The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

XXXVI. During the whole course of the civil war, he never once suffered
any defeat, except in the case of his lieutenants; of whom Caius Curio
fell in Africa, Caius Antonius was made prisoner in Illyricum, Publius
Dolabella lost a fleet in the same Illyricum, and Cneius Domitius
Culvinus, an army in Pontus. In every encounter with the enemy where he
himself commanded, he came off with complete success; nor was the issue
ever doubtful, except on two occasions: once at Dyrrachium, when, being
obliged to give ground, and Pompey not pursuing his advantage, he said
that “Pompey knew not how to conquer;” the other instance occurred in his
last battle in Spain, when, despairing of the event, he even had thoughts
of killing himself.

XXXVII. For the victories obtained in the several wars, he triumphed
five different times; after the defeat of Scipio: four times in one
month, each triumph succeeding the former by an interval of a few days;
and once again after the conquest of Pompey’s sons. His first and most
glorious triumph was for the victories he gained in Gaul; the next for
that of Alexandria, the third for the reduction of Pontus, the fourth for
his African victory, and the last for that in Spain; and (25) they all
differed from each other in their varied pomp and pageantry. On the day
of the Gallic triumph, as he was proceeding along the street called
Velabrum, after narrowly escaping a fall from his chariot by the breaking
of the axle-tree, he ascended the Capitol by torch-light, forty elephants
[62] carrying torches on his right and left. Amongst the pageantry of
the Pontic triumph, a tablet with this inscription was carried before
him: I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED [63]; not signifying, as other mottos on
the like occasion, what was done, so much as the dispatch with which it
was done.

XXXVIII. To every foot-soldier in his veteran legions, besides the two
thousand sesterces paid him in the beginning of the civil war, he gave
twenty thousand more, in the shape of prize-money. He likewise allotted
them lands, but not in contiguity, that the former owners might not be
entirely dispossessed. To the people of Rome, besides ten modii of corn,
and as many pounds of oil, he gave three hundred sesterces a man, which
he had formerly promised them, and a hundred more to each for the delay
in fulfilling his engagement. He likewise remitted a year’s rent due to
the treasury, for such houses in Rome as did not pay above two thousand
sesterces a year; and through the rest of Italy, for all such as did not
exceed in yearly rent five hundred sesterces. To all this he added a
public entertainment, and a distribution of meat, and, after his Spanish
victory [64], two public dinners. For, considering the first he had
given as too sparing, and unsuited to his profuse liberality, he, five
days afterwards, added another, which was most plentiful.

XXXIX. The spectacles he exhibited to the people were of various kinds;
namely, a combat of gladiators [65], and stage-plays in the several wards
of the city, and in different languages; likewise Circensian games [66],
wrestlers, and the representation of a sea-fight. In the conflict of
gladiators presented in the Forum, Furius Leptinus, a man of praetorian
family, entered the lists as a combatant, as did also Quintus Calpenus,
formerly a senator, and a pleader of causes. The Pyrrhic dance was
performed by some youths, who were sons to persons of the first
distinction in Asia and Bithynia. In the plays, Decimus Laberius, who
had been a Roman knight, acted in his own piece; and being presented on
the spot with five hundred thousand sesterces, and a gold ring, he went
from the stage, through the orchestra, and resumed his place in the seats
(27) allotted for the equestrian order. In the Circensisn games; the
circus being enlarged at each end, and a canal sunk round it, several of
the young nobility drove chariots, drawn, some by four, and others by two
horses, and likewise rode races on single horses. The Trojan game was
acted by two distinct companies of boys, one differing from the other in
age and rank. The hunting of wild beasts was presented for five days
successively; and on the last day a battle was fought by five hundred
foot, twenty elephants, and thirty horse on each side. To afford room
for this engagement, the goals were removed, and in their space two camps
were pitched, directly opposite to each other. Wrestlers likewise
performed for three days successively, in a stadium provided for the
purpose in the Campus Martius. A lake having been dug in the little
Codeta [67], ships of the Tyrian and Egyptian fleets, containing two,
three, and four banks of oars, with a number of men on board, afforded an
animated representation of a sea-fight. To these various diversions
there flocked such crowds of spectators from all parts, that most of the
strangers were obliged to lodge in tents erected in the streets, or along
the roads near the city. Several in the throng were squeezed to death,
amongst whom were two senators.

