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Chapter XV

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Rome
by
Tenney Frank

published by
Henry Holt and Company
New York 1923

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter XVII

 p272  Chapter XVI

The First "Triumvirate"

Petty politics. The next year was one of waiting for Pompey's dreaded return. Near the end of the year Pompey landed in Italy and nothing happened. In fact he disbanded the army at once to allay all fears. In the autumn of 61 he celebrated his triumph. Huge "floats" displayed his booty, and inscribed banners proclaimed his deeds stating that he had subdued fourteen nations, captured a thousand forts, 900 towns, and 800 ships, that he brought back 20,000 talents to the treasury and had increased the annual revenue by 35 million sesterces. The day after the triumph the period of his decline began; for he was now to engage in political battles with men who easily outgeneraled him. He at once asked the Senate to accept his reports, confirm his dispositions and settlements in Asia, and give his sorely tried veterans a "bonus" in the form of land. The Senate, remembering Pompey's apostasy in 70, and egged on by Lucullus, decided to make him wait a while. He seemed less formidable now that he had disbanded his army. Cicero, who hoped to keep the two upper orders on good terms (his concordia ordinum, which he mentions so frequently) and who wished also to rescue the great Pompey for his coalition, was on the point of reconciling Pompey and the Senate, when Crassus, acting for himself and Caesar — now propraetor in Spain — played the political game so skilfully that the concordia broke up in petty quarrels, and Pompey was left in lone splendor without party or friends. Crassus first urged the equestrian companies to demand from the Senate a large reimbursement on the ground of having suffered heavy losses in their tax collections owing to crop failures. Such requests were regular,  p273 but Crassus asked for an impossible sum, knowing that the Senate felt strong enough to refuse. This, despite Cicero's urgent efforts at settlement, led to an open quarrel. Meanwhile Crassus urged the knights to stand their ground, hinting that Caesar on his return would satisfy them. So the concordia broke. Crassus was capable of even pettier tricks. To illustrate, when Pompey had entered the Senate for the first time after his return expecting an ovation, Crassus surprised everyone by rising to make a speech in which, completely ignoring Pompey, he lauded Cicero's administration to the skies. Cicero, falling into the trap, arose and disregarding Pompey, discoursed at length about himself. Pompey left the house in disgust, and the incipient intimacy between Pompey and Cicero chilled into unfriendly suspicions. Such were the little incidents that kept parties crumbling under Crassus' skilful management until Caesar should return and find everything ready for his management.

During his year in Spain Caesar had not distinguished himself for devotion to duty as governor. He sought occasion for wars on tribes still not subdued. Probably he was most interested in gaining experience at warfare; possibly he also counted on restoring his depleted estate by selling booty. At least he came back a wealthier man. On his journey through lower Gaul to Spain he made some observations that set his fecund imagination to conceiving of great possibilities for his own future. He returned in 60 just in time for the elections, entered the canvass for the consulship, and won with ease. The equites had suspected him during the conspiracy of Catiline, but the suggestions of Crassus, who was always intimate with them, had won over many. At any rate, they refused to vote for candidates that bore the approval of the Senate. The populace admired the reckless courage of the young patrician, who was always ready to be impudent to the Senate. With such support his election was easy.

Caesar's political coalition. To secure what he desired  p274 next, an important command such as Pompey had held, might be more difficult. Carrying laws required overcoming the combined strength of antagonists united in their opposition, whereas winning the election had meant only overcoming opponents that were pulling apart. He, therefore, made overtures to the most powerful men, urging them to combine in unified action. He promised the knights the remission of the contract money which they had asked for in vain. Crassus was of course their spokesman. To Pompey he promised the soldiers' bonuses, though in the form of a general colonial law which would also attract the good-will of the populace; and he promised him also the validation of his acts and decrees. Caesar also approached Cicero with tentative offers, promising him that if he got his support, he would act regularly through the Senate and propose nothing offensive to Cicero. Crassus and Pompey accepted the offers. Cicero did not. He knew too well that any secret agreement between such powerful men was subversive of liberty, and that he would soon be maneuvered into some delicate position where he would lose his independence, or where, if he tried to obstruct, he would be exposed and dropped with his honor and influence destroyed. So the secret arrangement that has been called "the first triumvirate" was made without Cicero. Crassus and Pompey, who since Sullan days hated each other, agreed for policy's sake to make the best of each other's presence. Needless to say, Caesar, who knew how to work with both, led them the more easily for their hostility to each other.

