Crassus Goes to Syria
Marcus Crassus had for years been reckoned among the heads of the "three-headed monster," without any proper title to be so included. He served as a makeweight to trim the balance between the real regents Pompeius and Caesar, or, to speak more accurately, his weight fell into the scale of Caesar against Pompeius. This part is not a too reputable one; but Crassus was never hindered by any keen sense of honour from pursuing his own advantage. He was a merchant and was open to be dealt with. What was offered to him was not much; but, when more was not to be got, he accepted it, and sought to forget the ambition that fretted him, and his chagrin at occupying a position so near to power and yet so powerless, amidst his always accumulating piles of gold. But the conference at Luca changed the state of matters also for him; with the view of still retaining the preponderance as compared with Pompeius after concessions so extensive, Caesar gave to his old confederate Crassus an opportunity of attaining in Syria through the Parthian war the same position to which Caesar had attained by the Celtic war in Gaul. It was difficult to say whether these new prospects proved more attractive to the ardent thirst for gold which had now become at the age of sixty a second nature and grew only the more intense with every newly-won million, or to the ambition which had been long repressed with difficulty in the old man's breast and now glowed in it with restless fire. He arrived in Syria as early as the beginning of 700; he had not even waited for the expiry of his consulship to depart. Full of impatient ardour he seemed desirous to redeem every minute with the view of making up for what he had lost, of gathering in the treasures of the east in addition to those of the west, of achieving the power and glory of a general as rapidly as Caesar, and with as little trouble as Pompeius.
Expedition against Parthia Resolved on
He found the Parthian war already commenced. The faithless conduct of Pompeius towards the Parthians has been already mentioned;(1) he had not respected the stipulated frontier of the Euphrates and had wrested several provinces from the Parthian empire for the benefit of Armenia, which was now a client state of Rome. King Phraates had submitted to this treatment; but after he had been murdered by his two sons Mithradates and Orodes, the new king Mithradates immediately declared war on the king of Armenia, Artavasdes, son of the recently deceased Tigranes (about 698).(2) This was at the same time a declaration of war against Rome; therefore as soon as the revolt of the Jews was suppressed, Gabinius, the able and spirited governor of Syria, led the legions over the Euphrates. Meanwhile, however, a revolution had occurred in the Parthian empire; the grandees of the kingdom, with the young, bold, and talented grand vizier at their head, had overthrown king Mithradates and placed his brother Orodes on the throne. Mithradates therefore made common cause with the Romans and resorted to the camp of Gabinius. Everything promised the best results to the enterprise of the Roman governor, when he unexpectedly received orders to conduct the king of Egypt back by force of arms to Alexandria.(3) He was obliged to obey; but, in the expectation of soon coming back, he induced the dethroned Parthian prince who solicited aid from him to commence the war in the meanwhile at his own hand. Mithradates did so; and Seleucia and Babylon declared for him; but the vizier captured Seleucia by assault, having been in person the first to mount the battlements, and in Babylon Mithradates himself was forced by famine to surrender, whereupon he was by his brother's orders put to death. His death was a palpable loss to the Romans; but it by no means put an end to the ferment in the Parthian empire, and the Armenian war continued. Gabinius, after ending the Egyptian campaign, was just on the eve of turning to account the still favourable opportunity and resuming the interrupted Parthian war, when Crassus arrived in Syria and along with the command took up also the plans of his predecessor. Full of high-flown hopes he estimated the difficulties of the march as slight, and the power of resistance in the armies of the enemy as yet slighter; he not only spoke confidently of the subjugation of the Parthians, but was already in imagination the conqueror of the kingdoms of Bactria and India.
Plan of the Campaign
The new Alexander, however, was in no haste. Before he carried into effect these great plans, he found leisure for very tedious and very lucrative collateral transactions. The temples of Derceto at Hierapolis Bambyce and of Jehovah at Jerusalem and other rich shrines of the Syrian province, were by order of Crassus despoiled of their treasures; and contingents or, still better, sums of money instead were levied from all the subjects. The military operations of the first summer were limited to an extensive reconnaissance in Mesopotamia; the Euphrates was crossed, the Parthian satrap was defeated at Ichnae (on the Belik to the north of Rakkah), and the neighbouring towns, including the considerable one of Nicephorium (Rakkah), were occupied, after which the Romans having left garrisons behind in them returned to Syria. They had hitherto been in doubt whether it was more advisable to march to Parthia by the circuitous route of Armenia or by the direct route through the Mesopotamian desert. The first route, leading through mountainous regions under the control of trustworthy allies, commended itself by its greater safety; king Artavasdes came in person to the Roman headquarters to advocate this plan of the campaign. But that reconnaissance decided in favour of the march through Mesopotamia. The numerous and flourishing Greek and half-Greek towns in the regions along the Euphrates and Tigris, above all the great city of Seleucia, were altogether averse to the Parthian rule; all the Greek townships with which the Romans came into contact had now, like the citizens of Carrhae at an earlier time,(4) practically shown how ready they were to shake off the intolerable foreign yoke and to receive the Romans as deliverers, almost as countrymen. The Arab prince Abgarus, who commanded the desert of Edessa and Carrhae and thereby the usual route from the Euphrates to the Tigris, had arrived in the camp of the Romans to assure them in person of his devotedness. The Parthians had appeared to be wholly unprepared.
The Euphrates Crossed
Accordingly (701) the Euphrates was crossed (near Biradjik). To reach the Tigris from this point they had the choice of two routes; either the army might move downward along the Euphrates to the latitude of Seleucia where the Euphrates and Tigris are only a few miles distant from each other; or they might immediately after crossing take the shortest line to the Tigris right across the great Mesopotamian desert. The former route led directly to the Parthian capital Ctesiphon, which lay opposite Seleucia on the other bank of the Tigris; several weighty voices were raised in favour of this route in the Roman council of war; in particular the quaestor Gaius Cassius pointed to the difficulties of the march in the desert, and to the suspicious reports arriving from the Roman garrisons on the left bank of the Euphrates as to the Parthian warlike preparations. But in opposition to this the Arab prince Abgarus announced that the Parthians were employed in evacuating their western provinces. They had already packed up their treasures and put themselves in motion to flee to the Hyrcanians and Scythians; only through a forced march by the shortest route was it at all possible still to reach them; but by such a march the Romans would probably succeed in overtaking and cutting up at least the rear-guard of the great army under Sillaces and the vizier, and obtaining enormous spoil. These reports of the friendly Bedouins decided the direction of the march; the Roman army, consisting of seven legions, 4000 cavalry, and 4000 slingers and archers, turned off from the Euphrates and away into the inhospitable plains of northern Mesopotamia.
The March in the Desert
Far and wide not an enemy showed himself; only hunger and thirst, and the endless sandy desert, seemed to keep watch at the gates of the east. At length, after many days of toilsome marching, not far from the first river which the Roman army had to cross, the Balissus (Belik), the first horsemen of the enemy were descried. Abgarus with his Arabs was sent out to reconnoitre; the Parthian squadrons retired up to and over the river and vanished in the distance, pursued by Abgarus and his followers. With impatience the Romans waited for his return and for more exact information. The general hoped here at length to come upon the constantly retreating foe; his young and brave son Publius, who had fought with the greatest distinction in Gaul under Caesar,(5) and had been sent by the latter at the head of a Celtic squadron of horse to take part in the Parthian war, was inflamed with a vehement desire for the fight. When no tidings came, they resolved to advance at a venture; the signal for starting was given, the Balissus was crossed, the army after a brief insufficient rest at noon was led on without delay at a rapid pace. Then suddenly the kettledrums of the Parthians sounded all around; on every side their silken gold-embroidered banners were seen waving, and their iron helmets and coats of mail glittering in the blaze of the hot noonday sun; and by the side of the vizier stood prince Abgarus with his Bedouins.
