The Life of Caius Julius Caesar.
“The greatest name in history.” Merivale.
“Julius Caesar, whose remembrance yet
Lives in men's eyes, and will to ears and tongues
Be theme and hearing ever.
The Political Condition of Italy in the First Century B.C.The Roman state was in form and name a commonwealth or republic. While Rome was a small agricultural community and her citizens a body of patriotic, sturdy, and independent freeholders, the task of government was easy and the constitution well adapted to its purpose. The wars that followed for the establishment and extension of her power at first fostered unity and soundness of national life. But in course of time Rome became an imperial state and took upon herself the guardianship of every country in the world. Wealth flowed into her coffers from every quarter of the earth, her citizens became corrupt, and the rule of the people became the rule of a rich landed aristocracy, whose principal ambition was to perpetuate its mischievous power. The organ of this aristocracy was the senate, a body of six or seven hundred men, who became members of it nominally by virtue of holding certain high offices, and who remained senators for life. In theory, therefore, the senate was elective, and rested on the popular will; but the members really became such on account of noble blood, wealth, or political, social, or other influence. Moreover, the great offices of the state came to be bought and sold openly and without shame, and opposing factions contended not with ballots alone, but with iron and steel, so that the election place was frequently stained with the blood of the slain. It became increasingly difficult for one not possessing and willing to use such means to be elected to any office. Opposed to the landed aristocracy was a class of wealthy capitalists known as equites, the "Equestrian Order." Many of these were as rich as the senators, but their wealth — most of it gained by usury, state contracts, slave-dealing, and tax-gathering — consisted of money instead of land. They took no active interest in politics excepting so far as they could influence legislation to their advantage by lobbying and bribing. There was no industrious middle class among the free citizens of Rome. Manufacture on a large scale, as a means of wealth, was absolutely unknown; while all mechanical industries were carried on by slaves. The poorer class of citizens, the plebs, were wholly influenced in their votes by their wealthy patrons or by scheming demagogues. The freedmen were the only class who could become rich by industry. The rural portions of Italy were for the most part held in large plantations (latifundia), owned by nobles and cultivated by slaves, or, more frequently, occupied by great droves of cattle. This plantation system had crowded out the free peasant proprietors in almost all parts of the peninsula. After throwing up their farms, which foreign competition had made unprofitable, they flocked to Rome to swell the idle mob that lived on what their votes would bring. There still remained, especially in Northern Italy, a considerable body of small land owners; and the municipal towns (municipia), about four hundred in number, whose territories comprised, politically speaking, the whole area of Italy, were still the home of a fairly prosperous middle class. These had all received Roman citizenship after the social war (B. C. 90) and might, by their substantial character and intelligence, have served as a strong opposition to the corrupt aristocracy at Rome; but they lacked organization and leadership, and when they went to Rome to vote, they were wholly powerless against the turbulent political clubs of the metropolis, whose violence was a regular feature of all public proceedings. Yet in this class alone was the oldRoman virtue to be found, and in it lay whatever hope there was to redeem the state. Another menace to the government was in the constitution of the armies. After a man had been consul, he was given charge of a province and was put in command of several legions. While abroad he was not amenable to the government at home, and when he returned he used his old soldiers to further his political schemes, and rewarded them at the expense of the opposing faction, often by wholesale spoliation and murder. Partisans of the nobility were known as Optimates; those opposed to them as Populares. Before Caesar, the most conspicuous leader of the former had been Sulla, of the latter, Marius, Caesar's uncle by marriage. These two men by their thirst for power and mutual hatred filled all Italy with bloodshed and terror for years. Under the established régime there was no continuity in government, but a perpetual see-saw between rivals. Rome was kept in a constant electioneering excitement accompanied by the worst forms of demoralization. All the vast interests of the Roman world were sacrificed to the luxury and ambition of a governing class wholly incompetent for its task; and the only resource against anarchy appears to have been that some one man, by craft or by force, should get all the reins of power into his single hand. That man was destined to be Julius Caesar.