Caesar's consulship. On January first 59 B.C. Caesar entered upon his office with Bibulus as his colleague, a stubborn but slow-minded conservative. His secret promises and his own plans entailed a large program of legislation for the year. By using the support of Pompey and Crassus and by striving hard to regain the friendship of Cicero, who was always ready to be reasonable, he hoped to be able to employ  p275 constitutional forms, and have his proposals adopted by the Senate before they were offered to the assembly. As a preliminary measure he ordered minutes of the Senate and assembly kept and published. Hitherto only completed business had gone into the records. Since the Senate's sessions were closed to the public no one had learned anything about proposals that were lost or about the nature of the debate. The senators indeed were not elected representatives of the people and saw no reason why their words should be amenable to general scrutiny. Caesar's order angered them not a little, for they felt that every word spoken would now be revealed and that Caesar's intention was merely to compel them to favor populistic measures.

Caesar's first reform bill was a revised version of the Rullan agrarian law, so drawn as to make it possible for the commission to give preference to Pompey's soldiers in assigning lands. It was still unsound economically in that it perpetuated the practice of evicting desirable tenants for the benefit of the undeserving, and the dangerous custom of paying soldiers in the form of bonuses instead of adequate stipends, but the powers of the commissioners were reasonably limited, and the bill contained no vague possibilities of a large command for Caesar. The Senate, however, would not hear of it, and Bibulus used all of a consul's power to obstruct its passage. Caesar could not even get a vote on the measure in the Senate, though Pompey and Crassus came out openly in its support. Caesar then declared that he would accept in full the democratic interpretation of the constitution, disregard the Senate, and act entirely through the popular assembly. When the bill was proposed to the assembly, the Senate secured the services of a tribune to veto it, and threatened that if the veto were disregarded the Senate would pass the "last decree" and call upon the government to suppress revolution by force. Caesar answered by summoning Pompey to speak. The great general rose solemnly and declared that he was ready  p276 to meet force with force. This terrifying utterance could only mean that Pompey would summon his veterans and that civil war would result. The Senate was cowed. When Bibulus and his tribune pronounced their vetoes, Caesar ordered them off to prison, and the vote was taken. Most of the senatorial leaders read in this procedure the death warrant of the Republic and withdrew from Rome. Cicero, who had labored in vain for a peaceful compromise, also withdrew. And the "triumvirs" continued to enact the rest of their program, while Bibulus went assiduously through the futile form of pronouncing each bill in turn invalid. It was less than ten years after this event that Caesar crossed the Rubicon on the pretext of defending the rights of the tribune's veto.

Now in quick succession the assembly complied with Caesar's requests to confirm Pompey's acts in Asia, and to make a remission to the equestrian companies of a third of their contract sum of two years ago. Never before had such administrative measures been passed by any body but the Senate. Then also Caesar found an opportunity to get his reward in the form of a desirable province. Metellus Celer, the proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul, had died in February. Here was a province of great value to a man like Caesar, who knew its possibilities, and he asked for the assembly to assign him to this position and for a term of five years. The request seemed exceedingly modest, for it had been expected that Caesar would rather covet a position in the famous East, which was filled with rich cities that might be exploited. Cisalpine Gaul was largely settled by peaceful Italian farmers who could not possibly be governed in a lucrative fashion. But Caesar had passed through Further Gaul with observant eyes. He knew that it would offer vast military opportunities, since Aeduan envoys had informed him that the Helvetii were preparing to migrate westwards and that Ariovistus, the German, was bringing hordes of his countrymen into Gaul. The Senate, glad  p277 enough to see Caesar concerned in such border problems among barbarians, added Transalpine Gaul to his assignment with an additional legion in case the frontier should need protection. They may have reasoned that they would retain some hold upon his action if he accepted a part of the province from them.

