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This webpage reproduces part of
Civil Wars

Julius Caesar

Loeb Classical Library

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Civil Wars

Book III (chapters 82‑112)

 p313  82 Pompeius reached Thessaly a few days later, and, haranguing his whole army, thanks his own men and exhorts those of Scipio to consent to share the plunder and prizes of war when once the victory is won, and after getting all the legions into one camp, he shares his official dignity with Scipio and gives orders that the bugle should be sounded before him and a second pavilion erected for his headquarters. By this accession to the forces of Pompeius and the joining of two large armies into one, the old confidence of the troops is confirmed and their hope of victory increased, so that the interval that separated them from battle seemed merely a postponement of their return to Italy; and whenever any action of Pompeius showed some degree of slowness and deliberation, they declared it was only a single day's task, but that he was making the most of his imperial command and treating men of consular and praetorian rank as though they were slaves. Already they openly contended for rewards and priesthoods and apportioned the consulship for successive years, while others clamoured for the houses and property of those who were in Caesar's camp; and it was hotly argued in their discussions whether Lucilius Hirrus, who had been sent by Pompeius to the Parthians, might be allowed to compete in absence at the ensuing election of praetors, his friends imploring Pompeius to keep his word and fulfil the promise he made him at his departure, that people might not think that Hirrus had trusted his authority in vain; the rest objecting to one man's getting the advantage  p315 over all the others, when the labour and the danger had been shared equally.

83 Already Domitius, Scipio, and Lentulus Spinther, in daily rivalry for the priesthood of Caesar, publicly condescended to the gravest insolence of speech, Lentulus parading the distinction of age, Domitius boasting of his urban influence and dignity, Scipio expressing confidence in his kinship with Pompeius. Acutius Rufus also arraigned L. Afranius before Pompeius on a charge of betraying the army, an act which he said had been done in Spain. And L. Domitius said, in a council of war, that it was his view that, when the war was over, there should be given to those who belonged to the senatorial order and had taken part with themselves in the war three tablets apiece for the purpose of recording their vote, and that votes should be given separately about those who had remained at Rome and those who had been in Pompeius' garrisons but had not offered their services in the field: one tablet, they said, would be for those who should decide that such persons should be exempted from all peril, the second for those who should condemn them to loss of civil status, the third for those who should mulct them in a fine. In a word, all were agitating about honours for themselves, or about prizes of money, or about the prosecution of their private quarrels, nor were their reflections concerned with the means by which they could gain the upper hand, but with the way in which they ought to use their victory.

84 When he had arranged for his cornº supply and had encouraged his soldiers and had allowed a sufficient time to elapse after the battles of Dyrrachium to admit of his feeling assured of the temper of his troops, Caesar thought it right to find out what  p317 purpose or what disposition for fighting Pompeius had. And so he led his army out of the camp and drew up his lines, first of all in a position favourable to himself and some little distance from the camp of Pompeius,1 but on subsequent days advancing away from his own camp and pushing his line up to the foot of the hills held by the Pompeians. This action made his army day by day more confident. But in the case of his cavalry he retained his previous custom which we have explained above: since they were many times inferior in number, he gave orders that lightly equipped youths from among the first-rank men, with arms selected with a view to fleetness, should go into battle among the cavalry, so that by daily practice they might win experience in this kind of fighting also. The result of these measures was that one thousand horsemen, even in the more open ground, ventured, with the experience they had gained, to sustain the attack of seven thousand Pompeian horse, and were not greatly terrified by their multitude. For even on those days he fought a successful cavalry skirmish and killed among some others one of the two Allobrogians who, as we explained above, had deserted to Pompeius.