Caesar's Earlier Career.
Caius Julius Caesar (Gaius Iulius Caesar) was born July 12th, B. C. 100, or, according to some authorities, two years earlier. Assuming the later date, he was six years younger than Pompey, his great rival, and Cicero, the distinguished orator. His ancestry was of the noblest, and was supposed to reach back on his mother's side to Ancus Marcius, the Roman king, and on the father's to Aeneas, the founder of the Roman nation and reputed to be the son of a goddess. The time of his birth was during the great ascendancy of the Populares under Marius, his uncle; and his childhood was passed amid the horrors of the proscriptions that marked Marius's dictatorship. Though Caesar was connected by blood with the oldest and proudest houses of Rome, he early showed his predilection for the party of the people; and the sturdy Marius, with all his defects, doubtless exercised a marked influence over the life and destinies of his young nephew. Caesar lost his father early in life, so that most of the responsibility for his education and bringing up rested upon his mother, Aurelia. She was a typical matron of the old school, managing her house with simplicity and frugality, and holding to the traditions and virtues of the ancient Romans. Tacitus, the Roman historian, couples her name with that of Cornelia, the famous mother of the Gracchi. Caesar owed much of his future greatness to her influence, and his love and reverence for her are highly honorable to both. In the year 86, when Caesar was still a boy, he was appointed a priest of Jupiter. This office was a perfunctory one and had little real religious significance. In 83 he married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, an act which identified him thus early with the Populares; for Cinna was a very prominent leader of that party. It was soon after this that Sulla, the leader of theOptimates, returned from Asia Minor with a victorious army, prepared to take a terrible revenge for the proscription of Marius. Caesar soon fell under his displeasure because of his relationship to Marius. He was ordered to divorce his young wife because she was Cinna's daughter. In this crisis Caesar showed a prominent trait of his character, a trait which led him during all his life to brave every danger rather than allow himself to be controlled. Though but a youth, he refused to obey Sulla's command. A price was set on his head and he was obliged to flee for his life. Often he was in great peril, and once he was taken, and escaped only by bribing his captor. His friends interceded for him, pleading his youth, and finally obtained hispardon, Sulla saying, " Take him, since you will have it so; but I would have you know that the youth for whom you are so earnest, will one day overthrow the aristocracy. I see in him many Mariuses." Caesar thinking it safer to leave Italy for a time went to Asia Minor, where he gained some military experience and distinguished himself for valor by saving a comrade's life. Sulla died in 78 and Caesar returned to his family and resumed his studies. He was a diligent and thorough student and doubtless followed the usual course of Greek, rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, and oratory. To be a good speaker was essential to political success, and Caesar was especially anxious to excel in that direction. He gave some public exhibitions of his skill and won much applause; but anxious to perfect himself still farther he went to Rhodes in 76, to study under Apollonius Molon, the most famous teacher of oratory and rhetoric of the day. On this journey, when near Miletus, he was captured by pirates and held for a heavy ransom. He spent some time among them while waiting for the money, arid joined in their sports and games with the greatest freedom, at the same time assuring them that he would hang them all as soon as he was free. They seem to have regarded him with mingled awe and admiration. The ransom was paid. Caesar was released, went at once to Miletus, where he hastily collected a few ships and made a descent on the pirates before they dreamt of danger. He recovered the ransom money and punished the pirates as he had threatened. On his return to Rome, he began his political career (B. C. 68) by serving as quaestor, an office connected with the public treasury and the first step toward the consulship. This was followed in 65 by the aedileship. The taking of this office, which was one of the chief magistracies, though it involved only the care of the public buildings and the