The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XVIII. At this time he had a desire to see the sarcophagus and body of
Alexander the Great, which, for that purpose, were taken out of the cell
in which they rested [128]; and after viewing them for some time, he paid
honours to the memory of that prince, by offering a golden crown, and
scattering flowers upon the body [129]. Being asked if he wished to see
the tombs of the Ptolemies also; he replied, “I wish to see a king, not
dead men.” [130] He reduced Egypt into the form of a province and to
render it more fertile, and more capable of supplying Rome with corn, he
employed his army to scour the canals, into which the Nile, upon its
rise, discharges itself; but which during a long series of years had
become nearly choked up with mud. To perpetuate the glory of his victory
at Actium, he built the city of Nicopolis on that part of the coast, and
established games to be celebrated there every five years; enlarging
likewise an old temple of Apollo, he ornamented with naval trophies [131] the spot on which he had pitched his camp, and consecrated it to Neptune
and Mars.

(83) XIX. He afterwards [132] quashed several tumults and insurrections,
as well as several conspiracies against his life, which were discovered,
by the confession of accomplices, before they were ripe for execution;
and others subsequently. Such were those of the younger Lepidus, of
Varro Muraena, and Fannius Caepio; then that of Marcus Egnatius,
afterwards that of Plautius Rufus, and of Lucius Paulus, his grand-
daughter’s husband; and besides these, another of Lucius Audasius, an old
feeble man, who was under prosecution for forgery; as also of Asinius
Epicadus, a Parthinian mongrel [133], and at last that of Telephus, a
lady’s prompter [134]; for he was in danger of his life from the plots
and conspiracies of some of the lowest of the people against him.
Audasius and Epicadus had formed the design of carrying off to the armies
his daughter Julia, and his grandson Agrippa, from the islands in which
they were confined. Telephus, wildly dreaming that the government was
destined to him by the fates, proposed to fall both upon Octavius and the
senate. Nay, once, a soldier’s servant belonging to the army in
Illyricum, having passed the porters unobserved, was found in the night-
time standing before his chamber-door, armed with a hunting-dagger.
Whether the person was really disordered in the head, or only
counterfeited madness, is uncertain; for no confession was obtained from
him by torture.

XX. He conducted in person only two foreign wars; the Dalmatian, whilst
he was yet but a youth; and, after Antony’s final defeat, the Cantabrian.
He was wounded in the former of these wars; in one battle he received a
contusion in the right knee from a stone–and in another, he was much
hurt in (84) one leg and both arms, by the fall of a fridge [135]. His
other wars he carried on by his lieutenants; but occasionally visited the
army, in some of the wars of Pannonia and Germany, or remained at no
great distance, proceeding from Rome as far as Ravenna, Milan, or

XXI. He conquered, however, partly in person, and partly by his
lieutenants, Cantabria [136], Aquitania and Pannonia [137], Dalmatia,
with all Illyricum and Rhaetia [138], besides the two Alpine nations, the
Vindelici and the Salassii [139]. He also checked the incursions of the
Dacians, by cutting off three of their generals with vast armies, and
drove the Germans beyond the river Elbe; removing two other tribes who
submitted, the Ubii and Sicambri, into Gaul, and settling them in the
country bordering on the Rhine. Other nations also, which broke into
revolt, he reduced to submission. But he never made war upon any nation
without just and necessary cause; and was so far from being ambitious
either to extend the empire, or advance his own military glory, that he
obliged the chiefs of some barbarous tribes to swear in the temple of
Mars the Avenger [140], that they would faithfully observe their
engagements, and not violate the peace which they had implored. Of some
he demanded a new description of hostages, their women, having found from
experience that they cared little for their men when given as hostages;
but he always afforded them the means of getting back their hostages
whenever they wished it. Even those who engaged most frequently and with
the greatest perfidy in their rebellion, he never punished more severely
than by selling their captives, on the terms (85) of their not serving in
any neighbouring country, nor being released from their slavery before
the expiration of thirty years. By the character which he thus acquired,
for virtue and moderation, he induced even the Indians and Scythians,
nations before known to the Romans by report only, to solicit his
friendship, and that of the Roman people, by ambassadors. The Parthians
readily allowed his claim to Armenia; restoring at his demand, the
standards which they had taken from Marcus Crassus and Mark Antony, and
offering him hostages besides. Afterwards, when a contest arose between
several pretenders to the crown of that kingdom, they refused to
acknowledge any one who was not chosen by him.

