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CHAPTER XVI

Unexampled Honors bestowed on Cæsar -- He dismisses his Body-guard -- Rumor of Cæsar's Intention to assume the Title of King Antony crowns him at the Lupercal -- Cæsar plans a Campaign against the Parthians -- Conspiracy against Cæsar's Life -- Brutus and Cassius the Leaders -- Other Conspirators -- Brutus prevents the Killing of Antony -- Cæsar comes to the Senate -- Bad Omens at the Entrance -- Cæsar assassinated


[106] Having ended the civil wars Cæsar hastened to Rome, honored and feared as no one had ever been before. All kinds of honors were devised for his gratification without stint, even such as were superhuman -- sacrifices, games, statues in all the temples and public places, by every tribe, by all the provinces, and by the kings in alliance with Rome. His likeness was painted in various forms, in some cases crowned with oak as the savior of his country, by which crown the citizens were accustomed formerly to reward those to whom they owed their safety. He was proclaimed the Father of his Country and chosen dictator for life and consul for ten years, and his person was declared sacred and inviolable. It was decreed that he should transact business on a throne of ivory and gold; that he should perform his sacerdotal functions always in triumphal costume; that each year the city should celebrate the days on which he had won his victories; that every five years the priests and Vestal virgins should offer up public prayers for his safety; and that the magistrates immediately upon their inauguration should take an oath not to oppose any of Cæsar's decrees. In honor of his gens the name of the month Quintilis was changed to July. Many temples were decreed to him as to a god, and one was dedicated in common to him and the goddess Clemency, who were represented as clasping hands.

[107] Thus while they feared his power they besought his clemency. There were some who proposed to give him the title of king, but when he learned of their purpose he forbade it with threats, saying that it was an inauspicious name by reason of the curse of their ancestors. He dismissed the prætorian cohorts that had served as his bodyguard during the wars, and showed himself with the ordinary public attendance only.1 To him in this state and while he was transacting business in front of the rostra, the Senate, preceded by the consuls, each one in his robes of office, brought the decree awarding him the honors aforesaid. He extended his hand to them, but did not rise when they approached nor while they remained there, which afforded his slanderers a pretext for accusing him of wishing to be greeted as a king. He accepted all the honors conferred upon him except the ten-year consulship. As consuls for the ensuing year he designated himself and Antony, his master of horse, and he appointed Lepidus, who was then governor of Spain, but was administering it by his friends, master of horse in place of Antony. Cæsar also recalled the exiles, except those who were banished for some very grave offence. He pardoned his enemies and forthwith advanced many of those who had fought against him to the yearly magistracies, or to the command of provinces and armies. Therefore the wearied people especially hoped that he would restore the republic to them as Sulla did after he had grasped the same power. But in this they were disappointed.2

Y.R. 710

[108] Some person among those who wished to spread the report of his desire to be king placed a crown of laurel on his statue, bound with a white fillet. The tribunes, Marullus and Cæsetius, sought out this person and put him in prison, pretending to gratify Cæsar in this way, as he had threatened any who should talk about making him king. Cæsar was well satisfied with their action. Some others who met him at the city gates as he was returning from some place greeted him as king, and when the people groaned, he said with happy readiness to those who had thus saluted him, "I am no king, I am Cæsar," as though they had mistaken his name. The attendants of Marullus

B.C. 44
found out which man began the shouting and ordered the officers to bring him to trial before his tribunal. Cæsar was at last vexed and accused the faction of Marullus before the Senate of conspiring to make him odious by artfully accusing him of aiming at royalty. He added that they were deserving of death, but that it would be sufficient if they were deprived of their office and expelled from the Senate. Thus he confirmed the suspicion that he desired the title, and that he was privy to the attempts to confer it upon him, and that his tyranny was already complete; for the cause of their punishment was their zeal against the title of king, and, moreover, the office of tribune was sacred and inviolable according to law and the ancient oath. By not waiting for the expiration of their office he sharpened the public indignation.

