The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

VI. His nursery is shewn to this day, in a villa belonging to the
family, in the suburbs of Velitrae; being a very small place, and much
like a pantry. An opinion prevails in the neighbourhood, that he was
also born there. Into this place no person presumes to enter, unless
upon necessity, and with great devotion, from a belief, for a long time
prevalent, that such as rashly enter it are seized with great horror and
consternation, which a short while since was confirmed by a remarkable
incident. For when a new inhabitant of the house had, either by mere
chance, or to try the truth of the report, taken up his lodging in that
apartment, in the course of the night, a few hours afterwards, he was
thrown out by some sudden violence, he knew not how, and was found in a
state of stupefaction, with the coverlid of his bed, before the door of
the chamber.

VII. While he was yet an infant, the surname of Thurinus was given him,
in memory of the birth-place of his family, or because, soon after he was
born, his father Octavius had been successful against the fugitive
slaves, in the country near Thurium. That he was surnamed Thurinus, I
can affirm upon good foundation, for when a boy, I had a small bronze
statue of him, with that name upon it in iron letters, nearly effaced by
age, which I presented to the emperor [113], by whom it is now revered
amongst the other tutelary deities in his chamber. He is also often
called Thurinus contemptuously, by Mark Antony in his letters; to which
he makes only this reply: “I am surprised that my former name should be
made a subject of reproach.” He afterwards assumed the name of Caius
Caesar, and then of Augustus; the former in compliance with the will of
his great-uncle, and the latter upon a motion of Munatius Plancus in the
senate. For when some proposed to confer upon him the name of Romulus,
as being, in a manner, a second founder of the city, it was resolved that
he should rather be called Augustus, a surname not only new, but of more
dignity, because places devoted to religion, and those in which anything
(75) is consecrated by augury, are denominated august, either from the
word auctus, signifying augmentation, or ab avium gestu, gustuve, from
the flight and feeding of birds; as appears from this verse of Ennius:

When glorious Rome by august augury was built. [114]

VIII. He lost his father when he was only four years of age; and, in his
twelfth year, pronounced a funeral oration in praise of his grand-mother
Julia. Four years afterwards, having assumed the robe of manhood, he was
honoured with several military rewards by Caesar in his African triumph,
although he took no part in the war, on account of his youth. Upon his
uncle’s expedition to Spain against the sons of Pompey, he was followed
by his nephew, although he was scarcely recovered from a dangerous
sickness; and after being shipwrecked at sea, and travelling with very
few attendants through roads that were infested with the enemy, he at
last came up with him. This activity gave great satisfaction to his
uncle, who soon conceived an increasing affection for him, on account of
such indications of character. After the subjugation of Spain, while
Caesar was meditating an expedition against the Dacians and Parthians, he
was sent before him to Apollonia, where he applied himself to his
studies; until receiving intelligence that his uncle was murdered, and
that he was appointed his heir, he hesitated for some time whether he
should call to his aid the legions stationed in the neighbourhood; but he
abandoned the design as rash and premature. However, returning to Rome,
he took possession of his inheritance, although his mother was
apprehensive that such a measure might be attended with danger, and his
step-father, Marcius Philippus, a man of consular rank, very earnestly
dissuaded him from it. From this time, collecting together a strong
military force, he first held the government in conjunction with Mark
Antony and Marcus Lepidus, then with Antony only, for nearly twelve
years, and at last in his own hands during a period of four and forty.

IX. Having thus given a very short summary of his life, I shall
prosecute the several parts of it, not in order of time, but arranging
his acts into distinct classes, for the sake of (76) perspicuity. He was
engaged in five civil wars, namely those of Modena, Philippi, Perugia,
Sicily, and Actium; the first and last of which were against Antony, and
the second against Brutus and Cassius; the third against Lucius Antonius,
the triumvir’s brother, and the fourth against Sextus Pompeius, the son
of Cneius Pompeius.

X. The motive which gave rise to all these wars was the opinion he
entertained that both his honour and interest were concerned in revenging
the murder of his uncle, and maintaining the state of affairs he had
established. Immediately after his return from Apollonia, he formed the
design of taking forcible and unexpected measures against Brutus and
Cassius; but they having foreseen the danger and made their escape, he
resolved to proceed against them by an appeal to the laws in their
absence, and impeach them for the murder. In the mean time, those whose
province it was to prepare the sports in honour of Caesar’s last victory
in the civil war, not daring to do it, he undertook it himself. And that
he might carry into effect his other designs with greater authority, he
declared himself a candidate in the room of a tribune of the people who
happened to die at that time, although he was of a patrician family, and
had not yet been in the senate. But the consul, Mark Antony, from whom
he had expected the greatest assistance, opposing him in his suit, and
even refusing to do him so much as common justice, unless gratified with
a large bribe, he went over to the party of the nobles, to whom he
perceived Sylla to be odious, chiefly for endeavouring to drive Decius
Brutus, whom he besieged in the town of Modena, out of the province,
which had been given him by Caesar, and confirmed to him by the senate.
At the instigation of persons about him, he engaged some ruffians to
murder his antagonist; but the plot being discovered, and dreading a
similar attempt upon himself, he gained over Caesar’s veteran soldiers,
by distributing among them all the money he could collect. Being now
commissioned by the senate to command the troops he had gathered, with
the rank of praetor, and in conjunction with Hirtius and Pansa, who had
accepted the consulship, to carry assistance to Decius Brutus, he put an
end to the war by two battles in three months. Antony writes, that in
the former of these he ran away, and two days afterwards made his
appearance (77) without his general’s cloak and his horse. In the last
battle, however, it is certain that he performed the part not only of a
general, but a soldier; for, in the heat of the battle; when the
standard-bearer of his legion was severely wounded, he took the eagle
upon his shoulders, and carried it a long time.

