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to snatch at the crown? The literary partisans of Cæsar justify their hero by replying that he turned out to be a heaven-sent saviour of society. But even granting that this is true, how could any Roman of B.C. 51 have known it? Cæsar was naturally judged by his dubious past, not by the glorious present in Gaul; his future no man could have foreseen.
It is clear, then, that the steady growth of Cæsar's fame, wealth, and political influence gradually frightened Pompey into precautionary measures, which could not be justified according to the strict letter of Roman constitutional law. After his consulship of B.C. 55 had expired, he ought to have raised the legions which had been granted to him and to have gone off to take up his province of Spain, just as Crassus had departed to take up his province of Syria. Instead of doing so, Pompey lingered behind in Rome, and only sent his legates, Afranius and Petreius, to Spain. Moreover, after mustering his legions, he despatched some to his province, but dismissed others on furlough, so that (though disembodied) they could be called out when he needed them. This practically amounted to keeping an army in Italy, a most unconstitutional step : it gave Pompey the power of overawing the Senate, but had obvious military disadvantages, for troops left long on furlough lose their efficiency and esprit de corps. That he did not really aim at absolute power is sufficiently shown by the fact that he never employed his army against the state; but what could be a worse precedent than to keep it in Italy? After committing such a breach of constitutional usage as retaining his Spanish proconsulship and his legions, while he still remained at home, Pompey could not plausibly complain of any acts of doubtful legality on Cæsar's part.
It is curious to find that even while Pompey and his POMPEY MADE SOLE CONSUL
legions were looking on, Rome remained as turbulent as
The years B.C. 54-53 were the most anarchic time that had been seen since Catiline's day, and the perpetual riots and affrays stirred up by Clodius and his rival Milo made the city almost uninhabitable. The very consular elections could not be held in 54; so that in the early months of B.C. 53 the state had no existing supreme magistrate! It was not till the middle of the year that Domitius Calvinus and Valerius Messalla were elected and installed. Things only grew worse in the autumn: again the consular Comitia were broken up by violence, without any new magistrate having been elected. At the moment when Milo murdered Clodius, on January 18, B.C. 52, Rome was again destitute of consuls; and there was no one whose office it was to repress the fearful riots that followed, when the Senate-house was burnt, and the streets were for some days in the possession of an armed mob, which only failed to carry out a revolution because it lacked able leaders. Such phenomena hardly justified Pompey's policy of remaining in Italy. While he pretended to be the first man in the state, and had military force at his back, it was absurd that anarchy should be allowed to prevail in the city.
It is true that when the Senate at last made a definite appeal to him to act, and allowed him to be given the strange office of sole consul, Pompey promptly restored order. He mobilised many of his cohorts, brought them within the city, stopped the rioting, and caused both Milo, the slayer of Clodius, on the one side, and Plancus and Rufus—the leaders of the Democratic mob-on the other, to be tried and sent into exile. But if he was able to do this with such ease in the spring of B.C. 52, it is clear that he might have stopped the anarchy eighteen months before. A statesman who let matters drift so long before he intervened was not one fitted to
deal with the hopeless constitutional problems of the degenerate Republic. But his honesty, at least, was made more evident than ever, when, after the suppression of the urban disorders, he took a colleague in the consulship, dismissed his troops, and finally dropped back into his old position.
By this time it was practically certain that the open breach between the two surviving triumvirs could not be long delayed. Julia, the strongest bond between themfor both loved her well-had died in B.C. 54. The last act of undoubted friendship that ever linked them-the loan of a legion by Pompey to Cæsar to repair the loss of the cohorts which perished with Sabinus and Cottatook place in 53. After 52 the war might have broken out at any moment; but Pompey, jealous and suspicious as he felt, shrank from striking the first blow, while Cæsar's hands were completely tied by the great revolt in Gaul under Vercingetorix, which was not wholly suppressed till the autumn of B.C. 51. By that time Pompey's attitude could not be mistaken: he had given his aid to the Optimates for the renewal of the celebrated law which declared that all candidates for office must come to Rome and sue in person—a direct challenge to his colleague, who had let it be known that he intended to stand for the consulship of B.C. 48, but did not intend to leave Gaul till he had been safely elected. For Cæsar knew that it would not be prudent for him to return to the city without the safeguard of an official position. Unless he were a sacrosanct magistrate, there would be a desperate attempt on the part of the Optimates to fall upon him. When he made formal complaints to Pompey as to his hostile action, the latter, with inexplicable feebleness, allowed a clause to be added to the law which exempted Cæsar by name from its operation ; but as this supplement was even submitted to the
THE OPEN BREACH WITH CÆSAR
Comitia, it was of more than doubtful legality. Either Pompey was trying to pacify his ally by a concession which could be afterwards denounced as invalid, or he was strangely ignorant of legislative technicalities. His personal character and reputation for honesty tell against the former supposition. We can but hope that jealousy and suspicion had not degraded him into unworthy double-dealing ; but the general effect of the incident is dubious.
Into the miserable wrangle over the constitutional technicalities which filled the year B.C. 50 we need not inquire in detail. The legal pettifogging on both sides could not conceal the main facts. Cæsar was resolved to have the consulship for B.C. 48, and to rule as supreme magistrate at Rome for that year, and probably for many a year to follow. On the other hand, Cato and his friends were honestly convinced that the installation of Cæsar as consul would mean the establishment of monarchy-of a monarchy half military, half Democratic—which would probably be inaugurated with a proscription and a general confiscation of the property of the monarch’s political opponents. What else could be expected from a tyrant who had conspired with Catiline, and who had employed and encouraged Clodius ? Pompey may not have thought so badly of his late father-in-law; but he was as fully convinced as the Optimates themselves that Cæsar aimed at supreme power, and while he lived he did not intend to suffer a master to be placed over his head. He had not refused half-a-dozen times to make himself tyrant of Rome, in order that another man should be given the chance and should accept it.
The struggle was inevitable, and it was to no purpose that the weaker men in the Senate, who failed to grasp the meaning of the situation, continued to cry for peace and to pass idle votes calling on both Cæsar and Pompey to lay down their official positions and disband their armies. Cæsar would not disarm unless Pompey did the same: Pompey refused to do so, because he was fully convinced that if he had not an army at his back when Cæsar came home from Gaul, he would find himself helpless. He had at last realised the fact that he was utterly unable to control domestic politics, while Cæsar was an adept at managing a mob or raising a riot. If neither side were armed, it was certain that his rival would sweep the streets and get control of the Comitia. Even while absent in his province, Cæsar had been able to intervene with effect whenever he chose, and he had now enlisted as his political lieutenants all the promising young demagogues of Rome—all that gang of which Antony, Curio, Cælius, and Dolabella were the most prominent members. They were not a very reputable set of followers, but there was not one of them who could not have given Pompey lessons in the art of mobmanagement.
So Pompey, with the full approval of Cato and the Optimates, refused either to depart to Spain or to lay down his province and to disband his legions. This being so, Cæsar could do no more than search for the best technical casus belli on which to cross the Rubicon and march on Rome. His adversaries were obliging enough to provide him with a very fair plea of the kind that he wanted, by mishandling and expelling his satellites, the tribunes Antony and Cassius. It was with the fine old Democratic cry that the tribunicial authority, the palladium of the constitution, must at all costs be protected, that Cæsar launched his legions into Central Italy, much earlier than his enemies had expected him to take the decisive step.
The winter campaign of B.C. 49 is one of the best