The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar


The character of the First Caesar has perhaps never been worse
appreciated than by him who in one sense described it best; that is,
with most force and eloquence wherever he really _did_ comprehend it.
This was Lucan, who has nowhere exhibited more brilliant rhetoric, nor
wandered more from the truth, than in the contrasted portraits of Caesar
and Pompey. The famous line, _"Nil actum reputans si quid superesset
agendum,"_ is a fine feature of the real character, finely expressed.
But, if it had been Lucan's purpose (as possibly, with a view to
Pompey's benefit, in some respects it was) utterly and extravagantly to
falsify the character of the great Dictator, by no single trait could he
more effectually have fulfilled that purpose, nor in fewer words, than
by this expressive passage, _"Gaudensque viam fecisse ruina."_ Such a
trait would be almost extravagant applied even to Marius, who (though in
many respects a perfect model of Roman grandeur, massy, columnar,
imperturbable, and more perhaps than any one man recorded in History
capable of justifying the bold illustration of that character in Horace,
"_Si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae_") had, however,
a ferocity in his character, and a touch of the devil in him, very
rarely united with the same tranquil intrepidity. But, for Caesar, the
all-accomplished statesman, the splendid orator, the man of elegant
habits and polished taste, the patron of the fine arts in a degree
transcending all example of his own or the previous age, and as a man of
general literature so much beyond his contemporaries, except Cicero,
that he looked down even upon the brilliant Sylla as an illiterate
person--to class such a man with the race of furious destroyers exulting
in the desolations they spread is to err not by an individual trait, but
by the whole genus. The Attilas and the Tamerlanes, who rejoice in
avowing themselves the scourges of God, and the special instruments of
his wrath, have no one feature of affinity to the polished and humane
Caesar, and would as little have comprehended his character as he could
have respected theirs. Even Cato, the unworthy hero of Lucan, might have
suggested to him a little more truth in this instance, by a celebrated
remark which he made on the characteristic distinction of Caesar, in
comparison with other revolutionary disturbers; for, said he, whereas
others had attempted the overthrow of the state in a continued paroxysm
of fury, and in a state of mind resembling the lunacy of intoxication,
Caesar, on the contrary, among that whole class of civil disturbers, was
the only one who had come to the task in a temper of sobriety and
moderation _(unum accessisse sobrium ad rempublicam delendam)_....

Great as Caesar was by the benefit of his original nature, there can be
no doubt that he, like others, owed something to circumstances; and
perhaps amongst those which were most favourable to the premature
development of great self-dependence we must reckon the early death of
his father. It is, or it is not, according to the nature of men, an
advantage to be orphaned at as early age. Perhaps utter orphanage is
rarely or never such: but to lose a father betimes may, under
appropriate circumstances, profit a strong mind greatly. To Caesar it
was a prodigious benefit that he lost his father when not much more than
fifteen. Perhaps it was an advantage also to his father that he died
thus early. Had he stayed a year longer, he might have seen himself
despised, baffled, and made ridiculous. For where, let us ask, in any
age, was the father capable of adequately sustaining that relation to
the unique Caius Julius--to him, in the appropriate language of

"The foremost man of all this world?"

