Study Guide for Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar

Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Study Guide by Anne White

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Julius Caesar (July 13, 100 B.C.-March 15, 44 B.C.)

Who Was Gaius Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar was a Roman statesman and general in the first century B.C., the last years of the Republic. Over his long career, he held almost every high civic, military, and even religious position that existed. He was also a noted orator and writer. (An orator was a public speaker, usually someone who used those skills in political or legal matters.)

The Roman Republic (and small-e empire)

The Roman Empire did not formally exist until Octavius Caesar (later Caesar Augustus) became Emperor in 27 B.C. However, though it was still the era of the Roman Republic, Rome did have an empire because of the large amount of foreign territory it had acquired. For clarity, we will call it the small-e empire.

In the first century B.C., overseas conquests meant a great number of foreign captives; so small, family-run farms now competed with larger operations based on slave labour. The lack of small land owners forced the army to accept soldiers from the poorer classes, who then had to be paid more so that they could afford weapons. These soldiers considered themselves employees of the army (rather than citizens who occasionally had to fight): their loyalty was to their general, perhaps even more than to Rome itself.

Who were Sulla and Marius?

When Julius Caesar was about sixteen, a civil war began between two mighty Roman rivals: Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and Caesar's uncle-by-marriage, Gaius Marius, who was allied with another leader named Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Several personal events happened in Caesar's life at the same time: his father died, leaving him as head of the family; he nominated himself to be the High Priest of Jupiter (see the note below); and he was married to Cinna's daughter Cornelia. When Sulla's side gained power in Rome, Caesar (as a "Marian," or sympathizer with Marius) not only lost his position and inheritance, and was pressured to divorce his wife, but had to go into hiding as well. Even when the threat to his life ended, Caesar thought he would be safer away from Rome, so he joined military expeditions in Asia and Cilicia. It has been noted that that Rome was the real beneficiary of Caesar's "career change," since, as the High Priest of Jupiter (a special position that had many restrictions attached to it), he would not have been allowed to participate in the military.

A note on the spelling of Sulla: North and Dryden spell this name "Sylla," although other sources spell it "Sulla." The reason is that Plutarch wrote in Greek, and "Sylla" was his Greek version of the Latin name. I have used "Sulla" to avoid confusion.

Who were Caesar's wives?

As noted above, Caesar's first wife was Cornelia the daughter of Cinna; his second was Pompeia, the granddaughter of Sulla; and his third was Calpurnia, the one featured in Shakespeare's play. He was also engaged to another girl before his first marriage, but the rules of the priesthood required him to marry someone whose family was of equal rank to his.

What was the priesthood of Jupiter? What was Pontifex Maximus?

Thomas North often used images from his own culture to translate Greek and Roman terms. Knights defended castles (forts); men opened their doublets and rode in carriages (chariots); and the high priest became a bishop. For our purposes, it is necessary only to know that there were numerous levels and types of priesthood in Rome and throughout the rest of Italy; and that these positions carried political as well as spiritual authority. Julius Caesar became a pontifex (priest) in 73 B.C., after the death of Sulla; and Pontifex Maximus (chief or high priest) in 63 B.C. These were different positions from that of High Priest of Jupiter, and did not keep him from military leadership.

What was an aedile, a quaestor, a consul?

The elected positions or magistracies in Rome were (starting at the bottom): quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. (The office of non-military tribune, or tribune of the people, was a separate position.) Ex-consuls could become censors, and a consul could become dictator if the need (usually a great emergency) arose.

What was a dictator?

In the early days of the Republic, consuls were sometimes suspected of taking office only so that they could bring back the monarchy. The office of praetor maximus, or dictator, was created as a safeguard: it gave the Romans the option of choosing someone who would act as the supreme magistrate of the city, and also as a military general during wartime, but for a limited period of time. Most Roman dictatorships took place during the first two hundred years of the Republic; the position became much less common in later times. Those who held the office of dictator in later years, such as Sulla and Julius Caesar, seemed to use it more for personal power, and this caused trouble.

Who were the tribunes?

The duty of a non-military tribune (sometimes called a tribune of the plebeians, or a "tribune of the people") was to protect the liberties of the common people from any individual or group (such as the nobles) who might take advantage of them or suppress their rights. This position was not part of the junior-senior ranking of magistrates such as quaestor and consul; it was an office voted on by the common people (plebeians), who themselves were bound by oath to protect the tribunes from harm.

Who were the Gauls and the Germans?

One of Julius Caesar's major contributions to the Roman Republic (soon to be the Roman Empire) was to enlarge its boundaries by taking over new territory in Europe. Throughout the story, we have the names of numerous tribes and sub-tribes, some of them Gauls, others Germans, but all of them seen as potential Roman soldiers/taxpayers. In Caesar's account of the Gallic Wars, the Germans were the various tribes who lived east of the Rhine River, and the Gauls were all those living to the west.

Who was Pompey?

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great, was a military and political leader, famous for his exploits in Sulla's Second Civil War. His marriage to Caesar's daughter Julia might have eased the rivalry between them, but her early death ended that possibility.

Who were all those other people whose names started with "C?"

Casca: Two Casca brothers were involved in the assassination of Caesar: Publius Servilius Casca Longus, who struck the first blow; and Gaius Servilius Casca, a close friend of Caesar's.

Marcus Licinius Crassus, or Crassus: a Roman general and politician (115 B.C.-53 B.C.), one of the First Triumvirate with Caesar and Pompey; he was also known for his wealth.

Cassius: Gaius Cassius Longinus, a brother-in-law of Brutus, was a Roman senator and one of the conspirators against Caesar.

Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, or Cato the Younger, was a statesman who had frequent conflicts of opinion with Caesar.

Cicero: Quintus Tullius Cicero was a military leader during Caesar's Gallic wars. Marcus Tullius Cicero, his older brother, was a Roman statesman and orator, and was put to death in 43 B.C. because of his enmity to Marcus Antonius. (Because Shakespeare called Marcus Antonius by the anglicized Mark or Marc Antony, we often use that name as well.)

Cinna: there are several Cinnas in the story, beginning with Lucius Cornelius Cinna (the Elder), Caesar's first father-in-law. Then we have Lucius Cornelius Cinna (the Younger), one of the conspirators against Caesar; and Helvius Cinna or "Cinna the Poet," whose name led to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Should we read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at the same time?

