The Triumvirate - Caesar's Gallic Wars - War between Caesar and Pompey

When Pompey returned to Rome (B.C. 61), he found the senatorial party predominant, and Cicero incessantly talking about the Catilinarian conspiracy, and how he had crushed it. Pompey enjoyed a triumph more splendid than any conquering general had received before him; and the sums which he added to the public treasury were enormous; yet he could not procure from the senate that general ratification of his measures in Asia to which he thought himself entitled. Cato and other senators insisted on a full investigation of his measures one by one, ere the sanction which he required should be granted. This conduct on the part of the senators brought Pompey into closer connection with Csar; and these two eminent men, finding that they agreed in many of their views, and that at least they were one in their opposition to the senate, resolved to unite their forces so as to work for their common ends with double strength. For various reasons, it was found desirable to admit Crassus to this political partnership; and accordingly, in the year B.C. 60, was formed that famous coalition for mutual support between Pompey, Crassus, and Cesar, which is known in Roman history by the name of the First Triumvirate.' Elected to the consulship of the year B.C. 59, Caesar infused new life into Rd man politics, proposing measures of so liberal a nature, and persevering in them with such obstinacy, that the senate became almost frantic, and his colleague Bibulus shut himself up in his house for eight months in disgust. Among these measures was a ratification of Pompey's proceedings in Asia, and an agrarian law for providing lands for Pompey's disbanded soldiers and a number of destitute citizens. In the same year Caesar gave his daughter Julia in marriage to Pompey, who had already been married twice. On retiring from the consulship, he obtained, by an unusual stretch of generosity on the part of the grateful people and the intimidated senate, the supreme command for five years over the two Gauls (Cisalpine and Transalpine) and Illyricum. This was probably the great object of Caesar's desires; at all events, it was the best possible thing which could have happened for him and the republic. Master of Gaul, and with an army devoted to his will, he could there mature his power silently and undisturbed, and qualify himself for entering, at the proper period, upon the career for which he was destined, and rescuing, by military force, the ill-governed Empire out of the hands of contending factions.

The condition of affairs in Rome during Caesar's absence in Gaul was indeed such as to prove the necessity of some radical change in the system of the Commonwealth. All was confusion and violence. Clodius, a profligate relic of the Catilinarian party, having been elected to the tribuneship B.C. 58, procured the banishment of Cicero for his conduct in the affair of the conspiracy. In the following year, however, Clodius having in the meantime made himself generally odious, Cicero was recalled. Pompey and Crassus were elected consuls for the year B.C. 55. Mindful of their connection with Caesar, who was of course in constant correspondence with them, they procured a prolongation of his command over the Gauls for a second period of five years; at the same time obtaining for themselves - Pompey, the government of Spain for five years; and. Crassus that of Syria and adjacent countries for a similar period. In B.C. 55, Crassus set out for the scene of his command, where, soon afterwards, he perished in a fruitless expedition against the Parthians; Pompey remained at home, governing Spain by deputies. During several subsequent years, Rome was in a state of anarchy and misrule the streets perambulated by armed mobs, partisans on the one -hand of Clodius, and on the other of a powerful citizen called Milo, between whom a feud was carried on, as desperate and bloody as any that ever distracted a European town in the middle ages. In one of the numerous scuffles which took place between the contending parties, Clodius was killed; and taking advantage of the opportunity, the tottering government asserted its rights by bringing Milo to trial, and procuring his banishment.

Meanwhile the remedy was preparing. Among the marshes and forests of Gaul, the great Caesar was accumulating that strength of men and purpose with which he was to descend on Italy and shiver the rotton fabric of the Commonwealth. Fain,' says the eloquent Michelet - ' fain would I have seen that fair and pale countenance, prematurely aged by the debaucheries of the capital - fain would I have seen that delicate and epileptic man, marching in the rains of Gaul at the head of his legions, and swimming across our rivers, or else on horseback, between the litters in which his secretaries were carried, dictating even six letters at a time, shaking Rome from the extremity of Belgium, sweeping from his path two millions of men. and subduing in ten years Gaul, the Rhine, and the ocean of the north. This barbarous and bellicose chaos of Gaul was a superb material for such a genius. The Gallic tribes were on every side calling in the stranger; Druidism was in its decline; Italy was exhausted; Spain untameable; Gaul was essential to the subjugation of the world.' Caesar's Gallic wars of themselves form a history. We have an account of them yet remaining from the pen of the conqueror himself, and that of his friend IIirtins. Suffice it to say, that in eight years (B.C. 58-50) Caesar had con Tiered all Gaul, including the present France and Belgium; had paid two visits to the island of Great Britain (B.C. 55 54) and was able, in the spring of B.C. 50, to take up his residence in Cisalpine Gaul, leaving the 300 tribes beyond the Alps, which he had conquered by such bloody means, not only pacified, but even attached to himself personally. His army, which included many Gauls and Germans, were so devoted to him, that they would have marched to the end of the world in his service.