And, in this fine and Caesarean line, "this world" is to be understood
not of the order of co-existences merely,' but also of the order of
successions; he was the foremost man not only of his contemporaries, but
also, within his own intellectual class, of men generally--of all that
ever should come after him, or should sit on thrones under the
denominations of Czars, Kesars, or Caesars of the Bosphorus and the
Danube; of all in every age that should inherit his supremacy of mind,
or should subject to themselves the generations of ordinary men by
qualities analogous to his. Of this infinite superiority some part must
be ascribed to his early emancipation from paternal control. There are
very many cases in which, simply from considerations of sex, a female
cannot stand forward as the head of a family, or as its suitable
representative. If they are even ladies paramount, and in situations of
command, they are also women. The staff of authority does not annihilate
their sex; and scruples of female delicacy interfere for ever to unnerve
and emasculate in their hands the sceptre however otherwise potent.
Hence we see, in noble families, the merest boys put forward to
represent the family dignity, as fitter supporters of that burden than
their mature mothers. And of Caesar's mother, though little is recorded,
and that little incidentally, this much at least we learn--that, if she
looked down upon him with maternal pride and delight, she looked up to
him with female ambition as the re-edifier of her husband's honours,--
looked with reverence as to a column of the Roman grandeur and with fear
and feminine anxieties as to one whose aspiring spirit carried him but
too prematurely into the fields of adventurous strife. One slight and
evanescent sketch of the relations which subsisted between Caesar and
his mother, caught from the wrecks of time, is preserved both by
Plutarch and Suetonius. We see in the early dawn the young patrician
standing upon the steps of his patrimonial portico, his mother with her
arms wreathed about his neck, looking up to his noble countenance,
sometimes drawing auguries of hope from features so fitted for command,
sometimes boding an early blight to promises so dangerously magnificent.
That she had something of her son's aspiring character, or that he
presumed so much in a mother of his, we learn from the few words which
survive of their conversation. He addressed to her no language that
could tranquillise her fears. On the contrary, to any but a Roman mother
his valedictory words, taken in connexion with the known determination
of his character, were of a nature to consummate her depression, as they
tended to confirm the very worst of her fears. He was then going to
stand his chance in a popular electioneering contest for an office of
the highest dignity, and to launch himself upon the storms of the Campus
Martius. At that period, besides other and more ordinary dangers, the
bands of gladiators, kept in the pay of the more ambitious or turbulent
amongst the Roman nobles, gave a popular tone of ferocity and of
personal risk to the course of such contests; and, either to forestall
the victory of an antagonist, or to avenge their own defeat, it was not
at all impossible that a body of incensed competitors might intercept
his final triumph by assassination. For this danger, however, he had no
leisure in his thoughts of consolation; the sole danger which _he_
contemplated, or supposed his mother to contemplate, was the danger of
defeat, and for that he reserved his consolations. He bade her fear
nothing; for that his determination was to return with victory, and with
the ensigns of the dignity he sought, or to return a corpse.

Early indeed did Caesar's trials commence; and it is probable, that, had
not the death of his father, by throwing him prematurely upon his own
resources, prematurely developed the masculine features of his
character, forcing him whilst yet a boy under the discipline of civil
conflict and the yoke of practical life, even _his_ energies might have
been insufficient to sustain them. His age is not exactly ascertained;
but it is past a doubt that he had not reached his twentieth year when
he had the hardihood to engage in a struggle with Sylla, then Dictator,
and exercising the immoderate powers of that office with the licence and
the severity which History has made so memorable. He had neither any
distinct grounds of hope, nor any eminent example at that time, to
countenance him in this struggle--which yet he pushed on in the most
uncompromising style, and to the utmost verge of defiance. The subject
of the contest gives it a further interest. It was the youthful wife of
the youthful Caesar who stood under the shadow of the great Dictator's
displeasure; not personally, but politically, on account of her
connexions: and her it was, Cornelia, the daughter of a man who had been
four times consul, that Caesar was required to divorce: but he spurned
the haughty mandate, and carried his determination to a triumphant
issue, notwithstanding his life was at stake, and at one time saved only
by shifting his place of concealment every night; and this young lady it
was who afterwards became the mother of his only daughter. Both mother
and daughter, it is remarkable, perished prematurely, and at critical
periods of Caesar's life; for it is probable enough that these
irreparable wounds to Caesar's domestic affections threw him with more
exclusiveness of devotion upon the fascinations of glory and ambition
than might have happened under a happier condition of his private life.
That Caesar should have escaped destruction in this unequal contest with
an enemy then wielding the whole thunders of the state, is somewhat
surprising; and historians have sought their solution of the mystery in
the powerful intercessions of the vestal virgins, and several others of
high rank amongst the connexions of his great house. These may have done
something; but it is due to Sylla, who had a sympathy with everything
truly noble, to suppose him struck with powerful admiration for the
audacity of the young patrician, standing out in such severe solitude
among so many examples of timid concession; and that to this magnanimous
feeling in the Dictator much of the indulgence which he showed may have
been really due. In fact, according to some accounts, it was not Sylla,
but the creatures of Sylla (_adjutores_), who pursued Caesar. We know,
at all events, that Sylla formed a right estimate of Caesar's character,
and that, from the complexion of his conduct in this one instance, he
drew that famous prophecy of his future destiny; bidding his friends
beware of that slipshod boy, "for that in him lay couchant many a
Marius." A grander testimony to the awe which Caesar inspired, or from
one who knew better the qualities of that Cyclopean man by whose scale
he measured the patrician boy, cannot be imagined.

