. What was to be done next? He would soon be gone to the East. Rome and its hollow adulations would lie behind him, and their one opportunity would be gone also. They employed some one to place a diadem on the head of his statue which stood upon the Rostra. 18 It was done publicly, in the midst of a vast crowd, in Caesar's presence. Two eager tribunes tore the diadem down, and ordered the offender into custody. The treachery of the Senate was not the only danger. His friends in the army had the same ambition for him. A few days later, as he was riding through the streets, he was saluted as King by the mob. Caesar answered calmly that he was not King but Caesar, and there the matter might have ended; but the tribunes rushed into the crowd to arrest the leaders; a riot followed, for which Caesar blamed them; they complained noisily; he brought their conduct before the Senate, and they were censured and suspended. But suspicion was doing its work, and honest republican hearts began to heat and kindle.

The kingship assumed a more serious form on the 15th of February at the Lupercalia--the ancient carnival. Caesar was in his chair, in his consular purple, wearing a wreath of bay, wrought in gold. The honor of the wreath was the only distinction which he had accepted from the Senate with pleasure. He retained a remnant of youthful vanity, and the twisted leaves concealed his baldness. Antony, his colleague in the consulship, approached with a tiara, and placed it on Caesar's head, saying, "The people give you this by my hand." That Antony had no sinister purpose is obvious. He perhaps spoke for the army; 19 or it may be that Caesar himself suggested Antony's action, that he might end the agitation of so dangerous a subject. He answered in a loud voice "that the Romans had no king but God," and ordered that the tiara should be taken to the Capitol, and placed on the statue of Jupiter Olympius. The crowd burst into an enthusiastic cheer; and an inscription on a brass tablet recorded that the Roman people had offered Caesar the crown by the hands of the consul, and that Caesar had refused it.

The question of the kingship was over; but a vague alarm had been created, which answered the purpose of the optimates. Caesar was at their mercy any day. They had sworn to maintain all his acts. They had sworn, after Cicero's speech, individually and collectively to defend his life. Caesar, whether he believed them sincere or not, had taken them at their word, and came daily to the Senate unarmed and without a guard. He had a protection in the people. If the optimates killed him without preparation, they knew that they would be immediately massacred. But an atmosphere of suspicion and uncertainty had been successfully generated, of which they determined to take immediate advantage. There were no troops in the city. Lepidus, Caesar's master of the horse, who had been appointed governor of Gaul, was outside the gates, with a few cohorts; but Lepidus was a person of feeble character, and they trusted to be able to deal with him.

Sixty senators, in all, were parties to the immediate conspiracy. Of these nine-tenths were members of the old faction whom Caesar had pardoned, and who, of all his acts, resented most that he had been able to pardon them. They were the men who had stayed at home, like Cicero, from the fields of Thapsus and Munda, and had pretended penitence and submission that they might take an easier road to rid themselves of their enemy. Their motives were the ambition of their order and personal hatred of Caesar; but they persuaded themselves that they were animated by patriotism, and as, in their hands, the Republic had been a mockery of liberty, so they aimed at restoring it by a mock tyrannicide. Their oaths and their professions were nothing to them. If they were entitled to kill Caesar, they were entitled equally to deceive him. No stronger evidence is needed of the demoralization of the Roman Senate than the completeness with which they were able to disguise from themselves the baseness of their treachery. One man only they were able to attract into co-operation who had a reputation for honesty, and could be conceived, without absurdity, to be animated by a disinterested purpose.

Marcus Brutus was the son of Cato's sister Servilia, the friend, and a scandal said the mistress, of Caesar. That he was Caesar's son was not too absurd for the credulity of Roman drawing-rooms. Brutus himself could not have believed in the existence of such a relation, for he was deeply attached to his mother; and although, under the influence of his uncle Cato, he had taken the Senate's side in the war, he had accepted afterward not pardon only from Caesar, but favors of many kinds, for which he had professed, and probably felt, some real gratitude. He had married Cato's daughter Portia, and on Cato's death had published a eulogy upon him. Caesar left him free to think and write what he pleased. He had made him praetor; he had nominated him to the governorship of Macedonia. Brutus was perhaps the only member of the senatorial party in whom Caesar felt genuine confidence. His known integrity, and Caesar's acknowledged regard for him, made his accession to the conspiracy an object of particular importance. The name of Brutus would be a guarantee to the people of rectitude of intention. Brutus, as the world went, was of more than average honesty. He had sworn to be faithful to Caesar as the rest had sworn, and an oath with him was not a thing to be emotionalized away; but he was a fanatical republican, a man of gloomy habits, given to dreams and omens, and easily liable to be influenced by appeals to visionary feelings. Caius Cassius, his brother-in-law, was employed to work upon him. Cassius, too, was praetor that year, having been also nominated to office by Caesar. He knew Brutus, he knew where and how to move him. He reminded him of the great traditions of his name. A Brutus had delivered Rome from the Tarquins. The blood of a Brutus was consecrated to liberty. This, too, was mockery; Brutus, who expelled the Tarquins, put his sons to death, and died childless; Marcus Brutus came of good plebeian family, with no glories of tyrannicide about them; but an imaginary genealogy suited well with the spurious heroics which veiled the motives of Caesar's murderers.