85 Pompeius, who had his camp on the hill, kept drawing up his line on the lowest spurs of the mountain, apparently always waiting to see whether Caesar would approach close up to the unfavourable ground. Caesar, thinking that Pompeius could by no means be enticed out to a battle, judged that his most convenient plan of campaign was to move his camp from that place, and to be always on the march, with the view of getting his supplies more conveniently by moving camp and visiting various  p319 places and at the same time of meeting with some opportunity of fighting on the route, and of wearing out the army of Pompeius, which was unaccustomed to hard work, by daily marches. After making these arrangements, when the signal for starting had now been given and the tents had been unstretched, it was noticed that a little while before, contrary to its daily custom, Pompeius' line had advanced somewhat further from the rampart, so that it seemed possible for a battle to be fought in no disadvantageous position. Then Caesar, addressing his men, when his force was just at the gates, said: "We must put off our march for the present and think of giving battle, as we have always demanded. Let us be prepared in heart for a conflict; we shall not easily hereafter find an opportunity." At once he leads out his troops in light order.

86 Pompeius, too, as was found out afterwards, had determined, with the general encouragement of his men, to fight a pitched battle. For he had gone so far as to assert in the council of war on previous days that Caesar's army would be repulsed before the lines met. When several had expressed their surprise at this: "I know," said he, "that I am promising a thing almost incredible, but listen to the nature of my plan that you may go forth to battle with a stouter heart. I have induced my cavalry — and they have assured me that they will do it — as soon as the two armies have drawn nearer, to attack Caesar's right wing on his open flank, and by surrounding his column from the rear to drive his army in confused rout before a weapon is cast at the foe by us. So we shall finish the war without imperilling the legions and almost without a wound. And this is not difficult, considering that we are so strong in cavalry."  p321 At the same time he urged upon them that they should be strong in spirit for the coming day, and since they had now the opportunity for fighting which they had often demanded, they should not disappoint either his expectation or that of the rest.

87 Labienus followed him. Depreciating Caesar's forces and extolling to the utmost the strategy of Pompeius, he said: "Do not suppose, Pompeius, that this is the army that subdued Gaul and Germany. I was present at all the battles and do not rashly pronounce on a matter of which I am ignorant. A very small part of that army survives; a great part of it has perished — a necessary result of so many battles; autumnal pestilence has destroyed many in Italy; many have departed home; many have been left on the mainland. Have you not heard that cohorts have been composed at Brundisium of those who remained behind on the pretence of ill-health? These forces which you see have been made up from the levies of these last few years in hither Gaul, and most of them come from the Transpadane colonies. And nevertheless all the flower of them has fallen in the two Dyrrachian battles." Having said this, he swore that he would not return to the camp except as conqueror and exhorted the rest to do the same. Pompeius, commending this, took the same oath, nor was there anyone of the rest who hesitated to swear. Such were their proceedings at this council, and they departed with general rejoicing and high expectation. And already in their thoughts they were anticipating the victory, because it did not seem likely that they should receive groundless encouragement on so important a matter and from so experienced a commander.

 p323  88 Caesar, having approached the camp of Pompeius, observed that his line was drawn up as follows: On the left wing were the two legions which had been handed over by Caesar at the beginning of the civil strife by decree of the senate, one of which was called the First, the other the Third. At that place was Pompeius himself. Scipio occupied the middle of the line with the Syrian legions. The Cilician legion, united with the Spanish cohorts, which, as we explained, had been brought over by Afranius, was stationed on the right wing. These legions Pompeius regarded as the strongest under his command. The rest he had interposed between the centre and the wings and had made up the number of one hundred and ten cohorts. These forces amounted to forty-five thousand men, and about two thousand reserves who had come to him from the beneficiaries2 of his former armies; and these he had distributed throughout the whole force. Seven remaining cohorts he had placed on garrison duty in the camp and the neighbouring forts. A stream with difficult banks protected his right wing; for which reason he had stationed his whole cavalry and all his archers and slingers opposite the enemy on the left wing.

89 Caesar, observing his previous custom, had posted his Tenth Legion on the right wing, and his Ninth on the left, though it had been seriously attenuated by the Dyrrachian battles. To this legion he added the Eighth, so that he almost made the two into one, having given orders that the one should support the other. He had eighty cohorts posted in his lines, making a total of twenty-two thousand men; seven cohorts he had left as a protection for the camp.  p325 He had placed Antonius in command on the left wing, P. Sulla on the right, and Gn. Domitius in the centre. He himself confronted Pompeius. At the same time, having noticed the arrangements mentioned above, fearing lest his right wing should be surrounded by the multitude of cavalry, he hastily withdrew individual cohorts from the third line and out of these constructed a fourth line, stationing it opposite the cavalry, explaining what his object was and reminding them that the day's victory depended on the valour of these cohorts. At the same time he commanded the third line and the whole army not to join battle without orders from himself, saying that when he wished this to be done he would give the signal with a flag.