Roman and Parthian Systems of Warfare
The Romans saw too late the net into which they had allowed themselves to be ensnared. With sure glance the vizier had thoroughly seen both the danger and the means of meeting it. Nothing could be accomplished against the Roman infantry of the line with Oriental infantry; so he had rid himself of it, and by sending a mass, which was useless in the main field of battle, under the personal leadership of king Orodes to Armenia, he had prevented king Artavasdes from allowing the promised 10,000 heavy cavalry to join the army of Crassus, who now painfully felt the want of them. On the other hand the vizier met the Roman tactics, unsurpassed of their kind, with a system entirely different. His army consisted exclusively of cavalry; the line was formed of the heavy horsemen armed with long thrusting-lances, and protected, man and horse, by a coat of mail of metallic plates or a leathern doublet and by similar greaves; the mass of the troops consisted of mounted archers. As compared with these, the Romans were thoroughly inferior in the corresponding arms both as to number and excellence. Their infantry of the line, excellent as they were in close combat, whether at a short distance with the heavy javelin or in hand-to-hand combat with the sword, could not compel an army consisting merely of cavalry to come to an engagement with them; and they found, even when they did come to a hand-to-hand conflict, an equal if not superior adversary in the iron-clad hosts of lancers. As compared with an army like this Parthian one, the Roman army was at a disadvantage strategically, because the cavalry commanded the communications; and at a disadvantage tactically, because every weapon of close combat must succumb to that which is wielded from a distance, unless the struggle becomes an individual one, man against man. The concentrated position, on which the whole Roman method of war was based, increased the danger in presence of such an attack; the closer the ranks of the Roman column, the more irresistible certainly was its onset, but the less also could the missiles fail to hit their mark. Under ordinary circumstances, where towns have to be defended and difficulties of the ground have to be considered, such tactics operating merely with cavalry against infantry could never be completely carried out; but in the Mesopotamian desert, where the army, almost like a ship on the high seas, neither encountered an obstacle nor met with a basis for strategic dispositions during many days' march, this mode of warfare was irresistible for the very reason that circumstances allowed it to be developed there in all its purity and therefore in all its power. There everything combined to put the foreign infantry at a disadvantage against the native cavalry. Where the heavy-laden Roman foot-soldier dragged himself toilsomely through the sand or the steppe, and perished from hunger or still more from thirst amid the pathless route marked only by water-springs that were far apart and difficult to find, the Parthian horseman, accustomed from childhood to sit on his fleet steed or camel, nay almost to spend his life in the saddle, easily traversed the desert whose hardships he had long learned how to lighten or in case of need to endure. There no rain fell to mitigate the intolerable heat, and to slacken the bowstrings and leathern thongs of the enemy's archers and slingers; there amidst the deep sand at many places ordinary ditches and ramparts could hardly be formed for the camp. Imagination can scarcely conceive a situation in which all the military advantages were more on the one side, and all the disadvantages more thoroughly on the other.
To the question, under what circumstances this new style of tactics, the first national system that on its own proper ground showed itself superior to the Roman, arose among the Parthians, we unfortunately can only reply by conjectures. The lancers and mounted archers were of great antiquity in the east, and already formed the flower of the armies of Cyrus and Darius; but hitherto these arms had been employed only as secondary, and essentially to cover the thoroughly useless Oriental infantry. The Parthian armies also by no means differed in this respect from the other Oriental ones; armies are mentioned, five-sixths of which consisted of infantry. In the campaign of Crassus, on the other hand, the cavalry for the first time came forward independently, and this arm obtained quite a new application and quite a different value. The irresistible superiority of the Roman infantry in close combat seems to have led the adversaries of Rome in very different parts of the world independently of each other—at the same time and with similar success—to meet it with cavalry and distant weapons. What as completely successful with Cassivellaunus in Britain(6) and partially successful with Vercingetorix in Gaul(7)— what was to a certain degree attempted even by Mithradates Eupator(8)— the vizier of Orodes carried out only on a larger scale and more completely. And in doing so he had special advantages: for he found in the heavy cavalry the means of forming a line; the bow which was national in the east and was handled with masterly skill in the Persian provinces gave him an effective weapon for distant combat; and lastly the peculiarities of the country and the people enabled him freely to realize his brilliant idea. Here, where the Roman weapons of close combat and the Roman system of concentration yielded for the first time before the weapons of more distant warfare and the system of deploying, was initiated that military revolution which only reached its completion with the introduction of firearms.
Battle near Carrhae
Under such circumstances the first battle between the Romans and Parthians was fought amidst the sandy desert thirty miles to the south of Carrhae (Harran) where there was a Roman garrison, and at a somewhat less distance to the north of Ichnae. The Roman archers were sent forward, but retired immediately before the enormous numerical superiority and the far greater elasticity and range of the Parthian bows. The legions, which, in spite of the advice of the more sagacious officers that they should be deployed as much as possible against the enemy, had been drawn up in a dense square of twelve cohorts on each side, were soon outflanked and overwhelmed with the formidable arrows, which under such circumstances hit their man even without special aim, and against which the soldiers had no means of retaliation. The hope that the enemy might expend his missiles vanished with a glance at the endless range of camels laden with arrows. The Parthians were still extending their line. That the outflanking might not end in surrounding, Publius Crassus advanced to the attack with a select corps of cavalry, archers, and infantry of the line. The enemy in fact abandoned the attempt to close the circle, and retreated, hotly pursued by the impetuous leader of the Romans. But, when the corps of Publius had totally lost sight of the main army, the heavy cavalry made a stand against it, and the Parthian host hastening up from all sides closed in like a net round it. Publius, who saw his troops falling thickly and vainly around him under the arrows of the mounted archers, threw himself in desperation with his Celtic cavalry unprotected by any coats of mail on the iron-clad lancers of the enemy; but the death-despising valour of his Celts, who seized the lances with their hands or sprang from their horses to stab the enemy, performed its marvels in vain. The remains of the corps, including their leader wounded in the sword-arm, were driven to a slight eminence, where they only served for an easier mark to the enemy's archers. Mesopotamian Greeks, who were accurately acquainted with the country, adjured Crassus to ride off with them and make an attempt to escape; but he refused to separate his fate from that of the brave men whom his too-daring courage had led to death, and he caused himself to be stabbed by the hand of his shield-bearer. Following his example, most of the still surviving officers put themselves to death. Of the whole division, about 6000 strong, not more than 500 were taken prisoners; no one was able to escape. Meanwhile the attack on the main army had slackened, and the Romans were but too glad to rest. When at length the absence of any tidings from the corps sent out startled them out of the deceitful calm, and they drew near to the scene of the battle for the purpose of learning its fate, the head of the son was displayed on a pole before his father's eyes; and the terrible onslaught began once more against the main army with the same fury and the same hopeless uniformity. They could neither break the ranks of the lancers nor reach the archers; night alone put an end to the slaughter. Had the Parthians bivouacked on the battle-field, hardly a man of the Roman army would have escaped. But not trained to fight otherwise than on horseback, and therefore afraid of a surprise, they were wont never to encamp close to the enemy; jeeringly they shouted to the Romans that they would give the general a night to bewail his son, and galloped off to return next morning and despatch the game that lay bleeding on the ground.
Retreat to Carrhae
Of course the Romans did not wait for the morning. The lieutenant- generals Cassius and Octavius—Crassus himself had completely lost his judgment—ordered the men still capable of marching to set out immediately and with the utmost silence (while the whole— said to amount to 4000—of the wounded and stragglers were left), with the view of seeking protection within the walls of Carrhae. The fact that the Parthians, when they returned on the following day, applied themselves first of all to seek out and massacre the scattered Romans left behind, and the further fact that the garrison and inhabitants of Carrhae, early informed of the disaster by fugitives, had marched forth in all haste to meet the beaten army, saved the remnants of it from what seemed inevitable destruction.
