Retirement of Pompeius and Coalition of the Pretenders

Pompeius in the East

When Pompeius, after having transacted the affairs committed to his charge, again turned his eyes homeward, he found for the second time the diadem at his feet. For long the development of the Roman commonwealth had been tending towards such a catastrophe; it was evident to every unbiassed observer, and had been remarked a thousand times, that, if the rule of the aristocracy should be brought to an end, monarchy was inevitable. The senate had now been overthrown at once by the civic liberal opposition and by the power of the soldiery; the only question remaining was to settle the persons, names, and forms for the new order of things; and these were already clearly enough indicated in the partly democratic, partly military elements of the revolution. The events of the last five years had set, as it were, the final seal on this impending transformation of the commonwealth. In the newly-erected Asiatic provinces, which gave regal honours to their organizer as the successor of Alexander the Great, and already received his favoured freedmen like princes, Pompeius had laid the foundations of his dominion, and found at once the treasures, the army, and the halo of glory which the future prince of the Roman state required. The anarchist conspiracy, moreover, in the capital, and the civil war connected with it, had made it palpably clear to every one who studied political or even merely material interests, that a government without authority and without military power, such as that of the senate, exposed the state to the equally ludicrous and formidable tyranny of political sharpers, and that a change of constitution, which should connect the military power more closely with the government, was an indispensable necessity if social order was to be maintained. So the ruler had arisen in the east, the throne had been erected in Italy; to all appearance the year 692 was the last of the republic, the first of monarchy.

The Opponents of the Future Monarchy

This goal, it is true, was not to be reached without a struggle. The constitution, which had endured for five hundred years, and under which the insignificant town on the Tiber had risen to unprecedented greatness and glory, had sunk its roots into the soil to a depth beyond human ken, and no one could at all calculate to what extent the attempt to overthrow it would penetrate and convulse civil society. Several rivals had been outrun by Pompeius in the race towards the great goal, but had not been wholly set aside. It was not at all beyond reach of calculation that all these elements might combine to overthrow the new holder of power, and that Pompeius might find Quintus Catulus and Marcus Cato united in opposition to him with Marcus Crassus, Gaius Caesar, and Titus Labienus. But the inevitable and undoubtedly serious struggle could not well be undertaken under circumstances more favourable. It was in a high degree probable that, under the fresh impression of the Catilinarian revolt, a rule which promised order and security, although at the price of freedom, would receive the submission of the whole middle party—embracing especially the merchants who concerned themselves only about their material interests, but including also a great part of the aristocracy, which, disorganized in itself and politically hopeless, had to rest content with securing for itself riches, rank, and influence by a timely compromise with the prince; perhaps even a portion of the democracy, so sorely smitten by the recent blows, might submit to hope for the realization of a portion of its demands from a military chief raised to power by itself. But, whatever might be the position of party-relations, of what importance, in the first instance at least, were the parties in Italy at all in presence of Pompeius and his victorious army? Twenty years previously Sulla, after having concluded a temporary peace with Mithradates, had with his five legions been able to carry a restoration runningcounter to the natural development of things in the face of the whole liberal party, which had been arming en masse for years, from the moderate aristocrats and the liberal mercantile class down to the anarchists. The task of Pompeius was far less difficult. He returned, after having fully and conscientiously performed his different functions by sea and land. He might expect to encounter no other serious opposition save that of the various extreme parties, each of which by itself could do nothing, and which even when leagued together were no more than a coalition of factions still vehemently hostile to each other and inwardly at thorough variance. Completely unarmed, they were without a military force and without a head, without organization in Italy, without support in the provinces, above all, without a general; there was in their ranks hardly a soldier of note—to say nothing of an officer—who could have ventured to call forth the burgesses to a conflict with Pompeius. The circumstance might further be taken into account, that the volcano of revolution, which had been now incessantly blazing for seventy years and feeding on its own flame, was visibly burning out and verging of itself to extinction. It was very doubtful whether the attempt to arm the Italians for party interests would now succeed, as it had succeeded with Cinna and Carbo. If Pompeius exerted himself, how could he fail to effect a revolution of the state, which was chalked out by a certain necessity of nature in the organic development of the Roman commonwealth?

Mission of Nepos to Rome

Pompeius had seized the right moment, when he undertook his mission to the east; he seemed desirous to go forward. In the autumn of 691, Quintus Metellus Nepos arrived from the camp of Pompeius in the capital, and came forward as a candidate for the tribuneship, with the express design of employing that position to procure for Pompeius the consulship for the year 693 and more immediately, by special decree of the people, the conduct of the war against Catilina. The excitement in Rome was great. It was not to be doubted that Nepos was acting under the direct or indirect commission of Pompeius; the desire of Pompeius to appear in Italy as general at the head of his Asiatic legions, and to administer simultaneously the supreme military and the supreme civil power there, was conceived to be a farther step on the way to the throne, and the mission of Nepos a semi-official proclamation of the monarchy.