In the original PNEU schools, students read William Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in the same term as Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar. And why not? One lends interest to the other, and seeing what an expert dramatist created from the original source material is a wonderful lesson in writing. The problem with reading them at the same time is that the play focuses only on the last days of Caesar's life, with a shift at the end to Cassius and Brutus. If students are familiar with the story, they may not find it too confusing to jump so far ahead of their Plutarch readings. An alternative, not traditional for Charlotte Mason, but workable especially for younger students, might be to focus on Plutarch for the first part of the term; and then read the play. Notes on the play (Shakespeare Connections) are included in the last few lessons of this study.

Top Vocabulary Terms in the Life of Julius Caesar

1. barbarians: a general term referring here to non-Romans, particularly people of the northern tribes who seemed less "civilized" (or barbarous)

2. clemency: mercy, forgiveness. Clementia was the goddess of such virtues, and a Roman temple was dedicated to her (Lesson Ten).

3. cohort: A cohort was made up of about 480 soldiers.

4. commonwealth: a state (in this case Rome) and its dependencies, possessions, provinces and/or colonies

5. corn: grain, such as wheat or barley

6. despise: Not necessarily to dislike something or to find it disgusting ("I despise rutabagas"), but to regard something or someone with contempt, and possibly to underestimate it/them. " . . . despising a danger at first will make it at last irresistible" (Lesson One).

7. foot: "Foot" is another word for infantry, or foot soldiers. (The cavalry, or soldiers on horseback, is sometimes called just "horse.")

8. The Forum: also called the marketplace. The public place in Rome where speeches were made and business was carried out.

9. legion: a military unit made up (at that time) of about 4500 men

10. magistrates: elected officials

11. mean: Used several times as an adjective to mean insignificant, poor, inferior; of low social standing. Means can be a noun meaning a method or way of doing something ("he did not have the means to make it happen"). Mean is also used in its more usual verb sense ("what did she mean?").

12. orator: one who makes public speeches or orations.

13. talent: an amount of money, measured by its weight in gold or silver. The Roman talent was a third larger than the Athenian version, and about half the size of the talent mentioned in the New Testament; one Roman talent weighed just over 71 lb. (32.3 kg).

14. triumph: an official parade in celebration of a military victory

15. victuals (pronounced "vittles"): food supplies. It is occasionally used as a verb (to "victual" the soldiers).

Lesson One


In a time when many in Rome were being put to death for their political loyalties (or even for being related to the wrong party), young Julius Caesar was on the wrong side. Most people in that position would have stayed hidden or at least tried to live quietly; but Julius Caesar was never most people. In fact, he decided to put himself forward for the very public position of High Priest of Jupiter. General Sulla, who had recently won a civil war and become dictator of Rome, had been too busy to worry much about one teenage boy with Marian connections; but that got his attention, and now Caesar was in trouble.


master: dictator (see introductory notes for this study)

put away: divorce

confiscating her dowry: taking away the money her family had paid to Caesar at their wedding

priesthood: see the introductory notes

he was yet a mere boy: Caesar was about eighteen

guards: not in the sense of prison guards, but rather as bodyguards, protecting his safety

hang them up: put them to death

discharged: freed

praetor: the office of praetor could include governorship of a province

the open house he kept: his hospitality

the whole state and commonwealth: the way things were governed

application: effort

Marius's exploits over the Cimbri: Sulla had taken the credit for this victory, and Caesar was now trying to give it back to his uncle.

extolled: praised

they that had him in estimation: his admirers


Sulla: Sulla was made Perpetual Dictator, but resigned after one year, and was elected as consul instead for 80 B.C., along with Metellus Pius, whom Caesar later replaced as Pontifex Maximus.

Cinna, Marius: see introductory notes for this study

King Nicomedes: Nicomedes IV Philopator, king of Bithynia from 94-74 B.C.

Marcus Juncus: governor of Asia in 75 B.C.

Historic Occasions

113-101 B.C.: Cimbrian War

106 B.C.: Birth of Pompey

100 B.C.: Birth of Julius Caesar

87 B.C.: Cinna and Marius took control in Rome

86 B.C.: Death of Marius

84 B.C.: Caesar married Cornelia

82/81 B.C.-79 B.C.: Sulla's dictatorship in Rome

78 B.C.: Death of Sulla

75 B.C.: Caesar kidnapped by pirates

70 B.C.: Pompey and Crassus were consuls together (the first time)

69 B.C.: Death of Cornelia

67 B.C.: Caesar returned from Spain and married Pompeia

On the Map

As an introduction to this study, it would be useful to examine a map of the Roman Republic and its surroundings in the first century B.C., including other lands which had become provinces, such as Spain and Syria. A map or pictures of Rome itself might also be helpful (what is meant by setting up statues in the Capitol?).

Other places mentioned in this lesson:

Cimbri: a tribe who were defeated in a war just before Caesar's birth

the country of the Sabines: a mountainous area northeast of Rome

Bithynia: a region in the northwestern part of Asia Minor. King Nicomedes IV (mentioned in the passage) died in 74 B.C. and bequeathed his kingdom to Rome, making it a province.

Pharmacusa: a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea

Cilicia (Cilicians): an ancient kingdom that is now part of Turkey

Miletus, Pergamum: Greek cities that are now part of Turkey

Rhodes: a Greek island which was famous as a center of learning


Part One

After Sulla became master of Rome, he wished to make Caesar put away his wife Cornelia, daughter of Cinna, the late sole ruler of the commonwealth; but was unable to effect it either by promises or intimidation, and so contented himself with confiscating her dowry. (The ground of Sulla's hostility to Caesar was the relationship between him and Marius. [omission]) And though at the beginning, while so many were to be put to death, and there was so much to do, Caesar was overlooked by Sulla; yet he would not keep quiet, but presented himself to the people as a candidate for the priesthood, though he was yet a mere boy. When Sulla was determined to have killed Caesar, some of his friends told him that it was to no purpose to put so young a boy as he to death. But Sulla answered that they knew little who did not see more than one Marius in that boy.

Caesar, understanding that, stole out of Rome, and hid himself a long time in the country of the Sabines, wandering still from place to place. But one day while moving from house to house, he fell into the hands of Sulla's soldiers, who searched all those places, and took them whom they found hidden. Caesar, by a bribe of two talents, prevailed with Cornelius, their captain, to let him go, and was no sooner dismissed but he put to sea and made for Bithynia. After a short stay there with King Nicomedes, in his passage back he was taken near the island of Pharmacusa by some of the pirates, who, at that time, with large fleets of ships and innumerable smaller vessels, infested the seas everywhere.

