The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

LXXVII. He was guilty of the same extravagance in the language he
publicly used, as Titus Ampius informs us; according to whom he said,
“The republic is nothing but a name, without substance or reality. Sylla
was an ignorant fellow to abdicate the dictatorship. Men ought to
consider what is becoming when they talk with me, and look upon what I
say as a law.” To such a pitch of arrogance did he proceed, that when a
soothsayer announced to him the unfavourable omen, that the entrails of a
victim offered for sacrifice were without a heart, he said, “The entrails
will be more favourable when I please; and it ought not to be regarded as
a prodigy that a beast should be found wanting a heart.”

LXXVIII. But what brought upon him the greatest odium, and was thought
an unpardonable insult, was his receiving the whole body of the conscript
fathers sitting, before the temple of Venus Genitrix, when they waited
upon him with a number of decrees, conferring on him the highest
dignities. Some say that, on his attempting to rise, he was held down by
Cornelius Balbus; others, that he did not attempt to rise at all, but
frowned on Caius Trebatius, who suggested to him that he should stand up
to receive the senate. This behaviour appeared the more intolerable in
him, because, when one of the tribunes of the people, Pontius Aquila,
would not rise up to him, as he passed by the tribunes’ seat during his
triumph, he was so much offended, that he cried out, “Well then, you
tribune, Aquila, oust me from the government.” And for some days
afterwards, he never promised a favour to any person, without this
proviso, “if Pontus Aquila will give me leave.”

LXXIX. To this extraordinary mark of contempt for the senate, he added
another affront still more outrageous. For when, after the sacred rites
of the Latin festival, he was returning home, amidst the immoderate and
unusual acclamations (48) of the people, a man in the crowd put a laurel
crown, encircled with a white fillet [89], on one of his statues; upon
which, the tribunes of the people, Epidius Marullus, and Caesetius
Flavus, ordered the fillet to be removed from the crown, and the man to
be taken to prison. Caesar, being much concerned either that the idea of
royalty had been suggested to so little purpose, or, as was said, that he
was thus deprived of the merit of refusing it, reprimanded the tribunes
very severely, and dismissed them from their office. From that day
forward, he was never able to wipe off the scandal of affecting the name
of king, although he replied to the populace, when they saluted him by
that title, “I am Caesar, and no king.” And at the feast of the
Lupercalia [90], when the consul Antony placed a crown upon his head in
the rostra several times, he as often put it away, and sent it to the
Capitol for Jupiter, the Best and the Greatest. A report was very
current, that he had a design of withdrawing to Alexandria or Ilium,
whither he proposed to transfer the imperial power, to drain Italy by new
levies, and to leave the government of the city to be administered by his
friends. To this report it was added, that in the next meeting of the
senate, Lucius Cotta, one of the fifteen [91], would make a motion, that
as there was in the Sibylline books a prophecy, that the Parthians would
never be subdued but by a king, Caesar should have that title conferred
upon him.

LXXX. For this reason the conspirators precipitated the execution of
their design [92], that they might not be obliged to give their assent to
the proposal. Instead, therefore, of caballing any longer separately, in
small parties, they now united their counsels; the people themselves
being dissatisfied with the present state of affairs, both privately and
publicly (49) condemning the tyranny under which they lived, and calling
on patriots to assert their cause against the usurper. Upon the
admission of foreigners into the senate, a hand-bill was posted up in
these words: “A good deed! let no one shew a new senator the way to the
house.” These verses were likewise currently repeated:

The Gauls he dragged in triumph through the town,
Caesar has brought into the senate-house,
And changed their plaids [93] for the patrician gown.

Gallos Caesar in triumphum ducit: iidem in curiam
Galli braccas deposuerunt, latum clavum sumpserunt.

When Quintus Maximus, who had been his deputy in the consulship for the
last three months, entered the theatre, and the lictor, according to
custom, bid the people take notice who was coming, they all cried out,
“He is no consul.” After the removal of Caesetius and Marullus from
their office, they were found to have a great many votes at the next
election of consuls. Some one wrote under the statue of Lucius Brutus,
“Would you were now alive!” and under the statue of Caesar himself these
lines:

Because he drove from Rome the royal race,
Brutus was first made consul in their place.
This man, because he put the consuls down,
Has been rewarded with a royal crown.

Brutus, quia reges ejecit, consul primus factus est:
Hic, quia consules ejecit, rex postremo factus est.