XL. Turning afterwards his attention to the regulation of the
commonwealth, he corrected the calendar [68], which had for (28) some
time become extremely confused, through the unwarrantable liberty which
the pontiffs had taken in the article of intercalation. To such a height
had this abuse proceeded, that neither the festivals designed for the
harvest fell in summer, nor those for the vintage in autumn. He
accommodated the year to the course of the sun, ordaining that in future
it should consist of three hundred and sixty-five days without any
intercalary month; and that every fourth year an intercalary day should
be inserted. That the year might thenceforth commence regularly with the
calends, or first of January, he inserted two months between November and
December; so that the year in which this regulation was made consisted of
fifteen months, including the month of intercalation, which, according to
the division of time then in use, happened that year.

XLI. He filled up the vacancies in the senate, by advancing several
plebeians to the rank of patricians, and also increased the number of
praetors, aediles, quaestors, and inferior magistrates; restoring, at the
same time, such as had been degraded by the censors, or convicted of
bribery at elections. The choice of magistrates he so divided with the
people, that, excepting only the candidates for the consulship, they
nominated one half of them, and he the other. The method which he
practised in those cases was, to recommend such persons as he had pitched
upon, by bills dispersed through the several tribes to this effect:
“Caesar the dictator to such a tribe (naming it). I recommend to you
(naming likewise the persons), that by the favour of your votes they may
attain to the honours for which they sue.” He likewise admitted to
offices the sons of those who had been proscribed. The trial of causes
he restricted to two orders of judges, the equestrian and senatorial;
excluding the tribunes of the treasury who had before made a third class.
The revised census of the people he ordered to be taken neither in the
usual manner or place, but street by street, by the principal inhabitants
of the several quarters of the city; and he reduced the number of those
who received corn at the public cost, from three hundred and twenty, to a
hundred and fifty, thousand. To prevent any tumults on account of the
census, he ordered that the praetor should every year fill up by lot the
vacancies occasioned by death, from those who were not enrolled for the
receipt of corn.

(29) XLII. Eighty thousand citizens having been distributed into foreign
colonies [69], he enacted, in order to stop the drain on the population,
that no freeman of the city above twenty, and under forty, years of age,
who was not in the military service, should absent himself from Italy for
more than three years at a time; that no senator’s son should go abroad,
unless in the retinue of some high officer; and as to those whose pursuit
was tending flocks and herds, that no less than a third of the number of
their shepherds free-born should be youths. He likewise made all those
who practised physic in Rome, and all teachers of the liberal arts, free
of the city, in order to fix them in it, and induce others to settle
there. With respect to debts, he disappointed the expectation which was
generally entertained, that they would be totally cancelled; and ordered
that the debtors should satisfy their creditors, according to the
valuation of their estates, at the rate at which they were purchased
before the commencement of the civil war; deducting from the debt what
had been paid for interest either in money or by bonds; by virtue of
which provision about a fourth part of the debt was lost. He dissolved
all the guilds, except such as were of ancient foundation. Crimes were
punished with greater severity; and the rich being more easily induced to
commit them because they were only liable to banishment, without the
forfeiture of their property, he stripped murderers, as Cicero observes,
of their whole estates, and other offenders of one half.

XLIII. He was extremely assiduous and strict in the administration of
justice. He expelled from the senate such members as were convicted of
bribery; and he dissolved the marriage of a man of pretorian rank, who
had married a lady two days after her divorce from a former husband,
although there was no suspicion that they had been guilty of any illicit
connection. He imposed duties on the importation of foreign goods. The
use of litters for travelling, purple robes, and jewels, he permitted
only to persons of a certain age and station, and on particular days. He
enforced a rigid execution of the sumptuary laws; placing officers about
the markets, to seize upon all meats exposed to sale contrary to the
rules, and bring them to him; sometimes sending his lictors and soldiers
to (30) carry away such victuals as had escaped the notice of the
officers, even when they were upon the table.