Later in the spring Caesar brought in a new agrarian bill which proposed to distribute the fertile public land of Campania to about twenty thousand colonists, the recipients to be families that had at least three children. It is likely that the commission had found less land for sale than it had expected, most of the available lands having been used in satisfying Pompey's soldiers. The new measure was especially opposed by those who concerned themselves for the income due the treasury, but it is not impossible that Caesar preferred to see the government in financial straits. The bill of course was quickly adopted by the people.

Having paid his political debts and having won the province he desired, Caesar laid plans for the future, and that his plans were extensive appears from the fact that like any eastern autocrat he arranged a series of family alliances on a political basis. His own charming daughter Julia he betrothed to Pompey. Having two years before divorced his wife with the explanation that "Caesar's wife must be above suspicion," he now married Calpurnia, the daughter of Piso, who had been selected as his successor in the consulship. This may be called the beginning of "dynastic marriages" at Rome. It must be admitted that both marriages were what novelists are wont to call "happy."

But there was one more important disposition to make. Caesar did not feel entirely safe in leaving Cato and Cicero behind him at Rome. Cato was irrepressible and implacable and might some day take advantage of some accident to become popular. Caesar decided to have him sent on a mission abroad that would keep him busy for a time. Cicero  p278 was broken in spirit and less likely to lead a revolt, but Cicero was still deeply imbued with a strange boyhood respect for Pompey, and never ceased to hope that he might some day rescue his one‑time hero from his present associations. And since Pompey was rather emotional, and fitfully sensitive to appeals to his sense of honor, there was danger that Cicero might succeed.

There was an easy remedy if Caesar would stoop to apply it. He knew that the populace would willingly exile Cicero by way of an example for having acted upon the hated "last decree" three years before. There was a bitter enemy of Cicero's at Rome, a desperate politician by the name of Clodius, who hated Cicero because the orator had furnished damaging evidence against him in a recent trial. Clodius desired to become a democratic leader, and aspired to the tribuneship for that purpose. It was an open secret that his first act as tribune would be to get his revenge upon Cicero. The one obstacle in his path was that, as a patrician, Clodius would first have to induce the curiate assembly to permit his adoption into some plebeian family and this Caesar, fearing the reckless behavior of the man, had as pontifex maximus so far prevented. One day, however, after Cicero had expressed himself openly and bitterly against the "triumvirs," Caesar lost his patience and helped Clodius at the rites of adoption. This move of Caesar's was calculated to stop further criticism, but he again made overtures to Cicero, offering him a place on his staff. Cicero refused to sell his freedom. Caesar then allowed Clodius to stand for the tribuneship, and thinking that the orator was now sufficiently cowed he made a new offer. Cicero again declined. Then Clodius was permitted to work his will. Such were Caesar's methods.

In all of Caesar's acts during the consulship, there is evidence of remarkable power over the populace, of an unusual cleverness in the manipulation of men and parties, of endless courage, and brilliant political tactics, but  p279 for one law there appears very little promise of the splendid statesmanship that he revealed in his later years. The one exception was a law for the improvement of provincial government, a measure that was worthy of the best traditions of Republican Rome. Of this lex Julia repetundarum, we have only some scraps left, but these at least disclose its persistent thoroughness. With its more than one hundred subheads the law aimed to protect citizens, subjects, and allies alike from all the possible abuses practised by the Roman promagistrates. It greatly circumscribed the dues that could be collected for army supplies, and penalized the governor's acceptance of gifts. It defined the governor's duties precisely, forbidding him to conduct diplomatic business with foreign states, to wage war, or cross the borders of his province without specific orders. It commanded the governor also to keep and deposit three copies of his official record for public inspection, two in provincial cities and one at Rome. Here one finds that scientific and legal tendency that Rome later came to look for in Caesar. What a brilliant plan of government he might have laid down during his consulship while he was wasting his time in settling political scores! As it was he departed to his province hated and dreaded by all lovers of republican institutions, proceeding at once to break several clauses of his own provincial code.