It is not our intention, or consistent with our plan, to pursue this
great man through the whole circumstances of his romantic career; though
it is certain that many parts of his life require investigation much
keener than has ever been applied to them, and that many might be placed
in a new light. Indeed, the whole of this most momentous section of
ancient history ought to be recomposed with the critical scepticism of a
Niebuhr, and the same comprehensive collation, resting, if possible, on
the felicitous interpretation of authorities. In reality it is the hinge
upon which turned the future destiny of the whole earth, and, having
therefore a common relation to all modern nations whatsoever, should
naturally have been cultivated with the zeal which belongs to a personal
concern. In general, the anecdotes which express most vividly the
grandeur of character in the first Caesar are those which illustrate his
defiance of danger in extremity: the prodigious energy and rapidity of
his decisions and motions in the field (looking to which it was that
Cicero called him [Greek: teras] or portentous revelation); the skill
with which he penetrated the designs of his enemies, and the electric
speed with which he met disasters with remedy and reparation, or, where
that was impossible, with relief; the extraordinary presence of mind
which he showed in turning adverse omens to his own advantage, as when,
upon stumbling in coming on shore (which was esteemed a capital omen of
evil), he transfigured as it were in one instant its whole meaning by
exclaiming, "Thus, and by this contact with the earth, do I take
possession of thee, O Africa!" in that way giving to an accident the
semblance of a symbolic purpose. Equally conspicuous was the grandeur of
fortitude with which he faced the whole extent of a calamity when
palliation could do no good, "non negando, minuendove, sed insuper
amplificando, _ementiendoque_"; as when, upon finding his soldiery
alarmed at the approach of Juba, with forces really great, but
exaggerated by their terrors, he addressed them in a military harangue
to the following effect:--"Know that within a few days the king will
come up with us, bringing with him sixty thousand legionaries, thirty
thousand cavalry, one hundred thousand light troops, besides three
hundred elephants. Such being the case, let me hear no more of
conjectures and opinions, for you have now my warrant for the fact,
whose information is past doubting. Therefore, be satisfied; otherwise,
I will put every man of you on board some crazy old fleet, and whistle
you down the tide--no matter under what winds, no matter towards what
shore." Finally, we might seek for _characteristic_ anecdotes of Caesar
in his unexampled liberalities and contempt of money.

Upon this last topic it is the just remark of Casaubon that some
instances of Caesar's munificence have been thought apocryphal, or to
rest upon false readings, simply from ignorance of the heroic scale upon
which the Roman splendours of that age proceeded. A forum which Caesar
built out of the products of his last campaign, by way of a present to
the Roman people, cost him--for the ground merely on which it stood--
nearly eight hundred thousand pounds. To the citizens of Rome he
presented, in one _congiary_, about two guineas and a half a head. To
his army, in one _donation_, upon the termination of the Civil War, he
gave a sum which allowed about two hundred pounds a man to the infantry,
and four hundred to the cavalry. It is true that the legionary troops
were then much reduced by the sword of the enemy, and by the tremendous
hardships of their last campaigns. In this, however, he did perhaps no
more than repay a debt. For it is an instance of military attachment,
beyond all that Wallenstein or any commander, the most beloved amongst
his troops, has ever experienced, that, on the breaking out of the Civil
War, not only did the centurions of every legion severally maintain a
horse soldier, but even the privates volunteered to serve without pay,
and (what might seem impossible) without their daily rations. This was
accomplished by subscriptions amongst themselves, the more opulent
undertaking for the maintenance of the needy. Their disinterested love
for Caesar appeared in another and more difficult illustration: it was a
traditionary anecdote in Rome that the majority of those amongst
Caesar's troops who had the misfortune to fall into the enemy's hands
refused to accept their lives under the condition of serving against

