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who were still their equals, felt the difficulty of access to the dictator as an intolerable humiliation; and a state already regal was invested with the hateful complexion of an Oriental despotism, when Cleopatra came to Rome at Caesar's invitation, and her child, Cassarion, was openly recognized as his offspring. Stdl the nobles repaired to her court beyond the walls of Rome, and even Cicero was found among her flatterers. The same nobles veiled their dislike of Caesar beneath the servile adulation which they constantly offered him both in public and in private. He well knew that among their number was many a possible or probable assassin; but he declared that it was at any time better to die than to live always in fear of dying. Against any open attack he felt himself so secure in the general favour of the people and the good-will of the Italians, that he disbanded his veterans, sent the legions which were retained under arms to remote quarters, and refused the offer of his personal friends to form a body-guard for his protection.
On the 1st of January, B.C. 44, Caesar entered upon his fifth consulship with Marcus Antonius as his colleague, and upon his fourth dictatorship. The dignity of master of the horse was at first conferred on Lepidus; but he soon gave way to Caius Octavius, the son of C. Octavius and of Atia, the daughter of Caesar's younger sister Julia. The young Octavius was born, as we have already seen, in the consulship of Cicero, B.C. 63. Having lost his father at the age of four years, he was brought up under the eye of his great-uncle, who himself took part in his education. The weak health under which he suffered for more than half his life,* prevented Octavius from taking any active part in Caesar's campaigns, though he had accompanied him in the last Spanish War. He was now nineteen, and in the full bloom of that perfect beauty which has been perpetuated by his busts; and his elevation at that early age to the mastership of the horse indicated the design of Caesar to give to his new honours the stability of hereditary succession, especially when he added the distinction of causing the Senate to raise the Octavian house, which was only plebeian, to patrician rank. With a caution almost prescient, Caasar sent away the youth to complete his studies at Apollonia, in Ulyricum. The formal act of adoption was not completed till after the succession of Octavius to Caesar's inheritance under his will; but when next he appears in history, it is with the name
* Nicbuhr observes that Augustus was one of thoso men whose constitutions are not scttlod till about the age of fifty, after which he uever had a day's illness.
B.C. 44.J OESAB, ASPIRES TO THE CROWN. 255
that marks him as Caesar's adopted son, Caius Julius Cesar Octayianus. *
Casar next provided for the government for the three ensuing rears (b.c. 44—42) in a manner which indicated his expectation of a prolonged absence. But one step yet remained to perpetuate his power; and with regard to this step, his probable feelings have been most admirably described by Mr. Merivale:—" He had done no more than lay the first foundations of the great edifice which he contemplated in his own imagination; and he might be anxious to bequeath its completion to one whom he had himself bred to inherit his views together with his station. The title of Dictator had never descended from one generation to another; there were no associations connected with it as an hereditary office, no prestige of traditional veneration to blind men's eyes to the naked usurpation of supreme power. But the appellation of King seemed in itself to legitimize its possessor's claim to rule. It was the recognized symbol of hereditary sovereignty. It dazzled men by its brilliancy, and prevented them from looking too curiously into the fact which it really represented. Caesar might conceive that it was only under the shelter of this illusion that the successor to his principles of administration could maintain the position in which be could carry them into effect. But even if he was conscious of cherishing any wish for the title of king, he concealed it with studious care. It was in the counsels of his friends, at least, that the idea of obtaining it appeared to originate; and it was perhaps first suggested to them by the craft of his enemies, who sought thereby to exasperate the nation against him. While there were, as Caesar well knew, a hundred poniards ready to bury themselves in his bosom, he was aware that they were restrained by the consideration that, popular as he still was with the army, the provinces, and the mass of the citizens, his assassination might only be the signal for a general massacre of all his real and supposed enemies. It required a series of dark and artful intrigues to warp the affections of these classes from the person of the dictator, and there might seem no readier method of overthrowing a victorious adversary, than to fasten upon him the charge of affecting the kingly title." t
* It is altogether inaccurate to call him (ktavius after Ctesars death, and it is misleading to give him (except by anticipation) the title of Augustus, till it was conferred upon Mm by the Senate and People. From B.C. 44 to B.C. 27, it is proper to speak of him as Octavian, though his ordinary name was Ccesar.
t Merivale: History of the Romans undtr the Empire, Vol. II. pp. 468-9.
In the first two months of this fated year, more than one experiment was made upon the temper of the people, but always with a discouraging result. One morning Csesar's statue in front of the Rostra was found decorated with a diadem; and the tribunes, Marullus and Cresetius, obtained the title of the new Brutuses by tearing it down and punishing the offender. At the great Latin festival on the 26th of January, at the Alban Mount, more than one salutation of "king" provoked the low but audible murmurs of the people, till the dictator exclaimed "I am no king, but Caesar," unconsciously prophecying how the latter name would outshine the former.* As to the last demonstration, made by Mark Antony at the feast of the Lupercalia, on the 15th of February, it is superfluous to do more than remind the countrymen of Shakspere of the words :—
"You all did see that on the Lupercal
The poet has closely followed Plutarch's account of the scene, in which the faint cheers of the people at the offer of the diadem, followed by their shout of applause at its refusal, determined Cresar to declare, " I am not a king: the only king of the Romans is Jupiter." He hung up the offered diadem as a trophy in the Capitol, and caused the transaction to be recorded in the Fasti. But still the idea was not finally abandoned. A Sibylline oracle was quoted, that Parthia could only be conquered by a king; and it was proposed that Cresar should be invested with the royal title and authority over the foreign subjects of the State. It seems to have been the resolution not to yield this point that matured the plot against his life.
