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The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David


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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Civil Wars Following The Death Of Caesar








The assassination of Caesar was not immediately followed with the
convulsions which we should naturally expect. The people were weary of
war, and sighed for repose, and, moreover, were comparatively indifferent
on whom the government fell, since their liberties were hopelessly
prostrated. Only one thing was certain, that power would be usurped by
some one, and most probably by the great chieftains who represented
Caesar's interests.

The most powerful men in Rome at this time, were Marcus Antonius,
the most able of Caesar's lieutenants, the most constant of his friends,
and the nearest of his relatives, although a man utterly unprincipled;
Octavius, grandson of Julius, whom Caesar adopted as his heir, a young man
of nineteen; Lepidus, colleague consul with Caesar, the head of the ancient
family of the Lepidi, thirteen of whom had been honored with curule
magistracies; Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey; Brutus and Cassius, chief
conspirators; Dolabella, a man of consular rank, and one of the profligate
nobles of his time; Hirtia and Pansa, consuls; Piso, father-in-law of
Caesar, of a powerful family, which boasted of several consuls; and
Cicero--still influential from his great weight of character. All these men
were great nobles, and had filled the highest offices.

The man who, to all appearance, had the fairest chance for supreme
command in those troubled times, was Antony, whose mother was Julia,
Caesar's sister. He was grandson to the great orator M. Antonius, who
flourished during the civil wars between Marius and Sulla, and was
distinguished for every vice, folly, and extravagance which characterized
the Roman nobles. But he was a man of consummate ability as a general, was
master of the horse, and was consul with Caesar, when he was killed, B.C.
44. He was also eloquent, and pronounced the funeral oration of the
murdered Imperator, as nearest of kin. He had possession of Caesar's
papers, and was the governor of Cisalpine Gaul. He formed a union with
Lepidus, to whom he offered the office of Pontifex Maximus, the second
office in the State. As consul, he could unlock the public treasury, which
he rifled to the extent of seven hundred million of sesterces--the vast sum
left by Caesar. One of his brothers was praetor, and another, a tribune. He
convened the Senate, and employed, by the treasure he had at command, the
people to overawe the Senate, as the Jacobin clubs of the French
revolution overawed the Assembly. He urged the Senate to ratify Caesar's
acts and confirm his appointments, and in this was supported by Cicero and
a majority of the members. Now that the deed was done, he wished to have
the past forgotten. This act of amnesty confirmed his fearful
pre-eminence, and the inheritance of the mighty dead seemingly devolved
upon him. The conspirators came to terms with him, and were even
entertained by him, and received the provinces which he assigned to them.
Brutus received Macedonia; Cassius, Syria; Trebonius, Asia; Cimber,
Bythinia; and Decimus, Cisalpine Gaul. Dolabella was his colleague in the
consulship,--a personal enemy, yet committed to his policy.

Caesar had left three hundred sesterces to every citizen, (about L3,) and
his gardens beyond the Tiber to the use of the people. Such gifts operated
in producing an intense gratitude for the memory of a man who had proved
so great a benefactor, and his public funeral was of unprecedented
splendor. Antony, as his nearest heir, and the first magistrate,
pronounced the oration, which was a consummate piece of dramatic art, in
which he inflamed the passions of the people, and stimulated them to
frenzy, so that they turned upon the assassins with fury. But he assured
the Senate of his moderation, abolished the dictatorship forever, and
secured his own personal safety by a body-guard.

He had, however, a powerful rival in the young Octavius, who had
been declared by Caesar's will his principal heir, then absent in
Apollonia. He resolved to return at once and claim his inheritance, and
was warmly received at Brundusium by the veteran troops, and especially by
Cicero, who saw in him a rival to Antony. Octavius flattered the old
orator, and ingratiated himself in the favor of everybody by his
unassuming manners, and his specious language. He entered Rome under
favorable omens, paid his court to the senators, and promised to fulfill
his uncle's requests. He was received by Antony in the gardens of
Pompeius, and claimed at once his inheritance. Antony replied that it was
not private property but the public treasure, and was, moreover, spent.
Octavius was not to be put off, and boldly declared that he would and
could pay the legacies, and contrived to borrow the money. Such an act
secured unrivaled popularity. He gave magnificent shows, and then claimed
that the jeweled crown of Caesar should be exhibited on the festival which
he instituted to Venus, and to whose honor Caesar had vowed to build a
temple, on the morning of his victory at Pharsalia. The tribunes,
instigated by Antonius, refused to sanction this mark of honor, but
fortune favored Octavius, and, in the enthusiasm of the festival, which
lasted eleven days, the month Quintilius was changed to Julius--the first
demigod whom the Senate had translated to Olympus.