90 When, according to the custom of war, he was exhorting his army to battle, and setting forth his unbroken record of kindness to his men, he particularly reminded them that he could call his troops to witness with what zeal he had sought peace, what negotiations he had conducted through Vatinius in conferences and through Aulus Clodius with Scipio, how at Oricum he had urged Libo about the sending of envoys. He had never, he said, wished to squander the blood of his soldiers or to deprive the republic of either of its armies. After delivering this speech, the soldiers clamouring for action and burning with zeal for the fight, he gave the signal with a trumpet.

91 There was in Caesar's army a reservist, G. Crastinus, who in the previous year had served under him as first centurion in the Tenth Legion, a man of remarkable valour. On the signal being given: "Follow me," said he, you who have been my comrades, and give your commander your wonted loyal service.  p327 This one battle alone remains; when it is over he will recover his dignity and we our liberty." At the same time, looking at Caesar, he says: "To-day, General, I will give you occasion to thank me alive or dead." Having said this, he ran forward first from the right wing, and about one hundred and twenty picked men of the same cohort, serving as volunteers, followed him.

92 Between the two lines there was only as much space left as was necessary for the charge of each army. But Pompeius had previously ordered his men to await Caesar's attack without moving from their position, and to allow his line to fall into disorder. He is said to have done this on the advice of G. Triarius, in order that the first charge and impetus of the troops might be broken and their line spread out, and that so the Pompeians marshalled in their proper ranks might attack a scattered foe. He hoped, too, that the javelins would fall with less effect if the men were kept in their place than if they themselves discharged their javelins and advanced; also that by having a double distance to run Caesar's soldiers would be breathless and overdone with fatigue. Now this seems to us to have been an irrational act on the part of Pompeius, because there is a certain keenness of spirit and impetuosity implanted by nature in all men which is kindled by the ardour of battle. This feeling it is the duty of commanders not to repress but to foster, nor was it without good reason that the custom was instituted of old that signals should sound in every direction and the whole body of men raise a shout, by which means they thought that the enemy were terrified and their own men stimulated.

93 But when our men on the giving of the signal, had  p329 run forward with javelins levelled and had observed that the Pompeians were not advancing against them, profiting by the experience they had gained in former battles, they spontaneously checked their speed and halted in about the middle of the space, so that they might not approach the foe with their vigour exhausted; and after a brief interval, again renewing their rapid advance, they discharged their javelins and quickly drew their swords, according to Caesar's directions. Nor indeed did the Pompeians fail to meet the emergency. For they parried the shower of missiles and withstood the attack of the legions without breaking their ranks, and after discharging their javelins had recourse to their swords. At the same time the horse on Pompeius' left wing, according to orders, charged in a body, and the whole multitude of archers poured forth. Our cavalry, failing to withstand their attack, gradually quitted their position and retired. Pompeius' cavalry pressed forward all the more eagerly, and deploying by squadrons began to surround our lines on their exposed flank. Caesar, observing it, gave the signal to his fourth line, which he had composed of six cohorts. These advanced rapidly and with colours flying attacked Pompeius' horse with such fury that not one of them stood his ground, and all, wheeling round, not only quitted the position but forthwith in hurried flight made for the highest hills. When these were dislodged all the archers and slingers, left defenceless, without support, were slain. With the same onslaught the cohorts surrounded the left wing, the Pompeians still fighting and continuing their resistance in their lines, and attacked them in the rear.