Brutus, once wrought upon, became with Cassius the most ardent in the cause which assumed the aspect to him of a sacred duty. Behind them were the crowd of senators of the familiar faction, and others worse than they, who had not even the excuse of having been partisans of the beaten cause; men who had fought at Caesar's side till the war was over, and believed, like Labienus, that to them Caesar owed his fortune, and that he alone ought not to reap the harvest. One of these was Trebonius, who had misconducted himself in Spain, and was smarting under the recollection of his own failures. Trebonius had long before sounded Antony on the desirableness of removing their chief. Antony, though he remained himself true, had unfortunately kept his friend's counsel. Trebonius had been named by Caesar for a future consulship, but a distant reward was too little for him. Another and a yet baser traitor was Decimus Brutus, whom Caesar valued and trusted beyond all his officers, whom he had selected as guardian for Augustus, and had noticed, as was seen afterward, with special affection in his will. The services of these men were invaluable to the conspirators on account of their influence with the army. Decimus Brutus, like Labienus, had enriched himself in Caesar's campaigns, and had amassed near half a million of English money. 20 It may have been easy to persuade him and Trebonius that a grateful Republic would consider no recompense too large to men who would sacrifice their commander to their country. To Caesar they could be no more than satellites; the first prizes of the Empire would be offered to the choice of the saviours of the constitution.

So composed was this memorable band, to whom was to fall the bad distinction of completing the ruin of the senatorial rule. Caesar would have spared something of it; enough, perhaps, to have thrown up shoots again as soon as he had himself passed away in the common course of nature. By combining in a focus the most hateful characteristics of the order, by revolting the moral instincts of mankind by ingratitude and treachery, they stripped their cause by their own hands of the false glamour which they hoped to throw over it. The profligacy and avarice, the cynical disregard of obligation, which had marked the Senate's supremacy for a century, had exhibited abundantly their unfitness for the high functions which had descended to them; but custom and natural tenderness for a form of government, the past history of which had been so glorious, might have continued still to shield them from the penalty of their iniquities. The murder of Caesar filled the measure of their crimes, and gave the last and necessary impulse to the closing act of the revolution.

Thus the ides of March drew near. Caesar was to set out in a few days for Parthia. Decimus Brutus was going, as governor, to the north of Italy, Lepidus to Gaul, Marcus Brutus to Macedonia, and Trebonius to Asia Minor. Antony, Caesar's colleague in the consulship, was to remain in Italy. Dolabella, Cicero's son-in-law, was to be consul with him as soon as Caesar should have left for the East. The foreign appointments were all made for five years, and in another week the party would be scattered. The time for action had come, if action there was to be. Papers were dropped in Brutus's room, bidding him awake from his sleep. On the statue of Junius Brutus some hot republican wrote "Would that thou wast alive!" The assassination in itself was easy, for Caesar would take no precautions. So portentous an intention could not be kept entirely secret; many friends warned him to beware; but he disdained too heartily the worst that his enemies could do to him to vex himself with thinking of them, and he forbade the subject to be mentioned any more in his presence. Portents, prophecies, soothsayings, frightful aspects in the sacrifices, natural growths of alarm and excitement, were equally vain. "Am I to be frightened," he said, in answer to some report of the haruspices, "because a sheep is without a heart?"

