The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Whate’er Bithynia and her lord possess’d,
Her lord who Caesar in his lust caress’d. [73]

I pass over the speeches of Dolabella, and Curio, the father, in which
the former calls him “the queen’s rival, and the inner-side of the royal
couch,” and the latter, “the brothel of Nicomedes, and the Bithynian
stew.” I would likewise say nothing of the edicts of Bibulus, in which
he proclaimed his colleague under the name of “the queen of Bithynia;”
adding, that “he had formerly been in love with a king, but now coveted a
kingdom.” At which time, as Marcus Brutus relates, one Octavius, a man
of a crazy brain, and therefore the more free in his raillery, after he
had in a crowded assembly saluted Pompey by the title of king, addressed
Caesar by that of queen. Caius Memmius likewise upbraided him with
serving the king at table, among the rest of his catamites, in the
presence of a large company, in which were some merchants from Rome, the
names of whom he mentions. But Cicero was not content with writing in
some of his letters, that he was conducted by the royal attendants into
the king’s bed-chamber, lay upon a bed of gold with a covering of purple,
and that the youthful bloom of this scion of Venus had been tainted in
Bithynia–but upon Caesar’s pleading the cause of Nysa, the daughter of
(32) Nicomedes before the senate, and recounting the king’s kindnesses to
him, replied, “Pray tell us no more of that; for it is well known what he
gave you, and you gave him.” To conclude, his soldiers in the Gallic
triumph, amongst other verses, such as they jocularly sung on those
occasions, following the general’s chariot, recited these, which since
that time have become extremely common:

The Gauls to Caesar yield, Caesar to Nicomede,
Lo! Caesar triumphs for his glorious deed,
But Caesar’s conqueror gains no victor’s meed. [74]

L. It is admitted by all that he was much addicted to women, as well as
very expensive in his intrigues with them, and that he debauched many
ladies of the highest quality; among whom were Posthumia, the wife of
Servius Sulpicius; Lollia, the wife of Aulus Gabinius; Tertulla, the wife
of Marcus Crassus; and Mucia, the wife of Cneius Pompey. For it is
certain that the Curios, both father and son, and many others, made it a
reproach to Pompey, “That to gratify his ambition, he married the
daughter of a man, upon whose account he had divorced his wife, after
having had three children by her; and whom he used, with a deep sigh, to
call Aegisthus.” [75] But the mistress he most loved, was Servilia, the
mother of Marcus Brutus, for whom he purchased, in his first consulship
after the commencement of their intrigue, a pearl which cost him six
millions of sesterces; and in the civil war, besides other presents,
assigned to her, for a trifling consideration, some valuable farms when
they were exposed to public auction. Many persons expressing their
surprise at the lowness of the price, Cicero wittily remarked, “To let
you know the real value of the purchase, between ourselves, Tertia was
deducted:” for Servilia was supposed to have prostituted her daughter
Tertia to Caesar. [76]

(34) LI. That he had intrigues likewise with married women in the
provinces, appears from this distich, which was as much repeated in the
Gallic Triumph as the former:–

Watch well your wives, ye cits, we bring a blade,
A bald-pate master of the wenching trade.
Thy gold was spent on many a Gallic w—e;
Exhausted now, thou com’st to borrow more. [77]

LII. In the number of his mistresses were also some queens; such as
Eunoe, a Moor, the wife of Bogudes, to whom and her husband he made, as
Naso reports, many large presents. But his greatest favourite was
Cleopatra, with whom he often revelled all night until the dawn of day,
and would have gone with her through Egypt in dalliance, as far as
Aethiopia, in her luxurious yacht, had not the army refused to follow
him. He afterwards invited her to Rome, whence he sent her back loaded
with honours and presents, and gave her permission to call by his name a
son, who, according to the testimony of some Greek historians, resembled
Caesar both in person and gait. Mark Antony declared in the senate, that
Caesar had acknowledged the child as his own; and that Caius Matias,
Caius Oppius, and the rest of Caesar’s friends knew it to be true. On
which occasion, Oppius, as if it had been an imputation which he was
called upon to refute, published a book to shew, “that the child which
Cleopatra fathered upon Caesar, was not his.” Helvius Cinna, tribune of
the people, admitted to several persons the fact, that he had a bill
ready drawn, which Caesar had ordered him to get enacted in his absence,
allowing him, with the hope of leaving issue, to take any wife he chose,
and as many of them as he pleased; and to leave no room for doubt of his
infamous character for unnatural lewdness and adultery, Curio, the
father, says, in one of his speeches, “He was every woman’s man, and
every man’s woman.”