XXII. The temple of Janus Quirinus, which had been shut twice only, from
the era of the building of the city to his own time, he closed thrice in
a much shorter period, having established universal peace both by sea and
land. He twice entered the city with the honours of an Ovation [141],
namely, after the war of Philippi, and again after that of Sicily. He
had also three curule triumphs [142] for his several victories in (86)
Dalmatia, at Actium, and Alexandria; each of which lasted three days.

XXIII. In all his wars, he never received any signal or ignominious
defeat, except twice in Germany, under his lieutenants Lollius and Varus.
The former indeed had in it more of dishonour than disaster; but that of
Varus threatened the security of the empire itself; three legions, with
the commander, his lieutenants, and all the auxiliaries, being cut off.
Upon receiving intelligence of this disaster, he gave orders for keeping
a strict watch over the city, to prevent any public disturbance, and
prolonged the appointments of the prefects in the provinces, that the
allies might be kept in order by experience of persons to whom they were
used. He made a vow to celebrate the great games in honour of Jupiter,
Optimus, Maximus, “if he would be pleased to restore the state to more
prosperous circumstances.” This had formerly been resorted to in the
Cimbrian and Marsian wars. In short, we are informed that he was in such
consternation at this event, that he let the hair of his head and beard
grow for several months, and sometimes knocked his head against the door-
posts, crying out, “O, Quintilius Varus! Give me back my legions!” And
(87) ever after, he observed the anniversary of this calamity, as a day
of sorrow and mourning.

XXIV. In military affairs he made many alterations, introducing some
practices entirely new, and reviving others, which had become obsolete.
He maintained the strictest discipline among the troops; and would not
allow even his lieutenants the liberty to visit their wives, except
reluctantly, and in the winter season only. A Roman knight having cut
off the thumbs of his two young sons, to render them incapable of serving
in the wars, he exposed both him and his estate to public sale. But upon
observing the farmers of the revenue very greedy for the purchase, he
assigned him to a freedman of his own, that he might send him into the
country, and suffer him to retain his freedom. The tenth legion becoming
mutinous, he disbanded it with ignominy; and did the same by some others
which petulantly demanded their discharge; withholding from them the
rewards usually bestowed on those who had served their stated time in the
wars. The cohorts which yielded their ground in time of action, he
decimated, and fed with barley. Centurions, as well as common sentinels,
who deserted their posts when on guard, he punished with death. For
other misdemeanors he inflicted upon them various kinds of disgrace; such
as obliging them to stand all day before the praetorium, sometimes in
their tunics only, and without their belts, sometimes to carry poles ten
feet long, or sods of turf.

XXV. After the conclusion of the civil wars, he never, in any of his
military harangues, or proclamations, addressed them by the title of
“Fellow-soldiers,” but as “Soldiers” only. Nor would he suffer them to
be otherwise called by his sons or step-sons, when they were in command;
judging the former epithet to convey the idea of a degree of
condescension inconsistent with military discipline, the maintenance of
order, and his own majesty, and that of his house. Unless at Rome, in
case of incendiary fires, or under the apprehension of public
disturbances during a scarcity of provisions, he never employed in his
army slaves who had been made freedmen, except upon two occasions; on
one, for the security of the colonies bordering upon Illyricum, and on
the other, to guard (88) the banks of the river Rhine. Although he
obliged persons of fortune, both male and female, to give up their
slaves, and they received their manumission at once, yet he kept them
together under their own standard, unmixed with soldiers who were better
born, and armed likewise after different fashion. Military rewards, such
as trappings, collars, and other decorations of gold and silver, he
distributed more readily than camp or mural crowns, which were reckoned
more honourable than the former. These he bestowed sparingly, without
partiality, and frequently even on common soldiers. He presented M.
Agrippa, after the naval engagement in the Sicilian war, with a sea-green
banner. Those who shared in the honours of a triumph, although they had
attended him in his expeditions, and taken part in his victories, he
judged it improper to distinguish by the usual rewards for service,
because they had a right themselves to grant such rewards to whom they
pleased. He thought nothing more derogatory to the character of an
accomplished general than precipitancy and rashness; on which account he
had frequently in his mouth those proverbs:

Speude bradeos,
Hasten slowly,


‘Asphalaes gar est’ ameinon, hae erasus strataelataes.
The cautious captain’s better than the bold.