Pompeius in Relation to the Parties

Everything turned on the attitude which the two great political parties should assume towards these overtures; their future position and the future of the nation depended on this. But the reception which Nepos met with was itself in its turn determined by the then existing relation of the parties to Pompeius, which was of a very peculiar kind. Pompeius had gone to the east as general of the democracy. He had reason enough to be discontented with Caesar and his adherents, but no open rupture had taken place. It is probable that Pompeius, who was at a great distance and occupied with other things, and who besides was wholly destitute of the gift of calculating his political bearings, by no means saw through, at least at that time, the extent and mutual connection of the democratic intrigues contrived against him; perhaps even in his haughty and shortsighted manner he had a certain pride in ignoring these underground proceedings. Then there came the fact, which with a character of the type of Pompeius had much weight, that the democracy never lost sight of outward respect for the great man, and even now (691) unsolicited (as he preferred it so) had granted to him by a special decree of the people unprecedented honours and decorations.(1) But, even if all this had not been the case, it lay in Pompeius' own well-understood interest to continue his adherence, at least outwardly, to the popular party; democracy and monarchy stand so closely related that Pompeius, in aspiring to the crown, could scarcely do otherwise than call himself, as hitherto, the champion of popular rights. While personal and political reasons, therefore, co-operated to keep Pompeius and the leaders of the democracy, despite of all that had taken place, in their previous connection, nothing was done on the opposite side to fill up the chasm which separated him since his desertion to the camp of the democracy from his Sullan partisans. His personal quarrel with Metellus and Lucullus transferred itself to their extensive and influential coteries. A paltry opposition of the senate— but, to a character of so paltry a mould, all the more exasperating by reason of its very paltriness—had attended him through his whole career as a general. He felt it keenly, that the senate had not taken the smallest step to honour the extraordinary man according to his desert, that is, by extraordinary means. Lastly, it is not to be forgotten, that the aristocracy was just then intoxicated by its recent victory and the democracy deeply humbled, and that the aristocracy was led by the pedantically stiff and half-witless Cato, and the democracy by the supple master of intrigue, Caesar.

Rupture between Pompeius and the Aristocracy

Such was the state of parties amidst which the emissary sent by Pompeius appeared. The aristocracy not only regarded the proposals which he announced in favour of Pompeius as a declaration of war against the existing constitution, but treated them openly as such, and took not the slightest pains to conceal their alarm and their indignation. With the express design of combating these proposals, Marcus Cato had himself elected as tribune of the people along with Nepos, and abruptly repelled the repeated attempts of Pompeius to approach him personally. Nepos naturally after this found himself under no inducement to spare the aristocracy, but attached himself the more readily to the democrats, when these, pliant as ever, submitted to what was inevitable and chose freely to concede the office of general in Italy as well as the consulate rather than let the concession be wrung from them by force of arms. The cordial understanding soon showed itself. Nepos publicly accepted (Dec. 691) the democratic view of the executions recently decreed by the majority of the senate, as unconstitutional judicial murders; and that his lord and master looked on them in no other light, was shown by his significant silence respecting the voluminous vindication of them which Cicero had sent to him. On the other hand, the first act with which Caesar began his praetorship was to call Quintus Catulus to account for the moneys alleged to have been embezzled by him at the rebuilding of the Capitoline temple, and to transfer the completion of the temple to Pompeius. This was a masterstroke. Catulus had already been building at the temple for fifteen years, and seemed very much disposed to die as he had lived superintendent of the Capitoline buildings; an attack on this abuse of a public commission—an abuse covered only by the reputation of the noble commissioner—was in reality entirely justified and in a high degree popular. But when the prospect was simultaneously opened up to Pompeius of being allowed to delete the name of Catulus and engrave his own on this proudest spot of the first city of the globe, there was offered to him the very thing which most of all delighted him and did no harm to the democracy—abundant but empty honour; while at the same time the aristocracy, which could not possibly allow its best man to fall, was brought into the most disagreeable collision with Pompeius.

Meanwhile Nepos had brought his proposals concerning Pompeius before the burgesses. On the day of voting Cato and his friend and colleague, Quintus Minucius, interposed their veto. When Nepos did not regard this and continued the reading out, a formal conflict took place; Cato and Minucius threw themselves on their colleague and forced him to stop; an armed band liberated him, and drove the aristocratic section from the Forum; but Cato and Minucius returned, now supported likewise by armed bands, and ultimately maintained the field of battle for the government. Encouraged by this victory of their bands over those of their antagonist, the senate suspended the tribune Nepos as well as the praetor Caesar, who had vigorously supported him in the bringing in of the law, from their offices; their deposition, which was proposed in the senate, was prevented by Cato, more, doubtless, because it was unconstitutional than because it was injudicious. Caesar did not regard the decree, and continued his official functions till the senate used violence against him. As soon as this was known, the multitude appeared before his house and placed itself at his disposal; it was to depend solely on him whether the struggle in the streets should begin, or whether at least the proposals made by Metellus should now be resumed and the military command in Italy desired by Pompeius should be procured for him; but this was not in Caesar's interest, and so he induced the crowds to disperse, whereupon the senate recalled the penalty decreed against him. Nepos himself had, immediately after his suspension, left the city and embarked for Asia, in order to report to Pompeius the result of his mission.