LIII. It is acknowledged even by his enemies, that in regard to wine, he
was abstemious. A remark is ascribed to Marcus Cato, “that Caesar was
the only sober man amongst all those who were engaged in the design to
subvert (35) the government.” In the matter of diet, Caius Oppius
informs us, “that he was so indifferent, that when a person in whose
house he was entertained, had served him with stale, instead of fresh,
oil [78], and the rest of the company would not touch it, he alone ate
very heartily of it, that he might not seem to tax the master of the
house with rusticity or want of attention.”

LIV. But his abstinence did not extend to pecuniary advantages, either
in his military commands, or civil offices; for we have the testimony of
some writers, that he took money from the proconsul, who was his
predecessor in Spain, and from the Roman allies in that quarter, for the
discharge of his debts; and plundered at the point of the sword some
towns of the Lusitanians, notwithstanding they attempted no resistance,
and opened their gates to him upon his arrival before them. In Gaul, he
rifled the chapels and temples of the gods, which were filled with rich
offerings, and demolished cities oftener for the sake of their spoil,
than for any ill they had done. By this means gold became so plentiful
with him, that he exchanged it through Italy and the provinces of the
empire for three thousand sesterces the pound. In his first consulship
he purloined from the Capitol three thousand pounds’ weight of gold, and
substituted for it the same quantity of gilt brass. He bartered likewise
to foreign nations and princes, for gold, the titles of allies and kings;
and squeezed out of Ptolemy alone near six thousand talents, in the name
of himself and Pompey. He afterwards supported the expense of the civil
wars, and of his triumphs and public spectacles, by the most flagrant
rapine and sacrilege.

LV. In eloquence and warlike achievements, he equalled at least, if he
did not surpass, the greatest of men. After his prosecution of
Dolabella, he was indisputably reckoned one of the most distinguished
advocates. Cicero, in recounting to Brutus the famous orators, declares,
“that he does not see that Caesar was inferior to any one of them;” and
says, “that he (36) had an elegant, splendid, noble, and magnificent vein
of eloquence.” And in a letter to Cornelius Nepos, he writes of him in
the following terms: “What! Of all the orators, who, during the whole
course of their lives, have done nothing else, which can you prefer to
him? Which of them is more pointed or terse in his periods, or employs
more polished and elegant language?” In his youth, he seems to have
chosen Strabo Caesar for his model; from whose oration in behalf of the
Sardinians he has transcribed some passages literally into his
Divination. In his delivery he is said to have had a shrill voice, and
his action was animated, but not ungraceful. He has left behind him some
speeches, among which are ranked a few that are not genuine, such as that
on behalf of Quintus Metellus. These Augustus supposes, with reason, to
be rather the production of blundering short-hand writers, who were not
able to keep pace with him in the delivery, than publications of his own.
For I find in some copies that the title is not “For Metellus,” but “What
he wrote to Metellus;” whereas the speech is delivered in the name of
Caesar, vindicating Metellus and himself from the aspersions cast upon
them by their common defamers. The speech addressed “To his soldiers in
Spain,” Augustus considers likewise as spurious. We meet with two under
this title; one made, as is pretended, in the first battle, and the other
in the last; at which time, Asinius Pollio says, he had not leisure to
address the soldiers, on account of the suddenness of the enemy’s attack.