The universal opinion among the free states of antiquity in favour of tyrannicide caused a life like Cresar's to be held ever at the dagger's point; and some even of his chief adherents, as Antony and Dolabella, had already been accused of plotting his murder. The conspiracy to which he at length fell a victim was concocted by men of all parties in the state ;—the old nobles, who had been his enemies from the first, but nearly all of whom owed their position or their life to his clemency; his own adherents, some B.C. 44.] CONSPIRACY AGAINST CAESAR. 207
* During the international festivities of 1851, at the fete given at St. Cloud, amidst the cries of Vive Napoleon with which the officers greeted the Prince President Charles Louis Bonaparte, an officious Englishman shouted, "Vive VEmpcreur," "Sir!"—said the President of the Republic—"if that cry is repeated, 1 must leave the grounds." This parallel is related on the authority of one who was close by.
of whom allowed petty disappointments to outweigh all the favours he had heaped upon them, while others—like Decimus Brutus and Trebonius—were still receiving honours and governments at his hands; and if there were in the number any genuine patriots, the sense of shame and gratitude might have made them hold their hands. The tradition which represents this medley knot of conspirators as a band of stern vindicators of liberty is so untrue to history, that it can only have had its source in the instinctive hatred of the principle of tyranny. The conspirators were about sixty, or as some say, eighty. The prime mover of the plot was C. Cassius Longinus, whom we have seen distinguishing himself as quasstor under Crassus in Parthia, and as commander of the Pompeian fleet, and submitting to Csesar soon after the battle of Pharsalia. Like the knot of personal friends who surrounded Caesar, he was an avowed Epicurean, and his political principles were no stricter than his philosophy. A narrow selfish jealousy of Caesar's ascendancy is the only motive that can be found for his concoction of the conspiracy. The semblance of patriotic vengeance, which it would have been a mockery for Cassius to assume, was supplied by the name of Marcus Junius Brutus. "The name of Brutus forced its possessor into prominence as soon as royalty began to be discussed" (Merivale); and besides a doubtful descent from the founder of the republic, Brutus was the son-in-law and panegyrist of Cato, and an ardent student of the Stoic philosophy. But in practical life he was feeble and irresolute. Having joined the Pompeian standard with reluctance, he had been the first to submit after the battle of Pharsalia, and had been ever since distinguished by Caesar's special favour. But hints which his patron was said to have dropped of Brutus's worthiness to fill his place aided the plausible appeals which his brother-in-law Cassius made to his vanity. The mind which eould be caught by such tricks as placards hung upon the statue of the elder Brutus with the inscription "Would thou wert alive!"—by billets thrust into his own hand, bearing the words, "Brutus, thou sleepest, thou art no Brutus!"—had as little of stern principle, as the heart that could plant the last dagger in Caesar's bosom had of gratitude. It is a relief to turn from the moral weakness and wicked inconsistency of the vain Stoic, who gave the conspirators what they wanted, a name and head, to the tribute which they paid to Cicero's integrity, by not daring even to acquaint him with their design.
It is needless to relate at length the oft-told story of the fatal Ides Of March (March 15th, B.c. 44), the day for which the Senate was convened on the eve of Cffisar's departure for the East,—the day which had been marked by the warning—"Beware of the Idea of March." The conspirators had resolved to anticipate the expected motion for conferring upon Cassar the title of king in foreign parts, by despatching him as soon as he entered the Senate-house. Hints of aplot entrusted to so many persons could notbut get abroad, and some such hints reached Caesar. His wonted magnanimity seems to have been mingled with that calm acquiescence in approaching fate, which has often marked the coming end of great men. His Epicurean philosophy, confessing no terrors beyond the grave, was consistent in forbidding life to be marred by the fear of death; and on the very evening before his fall, he had replied to the question started at table—" What kind of death is the best? "—" That which is least expected." If, however, we may believe the uniform tradition of antiquity, the remnant of Roman superstition in Caesar's mind was moved by a fearful dream of his wife Calpurnia, and by the unfavourable auspices which the victims presented in the morning. He had even resolved, it is said, to send his colleague Antony to dismiss the Senate, when the raillery of Decimus Brutus, who had come to escort him, suppressed the show of irresolution. Postponement would indeed have been ruin to the plot; for, while the conspirators were alarmed at each moment by floating hints, more than one last warning met Caesar on his way to the Senate. In spite of the care of the conspirators who surrounded his litter, a man thrust into it a scroll, which Caesar rolled up, taking it for a petition, and still held in his hand when he was attacked. The last warning of all, though perhaps a rhetorical invention, expresses with the very truth of nature the premature joy of escape from inevitable doom:—" The Ides of March are come!"—" Yes! but they are not yet passed."
The Senate was summoned to meet in the Curia of Pompey, a hall adjacent to his theatre; and those of the conspirators who were not already in attendance upon Caesar were waiting in the portico of that edifice, with daggers concealed beneath their cloaks. They crowded about him as he entered the hall, while Trebonius detained Antony in conversation at the door. Caesar took his seat, and Tillius Cimber approached him to present a petition for his brother's pardon. Under the pretence of joining in the supplication, the conspirators grasped Caesar's hands, and Cimber pulletl his toga over his arms. At this signal, Casca struck the first blow. It only grazed Ctesar's shoulder, and, releasing one of his