Caesar's conquests in Gaul were of course a subject of engrossing interest at Rome, and when the city enjoyed an interval of repose from the commotions caused by Clodius and Milo, nothing else was talked of. 'Compared with this man,' said Cicero, what was Marius?' and the saying was but an expression of the popular enthusiasm. Caesar's visits to Britain excited especial interest; and at first there were not wanting sceptics who maintained that there was no such island in existence, and that the alleged visit of Cesar to that place of savages, where pearls were found in the rivers, was a mere hoax on the public. As, however, the period of Caesar's command drew near its close, and it became known that he aspired to a second consulship, the fears of the aristocratic party began to manifest themselves. ' What may not this conqueror of Gaul do when he returns to Rome? ' was the saying of Cato, and others of the senators. Accustomed during so many years to the large and roomy action of a camp, will he be able to submit again to civic trammels? Will he not rather treat us as if we were his subordinate officers - Roman laws as if they were savage customs - and our city itself as if it were a Gallic forest? ' Unfortunately, also, the Triumvirate no longer existed to support Caesar's interests. Crassus was dead; and Pompey - whose connection with Caesar had been severed by the death of his wife, Caesar's beloved daughter Julia (B.C. 54) - had since gone over to the aristocratic party, to which he had formerly belonged, and whose policy was, upon the whole, more genial to his character. In B.C. 52, he enjoyed a third consulship, without a colleague, having been appointed by the senators as the man most likely to restore order to the distracted state; and during the following year, he lent his aid to those enemies of Caesar who insisted that, ere he should be allowed to stand for the consulship, he should be obliged to resign his Gallic command, and resume his station as a private citizen, ready to meet any charges which might be brought against him. Caesar did not want agents in Rome - some of them paid, some of them voluntary - to plead his cause; and through these he offered to resign his command, provided Pompey would do the same with regard to Spain. The proposal was not listened to; and a decree of the senate having been passed that Caesar should disband his army against a certain day, under pain of being treated as a public enemy, his agents left the city, and hastened to his camp in Cisalpine Gaul (B.C. 50).

Cesar did not delay a moment. Sending orders to his various legions distributed through Gaul to follow him as speedily as possible, he placed himself at the head of such forces as were with him at the instant, crossed the small stream called the Rubicon, which separated his province of Cisalpine Gaul from Italy, and advanced towards Rome, amid cheers of welcome from the populations which he passed through. Utterly bewildered by his unexpected arrival, the whole senatorial party, with Pompey at their head, abandoned Rome, and proceeded into the south of Italy, where they tried to raise forces. Cesar pursued them, and drove them into Greece. Then hastening into Spain, he suppressed a rising Pompeian movement in that country. Returning to Rome with the title of Dictator, which had been bestowed on him during his absence, he passed various salutary measures for restoring order in Italy, and among them one conferring the Roman citizenship on the Cisalpine Gauls; then crossed over into Greece (B.C. 49) to give battle to Pompey, who had meanwhile assembled forces from all parts of the Roman dominion. At length the two armies met on the plain of Pharsalia in Thessaly (9th August B.C. 48), when Pompey sustained a complete defeat. Not long afterwards he was killed by the orders of Ptolemy, king of Egypt, when seeking to land on the coast of that country, Caesar, who had used his victory with great moderation, arrived in Egypt soon after, and remained there several months, fascinated by Cleopatra, who was then at war with her brother Ptolemy.

Having settled the affairs of Egypt, Caesar proceeded to Asia Minor, crushed an insurrection there headed by Pharnaces, the son of Mithridates, and then (September, B.C. 47) returned to Italy. He remained there but a few months, setting out in the beginning of B.C. 46 for Africa, where the relics of the Pompeian party had taken refuge. These were soon defeated; and Cato, the most distinguished man among them, killed himself rather than to fall into his conqueror's hands. Pompey's two sons escaped to Spain, where they excited an insurrection, which, however, was soon suppressed.