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Bill Thayer

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Chapters 42‑47

This webpage reproduces part of
The Alexandrian War

probably by Hirtius, attached to the name of
Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

The text is in the public domain.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapters 65‑78

Alexandrian War

p89 [Chapters 48‑64]

48 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Now during the period when Caesar was besieging Pompei at Dyrrachium, and achieving success at Old Pharsalus, and was engaged at Alexandria in operations which involved great risk, though rumour made it out to be still greater, Q. Cassius Longinus had been left behind in Spain as propraetor to govern the further province.1 Whether it was due to his own natural disposition, or because he had formed a hatred for that province from having as quaestor been treacherously wounded there, he had greatly added to his unpopularity; which fact he was in a position to observe equally from his own intuition — believing as he did that the province reciprocated his own sentiments — and from the manifold signs and indications afforded by those who found difficulty in concealing their feelings of hate; and now he was anxious to offset the dislike felt by the province with the affection of his army. Consequently, as soon as he had mustered the army all together, he promised the soldiers one hundred sesterces apiece; and not long afterwards in Lusitania, after successfully storming the town of Medobrega and then Mount Herminius, on which the townsfolk had taken refuge, and being hailed there p91as Imperator, he presented the soldiers each with 100 sesterces. In addition he granted many large rewards to individuals; and though these gifts inspired in the army a semblance of affection for the moment, yet they gradually and insidiously undermined strict military discipline.

49 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Having settled his legions in winter quarters, Cassius proceeded to Corduba to administer justice, and resolved to lay a very heavy impost on the province and so defray the debts he had incurred in it. And so, as the habit of bribery necessitates, open-handedness was the plausible excuse for seeking yet further contributions to the source of bribery. Wealthy men were ordered to furnish sums of money, and these Longinus not merely allowed but even compelled to be debited to his account:2 poor men were precipitated into conflict with the wealthy class to promote dissensions;3 and no kind of profit, either large and obvious, or quite insignificant and mean, was overlooked, none with which the commander-in‑chief was not involved privately and officially. There was not one man — provided only he had something to lose — but he was either held on bail or duly entered in the lists of the accused. Thus there was also a very uneasy presentiment of danger in addition to the sacrifices and losses of personal possessions.

50 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] For these reasons it so fell out that, since Longinus as commander-in‑chief was employing the same tactics he had used as quaestor, the provincials once again embarked upon similar plans for his assassination. Their hatred was intensified by some of his friends who, although they were employed in that plundering partnership, none the less hated the man p93in whose name they did wrong, and so, while putting down to their own credit whatever they had gained by their plundering, attributed to Cassius whatever came to nothing or was foiled. He enrolled a new legion — the Fifth.4 Hatred increased as a result of the actual levy and the expense of the extra legion. The cavalry were brought up to a strength of three thousand and equipped at the greatest expense. No respite was given to the province.

51 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile he received despatches from Caesar bidding him bring an army across to Africa and, passing through Mauretania, come to the territory of Numidia; for Juba had sent large reinforcements5 for Cn. Pompeius and would, it was thought, send larger ones. When Cassius received these despatches he was in transports of immoderate delight at the thought of his being offered so magnificent a chance of new provinces and a highly fertile kingdom. And so he set out in person for Lusitania to summon the legions and fetch auxiliaries, apportioning certain men the task of organising in advance supplies of cornº and 100 ships, as well as assessing and levying contributions of money, so as to avoid any delay on his return. His return proved more expeditious than anyone expected; for there was no lack of energy or vigilance in Cassius, especially when he coveted something.

