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the unwarlike population of the Lesser Asia was subjected to the utmost rigour of fiscal oppression. There was one law for Narbonne, another for Bætica; nor was the difference always proportioned to the temper of the provincials, or to their degree of civilisation. But the uncertainty of the law 'was much less injurious to the provinces, than the system of appointing proconsuls and prætors. A man of broken fortunes looked to a foreign commard as the sole means of retrieving his affairs. And the administration of provincial rulers varied with their personal characters. The gradations were infinite between a Cicero and a Verres. But the oppression of the farmers-general was uniform and permanent. The publicani hired the taxes by auction, and indemnified themselves for ruinous bargains at home by extortion abroad, the most comprehensive and at the saine time the most minute. Agriculture was abandoned in despair: whole districts were depopulated: and every year witnessed a mock. impeachment of the oppressors, a perjured jury, and a venal acquittal. Cicero prosecuted Verres for his spoliation of Sicily, and defended Fonteïus for his robbery of Gaul: the philosophic Brutus was a usurer, and the crudite Varro was ' much con• demned to have an itching palm.'
• The first use of power which the emperors made,' Mr. Merivale justly observes, 'was to control the fiscal tyranny of the proconsuls and publicani. The revolution of Drusus and the Gracchi opened the spoils of the world to the Italians: but those of Julius and Octavius closed them again, and restored them to their rightful owners. The luxuriance of Roman oppression flourished but for a century and a half; but in that time it created, perhaps, the most extensive and searching misery the world bas ever seen. The establishment of imperial despotism placed in the main an effective control over these petty tyrants; and notwithstanding all the crimes by which it won its way, and the corruptions which were developed in its progress, it deserves to be regarded, at least in this important particular, as one of the greatest blessings vouchsafed to the human race.'
The statesman who discerns and enforces the sacrifice which the future age may demand from the present for the general conservation of the State, is naturally regarded by his less sagacious contemporaries as a rash and unprincipled innovator: and he is regarded so especially, should his earlier career have rendered him conspicuous as a popular leader. The senatorian party saw in the proconsul of Gaul only a reckless adventurer, eager to re-enact the part of his kinsman Marius, if he did not, indeed, aspire to the license of Saturninus. Even the rigid Cato, who denounced Pompeius, and declaimed against the vices and prodigality of the nobles,—even Cicero, who sighed for the union of all parties,
and knew the incompetency and the violence of his own associates, shared in the general delusion. They could not persuade themselves, even at the time Cæsar was dismissing his prisoners unharmed in person and property, but that the proscription lists were drawn up, and that only a favourable moment was waited for to slip the Gauls upon the capital. They continued to credit their own inventions of his complicity with Catilina; they misconstrued his consular laws; and they deemed him infected not only with a spirit of change, but also of impiety, for proposing to extend to the barbarians of Gaul and Iberia the auguries and the title of Romans. They could not believe, they would not listen to the plea, that the acquisitions of the sword must be maintained by the law; that civil wars had decimated, while poverty and luxury together had enfeebled, the native population; and that Italy must be replenished from without or perish in a generation or two from mere exhaustion. As soon would Laud have listened to a sermon against episcopacy, or Louis XIV. to an argument for religious liberty, as the Marcelli and Scipios of the eighth century to the claims of the subjects of Rome to become its citizens. Yet the republic itself had from the earliest times set the example of assimilation. The Latins, Volscians, and Sabellians had been gradually incorporated with the proper Quirites; the tribes had within a century been crowded with Italian voters; the forum already swarmed with adopted citizens, and the genuine Romans hardly amounted to a fifth of the masses which thronged the forum and the field of Mars. The process of amalgamation which Cæsar began, and later emperors completed, fused the provinces into an obedient and uniform whole: and the day on which the centurions of the legion Alauda swore allegiance to the genius of Rome before the altar of Victory, subverted for ever the Cornelian constitution, and ushered in a new era under the auspices of the Julian house.
