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Twice only he undertook any foreign expeditions, one to Alexandria, and the other to Achaia; but he abandoned the prosecution of the former on the very day fixed for his departure, by being deterred both by ill omens, and the hazard of the voyage. For while he was making the circuit of the temples, having seated himself in that of Vesta, when he attempted to rise, the skirt of his robe stuck fast; and he was instantly seized with such a dimness in his eyes, that he could not see a yard before him. In Achaia, he attempted to make a cut through the Isthmus;1 and, having made a speech encouraging his pretorians to set about the work, on a signal given by sound of trumpet, he first broke ground with a spade, and carried off a basket full of earth upon his shoulders. He made preparations for an expedition to the Pass of the Caspian mountains;2 forming a new legion out of his late levies in Italy, of men all six feet high, which he called the phalanx of Alexander the Great. These transactions, in part unexceptionable, and in part highly commendable, I have brought into one view, in order to separate them from the scandalous and criminal part of his conduct, of which I shall now give an account.
1 It was a favourite project of the Caesars to make a navigable canal through the Isthmus of Corinth, to avoid the circumnavigation of the southern extremity of the Morea, now Cape Matapan, which, even in our days, has its perils. See JULIUS Caesar, C. xliv. and CALIGULA, C. xxi.
2 Caspiae Porta; so called from the difficulties opposed by the narrow and rocky defile to the passage of the Caucasus from the country washed by the Euxine, now called Georgia, to that lying between the Caspian and the sea of Azof. It commences a few miles north of Teflis, and is frequently the scene of contests between the Russians and Circassian tribes.
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