Before Caesar departed, however, the hot‑headed Clodius became tribune and carried some demagogic measures which were generally supposed to have received Caesar's assent if not hearty approval. Clubs (collegia), originally formed as burial‑aid societies, social workingmen's clubs and the like, which had been abolished by law in 64 because they had come to be used and abused by politicians, were again authorized. Clodius knew how to use them to advantage, as the sequel shows. A few casks of wine sent to each "lodge" with his compliments a week or two before election were effective in bringing out the desired vote. Clodius  p280 also had the effrontery to offer and pass a bill providing that the grain hitherto distributed at a low price should henceforth be absolutely free. This measure alone is said to have cost the state 20 per cent of its income. Caesar cannot quite escape the suspicion of having been willing to see the treasury empty. At any rate, when he crossed the Rubicon later it advantaged him not a little that the Senate was in hard financial straits.

Cicero banished. The month of March 58 was now well on and Caesar was needed in his province; for, as he knew, the Helvetians were due to start on the 28th. But Cicero was still at large and refused to be silenced by a bribe. So Caesar gave Clodius the right of way. The tribune offered a bill outlawing "anyone who had put to death a Roman citizen without trial." The law, as everyone knew, referred to Cicero. It was of no use for senators to urge that Cicero's act in executing the conspirators was wholly constitutional. The Senate's interpretation of the law was simply not accepted by the populace, and Caesar when asked answered that he held the same views now as in 63. Cicero appealed to Pompey, who had before given his pledge that he should not suffer for the deed of 63. But Pompey suddenly found that his power was completely gone, forfeited by his coalition with Caesar. There was nothing for Cicero to do but leave the city he had saved. When he had left, a new plebiscite declared the banishment to be legally in operation; Cicero's property was confiscated and the Clodian mob set to work and wrecked the exile's house on the Palatine. Caesar's position now seemed safe, and he disappeared at once for his province.

Caesar in Gaul. While Caesar was hurrying his last arrangements at Rome the Helvetians were packing their baggage and preparing to migrate into western Gaul. To avoid the danger of being cut up by the Gauls while defiling through the narrow pass between the Rhone and the Jura mountains they planned to cross the Rhone at Geneva and  p281 traverse the first thirty miles of the journey inside the Roman province. Caesar knew all this, and he also knew that Rome was not in the habit of permitting armies to use her provinces as short-cuts in their invasions. He probably could have stopped the movement by a brief order. Instead he kept silent and ordered his four legions to the point of danger. When finally the decree banishing Cicero had been passed he also set out himself, traversing about 700 miles in eight days, a strenuous ride for one who had spent the past year in the Forum. When the Helvetii attempted to cross in the face of his army he of course obstructed the fords, and secured at the same time a much desired pretext for pursuing the tribes, which had thus committed an overt act of war. Again he could probably have seized the pass and prevented the exit of the enemy, but he waited till they had passed into Gaul, and were devastating the fields of the Aedui, who had long before been recognized as "friends" of Rome. Now on the basis of a senatus consultum of two years before he had the right to "protect the Aedui, the friends and brothers of Rome." In his "Commentaries" he adds the reasonable consideration that a migration of such a horde to Aquitania would inevitably endanger the safety of the far distant regions of Narbonese Gaul and of the Spanish province. He accordingly followed the migrants well into Gaul, drew them into a battle in a position of his own choosing, and thoroughly defeated them. He sent the remnants back home, lest the Germans should fill the vacated country and become a menace to the province. Thus Caesar had brought himself into Gaul, where he desired to be.

Certain Aeduan chiefs now appealed to him to aid them and the Sequani against Ariovistus and his Germans, who a few years before had crossed the Rhine at the invitation of the Sequani. Caesar listened attentively to the story which he already knew well. In fact, while he was consul the year before the Senate had received a deputation from  p282 Ariovistus and had recognized him as "friend." Caesar now responded to the Aeduans — it was an unofficial appeal presented by men who did not represent the ruling party in the tribe — that he would heed their request. He is again careful in his Commentaries to inform the Romans that he based this action on the senatus consultum authorizing the provincial governor to protect the Aedui. He therefore sent envoys to Ariovistus requesting an interview. The latter refused to recognize the Romans as having any jurisdiction in the region. A battle took place, not far from Strasbourg, the Germans were hopelessly defeated and many prisoners were taken and sold as slaves. Only a small remnant escaped across the Rhine.