Our notice of Mr. Merivale's volumes would be imperfect without a few remarks upon the conspiracy which cut off the dictator in the midst of his work of reconstruction. Mr. Merivale justly observes that such a close to his career, if not altogether anticipated by Cæsar, was at least contemplated by him as possible with that calmness which distinguished him in thought and action throughout life. Against the remonstrances of his friends he dismissed his Spanish body-guards, and on the very eve of the fatal day declared that the best kind of death * was that which was least expected.' The circumstances of his murder are, however, less strange than the view which was taken of it by writers of the imperial age and adopted from them, with few exceptions, by posterity. Dante, Gibbon, and Drumann, may be mentioned as exceptions. Dante, who puts Brutus and Cassius in the same abyss of bale' with the archtraitor Judas, implies that he deemed the assassination of Cæsar guilt of the deepest dye. While, among modern writers Gibbon was one of the first to question the virtue of Brutus; and Drumann, in his · Life of Cæsar,' analyses and exposes the matériel and the motives of the conspiracy. But throughout the Middle Ages, and after the revival of learning, scholars, poets, and divines have, in general, exhausted erudition and fancy in extolling the crime of the Ides of March as an act of grave and plenary justice. The worst chapter in “ Tristram Shandy' is a foolish rant about the 'godlike virtue of Brutus; the best-remembered passage in . Akenside' is a vapid declamation upon Cæsar's death, borrowed from Cicero's second · Philippic;' even Niebuhr has unaccountably pronounced Cæsar guilty according to the enactments of the Valerian law. We do not insist upon the well-known tragedies of Shakspeare and Voltaire, since the fitness of the subject for dramatic representation exempts the poets from the bar of historical equity. The stage, however, has materially contributed to strengthen the general belief that Cæsar's death was just and necessary; and Shakspeare puts a grave truth into the mouth of Cassius when he makes him predict —
• How many ages hence,
So oft as that shall be,
The men who gave their country liberty.' Seneca, the philosopher, while treating of a very different subject, has yet furnished the most significant hint for solving this question properly. Divum Julium,' he remarks, 'plures • amici confecerunt, quam inimici, quorum non expleverat spes • inexplebiles. Voluit quidem ille; neque enim quisquam libe• ralius victoriâ usus est, ex quâ nihil sibi vindicavit, nisi dispensandi potestatem. Sed quemadmodum sufficere tam improbis • desideriis posset, quum tantum omnes concupiscerent, quantum ' poterat unus? Vidit itaque strictis circa sellam suam gladiis • commilitones suos, Cimbrium Tullium acerrimum paulo ante
suarum partium defensorem, aliosque post Pompeium demum • Pompeianos.' Any impulse rather than that of patriotism, indeed, edged the daggers of the conspirators. There was private disappointment at Cæsar's refusal to proscribe and confiscate —there was personal resentment at imputed slights—there was impatience of reviving order— there was intolerance of superior worth— there was despair of obtaining henceforward provinces
The Ides of March.
to plunder — there was the burden of debt — there were the restlessness and the contagion of a revolutionary era—there was every imaginable motive to destroy Cæsar, except prudence and honesty. The Scenic pomp of the sacrifice inflamed the imagination without apparently convincing the judgment of Cicero, who always lauds the conspirators as the saviours of their country, yet speaks of the conspiracy itself as a crude abortion.