In connexion with this subject of his extraordinary munificence, there
is one aspect of Caesar's life which has suffered much from the
misrepresentations of historians, and that is--the vast pecuniary
embarrassments under which he laboured, until the profits of war had
turned the scale even more prodigiously in his favour. At one time of
his life, when appointed to a foreign office, so numerous and so
clamorous were his creditors that he could not have left Rome on his
public duties had not Crassus come forward with assistance in money, or
by guarantees, to the amount of nearly two hundred thousand pounds. And
at another he was accustomed to amuse himself with computing how much
money it would require to make him worth exactly nothing (_i.e._ simply
to clear him of debts); this, by one account, amounted to upwards of two
millions sterling. Now, the error of historians has been to represent
these debts as the original ground of his ambition and his revolutionary
projects, as though the desperate condition of his private affairs had
suggested a civil war to his calculations as the best or only mode of
redressing it. Such a policy would have resembled the last desperate
resource of an unprincipled gambler, who, on seeing his final game at
chess, and the accumulated stakes depending upon it, all on the brink of
irretrievable sacrifice, dexterously upsets the chess-board, or
extinguishes the lights. But Julius, the one sole patriot of Rome, could
find no advantage to his plans in darkness or in confusion. Honestly
supported, he would have crushed the oligarchies of Rome by crushing in
its lairs that venal and hunger-bitten democracy which made oligarchy
and its machineries resistless. Caesar's debts, far from being
stimulants and exciting causes of his political ambition, stood in an
inverse relation to the ambition; they were its results, and represented
its natural costs, being contracted from first to last in the service of
his political intrigues, for raising and maintaining a powerful body of
partisans, both in Rome and elsewhere. Whosoever indeed will take the
trouble to investigate the progress of Caesar's ambition, from such
materials as even yet remain, may satisfy himself that the scheme of
revolutionizing the Republic, and placing himself at its head, was no
growth of accident or circumstances; above all, that it did not arise
upon any so petty and indirect a suggestion as that of his debts; but
that his debts were in their very first origin purely ministerial to his
wise, indispensable, and patriotic ambition; and that his revolutionary
plans were at all periods of his life a direct and foremost object, but
in no case bottomed upon casual impulses. In this there was not only
patriotism, but in fact the one sole mode of patriotism which could have
prospered, or could have found a field of action.

Chatter not, sublime reader, commonplaces of scoundrel moralists against
ambition. In some cases ambition is a hopeful virtue; in others (as in
the Rome of our resplendent Julius) ambition was the virtue by which any
other could flourish. It had become evident to everybody that Rome,
under its present constitution, must fall; and the sole question was--by
whom? Even Pompey, not by nature of an aspiring turn, and prompted to
his ambitious course undoubtedly by circumstances and, the friends who
besieged him, was in the habit of saying, "Sylla potuit: ego non
potero?" _Sylla found it possible: shall I find it not so?_ Possible to
do what? To overthrow the political system of the Republic. This had
silently collapsed into an order of things so vicious, growing also so
hopelessly worse, that all honest patriots invoked a purifying
revolution, even though bought at the heavy price of a tyranny, rather
than face the chaos of murderous distractions to which the tide of feuds
and frenzies was violently tending.

Such a revolution at such a price was not less Pompey's object than
Caesar's. In a case, therefore, where no benefit of choice was allowed
to Rome as respected the thing, but only as respected the person, Caesar
had the same right to enter the arena in the character of combatant as
could belong to any one of his rivals. And that he _did_ enter that
arena constructively, and by secret design, from his very earliest
manhood, may be gathered from this--that he suffered no openings towards
a revolution, provided they had any hope in them, to escape his
participation. It is familiarly known that he was engaged pretty deeply
in the conspiracy of Catiline, and that he incurred considerable risk on
that occasion; but it is less known that he was a party to at least two
other conspiracies. There was even a fourth, meditated by Crassus, which
Caesar so far encouraged as to undertake a journey to Rome from a very
distant quarter merely with a view to such chances as it might offer to
him; but, as it did not, upon examination, seem to him a very promising
scheme, he judged it best to look coldly upon it, or not to embark in it
by any personal co-operation. Upon these and other facts we build our
inference--that the scheme of a revolution was the one great purpose of
Caesar from his first entrance upon public life. Nor does it appear that
he cared much by whom it was undertaken, provided only there seemed to
be any sufficient resources for carrying it through, and for sustaining
the first collision with the regular forces of the existing oligarchies,
taking or _not_ taking the shape of triumvirates. He relied, it seems,
on his own personal superiority for raising him to the head of affairs
eventually, let who would take the nominal lead at first.