Departure from Carrhae
Surprise at Sinnaca
The squadrons of Parthian horsemen could not think of undertaking a siege of Carrhae. But the Romans soon voluntarily departed, whether compelled by want of provisions, or in consequence of the desponding precipitation of their commander-in-chief, whom the soldiers had vainly attempted to remove from the command and to replace by Cassius. They moved in the direction of the Armenian mountains; marching by night and resting by day Octavius with a band of 5000 men reached the fortress of Sinnaca, which was only a day's march distant from the heights that would give shelter, and liberated even at the peril of his own life the commander-in-chief, whom the guide had led astray and given up to the enemy. Then the vizier rode in front of the Roman camp to offer, in the name of his king, peace and friendship to the Romans, and to propose a personal conference between the two generals. The Roman army, demoralized as it was, adjured and indeed compelled its leader to accept the offer. The vizier received the consular and his staff with the usual honours, and offered anew to conclude a compact of friendship; only, with just bitterness recalling the fate of the agreements concluded with Lucullus and Pompeius respecting the Euphrates boundary,(9) he demanded that it should be immediately reduced to writing. A richly adorned horse was produced; it was a present from the king to the Roman commander-in-chief; the servants of the vizier crowded round Crassus, zealous to mount him on the steed. It seemed to the Roman officers as if there was a design to seize the person of the commander-in-chief; Octavius, unarmed as he was, pulled the sword of one of the Parthians from its sheath and stabbed the groom. In the tumult which thereupon arose, the Roman officers were all put to death; the gray-haired commander- in-chief also, like his grand-uncle,(10) was unwilling to serve as a living trophy to the enemy, and sought and found death. The multitude left behind in the camp without a leader were partly taken prisoners, partly dispersed. What the day of Carrhae had begun, the day of Sinnaca completed (June 9, 701); the two took their place side by side with the days of the Allia, of Cannae, and of Arausio. The army of the Euphrates was no more. Only the squadron of Gaius Cassius, which had been broken off from the main army on the retreat from Carrhae, and some other scattered bands and isolated fugitives succeeded in escaping from the Parthians and Bedouins and separately finding their way back to Syria. Of above 40,000 Roman legionaries, who had crossed the Euphrates, not a fourth part returned; the half had perished; nearly 10,000 Roman prisoners were settled by the victors in the extreme east of their kingdom—in the oasis of Merv—as bondsmen compelled after the Parthian fashion to render military service. For the first time since the eagles had headed the legions, they had become in the same year trophies of victory in the hands of foreign nations, almost contemporaneously of a German tribe in the west(11) and of the Parthians in the east. As to the impression which the defeat of the Romans produced in the east, unfortunately no adequate information has reached us; but it must have been deep and lasting. King Orodes was just celebrating the marriage of his son Pacorus with the sister of his new ally, Artavasdes the king of Armenia, when the announcement of the victory of his vizier arrived, and along with it, according to Oriental usage, the cut-off head of Crassus. The tables were already removed; one of the wandering companies of actors from Asia Minor, numbers of which at that time existed and carried Hellenic poetry and the Hellenic drama far into the east, was just performing before the assembled court the -Bacchae- of Euripides. The actor playing the part of Agave, who in her Dionysiac frenzy has torn in pieces her son and returns from Cithaeron carrying his head on the thyrsus, exchanged this for the bloody head of Crassus, and to the infinite delight of his audience of half-Hellenized barbarians began afresh the well-known song:
—pheromin ex oreos elika neotomon epi melathra makarian theiran—.
It was, since the times of the Achaemenids, the first serious victory which the Orientals had achieved over the west; and there was a deep significance in the fact that, by way of celebrating this victory, the fairest product of the western world— Greek tragedy—parodied itself through its degenerate representatives in that hideous burlesque. The civic spirit of Rome and the genius of Hellas began simultaneously to accommodate themselves to the chains of sultanism.
Consequences of the Defeat
The disaster, terrible in itself, seemed also as though it was to be dreadful in its consequences, and to shake the foundations of the Roman power in the east. It was among the least of its results that the Parthians now had absolute sway beyond the Euphrates; that Armenia, after having fallen away from the Roman alliance even before the disaster of Crassus, was reduced by it into entire dependence on Parthia; that the faithful citizens of Carrhae were bitterly punished for their adherence to the Occidentals by the new master appointed over them by the Parthians, one of the treacherous guides of the Romans, named Andromachus. The Parthians now prepared in all earnest to cross the Euphrates in their turn, and, in union with the Armenians and Arabs, to dislodge the Romans from Syria. The Jews and various other Occidentals awaited emancipation from the Roman rule there, no less impatiently than the Hellenes beyond the Euphrates awaited relief from the Parthian; in Rome civil war was at the door; an attack at this particular place and time was a grave peril. But fortunately for Rome the leaders on each side had changed. Sultan Orodes was too much indebted to the heroic prince, who had first placed the crown on his head and then cleared the land from the enemy, not to get rid of him as soon as possible by the executioner. His place as commander-in-chief of the invading army destined for Syria was filled by a prince, the king's son Pacorus, with whom on account of his youth and inexperience the prince Osaces had to be associated as military adviser. On the other side the interim command in Syria in room of Crassus was taken up by the prudent and resolute quaestor Gaius Cassius.
Repulse of the Parthians
The Parthians were, just like Crassus formerly, in no haste to attack, but during the years 701 and 702 sent only weak flying bands, who were easily repulsed, across the Euphrates; so that Cassius obtained time to reorganize the army in some measure, and with the help of the faithful adherent of the Romans, Herodes Antipater, to reduce to obedience the Jews, whom resentment at the spoliation of the temple perpetrated by Crassus had already driven to arms. The Roman government would thus have had full time to send fresh troops for the defence of the threatened frontier; but this was left undone amidst the convulsions of the incipient revolution, and, when at length in 703 the great Parthian invading army appeared on the Euphrates, Cassius had still nothing to oppose to it but the two weak legions formed from the remains of the army of Crassus. Of course with these he could neither prevent the crossing nor defend the province. Syria was overrun by the Parthians, and all Western Asia trembled. But the Parthians did not understand the besieging of towns. They not only retreated from Antioch, into which Cassius had thrown himself with his troops, without having accomplished their object, but they were on their retreat along the Orontes allured into an ambush by Cassius' cavalry and there severely handled by the Roman infantry; prince Osaces was himself among the slain. Friend and foe thus perceived that the Parthian army under an ordinary general and on ordinary ground was not capable of much more than any other Oriental army. However, the attack was not abandoned. Still during the winter of 703-704 Pacorus lay encamped in Cyrrhestica on this side of the Euphrates; and the new governor of Syria, Marcus Bibulus, as wretched a general as he was an incapable statesman, knew no better course of action than to shut himself up in his fortresses. It was generally expected that the war would break out in 704 with renewed fury. But instead of turning his arms against the Romans, Pacorus turned against his own father, and accordingly even entered into an understanding with the Roman governor. Thus the stain was not wiped from the shield of Roman honour, nor was the reputation of Rome restored in the east; but the Parthian invasion of Western Asia was over, and the Euphrates boundary was, for the time being at least, retained.
Impression Produced in Rome by the Defeat of Carrhae
In Rome meanwhile the periodical volcano of revolution was whirling upward its clouds of stupefying smoke. The Romans began to have no longer a soldier or a denarius to be employed against the public foe— no longer a thought for the destinies of the nations. It is one of the most dreadful signs of the times, that the huge national disaster of Carrhae and Sinnaca gave the politicians of that time far less to think and speak of than that wretched tumult on the Appian road, in which, a couple of months after Crassus, Clodius the partisan-leader perished; but it is easily conceivable and almost excusable. The breach between the two regents, long felt as inevitable and often announced as near, was now assuming such a shape that it could not be arrested. Like the boat of the ancient Greek mariners' tale, the vessel of the Roman community now found itself as it were between two rocks swimming towards each other; expecting every moment the crash of collision, those whom it was bearing, tortured by nameless anguish, into the eddying surge that rose higher and higher were benumbed; and, while every slightest movement there attracted a thousand, eyes, no one ventured to give a glance to the right or the left.