Meanwhile Brutus and Cassius retired from public affairs,
lingering in the neighborhood of Rome, and the provinces promised to them
were lost. At Antium they had an interview with Cicero, who advised them
to keep quiet, and not venture to the capital, where the people were
inflamed against them. Their only encouragement was the successes of
Sextus Pompeius in Spain, who had six legions at his command. Cicero
foresaw that another civil war was at hand, and had the gloomiest
forebodings, for one or the other of the two great chieftains of the
partisans of Caesar was sure of ultimately obtaining the supreme power. The
humiliating conviction that the murder of Caesar was a mistake, was now
deeply impressed upon his mind, since it would necessarily inaugurate
another bloody war. Self banished from Rome, this great and true patriot
wandered from place to place to divert his mind. But neither the
fascinations of literature, nor the attractions of Tusculum, Puteoli,
Pompeii, and Neapolis, where he had luxurious villas, could soothe his
anxious and troubled soul. Religious, old, and experienced, he could only
ponder on the coming and final prostration of that cause of constitutional
liberty to which he was devoted.

Antonius, also aware of the struggle which was impending, sought
to obtain the government of Cisalpine Gaul, and of the six legions
destined for the Parthian war. But he was baffled by the Senate, and by
the intrigues of Octavius, who sheltered himself behind the august name of
the man by whom he had been adopted. He therefore made a hollow
reconciliation with Octavius, and by his means, obtained the Gaulish
provinces. Cicero, now only desirous to die honorably, returned to Rome to
accept whatever fate was in store for him, and defend to the last his
broken cause. It was then, in the Senate, that he launched forth those
indignant philippies against Antonius, as a public enemy, which are among
his greatest efforts, and which most triumphantly attest his moral
courage.

The hollow reconciliation between Antonius and Octavius was not of long
duration, and the former, as consul, repaired to Brundusium to assume
command of the legions stationed there, and Octavius collected his forces
in Campania. Both parties complained of each other, and both invoked the
name of Caesar. Cicero detested the one, and was blinded as to the other.

The term of office as consul, which Antonius held, had now
expired, and Hirtius, one of the new consuls, marched into Cisalpine Gaul,
and Octavius placed himself under his command. The Senate declared a state
of public danger. The philippics of Cicero had taken effect, and the
Senate and the government were now opposed to Antonius, as the creator of
a new revolution. The consuls crossed swords with Antonius at Forum
Gallorum, and the consul Pansa fell, but success was with the government.
Another success at Mutina favored the government party, which Octavius had
joined. On the news of this victory, Cicero delivered his fourteenth and
last philippic against Antonius, who now withdrew from Cisalpine Gaul, and
formed a junction with Lepidus beyond the Alps. Octavius declined to
pursue him, and Plancus hesitated to attack him, although joined by
Decimus, one of the murderers of Caesar, with ten legions. Octavius now
held aloof from the government army, from which it was obvious that he had
ambitious views of his own to further, and was denounced by Plancus to
Cicero. The veteran statesman, at last, perceived that Octavius, having
deserted Decimus (who, of all the generals, was the only one on whose
fidelity the State could securely lean), was not to be further relied
upon, and cast his eyes to Macedonia and Syria, to which provinces Brutus
and Cassius had retired. The Senate, too, now distrusted Octavius, and
treated him with contumely; but supported by veteran soldiers, he demanded
the consulship, and even secretly corresponded with Antonius, and assured
him of his readiness to combine with him and Lepidus, and invited them to
follow him to Rome. He marched at the head of eight legions, pretending
all the while to be coerced by them. The Senate, overawed, allowed him, at
twenty years of age, to assume the consulship, with Pedius, grand-nephew
of Caesar, for his colleague. Since Hirtius and Pansa had both fallen,
Octavius, then leaving the city in the hands of a zealous colleague,
opened negotiations with Antonius and Lepidus, perceiving that it was only
in conjunction with them that his usurpation could be maintained. They met
for negotiations at Bononia, and agreed to share the empire between them.
They declared themselves triumvirs for the settlement of the commonwealth,
and after a conference of three days, divided between themselves the
provinces and legions. They then concerted a general proscription of their
enemies. The number whom they thus doomed to destruction was three hundred
senators and two thousand knights, from the noblest families of Rome,
among whom were brothers, uncles, and favorite officers. The possession of
riches was fatal to some, and of beautiful villas to others. Cicero was
among this number, as was to be expected, for he had exhausted the Latin
language in vituperations of Antonius, whom he hated beyond all other
mortals, and which hatred was itself a passion. He spoke of Caesar with
awe, of Pompey with mortification, of Crassus with dislike, and of Antony
with bitter detestation and unsparing malice. It was impossible that he
could escape, even had he fled to the ends of the earth. The vacillation
of his last hours, his deep distress, and mournful agonies are painted by
Plutarch. He fell a martyr to the cause of truth, and public virtue, and
exalted patriotism, although his life was sullied by weakness and
infirmities, such as vanity, ambition, and jealousy. In the dark and
wicked period which he adorned by his transcendent talents and matchless
services, he lived and died in faith--the most amiable and the most noble
of all his contemporaries.