oversight of the great festivals and games, was considered a direct bid for a future consulship, and a man's claims upon that higher office were determined in large measure by the lavishness and splendor of his aedileship. Caesar was poor, but with characteristic boldness he played for the highest political stakes and did not hesitate to incur enormous debts, in fact so enormous that those who had not the most perfect confidence in his capacity and his powers believed him irretrievably ruined. His aedileship surpassed all before it in magnificence; but he left it — as he remarked with grim humor — worth more than a million dollars less than nothing. After his aedileship he identified himself more and more with the popular faction, and even dared to restore some of the statues and trophies of Marius, which had been banished from sight seventeen years before by the order of Sulla. The people began to hope for a successful revival of the Marian party and to look to Caesar as its leader. In B. C. 63 he was elected pontifex maximus against the strong opposition of the Optimates. This office was one of great political power and dignity, though not formally a civil office. Caesar held it for the rest of his life. In 62 he was elected praetor, an office of a judicial character, and this was followed by a year of command in Spain as propraetor. Before leaving for Spain, his creditors became insistent and threatened to detain him unless he paid them. Caesar then obtained a large loan from the richest man in Rome, Crassus, who was ambitious for office and doubtless hoped to make good use in turn of Caesar's brilliant abilities to further his own ends. In Spain Caesar gained valuable military experience and made his administration so profitable to himself, as was usual with provincial governors, that, though he left Rome owing millions of sesterces, he returned in the year 60 with enough money to pay all his debts. His design was to run for the consulship, the highest office in the gift of the people. To secure his election he effected a union of interests between himself and Crassus and Pompey. These were the two most powerful men in Rome, — Crassus because of his wealth, Pompey because of his fame as a general and his popularity with the army. The latter was, in fact, really the first man in the state. He had but recently returned from Asia Minor laden with the spoils of the Mithridatic war, and might easily have seized the dictatorship had he so chosen; but he disbanded his army and preferred to appear as a private citizen, but with almost autocratic power. He had quarreled with Crassus, but Caesar reconciled them, and the three formed a sort of offensive and defensive alliance known as the first triumvirate — what we should call a political deal. This was for Caesar, who was at that time quite their inferior in fame and influence, a master stroke of craft and diplomacy. In 59 Caesar was elected consul almost without opposition. He well understood the critical condition of affairs and saw clearly the dangers that threatened the state, and instituted valuable reforms looking to its regeneration and salvation. The army and the moneyed classes represented by Pompey and Crassus were with him, and he could do almost as he pleased. His first act was the passage of an agrarian law, by which thousands of acres were to be distributed to the poor. This was not a mere act of bribery, but an attempt to restore the peasant freeholders, who had been dispossessed by the rich. Then he passed the excellent body of laws known as the Leges Juliae, which mark an epoch in Roman jurisprudence, and which were devised in the interests of individual rights, purity of justice, morality, and good government. All that one man could do in a single year to save his country from anarchy, Caesar did. Caesar was now forty-three years of age. With the exception of the time spent in Spain, his life had been employed in petty miserable contests with Roman factions. He longed for a new and larger field where he might have freedom to perform deeds worthy of his surpassing abilities and unbounded ambition. This opportunity came to him when, as proconsul, he was entrusted with the protection of the northern frontier against the Gauls, and was assigned the provinces of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul and Illyricum. It was a most hazardous post and doubtless many of the Optimates thought that they were well rid of him.
“Better be first, he said, in a little Iberian village,
Than be second in Rome.