94 At the same time Caesar ordered the third line, which had been undisturbed and up to that time had  p331 retained its position, to advance. So, as they had come up fresh and vigorous in place of the exhausted troops, while others were attacking in the rear, the Pompeians could not hold their ground and turned to flight in mass. Nor was Caesar wrong in thinking that the victory would originate with those cohorts which had been posted opposite the cavalry in the fourth line, as he had himself stated in exhorting his troops; for it was by them that the cavalry was first repulsed, by them that the archers and slingers were slaughtered, by them that the Pompeian force was surrounded on the left and the rout first started. But Pompeius, when he saw his cavalry beaten back and that part of his force in which he had most confidence panic-stricken, mistrusting the rest also, left the field and straightway rode off to the camp. To the centurions whom he had placed on duty at the praetorian gate he exclaimed in a loud voice that the troops might hear: "Protect the camp and defend it carefully if anything goes amiss. I am going round the other gates and encouraging the guards of the camp." Having said this, he betook himself to the general's headquarters, mistrusting his fortunes and yet waiting to see the issue.

95 When the Pompeians were driven in flight within the rampart, Caesar, thinking that no respite should be given them in their terror, urged his men to take advantage of the kindness of fortune and attack the camp. And though fatigued by the great heat, for the action had been prolonged till noon, they nevertheless obeyed his command, with a spirit ready for every toil. The camp was being zealously defended by the cohorts which had been left there on guard, and much more keenly still by the Thracians and barbaric auxiliaries. For the soldiers who had fled  p333 from the battlefield panic-stricken in spirit and exhausted by fatigue, many of them having thrown away their arms and their military standards, were thinking more of further flight than of the defence of the camp. Nor could those who had planted themselves on the rampart stand up any longer against the multitude of javelins, but, worn out by wounds, quitted their position, and forthwith all, following the guidance of centurions and military tribunes, fled for refuge to some very lofty hills that stretched up to the camp.

96 In the camp of Pompeius one might see bowers constructed, a great weight of silver plate set out, soldiers' huts laid with freshly cut turf, and those of Lucius Lentulus and some others covered over with ivy, and many other indications of excessive luxury and confidence of victory, so that it could easily be supposed that they had felt no fear about the issue of the day, inasmuch as they sought out unnecessary indulgences. Yet these men kept taunting Caesar's most wretched and long-suffering army with luxurious indulgence, though it had always lacked every article of necessary use. When our men were now circulating within the rampart, Pompeius, procuring a horse and tearing off his insignia as Imperator, flung himself out of the camp by the decuman gate and, putting spurs to his horse, hurried straight off to Larisa. Nor did he halt there, but, coming across a few of his men in flight, with undiminished speed, not stopping his course at night, arrives at the sea with a retinue of thirty horsemen and embarks on board a corn-ship, often complaining, as it was said, that his expectations had been so utterly falsified that it almost seemed as if he had been betrayed, the flight having originated with that particular  p335 part of his force from which he had hoped for the victory.

97 Caesar having got possession of the camp urgently demands of his men not to let slip an opportunity of completing their task through absorption in plunder. Having gained his object, he begins to surround the hill with earthworks. The Pompeians, as the hill had no water supply, distrusting the position, began to withdraw in mass by its ridges towards Larisa. Caesar, observing this, divided his forces and ordered a part of the legions to remain in Pompeius' camp, and sent back part to his own camp; four legions he took with him and began to advance against the Pompeians by a more convenient route, and when he had proceeded four miles drew up his line. On observing this the Pompeians halted on a certain hill. The foot of this was washed by the river. Caesar exhorted his troops, and then, although they were worn out by the continuous toil of a whole day, and night was now coming on, nevertheless cut off the river from the hill by a line of fortification, so that the Pompeians might be unable to get water at night. When this work was concluded the enemy sent a deputation and began to treat of surrender. A few men of the senatorial order who had joined them sought safety in flight at nightfall.

98 At early dawn Caesar ordered all those who had taken up their position on the hill to come down from the higher ground to the plain and to throw down their arms. When they did this without demur and, flinging themselves on the ground in tears, with outstretched hands begged him for safety, he consoled them and bade them rise, and addressing a few words to them about his own lenity to lessen their fears, preserved them all safe and commended them  p337 to his soldiers, urging that none of them should be injured and that they should not find any of their property missing. After this exercise of care he ordered the other legions to come from the camp and join him, and those which had been under his command to take rest in their turn and to return to the camp, and on the same day he arrived at Larisa.