XI. In this war [115], Hirtius being slain in battle, and Pansa dying a
short time afterwards of a wound, a report was circulated that they both
were killed through his means, in order that, when Antony fled, the
republic having lost its consuls, he might have the victorious armies
entirely at his own command. The death of Pansa was so fully believed to
have been caused by undue means, that Glyco, his surgeon, was placed in
custody, on a suspicion of having poisoned his wound. And to this,
Aquilius Niger adds, that he killed Hirtius, the other consul, in the
confusion of the battle, with his own hands.

XII. But upon intelligence that Antony, after his defeat, had been
received by Marcus Lepidus, and that the rest of the generals and armies
had all declared for the senate, he, without any hesitation, deserted
from the party of the nobles; alleging as an excuse for his conduct, the
actions and sayings of several amongst them; for some said, “he was a
mere boy,” and others threw out, “that he ought to be promoted to
honours, and cut off,” to avoid the making any suitable acknowledgment
either to him or the veteran legions. And the more to testify his regret
for having before attached himself to the other faction, he fined the
Nursini in a large sum of money, which they were unable to pay, and then
expelled them from the town, for having inscribed upon a monument,
erected at the public charge to their countrymen who were slain in the
battle of Modena, “That they fell in the cause of liberty.”

XIII. Having entered into a confederacy with Antony and Lepidus, he
brought the war at Philippi to an end in two battles, although he was at
that time weak, and suffering from sickness [116]. In the first battle
he was driven from his camp, (78) and with some difficulty made his
escape to the wing of the army commanded by Antony. And now, intoxicated
with success, he sent the head of Brutus [117] to be cast at the foot of
Caesar’s statue, and treated the most illustrious of the prisoners not
only with cruelty, but with abusive language; insomuch that he is said to
have answered one of them who humbly intreated that at least he might not
remain unburied, “That will be in the power of the birds.” Two others,
father and son, who begged for their lives, he ordered to cast lots which
of them should live, or settle it between themselves by the sword; and
was a spectator of both their deaths: for the father offering his life to
save his son, and being accordingly executed, the son likewise killed
himself upon the spot. On this account, the rest of the prisoners, and
amongst them Marcus Favonius, Cato’s rival, being led up in fetters,
after they had saluted Antony, the general, with much respect, reviled
Octavius in the foulest language. After this victory, dividing between
them the offices of the state, Mark Antony [118] undertook to restore
order in the east, while Caesar conducted the veteran soldiers back to
Italy, and settled them in colonies on the lands belonging to the
municipalities. But he had the misfortune to please neither the soldiers
nor the owners of the lands; one party complaining of the injustice done
them, in being violently ejected from their possessions, and the other,
that they were not rewarded according to their merit. [119]

XIV. At this time he obliged Lucius Antony, who, presuming upon his own
authority as consul, and his brother’s power, was raising new commotions,
to fly to Perugia, and forced him, by famine, to surrender at last,
although not without having been exposed to great hazards, both before
the war and during its continuance. For a common soldier having got into
the seats of the equestrian order in the theatre, at the public
spectacles, Caesar ordered him to be removed by an officer; and a rumour
being thence spread by his enemies, that he had (79) put the man to death
by torture, the soldiers flocked together so much enraged, that he
narrowly escaped with his life. The only thing that saved him, was the
sudden appearance of the man, safe and sound, no violence having been
offered him. And whilst he was sacrificing under the walls of Perugia,
he nearly fell into the hands of a body of gladiators, who sallied out of
the town.

XV. After the taking of Perugia [120], he sentenced a great number of
the prisoners to death, making only one reply to all who implored pardon,
or endeavoured to excuse themselves, “You must die.” Some authors write,
that three hundred of the two orders, selected from the rest, were
slaughtered, like victims, before an altar raised to Julius Caesar, upon
the ides of March [15th April] [121]. Nay, there are some who relate,
that he entered upon the war with no other view, than that his secret
enemies, and those whom fear more than affection kept quiet, might be
detected, by declaring themselves, now they had an opportunity, with
Lucius Antony at their head; and that having defeated them, and
confiscated their estates, he might be enabled to fulfil his promises to
the veteran soldiers.