So long as the generation which had witnessed the revolution, or which had suffered from its immediate effects, survived, the consummation of the Ides of March would naturally be regarded with very opposite prejudices. But after the long reign of Augustus had reconciled the Romans to monarchy — after they had surrendered to the Emperor every barrier and nearly every form of the aristocratical constitution, it might have been expected that the murder of the founder of the monarchy would have been censured universally as a fruitless, if not an enormous crime. Under the worser Cæsars, the lex majestatis, which rendered capital the devising or imagining the death of the Emperor, was, of all the criminal statutes, the one most actively enforced. Yet, contemporarily with the vigilance of the police, the zeal of the informers, and the jealousy of the emperors, poets, rhetoricians, and philosophers treated, and were apparently suffered to treat with impunity, the assassination of the first Cæsar as a deed meriting praise. We believe the feeling which dictated their applause to have been in a great measure rhetorical. Rhetoric, we know, vitiated all the later developments of Roman intellect; and the act of the conspirators was a common and favourite topic with the reciters of tedious epics, and the wranglers in the oratorical schools. The government probably considered the discussion as a safety-valve. The war of tongues might avert the war of poniards. The Stoic philosophy, which played so important a part in later Roman politics, and which regarded suicide as lawful, would teach its professors to regard assassination as honourable; and the end of tyrants, like Caligula and Domitian, would afford a parallel, if not a pretext, for excusing and applauding the fate of Cæsar.
History took its tone from the current language of versifiers and declaimers. The Romans, who borrowed the art of historical composition, as well as every other art, from the Greeks, imbibed from their teachers the theory of tyrannicide. They compared Brutus with Timoleon; the halls of the Cæsars echoed to the song of Harmodius and Aristogeiton; Lucan dedicated his Pharsalia to Nero; and although Cremutius Cordus was condemned for calling Cassius the last of the Romans, Seneca was allowed to bring regicide upon the stage, and Petronius applauded with impunity the principles of the Pompeians. A literary fashion of the ancient world became a settled delusion with modern scholars and moralists; and the death of Cæsar was celebrated as an authentic act of retributive justice.
We have marked of late a turn in the current of opinion upon this question, and we rejoice to find that Mr. Merivale lends his sanction to the change. The description, already given, represents generally the motives of the other conspirators. Marcus Brutus alone remains to be considered. We believe him to have worshipped a vague and mystical idea of virtue: so far he was • an honourable man. We know him to have been <a hard • man’in all that related to pecuniary transactions; and we know this on the authority of one who would rather have veiled than exposed his defects. It is Cicero who accuses him of avarice, as, at a later period, he complains of his vanity and irresolution. Cæsar characterised Brutus justly when he said, • As for this young man, I know not what he wants; but, • whatever he does want, he wants vehemently.' It was the vehemence of passion, more than the earnestness of conviction. But we must allow our author the privilege of delineating the portrait of the nominal leader of the conspiracy: -
• If the conspirators and their principal instigator (Cassius) evinced any forethought, it was in seeking for their projected tyrannicide the sanction of the name of Brutus. Atticus, who, amidst the public commotions, amused himself with genealogical studies, had flattered M. Junius Brutus by tracing his descent from a supposed third son of the founder of the republic, whose elder brothers perished, as was well known, childless by the axe of the lictor. Servilia, the mother of Brutus, derived her lineage from the renowned Ahala, whose dagger had cut short the ambitious projects of Spurius Mælius. But so far from inheriting the zeal of his imputed progenitor, the Brutus of the expiring republic had acquiesced in Cæsar's usurpation with less apparent reluctance than perhaps any other member of the Pompeian party. Despondent in her hour of distress, he had been the last to join, the earliest to desert, the unfurled banner of the republic. After Pharsalia, he was the first to seek refuge in the camp of the victor ; in the city he was the foremost to court the friendship and claim the confidence of the dictator ; he was zealous in serving his interests by the discharge of important offices; nor did he blush to govern Cisalpine Gaul, while his uncle still held Utica against him. A feeble panegyric of the sturdy sage whom he had abandoned, while he affected to adopt his principles and emulate his practice, seemed to Brutus a sufficient tribute to his virtues. His consort
, Claudia, he had divorced to espouse the philosopher's daughter, Porcia, a woman of more masculine spirit than his own. But thus doubly connected with strength and virtue, Brutus failed, nevertheless, to acquire the firmness which Nature had denied him.