Caesar did not return to the province, but quartered his soldiers for the winter in the territory of the Sequani. He had of course a right to do this, since he had, by driving out Ariovistus, established Roman sovereignty over the region thus won. But this act seemed to be proof that Caesar intended to remain in Gaul permanently, for if he had come simply to aid the Aedui there was no point in staying. That at least was the conclusion drawn by the Belgae, and that was no doubt the conclusion which Caesar hoped that they would draw. The Belgae accordingly banded together during the winter to drive him out, and when the Remi (cf. modern Rheims) in fear — since they were nearest Caesar — refused to act with the rest and allied themselves with Caesar, they were attacked by the Belgae, so that Caesar had at hand a legitimate excuse upon which to advance. Outmaneuvering the enemy by sending a force of Aedui to their rear, he crossed the Aisne and compelled the tribal forces to scatter in defense each of its own territory. Then, in a daring summer's campaign, he made his way toward the English channel, subduing successively the Suessiones (modern Soissons), the Bellovaci (Beauvais), the Ambiani (Amiens), the Nervii, a strong tribe north of the Ardennes which claimed Germanic descent, the Atuatuci, reported to be descendants  p283 of the Cimbri, and the Atrebates (Artois). As a result of this astonishing campaign most of the tribes of Gaul and Aquitania, which had not yet been even threatened, sent envoys offering to submit to Caesar's dictation. Thus in a well planned advance, every step of which he could plausibly explain to Rome, he had brought the whole of Gaul to acknowledge Rome's sovereignty within two years. By taking this course boldly through the north along the Rhine he had been able to save years of work and much bloodshed. Of course the task was not yet complete — as he well knew — but in working to the rear of Gaul and inviting submission without a direct attack upon the central tribes he had gained the greatest strategical advantage of being able to treat any future uprising as a rebellion against a requested protectorate.

There can be little hesitation in saying that this conquest of Gaul was one of the most brilliantly planned and executed military exploits in Roman history, also that in its consequences to Rome and later history it was one of the most important. Since Roman territorial expansion practically came to an end with the death of Caesar it is not likely that Gaul would have been Romanized had it not been done at this time. The shifting of the frontier from the Alps to the Rhine and the possession of a province of many million Occidentals of a very hardy race that was amenable to Rome's civilizing influences, and available for army service, for commerce, and even for reinvigorating the stock of Italy, were advantages the significance of which becomes fully apparent only when one has read the story of Rome's struggle to survive during the centuries of the Empire.

Did Caesar see the importance of his act? Had he indeed planned it at all, and if so with what aim in view? One may scrutinize his Commentaries in vain for a direct answer to such questions, for the account, wholly unlike the score of apologetic military books written by generals  p284 after the "Great War," is a model of objectivity and self-repression. Yet it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Caesar had a plan from the beginning. His choice of Gaul proves at once that he appreciated the West at a time when Romans generally had their eyes towards the famous peoples of the East. His permitting the Helvetii to escape at first, his intervention in the affairs of Ariovistus, his placing his first winter quarters so far to the north as to excite the Belgae, all indicate that he intended to subdue Gaul and that it was a well-conceived plan that he followed in taking the bold course near the Rhine to the rear of Gaul. It is also significant that he proclaimed himself a champion and friend of the Gauls, and that the corpus vile which served his purpose in striking terror into the barbarians was chiefly a group of Germanic tribes. Thus he was able to spare the people whom he intended to incorporate in the province. There is no record in the campaigns of the first two years that any Gallic captives were sold into slavery, if indeed Caesar's statement is true that the Atuatuci were of Cimbric descent. Caesar then seems to have chosen Gaul for a definite purpose, and to have planned with care the course he followed. If this be true we must also add that Caesar's campaign was a clear instance of deliberate imperialism, perhaps the first undoubted instance of the kind in the history of the Roman Republic. Whether it was justified from a modern point of view, need not be asked. More appropriate is the question whether Roman public opinion approved of such a course. Caesar himself, if one examines his Commentaries closely, reveals the fact that he took great pains to explain every advance as legally defensible. In every case he appears to prove that he was either on the defensive or was acting in accordance with some senatus consultum. It may, however, be doubted whether he took this ground to satisfy his own conscience, or even the average moral sense of the Roman of his day. He was perhaps conforming in part to an idea which had  p285 formerly expressed itself vitally in Rome's fetial rules. We may, however, suppose that what weighed most with him was a desire not to contravene too openly the regulations he had laid down in his lex repetundarum, and, secondly, not to awaken any unnecessary suspicions in the Senate that he was making a needless war for the sake of his own aggrandizement. The latter was particularly needful, for the Senate could hardly forget that he had one day invited Pompey to bring an armed force into the Forum to aid in passing his laws. It had had sufficient warning that day that an armed force in Caesar's hands was dangerous to liberty. Caesar knew well that if the Senate grew too apprehensive of him it would make overtures to Pompey and possibly break up the "triumvirate." And Pompey was also an experienced soldier.