To the same result, it will be found, tended the vast stream of Caesar's
liberalities. From the senator downwards to the lowest _faex Romuli_, he
had a hired body of dependents, both in and out of Rome, equal in
numbers to a nation. In the provinces, and in distant kingdoms, he
pursued the same schemes. Everywhere he had a body of mercenary
partisans; kings even are known to have taken his pay. And it is
remarkable that even in his character of commander-in-chief, where the
number of legions allowed to him for the accomplishment of his Gaulish
mission raised him for a number of years above all fear of coercion or
control, he persevered steadily in the same plan of providing for the
distant day when he might need assistance, not _from_ the state, but
_against_ the state. For, amongst the private anecdotes which came to
light under the researches made into his history after his death, was
this--that, soon after his first entrance upon his government in Gaul,
he had raised, equipped, disciplined, and maintained, from his own
private funds, a legion amounting, possibly, to six or seven thousand
men, who were bound to no sacrament of military obedience to the state,
nor owed fealty to any auspices except those of Caesar. This legion,
from the fashion of their crested helmets, which resembled the heads of
a small aspiring bird, received the popular name of the _Alauda_ (or
Lark) legion. And very singular it was that Cato, or Marcellus, or some
amongst those enemies of Caesar who watched his conduct during the
period of his Gaulish command with the vigilance of rancorous malice,
should not have come to the knowledge of this fact; in which case we may
be sure that it would have been denounced to the Senate.

Such, then, for its purpose and its uniform motive, was the sagacious
munificence of Caesar. Apart from this motive, and considered in and for
itself, and simply with a reference to the splendid forms which it often
assumed, this munificence would furnish the materials for a volume. The
public entertainments of Caesar, his spectacles and shows, his
naumachiae, and the pomps of his unrivalled triumphs (the closing
triumphs of the Republic), were severally the finest of their kind which
had then been brought forward. Sea-fights were exhibited upon the
grandest scale, according to every known variety of nautical equipment
and mode of conflict, upon a vast lake formed artificially for that
express purpose. Mimic land-fights were conducted, in which all the
circumstances of real war were so faithfully rehearsed that even
elephants "indorsed with towers," twenty on each side, took part in the
combat. Dramas were represented in every known language (_per omnium
linguarum histriones_). And hence (that is, from the conciliatory
feeling thus expressed towards the various tribes of foreigners resident
in Rome) some have derived an explanation of what is else a mysterious
circumstance amongst the ceremonial observances at Caesar's funeral--
that all people of foreign nations then residing at Rome distinguished
themselves by the conspicuous share which they took in the public
mourning; and that, beyond all other foreigners, the Jews for night
after night kept watch and ward about the Emperor's grave. Never before,
according to traditions which lasted through several generations in
Rome, had there been so vast a conflux of the human race congregated to
any one centre, on any one attraction of business or of pleasure, as to
Rome on occasion of these triumphal spectacles exhibited by Caesar.

In our days, the greatest occasional gatherings of the human race are in
India, especially at the great fair of the _Hurdwar_ on the Ganges in
northern Hindustan: a confluence of some millions is sometimes seen at
that spot, brought together under the mixed influences of devotion and
commercial business, but very soon dispersed as rapidly as they had been
convoked. Some such spectacle of nations crowding upon nations, and some
such Babylonian confusion of dresses, complexions, languages, and
jargons, was then witnessed at Rome. Accommodations within doors, and
under roofs of houses, or roofs of temples, was altogether impossible.
Myriads encamped along the streets, and along the high-roads, fields, or
gardens. Myriads lay stretched on the ground, without even the slight
protection of tents, in a vast circuit about the city. Multitudes of
men, even senators, and others of the highest rank, were trampled to
death in the crowds. And the whole family of man might seem at that time
to be converged at the bidding of the dead Dictator. But these, or any
other themes connected with the public life of Caesar, we notice only in
those circumstances which have been overlooked, or partially
represented, by historians. Let us now, in conclusion, bring forward,
from the obscurity in which they have hitherto lurked, the anecdotes
which describe the habits of his private life, his tastes, and personal