[March 14, B.C. 44.] An important meeting of the Senate had been called for the ides (the 15th) of the month. The Pontifices, it was whispered, intended to bring on again the question of the kingship before Caesar's departure. The occasion would be appropriate. The senate-house itself was a convenient scene of operations. The conspirators met at supper the evening before at Cassius's house. Cicero, to his regret, was not invited. The plan was simple, and was rapidly arranged. Caesar would attend unarmed. The senators not in the secret would be unarmed also. The party who intended to act were to provide themselves with poniards, which could be easily concealed in their paper boxes. So far all was simple; but a question rose whether Caesar only was to be killed, or whether Antony and Lepidus were to be despatched along with him. They decided that Caesar's death would be sufficient. To spill blood without necessity would mar, it was thought, the sublimity of their exploit. Some of them liked Antony. None supposed that either he or Lepidus would be dangerous when Caesar was gone. In this resolution Cicero thought that they made a fatal mistake; 21 fine emotions were good in their place, in the perorations of speeches and such like; Antony, as Cicero admitted, had been signally kind to him; but the killing Caesar was a serious business, and his friends should have died along with him. It was determined otherwise. Antony and Lepidus were not to be touched. For the rest, the assassins had merely to be in their places in the Senate in good time. When Caesar entered, Trebonius was to detain Antony in conversation at the door. The others were to gather about Caesar's chair on pretence of presenting a petition, and so could make an end. A gang of gladiators were to be secreted in the adjoining theatre to be ready should any unforeseen difficulty present itself.

The same evening, the 14th of March, Caesar was at a "Last Supper" at the house of Lepidus. The conversation turned on death, and on the kind of death which was most to be desired. Caesar, who was signing papers while the rest wore talking, looked up and said, "A sudden one." When great men die, imagination insists that all nature shall have felt the shock. Strange stories were told in after years of the uneasy labors of the elements that night.

  A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
  The graves did open, and the sheeted dead
  Did squeak and jibber in the Roman streets.

The armor of Mars, which stood in the hall of the Pontifical Palace, crashed down upon the pavement. The door of Caesar's room flew open. Calpurnia dreamt her husband was murdered, and that she saw him ascending into heaven, and received by the hand of God. 22 In the morning the sacrifices were again unfavorable. Caesar was restless. Some natural disorder affected his spirits, and his spirits were reacting on his body. Contrary to his usual habit, he gave way to depression. He decided, at his wife's entreaty, that he would not attend the Senate that day.

[March 15, B.C. 44.] The house was full. The conspirators were in their places with their daggers ready. Attendants came in to remove Caesar's chair. It was announced that he was not coming. Delay might be fatal. They conjectured that he already suspected something. A day's respite, and all might be discovered. His familiar friend whom he trusted--the coincidence is striking!--was employed to betray him. Decimus Brutus, whom it was impossible for him to distrust, went to entreat his attendance, giving reasons to which he knew that Caesar would listen, unless the plot had been actually betrayed. It was now eleven in the forenoon. Caesar shook off his uneasiness, and rose to go. As he crossed the hall, his statue fell, and shivered on the stones. Some servant, perhaps, had heard whispers, and wished to warn him. As he still passed on, a stranger thrust a scroll into his hand, and begged him to read it on the spot. It contained a list of the conspirators, with a clear account of the plot. He supposed it to be a petition, and placed it carelessly among his other papers. The fate of the Empire hung upon a thread, but the thread was not broken, As Caesar had lived to reconstruct the Roman world, so his death was necessary to finish the work. He went on to the Curia, and the senators said to themselves that the augurs had foretold his fate, but he would not listen; he was doomed for his "contempt of religion." 23

Antony, who was in attendance, was detained, as had been arranged, by Trebonius. Caesar entered, and took his seat. His presence awed men, in spite of themselves, and the conspirators had determined to act at once, lest they should lose courage to act at all. He was familiar and easy of access. They gathered round him. He knew them all. There was not one from whom he had not a right to expect some sort of gratitude, and the movement suggested no suspicion. One had a story to tell him; another some favor to ask. Tullius Cimber, whom he had just made governor of Bithynia, then came close to him, with some request which he was unwilling to grant. Cimber caught his gown, as if in entreaty, and dragged it from his shoulders. Cassius, 24 who was standing behind, stabbed him in the throat. He started up with a cry, and caught Cassius's arm. Another poniard entered his breast, giving a mortal wound. He looked round, and seeing not one friendly face, but only a ring of daggers pointing at him, he drew his gown over his head, gathered the folds about him that he might fall decently, and sank down without uttering another word, 25 Cicero was present. The feelings with which he watched the scene are unrecorded, but may easily be imagined. Waving his dagger, dripping with Caesar's blood, Brutus shouted to Cicero by name, congratulating him that liberty was restored. 26 The Senate rose with shrieks and confusion, and rushed into the Forum. The crowd outside caught the words that Caesar was dead, and scattered to their houses. Antony, guessing that those who had killed Caesar would not spare himself, hurried off into concealment. The murderers, bleeding some of them from wounds which they had given one another in their eagerness, followed, crying that the tyrant was dead, and that Rome was free; and the body of the great Caesar was left alone in the house where a few weeks before Cicero told him that he was so necessary to his country that every senator would die before harm should reach him!