The triumvirs had now gratified their vengeance by a series of murders
never surpassed in the worst ages of religious and political fanaticism.
And all these horrible crimes were perpetrated in the name of that great
and august character who had won the world by his sword. The prestige of
that mighty name sanctioned their atrocities and upheld their power. Caesar
still lived, although assassinated, and the triumvirs reigned as his heirs
or avengers, even as Louis Napoleon grasped the sceptre of his uncle, not
from any services he had rendered, but as the heir of his conquests. The
Romans loved Caesar as the French loved Napoleon, and submitted to the rule
of the triumvirs, as the French submitted to the usurpations of the
proscribed prisoner of Ham. And in the anarchy which succeeded the
assassination of the greatest man of antiquity, it must need be that the
strongest would seize the reins, since all liberty and exalted patriotism
had fled.

But these usurpers did not secure their power without one more
last struggle of the decimated and ruined aristocracy. They rallied under
the standards of Brutus and Cassius in Macedonia and Syria. The one was at
the head of eight legions, and the other of eleven, a still formidable
force. Sextus Pompeius also still lived, and had intrenched himself in
Sicily. A battle had still to be fought before the republic gave its last
sigh. Cicero ought to have joined these forces, and might have done so,
but for his vacillation. So Lepidus, as consul, took control of Rome and
the interests of Italy, while Antonius marched against Brutus and Cassius
in the East, and Octavius assailed Sextus in Sicily; unable, however, to
attack him without ships, he joined his confederate. Their united forces
were concentrated in Philippi, in Thrace, and there was fought the last
decisive battle between the republicans, if the senatorial and
aristocratic party under Brutus and Cassius can be called republicans, and
the liberators, as they called themselves, or the adherents of Caesar. The
republicans had a force of eighty thousand infantry and twenty thousand
cavalry, while the triumvirs commanded a still superior force. The numbers
engaged in this great conflict exceeded all former experience, and the
battle of Philippi was the most memorable in Roman annals, since all the
available forces of the empire were now arrayed against each other. The
question at issue was, whether power should remain with the old
constitutional party, or with the party of usurpation which Caesar had
headed and led to victory. It was whether Rome should be governed by the
old forms, or by an imperator with absolute authority. The forces arrayed
on that fatal battle-field--the last conflict for liberty ever fought at
Rome--were three times as great as fought at Pharsalia. On that memorable
battle-field the republic perished. The battle was fairly and bravely
fought on both sides, but victory inclined to the Caesarians, in two
distinct actions, after an interval of twenty days, B.C. 42. Both Cassius
and Brutus fell on their own swords, and their self-destruction, in utter
despair of their cause, effectually broke up their party.