It has been urged that Caesar's conquest of Gaul was in reality a carefully planned military drill whereby an unscrupulous politician trained an army deliberately for the overthrow of his government. Such a view is not quite just to Caesar, though it might be fair to consider the campaign at its inception as incidental to his own ambition. Caesar was not always moved by a single impulse. He was a man of such vast endowment that he did not at once become aware of all his capabilities. In his youth, hindered by party connections from opening a normal career of responsible activity in the government, he was tempted by his mental and social gifts into a superficial life of pleasure, which indeed developed his knowledge of human nature, but otherwise retarded his moral growth. When he was able to enter politics he was far behind such men as Pompey and Cicero, and in order to overtake his predecessors he fell into the temptation of using his engaging gifts in unscrupulous ventures and proposals. The moral tone was low in politics, and most of his competitors were turning political power to material use. Crassus, who had played the game with the resources of "backstairs politics" and a full pocketbook,  p286 was an unwholesome mentor who warned him that under present conditions he alone was safe who had the wherewithal to command an army. In such times men become individualists perforce. There can be little doubt that Caesar procured himself the command in Gaul, not for the benefit that would accrue to Rome through acquiring the province, but for the power Caesar would attain by holding and skilfully using an efficient army within striking distance of Rome. But it also seems to be true that Gaul was a training school for Caesar, that it was there he learned to know himself, his powers of penetrating understanding, his sure perceptions, his sound judgments and his swift intelligence, and it was there too that he had time and leisure to brood over questions of government, and the importance of the great state of which he was coming to be a responsible leader. To the careful student it is quite clear that after Caesar had acquired an army with which he might make himself master of Rome, his first thought came to be his duty to Rome, at least in so far as this did not seriously incommode him. When his first term was ending he remained in Gaul because he saw that his presence was required longer, and when finally his work was done he made serious, if not wholly sufficient, efforts to prevent the civil war which was likely to lift him to the position of dictator. The Gallic war was the turning point in his years of self-education.

During Caesar's absence Rome was in constant turmoil because of factional fights. The old leaders of the Senate refused to take any interest in a government that had practically cut the Senate out of the constitution. Pompey was still in name the "Great Man" whom all were supposed to consult but, being slow of wit and speech, ignorant of civil procedure, unacquainted with people except as obedient soldiers, unsympathetic in personal contacts, and pompous, he could only stumble about helplessly. The people broke up into factions. Some, comprehending that Caesar was  p287 the power in the government, would do nothing till a messenger had posted to Gaul and brought back Caesar's decision. Clodius, who kept the workingmen's and freedmen's clubs in good humor with casks of wine, packed assemblies and elections with them to vote down any measure in which senators seemed interested. Milo to counter him formed clubs of his own which he wined and dined in order to have them offset the voters controlled by Clodius. There was some spilling of blood at the polls on the question of Cicero's return. Pompey in fact, sore of conscience at his betrayal of an overloyal friend, asked Caesar's permission to recall the orator, and Caesar, extracting a prolegomenon from Cicero's brother that the orator should not offend again, gave his consent. Clodius exerted himself to the utmost with the aid of his bludgeoning ward heelers, to prevent Cicero's return, but saner voters from all of Italy came in and saved the day. Cicero was recalled, but the precedent of riots in the comitium only darkened the future prospect.

