« PreviousContinue »
state of the
WHEN the strife between the patricians and plebeians had at last ceased, Rome slowly but steadily began to conquer the world. The rotten Not unlike the octopus which, on a comic society into map of Europe published a few years was born. since, represented Russia, she threw her long-reaching arms on all sides, and what these once reached they also held. By the beginning of the 1st century B.C. Rome might already be said to be the mistress of the world. Meanwhile, however, simplicity and virtue had given place to vice and refinement, and the nobility which governed the world was itself rotten to the core. Tiberius Gracchus in B.C. 133, and his younger brother Gaius twelve years later, essayed to stay the plague-spot of corruption: but they acted unwisely, and each perished in his vain attempt. The Juggernaut of wealth and office trampled them under foot, and, though vengeance was sure, it was limping and slow; in appearance the Senate's sway was stronger than ever. But the patriciate which in days of old had been influential and beloved, now stank in the nostrils of the people. Soon, too, sprang up a foe far more formidable than the Gracchi. C. Marius, a man of the people, found the army a disorderly rabble: he restored it to a state of discipline, and so rendered it once more efficient and invincible. The darling of the soldiers and of the crowd, who saw in
him their only means of emancipation from the thraldom which oppressed them, he attacked the nobles with all the bitterness of his rough and savage nature: but in matters politic he was no match for his patrician opponent, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who took up the cause of the nobles, desperate as it was, and who actually succeeded in putting away for a time the coming catastrophe. But the season for mild remedies had long since gone by: the knife was needed to remove the mortified limb. The time and the man were at hand.
Caesar's birth and early
life, B.O. 10282.
On the 12th day of July, B.C. 102,* the year which witnessed the destruction of the Teutoni by C. Marius, the future dictator was born. His father's sister had been given in marriage to Marius, and the training of his childhood taught him to look upon the popular party with respect. While yet a youth the vote of the people in the assembly of the Tribes conferred on him the office of Flamen Dialis, or priest of Jupiter, a proceeding which reminds one of the boy-bishops of the Middle Ages. Nor, when we bear in mind the hollow nature of the armed truce between the Few and the Many, was the vote of the people without significance, not to say without ill-omen. At the age of nineteen he married the daughter of Cinna. Cinna, during the bloody strife between Marius and Sulla, was a prominent, after Marius himself the prominent, member of the revolutionary party at Rome, which aimed at nothing less than the subversion of the corrupt oligarchy which had shown itself so unable to govern. The nephew of one arch-democrat and *According to Prof. Mommsen. The date usually given is
son-in-law of another could hardly hope to escape Sulla's watchful eye. The dictator sternly bade him give up his wife, and Gaius' spirited refusal so enraged the tyrant that only with the utmost difficulty was his life saved.
Seeing that Rome was no place for him just now, he took part in the wars then going on
in the East, and distinguished himself In the East, therein. On Sulla's death (B.C. 78) he In Rome, again returned to Rome; but in the premature outbreak of Lepidus, the political turncoat, who after trying to change Sulla's constitution broke out into armed resistance, he took no part. Like all truly great minds, he could wait for the right time and not strike until a blow would be decisive. And, as Suetonius tells us, he doubtless mistrusted Lepidus as a fitting colleague in that regeneration of the State which he had already marked out as his life-work. This
policy was begun by an attack on Dola- Caesar prosebella. He had as proconsul oppressed bella, B.C. 77. Macedonia in the most shameless manner.
Lust, greed, and rapine had marked his rule, and the young Caesar had indeed an excellent case. But vested interests were at stake, and the whole body of nobles, as well they might, took fright and rose as one man. Gold was freely thrown on all sides to ensure the acquittal of the guilty oligarch: his judges were not only his personal friends, but also afraid, living as they did in glass houses, to throw stones. The young Caesar, perhaps by the advice of his friend and neighbour Cicero, went to Rhodes to study under the great rhetorician Apollonius Molo, where he continued to educate himself for his life's task. Above all, he
learned what then could be gained so well nowhere else-the power of eloquence, and a man who would move crowds must needs be eloquent. On his voyage thither he was taken by the pirates Among the who, to the disgrace of the Roman generals, infested those seas. The mischance nearly cut his life short, but in the end it did but bring out in a characteristic manner his promptness and energy. Released on the payment of a ransom of fifty talents, the self-same day he gathered a force at Miletus, surprised his late captors while they were yet feasting on the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains, and there and then crucified them as a terror
and example to others. On his return soon after this to Rome, he found the star of the Senate in the ascendant: Metellus, Lucullus, Crassus, and Pompey were occupying the chief state offices. But Caesar was still the people's favourite, and he proceeded to ingratiate himself with them still more. He did not indeed thrust himself forward, but each act of high-handed robbery-and these were not few-surrendered a valuable card into the hand of one who knew how to play it, and gave him more influence with the people, who were sooner or later to settle matters with their old foes. The cause of the aristocracy was indeed rotten. Verres, a young noble, Verres. during his three years' stay as Pro-praetor in Sicily, had in the most cruel manner oppressed that unhappy island. Throughout his tenure of office there had been absolutely no security for property, no safety for honour or life. The young magistrate who represented "the city "the city" was a monster of wickedness, the incarnation of cruelty the most heartless, of greed the most unprincipled,
of lust the most unbridled: he spared neither things human nor the temples of the gods, and even crucified a Roman citizen in sight of the Italian shores. But he carried his game too far. Cicero had not yet thrown the weight of his magnificent eloquence into the senatorial balance, and, prosecuting in the most determined way, backed up by abundant evidence of guilt only too easily procured, he forced Verres to go into banishment at Marseilles. Such an occurrence was not calculated to strengthen the union of the parties. The revelations disclosed therein opened the eyes of all to the excesses and enormities which were daily enacted in the provinces. For Verres, bad as he was, was but one out of many as bad as himself. In or about the year B.C. 69 Caesar was made Military Tribune, and about the same time became Tribune. Military allied to Lucius Piso by marrying his daughter Calpurnia on the death of Cornelia. The next year (B.c. 68) he became a candidate for the quaestorship, the lowest rung on the ladder of public office. At once he was a hot favourite with the people, in whose hands power already really lay. The nephew of the great Marius and the son-in-law of Cinna had claims on the party of progress which could not be overlooked. In vain did the nobles offer a furious opposition. Every device, fair or foul, was defeated by the determined attitude of the masses, and the nobles by their bitter hostility hurt only themselves. It was not long before he had an opportunity of showing alike his political sympathies fends Marius. and his courage. For years the name of
Marius had been unheard at Rome save in a whisper. But now on the death of his aunt, the widow of