Caesar in Gaul.“What security men derive from a resolute spirit.” Caesar. By the 'deal' of the triumvirate, Caesar was to have the government of Gaul for five years, while Crassus and Pompey were to remain in the city to look after the interests of the coalition. The bond was farther strengthened by the marriage of Pompey with Julia, Caesar's young and beautiful daughter. Caesar, as we have seen, was over forty when he went to Gaul. He was more of a civilian than a soldier and was far more at home in the Forum than in the camp. Alexander, Hannibal, and Napoleon had been trained in war from childhood. The qualities that are most potent in war — hope, confidence, audacity, and pugnacity — are qualities that belong to youth. So Caesar is an anomaly in military history. In spite of his years and his comparative inexperience, he leaped at once to the highest place, and is counted to-day among the three or four greatest generals in history, if not the greatest of them all. He never lost a set battle and he showed infinite versatility in adapting means to ends, always doing the right thing at the right time. He never admits the possibility of defeat and overcomes the most stupendous difficulties with such ease that he rarely speaks of them. His promptness of decision and rapidity of execution were such that the enemy were constantly overwhelmed with awe and were led to regard him as a supernatural being. 'Forced marches,' 'continuous marching day and night,' 'as quickly as possible' are phrases that recur again and again in his narrative. Only a natural ruler of men could get things done with such swiftness. He carried out his plans with the greatest audacity and, at the same time, without recklessness. No one could be more minute and thorough in preparations than he. No one left less chance for luck, good or bad, to enter into the result. In all that was done, his was the masterful and presiding genius, and the legions rarely accomplished much in his absence. His relations with his soldiers were most cordial. They idolized him and he respected and admired them and constantly labored for their safety and comfort. He allows them to share in the glory of his victories and in his story lingers with delight over their heroic exploits. He shared all their dangers and privations, he excelled personally in deeds of arms, and he allowed himself no luxury but a favorite horse. It is not strange that when trouble came upon their master, his soldiers were true to him, and even volunteered to serve without pay. Only three of his officers, two of them Gauls, went over to the enemy, while thousands came to him from the other side. After two successful campaigns in Gaul, in the spring of B. C. 56, Caesar met his two confederates at Luca, in Etruria, to arrange their future schemes. The conference was held with great display, almost like a royal court. More than two hundred senators were present, and one hundred and twenty lictors were in attendance, attached to the several magistrates. At this conference it was agreed that Pompey and Crassus should hold the consulship the following year, and, after their term of office, should receive by popular vote a similar command to that held by Caesar, — namely, that Pompey should command in Spain and Crassus in Syria for five years each; also that when Caesar's five years were up, he should receive in the same way a second term of five years. His ten years' administration would then close at the end of B. C. 49; after which time — an interval of ten years having elapsed — he would be eligible again as consul. The programme was duly carried out. Crassus departed (B. C. 54) to his province, where he was defeated the next year by the Parthians in the battle of Carrhae, and shortly after entrapped and killed. Pompey put his province into the hands of one of his subordinates, and remained in the neighborhood of Rome, unwilling to remove from the seat of his personal influence. Caesar served eight campaigns in Gaul, an account of which is contained in the eight books of his Commentaries. Seven of these he wrote himself. The eighth was written by his friend and staff-officer, Hirtius. During these years he stormed more than 800 towns and subdued 300 tribes, engaged with more than 3,000,000 men, swept over a million human beings from the earth, and took a million more prisoners to be sold into slavery. "He was the first to lead an army into interior Gaul, the first to cross the Rhine into Germany, the first to bring a navy into the Western Ocean or to sail into the Atlantic with an army to make war." He left a magnificent country for the Romans to appropriate and retain until their increasing corruption left it in turn an easy prey to the Germans. He inspired such terror of the Roman arms that the tide of barbarian invasion was stayed for centuries.
Caesar's Later Career.
“The foremost man of all this world.