52 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He then assembled his army at a single rendezvous and pitched camp near Corduba. There at a parade he explained to his troops the scheme it was his duty to carry out on Caesar's instructions, and promised to give them 100 sesterces apiece when he had crossed over into Mauretania. The Fifth legion, he explained, would be in Spain. Then, after the p95parade, he returned to Corduba. That same afternoon, when he was entering the judgment hall, a certain Minucius Silo, who was a client of L. Racilius and was dressed as a soldier, handed him a note; as if he had some petition to make of him; then, following behind Racilius — who was walking beside Cassius — as though he were waiting for an answer, he quickly wormed his way in between them when the chance offered, seized Longinus from behind with his left hand and with his right stabbed him twice with a dagger. No sooner was the alarm raised than all the conspirators joined in the attack. Munatius Flaccus ran the nearest lictor through with his sword, killed him and then wounded Q. Cassius, Longinus' deputy.6 Thereupon T. Vasius and M. Mercello displayed a like audacity in going to the help of Flaccus, their fellow-townsman; for they all hailed from Italica.7 L. Licinius Squillus rushed up to Longinus himself and inflicted minor wounds upon him as he lay prostrate.

53 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] On all sides there was a rush to defend Cassius; for it was his constant habit to have with him a numerous armed bodyguard of Beronians8 and ex‑soldiers. These intercepted all the other would‑be assassins who were following up behind, and among them Calpurnius Salvianus and Manilius Tusculus. Minucius was caught as he sought to escape through the stones which were lying in the street,9 and was escorted to Cassius, who had now been carried home. Racilius took refuge in a friend's house near by, until he should learn for certain whether Cassius was done for. L. Laterensis had no doubt about it, and p97so hastened joyfully into the camp and congratulated the native troops and those of the Second legion, who, as he knew, cherished a particular hatred for Cassius; and there the mob hoisted him on to the platform and hailed him as praetor. There was in fact no man, either born in the province, like the troops of the native legion, or else by this time qualified as a provincial by virtue of long residence — who had not shared in the hatred which the entire province felt towards Cassius; for the Thirtieth and Twenty-First legions, which Caesar had allotted to Longinus, had been enrolled in Italy within the last few months, while the Fifth legion had been raised in the province but recently.

54 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile the tidings reached Laterensis that Cassius was alive. Not so much disconcerted as grievously disappointed by these tidings, he quickly recovered himself and set out to visit Cassius. On learning of the facts the Thirtieth legion advanced to Corduba to bring aid to their commander-in‑chief: the Twenty-First did likewise; and the Fifth followed their lead. Now that there were but two remaining legions in camp, the men of the Second were afraid that they might be the only ones left behind, and that the nature of their sentiments might be inferred from this circumstance: consequently they followed the example of the previous legions. The native legion remained steadfast in its attitude, and nothing could intimidate it or make it budge.

55 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Cassius ordered the arrest of those who had been named as privy to the murderous plot and, retaining five cohorts of the Thirtieth legion, sent the rest back to camp. From the evidence of Minucius he p99learned that L. Racilius and L. Laterensis and Annius Scapula — the last a provincial of the highest standing and influence, with whom he was on as intimate a footing as with Racilius and Laterensis — had all been involved in that same conspiracy; and it was not long before he gave expression to his indignation by ordering their execution. Minucius he handed over to his freedmen for torture; likewise Calpurnius Salvianus, who made a formal deposition in which he named a larger number of conspirators — truthfully, according to the belief of certain people; under duress, as some complain. Similar torture was applied to L. Mercello: . . . Squillus mentioned more names. Cassius ordered their execution, except for those who bought themselves off. For example, he openly made a bargain in fact with Calpurnius for sixty thousand sesterces,10 and with Q. Sestius for fifty thousand. And if their extreme guilt earned them a corresponding fine, yet the fact that the peril of death and the pain of torture was remitted for cash showed how in Cassius cruelty had vied with greed.

56 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Several days later he received despatches sent by Caesar, from which he learned that Pompeius had been beaten in the field, lost his forces, and fled. This intelligence inspired in him mixed feelings — of disappointment and pleasure: the news of victory could not but make him happy: the completion of the war put an end to the present licence. Consequently he could not make up his mind whether he would rather have nothing to fear or nothing barred. When his wounds were healed he summoned all those who had booked sums of money as debited to his account and ordered the said sums to be entered p101up as repaid;11 and where he seemed to have imposed too light a burden, he ordered the man to pay a greater sum. Moreover, he held a levy of Roman knights. These were conscripted from all the corporations12 and colonies and, as they were thoroughly scared of military service overseas, he invited them to purchase their discharge. This proved a great source of profit, but the hatred it produced was still greater. This done, he reviewed his entire army and then despatched to the point of embarkation the legions he intended to take into Africa, with their auxiliary troops. He himself proceeded to Hispalis to inspect the fleet he was building up; and there he tarried awhile, since he had published a decree throughout the province that those who had been ordered to contribute, but had not yet contributed sums of money, must come before him. This summons disturbed them all profoundly.