Retirement of Pompeius

Pompeius had every reason to be content with the turn which things had taken. The way to the throne now lay necessarily through civil war; and he owed it to Cato's incorrigible perversity that he could begin this war with good reason. After the illegal condemnation of the adherents of Catilina, after the unparalleled acts of violence against the tribune of the people Metellus, Pompeius might wage war at once as defender of the two palladia of Roman public freedom— the right of appeal and the inviolability of the tribunate of the people—against the aristocracy, and as champion of the party of order against the Catilinarian band. It seemed almost impossible that Pompeius should neglect this opportunity and with his eyes open put himself a second time into the painful position, in which the dismissal of his army in 684 had placed him, and from which only the Gabinian law had released him. But near as seemed the opportunity of placing the white chaplet around his brow, and much as his own soul longed after it, when the question of action presented itself, his heart and his hand once more failed him. This man, altogether ordinary in every respect excepting only his pretensions, would doubtless gladly have placed himself beyond the law, if only he could have done so without forsaking legal ground. His very lingering in Asia betrayed a misgiving of this sort. He might, had he wished, have very well arrived in January 692 with his fleet and army at the port of Brundisium, and have received Nepos there. His tarrying the whole winter of 691-692 in Asia had proximately the injurious consequence, that the aristocracy, which of course accelerated the campaign against Catilina as it best could, had meanwhile got rid of his bands, and had thus set aside the most feasible pretext for keeping together the Asiatic legions in Italy. For a man of the type of Pompeius, who for want of faith in himself and in his star timidly clung in public life to formal right, and with whom the pretext was nearly of as much importance as the motive, this circumstance was of serious weight. He probably said to himself, moreover, that, even if he dismissed his army, he did not let it wholly out of his hand, and could in case of need still raise a force ready for battle sooner at any rate than any other party-chief; that the democracy was waiting in submissive attitude for his signal, and that he could deal with the refractory senate even without soldiers; and such further considerations as suggested themselves, in which there was exactly enough of truth to make them appear plausible to one who wished to deceive himself. Once more the very peculiar temperament of Pompeius naturally turned the scale. He was one of those men who are capable it may be of a crime, but not of insubordination; in a good as in a bad sense, he was thoroughly a soldier. Men of mark respect the law as a moral necessity, ordinary men as a traditional everyday rule; for this very reason military discipline, in which more than anywhere else law takes the form of habit, fetters every man not entirely self-reliant as with a magic spell. It has often been observed that the soldier, even where he has determined to refuse obedience to those set over him, involuntarily when that obedience is demanded resumes his place in the ranks. It was this feeling that made Lafayette and Dumouriez hesitate at the last moment before the breach of faith and break down; and to this too Pompeius succumbed.

In the autumn of 692 Pompeius embarked for Italy. While in the capital all was being prepared for receiving the new monarch, news came that Pompeius, when barely landed at Brundisium, had broken up his legions and with a small escort had entered on his journey to the capital. If it is a piece of good fortune to gain a crown without trouble, fortune never did more for mortal than it did for Pompeius; but on those who lack courage the gods lavish every favour and every gift in vain.

Pompeius without Influence

The parties breathed freely. For the second time Pompeius had abdicated; his already-vanquished competitors might once more begin the race—in which doubtless the strangest thing was, that Pompeius was again a rival runner. In January 693 he came to Rome. His position was an awkward one and vacillated with so much uncertainty between the parties, that people gave him the nickname of Gnaeus Cicero. He had in fact lost favour with all. The anarchists saw in him an adversary, the democrats an inconvenient friend, Marcus Crassus a rival, the wealthy class an untrustworthy protector, the aristocracy a declared foe.(2) He was still indeed the most powerful man in the state; his military adherents scattered through all Italy, his influence in the provinces, particularly those of the east, his military fame, his enormous riches gave him a weight such as no other possessed; but instead of the enthusiastic reception on which he had counted, the reception which he met with was more than cool, and still cooler was the treatment given to the demands which he presented. He requested for himself, as he had already caused to be announced by Nepos, a second consulship; demanding also, of course, a confirmation of the arrangements made by him in the east and a fulfilment of the promise which he had given to his soldiers to furnish them with lands. Against these demands a systematic opposition arose in the senate, the chief elements of which were furnished by the personal exasperation of Lucullus and Metellus Creticus, the old resentment of Crassus, and the conscientious folly of Cato. The desired second consulship was at once and bluntly refused. The very first request which the returning general addressed to the senate, that the election of the consuls for 693 might be put off till after his entry into the capital, had been rejected; much less was there any likelihood of obtaining from the senate the necessary dispensation from the law of Sulla as to re-election.(3) As to the arrangements which he had made in the eastern provinces, Pompeius naturally asked their confirmation as a whole; Lucullus carried a proposal thatevery ordinance should be separately discussed and voted upon, which opened the door for endless annoyances and a multitude of defeats in detail. The promise of a grant of land to the soldiers of the Asiatic army was ratified indeed in general by the senate, but was at the same time extended to the Cretan legions of Metellus; and—what was worse—it was not executed, because the public chest was empty and the senate was not disposed to meddle with the domains for this purpose. Pompeius, in despair of mastering the persistent and spiteful opposition of the senate, turned to the burgesses. But he understood still less how to conduct his movements on this field. The democratic leaders, although they did not openly oppose him, had no cause at all to make his interests their own, and so kept aloof. Pompeius' own instruments—such as the consuls elected by his influence and partly by his money, Marcus Pupius Piso for 693 and Lucius Afranius for 694—showed themselves unskilful and useless. When at length the assignation of land for the veterans of Pompeius was submitted to the burgesses by the tribune of the people Lucius Flavius in the form of a general agrarian law, the proposal, not supported by the democrats, openly combated by the aristocrats, was left in a minority (beg. of 694). The exalted general now sued almost humbly for the favour of the masses, for it was on his instigation that the Italian tolls were abolished by a law introduced by the praetor Metellus Nepos (694). But he played the demagogue without skill and without success; his reputation suffered from it, and he did not obtain what he desired. He had completely run himself into a noose. One of his opponents summed up his political position at that time by saying that he had endeavoured "to conserve by silence his embroidered triumphal mantle." In fact nothing was left for him but to fret.

