網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

tion. The exact contrary is the truth. So far from mistaking solitude for peace, or the triumph of a party for the remedy of a sinking State, Cæsar's genius was eminently constructive and symmetrical. He bore with him into the camp the order and luxury of the city; he punished no offence in his soldiers so rigorously as wanton spoliation; in the heat of the civil war the progress of his lieutenants in Italy or the provinces was more decorous than the ordinary journeys of prætors and proconsuls

to their governments;' although profuse when his interest required it, his private estate was managed with a vigilance which the elder Cato would have applauded; and although his whole life was a system of machinations against the existing state of things, he kept steadily aloof from every crude plot or partial conspiracy, whether feeble, like that of Lepidus, or rash and dubious, like that of Catilina. His first provincial government was distinguished for the regularity which he introduced into the finances of Further Spain ; and the laws proposed by him in his first consulate breathe a spirit of social order, and in spite of the tumults attending their enactment, and the excesses or indiscretion of some of his supporters, were effective remedies for the diseases of the commonwealth.

Mr. Merivale has drawn a pleasing sketch of the friends and ministers of the dictator. The revolutionary ranks contained, indeed, as was inevitable at such a crisis, men of broken characters and fortunes, whose arrogant demeanour and extravagant expectations justly alarmed all honest citizens and all moderate statesmen. But Cæsar cancelled the prætorian edicts of Dolabella, repressed the excesses of Curio and Cælius, compelled Antonius to pay his debts, and confided the main direction of his affairs to the able and temperate administration of Oppius, Hirtius and Balbus. Under their ministry the populace were tranquil, the markets were well supplied, capital returned into circulation, enterprise revived, and industry resumed its peaceful tenor at Rome. The estates of the Pompeian family were indeed confiscated, for Cæsar affected to regard his quarrel with their chief as personal, and professed to hold them as alone responsible for the disorders and dislocation of the commonwealth. The other leaders of the senate were allowed to remain unmolested in Italy, or encouraged and even solicited to return to it. Their property was sacred; their persons were safe; and it was Cæsar's most anxious desire to secure the neutrality at least of all such statesmen as Varro and Cicero upon the single and easy condition of their desisting from attempts against his provisional government. The capital, the peninsula itself, and subsequently Spain and the Mediterranean islands exhibited, amid preparations for war and under a revolutionary chief, the extraordinary spectacle of increasing acquiescence and of reviving prosperity.

[graphic]

The focus of revolution had really been transferred to the Pompeian camp and to the shores of Epirus. It was among the professed champions of order, of precedent, and of constitutional conservatism, that the sound and fury of lawless passions prevailed. We derive our knowledge of the projects and demeanour of the Pompeians at this juncture from an unwilling witness, from Cicero himself. The long delusion of the great orator as to the character of Pompeius and his partisans was at length dispelled. The camp and councils at Dyracchium revealed to him at once and for ever the error of his political life. He had not merely grasped at the shadow, but he had, by his hasty flight from Italy, embraced the substance of evil. By his own act and irresolution he had leagued himself with men as rapacious as Verres, as profligate as Gabinius, and as cruel and reckless as Catilina. At no era of his life do his letters breathe deeper despondency or his sarcasms evince such bitterness. He had indeed reason for acrimony and despair. For neither Sicily wasted and depopulated by its prætor, nor Præneste in the grasp of Sulla, nor the long agony of Numantia, nor any woe, impending or consummate, “in ancient or in modern books * enrolled, would have equalled the retribution which the Pompeians were preparing for Rome. It was proposed by them and the proposal was not whispered in secret conclave, but debated in the prætorium and proclaimed in the lines at Dyracchium — to ransack the ports of the Mediterranean for shipping, and by intercepting supplies from Sicily and Africa, to inflict upon the capital the torments of lingering famine. When famine had done its work, it was intended to sweep the plains of Italy with Armenian and Colchian hordes, to bring the legions and their heavy artillery against the towns, to cut up for ever the roots of popular resistance, to transfer the seat of empire, to reduce the Italians and Cisalpines to permanent serfage, and to apportion the peninsula among the leaders of the oligarchy, the Marcelli, the Lentuli and the Scipios. Rome had been baptized with fratricidal blood, and if the hopes of the Pompeians were realised, its earliest augury would be fulfilled by indiscriminate massacre and proscription. It is impossible to determine whether Pompeius himself participated in the projects of his adherents. His systematic dissimulation and his constitutional vacillation render it probable that, like Charles I., he would, in the event of victory, have yielded to the wishes of his partisans. In reading Cicero's account of the camp at

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Dyracchium we are reminded of Clarendon's description of the cavaliers at Oxford. The event of Pharsalia was not less favourable to the cause of order and humanity, than it was to • Cæsar and his fortunes.

Mr. Merivale describes the urban population' at this period, whom the nobles systematically debauched,' to have been no • better than a needy rabble, dissolute in morals, and destitute

of any sense of national honour. The ready market offered for their votes was attractive to the lowest and vilest of the • Italians, and the mob of the comitia was swelled by the worst • class of the new citizens. Too proud to work where labour • was the mark of the slave, a multitude of free men, steeped in • the lowest poverty, found a bare subsistence in their idleness • from this annual sale of their highest privilege, and presented • ready instruments for any political adventurer who promised • either present pay or prospective rapine.' The Julian laws of the first consulate of their author aimed at converting these idle hands into an active race of agriculturists, and restoring, as far as the circumstances of the age permitted, the predial population, the genuine commons of the early republic. They proposed to replenish the exchequer by enforcing the payment of the rents of the State, to convert the public demesnes into allotments for the poor, and to lighten the burdens of the provincials by readjusting the contracts of the publicani. Cæsar, like Napoleon, saw that the State could be reconstructed by the rehabilitation of the middle order alone. He therefore attempted to provide the pauper-masses with property, and to encourage the equites or monied class to invest their capital in Italy. A population like that of the Fauxbourg St. Antoine, but still more needy, numerous, and turbulent, was the proper instrument for a revolutionary chief of the kind that Cæsar has so unaccountably been described to have been. If such he were, we can only say his laws were admirably calculated to defeat his object.