The Good Understanding between the Regents Relaxed
After Caesar had, at the conference of Luca in April 698, agreed to considerable concessions as regarded Pompeius, and the regents had thus placed themselves substantially on a level, their relation was not without the outward conditions of durability, so far as a division of the monarchical power—in itself indivisible— could be lasting at all. It was a different question whether the regents, at least for the present, were determined to keep together and mutually to acknowledge without reserve their title to rank as equals. That this was the case with Caesar, in so far as he had acquired the interval necessary for the conquest of Gaul at the price of equalization with Pompeius, has been already set forth. But Pompeius was hardly ever, even provisionally, in earnest with the collegiate scheme. His was one of those petty and mean natures, towards which it is dangerous to practise magnanimity; to his paltry spirit it appeared certainly a dictate of prudence to supplant at the first opportunity his reluctantly acknowledged rival, and his mean soul thirsted after a possibility of retaliating on Caesar for the humiliation which he had suffered through Caesar's indulgence. But while it is probable that Pompeius in accordance with his dull and sluggish nature never properly consented to let Caesar hold a position of equality by his side, yet the design of breaking up the alliance doubtless came only by degrees to be distinctly entertained by him. At any rate the public, which usually saw better through the views and intentions of Pompeius than he did himself, could not be mistaken in thinking that at least with the death of the beautiful Julia— who died in the bloom of womanhood in the autumn of 700 and was soon followed by her only child to the tomb—the personal relation between her father and her husband was broken up. Caesar attempted to re-establish the ties of affinity which fate had severed; he asked for himself the hand of the only daughter of Pompeius, and offered Octavia, his sister's grand-daughter, who was now his nearest relative, in marriage to his fellow-regent; but Pompeius left his daughter to her existing husband Faustus Sulla the son of the regent, and he himself married the daughter of Quintus Metellus Scipio. The personal breach had unmistakeably begun, and it was Pompeius who drew back his hand. It was expected that a political breach would at once follow; but in this people were mistaken; in public affairs a collegiate understanding continued for a time to subsist. The reason was, that Caesar did not wish publicly to dissolve the relation before the subjugation of Gaul was accomplished, and Pompeius did not wish to dissolve it before the governing authorities and Italy should be wholly reduced under his power by his investiture with the dictatorship. It is singular, but yet readily admits of explanation, that the regents under these circumstances supported each other; Pompeius after the disaster of Aduatuca in the winter of 700 handed over one of his Italian legions that were dismissed on furlough by way of loan to Caesar; on the other hand Caesar granted his consent and his moral support to Pompeius in the repressive measures which the latter took against the stubborn republican opposition.
Dictatorship of Pompeius
Covert Attacks by Pompeius on Caesar
It was only after Pompeius had in this way procured for himself at the beginning of 702 the undivided consulship and an influence in the capital thoroughly outweighing that of Caesar, and after all the men capable of arms in Italy had tendered their military oath to himself personally and in his name, that he formed the resolution to break as soon as possible formally with Caesar; and the design became distinctly enough apparent. That the judicial prosecution which took place after the tumult on the Appian Way lighted with unsparing severity precisely on the old democratic partisans of Caesar,(12) might perhaps pass as a mere awkwardness. That the new law against electioneering intrigues, which had retrospective effect as far as 684, included also the dubious proceedings at Caesar's candidature for the consulship,(13) might likewise be nothing more, although not a few Caesarians thought that they perceived in it a definite design. But people could no longer shut their eyes, however willing they might be to do so, when Pompeius did not select for his colleague in the consulship his former father-in-law Caesar, as was fitting in the circumstances of the case and was in many quarters demanded, but associated with himself a puppet wholly dependent on him in his new father-in-law Scipio;(14) and still less, when Pompeius at the same time got the governorship of the two Spains continued to him for five years more, that is to 709, and a considerable fixed sum appropriated from the state-chest for the payment of his troops, not only without stipulating for a like prolongation of command and a like grant of money to Caesar, but even while labouring ulteriorly to effect the recall of Caesar before the term formerly agreed on through the new regulations which were issued at the same time regarding the holding of the governorships. These encroachments were unmistakeably calculated to undermine Caesar's position and eventually to overthrow him. The moment could not be more favourable. Caesar had conceded so much to Pompeius at Luca, only because Crassus and his Syrian army would necessarily, in the event of any rupture with Pompeius, be thrown into Caesar's scale; for upon Crassus—who since the times of Sulla had been at the deepest enmity with Pompeius and almost as long politically and personally allied with Caesar, and who from his peculiar character at all events, if he could not himself be king of Rome, would have been content with being the new king's banker—Caesar could always reckon, and could have no apprehension at all of seeing Crassus confronting him as an ally of his enemies. The catastrophe of June 701, by which army and general in Syria perished, was therefore a terribly severe blow also for Caesar. A few months later the national insurrection blazed up more violently than ever in Gaul, just when it had seemed completely subdued, and for the first time Caesar here encountered an equal opponent in the Arvernian king Vercingetorix. Once more fate had been working for Pompeius; Crassus was dead, all Gaul was in revolt, Pompeius was practically dictator of Rome and master of the senate. What might have happened, if he had now, instead of remotely intriguing against Caesar, summarily compelled the burgesses or the senate to recall Caesar at once from Gaul! But Pompeius never understood how to take advantage of fortune. He heralded the breach clearly enough; already in 702 his acts left no doubt about it, and in the spring of 703 he openly expressed his purpose of breaking with Caesar; but he did not break with him, and allowed the months to slip away unemployed.
The Old Party Names and the Pretenders
But however Pompeius might delay, the crisis was incessantly urged on by the mere force of circumstances.
The impending war was not a struggle possibly between republic and monarchy—for that had been virtually decided years before— but a struggle between Pompeius and Caesar for the possession of the crown of Rome. But neither of the pretenders found his account in uttering the plain truth; he would have thereby driven all that very respectable portion of the burgesses, which desired the continuance of the republic and believed in its possibility, directly into the camp of his opponent. The old battle-cries raised by Gracchus and Drusus, Cinna and Sulla, used up and meaningless as they were, remained still good enough for watchwords in the struggle of the two generals contending for the sole rule; and, though for the moment both Pompeius and Caesar ranked themselves officially with the so-called popular party, it could not be for a moment doubtful that Caesar would inscribe on his banner the people and democratic progress, Pompeius the aristocracy and the legitimate constitution.
The Democracy and Caesar
Caesar had no choice. He was from the outset and very earnestly a democrat; the monarchy as he understood it differed more outwardly than in reality from the Gracchan government of the people; and he was too magnanimous and too profound a statesman to conceal his colours and to fight under any other escutcheon than his own. The immediate advantage no doubt, which this battle-cry brought to him, was trifling; it was confined mainly to the circumstance that he was thereby relieved from the inconvenience of directly naming the kingly office, and so alarming the mass of the lukewarm and his own adherents by that detested word. The democratic banner hardly yielded farther positive gain, since the ideals of Gracchus had been rendered infamous and ridiculous by Clodius; for where was there now—laying aside perhaps the Transpadanes— any class of any sort of importance, which would have been induced by the battle-cries of the democracy to take part in the struggle?
The Aristocracy and Pompeius
This state of things would have decided the part of Pompeius in the impending struggle, even if apart from this it had not been self-evident that he could only enter into it as the general of the legitimate republic. Nature had destined him, if ever any one, to be a member of an aristocracy; and nothing but very accidental and very selfish motives had carried him over as a deserter from the aristocratic to the democratic camp. That he should now revert to his Sullan traditions, was not merely befitting in the case, but in every respect of essential advantage. Effete as was the democratic cry, the conservative cry could not but have the more potent effect, if it proceeded from the right man. Perhaps the majority, at any rate the flower of the burgesses, belonged to the constitutional party; and as respected its numerical and moral strength might well be called to interfere powerfully, perhaps decisively, in the impending struggle of the pretenders. It wanted nothing but a leader. Marcus Cato, its present head, did the duty, as he understood it, of its leader amidst daily peril to his life and perhaps without hope of success; his fidelity to duty deserves respect, but to be the last at a forlorn post is commendable in the soldier, not in the general. He had not the skill either to organize or to bring into action at the proper time the powerful reserve, which had sprung up as it were spontaneously in Italy for the party of the overthrown government; and he had for good reasons never made any pretension to the military leadership, on which everything ultimately depended. If instead of this man, who knew not how to act either as party-chief or as general, a man of the political and military mark of Pompeius should raise the banner of the existing constitution, the municipals of Italy would necessarily flock towards it in crowds, that under it they might help to fight, if not indeed for the kingship of Pompeius, at any rate against the kingship of Caesar.