[109] When Cæsar perceived this he repented, and, reflecting that this was the first severe and arbitrary act that he had done without military authority and in time of peace, it is said that he ordered his friends to protect him, since he had given his enemies the handle they were seeking against him. But when they asked him if he would bring together again his Spanish cohorts as a body-guard, he said, "There is nothing more unlucky than perpetual watching; that is the part of one who is always afraid." Nor were the attempts to claim royal honors for him brought to an end even thus, for, while he was in the forum looking at the games of the Lupercal, seated on his golden chair before the rostra, Antony, his colleague in the consulship, who was running naked and anointed, as was the priests' custom at that festival,3 sprang upon the rostra and put a diadem on his head. At this sight some few clapped their hands, but the greater number groaned, and Cæsar threw off the diadem. Antony again put it on him and again Cæsar threw it off. While they were thus contending the people remained silent, being in suspense to see how it would end. When they saw that Cæsar prevailed they shouted for joy, and at the same time applauded him because he did not accept it.4

[110] And now Cæsar, either renouncing his hope, or tired out, and wishing to avoid the plot and accusation, or giving up the city to certain of his enemies, or to cure his bodily ailment of epilepsy and convulsions, which came upon him suddenly and especially when he was inactive, conceived the idea of a long campaign against the Getæ and the Parthians. The Getæ, a hardy, warlike, and neigh-boring nation, were to be attacked first. The Parthians were to be punished for their perfidy toward Crassus. He sent across the Adriatic in advance sixteen legions of foot and 10,000 horse. And now another rumor gained currency that the Sibylline books had predicted that the Parthians would never submit to the Romans until the latter should be commanded by a king. For this reason some people ventured to say that Cæsar ought to be called dictator and emperor of the Romans, as he was in fact, or whatever other name they might prefer to that of king, and that he ought to be distinctly named king of the nations that were subject to the Romans. Cæsar declined this also, and was wholly engaged in hastening his departure from the city in which he was exposed to such envy.

[111] Four days before his intended departure he was slain by his enemies in the senate-house, either from jealousy of his fortune and power, now grown to enormous proportions, or, as they themselves alleged, from a desire to restore the republic of their fathers; for they well knew that if he should conquer those nations he would be a king without a doubt.5 But I think that they took, as a pretext for their own design, this plan for an additional title, which really made no difference to them except in name, for in fact a dictator is exactly the same as a king.6 Chief among the conspirators were two men, Marcus Brutus, surnamed Cæpio (son of the Brutus who was put to death during the Sullan revolution), who had sided with Cæsar after the disaster of Pharsalus, and Gaius Cassius, the one who had surrendered his triremes to Cæsar in the Hellespont, both having been of Pompey's party. Among the conspirators also was Decimus Brutus Albinus, one of Cæsar's dearest friends. All of them had been held in honor and trust by Cæsar at all times. He had employed them in the largest affairs. When he went to the war in Africa he gave them the command of armies, putting Decimus Brutus in charge of Transalpine, and Marcus Brutus of Cisalpine, Gaul.

[112] Brutus and Cassius, who had been designated as prætors at the same time, had a controversy with each other as to which of them should be the city prætor, this being the place of highest honor, either because they were really ambitious of the distinction or as a pretence so that they might not seem to have a common understanding with each other. Cæsar, who was chosen umpire between them, is reported to have said to his friends that justice seemed to be on the side of Cassius, but that he must nevertheless favor Brutus. He exhibited the same affection and preference for this man in all things. It was even thought that Brutus was his son, as Cæsar was the lover of his mother, Servilia (Cato's sister) at the time of his birth,7 for which reason, when he won the victory at Pharsalus, it is said that he gave an immediate order to his officers to save Brutus by all means. Whether Brutus was ungrateful, or ignorant of his mother's fault, or disbelieved it, or was ashamed of it; whether he was such an ardent lover of liberty that he preferred his country to everything, or whether it was because he was a descendant of that Brutus of the olden time who expelled the kings, he was aroused and shamed to this deed principally by people who secretly affixed to the statues of the elder Brutus and also to the tribunal of Brutus himself such writings as these, "Brutus, are you corrupted by bribes?" "Brutus, are you dead?" or "would that you were still alive!" or, "your posterity is unworthy of you," or, "you are not the descendant of that Brutus." These and many like incentives fired the young man to a deed like that of his own ancestor.