XVI. He soon commenced the Sicilian war, but it was protracted by
various delays during a long period [122]; at one time for the purpose of
repairing his fleets, which he lost twice by storm, even in the summer;
at another, while patching up a peace, to which he was forced by the
clamours of the people, in consequence of a famine occasioned by Pompey’s
cutting off the supply of corn by sea. But at last, having built a new
fleet, and obtained twenty thousand manumitted slaves [123], who were
given him for the oar, he formed the Julian harbour at Baiae, by letting
the sea into the Lucrine and Avernian lakes; and having exercised his
forces there during the whole winter, he defeated Pompey betwixt Mylae
and Naulochus; although (80) just as the engagement commenced, he
suddenly fell into such a profound sleep, that his friends were obliged
to wake him to give the signal. This, I suppose, gave occasion for
Antony’s reproach: “You were not able to take a clear view of the fleet,
when drawn up in line of battle, but lay stupidly upon your back, gazing
at the sky; nor did you get up and let your men see you, until Marcus
Agrippa had forced the enemies’ ships to sheer off.” Others imputed to
him both a saying and an action which were indefensible; for, upon the
loss of his fleets by storm, he is reported to have said: “I will conquer
in spite of Neptune;” and at the next Circensian games, he would not
suffer the statue of that God to be carried in procession as usual.
Indeed he scarcely ever ran more or greater risks in any of his wars than
in this. Having transported part of his army to Sicily, and being on his
return for the rest, he was unexpectedly attacked by Demochares and
Apollophanes, Pompey’s admirals, from whom he escaped with great
difficulty, and with one ship only. Likewise, as he was travelling on
foot through the Locrian territory to Rhegium, seeing two of Pompey’s
vessels passing by that coast, and supposing them to be his own, he went
down to the shore, and was very nearly taken prisoner. On this occasion,
as he was making his escape by some bye-ways, a slave belonging to
Aemilius Paulus, who accompanied him, owing him a grudge for the
proscription of Paulus, the father of Aemilius, and thinking he had now
an opportunity of revenging it, attempted to assassinate him. After the
defeat of Pompey, one of his colleagues [124], Marcus Lepidus, whom he
had summoned to his aid from Africa, affecting great superiority, because
he was at the head of twenty legions, and claiming for himself the
principal management of affairs in a threatening manner, he divested him
of his command, but, upon his humble submission, granted him his life,
but banished him for life to Circeii.

XVII. The alliance between him and Antony, which had always been
precarious, often interrupted, and ill cemented by repeated
reconciliations, he at last entirely dissolved. And to make it known to
the world how far Antony had degenerated from patriotic feelings, he
caused a will of his, which had been left at Rome, and in which he had
nominated Cleopatra’s children, amongst others, as his heirs, to be
opened and read in an assembly of the people. Yet upon his being
declared an enemy, he sent to him all his relations and friends, among
whom were Caius Sosius and Titus Domitius, at that time consuls. He
likewise spoke favourably in public of the people of Bologna, for joining
in the association with the rest of Italy to support his cause, because
they had, in former times, been under the protection of the family of the
Antonii. And not long afterwards he defeated him in a naval engagement
near Actium, which was prolonged to so late an hour, that, after the
victory, he was obliged to sleep on board his ship. From Actium he went
to the isle of Samoa to winter; but being alarmed with the accounts of a
mutiny amongst the soldiers he had selected from the main body of his
army sent to Brundisium after the victory, who insisted on their being
rewarded for their service and discharged, he returned to Italy. In his
passage thither, he encountered two violent storms, the first between the
promontories of Peloponnesus and Aetolia, and the other about the
Ceraunian mountains; in both which a part of his Liburnian squadron was
sunk, the spars and rigging of his own ship carried away, and the rudder
broken in pieces. He remained only twenty-seven days at Brundisium,
until the demands of the soldiers were settled, and then went, by way of
Asia and Syria, to Egypt, where laying siege to Alexandria, whither
Antony had fled with Cleopatra, he made himself master of it in a short
time. He drove Antony to kill himself, after he had used every effort to
obtain conditions of peace, and he saw his corpse [126]. Cleopatra he
anxiously wished to save for his triumph; and when she was supposed to
have been bit to death by an asp, he sent for the Psylli [127] to (82)
endeavour to suck out the poison. He allowed them to be buried together
in the same grave, and ordered a mausoleum, begun by themselves, to be
completed. The eldest of Antony’s two sons by Fulvia he commanded to be
taken by force from the statue of Julius Caesar, to which he had fled,
after many fruitless supplications for his life, and put him to death.
The same fate attended Caesario, Cleopatra’s son by Caesar, as he
pretended, who had fled for his life, but was retaken. The children
which Antony had by Cleopatra he saved, and brought up and cherished in a
manner suitable to their rank, just as if they had been his own

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