In person, he was tall, fair, gracile, and of limbs distinguished for
their elegant proportions. His eyes were black and piercing. These
circumstances continued to be long remembered, and no doubt were
constantly recalled to the eyes of all persons in the imperial palaces
by pictures, busts, and statues; for we find the same description of his
personal appearance three centuries afterwards in a work of the Emperor
Julian's. He was a most accomplished horseman, and a master
(_peritissimus_) in the use of arms. But, notwithstanding his skill and
horsemanship, it seems that, when he accompanied his army on marches, he
walked oftener than he rode; no doubt, with a view to the benefit of his
example, and to express that sympathy with his soldiers which gained him
their hearts so entirely. On other occasions, when travelling apart from
his army, he seems more frequently to have ridden in a carriage than on
horseback. His purpose, in this preference, must have been with a view
to the transport of luggage. The carriage which he generally used was a
_rheda_, a sort of gig, or rather curricle; for it was a _four_-wheeled
carriage, and adapted (as we find from the imperial regulations for the
public carriages, etc.) to the conveyance of about half a ton. The mere
personal baggage which Caesar carried with him was probably
considerable; for he was a man of elegant habits, and in all parts of
his life sedulously attentive to elegance of personal appearance. The
length of journeys which he accomplished within a given time appears
even to us at this day, and might well therefore appear to his
contemporaries, truly astonishing. A distance of one hundred miles was
no extraordinary day's journey for him in a _rheda_, such as we have
described it. So refined were his habits, and so constant his demand for
the luxurious accommodations of polished life as it then existed in
Rome, that he is said to have carried with him, as indispensable parts
of his personal baggage, the little ivory lozenges, squares and circles
or ovals, with other costly materials, wanted for the tessellated
flooring of his tent. Habits such as these will easily account for his
travelling in a carriage rather than on horseback.

The courtesy and obliging disposition of Caesar were notorious; and both
were illustrated in some anecdotes which survived for generations in
Rome. Dining on one occasion, as an invited guest, at a table where the
servants had inadvertently, for salad-oil, furnished some sort of coarse
lamp-oil, Caesar would not allow the rest of the company to point out
the mistake to their host, for fear of shocking him too much by exposing
what might have been construed into inhospitality. At another time,
whilst halting at a little _cabaret_, when one of his retinue was
suddenly taken ill, Caesar resigned to his use the sole bed which the
house afforded. Incidents as trifling as these express the urbanity of
Caesar's nature; and hence one is the more surprised to find the
alienation of the Senate charged, in no trifling degree, upon a gross
and most culpable failure in point of courtesy. Caesar, it is alleged--
but might we presume to call upon antiquity for its authority?--
neglected to rise from his seat, on their approaching him with an
address of congratulation. It is said, and we can believe it, that he
gave deeper offence by this one defect in a matter of ceremonial
observance than by all his substantial attacks upon their privileges.
What we find it difficult to believe is not that result from that
offence--this is no more than we should all anticipate--not _that_, but
the possibility of the offence itself, from one so little arrogant as
Caesar, and so entirely a man of the world. He was told of the disgust
which he had given; and we are bound to believe his apology, in which he
charged it upon sickness, that would not at the moment allow him to
maintain a standing attitude. Certainly the whole tenor of his life was
not courteous only, but kind, and to his enemies merciful in a degree
which implied so much more magnanimity than men in general could
understand that by many it was put down to the account of weakness.

Weakness, however, there was none in Caius Caesar; and, that there might
be none, it was fortunate that conspiracy should have cut him off in the
full vigour of his faculties, in the very meridian of his glory, and on
the brink of completing a series of gigantic achievements. Amongst these
are numbered:--a digest of the entire body of laws, even then become
unwieldy and oppressive; the establishment of vast and comprehensive
public libraries, Greek as well as Latin; the chastisement of Dacia
(that needed a cow-hiding for insolence as much as Affghanistan from us
in 1840); the conquest of Parthia; and the cutting a ship canal through
the Isthmus of Corinth. The reformation of the Calendar he had already
accomplished. And of all his projects it may be said that they were
equally patriotic in their purpose and colossal in their proportions.