Rise of Caesar

Then a new combination offered itself. The leader of the democratic party had actively employed in his own interest the political calm which had immediately followed on the retirement of the previous holder of power. When Pompeius returned from Asia, Caesar had been little more than what Catilina was—the chief of a political party which had dwindled almost into a club of conspirators, and a bankrupt. But since that event he had, after administering the praetorship (692), been invested with the governorship of Further Spain, and thereby had found means partly to rid himself of his debts, partly to lay the foundation for his military repute. His old friend and ally Crassus had been induced by the hope of finding the support against Pompeius, which he had lost in Piso,(4) once more in Caesar, to relieve him even before his departure to the province from the most oppressive portion of his load of debt. He himself had energetically employed his brief sojourn there. Returning from Spain in the year 694 with filled chests and as Imperator with well-founded claims to a triumph, he came forward for the following year as a candidate for the consulship; for the sake of which, as the senate refused him permission to announce himself as a candidate for the consular election in absence, he without hesitation abandoned the honour of the triumph. For years the democracy had striven to raise one of its partisans to the possession of the supreme magistracy, that by way of this bridge it might attain a military power of its own. It had long been clear to discerning men of all shades that the strife of parties could not be settled by civil conflict, but only by military power; but the course of the coalition between the democracy and the powerful military chiefs, through which the rule of the senate had been terminated, showed with inexorable clearness that every such alliance ultimately issued in a subordination of the civil under the military elements, and that the popular party, if it would really rule, must not ally itself with generals properly foreign and even hostile to it, but must make generals of its own leaders themselves. The attempts made with this view to carry the election of Catilina as consul, and to gain a military support in Spain or Egypt, had failed; now a possibility presented itself of procuring for their most important man the consulship and the consular province in the usual constitutional way, and of rendering themselves independent of their dubious and dangerous ally Pompeius by the establishment, if we may so speak, of a home power in their own democratic household.

Second Coalition of Pompeius, Crassus, and Caesar

But the more the democracy could not but desire to open up for itself this path, which offered not so much the most favourable as the only prospect of real successes, the more certainly it might reckon on the resolute resistance of its political opponents. Everything depended on whom it found opposed to it in this matter. The aristocracy isolated was not formidable; but it had just been rendered evident in the Catilinarian affair that it could certainly still exert some influence, where it was more or less openly supported by the men of material interests and by the adherents of Pompeius. It had several times frustrated Catilina's candidature for the consulship, and that it would attempt the like against Caesar was sufficiently certain. But, even though Caesar should perhaps be chosen in spite of it, his election alone did not suffice. He needed at least some years of undisturbed working out of Italy, in order to gain a firm military position; and the nobility assuredly would leave no means untried to thwart his plans during this time of preparation. The idea naturally occurred, whether the aristocracy might not be again successfully isolated as in 683-684, and an alliance firmly based on mutual advantage might not be established between the democrats with their ally Crassus on the one side and Pompeius and the great capitalists on the other. For Pompeius such a coalition was certainly a political suicide. His weight hitherto in the state rested on the fact, that he was the only party-leader who at the same time disposed of legions— which, though now dissolved, were still in a certain sense at his disposal. The plan of the democracy was directed to the very object of depriving him of this preponderance, and of placing by his side in their own chief a military rival. Never could he consent to this, and least of all personally help to a post of supreme command a man like Caesar, who already as a mere political agitator had given him trouble enough and had just furnished the most brilliant proofs also of military capacity in Spain. But on the other hand, in consequence of the cavilling opposition of the senate and the indifference of the multitude to Pompeius and Pompeius' wishes, his position, particularly with reference to his old soldiers, had become so painful and so humiliating, that people might well expect from his character to gain him for such a coalition at the price of releasing him from that disagreeable situation. And as to the so-called equestrian party, it was to be found on whatever side the power lay; and as a matter of course it would not let itself be long waited for, if it saw Pompeius and the democracy combining anew in earnest. It happened moreover, that on account of Cato's severity— otherwise very laudable—towards the lessees of the taxes, the great capitalists were just at this time once more at vehement variance with the senate.