LVI. He has likewise left Commentaries of his own actions both in the
war in Gaul, and in the civil war with Pompey; for the author of the
Alexandrian, African, and Spanish wars is not known with any certainty.
Some think they are the production of Oppius, and some of Hirtius; the
latter of whom composed the last book, which is imperfect, of the Gallic
war. Of Caesar’s Commentaries, Cicero, in his Brutus, speaks thus: “He
wrote his Commentaries in a manner deserving of great approbation: they
are plain, precise, and elegant, without any affectation of rhetorical
ornament. In having thus prepared materials for others who might be
inclined to write his history, he may perhaps have encouraged some silly
creatures to enter upon such a work, who will needs be dressing up his
actions in all the extravagance a (37) bombast; but he has discouraged
wise men from ever attempting the subject.” Hirtius delivers his opinion
of these Commentaries in the following terms: “So great is the
approbation with which they are universally perused, that, instead of
rousing, he seems to have precluded, the efforts of any future historian.
Yet, with respect to this work, we have more reason to admire him than
others; for they only know how well and correctly he has written, but we
know, likewise, how easily and quickly he did it.” Pollio Asinius thinks
that they were not drawn up with much care, or with a due regard to
truth; for he insinuates that Caesar was too hasty of belief in regard to
what was performed by others under his orders; and that, he has not given
a very faithful account of his own acts, either by design, or through
defect of memory; expressing at the same time an opinion that Caesar
intended a new and more correct edition. He has left behind him likewise
two books on Analogy, with the same number under the title of Anti-Cato,
and a poem entitled The Itinerary. Of these books, he composed the first
two in his passage over the Alps, as he was returning to the army after
making his circuit in Hither-Gaul; the second work about the time of the
battle of Munda; and the last during the four-and-twenty days he employed
in his journey from Rome to Farther-Spain. There are extant some letters
of his to the senate, written in a manner never practised by any before
him; for they are distinguished into pages in the form of a memorandum
book whereas the consuls and commanders till then, used constantly in
their letters to continue the line quite across the sheet, without any
folding or distinction of pages. There are extant likewise some letters
from him to Cicero, and others to his friends, concerning his domestic
affairs; in which, if there was occasion for secrecy, he wrote in
cyphers; that is, he used the alphabet in such a manner, that not a
single word could be made out. The way to decipher those epistles was to
substitute the fourth for the first letter, as d for a, and so for the
other letters respectively. Some things likewise pass under his name,
said to have been written by him when a boy, or a very young man; as the
Encomium of Hercules, a tragedy entitled Oedipus, and a collection of
Apophthegms; all which Augustus forbad to be published, in a short and
plain letter to Pompeius Macer, who was employed by him in the
arrangement of his libraries.

(38) LVII. He was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and
able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march, he used to go at
the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, with
his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light
carriage [79] without baggage, at the rate of a hundred miles a day; and
if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on
skins inflated with wind, so that he often anticipated intelligence of
his movements. [80]

LVIII. In his expeditions, it is difficult to say whether his caution or
his daring was most conspicuous. He never marched his army by roads
which were exposed to ambuscades, without having previously examined the
nature of the ground by his scouts. Nor did he cross over to Britain,
before he had carefully examined, in person [81], the navigation, the
harbours, and the most convenient point of landing in the island. When
intelligence was brought to him of the siege of his camp in Germany, he
made his way to his troops, through the enemy’s stations, in a Gaulish
dress. He crossed the sea from Brundisium and Dyrrachium, in the winter,
through the midst of the enemy’s fleets; and the troops, under orders to
join him, being slow in their movements, notwithstanding repeated
messages to hurry them, but to no purpose, he at last went privately, and
alone, aboard a small vessel in the night time, with his head muffled up;
nor did he make himself known, or suffer the master to put about,
although the wind blew strong against them, until they were ready to

LIX. He was never deterred from any enterprise, nor retarded in the
prosecution of it, by superstition [82]. When a victim, which he was
about to offer in sacrifice, made its (39) escape, he did not therefore
defer his expedition against Scipio and Juba. And happening to fall,
upon stepping out of the ship, he gave a lucky turn to the omen, by
exclaiming, “I hold thee fast, Africa.” To chide the prophecies which
were spread abroad, that the name of the Scipios was, by the decrees of
fate, fortunate and invincible in that province, he retained in the camp
a profligate wretch, of the family of the Cornelii, who, on account of
his scandalous life, was surnamed Salutio.

LX. He not only fought pitched battles, but made sudden attacks when an
opportunity offered; often at the end of a march, and sometimes during
the most violent storms, when nobody could imagine he would stir. Nor
was he ever backward in fighting, until towards the end of his life. He
then was of opinion, that the oftener he had been crowned with success,
the less he ought to expose himself to new hazards; and that nothing he
could gain by a victory would compensate for what he might lose by a
miscarriage. He never defeated the enemy without driving them from their
camp; and giving them no time to rally their forces. When the issue of a
battle was doubtful, he sent away all the horses, and his own first, that
having no means of flight, they might be under the greater necessity of
standing their ground.

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