As an orator, Caesar's merit was so eminent that, according to the
general belief, had he found time to cultivate this department of civil
exertion, the received supremacy of Cicero would have been made
questionable, or the honour would have been divided. Cicero himself was
of that opinion, and on different occasions applied the epithet
_splendidus_ to Caesar, as though in some exclusive sense, or with some
peculiar emphasis, due to him. His taste was much simpler, chaster, and
less inclined to the _florid_ and Asiatic, than that of Cicero. So far
he would, in that condition of the Roman culture and feeling, have been
less acceptable to the public; but, on the other hand, he would have
compensated this disadvantage by much more of natural and Demosthenic

In literature, the merits of Caesar are familiar to most readers. Under
the modest title of _Commentaries_, he meant to offer the records of his
Gallic and British campaigns, simply as notes, or memoranda, afterwards
to be worked up by regular historians; but, as Cicero observes, their
merit was such in the eyes of the discerning that all judicious writers
shrank from the attempt to alter them. In another instance of his
literary labours he showed a very just sense of true dignity. Rightly
conceiving that everything patriotic was dignified, and that to
illustrate or polish his native language was a service of real and
paramount patriotism, he composed a work on the grammar and orthoepy of
the Latin language. Cicero and himself were the only Romans of
distinction in that age who applied themselves with true patriotism to
the task of purifying and ennobling their mother tongue. Both were aware
of a transcendent value in the Grecian literature as it then stood; but
that splendour did not depress their hopes of raising their own to
something of the same level. As respected the natural wealth of the two
languages, it was the private opinion of Cicero that the Latin had the
advantage; and, if Caesar did not accompany him to that length--which,
perhaps, under some limitations he ought to have done--he yet felt that
it was but the more necessary to draw forth any special or exceptional
advantage which it really had.

Was Caesar, upon the whole, the greatest of men? We restrict the
question, of course, to the classes of men great in _action_: great by
the extent of their influence over their social contemporaries; great by
throwing open avenues to extended powers that previously had been
closed; great by making obstacles once vast to become trivial, or prizes
that once were trivial to be glorified by expansion. I (said Augustus
Caesar) found Rome built of brick; but I left it built of marble. Well,
my man, we reply, for a wondrously little chap, you did what in
Westmoreland they call a good _darroch_ (day's work); and, if _navvies_
had been wanted in those days, you should have had our vote to a
certainty. But Caius Julius, even under such a limitation of the
comparison, did a thing as much transcending this as it was greater to
project Rome across the Alps and the Pyrenees,--expanding the grand
Republic into crowning provinces of i. France (_Gallia_), 2. Belgium, 3.
Holland (_Batavia_), 4. England (_Britannia_), 5. Savoy (_Allobroges_),
6. Switzerland (_Helvetia_), 7. Spain (_Hispania_),--than to decorate a
street or to found an amphitheatre. Dr. Beattie once observed that, if
that question as to the greatest man in action upon the rolls of History
were left to be collected from the suffrages already expressed in books
and scattered throughout the literature of all nations, the scale would
be found to have turned prodigiously in Caesar's favour as against any
single competitor; and there is no doubt whatsoever that even amongst
his own countrymen, and his own contemporaries, the same verdict would
have been returned, had it been collected upon the famous principle of
Themistocles, that he should be reputed the first whom the greatest
number of rival voices had pronounced to be the second.


_Works_: Latin folio, Rome, 1469; Venice, 1471; Florence, 1514; London,
1585. De Bello Gallico, Esslingen (?), 1473. Translations by John
Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester (John Rastell), of Julius Caesar's
Commentaries-"newly translated into Englyshe ... as much as concerneth
thys realme of England"--1530 folio; by Arthur Goldinge, The Eyght
Bookes of C. Julius Caesar, London, 1563, 1565, 1578, 1590; by Chapman,
London, 1604 folio; by Clem. Edmonds, London, 1609; the same, with
Hirtius, 1655, 1670, 1695 folio with commendatory verses by Camden,
Daniel, and Ben Johnson (_sic_). Works: Translated by W. Duncan, 1753,
1755; by M. Bladen, 8th ed., 1770; MacDevitt, Bohn's Library, 1848. De
Bello Gallico, translated by R. Mongan, Dublin, 1850; by J.B. Owgan and
C.W. Bateman, 1882. Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, translated
by T. Rice Holmes, London, 1908 (see also Holmes' Caesar's Conquest of
Gaul, 1911). Caesar's Gallic War, translated by Rev. F.P. Long, Oxford,
1911; Books IV. and V. translated by C.H. Prichard, Cambridge, 1912. For
Latin text of De Bello Gallico see Bell's Illustrated Classical Series;
Dent's Temple Series of Classical Texts, 1902; Macmillan and Co., 1905;
and Blackie's Latin Texts, 1905-7.
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