99 In this battle he lost not more than two hundred from the ranks, but about thirty brave centurions. Also Crastinus, whom we have mentioned above, was slain by a sword-stroke in his face while fighting with the utmost bravery. Nor did the remark which he had made when starting out for the fight prove false, for Caesar was of opinion that the valour of Crastinus in that battle had been most remarkable, and judged that he had rendered him a great service. Of the Pompeian army about fifteen thousand appeared to have fallen, but more than twenty-four thousand surrendered, for even the cohorts which had been on garrison duty in the forts surrendered to Sulla; many besides fled to the neighbouring communities. There were brought to Caesar from the battle one hundred and eighty military standards and nine eagles. L. Domitius in his flight from the camp to the mountain was slain by the cavalry, his strength having failed him from fatigue.

100 At the same time D. Laelius reached Brundisium with the fleet and occupied the island lying over against the Brundisian port, as we have shown that Libo did previously. In the same way Vatinius, who was in charge of Brundisium, having covered over with a deck and carefully equipped some rowing-boats, enticed out the ships of Laelius and captured in the narrows of the harbour one quinquereme which had been brought out too far and two smaller  p339 ones and also by placing pickets of cavalry here and there took measures to prevent the sailors from getting water. But Laelius, finding the time of year more suitable for navigation, brought up supplies of water for his men from Corcyra and Dyrrachium in merchant-vessels, and, until news was brought of the battle fought in Thessaly, he was not deterred from his purpose, nor could he be driven to leave the port and the island either by the disgrace of losing his ships or by the want of necessaries.

101 About the same time G. Cassius came to Sicily with the Syrian, Phoenician, and Cilician fleets, and as Caesar's fleet was divided into two parts, the praetor P. Sulpicius at Vibo being in command of one half, and M. Pomponius at Messana of the other, Cassius hurried with his ships to Messana before Pomponius could learn of his approach, and finding him in a state of disorganization, with no surveillance and no fixed order of battle, with the aid of a strong and favourable wind he sent against the fleet of Pomponius some merchant-ships loaded with pine, pitch, tow, and other combustibles and burnt all thirty-five ships, of which twenty were decked. Such terror was caused by this action that, though there was a legion on guard at Messana, the town was scarcely defended, and had not some news of Caesar's victory been brought, just at that time, by relays of horsemen, many were of opinion that it would have been lost. But news having most opportunely arrived, the town was defended. Cassius departed thence to Vibo to the Sulpician fleet, and our ships having been moored to the shore in the same way as before, Cassius, with the advantage of a favourable wind, sent down some merchant-vessels prepared for burning, and the fleet having caught  p341 fire on each wing, five ships were consumed. And when the fire, through the greatness of the wind, spread more widely, some soldiers on the sick list, who had been left from the veteran legions to guard the ships, could not brook the ignominy, but of their own accord boarded the ships and let loose from the land; and making an attack on the Cassian fleet, they captured two quinqueremes, in one of which was Cassius himself, but he was taken off by a boat and escaped; besides this two triremes were sunk. And not long after news arrived of the battle fought in Thessaly, the result being that the Pompeians themselves believed it, for up to that time they thought it was an invention of Caesar's envoys and friends. So these events having become known, Cassius departed with his fleet from this district.