57 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile L. Titius brought tidings of the native legion, in which he had been at the time a military tribune: his report ran that while it was encamped near the town of Ilipa a mutiny had broken out, and several centurions who had refused to let them strike camp had been killed; the legion had then parted company with the Thirtieth legion — this was also under command of Q. Cassius, the governor's deputy — and made haste to join the Second legion, which was being taken to the straits by another route. On learning of the matter Longinus left by night with five cohorts of the Twenty-First legion, and early in the morning arrived at Naeva.13 There p103he waited that day, in order to get a clear view of what was taking place: then he marched to Carmo. Here he was joined by the Thirtieth legion and the Twenty-First, with four cohorts of the Fifth and his entire cavalry force, and then heard that four cohorts had been overpowered by the native troops, and in company with the latter had made contact with the second legion near Obucula,14a where they had all joined forces and chosen T. Thorius, a native of Italica, as their leader. He promptly held a consultation and despatched the quaestor, M. Marcellus, to Corduba, to retain control of it, and Q. Cassius, his deputy, to Hispalis. Within a few days news was brought to him that the corporation of Corduba had revolted from him, and that Marcellus, either of his own free will, or under compulsion — reports varied on this point — was hand in glove with the men of Corduba; and that the two cohorts of the Fifth legion which had formed the garrison force of Corduba were taking a similar line. Incensed by these reports Cassius struck camp, and on the morrow came to Segovia14b on the river Singilis. There he held a parade and sounded the temper of his troops, learning thereby that it was not for his own sake, but for the sake of the absent Caesar that they were entirely loyal to himself, and that there was no hazard they would not face without a murmur, so be they were the means of restoring the province to Caesar.

58 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Thorius led his veteran legions towards Corduba. To avoid the impression that the quarrel had originally arisen from any natural tendency to mutiny on his own part or on that of his troops, and at the same time to counter Q. Cassius — who, as p105it appeared, was operating in the name of Caesar with forces more powerful than his own — with no less weighty an authority, he kept openly asserting that it was for Cn. Pompeius that he wished to recover the province. And it may even be that he did so wish, owing to his hatred for Caesar and affection for Pompey, the latter's name carrying great weight with those legions which M. Varro had held.15 But what his motive was in this was a matter for general conjecture. At any rate that was what Thorius gave out; and his troops acknowledged it to the extent that they had the name of Cn. Pompeius carved on their shields. A vast concourse of citizens came forth to meet the legions, beseeching them not to approach Corduba as enemies and plunder it: they themselves in fact shared in the universal antagonism against Cassius; and they prayed they might not be compelled to act against Caesar.

59 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The tears and entreaties of this vast multitude had no little effect upon the army; it saw too that to punish Cassius it had no need of the name and memory of Cn. Pompeius; that Longinus was equally hateful to all the adherents of Caesar as he was to those of Pompey; and that it could induce neither the citizen corporation of Corduba nor Marcellus to act contrary to Caesar's interest. Accordingly they removed Pompey's name from their shields, adopted Marcellus, who professed his intention to champion Caesar's cause, as their leader and hailed him as praetor, made common cause with the citizen corporation, and pitched their camp near Corduba. Within two days Cassius pitched camp on his side of the river Baetis some four miles distant from Corduba, p107in a lofty position in sight of the town. He sent despatches to king Bogud in Mauretania and to M. Lepidus, the pro‑consul, in Hither Spain, urging each to come as soon as possible to the aid of himself and the province, in the interest of Caesar. He himself laid waste in hostile fashion the territory of Corduba and set buildings ablaze.

