Divus Julius

Suetonius ca. 69-ca. 122

Suetonius, ca. 69-ca. 122, creator; Thomson, Alexander, M.D, translator; Reed, J.E. (J. Eugene), editor

He filled up the vacancies in the senate, by advancing several plebeians to the rank of patricians, and also increased the number of praetors, aediles, quaestors, and inferior magistrates; restoring, at the same time, such as had been degraded by the censors, or convicted of bribery at elections. The choice of magistrates he so divided with the people, that, excepting only the candidates for the consulship, they nominated one half of them, and he the other. The method which he practised in those cases was, to recommend such persons as he had pitched upon, by bills dispersed through the several tribes to this effect: "Caesar the dictator to such a tribe (naming it). I recommend to you (naming likewise the persons), that by the favour of your votes they may attain to the honours for which they sue." He likewise admitted to offices the sons of those who had been proscribed. The trial of causes he restricted to two orders of judges, the equestrian and senatorial; excluding the tribunes of the treasury who had before made a third class. The revised census of the people he ordered to be taken neither in the usual manner or place, but street by street, by the principal inhabitants of the several quarters of the city; and he reduced the number of those who received corn at the public cost, from three hundred and twenty, to a hundred and fifty, thousand. To prevent any tumults on account of the census, he ordered that the praetor should every year fill up by lot the vacancies occasioned by death, from those who were not enrolled for the receipt of corn.

Eighty thousand citizens having been distributed into foreign colonies,[*](Principally Carthage and Corinth.) he enacted, in order to stop the drain on the population, that no freeman of the city above twenty, and under forty, years of age, who was not in the military service, should absent himself from Italy for more than three years at a time; that no senator's son should go abroad, unless in the retinue of some high officer; and as to those whose pursuit was tending flocks and herds, that no less than a third of the number of their shepherds free-born should be youths. He likewise made all those who practised physic in Rome, and all teachers of the liberal arts, free of the city, in order to fix them in it, and induce others to settle there. With respect to debts, he disappointed the expectation which was generally entertained, that they would be totally cancelled; and ordered that the debtors should satisfy their creditors, according to the valuation of their estates, at the rate at which they were purchased before the commencement of the civil war; deducting from the debt what had been paid for interest either in money or by bonds; by virtue of which provision about a fourth part of the debt was lost. He dissolved all the guilds, except such as were of ancient foundation. Crimes were punished with greater severity; and the rich being more easily induced to commit them because they were only liable to banishment, without the forfeiture of their property, he stripped murderers, as Cicero observes, of their whole estates, and other offenders of one half.

He was extremely assiduous and strict in the administration of justice. He expelled from the senate such members as were convicted of bribery; and he dissolved the marriage of a man of praetorian rank, who had married a lady two days after her divorce from a former husband, although there was no suspicion that they had been guilty of any illicit connection. He imposed duties on the importation of foreign goods. The use of litters for travelling, purple robes, and jewels, he permitted only to persons of a certain age and station, and on particular days. He enforced a rigid execution of the sumptuary laws; placing officers about the markets, to seize upon all meats exposed to sale contrary to the rules, and bring them to him; sometimes sending his lictors and soldiers to carry away such victuals as had escaped the notice of the officers, even when they were upon the table.

His thoughts were now fully employed from day to day on a variety of great projects for the embellishment and improvement of the city, as well as for guarding and extending the bounds of the empire. In the first place, he meditated the construction of a temple to Mars, which should exceed in grandeur every thing of that kind in the world. For this purpose, he intended to fill up the lake on which he had entertained the people with the spectacle of a sea-fight. He also projected a most spacious theatre adjacent to the Tarpeian mount; and also proposed to reduce the civil law to a reasonable compass, and out of that immense and undigested mass of statutes to extract the best and most necessary parts into a few books; to make as large a collection as possible of works in the Greek and Latin languages, for the public use; the province of providing and putting them in proper order being assigned to Marcus Varro. He intended likewise to drain the Pomptine marshes, to cut a channel for the discharge of the waters of the lake Fucinus, to form a road from the Upper Sea through the ridge of the Appenine to the Tiber; to make a cut through the isthmus of Corinth, to reduce the Dacians, who had over-run Pontus and Thrace, within their proper limits, and then to make war upon the Parthians, through the Lesser Armenia, but not to risk a general engagement with them, until he had made some trial of their prowess in war. But in the midst of all his undertakings and projects, he was carried off by death; before I speak of which, it may not be improper to give an account of his person, dress, and manners, together with what relates to his pursuits, both civil and military.