About sixty persons were engaged in the conspiracy against him, of whom
Caius Cassius, and Marcus and Decimus Brutus were the chief. It was at
first debated amongst them, whether they should attack him in the Campus
Martius when he was taking the votes of the tribes, and some of them
should throw him off the bridge, whilst others should be ready to stab
him upon his fall; or else in the Via Sacra, or at the entrance of the
theatre. But after public notice had been given by proclamation for the
senate to assemble upon the ides of March [15th March], in the senate-
house built by Pompey, they approved both of the time and place, as most
fitting for their purpose.

LXXXI. Caesar had warning given him of his fate by indubitable (50)
omens. A few months before, when the colonists settled at Capua, by
virtue of the Julian law, were demolishing some old sepulchres, in
building country-houses, and were the more eager at the work, because
they discovered certain vessels of antique workmanship, a tablet of brass
was found in a tomb, in which Capys, the founder of Capua, was said to
have been buried, with an inscription in the Greek language to this
effect “Whenever the bones of Capys come to be discovered, a descendant
of Iulus will be slain by the hands of his kinsmen, and his death
revenged by fearful disasters throughout Italy.” Lest any person should
regard this anecdote as a fabulous or silly invention, it was circulated
upon the authority of Caius Balbus, an intimate friend of Caesar’s. A
few days likewise before his death, he was informed that the horses,
which, upon his crossing the Rubicon, he had consecrated, and turned
loose to graze without a keeper, abstained entirely from eating, and shed
floods of tears. The soothsayer Spurinna, observing certain ominous
appearances in a sacrifice which he was offering, advised him to beware
of some danger, which threatened to befall him before the ides of March
were past. The day before the ides, birds of various kinds from a
neighbouring grove, pursuing a wren which flew into Pompey’s senate-house
[94], with a sprig of laurel in its beak, tore it in pieces. Also, in
the night on which the day of his murder dawned, he dreamt at one time
that he was soaring above the clouds, and, at another, that he had joined
hands with Jupiter. His wife Calpurnia fancied in her sleep that the
pediment of the house was falling down, and her husband stabbed on her
bosom; immediately upon which the chamber doors flew open. On account of
these omens, as well as his infirm health, he was in some doubt whether
he should not remain at home, and defer to some other opportunity the
business which he intended to propose to the senate; but Decimus Brutus
advising him not to disappoint the senators, who were numerously
assembled, and waited his coming, he was prevailed upon to go, and
accordingly (51) set forward about the fifth hour. In his way, some
person having thrust into his hand a paper, warning him against the plot,
he mixed it with some other documents which he held in his left hand,
intending to read it at leisure. Victim after victim was slain, without
any favourable appearances in the entrails; but still, disregarding all
omens, he entered the senate-house, laughing at Spurinna as a false
prophet, because the ides of March were come, without any mischief having
befallen him. To which the soothsayer replied, “They are come, indeed,
but not past.”

LXXXII. When he had taken his seat, the conspirators stood round him,
under colour of paying their compliments; and immediately Tullius Cimber,
who had engaged to commence the assault, advancing nearer than the rest,
as if he had some favour to request, Caesar made signs that he should
defer his petition to some other time. Tullius immediately seized him by
the toga, on both shoulders; at which Caesar crying out, “Violence is
meant!” one of the Cassii wounded him a little below the throat. Caesar
seized him by the arm, and ran it through with his style [95]; and
endeavouring to rush forward was stopped by another wound. Finding
himself now attacked on all hands with naked poniards, he wrapped the
toga [96] about his head, and at the same moment drew the skirt round his
legs with his left hand, that he might fall more decently with the lower
part of his body covered. He was stabbed with three and twenty wounds,
uttering a groan only, but no cry, at the first wound; although some
authors relate, that when Marcus Brutus fell upon him, he exclaimed,
“What! art thou, too, one of them? Thou, my son!” [97] The whole
assembly instantly (52) dispersing, he lay for some time after he
expired, until three of his slaves laid the body on a litter, and carried
it home, with one arm hanging down over the side. Among so many wounds,
there was none that was mortal, in the opinion of the surgeon Antistius,
except the second, which he received in the breast. The conspirators
meant to drag his body into the Tiber as soon as they had killed him; to
confiscate his estate, and rescind all his enactments; but they were
deterred by fear of Mark Antony, and Lepidus, Caesar’s master of the
horse, and abandoned their intentions.