Another and more serious split occurred over the Egyptian affair. The worthless king had been driven off by his subjects and had come to Rome to ask military aid with which to be restored to the throne. He is said to have paid heavily in advance to Pompey and Caesar, presumably for the expenses to be incurred. Now was obviously the time to take possession of Egypt as a province, as Caesar had proposed in 65. But no one wanted more provinces. The important question was the choice of the general who should compel Egypt to take back her king. Pompey could not understand why all of Rome did not point him out as the obvious choice. The reasons were that Caesar preferred not to see Pompey established in such a strong position, and that Crassus who did not love Pompey set his agents at work to prevent it. This provided a year of quarreling in which the triumvirate nearly broke, for it  p288 estranged Pompey from Caesar and brought him to the point of seeking consolation among senators.

Cicero was now back, and, counting on a possible break between the two and on his own apparent recovery of influence, made bold one day in the spring of 56 to announce in the Senate that he would on a certain day propose the repeal of Caesar's last colonial law. All these things were of course reported post-haste to Caesar, who was down in Cisalpine Gaul between campaigns keeping an ear at the telephone as it were. Realizing that a crisis was near, he summoned Pompey and Crassus and most of the influential men of the state — omitting Cicero — to a conference at Lucca. There he pacified the warring elements and bargained for a renewed alliance. He had in his two years in Gaul procured a formal submission of all the tribes, but actual pacification, to be permanent, would require more than the two remaining years of his term. Hence he was ready to extend the old compact: he was to have an additional term of five years, Pompey and Crassus were to have a joint consulship in 55 and thereafter provincial terms as long as his own. Pompey chose Spain as his portion, and Crassus chose Syria, with the understanding that he might have a large army with which to gain military glory in taking Mesopotamia from the Parthians. Finally Pompey was to close the mouth of Cicero by reminding him that his brother would be held to his pledge. Pompey informed Cicero of what was expected of him. The orator took the blow as he must, refrained from making his threatened proposal, and for good measure supported Caesar's request for an extension of the proconsulship. But he was a broken man, and except for a very rare appearance in the Forum he devoted most of his energies from now till Caesar's death to writing in retirement.

The consulship of Pompey and Crassus was famous for little except the continued increase of rioting and open bribery at the elections. They accomplished the one thing  p289 necessary to all three by passing the Trebonian law which meted out the offices agreed upon. In 54 Pompey was to leave for Spain, but found some excuse to put his command under two able lieutenants while he "postponed" his departure. Crassus sailed for the East at once and the same year crossed the Euphrates. Then after retreating to winter-quarters he set out toward Mesopotamia again in 53 with seven legions. His Arabian guards led him into the desert and informed the Parthians where to find him. There the fleetfooted Parthian cavalry played with his heavy legions for days. His son, who had been with Caesar in Gaul, fell in battle. Crassus was enticed into an interview and treacherously killed. Very few Romans escaped from this disgraceful venture; ten thousand were taken prisoners, 20,000 dead were scattered on the road of retreat from Carrhae.

Caesar meanwhile was continuing his campaigns in Gaul. He devoted the summer of 56 to subjugating the Veneti of Brittany and clearing the forested coast as far north as Calais. A rapidly improvised fleet under the command of Decimus Brutus did remarkable service here, an illustration of the versatility of Caesar's engineers and soldiers. In 55 he hastily constructed a bridge over the Rhine in ten days to demonstrate to the Germans that a broad and deep river was no barrier to his army if he should have occasion to contend with them. Then, crossing over, he gave them an object lesson in Roman warfare, recrossed and cut down the bridge. Similarly he made a hurried demonstration in Britain whence he had found that Gauls were apt to draw recruits. These were romantic exploits that appealed to all Romans, and on receiving the reports of them the Senate — then quite docile — voted a thanksgiving of twenty days. In 54, the year of Crassus' departure for the East, Caesar again invaded Britain since Gaul seemed to remain quiet. This time he exacted tribute from the tribes as far as the Thames and beyond. During the winter he quartered  p290 his several legions apart because of the difficulty of getting food. The Nervii and Eburones rose in revolt and very nearly succeeded in surprising the scattered forces. Caesar suffered heavy losses and had to spend much of the next summer in putting down the rebellion.