[113] While the talk about the kingship was going on, and just before there was to be a meeting of the Senate, Cassius met Brutus, and, seizing him by the hand, said, "What shall we do in the senate-house if Cæsar's flatterers propose a decree making him king?" Brutus replied that he would not be there. Then Cassius asked him further, "What if we are summoned there as prætors, what shall we do then, my good Brutus? " "I will defend my country to the death," he replied. Cassius embraced him, saying, " Which of the nobility will you allow to share your thought? Do you think that artisans and shopkeepers have written those clandestine messages on your tribunal, or rather the noblest Romans, those who ask from the other prætors games, horse-races, and combats of wild beasts, but from you liberty, as a boon worthy of your ancestry?" Thus did they disclose to each other what they had been privately thinking about for a long time. Each of them tested those of their own friends, and of Cæsar's also, whom they considered the most courageous of either faction. Of their own friends they inveigled two brothers, Cæsilius and Bucolianus, and besides these Rubrius Ruga, Quintus Ligarius, Marcus Spurius, Servilius Casca, Servius Galba, Sextius Naso, and Pontius Aquila. These were of their own faction. Of Cæsar's friends they secured Decimus Brutus, whom I have already mentioned, also Gaius Casca, Trebonius, Tillius Cimber, and Minucius Basillus.8

[114] When they thought that they had a sufficient number, and that it would not be wise to divulge the plot to any more, they pledged each other without oaths or sacrifices, yet no one changed his mind or betrayed the secret. They sought a time and place. Time was pressing because Cæsar was to depart on his campaign four days hence and would thereupon have a body-guard of soldiers. They chose the Senate as the place, believing that, even though the senators did not know of it beforehand, they would join heartily when they saw the deed. It was said that this happened in the case of Romulus when he changed from a king to a tyrant. They thought that this deed, like that one of old, taking place in open Senate, would seem to be performed not by private plotters, but in behalf of the country, and that, being in the public interest, there would be no danger from Cæsar's army. At the same time they thought the honor would be theirs because the public would not be ignorant that they took the lead. For these reasons they unanimously chose the Senate as the place, but they were not agreed as to the mode. Some thought that Antony ought to be killed also because he was consul with Cæsar, and was his most powerful friend, and the one of most repute with the army; but Brutus said that they would win the glory of tyrannicide from the death of Cæsar alone, because that would be the killing of a king. If they should kill his friends also, the deed would be imputed to private enmity and to the Pompeian faction.

[115] The day before the meeting of the Senate Cæsar went to sup with Lepidus, his master of horse, taking Decimus Brutus Albinus with him to the drinking-bout.9 While they were in their cups the conversation turned on the question, "What is the best kind of death for a man?" Various opinions were given, but Cæsar alone expressed the preference for a sudden death. In this way he foretold his own end, and conversed about what was to happen on the morrow. After the banquet a certain bodily faintness came over him in the night, and his wife, Calpurnia, had a dream, in which she saw him streaming with blood, for which reason she tried to prevent him from going out in the morning. When he offered sacrifice there were many unfavorable signs. He was about to send Antony to dismiss the Senate when Decimus, who was with him, persuaded him, in order not to incur the charge of disregard for the Senate, to go there and dismiss it himself. Accordingly he was borne thither in a litter. Games were going on in Pompey's theatre, and the Senate was about to assemble in one of the adjoining buildings, as was the custom when the games were taking place.10 Brutus and Cassius were early at the portico in front of the theatre, very calmly engaging in public business as prætors with those seeking their services. When they heard of the bad omens at Cæsar's house and that the Senate was to be dismissed, they were greatly disconcerted. While they were in this state of mind a certain person took Casca by the hand and said, "You kept the secret from me, although I am your friend, but Brutus has told me all." Casca was suddenly conscience-stricken and shuddered, but his friend, smiling, continued, "Where shall you get the money to stand for the ædileship?" Then Casca recovered himself. While Brutus and Cassius were conferring and talking together, Popillius Læna, one of the senators, drew them aside and said that he joined them in his prayers11 for what they had in mind, and he urged them to make haste. They were confounded, but remained silent from terror.