They asking him at the first twenty talents for his ransom, Caesar laughed them to scorn, as though they knew not what a man they had taken, and of himself promised them fifty talents. Then he sent his men up and down to get him this money, so that he was left in manner alone among these thieves of the Cilicians [omission], with one of his friends, and two of his slaves only: and yet he made so little reckoning of them, that when he was desirous to sleep, he sent unto them to command them to make no noise.

For thirty-eight days he was not kept as a prisoner, but rather as a prince. He amused himself with joining in their exercises and games, as if they had not been his keepers, but his guards. And otherwhile also he would write verses, and make orations, and call them together to say them before them: and if any of them seemed as though they had not understood him, or passed not for them, he called them blockheads, and brute beasts, and laughing, threatened them that he would hang them up. But they were as merry with the matter as could be, and took all in good part, thinking that this his bold speech came through the simplicity of his youth.

As soon as his ransom was come from Miletus, he paid it, and was discharged; and proceeded at once to man some ships at the port of Miletus, and went in pursuit of the pirates, whom he surprised with their ships still stationed at the island; and took most of them. Their money he made his prize, and the men he secured in prison at Pergamum; and he made application to Marcus Juncus, who was then governor of Asia, whose duty it was, as praetor, to determine their punishment. Juncus, having his eye upon the money, for the sum was considerable, said he would think at his leisure what to do with the prisoners. Caesar leaving Juncus there, returned again unto Pergamum, and there hung up all these thieves openly upon a cross, as he had oftentimes promised them in the isle he would do, when they thought he did but jest.

Part Two

[Omission: Caesar spent some time studying in Rhodes, and then returned to Rome. He became active in public life, taking cases as a lawyer.]

Now Caesar immediately won many men's good wills at Rome, through his eloquence in pleading of their causes: and the people loved him marvellously also, in which he showed a tact and consideration beyond what could have been expected at his age; and the open house he kept, the entertainments he gave, and the general splendour of his manner of life contributed little by little to create and increase his political influence. His enemies slighted the growth of it at first, presuming it would soon fail when his money was gone; whilst in the meantime it was growing up and flourishing among the common people. But in fine, when they had thus given him the bridle to grow to this greatness, and that they could not then pull him back, and now openly tended to the altering of the whole state and commonwealth of Rome: too late they found that there is no beginning so mean, which continued application will not make considerable; and that despising a danger at first will make it at last irresistible.

Part Three

[Caesar became a tribune (72 B.C.) and then treasurer, or quaestor (68/67 B.C.), and aedile (65 B.C.). He lost his wife Cornelia, but then married again.]

At that time there were two factions in Rome, one that of Sulla, which was very powerful; the other that of Marius, which was then broken and in a very low condition; Caesar undertook to revive this and to make it his own. And to this end, whilst he was in the height of his repute with the people for the magnificent shows he gave as aedile, he ordered images of Marius and figures of Victory, with trophies in their hands, to be carried privately in the night and placed in the Capitol. Next morning when some saw them bright with gold and beautifully made, with inscriptions upon them, referring them to Marius's exploits over the Cimbri, they were surprised at the boldness of him who had set them up; nor was it difficult to guess who it was.

Hereupon, it ran straight through all the city, and every man came thither to see them. Then some cried out upon Caesar, and said it was a tyranny which he meant to set up, by renewing of such honours as before had been trodden underfoot, and forgotten by common decree and open proclamation; and that it was no more but a bait to gauge the people's goodwill [omission]. On the other hand, Marius's party took courage, and it was incredible how numerous they were suddenly seen to be, and what a multitude of them appeared and came shouting into the Capitol. Many, when they saw Marius's likeness, cried for joy, and Caesar was highly extolled as the one man, in the place of all others, who was a relation worthy of Marius [omission]. Thereupon they that had him in estimation did grow in better hope than before, and persuaded him [omission] through the goodwill of the people, he should be better than all of them, and be first man in the commonwealth.

Narration and Discussion

What impressions do you have already of Julius Caesar?

"For thirty-eight days he was not kept as a prisoner, but rather as a prince." Give some examples.

For further thought: "Despising a danger at first will make it at last irresistible." This lesson seems to prove this in more ways than one. What is the danger in ignoring a small problem? Can you think of any Scriptures that support this? (Song of Solomon 2:15)

Creative narration: You are a reporter doing a news story about the statues in the Capitol. Write or act out your findings.

Lesson Two


From quaestor and aedile to Pontifex Maximus, praetor, and finally consul: was there any higher that Caesar could go?


high priest: Pontifex Maximus (see introductory notes).

most apprehensive of the event: most worried about the outcome

importunate: insistent that he pay back the money he owed them

usury: demanding excessive amounts of interest on loans

let the triumph fall: let it pass, drop it

assumed a policy: devised a strategy


Catulus: Quintus Lutatius Catulus Capitolinus, a politician who was an avowed enemy to the Marian party. (His father, also named Catulus, had fallen out with Marius over the Cimbri issue (Lesson One) and had become a supporter of Sulla; but when Marius came to power in 87 B.C., he committed suicide rather than be executed for disloyalty.)

Isauricus (#1): a consul (79 B.C.) and general who was known for fighting against the Cilician pirates. He was the father of the Isauricus (#2) who was co-consul with Caesar in 48 B.C.

Crassus, Cato: see introductory notes

Alexander: Alexander the Great

Calpurnius Bibulus: Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus, the unfortunate politician who was elected consul along with Caesar for 59 B.C.

Historic Occasions

63 B.C.: Caesar became Pontifex Maximus

62 B.C.: Caesar served as praetor and governor of Spain

61 B.C.: Caesar divorced his wife Pompeia

60 B.C.: Caesar was elected consul for the following year (59 B.C.)

On the Map

Spain(s): Spain was divided into two provinces, Near and Far Spain.

Callaici: or Gallaeci; a group of tribes living in the Iberian Peninsula

Lusitani: or Lusitanians; a tribe of the Iberian Peninsula


Part One

At that time, Metellus the high priest died, and Catulus and Isauricus, persons of the highest reputation, and who had great influence in the Senate, were competitors for the office; yet Caesar would not give way to them, but presented himself to the people as a candidate against them. The several parties seeming very equal, Catulus, who, because he had the most honour to lose, was the most apprehensive of the event, sent to Caesar to buy him off, with offers of a great sum of money. But his answer was that he was ready to borrow a larger sum than that to carry on the contest.

