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CHAPTER V

Cæsar offers to lay down his Arms at the Same Time with Pompey--The Senate declares Cæsar a Public Enemy--Cæsar addresses his Soldiers--War openly declared -- Cæsar crosses the Rubicon -- Seizes Ariminum -- Panic and Prodigies in Italy--Pompey departs to the Army at Capua


[32] Cæsar had lately recrossed the straits from Britain and, after traversing the Gallic country along the Rhine, had passed the Alps with 5000 foot and 300 horse and arrived at Ravenna, which was contiguous to Italy and the last town in his government. After embracing Curio and returning thanks for what he had done for him, he looked over the present situation. Curio advised him to bring his whole army together now and lead it to Rome, but Cæsar thought it best still to try and come to terms. So he directed his friends to make an agreement in his behalf, that he should deliver up all his provinces and soldiers, except that he should retain two legions and Illyria with Cisalpine Gaul until he should be chosen consul. This was satisfactory to Pompey, but the consuls refused. Cæsar then wrote a letter to the Senate, which Curio carried a distance of 1300 stades1 in three days and delivered to the newly elected consuls as they entered the senate-house on the first
Y.R. 705
of the calends of January.2 The letter embraced a calm
B.C. 49
recital of all that Cæsar had done from the beginning of his career and a proposal that he would lay down his command at the same time with Pompey, but that if Pompey should retain his command he would not lay down his own, but would come quickly and avenge his country's wrongs and his own. When this letter was read, as it was considered a declaration of war, a vehement shout was raised on all sides that Lucius Domitius be appointed as Cæsar's successor. Domitius took the field immediately with 4000 of the new levies.

[33] Since Antony and Cassius, who succeeded Curio as tribunes, agreed with the latter in opinion, the Senate became more bitter than ever and declared Pompey's army the protector of Rome, and that of Cæsar a public enemy. The consuls, Marcellus and Lentulus, ordered Antony and his friends out of the Senate lest they should suffer some harm, although they were tribunes. Then Antony sprang from his chair in anger and with a loud voice called gods and men to witness the indignity put upon the sacred and inviolable office of tribune, saying that while they (the tribunes) were expressing the opinion which they deemed conducive to the public interest, they were driven out with contumely though they had wrought no murder or other outrage. Having spoken thus he rushed out like one possessed, predicting war, slaughter, proscription, banishment, confiscation, and various other impending evils, and invoking direful curses on the authors of them. Curio and Cassius rushed out with him, for a detachment of Pompey's army was already observed standing around the senate-house. The tribunes made their way to Cæsar the next night with the utmost speed, concealing themselves in a hired carriage, and disguised as slaves. Cæsar showed them in this condition to his army, whom he excited by saying that his soldiers, after all their great deeds, had been stigmatized as public enemies and that distinguished men like these, who had dared to speak out for them, had been thus driven with ignominy from the city.3

[34] The war had now been begun on both sides and already openly declared. The Senate, thinking that Cæsar's army would be slow in arriving from Gaul and that he would not rush into so great an adventure with a small force, directed Pompey to assemble 130,000 Italian soldiers, chiefly veterans who had had experience in war, and to recruit as many able-bodied men as possible from the neighboring provinces. They voted him for the war all the money in the public treasury at once, and their own private fortunes in addition if they should be needed for the pay of the soldiers. With the fury of party rage they levied additional contributions on the allied cities, which they collected with the greatest possible haste. Cæsar had sent messengers to bring his own army, but as he was accustomed to rely upon the terror caused by the celerity and audacity of his movements, rather than on the magnitude of his preparations, he decided to take the aggressive in this great war with his 5000 men and to anticipate the enemy by seizing the advantageous positions in Italy.