Meanwhile events had been moving on at Rome. With Crassus dead, Caesar and Pompey were left in the enjoyment of almost absolute authority. They had been friends from youth, but none the less rivals, and the death of Julia (B. C. 54) sundered the last ties that bound them together. In 52 Pompey had been made sole consul and found himself at the head of a party which, under cover of the constitution, was determined to destroy Caesar that it might retain the power which his reforms threatened to place in worthier hands. Caesar's proconsulship of Gaul would expire at the end of B. C. 49. He wished to run for a second consulship in B. C. 48. The senate resolved to prevent this, and commanded him to resign his office and disband his army several months before the expiration of his term. If they could once get him to Rome as a private citizen without an army, they knew they could crush him. Caesar knew this too, and refused to obey the decree unless Pompey should also disband his troops. Pompey would have been willing to agree to this fair proposition, but his friends would not permit him, and were bent on destroying Caesar. Naturally the charge of false play was made on both sides, and the strife continued until Caesar was finally declared a public enemy. He therefore crossed the Rubicon, a small stream which formed the boundary of his province and the limit of his authority, and began to march towards Rome. He took but a single legion with him and continued his efforts to come to an understanding with theOptimates, having hopes of a compromise. He made a speech to his soldiers, explaining the situation, and was assured of their enthusiastic support. Labienus alone deserted him, corrupted, it is said, by Roman gold. Caesar's march through Italy was like a triumphal procession; the cities opened their gates to him and he was everywhere hailed with enthusiasm. Among the Optimates there was nothing but consternation and fear. They had pinned their faith to Pompey, who had boasted that he had but to stamp his foot on the ground and legions would spring from the earth ready to obey him. He had vastly overrated himself (as was his wont), and had no conception of Caesar's power and genius. Cicero well sums up the situation in a letter to his friend Atticus: "The consuls are helpless. There has been no levy. With Caesar pressing forward and our general doing nothing, the men will not come to be enrolled. Pompey is prostrate, without courage, without purpose, without force, without energy." Pompey had been looked upon by his partisans as almost divine. He had been peculiarly fortunate throughout his career and had made a great military reputation by assuming the laurels that others had won. Mommsen says of him: "He was radically a commonplace man, formed by nature to make a good corporal, but forced by circumstances to be a general." Now that he was confronted by a really serious difficulty and by a really able man, he was paralyzed. Pompey with his forces and accompanied by the senators fled in a panic to Brundisium and sailed across the Adriatic to Epirus. Caesar meanwhile continued his victorious advance, and in sixty days was master of Italy. Then he went to Spain, and before autumn closed had met and defeated all opposition there. Returning to Rome he made preparations to follow Pompey. Many prominentOptimates had fallen into his hands, but he let them all go free, to their own great amazement and to Caesar's eternal praise. In a letter he says: "I will conquer after a new fashion and fortify myself in the possession of the power I acquire by generosity and mercy." Caesar followed Pompey across the sea from Brundisium, transporting his army in two divisions. He encountered considerable difficulty on account of storms and the lack of ships. After much skirmishing, anxiety, and suffering (on Caesar's part), owing to scarcity of food and supplies, he fought a battle at Pharsalia in Thessaly on Aug. 9, B. C. 48. Before the battle Pompey's officers felt so sure of victory that a rich banquet was spread awaiting their return from the field. In numbers and equipment Pompey was much superior, and with him was all the wealth and respectability of Rome. He had 45,000 infantry and 5000 cavalry against Caesar's 22,000 and 1000, respectively; but he was overwhelmingly defeated and the battle ended in a terrible panic and great slaughter, in which 15,000 men lost their lives. As Caesar viewed the slain he said sadly: "They would have it so. After all that I had done for my country, I, Gaius Caesar, should have been condemned as a criminal if I had not appealed to my army." Pompey fled for his life and took ship to Egypt and was there murdered by the king, who hoped thus to win Caesar's favor. When Caesar arrived there, however, a few days later, and Pompey's head was presented to him, he is said to have turned away from the sight with horror and grief. He now overcame all remaining opposition in several short and brilliant campaigns. The first of these was in Asia Minor, where he conquered so easily that he reported it to the senate in the words that have since become famous: "Veni, vidi, vici." By the battle of Thapsus in Africa (B. C. 46) and that of Munda in Spain (B. C. 