60 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The hideous and outrageous character of this action led the legions which had taken Marcellus for their leader to rush to him in a body and beg him that they might be led out to battle and granted an opportunity of engaging the enemy before those most illustrious and beloved possessions of the people of Corduba should suffer the grievous ignominy of being consumed before their very eyes by plunder, fire and sword. Though Marcellus thought it a thousand pities to engage, since the loss sustained by victor and vanquished alike would in either case have repercussions on Caesar, and it lay outside his power to control it, yet he took his legions across the Baetis and drew up his line. On seeing that Cassius had drawn up his line facing him on higher ground in front of his own camp, Marcellus prevailed upon his troops to withdraw to their camp, putting them off with the excuse that the enemy refused to come down into the plain. And so he proceeded to withdraw his forces. Cassius employed his excellent cavalry — in which arm he was strong, and knew Marcellus to be weak — to attack the retreating legionaries, and killed quite a number of their rearguard on the banks of the river. Made aware by this loss of the drawback and difficulty involved in crossing the river, Marcellus transferred his camp to the other side of the Baetis. Now both commanders frequently led p109out their legions to battle; there was, however, no engagement owing to the difficult nature of the ground.

61 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Marcellus was much stronger in infantry forces; for the legions he had were veteran ones, tested in many campaigns. Cassius relied on the loyalty rather than the valour of his legions. Consequently when the two camps had been pitched over against one another and Marcellus had selected a position suitable for a stronghold which might enable him to prevent the enemy troops from getting water, Longinus was afraid of being shut up by a virtual blockade in territory controlled by others and hostile to himself; and so he silently set out from his camp by night and marched swiftly to Ulia, a town which he believed to be loyal to himself. There he pitched his camp so close to the walls of the town that not only its natural position — for Ulia is situated on a lofty mountain — but also the actual fortification of the city made him safe on all sides from assault. Marcellus pursued him and pitched his camp over against the enemy camp as close to Ulia as he could. When he had appreciated the nature of the ground, he had inevitably to resort to the very tactics to which above all he wanted to resort, namely refraining from an engagement — and had there been an opportunity for engaging he could not have held in check his excited troops — and at the same time not allowing Cassius to roam too far afield, to prevent more communities from suffering the fate of the inhabitants of Corduba. By siting strongholds at suitable points and carrying his field-works in a continuous ring round the town, he hemmed in Ulia and Cassius with entrenchments. But before these p111could be completed, Longinus sent out his entire cavalry force, in the belief that it would stand him in very good stead if it stopped Marcellus from collecting fodder and corn, whereas it would prove a great handicap if, shut up by blockade and rendered useless, it used up precious corn.

62 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Within a few days king Bogud, having received Q. Cassius' despatches, arrived with his forces; he had brought one legion with him, and to this he now added several auxiliary cohorts of Spanish troops. For, as usually happens in civil wars, some states in Spain at that time were supporters of Cassius, though a larger number warmly espoused the cause of Marcellus. Bogud and his forces came up to the outer entrenchments of Marcellus: sharp fighting broke out between the two sides, and this recurred at frequent intervals, with the tide of fortune often turning from one side to the other. Marcellus, however, was never dislodged from his field-works.

63 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Lepidus came to Ulia from the nearer province with thirty-five legionary cohorts and a large number of cavalry and other auxiliary troops, his object being to resolve, quite impartially, the dispute between Cassius and Marcellus. On his arrival Marcellus without hesitation put himself confidently into Lepidus' hands. Cassius, on the other hand, remained within his own defences, either because he thought that a greater measure of justice was due to himself than to Marcellus, or else because he was afraid that Lepidus' attitude might have been biased by the deference shown him by his opponent. Lepidus pitched his camp near Ulia, in complete accord with Marcellus. He refused to allow any fighting, invited Cassius to come out, and pledged p113his word to every offer he made. For a long time Cassius was in doubt as to what he should do or what confidence he should place in Lepidus; but as he could find no solution to his policy if he remained steadfast in his decision, he demanded that the entrenchments should be demolished and that he himself should be granted leave to depart unmolested. Not only had a truce been made, but by now a peaceful settlement had been all but arranged, and they were dismantling the fieldworks and the sentries manning the entrenchments had been withdrawn, when, though nobody expected it — if indeed nobody included Cassius, for there was some doubt as to his complicity — the king's auxiliary forces launched an attack upon the stronghold of Marcellus nearest the king's camp, and overpowered a number of troops in it. And had not Lepidus in righteous anger promptly lent his assistance to break up that fray, a greater disaster would have been sustained.