When the day of the election came, his mother bringing him to the door of his house, Caesar weeping, kissed her, and said, "Mother, today you will see me either high priest or an exile." In fine, when the voices of the people were gathered together, and the strife well debated, Caesar won the victory, and made the Senate and noblemen all afraid of him: for that they thought that thenceforth he would make the people do what he thought good.

Part Two

[Omission: Caesar made some powerful enemies during the Catiline Conspiracy crisis, when he argued against putting criminals of noble families to death. He then prepared to go to Spain to take up the office of governor there.]

Caesar, in the meantime [omission], had got the province of Spain, but was in great embarrassment with his creditors, who, as he was going off, came upon him, and were very pressing and importunate. This led him to apply himself to Crassus, who was the richest man in Rome, and that stood in need of Caesar's boldness and courage [Dryden: youthful vigour and heat] to withstand Pompey's greatness in the commonwealth. Crassus took upon him to satisfy those creditors who were most uneasy to him, and would not be put off any longer; and engaged himself to the amount of eight hundred and thirty talents; upon which Caesar was now at liberty to go to his province.

In his journey, as he was crossing the Alps, and passing by a small village of the barbarians with but few inhabitants, and those wretchedly poor, his companions asked the question among themselves, by way of mockery, if there were any contending for offices in that town, and whether there were any strife there amongst the noblemen for honour. To which Caesar made answer seriously, "For my part, I had rather be the chiefest man here, than the second person in Rome."

Another time also when he was in Spain, reading the history of Alexander's acts, when he had read it, he was sorrowful a good while after, and then burst out in weeping. His friends, seeing that, marvelled what should be the cause of his sorrow. "Do ye not think," said he, "that I have good cause to be heavy, when King Alexander being no older than myself is now, had in old time won so many nations and countries; and that I hitherunto have done nothing worthy of myself?"

Therefore when he was come into Spain, he was very careful of his business, and had in few days joined ten new cohorts of foot in addition to the twenty which were there before. With these he marched against the Calaici and Lusitani, and conquered them; and advancing as far as the ocean, subdued the tribes which never before had been subject to the Romans.

There he took order for pacifying of the war, and did as wisely take order for the establishing of peace. For he did reconcile the cities together, and made them friends one with another, but specially he pacified all suits of law, and strife betwixt the debtors and creditors, which had grown by reason of usury. For he ordained that the creditors should take yearly two parts of the revenue of their debtors, until such time as they had paid themselves; and that the debtors should have the third part to themselves to live withal. This conduct made him leave his province with a fair reputation; being rich himself, and having enriched his soldiers, and having received from them the honourable name of Imperator, or "sovereign captain."

Part Three

[Caesar now had a problem. He was in line for a military triumph, but he also wanted to run for consul, and the rules for the two contradicted each other.]

Now the Romans had a custom that such as demanded the honour of triumph should remain awhile outside the city; and that they, on the other side, which sued for the consulship, should of necessity be there in person. Caesar coming unhappily at that very time when the consuls were chosen, he sent to pray the Senate to do him that favour, that being absent, he might by his friends sue for the consulship. Cato at the first did protest against it, vouching an express law forbidding the contrary. But afterwards, perceiving that, notwithstanding the reasons he alleged, many of the senators (being won by Caesar) favoured his request: yet he cunningly sought all he could to prevent and delay them. Caesar thereupon determined rather to let the triumph fall, and to make suit for the consulship.

Entering the town and coming forward immediately, he assumed a policy by which everybody was deceived but Cato. This was the reconciling of Crassus and Pompey, the two men who then were most powerful in Rome. There had been a quarrel between them, which he now succeeded in making up, and by this means he strengthened himself by the united power of both; and so under the cover of an action which carried all the appearance of a piece of kindness and good-nature, he caused what was, in effect, a revolution in the government. For it was not the quarrel between Pompey and Caesar, as most men imagine, which was the origin of the civil wars; but their union, their conspiring together at first to subvert the aristocracy, and so quarreling afterwards between themselves. Cato, who often foretold what the consequence of this alliance would be, had then the character of a sullen, interfering man; but in the end the reputation of a wise but unsuccessful counsellor.

Thus Caesar, being doubly supported by the interests of Crassus and Pompey, was promoted to the consulship, along with Calpurnius Bibulus.

Narration and Discussion

Caesar said, "For my part, I had rather be the chiefest man here, than the second person in Rome." What did he mean?

Discuss Caesar's reaction to his reading of Alexander. Should the stories of heroes make us weep?

Why was Caesar's reconciliation of Pompey and Crassus actually a play for power? Can peacemaking ever be a bad or a selfish thing?

Creative narration: Tell the story of the election from the point of view of a) Catulus or b) Caesar's mother.

Lesson Three


The year 59 B.C. was referred to afterwards as the "Consulship of Julius and Caesar." In this political soap opera, alliances between the heavyweights alternated with smear campaigns and backstabbing. By the end of the year, Caesar was badly in need of something that would regain the Romans' trust and respect. (A war might work.)

What ailed Caesar?

Because of Plutarch's comments, there is a belief that Julius Caesar had "the falling sickness," or epilepsy. However, scholars have not agreed on what sort of seizures or spells of weakness he had, or what caused them.


preferred: proposed

division of lands: a redistribution of land that would benefit veteran soldiers

gratis: free

such a colourable pretext: such a wonderful excuse

overhardness and austerity: strict, miserly policies

one on each side: as a declaration that they had teamed up together

target: shield

vehemence: energetic fury

contracted: engaged (by arrangement between the families)

that had offered his wife such dishonour: see note under People

perfidiousness: disloyalty, treachery

conciliated: pacified; gained their esteem and goodwill

wantonness: wild behaviour

liberal: generous

pricked him forward: motivated him, urged him

subject to headache . . . : see note on this (above)

a pretext for his ease: an excuse for taking things easy

physic: medicine

indefatigable: untiring

lodging in the field: sleeping outdoors

by writing ciphers in letters: the Roman writer Suetonius wrote this about Caesar: " . . . if he had anything confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out." This type of substitution cipher is still called a Caesar Cipher.

sweet ointment: also translated "oil of perfume" or "myrrh." It appears that Valerius Leo hadn't just pulled out the wrong bottle of salad dressing, rather that he was trying to show off his wealth. The reference to the host's want of breeding seems to confirm that.