It is said that he was tall, of a fair complexion, round limbed, rather full faced, with eyes black and piercing; and that he enjoyed excellent health, except towards the close of his life, when he was subject to sudden fainting-fits, and disturbance in his sleep. He was likewise twice seized with the falling sickness while engaged in active service. He was so nice in the care of his person, that he not only kept the hair of his head closely cut and had his face smoothly shaved, but even caused the hair on other parts of the body to be plucked out by the roots, a practice for which some persons rallied him. His baldness gave him much uneasiness, having often found himself on that account exposed to the jibes of his enemies. He therefore used to bring forward the hair from the crown of his head; and of all the honours conferred upon him by the senate and people, there was none which he either accepted or used with greater pleasure, than the right of wearing constantly a laurel crown. It is said that he was particular in his dress. For he used the Latus Clavus[*](The Latus Clavus was a broad stripe of purple, on the front of the toga. Its width distinguished it from that of the knights, who wore it narrow .) with fringes about the wrists, and always had it girded about him, but rather loosely. This circumstance gave origin to the expression of Sylla, who often advised the nobles to beware of "the ill-girt boy."

He first inhabited a small house in the Suburra,[*](The Suburra lay between the Celian and Esquiline hills. It was one of the most frequented quarters of Rome.) but after his advancement to the pontificate, he occupied a palace belonging to the state in the Via Sacra. Many writers say that he liked his residence to be elegant, and his entertainments sumptuous; and that he entirely took down a villa near the grove of Aricia, Which he had built from the foundation and finished at a vast expense, because it did not exactly suit his taste, although he had at that time but slender means, and was in debt; and that he carried about in his expeditions tesselated and marble slabs for the floor of his tent.

They likewise report that he invaded Britain in hopes of finding pearls, [*](Bede, quoting Solinus, we believe, says that excellent pearls were found in the British seas, and that they were of all colors, but principally white. Eccl. Hist. b. i. c. i. ) the size of which he would compare together, and ascertain the weight by poising them in his hand; that he would purchase, at any cost, gems, carved works, statues, and pictures, executed by the eminent masters of antiquity; and that he would give for young and handy slaves a price so extravagant, that he forbad its being entered in the diary of his expenses.

We are also told, that in the provinces he constantly maintained two tables, one for the officers of the army, and the gentry of the country, and the other for Romans of the highest rank, and provincials of the highest distinction., He was so very exact in the management of his domestic affairs, both little and great, that he once threw a baker into prison, for serving him with a finer sort of bread than his guests; and put to death a freed-man, who was a particular favourite, for debauching the lady of a Roman knight, although no complaint had been made to him of the affair.

[*](* * * Thomson has omitted this chapter * * *)

It is admitted by all that he was much addicted to women, as well as very expensive in his intrigues with them, and that he debauched many ladies of the highest quality; among whom were Posthumia, the wife of Servius Sulpicius; Lollia, the wife of Aulus Gabinius; Tertulla, the wife of Marcus Crassus; and Mucia, the wife of Cneius Pompey. For it is certain that the Curios, both father and son, and many others, made it a reproach to Pompey, "That to gratify his ambition, he married the daughter of a man, upon whose account he had divorced his wife, after having had three children by her; and whom he used, with a deep sigh, to call AEgisthus." [*](AEgisthus, who, like Caesar, was a pontiff, debauched Clytemnestra while Agamemnon was engaged in the Trojan war, as Caesar did Mucla, the wife of Pompey, while absent in the war against Mithridates. ) But the mistress he most loved, was Servilia, the mother of Marcus Brutus. for whom he purchased. in his first consulship after the commencement of their intrigue, a pearl which cost him six millions of sesterces; and in the civil war, besides other presents, assigned to her, for a trifling consideration, some valuable farms when they were exposed to public auction. Many persons expressing their surprise at the lowness of the price, Cicero wittily remarked, "To let you know the real value of the purchase, between ourselves, Tertia was deducted:" for Servilia was supposed to have prostituted her daughter Tertia to Caesar. [*](A double entendre; Tertia signifying the third [of the value of the farm], as well as being the name of the girl, for whose favours the deduction was made. )

That he had intrigues likewise with married women in the provinces, appears from this distich, which was as much repeated in the Gallic triumph as the former:

  1. Watch well your wives, ye cits, we bring a blade,
  2. A bald-pate master of the wenching trade.
  3. Thy gold was spent on many a Gallic w—e;
  4. Exhausted now, thou com'st to borrow more.[*](Urbani, servate uxores; mcechum calvum adducimus:Aurum in Gallia effutuisti, hic sumpsisti mutuum.)