Change in the Position of Caesar

So the second coalition was concluded in the summer of 694. Caesar was assured of the consulship for the following year and a governorship in due course; to Pompeius was promised the ratification of his arrangements made in the east, and an assignation of lands for the soldiers of the Asiatic army; to the equites Caesar likewise promised to procure for them by means of the burgesses what the senate had refused; Crassus in fine—the inevitable—was allowed at least to join the league, although without obtaining definite promises for an accession which he could not refuse. It was exactly the same elements, and indeed the same persons, who concluded the league with one another in the autumn of 683 and in the summer of 694; but how entirely different was the position of the parties then and now! Then the democracy was nothing but a political party, while its allies were victorious generals at the head of their armies; now the leader of the democracy was himself an Imperator crowned with victory and full of magnificent military schemes, while his allies were retired generals without any army. Then the democracy conquered in questions of principle, and in return for that victory conceded the highest offices of state to its two confederates; now it had become more practical and grasped the supreme civil and military power for itself, while concessions were made to its allies only in subordinate points and, significantly enough, not even the old demand of Pompeius for a second consulship was attended to. Then the democracy sacrificed itself to its allies; now these had to entrust themselves to it. All the circumstances were completely changed, most of all, however, the character of the democracy itself. No doubt it had, ever since it existed at all, contained at its very core a monarchic element; but the ideal of a constitution, which floated in more or less clear outline before its best intellects, was always that of a civil commonwealth, a Periclean organization of the state, in which the power of the prince rested on the fact that he represented the burgesses in the noblest and most accomplished manner, and the most accomplished and noblest part of the burgesses recognized him as the man in whom they thoroughly confided. Caesar too set out with such views; but they were simply ideals, which might have some influence on realities, but could not be directly realized. Neither the simple civil power, as Gaius Gracchus possessed it, nor the arming of the democratic party, such as Cinna though in a very inadequate fashion had attempted, was able to maintain a permanent superiority in the Roman commonwealth; the military machine fighting not for a party but for a general, the rude force of the condottieri—after having first appeared on the stage in the service of the restoration—soon showed itself absolutely superior to all political parties. Caesar could not but acquire a conviction of this amidst the practical workings of party, and accordingly he matured the momentous resolution of making this military machine itself serviceable to his ideals, and of erecting such a commonwealth, as he had in his view, by the power of condottieri. With this design he concluded in 683 the league with the generals of the opposite party, which, notwithstanding that they had accepted the democratic programme, yet brought the democracy and Caesar himself to the brink of destruction. With the same design he himself came forward eleven years afterwards as a condottiere. It was done in both cases with a certain naivete—with good faith in the possibility of his being able to found a free commonwealth, if not by the swords of others, at any rate by his own. We perceive without difficulty that this faith was fallacious, and that no one takes an evil spirit into his service without becoming himself enslaved to it; but the greatest men are not those who err the least. If we still after so many centuries bow in reverence before what Caesar willed and did, it is not because he desired and gained a crown (to do which is, abstractly, as little of a great thing as the crown itself) but because his mighty ideal—of a free commonwealth under one ruler—never forsook him, and preserved him even when monarch from sinking into vulgar royalty.

Caesar Consul

The election of Caesar as consul for 695 was carried without difficulty by the united parties. The aristocracy had to rest content with giving to him—by means of a bribery, for which the whole order of lords contributed the funds, and which excited surprise even in that period of deepest corruption—a colleague in the person of Marcus Bibulus, whose narrow-minded obstinacy was regarded in their circles as conservative energy, and whose good intentions at least were not at fault if the genteel lords did not get a fit return for their patriotic expenditure.

Caesar's Agrarian Law

As consul Caesar first submitted to discussion the requests of his confederates, among which the assignation of land to the veterans of the Asiatic army was by far the most important. The agrarian law projected for this purpose by Caesar adhered in general to the principles set forth in the project of law, which was introduced in the previous year at the suggestion of Pompeius but not carried.(5) There was destined for distribution only the Italian domain-land, that is to say, substantially, the territory of Capua, and, if this should not suffice, other Italian estates were to be purchased out of the revenue of the new eastern provinces at the taxable value recorded in the censorial rolls; all existing rights of property and heritable possession thus remained unaffected. The individual allotments were small. The receivers of land were to be poor burgesses, fathers of at least three children; the dangerous principle, that the rendering of military service gave a claim to landed estate, was not laid down, but, as was reasonable and had been done at all times, the old soldiers as well as the temporary lessees to be ejected were simply recommended to the special consideration of the land-distributors. The execution of the measure was entrusted to a commission of twenty men, into which Caesar distinctly declared that he did not wish to be himself elected.