45), the Pompeian party was finally crushed. Caesar now returned to Rome, where he was made imperator — possessing the entire imperium, or military dominion of Rome, not of a single colony or province merely — and perpetual dictator (dictator perpetuo), which offices clothed him with all the political authority of the state. By the powers thus conferred he laid the foundations of the Imperial constitution, which was afterwards (B. C. 30) set in operation by his grand-nephew and adopted son, Octavianus, later known as Augustus. This scheme of government eventually became (as was possibly foreseen from the start) an hereditary monarchy, under the name and form of a republic. During the short period of Caesar's rule he continued the good work of his first consulship and carried a series of measures of wise and practical statesmanship, such as the reform of the calendar, the regulation of the administrative system, and the policy of checks upon the abuses of the money power. He also planned extensive military expeditions against Parthia, Scythia, and Germany, and large public works and improvements, such as draining the Pomptine marshes and cutting through the isthmus of Corinth. With characteristic energy he accomplished much in a very short time. But the possession of this exalted authority involved the utter overthrow of the constitution and necessarily excited alarm and jealousy among patriots and demagogues alike. Rumors were abroad that Caesar was seeking to be king, a name detested at Rome since the foundation of the republic. His rivals were jealous, and not a few friends were disappointed at not having received as large favors as they thought they deserved. Many of his former enemies were bitter against him, because he had been magnanimous enough to forgive them. These feelings culminated in a conspiracy against his life. The leaders were Cassius, aviolent and fearless man driven mad by jealousy and baffled ambition; and Marcus Brutus, who had no better friend than Caesar, but who fancied that he must emulate his ancestor, Brutus the first consul, who expelled the Tarquins. Caesar received many warnings of what was going on, but disregarded them all with his usual indifference to danger. The deed was consummated in the senate-house on the Ides of March, B. C. 44. The great dictator was struck down by false friends and fell, pierced with wounds, at the foot of Pompey's statue. This dastardly act received the condemnation it deserved, and few have dared to defend it on the ground of patriotism. Those concerned in it all died violent deaths soon after. Both Brutus and Cassius committed suicide, the latter stabbing himself with the very dagger which he had used against Caesar.1
“Caesar could bear no superior, Pompey no equal.
Person and Character of Caesar.
“Death makes no conquest of this conqueror
For now he lives in fame, though not in life.
Suetonius (ch. 45) describes Caesar when a youth as tall, slight, and handsome, with dark piercing eyes, a sallow complexion, large nose, lip full, features refined and intellectual, neck sinewy and thick. He adds further that he was neat to effeminacy about his dress and appearance. Fond of athletics, he excelled in all manly sports, especially in riding. In danger he knew no fear and often performed acts of great personal daring. His health was vigorous until his later years, and he could endure an apparently unlimited amount of labor and hardship. Added years gave him a majestic and commanding presence without detracting from the grace and courtesy of his bearing. We judge him to have been a man of singular charm and of unusual personal magnetism. Thanks to the peculiar skill possessed by the ancients in the art of portraiture, we have good reason to believe that we may see the great dictator as he was, from existing statues and busts. Two of the most noted of these are the busts in the British Museum (Fig. 47) and that in the Louvre (Fig. 1). The one in the Naples Museum (Fig. 78) is judged by competent critics to be conventional and not modelled after the living man. Those first mentioned are thought to be true to life. The one in the British Museum shows us Caesar the statesman, the man of peace; the one in the Louvre, Caesar the man of action, the martial hero.2 What Alexander was to the Greeks, and Hannibal to the Carthaginians, that and much more was Caesar to the Romans. The two former excelled all men of their times in war only; but Caesar had such extraordinary abilities in widely different directions that many regard him as the most remarkable man that history records. In whatever he did, he always did the best possible. He had the greatest diversity of gifts: as a student of language, he composed a treatise on grammar while crossing the Alps; as an orator, Quintilian says he would have rivalled Cicero had he devoted his time to this art; as a general, he has had no superior and hardly a peer; and, above all, he was the greatest politician and statesman of his time. To his statecraft all his other acts are subordinate, and by this they should be interpreted. Caesar was too great a man to be without enemies. He has been accused of being a traitor to his country, who by a deep-laid scheme overthrew its