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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

CÆSAR IS LOADED WITH HONOURS

[389] WHEN Caesar reached Rome in July 46 B.C., he found that he had already been appointed Dictator for ten years.

In the Senate there was now not a member who was not eager to agree to his slightest wish. Yet it was but a year or two since many of them had been ready to brand him as a traitor. But Cæsar had crossed the Rubicon now, and was king in all but name.

The conqueror had, however, no wish to remind those who had been his enemies of their unkindnesses. His return to Rome was made a joyous season, and was not spoiled by the punishment of those who had been opposed to him, much less by their murder.

Indeed, Cæsar not only pardoned those who had been the friends of Pompey, but he gave them positions of trust in the State.

If they were still half afraid of his true feelings, suspicion vanished when the Dictator ordered the statues of Pompey, which after his defeat had been thrown down, to be again erected.

His faithful soldiers Cæsar rewarded with gold, and to the citizens he gave feasts and gifts of corn as well. Games and shows also celebrated his return.

From this time his birthday was kept each year as a holiday, and to the month in which it fell was given his name, Julius, or as we say now, July.

His triumphs were the wonder of the citizens for many long days to come, for he celebrated his victories over Gaul, [390] Egypt, Pontus, and Numidia. Many were the strange and marvellous treasures that adorned the processions.

Of his war with Pompey, as it was against a Roman, nothing was said, nor was it celebrated in a triumph.

For six or seven months Cæsar now stayed in Rome, making many good laws. As of old he was loved by the people, for he proved himself still their friend, taking from the Optimates the power they often used harshly or carelessly and giving it to them.

His friends often begged him to have a bodyguard, for although he was so beloved, he still had enemies. But Cæsar would take no precautions, saying in answer to the fears of his friends, "It is better to suffer death once, than always to live in fear of it."

About this time the Dictator ordered Carthage and Corinth, which had been destroyed at the same time, to be rebuilt. When the cities were ready, he sent many of his soldiers to settle in them, as well as many Italian citizens.

Thus many of those who had lived in poverty had a new chance given to them, while the overcrowded towns in Italy became healthier and less full of poverty. Wise men, too, came from Egypt at Cæsar's command, and among other reforms they altered and improved the Roman Calendar.

In December 45 B.C., Cæsar was again forced to leave Rome to put down a rebellion in the south of Spain, raised by Pompey's two sons, Gnæus and Sextus.

Now it chanced that popular as Cæsar was in most countries, he was not so in the south of Spain. This was because he had sent to the province a governor who, unfortunately, had treated the people badly, and for this Cæsar was held responsible.

So Pompey's sons had found it easy to stir up rebellion, and they had soon gathered together a large army, while the Pompeian leaders who had escaped from Africa had joined the lads.

[391] When Cæsar reached Spain, he found Gnæus encamped in a plain near to the town of Munda.

Here a great battle was fought, Roman fighting against Roman, for the soldier in Gnæus's army were nearly all veterans who had been trained in the legions of Rome.

At one time it seemed as though Cæsar's troops were giving way. Then he himself ran from rank to rank of his men, asking if they were not ashamed to let their general be beaten by boys.

Urged by Cæsar's words to fresh efforts, his brave veterans fought desperately until the day was theirs.

Gnæus fled, but a few weeks later was captured and put to death. Sextus, however, escaped, and for many years was at the head of a fleet that caused great trouble along the coast of Italy.

When the hard-fought battle of Munda was won, Cæsar said to his friends, "I have often fought for victory, but this is the first time I have ever fought for life."

At Rome the tidings of the victory was received with an outburst of enthusiasm. No honour was too great for the victor. He had already been made Dictator for ten years; he was now appointed Dictator for life.

The Romans could not do enough to show their affection and pride. Honour after honour was heaped upon the victorious general. He was made Consul for ten years, was given entire control of the treasury. And to crown all, the title of Imperator, which carried with it the entire control of the army, was also bestowed upon him.

Rome had no honour left to give now, unless she gave to her Imperator the title of King.

There were already some among his friends who said that it would be well that he should wear the supreme title in the provinces, if not in Rome.


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