[116] While Cæsar was being borne to the Senate one of his intimates, who had learned of the conspiracy, ran to his house to tell what he knew. When he arrived there and found only Calpurnia he merely said that he wanted to speak to Cæsar about urgent business, and then waited for him to come back from the Senate, because he did not know all the particulars of the affair. Meantime Artemidorus, whose hospitality Cæsar had enjoyed at Cnidus, ran to the Senate and found him already murdered. A tablet informing him of the conspiracy was put into Cæsar's hand by another person while he was sacrificing in front of the curia, but he went in immediately and it was found in his hand after his death. Directly after he stepped out of the litter Popillius Læna, who a little before had joined his prayers with the party of Cassius, accosted Cæsar and engaged him aside in earnest conversation. The sight of this proceeding and especially the length of the conversation struck terror into the hearts of the conspirators, and they made signs to each other that they would kill themselves rather than be captured. As the conversation was prolonged they saw that Læna did not seem to be revealing anything to Cæsar, but rather to be urging some petition. They recovered themselves and when they saw him return thanks to Cæsar after the conversation they took new courage. It was the custom of the magistrates, when about to enter the Senate, to take the auspices at the entrance. Here again Cæsar's first victim was without a heart, or, as some say, the beginning of the entrails was wanting. A soothsayer said that this was a sign of death. Cæsar, laughing, said that the same thing had happened to him when he was beginning his campaign against Pompeius in Spain. The soothsayer replied that he had been in very great danger then and that now the omen was still more entitled to credence.12 So Cæsar ordered him to sacrifice again. None of the victims were more propitious; but being ashamed to keep the Senate waiting, and being urged by his enemies in the guise of friends, he went in disregarding the omens. For it was fated that Cæsar should meet his doom.

[117] The conspirators had left Trebonius, one of their number, to engage Antony in conversation at the door. The others, with concealed daggers, stood around Cæsar like friends as he sat in his chair. Then one of them, Tillius Cimber, came up in front of him and petitioned him for the recall of his brother, who had been banished. When Cæsar answered that the matter must be deferred, Cimber seized hold of his purple robe as though still urging his petition, and pulled it away so as to expose his neck, exclaiming, "Friends, what are you waiting for?" Then first Casca, who was standing over Cæsar's head, drove his dagger at his throat, but missed his aim and wounded him in the breast. Cæsar snatched his toga from Cimber, seized Casca's hand, sprang from his chair, turned around, and hurled Casca with great violence. While he was in this position another one stabbed him with a dagger in the side, which was exposed by his turning around,13 Cassius wounded him in the face, Brutus smote him in the thigh, and Bucolianus between the shoulder-blades. With rage and outcries Cæsar turned now upon one and now upon another like a wild animal, but after receiving the wound from Brutus he despaired and, veiling himself with his robe, he fell in a decent position at the foot of Pompey's statue. They continued their attack after he had fallen until he had received twenty-three wounds. Several of them while thrusting with their swords wounded each other.14

1 Plutarch says that " his friends advised him to have a body-guard and many of them offered their services in this capacity, but he refused, saying that it was better to die once than to be always afraid of death." (Life of Cœsar, 57.) Velleius records the same fact. (ii. 57.)

2 Cæsar had a clear conception of facts when he said, according to Suetonius, " the republic is a mere name without substance or semblance. Sulla did not know his A B C's (nescisse litteras) when he laid down the dictatorship." (Jul. 77.

3 At the Lupercalia the priests of Pan (Luperci) ran through the city naked, except for a goatskin tied about the loins, bearing a strap cut from the hide of the sacrificial goat, with which they slapped married women who placed themselves in the way. This was supposed to be a cure for barrenness.

4 Suetonius, Velleius, Plutarch, and Cicero in his second Philippic mention this affair. Plutarch says that Antony offered the diadem to Cæsar three times. Suetonius says several times. Velleius says that "he put it away, but in such a manner that he did not seem offended." The words that Shakespeare puts in the mouth of Casca in the play of Julius Cœsar (Act 1, Sc. 2), were evidently taken from Plutarch and Velleius.

5 I have followed Schweighäuser's Latin rendering of this passage, although it is not free from objection. The Didot version is: "or, as they alleged, from a desire to restore the republic (for they knew Cæsar well), lest, if he should conquer those nations also, he should presently become king of the Romans without a doubt." Geslen considered the passage corrupt and substituted ἔδεισαν (they feared) for ᾔδεσαν (they knew) in the text. Tollius curiously adopted Geslen's Latin version, but adhered to the original text.