102 Caesar thought it right to put aside everything else and follow Pompeius, into whatever parts he should have betaken himself in his flight, that he might not be able again to collect other forces and to renew the war: he advanced every day as great a distance as he could cover with his cavalry, and ordered one legion to follow by shorter marches. An edict had been issued at Amphipolis in the name of Pompeius that all the youths of that province, whether Greeks or Roman citizens, should assemble to take the oath. But no opinion could be formed whether Pompeius had proposed this to avert suspicion, in order that he might keep his purpose of a distant flight concealed as long as possible, or that with the new levies he might attempt to hold Macedonia, if no one checked him. He himself stopped there one night at anchor, and after inviting his friends at Amphipolis to a conference and collecting money for necessary expenses,  p343 on receiving news of Caesar's approach he quitted that place and in a few days arrived at Mytilenae. Detained there for two days by rough weather, after adding to his fleet other small craft he came to Cilicia and thence to Cyprus. There he learns that, by the consent of all the people of Antioch and of the Roman citizens engaged in business there, arms had been taken up for the purpose of excluding him, and that messages had been sent to those who were said to have betaken themselves in flight to the neighbouring townships bidding them not to go to Antioch. If they did so, they were told, it would be at great peril of their lives. The same thing had happened at Rhodes to L. Lentulus, who had been consul the previous year, to P. Lentulus, an ex-consul, and to some others, who, when they were following Pompeius in flight and had come to the island, had not been allowed admittance in the town and the harbour, and on messages being sent to them to quit these parts, had weighed anchor contrary to their intention. And already a report of Caesar's approach was being conveyed to the communities.

103 Ascertaining these facts, Pompeius gave up his idea of visiting Syria, took the funds belonging to the association of tax-farmers, borrowed money from certain private persons, and deposited on shipboard a great weight of bronze coinage for the use of the soldiers; and having armed two thousand men, partly those whom he had selected from the households of the tax-farmers, partly those whom he had requisitioned from the merchants and those of their own men whom each owner judged to be fit for the purpose, arrived at Pelusium. There by chance was King Ptolomaeus, a boy in years, waging war with large forces against his sister Cleopatra, whom a few  p345 months before he had expelled from the throne by the help of his relations and friends. The camp of Cleopatra was not far distant from his camp. To him Pompeius sent begging to be received in Alexandria and supported in his calamity by the king's resources, in remembrance of the hospitality and friendship that he had shown his father. But his messengers, having fulfilled the duty of their embassy, began to converse more freely with the king's soldiers and to exhort them to show their dutiful loyalty to Pompeius, and not to despise his fortunes. In the number of these men were very many soldiers of Pompeius, whom Gabinius had taken over from his army in Syria and had transported to Alexandria, and on the conclusion of the war had left them with Ptolomaeus, the youth's father.

104 Then, on learning of these proceedings, the king's friends, who, on account of his youth, were in charge of the kingdom, whether moved by fear, as they afterwards gave out, lest Pompeius should seize on Alexandria and Egypt after tampering with the royal army, or because they despised his fortunes, according to the common rule that in misfortune friends become enemies, gave in public a generous reply to his messengers and bade him visit the king, but themselves formed a secret plot, and sent Achillas, the king's prefect, a man of singular audacity, and L. Septimius, a military tribune, to assassinate Pompeius. And he, being courteously addressed by them and being lured forth by some previous knowledge of Septimius, because he had been a centurion under him in the pirate war, embarked in a little boat with a few of his friends, and is thereupon assassinated by Achillas and Septimius. L. Lentulus is also arrested by the king and slain in prison.

 p347  105 On Caesar's arrival in Asia he found that T. Ampius had attempted to remove sums of money from Ephesus from the temple of Diana, and that with this object he had summoned all the senators from the province, that he might employ them as witnesses in reference to the amount of the sum, but that he had fled when interrupted by Caesar's arrival. So on two occasions Caesar saved the Ephesian funds. Also it was established, by going back and calculating the dates, that at Elis in the temple of Minerva, on the very day on which Caesar had fought his successful battle, the image of Victory, which had been placed in front of Minerva herself and had previously looked towards the image of Minerva, had turned itself towards the folding-doors and threshold of the temple. And on the same day at Antioch in Syria so great a clamour of a host and a noise of trumpetings had twice been heard that the body of citizens rushed about in arms on the walls. The same thing happened at Ptolomais. At Pergamum in the secret and concealed parts of the temple, whither no one but the priests is allowed to approach, which the Greeks call ἄδυτα, there was a sound of drums. Also at Tralles in the temple of Victory, where they had dedicated a statue of Caesar, a palm was pointed out as having grown up during those days from the pavement between the joints of the stones.