By the year 52 Caesar had completely demonstrated to all the tribes what the pax Romana would mean. While it implied autonomy within the tribe, unless the tribe were stubbornly hostile, it clearly meant also the surrender of freedom of movement, of raiding and warfare of every kind, the surrender of the privilege of subduing and living upon the labor of neighboring tribes, and it meant in particular the payment of annual tribute to Rome. It was in order to teach the Gauls these facts that Caesar had remained even during the years when Gaul seemed wholly pacified. The lesson was by no means pleasant, and the time finally came in 52 when dissatisfaction found a voice in many quarters especially in the south and center where the natives had not yet directly suffered in battle. Vercingetorix, a nobleman of the great tribe of the Arverni (Auvergne), led the revolt. The Gauls boldly burned their towns in an effort to starve out the enemy and kept up a successful warfare for months. Finally since Caesar would not be trapped Vercingetorix took possession of the strong town of Alesia with 80,000 men and when Caesar with his ten legions besieged him there he called upon all forces outside to surround Caesar in turn. The outer army is said to have had over 250,000 men. The steadiness of the Roman soldier, the loyalty of his men to Caesar, the resourcefulness of Caesar's officers were abundantly proved in this double battle. The outer army was scattered and Vercingetorix surrendered. The eighth and ninth summer's work completed the task of reducing the most refractory rebels. Caesar remained, however, to await the end of his term of office, occupied than as we shall see in a bitter controversy with Pompey and the Senate.

 p291  At Rome meanwhile the government was drifting into anarchy. Each of the triumvirs used influence, money and appointive offices freely at all elections in order to have as many personal henchmen in high office as possible and the Senate did no less, the ruffian ward-clubs of Clodius and Milo providing the strong arms and the votes, Milo usually in favor of the Senate, Clodius for the triumvirs or for his own candidates. Pompey continued to postpone his departure to Spain. He had so long enjoyed the position of "first man," princeps, in the state that even now when real influence was slipping from his hand, he preferred the shadow of a principate at Rome — and his flatterers made it appear real enough — to honest work in a province. He seems to have had before his eyes the example of the great Scipio who for a decade after the Punic war had walked the streets of Rome its uncrowned king. In fact Cicero was during these days writing his De Republica in which he strikingly pictured the beneficent rôle that an unofficial princeps or rector could play in stabilizing a volatile democracy. Perhaps Cicero had in mind the work that Pompey might accomplish in that position. It is quite likely that Pompey talked these things over with Cicero, and that his conception of his position was in his own eyes dignified by the picture.

Pompey was certainly drawing away from Caesar whose reputation was increasing with each startling report from the North. Crassus was now gone so that the two who were left had only each other to suspect. Besides, Julia, who had been a devoted wife, and had exerted a strong influence over her husband, died in 54, and Pompey not so long after married Cornelia, the daughter of a leading senator. The suspicions of Caesar were seriously awakened at the end of 53 when Pompey did nothing to stem the election riots which broke up every attempt to elect the consuls for 52, and finally entered into an arrangement approved by the Senate that he should be made sole consul  p292 to put down the rioting. Indeed the lawlessness had gone so far that Milo and Clodius had met in a protracted battle on the Appian Way and fought till Clodius was slain. Pompey enjoyed the dignified office of "sole consul" and he did much good work in bringing back law and order, but, carried away by his new honor and by the suggestions of senators who saw an opportunity of breaking Caesar's power by means of Pompey, he was led to propose or permit the proposal of several measures inconsistent with his past promises to Caesar. Thus came the break which resulted only two years later in civil war.


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