To this was added another consideration at least as important. It was characteristic of Pompeius, even when he had formed a resolve, not to be able to find his way to its execution. While he knew perhaps how to conduct war but certainly not how to declare it, the Catonian party, although assuredly unable to conduct it, was very able and above all very ready to supply grounds for the war against the monarchy on the point of being founded. According to the intention of Pompeius, while he kept himself aloof, and in his peculiar way, now talked as though he would immediately depart for his Spanish provinces, now made preparations as though he would set out to take over the command on the Euphrates, the legitimate governing board, namely the senate, were to break with Caesar, to declare war against him, and to entrust the conduct of it to Pompeius, who then, yielding to the general desire, was to come forward as the protector of the constitution against demagogico- monarchical plots, as an upright man and champion of the existing order of things against the profligates and anarchists, as the duly-installed general of the senate against the Imperator of the street, and so once more to save his country. Thus Pompeius gained by the alliance with the conservatives both a second army in addition to his personal adherents, and a suitable war-manifesto— advantages which certainly were purchased at the high price of coalescing with those who were in principle opposed to him. Of the countless evils involved in this coalition, there was developed in the meantime only one—but that already a very grave one— that Pompeius surrendered the power of commencing hostilities against Caesar when and how he pleased, and in this decisive point made himself dependent on all the accidents and caprices of an aristocratic corporation.
Thus the republican opposition, after having been for years obliged to rest content with the part of a mere spectator and having hardly ventured to whisper, was now brought back once more to the political stage by the impending rupture between the regents. It consisted primarily of the circle which rallied round Cato— those republicans who were resolved to venture on the struggle for the republic and against the monarchy under all circumstances, and the sooner the better. The pitiful issue of the attempt made in 698(15) had taught them that they by themselves alone were not in a position either to conduct war or even to call it forth; it was known to every one that even in the senate, while the whole corporation with a few isolated exceptions was averse to monarchy, the majority would still only restore the oligarchic government if it might be restored without danger—in which case, doubtless, it had a good while to wait. In presence of the regents on the one hand, and on the other hand of this indolent majority, which desired peace above all things and at any price, and was averse to any decided action and most of all to a decided rupture with one or other of the regents, the only possible course for the Catonian party to obtain a restoration of the old rule lay in a coalition with the less dangerous of the rulers. If Pompeius acknowledged the oligarchic constitution and offered to fight for it against Caesar, the republican opposition might and must recognize him as its general, and in alliance with him compel the timid majority to a declaration of war. That Pompeius was not quite in earnest with his fidelity to the constitution, could indeed escape nobody; but, undecided as he was in everything, he had by no means arrived like Caesar at a clear and firm conviction that it must be the first business of the new monarch to sweep off thoroughly and conclusively the oligarchic lumber. At any rate the war would train a really republican army and really republican generals; and, after the victory over Caesar, they might proceed with more favourable prospects to set aside not merely oneof the monarchs, but the monarchy itself, which was in the course of formation. Desperate as was the cause of the oligarchy, the offer of Pompeius to become its ally was the most favourable arrangement possible for it.
Their League with Pompeius
The conclusion of the alliance between Pompeius and the Catonian party was effected with comparative rapidity. Already during the dictatorship of Pompeius a remarkable approximation had taken place between them. The whole behaviour of Pompeius in the Milonian crisis, his abrupt repulse of the mob that offered him the dictatorship, his distinct declaration that he would accept this office only from the senate, his unrelenting severity against disturbers of the peace of every sort and especially against the ultra-democrats, the surprising complaisance with which he treated Cato and those who shared his views, appeared as much calculated to gain the men of order as they were offensive to the democrat Caesar. On the other hand Cato and his followers, instead of combating with their wonted sternness the proposal to confer the dictatorship on Pompeius, had made it with immaterial alterations of form their own; Pompeius had received the undivided consulship primarily from the hands of Bibulus and Cato. While the Catonian party and Pompeius had thus at least a tacit understanding as early as the beginning of 702, the alliance might be held as formally concluded, when at the consular elections for 703 there was elected not Cato himself indeed, but—along with an insignificant man belonging to the majority of the senate—one of the most decided adherents of Cato, Marcus Claudius Marcellus. Marcellus was no furious zealot and still less a genius, but a steadfast and strict aristocrat, just the right man to declare war if war was to be begun with Caesar. As the case stood, this election, so surprising after the repressive measures adopted immediately before against the republican opposition, can hardly have occurred otherwise than with the consent, or at least under the tacit permission, of the regent of Rome for the time being. Slowly and clumsily, as was his wont, but steadily Pompeius moved onward to the rupture.
Passive Resistance of Caesar
It was not the intention of Caesar on the other hand to fall out at this moment with Pompeius. He could not indeed desire seriously and permanently to share the ruling power with any colleague, least of all with one of so secondary a sort as was Pompeius; and beyond doubt he had long resolved after terminating the conquest of Gaul to take the sole power for himself, and in case of need to extort it by force of arms. But a man like Caesar, in whom the officer was thoroughly subordinate to the statesman, could not fail to perceive that the regulation of the political organism by force of arms does in its consequences deeply and often permanently disorganize it; and therefore he could not but seek to solve the difficulty, if at all possible, by peaceful means or at least without open civil war. But even if civil war was not to be avoided, he could not desire to be driven to it at a time, when in Gaul the rising of Vercingetorix imperilled afresh all that had been obtained and occupied him without interruption from the winter of 701-702 to the winter of 702-703, and when Pompeius and the constitutional party opposed to him on principle were dominant in Italy. Accordingly he sought to preserve the relation with Pompeius and thereby the peace unbroken, and to attain, if at all possible, by peaceful means to the consulship for 706 already assured to him at Luca. If he should then after a conclusive settlement of Celtic affairs be placed in a regular manner at the head of the state, he, who was still more decidedly superior to Pompeius as a statesman than as a general, might well reckon on outmanoeuvring the latter in the senate-house and in the Forum without special difficulty. Perhaps it was possible to find out for his awkward, vacillating, and arrogant rival some sort of honourable and influential position, in which the latter might be content to sink into a nullity; the repeated attempts of Caesar to keep himself related by marriage to Pompeius, may have been designed to pave the way for such a solution and to bring about a final settlement of the old quarrel through the succession of offspring inheriting the blood of both competitors. The republican opposition would then remain without a leader and therefore probably quiet, and peace would be preserved. If this should not be successful, and if there should be, as was certainly possible, a necessity for ultimately resorting to the decision of arms, Caesar would then as consul in Rome dispose of the compliant majority of the senate; and he could impede or perhaps frustrate the coalition of the Pompeians and the republicans, and conduct the war far more suitably and more advantageously, than if he now as proconsul of Gaul gave orders to march against the senate and its general. Certainly the success of this plan depended on Pompeius being good- natured enough to let Caesar still obtain the consulship for 706 assured to him at Luca; but, even if it failed, it would be always of advantage for Caesar to have given practical and repeated evidence of the most yielding disposition. On the one hand time would thus be gained for attaining his object meanwhile in Gaul; on the other hand his opponents would be left with the odium of initiating the rupture and consequently the civil war— which was of the utmost moment for Caesar with reference to the majority of the senate and the party of material interests, and more especially with reference to his own soldiers.