In the number of his mistresses were also some queens; such as Eunoe, a Moor, the wife of Bogudes, to whom and her husband he made, as Naso reports, many large presents. But his greatest favourite was Cleopatra, with whom he often revelled all night until the dawn of day, and would have gone with her through Egypt in dalliance, as far as Ethiopia, in her luxurious yacht, had not the army refused to follow him. He afterwards invited her to Rome, whence he sent her back loaded with honours and presents, and gave her permission to call by his name a son, who, according to the testimony of some Greek historians, resembled Caesar both in person and gait. Mark Antony declared in the senate, that Caesar had acknowledged the child as his own; and that Caius Matias, Caius Oppius, and the rest of Caesar's friends knew it to be true. On which occasion Oppius, as if it had been an imputation which he was called upon to refute, published a book to shew, "that the child which Cleopatra fathered upon Caesar, was not his." Helvius Cinna, tribune to the people, admitted to several persons the fact, that he had a bill ready drawn, which Caesar had ordered him to get enacted in his absence, allowing him, with the hope of leaving issue, to take any wife he chose, and as many of them as he pleased; and to leave no room for doubt of his infamous character for unnatural lewdness and adultery, Curio, the father, says, in one of his speeches, " He was every woman's man."

It is acknowledged even by his enemies, that in regard to wine he was abstemious. A remark is ascribed to Marcus Cato, "that Caesar was the only sober man amongst all those who were engaged in the design to subvert the government." In the matter of diet, Caius Oppius informs us, "that he was so indifferent, that when a person in whose house he was entertained, had served him with stale, instead of fresh, oil,[*](Plutarch tells us that the oil was used in' a dish of asparagus. Every traveller knows that in those climates oil takes the place of butter as an ingredient in cookery, and it needs no experience to fancy what it is when rancid.) and the rest of the company would not touch it, he alone ate very heartily of it, that he might not seem to tax the master of the house with rusticity or want of attention."

But his abstinence did not extend to pecuniary advantages, either in his military commands, or civil offices; for we have the testimony of some writers, that he took money from the proconsul, who was his predecessor in Spain, and from the Roman allies in that quarter, for the discharge of his debts; and plundered at the point of the sword some towns of the Lusitanians, notwithstanding they attempted no resistance, and opened their gates to him upon his arrival before them. In Gaul, he rifled the chapels and temples of the gods, which were filled with rich offerings, and demolished cities oftener for the sake of their spoil, than for any ill they had done. By this means gold became so plentiful with him, that he exchanged it through Italy and the provinces of the empire for three thousand sesterces the pound. In his first consulship he purloined from the Capitol three thousand pounds weight of gold, and substituted for it the same quantity of gilt brass. He bartered likewise to foreign nations and princes, for gold, the titles of allies and kings; and squeezed out of Ptolemy alone near six thousand talents, in the name of himself and Pompey. He afterwards supported the expense of the civil wars, and of his triumphs and public spectacles, by the most flagrant rapine and sacrilege.

In eloquence and warlike achievements, he equalled at least, if he did not surpass, the greatest of men. After his prosecution of Dolabella, he was indisputably reckoned one of the most distinguished advocates. Cicero, in recounting to Brutus the famous orators, declares, "that he does not see that Caesar was inferior to any one of them;" and says, "that he had an elegant, splendid, noble, and magnificent vein of eloquence." And in a letter to Cornelius Nepos, he writes of him in the following terms: "What! Of all the orators, who, during the whole course of their lives, have done nothing else, which can you prefer to him ? Which of them is more pointed or terse in his periods, or employs more polished and elegant language ?" In his youth, he seems to have chosen Strabo Caesar for his model; from whose oration in behalf of the Sardinians he has transcribed some passages literally into his Divination. In his delivery he is said to have had a shrill voice, and his action was animated, but not ungraceful. He has left behind him some speeches, among which are ranked a few that are not genuine, such as that on behalf of Quintus Metellus. These Augustus supposes, with reason, to be rather the production of blundering short-hand writers, who were not able to keep pace with him in the delivery, than publications of his own. For I find in some copies that the title is not "For Metellus," but "What he wrote to Metellus:" whereas the speech is delivered in the name of Caesar, vindicating Metellus and himself from the aspersions cast upon them by their common defamers. The speech addressed "To his soldiers in Spain," Augustus considers likewise as spurious. We meet with two under this title; one made, as is pretended, in the first battle, and the other in the last; at which time, Asinius Pollio says, he had not leisure to address the soldiers, on account of the suddenness of the enemy's attack.

He has likewise left Commentaries of his own actions both in the war in Gaul, and in the civil war with Pompey; for the author of the Alexandrian, African, and Spanish wars is not known with any certainty. Some think they are the productions of Oppius, and some of Hirtius; the latter of whom composed the last book, which is imperfect, of the Gallic war. Of Caesar's Commentaries, Cicero, in his Brutus, speaks thus: " He wrote his Commentaries in a manner deserving of great approbation: they are plain, precise, and elegant, without any affectation of rhetorical ornament. In having thus prepared materials for others who might be inclined to write his history, he may perhaps have encouraged some silly creatures to enter upon such a work, who will needs be dressing up his actions in all the extravagance of bombast; but he has discouraged wise men from ever attempting the subject." Hirtius delivers his opinion of these Commentaries in the following terms: "So great is the approbation with which they are universally perused, that, instead of rousing, he seems to have precluded, the efforts of any future historian. Yet, with respect to this work, we have more reason to admire him than others; for they only know how well and correctly he has written, but we know, likewise, how easily and quickly he did it."