106 When Caesar, after lingering a few days in Asia, had heard that Pompeius had been seen in Cyprus, conjecturing that he was on his way to Egypt because of his ties with the kingdom and the further advantages of the place, he went to Alexandria with one legion which he had ordered to follow him from Thessaly and another which he had summoned  p349 out of Achaea from his legate Q. Fufius, and also with eight hundred horse and with ten warships from Rhodes and a few from Asia. In these legions there were about three thousand two hundred men; the rest, worn out by wounds received in battle and by their toil and the severity of their march, had been quite unable to follow. But Caesar, trusting in the report of his exploits, had not hesitated to advance with weak supports, thinking that every place would be equally safe for him. At Alexandria he learns of the death of Pompeius, and there immediately on landing he hears the shouting of the soldiers whom the king had left in the town on garrison duty and sees them hurrying to meet him, because the fasces were being carried in front of him. Hereby the whole multitude asserted that the royal authority was being infringed. When this tumult was appeased frequent disturbances took place on successive days from the gathering of the multitude, and many soldiers were killed in all parts of this town.

107 Observing these events, he ordered other legions which he had made up out of the Pompeian troops to be brought him from Asia. For he was himself compulsorily detained by the etesian winds, which blow directly counter to those sailing from Alexandria. Meanwhile, thinking that the controversies of the princes affected the Roman people and himself as consul, and concerned his functions all the more because in his previous consulship an alliance had been formed with the elder Ptolomaeus both by legislative enactment and by decree of the senate, he declares that it is his pleasure that King Ptolomaeus and his sister Cleopatra should disband the armies that they controlled, and should settle their  p351 disputes by process of law before himself rather than by armed force between themselves.

108 On account of the king's youth his tutor, a eunuch named Pothinus, was in charge of the kingdom. He at first began to complain among his friends and express his indignation that the king should be summoned to plead his cause; then, finding certain persons among the king's friends to abet his plot, he secretly summoned the army from Pelusium to Alexandria and put the same Achillas, whom we have mentioned above, in command of all the forces. This man, puffed up as he was by his own and the king's promises, he urged to action, and informed him by letter and messenger what he wished to be done. In the will of their father Ptolomaeus the elder of the two sons and the elder of the two daughters were inscribed as heirs. In the same will Ptolomaeus adjured the Roman people in the name of all the gods and of the treaties which he had made at Rome to carry out these provisions. One copy of the will had been taken to Rome by his envoys to be placed in the treasury, but had been deposited with Pompeius because it had not been possible to place it there owing to the embarrassments of the state; a second duplicate copy was left sealed for production at Alexandria.

109 When these matters were being dealt with by Caesar, and he was particularly desirous of settling the disputes of the princes as a common friend and arbitrator, word is suddenly brought that the royal army and all the cavalry are on their way to Alexandria. Caesar's forces were by no means so large that he could trust them if he had to fight outside the town. It remained that he should keep in his own position in the town and learn the intentions of  p353 Achillas. But he ordered all his men to stand by their arms, and exhorted the king to send to Achillas those of his friends whom he judged to be of chief authority and to explain what his intentions were. Accordingly Dioscorides and Serapion, who had both been envoys at Rome and had possessed great influence with his father Ptolomaeus, were commissioned by the king and came to Achillas. And when they had come into his presence, before hearing them or learning for what reason they had been sent he ordered them to be arrested and killed. And one of them, having received a wound, was promptly snatched away by his friends and carried off for dead; the other was slain. After this deed Caesar manages to bring the king under his own control, because he thinks that the king's title had great weight with his subjects, and in order to make it apparent that the war had been undertaken on the private initiative of a small clique and a set of brigands rather than on that of the king.