constitution. He was undoubtedly ambitious for power, and he used it in making such changes in the constitution as were sorely needed to keep it from going to pieces; but how far the acts by which he accomplished this desirable end were the result of a plan to further his personal ambition, and how far they were compelled by the stress of circumstances, we cannot judge. We do know, however, that he professed an earnest desire for peace, until he was driven into war by the hatred and perversity of his opponents. He has also been accused of immorality, cruelty, and irreligion. It would be vain to maintain that Caesar was a model of virtue in an age that was notoriously and openly wicked and profligate. We know that Caesar was a man of perfect self-control, and that he was remarkable for extreme abstemiousness in eating and drinking. As for the rest, he was probably no worse than the average. Doubtless he was cruel, judged by modern standards. He butchered without mercy thousands of defenceless men, women, and children. But we must remember that Caesar was a Roman, of a people naturally cruel and careless of bloodshed, and, again, that he was dealing with Gauls and Germans, whom the Romans despised, and for whom he had not, nor could have, any feelings of sympathy or kindness. The doctrine of human brotherhood is something he never beard of. But, on the other hand, contrast with this his constant care and anxiety for the welfare of his soldiers, his patience and forbearance with their mistakes, such as no modern commander has exhibited in his memoirs, and, above all, recall his mercy to his opponents in the Civil War, whom he freely pardoned and restored to honor and favor. Contrast Caesar's dictatorship with the horrors of Marius and Sulla, and we cannot wonder that his clemency became famous. That Caesar was a skeptic is no doubt true. The age was skeptical and the learned classes no longer believed in the gods of their forefathers. What Caesar's real beliefs were, or if he had any, we do not know. He often speaks of fortune as ruling in the affairs of men and probably had some vague and dimly defined belief in a supreme power.
“Great Julius, whom all the world admires.
Caesar's Literary Work.As a man of letters Caesar is hardly less eminent. His vast and massive intellect could hold in its grasp a great variety of subjects. He wrote on many different themes, such as philosophy, language, astronomy, and divination. Of all his books only his Commentaries on the Gallic and Civil Wars have come down to us in complete form. They stand as the best military history that was ever written. Their ulterior purpose was to justify him in the eyes of the world for the course he took in opposing the senate and the government. He does this rarely by argument, but by such a tactful and masterful collocation of facts that the unthinking reader feels himself persuaded that Caesar could hardly have done otherwise. The style of these memoirs is remarkable for directness, terseness, and simplicity. Cicero, one of the greatest masters of style, says of them, "I pronounce them indeed to be very commendable, for they are simple, straight-forward, agreeable, with all rhetorical ornament stripped from them as one strips off a garment." While the language is lucid, it is packed full of meaning, and even a good Latinist needs to read slowly and with deliberation that the full thought of each sentence may be gathered. Sometimes a whole sentence is crammed into an adjective or a participle. To translate into good English requires, therefore, frequent amplification. Like all great men, Caesar rarely speaks of himself. In his works he refers to himself in the third person and with such modesty and impartiality that you would never suspect him to be the writer. He betrays his identity by three slips of the pen where he uses the first person. He never struts or poses for effect, not even when he is narrating sublime deeds of heroism. Caesar wrote his Commentaries in the midst of intense activity. They were jotted down as he journeyed fought; mere notes, as it were, for future amplification. Hirtius says, "While others know how faultlessly they are written, I know with what ease and rapidity he dashed them off." For us the Gallic War has a peculiar interest because it treats of the peoples with whom we are most familiar and from whom most of us derive our ancestry. It marks, in a sense, the beginning of modern history. Active, keen-sighted, and truthful, Caesar gives us such insight into these nations as serves to explain many of their present political and social peculiarities.
Important Events in Caesar's Life.
|B.C. 100||Born, July 12th.|
|83||Marries Cornelia, the Daughter of Cinna.|
|80-78||Serves with the Army in Asia.|
|76-75||Studies Oratory at Rhodes.|
|61||Propraetor in Spain.|
|60||Forms the First Triumvirate.|
|58-49||Proconsul in Gaul.|
|56||Meeting of the Triumvirate at Luca.|
|50||The Trouble with Pompey begins.|
|49||Crosses the Rubicon. Civil War begun.|
|48||The Battle of Pharsalia.|
|46||The Battle of Thapsus.|
|Declared Dictator for ten years.|
|45||The Battle of Munda. Appointed Imperator for life.|
|44||The Conspiracy. Assassinated in the Senate House on the Ides of March.|