(Quintus) Servilius Caepio: There were various Romans by this name, but none of them seem to have been engaged to Caesar's daughter Julia. Some have suggested that it might refer to Brutus, who went by that name at one time.

Piso: Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (c. 100 BC – 43 BC), consul in 58 B.C. He is known for his antagonism to Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Clodius: Publius Clodius Pulcher. Clodius had "gate-crashed" a women's religious ritual at Julius Caesar's house, which was a serious matter and caused Caesar to divorce his wife Pompeia.

Historic Occasions

59 B.C.: Caesar was consul

59 B.C.: Caesar married his third wife, Calpurnia

On the Map

Gaul: see introductory notes for this study

Illyricum (Illyrians): a region of southeastern Europe

Massilia: the city of Marseilles, in France

Córdoba: a city in southern Spain

Rhône: a major river of Europe (not to be confused with the Rhine)

Milan: a large city in Italy


Part One

When Caesar entered into the office of consul, he brought in bills which would have been preferred with better grace by the most audacious of the tribunes, than by a consul; in which he proposed the division of lands, and distributing of corn to every citizen gratis, simply to please the common people. The best and most honourable of the senators opposed it; upon which, as he had long wished for nothing more than for such a colourable pretext, he loudly protested that by the overhardness and austerity of the Senate, they drove him against his will to lean unto the people.

And so he hurried out of the Senate, and presenting himself to the people, and there placing Crassus and Pompey one on each side of him, he asked the two of them whether they consented to the bills he had proposed. They both answered, they did. Then he prayed them to stand by him against those that had threatened to oppose him with their swords. Crassus gave him his word, he would. Pompey also did the like, and added thereunto that he would come with his sword and target both, against them that would withstand him with their swords. These words the nobles much resented, as neither suitable to his own dignity, nor becoming the reverence due to the Senate, but resembling rather the vehemence of a boy or the fury of a madman. But the people were pleased with it.

In order to get a yet firmer hold upon Pompey, Caesar having a daughter, Julia, who had been before contracted to Servilius Caepio, now betrothed her to Pompey, and told Servilius he should have Pompey's daughter, who was not unengaged either, but promised to Sulla's son Faustus. A little time after, Caesar married Calpurnia, the daughter of Piso, and got Piso made consul for the year following. Cato exclaimed loudly against this, and protested, with a great deal of warmth, that it was a shameful matter, and not to be suffered, that they should in that sort make havoc of the empire of Rome, distributing among themselves, through those wicked marriages, the governments of the provinces, and of great armies.

Calpurnius Bibulus, fellow consul with Caesar, perceiving that he did contend in vain, making all the resistance he could to withstand this law, and that oftentimes he was in danger to be slain with Cato, in the Forum and assembly: he kept close in his house all the rest of his consulship. Pompey, when he was married, at once filled the Forum with soldiers, and gave the people his help in passing the new laws, and secured Caesar the government of all Gaul, both on this and the other side of the Alps, together with Illyricum, and the command of four legions for five years.

Cato made some attempts against these proceedings, but was seized and led off on the way to prison by Caesar, who expected that he would appeal to the tribunes. But when he saw that Cato went along without speaking a word, and not only the nobility were indignant, but the people also, out of respect for Cato's virtue, were following in silence, and with dejected looks, he himself secretly did pray one of the tribunes that he would take Cato from the officers [omission].

But the most disgraceful thing that was done in Caesar's consulship was his assisting to gain the tribuneship for the same Clodius that had offered his wife such dishonour, and profaned the holy ancient mysteries of the women, which were celebrated in his own house. He was elected on purpose to effect Cicero's downfall; nor did Caesar leave the city to join his army till they two had overpowered Cicero and driven him out of Italy.

Part Two

Thus far we have followed Caesar's actions before the wars of Gaul. After this, he seems to begin his course afresh, and to enter upon a new life and scene of action. And the period of those wars which he now fought, and those many expeditions in which he subdued Gaul, showed him to be a soldier and general not in the least inferior to any of the greatest and most admired commanders who had ever appeared at the head of armies.

For whosoever would compare the house of the Fabians, of the Scipios, of the Metellians, yea those also of his own time, or long before him, as Sulla, Marius, the two Lucullians, and Pompey himself, whose fame ascendeth up unto the heavens: but it will appear that Caesar's skill and his deeds of arms did excel them all together. One he may be held to have outdone in consideration of the difficulty of the country in which he fought, another in the extent of territory which he conquered; some, in the number and strength of the enemy whom he defeated; one man, because of the wildness and perfidiousness of the tribes whose goodwill he conciliated, another in his humanity and clemency to those he overpowered; others, again, in his gifts and kindnesses to his soldiers; all alike in the number of the battles which he fought and the enemies whom he killed. For he had not pursued the wars in Gaul full ten years when he had taken by storm above eight hundred towns, subdued three hundred states, and of the three millions of men, who made up the gross sum of those with whom at several times he engaged, he had killed one million and taken captive a second.

He was so much master of the goodwill and hearty service of his soldiers, that those who in other expeditions were but ordinary men displayed a courage past defeating or withstanding when they went upon any danger where Caesar's glory was concerned. And this appeareth plainly by the example of Acilius: who in a battle by sea before the city of Massilia, boarding one of his enemies' ships, one cut off his right hand with a sword, but yet he forsook not his target which he had in his left hand, but thrust it in his enemies' faces, and made them flee, so that he won their ship from them.

[Omission for length]

Part Three

Now Caesar himself did breed this noble courage and life in them. First, for that he gave them bountifully, and did honour them also, showing thereby that he did not heap up riches in the wars to maintain his life afterwards in wantonness and pleasure, but that he did keep it in store, honourably to reward their valiant service: and that by so much he thought himself rich, by how much he was liberal in rewarding of them that had deserved it.

Furthermore, they did not wonder so much at his valiantness in putting himself at every instant in such manifest danger, and in taking so extreme pains as he did, knowing that it was his greedy desire of honour that set him afire, and pricked him forward to do it: but that he always continued all labour and hardness, more than his body could bear, that filled them all with admiration. For he was a spare man, had a soft and pale skin, and was often subject to headache, and otherwhile to the falling sickness: (the which took him the first time, as it is reported, in Córdoba). But he did not make the weakness of his constitution a pretext for his ease, but rather used war as the best physic against his indispositions; whilst, by indefatigable journeys, coarse diet, frequent lodging in the field, and continual laborious exercise, he struggled with his diseases, and fortified his body against all attacks.