6 This is another troublesome sentence. Schweighäuser says that the older translators dodged the difficulty by ignoring the words σκοπὸν and προσθήκης, for which he gives the Latin equivalent propositum illius accessionis. The latter interpretation is followed in the Didot edition, although Schweighäuser himself preferred the participle σκοπῶν (contemplating) instead of the noun σκοπὸν (a plan). The Augsburg codex reads σκοπῶν and this would make Appian say: " I think upon reflection," etc.

7 Plutarch relates the following anecdote in his Life of Cato Minor (24), where he describes the part taken by the latter in the debate on the conspiracy of Catiline: "As we ought not to omit even the smallest indications that show the mental image of the man, it is said that while Cæsar was engaged in a severe struggle and controversy with Cato on this subject, and the Senate was hanging on their words, a little tablet was brought in to Cæsar. Cato considered this a suspicious circumstance and slandered him so that some of the senators were moved to ask that the contents be read. Cæsar handed the tablet to Cato, who was standing near. It was an immodest letter from his own sister Servilia to Cæsar, with whom she was in love, and by whom she had been seduced. Cato, after reading it, threw it back to Cæsar, saying: 'Keep it, you debauchee,' and then went on with his speech."

8 Mention should be made of two wise men who did not join the conspiracy. Plutarch gives this account of them: " Of his other companions Brutus omitted Statilius the Epicurean, and Favonius an adherent of Cato, because when he sounded them in a roundabout way by conversing with them on philosophical subjects, Favonius answered that a civil war was worse than an illegal monarchy, and Statilius said that it was not the part of a wise man to expose himself to danger and to stir up disorder for the sake of worthless and foolish people." (Life of Brutus, 12.)

9 ἐς τὸν πότον. Three of the codices read ἐς τὸν πόντον (to the sea) which is absurd. Mendelssohn considers the words troublesome in either case.

10 It was customary for the magistrate who called the meeting of the Senate to designate at the same time the place of meeting. Plutarch says that the place where this meeting was held was a building erected by Pompey as an addition to and ornament of his theatre, and that it contained his own statue. This singular fact proves to Plutarch that Cæsar was led to this place by divine interposition.

11 Here again there is a close resemblance in words between Plutarch and Appian, but the former uses the direct discourse συνεύχομαι and the latter the indirect συνεύχεσθαι.

12 ἔτι πιθανώτερον: here we encounter a curiosity in the text. In Sec. 153 infra the author says: "As Cæsar was entering the Senate for the last time, as I have shortly before related, the same omens were observed, but he said jestingly that the same thing happened to him in Spain. The soothsayer replied that he was in danger then and that the omen was now more deadly, ἐπιθανατώτερον. The close resemblance of the text of the two phrases suggested to Musgrave the query whether Appian had not written the same in both places. Schweighäuser thought that it was altogether probable, but as all the codices agreed he did not venture to change the text. Mendelssohn has changed it in the Teubner edition, while the Didot edition adheres to the original.

13 ὡς ἐπὶ συστροφῇ τεταμένον. Literally, "which was in a state of tension by reason of his turning and twisting."

14 The account of the assassination given by Suetonius (Jul. 82) is as follows: "The conspirators stood around him as he was seated, pretending to pay their respects, and directly Tillius Cimber, who had assumed the initiative, advanced nearer as if to ask some favor, and when Cæsar made a motion with his head to signify that the matter must be deferred he seized his toga at both shoulders. Cæsar exclaimed 'this is violence,' and then another of Casca's party wounded him in the back a little below the neck. Cæsar seized Casca's arm and pierced it with a stylus, and while trying to rush forward was hindered by another wound. When he saw himself assailed on all sides with drawn daggers he drew his toga around his head and at the same time with his left hand arranged the fold over his lower limbs so that he might fall more decently, with the lower part of his body covered. In this way he was stabbed with twenty-three wounds, having uttered no cry but only a single groan at the first blow, although some say that when Marcus Brutus attacked him he exclaimed καὶ σὺ τέκνον, (and you, my son). He lay there dead for some time, all having fled, until three of his slaves placed him on a litter with his arm hanging down, and carried him home. Among so many wounds, according to the physician Antistius, there was only one that was mortal, and that was the second one, which he had received in the breast."

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