And “That is done fast enough, which is done well enough.”

He was wont to say also, that “a battle or a war ought never to be
undertaken, unless the prospect of gain overbalanced the fear of loss.
For,” said he, “men who pursue small advantages with no small hazard,
resemble those who fish with a golden hook, the loss of which, if the
line should happen to break, could never be compensated by all the fish
they might take.”

XXVI. He was advanced to public offices before the age at which he was
legally qualified for them; and to some, also, of a new kind, and for
life. He seized the consulship in the twentieth year of his age,
quartering his legions in a threatening manner near the city, and sending
deputies to demand it for him in the name of the army. When the senate
demurred, (89) a centurion, named Cornelius, who was at the head of the
chief deputation, throwing back his cloak, and shewing the hilt of his
sword, had the presumption to say in the senate-house, “This will make
him consul, if ye will not.” His second consulship he filled nine years
afterwards; his third, after the interval of only one year, and held the
same office every year successively until the eleventh. From this
period, although the consulship was frequently offered him, he always
declined it, until, after a long interval, not less than seventeen years,
he voluntarily stood for the twelfth, and two years after that, for a
thirteenth; that he might successively introduce into the forum, on their
entering public life, his two sons, Caius and Lucius, while he was
invested with the highest office in the state. In his five consulships
from the sixth to the eleventh, he continued in office throughout the
year; but in the rest, during only nine, six, four, or three months, and
in his second no more than a few hours. For having sat for a short time
in the morning, upon the calends of January [1st January], in his curule
chair [143], before the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, he abdicated the
office, and substituted another in his room. Nor did he enter upon them
all at Rome, but upon the fourth in Asia, the fifth in the Isle of Samos,
and the eighth and ninth at Tarragona. [144]

XXVII. During ten years he acted as one of the triumvirate for settling
the commonwealth, in which office he for some time opposed his colleagues
in their design of a proscription; but after it was begun, he prosecuted
it with more determined rigour than either of them. For whilst they were
often prevailed upon, by the interest and intercession of friends, to
shew mercy, he alone strongly insisted that no one should be spared, and
even proscribed Caius Toranius [145], his guardian; who had (90) been
formerly the colleague of his father Octavius in the aedileship. Junius
Saturnius adds this farther account of him: that when, after the
proscription was over, Marcus Lepidus made an apology in the senate for
their past proceedings, and gave them hopes of a more mild administration
for the future, because they had now sufficiently crushed their enemies;
he, on the other hand, declared that the only limit he had fixed to the
proscription was, that he should be free to act as he pleased.
Afterwards, however, repenting of his severity, he advanced T. Vinius
Philopoemen to the equestrian rank, for having concealed his patron at
the time he was proscribed. In this same office he incurred great odium
upon many accounts. For as he was one day making an harangue, observing
among the soldiers Pinarius, a Roman knight, admit some private citizens,
and engaged in taking notes, he ordered him to be stabbed before his
eyes, as a busy-body and a spy upon him. He so terrified with his
menaces Tedius Afer, the consul elect [146], for having reflected upon
some action of his, that he threw himself from a great height, and died
on the spot. And when Quintus Gallius, the praetor, came to compliment
him with a double tablet under his cloak, suspecting that it was a sword
he had concealed, and yet not venturing to make a search, lest it should
be found to be something else, he caused him to be dragged from his
tribunal by centurions and soldiers, and tortured like a slave: and
although he made no confession, ordered him to be put to death, after he
had, with his own hands, plucked out his eyes. His own account of the
matter, however, is, that Quintus Gallius sought a private conference
with him, for the purpose of assassinating him; that he therefore put him
in prison, but afterwards released him, and banished him the city; when
he perished either in a storm at sea, or by falling into the hands of

He accepted of the tribunitian power for life, but more than once chose a
colleague in that office for two lustra [147] successively. He also had
the supervision of morality and observance of the laws, for life, but
without the title of censor; yet he thrice (91) took a census of the
people, the first and third time with a colleague, but the second by

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