He slept generally in his chariots or litters, employing even his rest in pursuit of action. In the day he was thus carried to the forts, garrisons, and camps, one servant sitting with him, who used to write down what he dictated as he went, and a soldier attending behind him with his sword drawn. He drove so rapidly that when he first left Rome he arrived at the river Rhône within eight days. He had been an expert rider from his childhood; for it was usual with him to sit with his hand joined together behind his back, and so to put his horse to its full speed. In his wars in Gaul, he did further exercise himself to dictate letters as he rode by the way, and did occupy two secretaries at once with as much as they could write; and as Oppius writeth, more than two at a time.

And it is reported, that Caesar was the first that devised friends might talk together by writing ciphers in letters, when he had no leisure to speak with them for his urgent business, and for the great distance besides from Rome.

Sidebar: Caesar's Generous Side

How little account Caesar made of his diet, this example doth prove it. When at the table of Valerius Leo, who entertained him at the supper at Milan, a dish of asparagus was put before him on which his host instead of salad oil had poured sweet ointment. Caesar partook of it without any disgust, and reprimanded his friends for finding fault with it. "For it was enough," said he, "not to eat what you did not like; but he who reflects on another man's want of breeding shows he wants it as much himself."

Another time upon the road he was driven by a storm into a poor man's cottage, where he found but one room, and that such as would afford but a mean reception to a single person, and therefore told his companions that places of honour should be given up to the greater men, and necessary accommodations to the weaker; and accordingly ordered that Oppius, who was in bad health, should lodge within, whilst he and the rest slept under a shed at the door.

Narration and Discussion

Tell two things that you admire about Julius Caesar so far, and one thing that you do not.

How did Caesar show himself an expert on time management as well as dinner-party etiquette?

Plutarch seems to jump quickly from Caesar's negative experience as consul to his career as (in North's words) "the wisest and most valiantest general." Should later success allow us to forget someone's earlier mistakes or misdeeds?

For further thought: "Now Caesar himself did breed this noble courage and life in them." North's words are actually "Caesar self did breed . . . ," which seems to put the emphasis on Caesar's character, pointing more at what he was than at what he did. How did Caesar (in either sense) "breed noble courage and life" into his soldiers?

Lesson Four


"All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, and those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws." This is the famous beginning of The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar. The war for European control was a long, expensive gamble, but one that promised large returns.


confederates: allies

break their strength: break down their fortification

in defense of the Gauls against the Germans: This is a bit of a contentious issue for historians, but the basic idea is that Caesar, having so many victories over the Gauls, claimed them for the Romans, and therefore wanted to "protect" them against the even more "barbaric" tribes across the Rhine.

two hundred furlongs: A furlong is an eighth of a mile, so 200 furlongs would be 25 miles (about 40 km).

in consternation: disturbed, even frantic

intimation: news, information

expedient to attack them . . . : a good idea to attack while they were still frightened

stronghold: fort

galled and fretted them: made them so angry

spoils: treasure or loot taken after a raid or a battle

expedition: speed

eminent: notable, prominent

lictors: bodyguards who carried the "rods and axes" or fasces, a symbol of Roman power

seasonably: in a timely manner


Labienus: Titus Labienus, tribune of the people in 63 B.C.; one of Caesar's lieutenants in the Gallic Wars; but he supported Pompey during the civil war, and was killed at the Battle of Munda.

Ariovistus: the leader of the Suebi (or Suevi) people. The Suebi were a group of Germanic tribes originally from the River Elbe region.

Historic Occasions

58 B.C.: Beginning of the Gallic Wars

56 B.C: Meeting at Lucca

55 B.C.: Pompey and Crassus were consuls together (the second time)

55 B.C.: Caesar built a bridge across the Rhine, and invaded Britain

On the Map

Gauls, Germans: see introductory notes for this study

Helvetians: or Helvetii; a Celtic tribe occupying the Swiss plateau. The Tigurini were a subgroup of this tribe.

Teutones: a tribe who had fought the Romans along with the Cimbri

Rhine: the second-longest river in Europe

country of the Sequani: a tribe living on the Arar River (the Saône).

Po (river): the longest river in Italy, flowing eastward across northern Italy to the Adriatic Sea.

Rubicon: a river in northeastern Italy which served as the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy itself.

Belgae: tribes living in northern Gaul, which included the Nervii

Lucca: a city in the region of Tuscany, in central Italy


Part One

The first war that Caesar made with the Gauls was with the Helvetians and Tigurini, who having set fire of all their good cities, twelve in number, and four hundred villages besides, would have marched forward through that part of Gaul which was included in the Roman province, as the Cimbri and Teutones formerly had done. Nor were they inferior to these in courage; and in numbers they were equal, being in all three hundred thousand, of which one hundred and ninety thousand were fighting men. Caesar did not engage the Tigurini in person, but Labienus, under his directions, routed them near the river Arar.

But the Helvetians themselves came suddenly with their army to set upon him, as he was going towards a city of his confederates. Caesar perceiving that, made haste to get him to some place of strength, and there did set his men in battle array. When one brought him his horse to get up on which he used in battle, he said unto them: "When I have overcome mine enemies, I will then get up on him to follow the chase, but now let us give them charge."

Therewith he marched forward afoot, and gave charge: and there fought it out a long time, before he could make them flee that were in battle. But the greatest trouble he had, was to distress their camp, and to break their strength which they had made with their carts. For there they, that before had fled from the battle, did not only put themselves in force, and valiantly fought it out; but their wives and children, also fighting for their lives to the death, were all slain, and the battle was scant ended at midnight.

Now if the act of this victory was famous, unto that he also added another as notable, or exceeding it. For of all the barbarous people that had escaped from this battle, he gathered together again above a hundred thousand of them, and compelled them to return home into their country which they had forsaken, and unto their towns also which they had burnt: this he did for fear the Germans should pass it and possess themselves of the land whilst it lay uninhabited.