Opposition of the Aristocracy

The opposition had a difficult task in resisting this proposal. It could not rationally be denied, that the state-finances ought after the erection of the provinces of Pontus and Syria to be in a position to dispense with the moneys from the Campanian leases; that it was unwarrantable to withhold one of the finest districts of Italy, and one peculiarly fitted for small holdings, from private enterprise; and, lastly, that it was as unjust as it was ridiculous, after the extension of the franchise to all Italy, still to withhold municipal rights from the township of Capua. The whole proposal bore the stamp of moderation, honesty, and solidity, with which a democratic party-character was very dexterously combined; for in substance it amounted to the re-establishment of the Capuan colony founded in the time of Marius and again done away by Sulla.(6) In form too Caesar observed all possible consideration. He laid the project of the agrarian law, as well as the proposal to ratify collectively the ordinances issued by Pompeius in the east, and the petition of the farmers of the taxes for remission of a third of the sums payable by them, in the first instance before the senate for approval, and declared himself ready to entertain and discuss proposals for alterations. The corporation had now opportunity of convincing itself how foolishly it had acted in driving Pompeius and the equites into the arms of the adversary by refusing these requests. Perhaps it was the secret sense of this, that drove the high-born lords to the most vehement opposition, which contrasted ill with the calm demeanour of Caesar. The agrarian law was rejected by them nakedly and even without discussion. The decree as to the arrangements of Pompeius in Asia found quite as little favour in their eyes. Cato attempted, in accordance with the disreputable custom of Roman parliamentary debate, to kill the proposal regarding the farmers of the taxes by speaking, that is, to prolong his speech up to the legal hour for closing the sitting; when Caesar threatened to have the stubborn man arrested, this proposal too was at length rejected.

Proposals before the Burgesses

Of course all the proposals were now brought before the burgesses. Without deviating far from the truth, Caesar could tell the multitude that the senate had scornfully rejected most rational and most necessary proposals submitted to it in the most respectful form, simply because they came from the democratic consul. When he added that the aristocrats had contrived a plot to procure the rejection of the proposals, and summoned the burgesses, and more especially Pompeius himself and his old soldiers, to stand by him against fraud and force, this too was by no means a mere invention. The aristocracy, with the obstinate weak creature Bibulus and the unbending dogmatical fool Cato at their head, in reality intended to push the matter to open violence. Pompeius, instigated by Caesar to proclaim his position with reference to the pending question, declared bluntly, as was not his wont on other occasions, that if any one should venture to draw the sword, he too would grasp his, and in that case would not leave the shield at home; Crassus expressed himself to the same effect The old soldiers of Pompeius were directed to appear on the day of the vote— which in fact primarily concerned them—in great numbers, and with arms under their dress, at the place of voting.

The nobility however left no means untried to frustrate the proposals of Caesar. On each day when Caesar appeared before the people, his colleague Bibulus instituted the well-known political observations of the weather which interrupted all public business;(7) Caesar did not trouble himself about the skies, but continued to prosecute his terrestrial occupation. The tribunician veto was interposed; Caesar contented himself with disregarding it. Bibulus and Cato sprang to the rostra, harangued the multitude, and instigated the usual riot; Caesar ordered that they should be led away by lictors from the Forum, and took care that otherwise no harm should befall them—it was for his interest that the political comedy should remain such as it was.

The Agrarian Law Carried
Passive Resistance of the Aristocracy

Notwithstanding all the chicanery and all the blustering of the nobility, the agrarian law, the confirmation of the Asiatic arrangements, and the remission to the lessees of taxes were adopted by the burgesses; and the commission of twenty was elected with Pompeius and Crassus at its head, and installed in office. With all their exertions the aristocracy had gained nothing, save that their blind and spiteful antagonism had drawn the bonds of the coalition still tighter, and their energy, which they were soon to need for matters more important, had exhausted itself on these affairs that were at bottom indifferent. They congratulated each other on the heroic courage which they had displayed; the declaration of Bibulus that he would rather die than yield, the peroration which Cato still continued to deliver when in the hands of the lictors, were great patriotic feats; otherwise they resigned themselves to their fate. The consul Bibulus shut himself up for the remainder of the year in his house, while he at the same time intimated by public placard that he had the pious intention of watching the signs of the sky on all the days appropriate for public assemblies during that year. His colleagues once more admired the great man who, as Ennius had said of the old Fabius, "saved the state by wise delay," and they followed his example; most of them, Cato included, no longer appeared in the senate, but within their four walls helped their consul to fret over the fact that the history of the world went on in spite of political astronomy. To the public this passive attitude of the consul as well as of the aristocracy in general appeared, as it fairly might, a political abdication; and the coalition were naturally very well content that they were left to take their farther steps almost undisturbed.