The best commentary, however, on the measures of Cæsar's first consulate will be found in his enactments, after he became possessed of absolute power. Ten years later, and in the heat and after all the exacerbations of civil war, he is seen steadily resisting his own partisans in their demands for the repudiation of debts. All he would concede was an adjustment between the lender and the borrower, which guaranteed to the one his principal, and relieved the other from exorbitant interest. Throughout the civil war he uniformly interdicted the confiscation of private property and the pillage of captured cities. His rigour, in both these respects, had at one period nearly alienated the affections of his soldiers, and undermined the foundations of his

authority. Bnt his acts were not merely negative. Unfortunately for the empire, and for the welfare of many succeeding generations, Cæsar's plans for reconstruction could not be executed by himself. The few months of repose allowed him were insufficient for the accomplishment of his schemes. And—such is the inevitable condition of social reforms -- these schemes presented, even to his boid and inventive genius, greater obstacles than the conquest of Gaul or the suppression of the oligarchy. Yet his survey of the empire enabled Augustus afterwards to equalise the imposts on the provinces: his reformation of the calendar deprived the aristocracy of one of their favourite implements for impeding public business; while his proposed revision and codification of the laws, executed by a more powerful genius than Justinian, and in a less degenerate age, would have added a sixth and a peaceful and permanent triumph to the Julian Fasti.

• The wars of later ages,' says Lord Bacon, seem to be made in the dark, in respect to the glory and honour which reflected upon men from the wars in ancient time.' War, indeed, forms the prominent feature in the annals of Rome, not merely because it made the Romans masters of the world, but also because it ultimately brought commerce and civilisation in its train. For with them war was not the consequence of accidental collision with other races, like the inroads of the migratory hordes of the east and north, nor undertaken, like the campaigns of modern Europe, to maintain the balance of power or to crush or assert freedom of opinion. But it was a consistent system of aggression and appropriation. By wars the Romans reaped the fruits of Hellenic civilisation and Asiatic luxury; by wars they supplied with new blood the veins which previous war had emptied; and by means of war they both educated themselves and became the dispensers of education to others. The wolves of Italy,' as Telesinus the Samnite termed the ancient enemy of his name and race, became the civilisers of the world. Among the conquests of Rome not one was more important to the empire at the time, or to Europe afterwards, than that of Gaul. The subjugation of the Celtic tribes from the Pyrenees to the English Channel deferred for four centuries the great migration of the Teutonic races, and gave time and space for the establishment of a higher form of civilisation and the introduction of a purer religion among the conquered people. The Gaulish wars of Cæsar form an episode in Roman history. They were in the first place, like Alexander's invasion of Persia, the completory act of a long impending nemesis. In the next, they were a principal instrument in that process of amalgama

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

tion which it was the mission of Rome under the Cæsars to accomplish. The Gauls, who had laid the city on the Seven Hills in ashes, who had repeatedly ravaged Italy from the Alps to Apulia, who had enfeebled the Etruscan Lucumons, and destroyed the ancient race of the Umbrians, were themselves, after the lapse of centuries, spoiled of their hoarded wealth, and driven from their fastnesses in the forest, on the mountain, and the solitary morass; their ancient priest-caste was proscribed, and their young men swept into the legions of the southern stranger. The work of retribution was complete: the name of the Gauls was no longer formidable to the Transalpines; and the “golden hoard' in the capitol was no longer reserved for the exigencies of a Celtic invasion. But destiny had in store for them a further and a stranger revolution. For the conqueror who brought with him desolation, afforded them revenge. Under the banners of a Roman general, and eventually with the privileges of Roman citizens, the descendants of the clans of Brennus recrossed the Alps, assisted at the obsequies of the republic, sat down in the council chamber of the world among the sons of the Claudii and Domitii, and in the course of a single generation inscribed their names upon the consular Fasti. We regret exceedingly that we cannot accompany Mr. Merivale, step by step, through the details

of this eventful history. He has entered into the spirit of Cæsar's Commentaries, illustrated them with all the adjuncts of modern learning, and described, with pregnant and animated brevity, the eight years' proconsulate of their author. In the few lines which now remain to us, we must draw the attention of the reader to Cæsar himself, and more especially to the nature of the difficulties which lay before him, not so much in his character of a party leader, as in that of a reformer of the State.

The conquests of the republic, although made systematically, were not in the eighth century uniformly administered. After the fall of Carthage, indeed, they had been too rapidly achieved to admit of regular organisation, even by rulers capable of the task. The mind of Roman legislators was generally too formal in its character to entertain readily the idea of assimilation ; and the abler leaders of the senate and the people were either engrossed by the interests of the Italians alone, or opposed to all innovation. Accordingly, the fate of the provincials was determined by temporary expediency, by the state of parties in the senate, or by the prejudices of their immediate conquerors. Sicily, the granary of the republic, was prudently allowed to retain the laws of its Hieros and Gelos; while

« 上一頁繼續 »