Part Two

The second war he made was in defense of the Gauls against the Germans: although before, he himself had caused Ariovistus, their king, to be received for an ally of the Romans. Notwithstanding, they were grown very unquiet neighbours, and it appeared plainly that, having any occasion offered them to enlarge their territories, they would not content them with their own, but meant to invade and possess the rest of Gaul. Caesar, perceiving that some of his captains trembled for fear, but especially the young gentlemen of noble houses of Rome, who thought to have gone to the wars with him as only for their pleasure and gain: he called them to council, and commanded them that were afraid, that they should depart home, and not put themselves in danger against their wills, since they had such weak and faint hearts to shrink when he had need of them. And for himself, he said, he would set upon the barbarous people, even if he had left him but the Tenth Legion only, saying that the enemies were no valianter than the Cimbri had been, nor that he (Caesar) was a captain inferior unto Marius. This oration being made, the soldiers of the Tenth Legion sent their lieutenants unto him, to thank him for the good opinion he had of them; and the other legions also fell out with their captains, and all of them together followed him many days' journey with goodwill to serve him, until they came within two hundred furlongs of the camp of the enemies.

Ariovistus's courage to some extent was cooled upon their very approach; for never expecting the Romans would attack the Germans, whom he had thought it more likely they would not venture to withstand even its defense of their own subjects, he was the more surprised at Caesar's conduct, and saw his army to be in consternation. They were still more discouraged by the prophecies of their holy women, who foretell the future by observing the eddies of rivers, and taking signs from the windings and noise of streams; and who now warned them not to engage before the next new moon appeared.

Caesar having had intimation of this, and seeing the Germans lie still, thought it expedient to attack them whilst they were under these apprehensions, rather than sit still and wait their time. Accordingly, he made his approaches to the strongholds and hills on which they lay encamped, and so galled and fretted them that at last they came down with great fury to engage. But he gained a signal victory, and pursued them for four hundred furlongs, as far as the Rhine; all which space was covered with spoils and bodies of the slain. Ariovistus made shift to pass the Rhine with the small remains of an army, for it is said the number of the slain amounted to eighty thousand.

Part Three

After this action, Caesar left his army at their winter quarters in the country of the Sequani, and, in order to attend to affairs at Rome, went into that part of Gaul which lies on the Po, and was part of his province; for the river Rubicon divides Gaul, which is on this side the Alps, from the rest of Italy. There he sat down and employed himself in courting people's favour; great numbers coming to him continually, and always finding their requests answered; for he never failed to dismiss all with present pledges of his kindness in hand, and further hopes for the future.

And during all this time of the war in Gaul, Pompey never observed how Caesar was on the one hand using the arms of Rome to effect his conquests, and on the other was gaining over and securing to himself the favour of the Romans with the wealth which those conquests obtained him. But when he heard that the Belgae, who were the most powerful of all the Gauls, and inhabited a third part of the country, were revolted, and had got together a great many thousand men in arms, he immediately set out and took his way hither with great expedition, and falling upon the enemy as they were ravaging the Gauls, his allies, he soon defeated and put to flight the largest and least scattered division of them. For though their numbers were great, yet they made but a slender defense, and the marshes and deep rivers were made passable to the Roman foot by the vast quantity of dead bodies.

[Omission for length: Caesar's army fought a bloody battle against the Nervii, a particularly fierce tribe. There were many casualties on both sides, but the Romans won, and there were great celebrations back in Rome.]

Part Four

For when Caesar had set his affairs at a stay in Gaul, on the other side of the Alps: he always used to lie about the Po River in the wintertime, to give direction for the establishing of things at Rome, at his pleasure. All who were candidates for offices used his assistance, and were supplied with money from him to corrupt the people and buy their votes, in return of which, when they were chosen, they did all things to advance his power. But what was more considerable, the most eminent and powerful men in Rome in great numbers came to visit him at Lucca: Pompey, and Crassus, and Appius, the governor of Sardinia, and Nepos, the proconsul of Spain; so that there were in the place at one time one hundred and twenty lictors and more than two hundred senators.

There they fell in consultation, and determined that Pompey and Crassus should again be chosen consuls the next year following. Furthermore, they did appoint that Caesar should have money again delivered him to pay his army, and besides, did extend the time of his government five years further. This was thought a very strange and an unreasonable matter unto wise men. For they themselves that had taken so much money of Caesar, persuaded the Senate to let him have money of the common treasure, as though he had had none before: yea to speak more plainly, they compelled the Senate unto it, sighing and lamenting to see the decrees they passed. Cato was not present, for they had sent him seasonably out of the way into Cyprus; but Favonius, who was a zealous imitator of Cato, when he found he could do no good by opposing it, broke out of the house, and loudly declaimed against these proceedings to the people, but none gave him any hearing; some slighting him out of respect to Crassus and Pompey, and the greater part to gratify Caesar, on whom depended their hopes.

Narration and Discussion

Why was the Roman Senate now more willing to grant Caesar money and other favours (even if the proposal came from his friends)?

Creative narration #1: Write or act out the scene, including Caesar's speech to his men, before the fight with Ariovistus.

Creative narration #2: You are a student, of any era, and you have to read the beginning of Caesar's Gallic Wars for homework; but you don't understand what it is about. Write, act out, or otherwise create a conversation between yourself and someone (such as a grandparent) who can enlighten you.

Lesson Five


Caesar continued his military adventures in Gaul, but was somewhat disappointed by not finding much financial reward in fighting against barbarous peoples. At this time, he also received the news that his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth. When the Roman army had been divided into garrisons for the wintertime, and Caesar was in Italy, the Gauls rebelled against him again. But this time, fate seemed to favour the Romans.


outbreak: rebellion

ramparts: defensive walls

heighten the enemy's contempt of them: the plan was to make the enemy think they were weaker than they really were

he issued forth: the soldiers behind the walls charged out at the enemy

levied: collected, gotten together

invincible: unconquerable

post or courier: messenger

myriad: a military unit of ten thousand soldiers

impregnable: unable to be broken through or captured

plate and moveables: treasure, such as silver cups

caparison and furniture: a horse's ornamental covering and harness


Ambiorix: or Abriorix, the leader of the Eburones, a tribe of northeastern Gaul

Cotta and Titurius: Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta and Quintus Titurius Sabinus

Quintus Tullius Cicero: Brother of the statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (see introductory notes)

Vercingetorix: the king of the Arverni tribe, captured at the Battle of Alesia

Historic Occasions

53 B.C.: the death of Crassus

53 B.C.: Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus (#2) was consul (Lesson Eight)

52 B.C.: the Battle of Alesia

52 B.C.: Vercingetorix surrendered to Rome (He was held in prison until Caesar's triumph in 46 B.C., and then executed.)

On the Map

Arverni: or Arvenians; those who lived in what is now the Auvergne region of France

Carnutini: also called the Carnutes or Carnuti, meaning "the horned ones"; a tribe living between the Sequana (Seine) and Liger (Loire) rivers in what is now France

Aedui: a Gallic tribe who lived in the region of France now called Burgundy

country of the Ligones: believed to be the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy

Alesia: a town believed to be in Burgundy (there is some controversy about its location)


Part One

Caesar's army was now grown very numerous, so that he was forced to disperse them into various camps for their winter quarters; and he having gone himself to Italy as he used to do, in his absence a general outbreak throughout the whole of Gaul commenced, and large armies marched about the country, and attacked the Roman quarters, and attempted to make themselves masters of the forts where they lay.