LXXXIII. At the instance of Lucius Piso, his father-in-law, his will was
opened and read in Mark Antony’s house. He had made it on the ides
[13th] of the preceding September, at his Lavican villa, and committed it
to the custody of the chief of the Vestal Virgins. Quintus Tubero
informs us, that in all the wills he had signed, from the time of his
first consulship to the breaking out of the civil war, Cneius Pompey was
appointed his heir, and that this had been publicly notified to the army.
But in his last will, he named three heirs, the grandsons of his sisters;
namely, Caius Octavius for three fourths of his estate, and Lucius
Pinarius and Quintus Pedius for the remaining fourth. Other heirs [in
remainder] were named at the close of the will, in which he also adopted
Caius Octavius, who was to assume his name, into his family; and
nominated most of those who were concerned in his death among the
guardians of his son, if he should have any; as well as Decimus Brutus
amongst his heirs of the second order. Be bequeathed to the Roman people
his gardens near the Tiber, and three hundred sesterces each man.

LXXXIV. Notice of his funeral having been solemnly proclaimed, a pile
was erected in the Campus Martius, near the tomb of his daughter Julia;
and before the Rostra was placed a gilded tabernacle, on the model of the
temple of Venus Genitrix; within which was an ivory bed, covered with
purple and cloth of gold. At the head was a trophy, with the
[bloodstained] robe in which he was slain. It being considered that the
whole day would not suffice for carrying the funeral oblations in solemn
procession before the corpse, directions were given for every one,
without regard to order, to carry them from the city into the Campus
Martius, by what way they pleased. To raise pity and indignation for his
murder, in the plays acted at the funeral, a passage was sung from
Pacuvius’s tragedy, entitled, “The Trial for Arms:”

That ever I, unhappy man, should save
Wretches, who thus have brought me to the grave! [98]

And some lines also from Attilius’s tragedy of “Electra,” to the same
effect. Instead of a funeral panegyric, the consul Antony ordered a
herald to proclaim to the people the decree of the senate, in which they
had bestowed upon him all honours, divine and human; with the oath by
which they had engaged themselves for the defence of his person; and to
these he added only a few words of his own. The magistrates and others
who had formerly filled the highest offices, carried the bier from the
Rostra into the Forum. While some proposed that the body should be burnt
in the sanctuary of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, and others in
Pompey’s senate-house; on a sudden, two men, with swords by their sides,
and spears in their hands, set fire to the bier with lighted torches.
The throng around immediately heaped upon it dry faggots, the tribunals
and benches of the adjoining courts, and whatever else came to hand.
Then the musicians and players stripped off the dresses they wore on the
present occasion, taken from the wardrobe of his triumph at spectacles,
rent them, and threw them into the flames. The legionaries, also, of his
(54) veteran bands, cast in their armour, which they had put on in honour
of his funeral. Most of the ladies did the same by their ornaments, with
the bullae [99], and mantles of their children. In this public mourning
there joined a multitude of foreigners, expressing their sorrow according
to the fashion of their respective countries; but especially the Jews
[100], who for several nights together frequented the spot where the body
was burnt.

LXXXV. The populace ran from the funeral, with torches in their hands,
to the houses of Brutus and Cassius, and were repelled with difficulty.
Going in quest of Cornelius Cinna, who had in a speech, the day before,
reflected severely upon Caesar, and mistaking for him Helvius Cinna, who
happened to fall into their hands, they murdered the latter, and carried
his head about the city on the point of a spear. They afterwards erected
in the Forum a column of Numidian marble, formed of one stone nearly
twenty feet high, and inscribed upon it these words, TO THE FATHER OF HIS
COUNTRY. At this column they continued for a long time to offer
sacrifices, make vows, and decide controversies, in which they swore by
Caesar.

LXXXVI. Some of Caesar’s friends entertained a suspicion, that he
neither desired nor cared to live any longer, on account of his declining
health; and for that reason slighted all the omens of religion, and the
warnings of his friends. Others are of opinion, that thinking himself
secure in the late decree of the senate, and their oaths, he dismissed
his Spanish guards who attended him with drawn swords. Others again
suppose, that he chose rather to face at once the dangers which
threatened him on all sides, than to be for ever on the watch against
them. Some tell us that he used to say, the commonwealth was more
interested in the safety of his person than himself: for that he had for
some time been satiated with power and glory; but that the commonwealth,
if any thing should befall him, would have no rest, and, involved in
another civil war, would be in a worse state than before.

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