110 The forces with Achillas were not such as to seem contemptible in respect of number or grade of men or experience in warfare. For he had twenty thousand men under arms. These consisted of soldiers of Gabinius who had habituated themselves to Alexandrian life and licence and had unlearnt the name and discipline of the Roman people and married wives by whom very many of them had children. To them were added men collected from among the freebooters and brigands of Syria and the province of Cilicia and the neighbouring regions; also many condemned criminals and exiles had joined them. All our own fugitive slaves had a sure place of refuge at Alexandria, and assurance of their lives on the condition of giving in their names and being on the army roll; and if any one of them was  p355 arrested by his owner he would be rescued by the common consent of the soldiery, who repelled violence done to their comrades as a peril to their own selves, since they were all alike involved in similar guilt. These men had been in the habit of demanding for execution the friends of the princes, of plundering the property of the rich, of besetting the king's palace to secure an increase of pay, of driving one man from the throne and summoning another to fill it, after an ancient custom of the Alexandrian army. There were besides two thousand cavalry. All these had grown old in the numerous wars at Alexandria, had restored the elder Ptolomaeus to the throne, had killed the two sons of Bibulus, had waged war with the Egyptians. Such was their experience in warfare.

111 Achillas, trusting in these forces and despising the small number of Caesar's troops, was trying to occupy Alexandria, except that part of the town which Caesar held with his troops, though at the first assault he had endeavoured to burst into his house; but Caesar, placing cohorts about the streets, held his attack in check. And at the same time a battle was fought at the port, and this affair produced by far the most serious fighting. For at one and the same time a battle was going on with scattered forces in several streets and the enemy were attempting in great numbers to seize the warships, of which fifty had been sent to the support of Pompeius and had returned home after the battle in Thessaly, all of them quadriremes and quinqueremes fitted and equipped with everything necessary for navigation, and, besides these, twenty-two which had usually been on duty at Alexandria, all of them decked. And if they had seized these, by robbing Caesar of  p357 his fleet they would have the harbour and the whole seaboard in their control and would shut off Caesar from supplies and reinforcements. Consequently the struggle was fought with the intense eagerness that was bound to occur when the one side saw a speedy victory, the other their own safety, depending on the event. But Caesar gained his purpose. He burnt all those ships and the rest that were in the docks, because he could not protect so wide an extent with his small force, and at once he embarked his men and landed them on Pharos.

112 On the island there is a tower called Pharos, of great height, a work of wonderful construction, which took its name from the island. This island, lying over against Alexandria, makes a harbour, but it is connected with the town by a narrow roadway like a bridge, piers nine hundred feet in length having been thrown out seawards by former kings. On this island there are dwelling-houses of Egyptians and a settlement the size of a town, and any ships that went a little out of their course there through carelessness or rough weather they were in the habit of plundering like pirates. Moreover, on account of the narrowness of the passage there can be no entry for ships into the harbour without the consent of those who are in occupation of Pharos. Caesar, now fearing such difficulty, landed his troops when the enemy was occupied in fighting, and seized Pharos and placed a garrison on it. The result of these measures was that corn and reinforcements could be safely conveyed to him on shipboard. For he sent messengers to all the neighbouring provinces and summoned reinforcements from them. In the remaining parts of the town the result of the fighting was that they separated after an indecisive engagement and neither  p359 side was beaten, the reason of this being the narrowness of the space; and a few men having been slain on both sides, Caesar drew a cordon round the most necessary positions and strengthened the defences by night. In this region of the town there was a small part of the palace to which he had been at first conducted for his personal residence, and a theatre was attached to the house which took the place of a citadel, and had approaches to the port and to the other docks. These defences he increased on subsequent days so that they might take the place of a wall as a barrier against the foe, and that he might not be obliged to fight against his will. Meanwhile the younger daughter of King Ptolomaeus, hoping to have the vacated tenure of the throne, removed herself from the palace to join Achillas, and began to conduct the war with him. But there quickly arose a controversy between them about the leadership, an event which increased the bounties to the soldiers, for each strove separately to win their favour by large sacrifices. While this was going on among the enemy, Pothinus, the young king's tutor and controller of the kingdom, in Caesar's part of the town, while sending messengers to Achillas and exhorting him not to slacken in the business nor to fail in spirit, was slain by Caesar, his messengers having been informed against and arrested. This was the beginning of the Alexandrian war.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 See plan of the battle of Pharsalus.

[image ALT: A map of Pharsalus.]
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2 Soldiers of various grades who had owed their advancement to the personal interest of the general: cp. I.75.

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