[35] Accordingly, he sent forward some centurions with a few of his bravest troops in peaceful garb to go inside the walls of Ariminum and take it by surprise. This was the first town in Italy after leaving Cisalpine Gaul. Toward evening Cæsar himself rose from a banquet on a plea of indisposition, leaving some friends who were still feasting. He mounted his chariot and drove toward Ariminum, his cavalry following at a short distance. When his course brought him to the river Rubicon, which forms the boundary line of Italy, he stopped and, while gazing at the stream, revolved in his mind the evils that might result from his crossing it with arms. Recovering himself he said to those who were present, "My friends, stopping here will be the beginning of sorrows for me; crossing over will be such for all mankind." Thereupon, he crossed with a rush like one inspired, uttering the common phrase, "Let the die be cast."4 Then he resumed his hasty journey and took possession of Ariminum about daybreak, advanced beyond it, stationed guards at the commanding positions, and, either by force or by kindness, mastered all whom he fell in with. As is usual in cases of panic, there was flight and migration from all the country-side in disorder and tears, the people having no exact knowledge, but thinking that Cæsar had arrived with an army of boundless strength.

[36] When the consuls learned the facts they did not allow Pompey to act according to his own judgment, experienced as he was in military affairs, but urged him to traverse Italy and raise troops, as though the city were on the point of being captured. The Senate also was alarmed at Cæsar's unexpectedly swift advance, for which it was still unprepared, and in its panic repented that it had not accepted Cæsar's proposals, which it considered just at last, after fear had turned it from party rage to the counsels of prudence. Many portents and signs in the sky took place. It rained blood. Sweat issued from the statues of the gods. Lightning struck several temples. A mule gave birth to a colt.5 There were many other prodigies which betokened an overturn and change in the form of government for all time. Prayers were offered up in public as was customary in times of danger, and the people who remembered the evil times of Marius and Sulla, clamored that both Cæsar and Pompey ought to lay down their commands as the only means of averting war. Cicero proposed to send messengers to Cæsar in order to come to an arrangement.6

[37] As the consuls opposed all accommodation Favonius, in ridicule of Pompey for something he had said a little before, advised him to stamp on the ground with his foot and raise armies in that way. "You can have them," replied Pompey, "if you will follow me and not consider it such a terrible thing to leave Rome, and Italy also if need be. Places and houses are not strength and freedom to men; but men, wherever they may be, have these qualities within themselves, and by defending themselves shall recover their homes." After saying this and after threatening those who should remain behind and desert their country's cause in order to save their fields and their goods, he left the Senate and the city immediately to take command of the army at Capua, and the consuls followed him. The other senators remained undecided a long time and passed the night together in the senate-house. At daybreak, however, most of them departed and hastened after Pompey.

1 About 150 English miles. The Vatican codex says 1300 stades; all the others say 3300 (378 miles), which is quite incredible.

2 Literally: " On the day of the new moon of the year."

3 This speech is reported by Cæsar himself at considerable length in his Commentaries on the Civil War (i. 7). It was made to the thirteenth legion, the only one present. The soldiers cried out that they were ready to defend their general and the tribunes from all harm.

4 "The Rubicon," says Duruy, "is probably the Fiumicino di Savignano, a reddish torrent twelve miles north of Ariminum, formed by the confluence of three brooks from the Apennines." Duruy doubts the whole story of Cæsar's hesitation at the Rubicon, but Plutarch (Life of Cæsar, 32) says that Asinius Pollio was present; and there is reason to believe that both Plutarch and Appian drew from Pollio's history.

5 This was a favorite prodigy among the Romans. It was observed when Sulla was advancing, after his war against Mithridates (i. 83 supra). Cicero alludes to the subject in his treatise on Divination (ii. 22).

6 Plutarch (Life of Pompey, 59) says that Cicero, who had lately returned from Cilicia, labored to bring about a reconciliation, proposing that Cæsar should leave his province of Gaul and disband his army, reserving two legions only, together with the government of Illyricum, and be nominated for a second consulship. Cæsar's friends afterward reduced his claims to one legion, but even that was rejected.

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