On these views he acted. He armed certainly; the number of his legion was raised through new levies in the winter of 702-703 to eleven, including that borrowed from Pompeius. But at the same time he expressly and openly approved of Pompeius' conduct during the dictatorship and the restoration of order in the capital which he had effected, rejected the warnings of officious friends as calumnies, reckoned every day by which he succeeded in postponing the catastrophe a gain, overlooked whatever could be overlooked and bore whatever could be borne— immoveably adhering only to the one decisive demand that, when his governorship of Gaul came to an end with 705, the second consulship, admissible by republican state-law and promised to him according to agreement by his colleague, should be granted to him for the year 706.
Preparation for Attacks on Caesar
This very demand became the battle-field of the diplomatic war which now began. If Caesar were compelled either to resign his office of governor before the last day of December 705, or to postpone the assumption of the magistracy in the capital beyond the 1st January 706, so that he should remain for a time between the governorship and the consulate without office, and consequently liable to criminal impeachment—which according to Roman law was only allowable against one who was not in office— the public had good reason to prophesy for him in this case the fate of Milo, because Cato had for long been ready to impeach him and Pompeius was a more than doubtful protector.
Attempt to Keep Caesar Out of the Consulship
Now, to attain that object, Caesar's opponents had a very simple means. According to the existing ordinance as to elections, every candidate for the consulship was obliged to announce himself personally to the presiding magistrate, and to cause his name to be inscribed on the official list of candidates before the election, that is half a year before entering on office. It had probably been regarded in the conferences at Luca as a matter of course that Caesar would be released from this obligation, which was purely formal and was very often dispensed with; but the decree to that effect had not yet been issued, and, as Pompeius was now in possession of the decretive machinery, Caesar depended in this respect on the good will of his rival. Pompeius incomprehensibly abandoned of his own accord this completely secure position; with his consen and during his dictatorship (702) the personal appearance of Caesar was dispensed with by a tribunician law. When however soon afterwards the new election-ordinance(16) was issued, the obligation of candidates personally to enrol themselves was repeated in general terms, and no sort of exception was added in favour of those released from it by earlier resolutions of the people; according to strict form the privilege granted in favour of Caesar was cancelled by the later general law. Caesar complained, and the clause was subsequently appended but not confirmed by special decree of the people, so that this enactment inserted by mere interpolation in the already promulgated law could only be looked on de jure as a nullity. Where Pompeius, therefore, might have simply kept by the law, he had preferred first to make a spontaneous concession, then to recall it, and lastly to cloak this recall in a manner most disloyal.
Attempt to Shorten Caesar's Governorship
While in this way the shortening of Caesar's governorship was only aimed at indirectly, the regulations issued at the same time as to the governorships sought the same object directly. The ten years for which the governorship had been secured to Caesar, in the last instance through the law proposed by Pompeius himself in concert with Crassus, ran according to the usual mode of reckoning from 1 March 695 to the last day of February 705. As, however, according to the earlier practice, the proconsul or propraetor had the right of entering on his provincial magistracy immediately after the termination of his consulship or praetorship, the successor of Caesar was to be nominated, not from the urban magistrates of 704, but from those of 705, and could not therefore enter before 1st Jan. 706. So far Caesar had still during the last ten months of the year 705 a right to the command, not on the ground of the Pompeio-Licinian law, but on the ground of the old rule that a command with a set term still continued after the expiry of the term up to the arrival of the successor. But now, since the new regulation of 702 called to the governorships not the consuls and praetors going out, but those who had gone out five years ago or more, and thus prescribed an interval between the civil magistracy and the command instead of the previous immediate sequence, there was no longer any difficulty in straightway filling up from another quarter every legally vacant governorship, and so, in the case in question, bringing about for the Gallic provinces the change of command on the 1st March 705, instead of the 1st Jan. 706. The pitiful dissimulation and procrastinating artifice of Pompeius are after a remarkable manner mixed up, in these arrangements, with the wily formalism and the constitutional erudition of the republican party. Years before these weapons of state-law could be employed, they had them duly prepared, and put themselves in a condition on the one hand to compel Caesar to the resignation of his command from the day when the term secured to him by Pompeius' own law expired, that is from the 1st March 705, by sending successors to him, and on the other hand to be able to treat as null and void the votes tendered for him at the elections for 706. Caesar, not in a position to hinder these moves in the game, kept silence and left things to their own course.
Debates as to Caesar's Recall
Gradually therefore the slow course of constitutional procedure developed itself. According to custom the senate had to deliberate on the governorships of the year 705, so far as they went to former consuls, at the beginning of 703, so far as they went to former praetors, at the beginning of 704; that earlier deliberation gave the first occasion to discuss the nomination of new governors for the two Gauls in the senate, and thereby the first occasion for open collision between the constitutional party pushed forward by Pompeius and the senatorial supporters of Caesar. The consul Marcus Marcellus introduced a proposal to give the two provinces hitherto administered by the proconsul Gaius Caesar from the 1st March 705 to the two consulars who were to be provided with governorships for that year. The long-repressed indignation burst forth in a torrent through the sluice once opened; everything that the Catonians were meditating against Caesar was brought forward in these discussions. For them it was a settled point, that the right granted by exceptional law to the proconsul Caesar of announcing his candidature for the consulship in absence had been again cancelled by a subsequent decree of the people, and that the reservation inserted in the latter was invalid. The senate should in their opinion cause this magistrate, now that the subjugation of Gaul was ended, to discharge immediately the soldiers who had served out their time. The cases in which Caesar had bestowed burgess-rights and established colonies in Upper Italy were described by them as unconstitutional and null; in further illustration of which Marcellus ordained that a respected senator of the Caesarian colony of Comum, who, even if that place had not burgess but only Latin rights, was entitled to lay claim to Roman citizenship,(17) should receive the punishment of scourging, which was admissible only in the case of non-burgesses.
The supporters of Caesar at this time—among whom Gaius Vibius Pansa, who was the son of a man proscribed by Sulla but yet had entered on a political career, formerly an officer in Caesar's army and in this year tribune of the people, was the most notable— affirmed in the senate that both the state of things in Gaul and equity demanded not only that Caesar should not be recalled before the time, but that he should be allowed to retain the command along with the consulship; and they pointed beyond doubt to the facts, that a few years previously Pompeius had just in the same way combined the Spanish governorships with the consulate, that even at the present time, besides the important office of superintending the supply of food to the capital, he held the supreme command in Italy in addition to the Spanish, and that in fact the whole men capable of arms had been sworn in by him and had not yet been released from their oath.
The process began to take shape, but its course was not on that account more rapid. The majority of the senate, seeing the breach approaching, allowed no sitting capable of issuing a decree to take place for months; and other months in their turn were lost over the solemn procrastination of Pompeius. At length the latter broke the silence and ranged himself, in a reserved and vacillating fashion as usual but yet plainly enough, on the side of the constitutional party against his former ally. He summarily and abruptly rejected the demand of the Caesarians that their master should be allowed to conjoin the consulship and the proconsulship; this demand, he added with blunt coarseness, seemed to him no better than if a son should offer to flog his father. He approved in principle the proposal of Marcellus, in so far as he too declared that he would not allow Caesar directly to attach the consulship to the pro-consulship. He hinted, however, although without making any binding declaration on the point, that they would perhaps grant to Caesar admission to the elections for 706 without requiring his personal announcement, as well as the continuance of his governorship at the utmost to the 13th Nov. 705. But in the meantime the incorrigible procrastinator consented to the postponement of the nomination of successors to the last day of Feb. 704, which was asked by the representatives of Caesar, probably on the ground of a clause of the Pompeio-Licinian law forbidding any discussion in the senate as to the nomination of successors before the beginning of Caesar's last year of office.