The empire was now in the hands of the triumvirs. The last contest
was decisive. Future struggles were worse than useless. Destiny had
proclaimed the extinction of Roman liberties for ever. It was vice and
faction which had prepared the way for violence, and the last appeal to
the sword had settled the fate of the empire, henceforth to be governed by
a despot.

But there being now three despots among the partisans of Caesar, who sought
to grasp his sceptre, Which should prevail? Antonius was the greatest
general; Octavius was the greatest man; Lepidus was the tool of both. The
real rivalry was between Octavius and Antonius. But they did not at once
quarrel. Antonius undertook the subjugation of the eastern provinces, and
Octavius repaired to Rome. The former sought, before the great encounter
with his rival, to gain military eclat from new victories; the latter to
control factions and parties in the capital. They first got rid of
Lepidus, now that their more powerful enemies were subdued, and compelled
him to surrender the command in Italy and content himself with the
government of Africa. Antonius, commanding no less than twenty-eight
legions, which, with auxiliaries, numbered one hundred and seventy
thousand, had perhaps the best chance. His exactions were awful; but he
squandered his treasures, and gave vent to his passions.

The real cause of his overthrow was Cleopatra, for had he not been
led aside by his inordinate passion for this woman, and had he exercised
his vast power with the wisdom and ability which he had previously shown,
the most able of all of Caesar's generals, he probably would have triumphed
over every foe. On his passage through Cilicia, he was met by Cleopatra,
in all the pomp and luxury of an Oriental sovereign. She came to deprecate
his wrath, ostensibly, and ascended the Cydnus in a bark with gilded stern
and purple sails, rowed with silver oars, to the sound of pipes and
flutes. She reclined, the most voluptuous of ancient beauties, under a
spangled canopy, attended by Graces and Cupids, while the air was scented
with the perfumes of Olympus. She soon fascinated the most powerful man in
the empire, who, forgetting his ambition, resigned himself to love.
Octavius, master of himself, and of Italy, confiscated lands for the
benefit of the soldiership prepared for future contingencies. Though
Antonius married Octavia, the sister of Octavius, he was full of intrigues
against him and Octavius, on his part, proved more than a match in
duplicity and concealed hostilities. They, however, pretended to be
friends; and the treaty of Brundusium, celebrated by Virgil, would seem to
indicate that the world was now to enjoy the peace it craved. After a
debauch, Antonius left Rome for the East, and Octavius for Gaul, each with
a view of military conquests. Antonius, with his new wife, had seemingly
forgotten Cleopatra, and devoted himself to the duties of the camp with an
assiduity worthy of Caesar himself. Octavius has a naval conflict with
Sextus, and is defeated, but Sextus fails to profit from his victory, and
Octavius, with the help of his able lieutenants, and re-enforced by
Antonius, again attacks Sextus, and is again defeated. In a third conflict
he is victorious, and Sextus escapes to the East. Lepidus, ousted and
cheated by both Antonius and Octavius, now combines with Sextus and the
Pompeians, and makes head against Octavius; but is deserted by his
soldiers, and falls into the hands of his enemy, who spares his life in
contempt. He had owed his elevation to his family influence, and not to
his own abilities. Sextus, at last, was taken and slain.

At this juncture Octavius was at the head of the Caesarian party. He had
won the respect and friendship of the Romans by his clemency and
munificence. He was not a great general, but he was served by a great
general, Agrippa, and by another minister of equal talents, Mecrenas. He
controlled even more forces than Antonius, no less than forty-five legions
of infantry, and twenty-five thousand cavalry, and thirty-seven thousand
light-armed auxiliaries. Antonius, on the other hand, had forfeited the
esteem of the Romans by his prodigalities, by his Oriental affectations,
and by his slavery to Cleopatra.

This artful and accomplished woman again met Antonius in Asia, and resumed
her sway. The general of one hundred battles became effeminated by his
voluptuous dalliance, so that his Parthian campaign was a failure, even
though he led an army of one hundred thousand men. He was obliged to
retreat, and his retreat was disastrous. It was while he was planning
another campaign that Octavia, his wife, and the sister of his rival,--a
woman who held the most dignified situation in the world,--brought to his
camp both money and troops, and hoped to allay the jealousies of her
husband, and secure peace between him and her brother. But Antonius
heartlessly refused to see this noble-minded woman, while he gave
provinces to Cleopatra. At Alexandria this abandoned profligate plunged,
with his paramour, into every excess of extravagant debauchery, while she
who enslaved him only dreamed of empire and domination. She may have loved
him, but she loved power more than she did debauchery. Her intellectual
accomplishments were equal to her personal fascinations, and while she
beguiled the sensual Roman with costly banquets, her eye was steadily
directed to the establishment of her Egyptian throne.