Caesar Governor of the Two Gauls

The most important of these steps was the regulating of the future position of Caesar. Constitutionally it devolved on the senate to fix the functions of the second consular year of office before the election of the consuls took place; accordingly it had, in prospect of the election of Caesar, selected with that view for 696 two provinces in which the governor should find no other employment than the construction of roads and other such works of utility. Of course the matter could not so remain; it was determined among the confederates, that Caesar should obtain by decree of the people an extraordinary command formed on the model of the Gabinio-Manilian laws. Caesar however had publicly declared that he would introduce no proposal in his own favour; the tribune of the people Publius Vatinius therefore undertook to submit the proposal to the burgesses, who naturally gave their unconditional assent. By this means Caesar obtained the governorship of Cisalpine Gaul and the supreme command of the three legions which were stationed there and were already experienced in border warfare under Lucius Afranius, along with the same rank of propraetor for his adjutants which those of Pompeius had enjoyed; this office was secured to him for five years—a longer period than had ever before been assigned to any general whose appointment was limited to a definite time at all. The Transpadanes, who for years had in hope of the franchise been the clients of the democratic party in Rome and of Caesar in particular,(8) formed the main portion of his province. His jurisdiction extended south as far as the Arnus and the Rubico, and included Luca and Ravenna. Subsequently there was added to Caesar's official district the province of Narbo with the one legion stationed there—a resolution adopted by the senate on the proposal of Pompeius, that it might at least not see this command also pass to Caesar by extraordinary decree of the burgesses. What was wished was thus attained. As no troops could constitutionally be stationed in Italy proper,(9) the commander of the legions of northern Italy and Gaul dominated at the same time Italy and Rome for the next five years; and he who was master for five years was master for life. The consulship of Caesar had attained its object. As a matter of course, the new holders of power did not neglect withal to keep the multitude in good humour by games and amusements of all sorts, and they embraced every opportunity of filling their exchequer; in the case of the king of Egypt, for instance, the decree of the people, which recognized him as legitimate ruler,(10) was sold to him by the coalition at a high price, and in like manner other dynasts and communities acquired charters and privileges on this occasion.

Measures Adopted by the Allies for Their Security

The permanence of the arrangements made seemed also sufficiently secured. The consulship was, at least for the next year, entrusted to safe hands. The public believed at first, that it was destined for Pompeius and Crassus themselves; the holders of power however preferred to procure the election of two subordinate but trustworth men of their party—Aulus Gabinius, the best among Pompeius' adjutants, and Lucius Piso, who was less important but was Caesar's father-in-law— as consuls for 696. Pompeius personally undertook to watch over Italy, where at the head of the commission of twenty he prosecuted the execution of the agrarian law and furnished nearly 20,000 burgesses, in great part old soldiers from his army, with land in the territory of Capua. Caesar's north-Italian legions served to back him against the opposition in the capital. There existed no prospect, immediately at least, of a rupture among the holders of power themselves. The laws issued by Caesar as consul, in the maintenance of which Pompeius was at least as much interested as Caesar, formed a guarantee for the continuance of the breach between Pompeius and the aristocracy—whose heads, and Cato in particular, continued to treat these laws as null—and thereby a guarantee for the subsistence of the coalition. Moreover, the personal bonds of connection between its chiefs were drawn closer. Caesar had honestly and faithfully kept his word to his confederates without curtailing or cheating them of what he had promised, and in particular had fought to secure the agrarian law proposed in the interest of Pompeius, just as if the case had been his own, with dexterity and energy; Pompeius was not insensible to upright dealing and good faith, and was kindly disposed towards the man who had helped him to get quit at a blow of the sorry part of a suppliant which he had been playing for three years. Frequent and familiar intercourse with a man of the irresistible amiableness of Caesar did what was farther requisite to convert the alliance of interests into an alliance of friendship. The result and the pledge of this friendship—at the same time, doubtless, a public announcement which could hardly be misunderstood of the newly established conjoint rule—was the marriage of Pompeius with Caesar's only daughter, three-and-twenty years of age. Julia, who had inherited the charm of her father, lived in the happiest domestic relations with her husband, who was nearly twice as old; and the burgesses longing for rest and order after so many troubles and crises, saw in this nuptial alliance the guarantee of a peaceful and prosperous future.