In this sense accordingly the decrees of the senate were issued (29 Sept. 703). The filling up of the Gallic governorships was placed in the order of the day for the 1st March 704; but even now it was attempted to break up the army of Caesar—just as had formerly been done by decree of the people with the army of Lucullus(18)— by inducing his veterans to apply to the senate for their discharge. Caesar's supporters effected, indeed, as far as they constitutionally could, the cancelling of these decrees by their tribunician veto; but Pompeius very distinctly declared that the magistrates were bound unconditionally to obey the senate, and that intercessions and similar antiquated formalities would produce no change. The oligarchical party, whose organ Pompeius now made himself, betrayed not obscurely the design, in the event of a victory, of revising the constitution in their sense and removing everything which had even the semblance of popular freedom; as indeed, doubtless for this reason, it omitted to avail itself of the comitia at all in its attacks directed against Caesar. The coalition between Pompeius and the constitutional party was thus formally declared; sentence too was already evidently passed on Caesar, and the term of its promulgation was simply postponed. The elections for the following year proved thoroughly adverse to him.
Counter-Arrangements of Caesar
During these party manoeuvres of his antagonists preparatory to war, Caesar had succeeded in getting rid of the Gallic insurrection and restoring the state of peace in the whole subject territory. As early as the summer of 703, under the convenient pretext of defending the frontier(19) but evidently in token of the fact that the legions in Gaul were now beginning to be no longer needed there, he moved one of them to North Italy. He could not avoid perceiving now at any rate, if not earlier, that he would not be spared the necessity of drawing the sword against his fellow- citizens; nevertheless, as it was highly desirable to leave the legions still for a time in the barely pacified Gaul, he sought even yet to procrastinate, and, well acquainted with the extreme love of peace in the majority of the senate, did not abandon the hope of still restraining them from the declaration of war in spite of the pressure exercised over them by Pompeius. He did not even hesitate to make great sacrifices, if only he might avoid for the present open variance with the supreme governing board. When the senate (in the spring of 704) at the suggestion of Pompeius requested both him and Caesar to furnish each a legion for the impending Parthian war(20) and when agreeably to this resolution Pompeius demanded back from Caesar the legion lent to him some years before, so as to send it to Syria, Caesar complied with the double demand, because neither the opportuneness of this decree of the senate nor the justice of the demand of Pompeius could in themselves be disputed, and the keeping within the bounds of the law and of formal loyalty was of more consequence to Caesar than a few thousand soldiers. The two legions came without delay and placed themselves at the disposal of the government, but instead of sending them to the Euphrates, the latter kept them at Capua in readiness for Pompeius; and the public had once more the opportunity of comparing the manifest endeavours of Caesar to avoid a rupture with the perfidious preparation for war by his opponents.
For the discussions with the senate Caesar had succeeded in purchasing not only one of the two consuls of the year, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, but above all the tribune of the people Gaius Curio, probably the most eminent among the many profligate men of parts in this epoch;(21) unsurpassed in refined elegance, in fluent and clever oratory, in dexterity of intrigue, and in that energy which in the case of vigorous but vicious characters bestirs itself only the more powerfully amid the pauses of idleness; but also unsurpassed in his dissolute life, in his talent for borrowing— his debts were estimated at 60,000,000 sesterces (600,000 pounds)— and in his moral and political want of principle. He had previously offered himself to be bought by Caesar and had been rejected; the talent, which he thenceforward displayed in his attacks on Caesar, induced the latter subsequently to buy him up—the price was high, but the commodity was worth the money.
Debates as to the Recall of Caesar and Pompeius
Curio had in the first months of his tribunate of the people played the independent republican, and had as such thundered both against Caesar and against Pompeius. He availed himself with rare skill of the apparently impartial position which this gave him, when in March 704 the proposal as to the filling up of the Gallic governorships for the next year came up afresh for discussion in the senate; he completely approved the decree, but asked that it should be at the same time extended to Pompeius and his extraordinary commands. His arguments—that a constitutional state of things could only be brought about by the removal of all exceptional positions, that Pompeius as merely entrusted by the senate with the proconsulship could still less than Caesar refuse obedience to it, that the one-sided removal of one of the two generals would only increase the danger to the constitution— carried complete conviction to superficial politicians and to the public at large; and the declaration of Curio, that he intended to prevent any onesided proceedings against Caesar by the veto constitutionally belonging to him, met with much approval in and out of the senate. Caesar declared his consent at once to Curio's proposal and offered to resign his governorship and command at any moment on the summons of the senate, provided Pompeius would do the same; he might safely do so, for Pompeius without his Italo-Spanish command was no longer formidable. Pompeius again for that very reason could not avoid refusing; his reply—that Caesar must first resign, and that he meant speedily to follow the example thus set— was the less satisfactory, that he did not even specify a definite term for his retirement. Again the decision was delayed for months; Pompeius and the Catonians, perceiving the dubious humour of the majority of the senate, did not venture to bring Curio's proposal to a vote. Caesar employed the summer in establishing the state of peace in the regions which he had conquered, in holding a great review of his troops on the Scheldt, and in making a triumphal march through the province of North Italy, which was entirely devoted to him; autumn found him in Ravenna, the southern frontier-town of his province.
Caesar and Pompeius Both Recalled
The vote which could no longer be delayed on Curio's proposal at length took place, and exhibited the defeat of the party of Pompeius and Cato in all its extent. By 370 votes against 20 the senate resolved that the proconsuls of Spain and Gaul should both be called upon to resign their offices; and with boundless joy the good burgesses of Rome heard the glad news of the saving achievement of Curio. Pompeius was thus recalled by the senate no less than Caesar, and while Caesar was ready to comply with the command, Pompeius positively refused obedience. The presiding consul Gaius Marcellus, cousin of Marcus Marcellus and like the latter belonging to the Catonian party, addressed a severe lecture to the servile majority; and it was, no doubt, vexatious to be thus beaten in their own camp and beaten by means of a phalanx of poltroons. But where was victory to come from under a leader, who, instead of shortly and distinctly dictating his orders to the senators, resorted in his old days a second time to the instructions of a professor of rhetoric, that with eloquence polished up afresh he might encounter the youthful vigour and brilliant talents of Curio?
Declaration of War
The coalition, defeated in the senate, was in the most painful position. The Catonian section had undertaken to push matters to a rupture and to carry the senate along with them, and now saw their vessel stranded after a most vexatious manner on the sandbanks of the indolent majority. Their leaders had to listen in their conferences to the bitterest reproaches from Pompeius; he pointed out emphatically and with entire justice the dangers of the seeming peace; and, though it depended on himself alone to cut the knot by rapid action, his allies knew very well that they could never expect this from him, and that it was for them, as they had promised, to bring matters to a crisis. After the champions of the constitution and of senatorial government had already declared the constitutional rights of the burgesses and of the tribunes of the people to be meaningless formalities,(22) they now found themselves driven by necessity to treat the constitutional decision; of the senate itself in a similar manner and, as the legitimate government would not let itself be saved with its own consent, to save it against its will. This was neither new nor accidental; Sulla(23) and Lucullus(24) had been obliged to carry every energetic resolution conceived by them in the true interest of the government with a high hand irrespective of it, just as Cato and his friends now proposed to do; the machinery of the constitution was in fact utterly effete, and the senate was now—as the comitia had been for centuries—nothing but a worn-out wheel slipping constantly out of its track.
It was rumoured (Oct. 704) that Caesar had moved four legions from Transalpine into Cisalpine Gaul and stationed them at Placentia. This transference of troops was of itself within the prerogative of the governor; Curio moreover palpably showed in the senate the utter groundlessness of the rumour; and they by a majority rejected the proposal of the consul Gaius Marcellus to give Pompeius on the strength of it orders to march against Caesar. Yet the said consul, in concert with the two consuls elected for 705 who likewise belonged to the Catonian party, proceeded to Pompeius, and these three men by virtue of their own plenitude of power requested the general to put himself at the head of the two legions stationed at Capua, and to call the Italian militia to arms at his discretion. A more informal authorization for the commencement of a civil war can hardly be conceived; but people had no longer time to attend to such secondary matters; Pompeius accepted it. The military preparations, the levies began; in order personally to forward them, Pompeius left the capital in December 704.