The rupture which Octavia sought to prevent between her brother and her
husband--for, with the rarest magnanimity she still adhered to him in spite
of his infatuated love for Cleopatra--at last took place, when Octavius was
triumphant over Sextus, and Antonius was unsuccessful in the distant East.
Octavius declared war against the queen of Egypt, and Antonius divorced
Octavia. Throughout the winter of B.C. 31, both parties prepared for the
inevitable conflict, for Rome now could have but one master. The fate of
the empire was to be settled, not by land forces, but a naval battle, and
that was fought at Actium, not now with equal forces, for those of
Antonius had been weakened by desertions. Moreover, he rejected the advice
of his ablest generals, and put himself under the guidance of his
mistress, while Octavius listened to the counsels of Agrippa.

The battle had scarcely begun before Cleopatra fled, followed by Antonius.
The destruction of the Antonian fleet was the consequence. This battle,
B.C. 31, gave the empire of the world to Octavius, and Antonius fled to
Alexandria with the woman who had ruined him. And it was well that the
empire fell into the hands of a politic and profound statesman, who sought
to consolidate it and preserve its peace, rather than into those of a
debauched general, with insatiable passions and blood-thirsty vengeance.
The victor landed in Egypt, while the lovers abandoned themselves to
despair. Antonius, on the rumor of Cleopatra's death, gave himself a
mortal wound, but died in the arms of her for whom he had sacrificed fame,
fortune, and life. Cleopatra, in the interview which Octavius sought at
Alexandria, attempted to fascinate him by those arts by which she had led
astray both Caesar and Antonius, but the cold and politic conqueror was
unmoved, and coldly demanded the justification of her political career,
and reserved her to grace his future triumph. She eluded his vigilance,
and destroyed herself, as is supposed, by the bite of asps, since her dead
body showed none of the ordinary spots of poison. She died, B.C. 30, in
the fortieth year of her age, and was buried as a queen by the side of her
lover. Her son Caesarion, by Julius Caesar, was also put to death, and then
the master of the world "wiped his blood-stained sword, and thrust it into
the scabbard." No more victims were needed. No rivalship was henceforth to
be dreaded, and all opposition to his will had ceased.

Octavius reduced Egypt to the form of a Roman province, and after
adjusting the affairs of the East, among which was the confirmation of
Herod as sovereign of Judea, he returned to Rome to receive his new
honors, and secure his undivided sovereignty. Peace was given to the world
at last. The imperator dedicated temples to the gods, and gave games and
spectacles to the people. The riches of all previous conquests were his to
dispose and enjoy--the extent of which may be conjectured from the fact
that Caesar alone had seized an amount equal to one hundred and seventy
million pounds, not reckoning the relative value to gold in these times.
Divine honors were rendered to Octavius as the heir of Caesar. He assumed
the praenomen of imperator, but combined in himself all the great offices
of the republic which had been overturned. As censor, he purged and
controlled the Senate, of which he was appointed princeps, or chief. As
consul he had the control of the armies of the State; as perpetual
proconsul over all the provinces of the empire, he controlled their
revenues, their laws, their internal reforms, and all foreign relations.
As tribune for life, he initiated legal measures before the Comitia of the
tribes; as Pontifex Maximus, he had the regulation of all religious
ceremonials. All these great offices were voted him by a subservient
people. The only prerogative which remained to them was the making of
laws, but even this great and supreme power he controlled, by assuming the
initiation of all laws and measures,--that which Louis Napoleon has claimed
in the Corps Legislatif. He had also resorted to edicts, which had the
force of laws, and ultimately composed no small part of the Roman
jurisprudence. Finally, he assumed the name of Caesar, as he had of
Augustus, and consummated the reality of despotism by the imposing title
of imperator, or emperor.





Next: The Roman Empire On The Accession Of Augustus

Previous: The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey



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