Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

as he declared, “upon the shoulders of Italy,” returned to promise that “ of his former fortitude in defending the Commonwealth nothing should be wanting, nay, that it should rather be more bravely defended than ever.” But the day for men who could not wholly rely upon themselves was past; and within the next few months the tone of Cicero was once more changed. “What can be viler,” as he wrote, “than our lives, especially than mine? . . . . . If I speak what I ought concerning the Commonwealth, I am considered mad; if what I must, servile; and if I am silent, I am said to be entrapped and overwhelmed.” The complaint, it is true, may not be more literally trustworthy than the vaunt preceding it; yet we have deeds as well as words to prepare us for the doom of Rome. Cicero and Cato, for instance, were long on distant terms, because the former was eager to assail, and the latter was as eager to defend, on personal grounds,” the lawfulness of Clodius's tribunate. While such was the poor agreement amongst the stanchest of the older citizens, the best of the younger men were like the nephew of Cato, Marcus Junius Brutus, who was now approaching his thirtieth year without having proved his talents except for some chosen studies and debaucheries.” The mass of either generation, whether high or low in rank, could only follow such examples in the absence or the weakness of all positive precepts concerning order and morality. If virtue and gentleness yet lingered about some favored hearths, it was in concealment from the sneers of men who would not have imitated them, had they appeared. And thus the way lay open to the coming conqueror and emperor. We are not bound to remark many of the events, scarcely to be entitled changes, which intervened between Caesar's departure to Gaul, just after the banishment of Cicero, and his return, nine years later," at the head of victorious troops, against his adversaries and his country. The conquest of Transalpine Gaul supplied him with the means of prevailing over his feebler antagonists, whether these were the Senators, by whom he was at first opposed, or Pompey and his particular adherents, by whom he was at last aroused. But the occurrences we are now to observe in part cannot, on either side, be regarded as of so direct a tendency towards the subjugation of Rome as the disposition of the victor, so resolute, so self-relying, and so self-adoring. It was in times when nothing remained for men to trust in but their own souls, nothing to labor for besides their own interests, that Caesar triumphed at Rome.

* Ad Quint. Frat., X. 1. “In- Quint., II. 15, III. 2, 4, 5; Ad

credibili concursu Italia.” Ad Att., IV. 1. See the oration Pro Sext., 60, 61.

36 Post Red. in Sen., 14.

37 Ad Att., IV. 6. The following references to Cicero's letters will lead the reader farther through the sunken fortunes of the Commonwealth : — Ad Att., IV. 15, 16; Ad

Div., I. 1, 7, 8, 9.
38 Cato wished to maintain it, on
account of his mission to Cyprus.
Plut., Cat., 40; Cic. 34. Dion
Cass., XXXIX. 21, 22. While
on this point, see the remarkable
answer of the Haruspices, which
Cicero records, Har. Resp., 19.

39 De Vir. Ill., LXXXII. Plin., 40 A. C. 58–49. Epist. W. 31. Martial., Epig., IX. 51.

The famous campaigns in which the Gauls were conquered, and the Roman arms were pushed on the one side into Germany and on the other across the Channel to Britain, resulted naturally in greater gains to Caesar than to Rome. He could have won no higher reputation than by overcoming on their own ground the barbarian hosts, against whose kindred or homogeneous tribes his ancestors had scarcely succeeded in defending the soil of their own Italy. Noways could he have more completely obtained the obedience and the homage of the soldiers whom it was necessary for him to secure, than in camps, of which the dangers seemed to be dispelled only by his presence, or in marches and battles, through which he apparently served as much as he commanded, being not merely the head, but the hands and feet, of his army." The legions of the Commonwealth being insufficient, at last, to contain his gathering followers, he enrolled others, which he paid himself, and even formed one from his conquered Gauls; at the same time doubling the pay of his veterans “for ever.”” The troops of every rank were thus prepared to make his will their own; and when the moment came to prove their allegiance to him or their devotion to the Commonwealth, – of which scarcely half of them were citizens,”— there was none, officer, soldier, or sutler, to hesitate in obeying Caesar's orders as if these were the only laws they knew. One other of the instruments that Caesar needed to overthrow his antagonists and the crumbling liberties of his country was also found in Gaul, where the plunder, the speculation, and the tributes by which he profited through eight long years filled up continually the purses he was as continually emptying in magnificence and bribes. Of these occurrences Caesar was himself the historian. In his Commentaries, as he called them, upon the Gallic War, the various scenes of his protracted and savage conflicts are brought to view as clearly as if we had been in his tent the day he overcame the Nervii, or had travelled with him when the only hope of safety to his army depended on the speed with which he could assist the blockaded legion under Quintus Cicero. But the more valuable and more interesting feature of the work is the impress of its writer that it bears, not only marking the Commentaries as his, but representing the character of the man himself, to whom the liberty of Rome was the freedom to come, to see, and to conquer his contemporaries. Some, it is true, observe upon the studied concealments of the narrative which Caesar composed, and turn to other histories to learn the atrocities which devastated Gaul. But the simpler view to take of these omissions appears to be, that Caesar did not think the deeds he had committed to be at any time worthy of censure, nor always even worthy of remark, in case their results

41 Plut., Caes., 17. “Si vous avez des armées quine

* Suet., Caes., 24, 26. se retrempent pas constamment dans

43 And, as the late French Min- la population, un jour arrivera ou, ister of War, Lamoricière, declared au lieu de défendre le pays, elles in the National Assembly, on the opprimeront la liberté.” twenty-first of October, 1848: —

seemed trifling in comparison with the difficulties of their performance. He acted as he pleased, butchering or pardoning his enemies, protecting or exposing his soldiers, cruel or merciful, honest or deceitful, according to his own desires; but what he did, he wrote, if he chose, or passed it over, if he so preferred, because to him there were no rules by which he could be judged, either in his own heart or on the lips of his fellow-beings, but those of his own will or his own renown. Caesar was a law to himself, and the only one he recognized, from the commencement of his life. At the end of his campaigns and Commentaries, when he was fifty years of age, he undertook to impose the same law upon the world around him. It was a design he had long before conceived, and of which the execution, indeed, had some time previously been begun. The fame he acquired in Gaul was brought to bear upon Rome, where the repeated thanksgivings, each of unusual length, decreed by the Senate,” were like offerings of praise and glory to the absent general rather than to the unseen gods. His soldiers, such of them, that is, as were Romans, now and then strayed homewards to tell their stories of the wonderful general whom they served and worshipped; and new recruits hurried away to catch a sight of him and give their lives in return for a word of commendation. So the wealth which Caesar gained, though it did not hinder him from asking and receiv

44 For fifteen days, at the end of so on. Caes., Bell. Gall., II. 35,

• A. C. 57; for twenty, in 55; and IV. 38, etc.

« НазадПродовжити »