64 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Now that the way lay open to Cassius, Marcellus joined his camp to that of Lepidus. Lepidus and Marcellus then set out with their forces simultaneously for Corduba, Cassius for Carmo. Round about the same time Trebonius came to govern the province as pro‑consul. When Cassius learned of his coming he posted the legions under his command and the cavalry to their various winter-quarters; as for himself, he hurriedly grabbed all his belongings and hastened to Malaca, where he embarked, although the season was unfavourable for navigation. His object, as he personally averred, was to avoid committing himself to Lepidus, Trebonius and Marcellus: as his friends asserted, to avoid the relative humiliation of travelling through a province p115a great part of which had revolted from him: as everyone else believed, to avoid letting that money of his — the proceeds of innumerable robberies — fall into the hands of anyone else. At first he made some headway in weather which, considering it was winter, was favourable; but after he had taken shelter in the river Ebro to avoid sailing by night, the weather then became somewhat stormier; believing, however, that he would run no greater risk if he sailed, he set forth: but what with the swell rolling in head on against the river mouth, and the strong current preventing him from putting about just as the huge waves made it impossible to hold on straight ahead, his ship sank in the very mouth of the river, and so he perished.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 In September 49 B.C. Caesar himself may have doubted the wisdom of this appointment, but Longinus had served him well in the past.

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2 From the sequel described in ch. 56 such appears to be the most likely interpretation of this phrase. The sums were to be entered up in the ledgers as paid out to Longinus as loans.

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3 Or, adopting Schneider's conjecture simulationis causa, 'were included in the lists of the wealthy for the sake of appearances'.

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4 Caesar had allotted him four — the native legion and the Second; and the Twenty-First and Thirtieth (sent from Italy). Whether this Fifth is the same legion as that mentioned in the African and Spanish wars is a very vexed question.

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5 No mention is made of these in the list of Pompey's forces given in Civil Wars III, chs. 3‑5.

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6 cf. ch. 57 below, where the same man is mentioned again as deputy to Longinus: the coincidence of names is confusing.

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7 A town in Baetica, NW of Hispalis, founded by Scipio Africanus and the birthplace of Hadrian and Trajan.

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8 The Berones are mentioned in Livy, fragment 91 as a powerful tribe in Hispania Tarraconensis.

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9 Presumably he tripped and his pursuers were luckier! The alternative rendering 'in the course of flight was overwhelmed amid (a volley of) stones which littered the street' seems barely justified by the Latin expression, though it would perhaps account more satisfactorily for the mention of the stones.

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10 Approximately equivalent to £530 in pre‑war sterling. The interpretation 60,000 'great sesterces' (= £53,000), though permissible, seems less likely.

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11 The sums here referred to appear to be those mentioned in ch. 49, and the meaning seems to be that the outstanding debts were written off in the ledgers as repaid, though in fact Longinus kept the money. But as the two terms expensas and acceptas denote the opposite sides of the ledger, the meaning might conceivably be that the outstanding debts were not merely canceled, but reversed; and that the sums were to be entered up afresh as borrowed from (acceptas), not lent to (expensas), Longinus. He would thus receive them twice over. The following clause perhaps favours this latter interpretation.

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12 These were guilds of Roman citizens associated for purposes of trade in the various provincial towns.

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13 Its exact location is unknown: see Index. Andrieu, however, identifies it with Villaverde, 27 km from Seville.

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14a 14b Its exact location is unknown: see Index.

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15 Both the native and the second legion had served under Varro.

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