Pollio Asinius thinks that they were not drawn up with much care, or with a due regard to truth; for he insinuates that Caesar was too hasty of belief in regard to what was performed by others under his orders; and that, he has not given a very faithful account of his own acts, either by design, or through defect of memory; expressing at the same time an opinion that Caesar intended a new and more correct edition. He has left behind him likewise two books on Analogy, with the same number under the title of Anti-Cato, and a poem entitled The .Itinerary. Of these books, he composed the first two in his passage over the Alps, as he was returning to the army after making his circuit in Hither-Gaul; the second work about the time of the battle of Munda; and the last during the four-and-twenty days he employed in his journey from Rome to Farther-Spain. There are extant some letters of his to the senate, written in a manner never practised by any before him; for they are distinguished into pages in the form of a memorandum book: whereas the consuls and commanders till then, used constantly in their letters to continue the line quite across the sheet, without any folding or distinction of pages. There are extant likewise some letters from him to Cicero, and others to his friends, concerning his domestic affairs; in which, if there was occasion for secrecy, he wrote in cyphers; that is, he used the alphabet in such a manner, that not a single word could be made out. The way to decipher those epistles was to substitute the fourth for the first letter, as d for a, and so for the other letters respectively. Some things likewise pass under his name, said to have been written by him when a boy, or a very young man; as the Encomium of Hercules, a tragedy entitled (Edipus, and a collection of Apophthegms; all which Augustus forbad to be published, in a short and plain letter to Pompeius Macer, who was employed by him in the arrangement of his libraries.

He was perfect in the use of arms, an accomplished rider, and able to endure fatigue beyond all belief. On a march he used to go at the head of his troops, sometimes on horseback, but oftener on foot, with his head bare in all kinds of weather. He would travel post in a light carriage[*](Meritoria rheda; a light four-wheeled carriage, apparently hired either for the journey or from town to town. They were tolerably commodious, for Cicero writes to Atticus, (v. 17.)Hanc eptstolam dictavi sedens in rheda, cum in castra proficiscerer. ) without baggage, at the rate of a hundred miles a day; and if he was stopped by floods in the rivers, he swam across, or floated on skins inflated with wind, so that he often anticipated intelligence of his movements. [*](Plutarch informs us that Caesar travelled with such expedition, that he reached the Rhone on the eighth day after he left Rome. )

In his expeditions, it is difficult to say whether his caution or his daring was most conspicuous. He never marched his army by roads which were exposed to ambuscades, without having previously examined the nature of the ground by his scouts. Nor did he cross over to Britain, before he had carefully examined, in person, [*](Caesar tells us himself that he employed C. Volusenus to reconnoitre the coast of Britain, sending him forward in a long ship, with orders to return and make his report before the expedition sailed. ) the navigation, the harbours, and the most convenient point of landing in the island. When intelligence was brought to him of the siege of his camp in Germany, he made his way to his troops, through the enemy's stations, in a Gaulish dress. He crossed the sea from Brundisium and Dyrrachium, in the winter, through the midst of the enemy's fleets; and the troops, under orders to join him, being slow in their movements, notwithstand, ing repeated messages to hurry them, but to no purpose, he at last went privately, and alone, aboard a small vessel in the night time, with his head muffled up; nor did he make himself known, or suffer the master to put about, although the wind blew strong against them, until they were ready to sink.

He was never deterred from any enterprise, nor retarded in the prosecution of it, by superstition.[*](Religione; that is, the omens being unfavourable.) When a victim, which he was about to offer in sacrifice, made its escape, he did not therefore defer his expedition against Scipio and Juba. And happening to fall, upon stepping out of the ship, he gave a lucky turn to the omen, by exclaiming, "I hold thee fast, Africa." To chide the prophecies which were spread abroad, that the name of the Scipios was, by the decrees of fate, fortunate and invincible in that province, he retained in the camp a profligate wretch, of the family of the Cornelii, who, on account of his scandalous life, was surnamed Salutio.

He not only fought pitched battles, but made sudden attacks when an opportunity offered; often at the end of a march, and sometimes during the most violent storms, when nobody could imagine he would stir. Nor was he ever backward in fighting, until towards the end of his life. He then was of opinion, that the oftener he had been crowned with success, the less he ought to expose himself to new hazards; and that nothing he could gain by a victory would compensate for what he might lose by a miscarriage. He never defeated the enemy without driving them from their camp; and giving them no time.to rally their forces. When the issue of a battle was doubtful, he sent away all the horses, and his own first, that having no means of flight, they might be under the greater necessity of standing their ground.