[1] Apparently when Caesar touched there on his way to Egypt, after Pharsalia. Cicero says (Philippic ii. 11): "Quid? C. Cassius ... qui etiam sine his clarissimis viris, hanc rem in Cilicia ad ostium fluminis Cydni confecisset, si ille ad eam ripam quam constituerat, non ad contrariam, navi appulisset."

[2] To be distinguished from Publius Ligarius, who had been put to death before Thapsus.

[3] The Gauls were especially obnoxious, and epigrams were circulated to insult them:--

  "Gallos Caesar in triumphum ducit, idem in Curiam.
  Galli braccas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt"

  SUETONIUS, Vita Jullii Caesaris, 80.

[4] Suetonius.

[5] The fifth, dating the beginning of the year, in the old style, from March.

[6] Dion Cassius.

[7] The second consul who had been put in held office but for a few hours.

[8] Dion Cassius.

[9] See the 2nd Philippic, passim. In a letter to Decimus Brutus, he says: "Quare hortatione tu quidem non egos, si ne illā quidem in re, quae a te gesta est post hominum memoriam maximā, hortatorem desiderāsti." Ad Fam. xi. 5.

[10] To Atticus, xi. 5, 6.

[11] Ad Caelium, Ad Fam. ii. 16.

[12] To Atticus, xi. 7.

[13] See To Atticus, xi. 7-9; To Terentia, Ad Fam. xiv. 12.

[14] "Tantam enim mansuetudinem, tam inusitatam inauditamque clementiam, tantum in summā potestate rerum omnium modum, tam denique incredibilem sapientiam ac paene divinam tacitus nullo modo praeterire possum."--Pro Marco Marcello, 1.

[15] Pro Marco Marcello, abridged.

[16] "Non intelligis, si id quod me arguis voluisse interfici Caesarem crimen sit, etiam laetatum esse morte Caesaris crimen esse? Quid enim interest inter suasorem facti et approbatorem? Aut quid refert utrum voluerim fieri an gaudeam factum? Ecquis est igitur te excepto et iis qui illum regnare gaudebant, qui illud aut fieri noluerit, aut factum improbarit? Omnes enim in culpā. Etenim omnes boni quantum in ipsis fuit Caesarem occiderunt. Aliis consilium, aliis animus, aliis occasio defuit. Voluntas nemini."--2nd Philippic, 12.

[17] Dion Cassius.

[18] So Dion Cassius states, on what authority we know not. Suetonius says that as Caesar was returning from the Latin festival some one placed a laurel crown on the statue, tied with a white riband.

[19] The fact is certain. Cicero taunted Antony with it in the Senate, in the Second Philippic.

[20] "Cum ad rem publicam liberandam accessi, HS. mihi fuit quadringenties amplius."--Decimus Brutus to Cicero, Ad Fam. xi. 10.

[21] "Vellem Idibus Martiis me ad coenam invitāsses. Reliquiarum nihil fuisset."--Ad Cassium, Ad Fam. xii. 4. And again: "Quam vellem ad illas pulcherrimas epulas me Idibus Martiis invitāsses! Reliquiarum nihil haberemus."--Ad Trebonium, Ad Fam. x. 28.

[22] Dion Cassius, C. Julius Caesar, xliv. 17.

[23] "Spretā religione."--Suetonius.

[24] Not perhaps Caius Cassius, but another. Suetonius says "alter e Cassiis."

[25] So says Suetonius, the best extant authority, who refers to the famous words addressed to Brutus only as a legend: "Atque ita tribus et viginti plagis confossus est, uno modo ad primum ictum gemitu sine voce edito. Etsi tradiderunt quidam Marco Bruto irruenti dixisse [Greek: kai su ei ekeinon kai su teknon]"--Julius Caesar, 82.

[26] "Cruentum alte extollens Marcus Brutus pugionem, Ciceronem nominatim exclamavit atque ei recuperatam libertatem est gratulatus."--Philippic ii. 12.

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