Situation of the Aristocracy

The more firmly and closely the alliance was thus cemented between Pompeius and Caesar, the more hopeless grew the cause of the aristocracy. They felt the sword suspended over their head and knew Caesar sufficiently to have no doubt that he would, if necessary, use it without hesitation. "On all sides," wrote one of them, "we are checkmated; we have already through fear of death or of banishment despaired of 'freedom'; every one sighs, no one ventures to speak." More the confederates could not desire. But though the majority of the aristocracy was in this desirable frame of mind, there was, of course, no lack of Hotspurs among this party. Hardly had Caesar laid down the consulship, when some of the most violent aristocrats, Lucius Domitius and Gaius Memmius, proposed in a full senate the annulling of the Julian laws. This indeed was simply a piece of folly, which redounded only to the benefit of the coalition; for, when Caesar now himself insisted that the senate should investigate the validity of the laws assailed, the latter could not but formally recognize their legality. But, as may readily be conceived, the holders of power found in this a new call to make an example of some of the most notable and noisiest of their opponents, and thereby to assure themselves that the remainder would adhere to that fitting policy of sighing and silence. At first there had been a hope that the clause of the agrarian law, which as usual required all the senators to take an oath to the new law on pain of forfeiting their political rights, would induce its most vehement opponents to banish themselves, after the example of Metellus Numidicus,(11) by refusing the oath. But these did not show themselves so complaisant; even the rigid Cato submitted to the oath, and his Sanchos followed him. A second, far from honourable, attempt to threaten the heads of the aristocracy with criminal impeachments on account of an alleged plot for the murder of Pompeius, and so to drive them into exile, was frustrated by the incapacity of the instruments; the informer, one Vettius, exaggerated and contradicted himself so grossly, and the tribune Vatinius, who directed the foul scheme, showed his complicity with that Vettius so clearly, that it was found advisable to strangle the latter in prison and to let the whole matter drop. On this occasion however they had obtained sufficient evidence of the total disorganization of the aristocracy and the boundless alarm of the genteel lords: even a man like Lucius Lucullus had thrown himself in person at Caesar's feet and publicly declared that he found himself compelled by reason of his great age to withdraw from public life.

Cato and Cicero Removed

Ultimately therefore they were content with a few isolated victims. It was of primary importance to remove Cato, who made no secret of his conviction as to the nullity of all the Julian laws, and who was a man to act as he thought. Such a man Marcus Cicero was certainly not, and they did not give themselves the trouble to fear him. But the democratic party, which played the leading part in the coalition, could not possibly after its victory leave unpunished the judicial murder of the 5th December 691, which it had so loudly and so justly censured. Had they wished to bring to account the real authors of the fatal decree, they ought to have seized not on the pusillanimous consul, but on the section of the strict aristocracy which had urged the timorous man to that execution. But in formal law it was certainly not the advisers of the consul, but the consul himself, that was responsible for it, and it was above all the gentler course to call the consul alone to account and to leave the senatorial college wholly out of the case; for which reason in the grounds of the proposal directed against Cicero the decree of the senate, in virtue of which he ordered the execution, was directly described as supposititious. Even against Cicero the holders of power would gladly have avoided steps that attracted attention; but he could not prevail on himself either to give to those in power the guarantees which they required, or to banish himself from Rome under one of the feasible pretexts on several occasions offered to him, or even to keep silence. With the utmost desire to avoid any offence and the most sincere alarm, he yet had not self-control enough to be prudent; the word had to come out, when a petulant witticism stung him, or when his self- conceit almost rendered crazy by the praise of so many noble lords gave vent to the well-cadenced periods of the plebeian advocate.


The execution of the measures resolved on against Cato and Cicero was committed to the loose and dissolute, but clever and pre- eminently audacious Publius Clodius, who had lived for years in the bitterest enmity with Cicero, and, with the view of satisfying that enmity and playing a part as demagogue, had got himself converted under the consulship of Caesar by a hasty adoption from a patrician into a plebeian, and then chosen as tribune of the people for the year 696. To support Clodius, the proconsul Caesar remained in the immediate vicinity of the capital till the blow was struck against the two victims. Agreeably to the instructions which he had received, Clodius proposed to the burgesses to entrust Cato with the regulation of the complicated municipal affairs of the Byzantines and with the annexation of the kingdom of Cyprus, which as well as Egypt had fallen to the Romans by the testament of Alexander II, but had not like Egypt bought off the Roman annexation, and the king of which, moreover, had formerly given personal offence to Clodius. As to Cicero, Clodius brought in a project of law which characterized the execution of a burgess without trial and sentence as a crime to be punished with banishment. Cato was thus removed by an honourable mission, while Cicero was visited at least with the gentlest possible punishment and, besides, was not designated by name in the proposal. But they did not refuse themselves the pleasure, on the one hand, of punishing a man notoriously timid and belonging to the class of political weathercocks for the conservative energy which he displayed, and, on the other hand, of investing the bitter opponent of all interferences of the burgesses in administration and of all extraordinary commands with such a command conferred by decree of the burgesses themselves; and with similar humour the proposal respecting Cato was based on the ground of the abnormal virtue of the man, which made him appear pre-eminently qualified to execute so delicate a commission, as was the confiscation of the considerable crown treasure of Cyprus, without embezzlement. Both proposals bear generally the same character of respectful deference and cool irony, which marks throughout the bearing of Caesar in reference to the senate. They met with no resistance. It was naturally of no avail, that the majority of the senate, with the view of protesting in some way against the mockery and censure of their decree in the matter of Catilina, publicly put on mourning, and that Cicero himself, now when it was too late, fell on his knees and besought mercy from Pompeius; he had to banish himself even before the passing of the law which debarred him from his native land (April 696). Cato likewise did not venture to provoke sharper measures by declining the commission which he had received, but accepted itand embarked for the east.(12) What was most immediately necessary was done; Caesar too might leave Italy to devote himself to more serious tasks.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!