XLIV. His thoughts were now fully employed from day to day on a variety
of great projects for the embellishment and improvement of the city, as
well as for guarding and extending the bounds of the empire. In the
first place, he meditated the construction of a temple to Mars, which
should exceed in grandeur every thing of that kind in the world. For
this purpose, he intended to fill up the lake on which he had entertained
the people with the spectacle of a sea-fight. He also projected a most
spacious theatre adjacent to the Tarpeian mount; and also proposed to
reduce the civil law to a reasonable compass, and out of that immense and
undigested mass of statutes to extract the best and most necessary parts
into a few books; to make as large a collection as possible of works in
the Greek and Latin languages, for the public use; the province of
providing and putting them in proper order being assigned to Marcus
Varro. He intended likewise to drain the Pomptine marshes, to cut a
channel for the discharge of the waters of the lake Fucinus, to form a
road from the Upper Sea through the ridge of the Appenine to the Tiber;
to make a cut through the isthmus of Corinth, to reduce the Dacians, who
had over-run Pontus and Thrace, within their proper limits, and then to
make war upon the Parthians, through the Lesser Armenia, but not to risk
a general engagement with them, until he had made some trial of their
prowess in war. But in the midst of all his undertakings and projects,
he was carried off by death; before I speak of which, it may not be
improper to give an account of his person, dress, and manners; together
with what relates to his pursuits, both civil and military.

XLV. It is said that he was tall, of a fair complexion, round limbed,
rather full faced, with eyes black and piercing; and that he enjoyed
excellent health, except towards the close of his life, when he was
subject to sudden fainting-fits, and disturbance in his sleep. He was
likewise twice seized with the falling sickness while engaged in active
service. He was so nice in the care of his person, that he not only kept
the hair of his head closely cut and had his face smoothly shaved, but
(31) even caused the hair on other parts of the body to be plucked out by
the roots, a practice for which some persons rallied him. His baldness
gave him much uneasiness, having often found himself upon that account
exposed to the jibes of his enemies. He therefore used to bring forward
the hair from the crown of his head; and of all the honours conferred
upon him by the senate and people, there was none which he either
accepted or used with greater pleasure, than the right of wearing
constantly a laurel crown. It is said that he was particular in his
dress. For he used the Latus Clavus [70] with fringes about the wrists,
and always had it girded about him, but rather loosely. This
circumstance gave origin to the expression of Sylla, who often advised
the nobles to beware of “the ill-girt boy.”

XLVI. He first inhabited a small house in the Suburra [71], but after
his advancement to the pontificate, he occupied a palace belonging to the
state in the Via Sacra. Many writers say that he liked his residence to
be elegant, and his entertainments sumptuous; and that he entirely took
down a villa near the grove of Aricia, which he had built from the
foundation and finished at a vast expense, because it did not exactly
suit his taste, although he had at that time but slender means, and was
in debt; and that he carried about in his expeditions tesselated and
marble slabs for the floor of his tent.

XLVII. They likewise report that he invaded Britain in hopes of finding
pearls [72], the size of which he would compare together, and ascertain
the weight by poising them in his hand; that he would purchase, at any
cost, gems, carved works, statues, and pictures, executed by the eminent
masters of antiquity; and that he would give for young and handy slaves a
price so extravagant, that he forbad its being entered in the diary of
his expenses.

XLVIII. We are also told, that in the provinces he constantly maintained
two tables, one for the officers of the army, and the gentry of the
country, and the other for Romans of the highest rank, and provincials of
the first distinction. He was so very exact in the management of his
domestic affairs, both little and great, that he once threw a baker into
prison, for serving him with a finer sort of bread than his guests; and
put to death a freed-man, who was a particular favourite, for debauching
the lady of a Roman knight, although no complaint had been made to him of
the affair.

XLIX. The only stain upon his chastity was his having cohabited with
Nicomedes; and that indeed stuck to him all the days of his life, and
exposed him to much bitter raillery. I will not dwell upon those well-
known verses of Calvus Licinius:

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