The Ultimatum of Caesar
Caesar had completely attained the object of devolving the initiative of civil war on his opponents. He had, while himself keeping on legal ground, compelled Pompeius to declare war, and to declare it not as representative of the legitimate authority, but as general of an openly revolutionary minority of the senate which overawed the majority. This result was not to be reckoned of slight importance, although the instinct of the masses could not and did not deceive itself for a moment as to the fact that the war concerned other things than questions of formal law. Now, when war was declared, it was Caesar's interest to strike a blow as soon as possible. The preparations of his opponents were just beginning and even the capital was not occupied. In ten or twelve days an army three times as strong as the troops of Caesar that were in Upper Italy could be collected at Rome; but still it was not impossible to surprise the city undefended, or even perhaps by a rapid winter campaign to seize all Italy, and to shut off the best resources of his opponents before they could make them available. The sagacious and energetic Curio, who after resigning his tribunate (10 Dec. 704) had immediately gone to Caesar at Ravenna, vividly represented the state of things to his master; and it hardly needed such a representation to convince Caesar that longer delay now could only be injurious. But, as he with the view of not giving his antagonists occasion to complain had hitherto brought no troops to Ravenna itself, he could for the present do nothing but despatch orders to his whole force to set out with all haste; and he had to wait till at least the one legion stationed in Upper Italy reached Ravenna. Meanwhile he sent an ultimatum to Rome, which, if useful for nothing else, by its extreme submissiveness still farther compromised his opponents in public opinion, and perhaps even, as he seemed himself to hesitate, induced them to prosecute more remissly their preparations against him. In this ultimatum Caesar dropped all the counter-demands which he formerly made on Pompeius, and offered on his own part both to resign the governorship of Transalpine Gaul, and to dismiss eight of the ten legions belonging to him, at the term fixed by the senate; he declared himself content, if the senate would leave him either the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul and Illyria with one, or that of Cisalpine Gaul alone with two, legions, not, forsooth, up to his investiture with the consulship, but till after the close of the consular elections for 706. He thus consented to those proposals of accommodation, with which at the beginning of the discussions the senatorial party and even Pompeius himself had declared that they would be satisfied, and showed himself ready to remain in a private position from his election to the consulate down to his entering on office. Whether Caesar was in earnest with these astonishing concessions and had confidence that he should be able to carry through his game against Pompeius even after granting so much, or whether he reckoned that those on the other side had already gone too far to find in these proposals of compromise more than a proof that Caesar regarded his cause itself as lost, can no longer be with certainty determined. The probability is, that Caesar committed the fault of playing a too bold game, far worse rather than the fault of promising something which he was not minded to perform; and that, if strangely enough his proposals had been accepted, he would have made good his word.
Last Debate in the Senate
Curio undertook once more to represent his master in the lion's den. In three days he made the journey from Ravenna to Rome. When the new consuls Lucius Lentulus and Gaius Marcellus the younger(25) assembled the senate for the first time on 1 Jan. 705, he delivered in a full meeting the letter addressed by the general to the senate. The tribunes of the people, Marcus Antonius well known in the chronicle of scandal of the city as the intimate friend of Curio and his accomplice in all his follies, but at the same time known from the Egyptian and Gallic campaigns as a brilliant cavalry officer, and Quintus Cassius, Pompeius' former quaestor,—the two, who were now in Curio's stead managing the cause of Caesar in Rome— insisted on the immediate reading of the despatch. The grave and clear words in which Caesar set forth the imminence of civil war, the general wish for peace, the arrogance of Pompeius, and his own yielding disposition, with all the irresistible force of truth; the proposals for a compromise, of a moderation which doubtless surprised his own partisans; the distinct declaration that this was the last time that he should offer his hand for peace— made the deepest impression. In spite of the dread inspired by the numerous soldiers of Pompeius who flocked into the capital, the sentiment of the majority was not doubtful; the consuls could not venture to let it find expression. Respecting the proposal renewed by Caesar that both generals might be enjoined to resign their commands simultaneously, respecting all the projects of accommodation suggested by his letter, and respecting the proposal made by Marcus Coelius Rufus and Marcus Calidius that Pompeius should be urged immediately to depart for Spain, the consuls refused— as they in the capacity of presiding officers were entitled to do— to let a vote take place. Even the proposal of one of their most decided partisans who was simply not so blind to the military position of affairs as his party, Marcus Marcellus—to defer the determination till the Italian levy en masse could be under arms and could protect the senate—was not allowed to be brought to a vote. Pompeius caused it to be declared through his usual organ, Quintus Scipio, that he was resolved to take up the cause of the senate now or never, and that he would let it drop if they longer delayed. The consul Lentulus said in plain terms that even the decree of the senate was no longer of consequence, and that, if it should persevere in its servility, he would act of himself and with his powerful friends take the farther steps necessary. Thus overawed, the majority decreed what was commanded— that Caesar should at a definite and not distant day give up Transalpine Gaul to Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, and Cisalpine Gaul to Marcus Servilius Nonianus, and should dismiss his army, failing which he should be esteemed a traitor. When the tribunes of Caesar's party made use of their right of veto against this resolution, not only were they, as they at least asserted, threatened in the senate-house itself by the swords of Pompeian soldiers, and forced, in order to save their lives, to flee in slaves' clothing from the capital; but the now sufficiently overawed senate treated their formally quite constitutional interference as an attempt at revolution, declared the country in danger, and in the usual forms called the whole burgesses to take up arms, and all magistrates faithful to the constitution to place themselves at the head of the armed (7 Jan. 705).
Caesar Marches into Italy
Now it was enough. When Caesar was informed by the tribunes who had fled to his camp entreating protection as to the reception which his proposals had met with in the capital, he called together the soldiers of the thirteenth legion, which had meanwhile arrived from its cantonments near Tergeste (Trieste) at Ravenna, and unfolded before them the state of things. It was not merely the man of genius versed in the knowledge and skilled in the control of men's hearts, whose brilliant eloquence shone forth and glowed in this agitating crisis of his own and the world's destiny; nor merely the generous commander-in-chief and the victorious general, addressing soldiers, who had been called by himself to arms and for eight years had followed his banners with daily-increasing enthusiasm. There spoke, above all, the energetic and consistent statesman, who had now for nine-and-twenty years defended the cause of freedom in good and evil times; who had braved for it the daggers of assassins and the executioners of the aristocracy, the swords of the Germans and the waves of the unknown ocean, without ever yielding or wavering; who had torn to pieces the Sullan constitution, had overthrown the rule of the senate, and had furnished the defenceless and unarmed democracy with protection and with arms by means of the struggle beyond the Alps. And he spoke, not to the Clodian public whose republican enthusiasm had been long burnt down to ashes and dross, but to the young men from the towns and villages of Northern Italy, who still felt freshly and purely the mighty influence of the thought of civic freedom; who were still capable of fighting and of dying for ideals; who had themselves received for their country in a revolutionary way from Caesar the burgess-rights which the government refused to them; whom Caesar's fall would leave once more at the mercy of the -fasces-, and who already possessed practical proofs(26) of the inexorable use which the oligarchy proposed to make of these against the Transpadanes. Such were the listeners before whom such an orator set forth the facts— the thanks for the conquest of Gaul which the nobility were preparing for the general and his army; the contemptuous setting aside of the comitia; the overawing of the senate; the sacred duty of protecting with armed hand the tribunate of the people wrested five hundred years ago by their fathers arms in hand from the nobility, and of keeping the ancient oath which these had taken for themselves as for their children's children that they would man by man stand firm even to death for the tribunes of the people.(27) And then, when he— the leader and general of the popular party—summoned the soldiers of the people, now that conciliatory means had been exhausted and concession had reached its utmost limits, to follow him in the last, the inevitable, the decisive struggle against the equally hated and despised, equally perfidious and incapable, and in fact ludicrously incorrigible aristocracy—there was not an officer or a soldier who could hold back. The order was given for departure; at the head of his vanguard Caesar crossed the narrow brook which separated his province from Italy, and which the constitution forbade the proconsul of Gaul to pass. When after nine years' absence he trod once more the soil of his native land, he trod at the same time the path of revolution. "The die was cast."