The greatest and strongest party of the rebels, under the command of Ambiorix, cut off Cotta and Titurius with all their men, while a force sixty thousand strong besieged the legion under the command of Quintus Tullius Cicero, and had almost taken it by storm, the Roman soldiers being all wounded, and having quite spent themselves by a defense beyond their natural strength. But Caesar, who was at a great distance, having received the news, quickly got together seven thousand men, and hastened to relieve Cicero. The besiegers were aware of it, and went to meet him, with great confidence that they should easily overpower such a handful of men.

Caesar, to deceive them, still drew back and made as though he fled from them, lodging in places meet for a captain that had but a few to fight with a great number of his enemies. He commanded his men in no wise to stir out to skirmish with them, but compelled them to raise up the ramparts of his camp, and to fortify the gates, that by show of fear they might heighten the enemy's contempt of them. Till at length he took opportunity, by their disorderly coming, to make an assault, when he issued forth and put them all to flight, with slaughter of a great number of them.

This did suppress all the rebellions of the Gauls in those parts, and furthermore, he himself in person went there, in the midst of winter, wherever he heard they did rebel: for that there was come a new supply out of Italy of three whole legions, of the which, two of them Pompey lent him, and the other legion, he himself had levied in Gaul about the river of Po.

But in a while the seeds of war, which had long since been secretly sown and scattered by the most powerful men in those warlike nations, broke forth into the greatest and most dangerous war that was in those parts. For everywhere they levied multitudes of men, and great riches besides, to fortify their strongholds. Furthermore the country where they rose was very ill to come unto, and specially at that time being winter, when the rivers were frozen, the woods and forests covered with snow, the meadows drowned with floods, and the fields so deep of snow that no ways were to be found, neither the marshes nor rivers to be discerned, all was so overflown and drowned with water: all which troubles together were enough (as they thought) to keep Caesar from setting upon the rebels. Many tribes had revolted together, the chief of them being the Arverni and Carnutini; the general who had the supreme command in war was Vercingetorix, whose father the Gauls before had put to death, because they thought he (the father) aspired to make himself king.

Vercingetorix having disposed his army in several bodies, and set officers over them, drew over to him all the country round about as far as those that lie upon the Arar; and having intelligence of the opposition which Caesar now experienced at Rome, thought to engage all Gaul in the war. So that if he had but tarried a little longer, until Caesar had entered into his civil wars, he would have put all Italy in as great fear and danger as it was when the Cimbri did come and invade it.

But Caesar, who above all men was gifted with the faculty of making the right use of everything in war, and most especially of seizing the right moment: so soon as he understood the news of the rebellion, he departed with speed, and returned back the selfsame way which he had gone, making the barbarous people know that they should deal with an army invincible, and which they could not possibly withstand, considering the great speed he had made with the same, in so sharp and hard a winter. For where they would not possibly have believed that a post or courier could have come in so short a time from the place where he was, unto them: they wondered when they saw him burning and destroying the country, the towns and strong forts where he came with his army, taking all to mercy that yielded unto him. Till at last the Aedui, who hitherto had styled themselves "brethren to the Romans," and had been much honoured by them, declared against him, and joined the rebels, to the great discouragement of his army.

Part Two

Accordingly he removed thence, and passed the country of the Ligones, desiring to reach the territories of the Sequani, who were his friends, and who lay like a bulwark in front of Italy against the other tribes of Gaul. There the enemy came upon him, and surrounded him with many myriads, whom he also was eager to engage; and at last, after some time and with much slaughter, he gained generally a complete victory; though at first he appears to have met with some reverse, and the Arverni will show you a small sword hanging up in a temple, which they say was taken from Caesar. Insomuch as Caesar himself coming that way by occasion, saw it, and fell a-laughing at it. But some of his friends going about to take it away, he would not suffer them, but bade them let it alone, and touch it not, for it was a holy thing.

After the defeat, a great part of those who had escaped fled with their king into a town called Alesia, which Caesar besieged, though the height of the walls, and number of those who defended them, made it appear impregnable; and meantime, from without the walls, he was assailed by a greater danger than can be expressed. For the choice men of Gaul, picked out of each nation, and well-armed, came to relieve Alesia, to the number of three hundred thousand; nor were there in the town less than one hundred and seventy thousand.

So that Caesar, being shut up betwixt two such forces, was compelled to protect himself by two walls, one towards the town, the other against the relieving army, as knowing if these forces should join, his affairs would be entirely ruined. For there, in that instant and extreme danger, he showed more valiantness and wisdom than he did in any battle he fought before.

But what a wonderful thing was this? that they of the city never heard anything of them that came to aid them, until Caesar had overcome them: and furthermore, that the Romans themselves which kept watch upon the wall that was built against the city, knew also no more of it than they, but when it was done, and that they heard the cries and lamentations of men and women in Alesia, when they perceived on the other side of the city such a number of glistering shields of gold and silver, such store of bloody armour, such a deal of plate and moveables, and such a number of tents and pavilions after the fashion of the Gauls, which the Romans had gotten of their spoils in their camp. So soon did so vast an army dissolve and vanish like a ghost or dream, the greatest part of them being killed upon the spot.

Furthermore, after they within the city of Alesia had done great hurt to Caesar, and themselves also: in the end, they all yielded themselves. And Vercingetorix (he that was their king and captain in all this war) went out of the gates excellently well-armed, and his horse furnished with rich caparison accordingly, and rode round about Caesar, who sat in his chair of estate. Then lighting from his horse, he took off his caparison and furniture, and unarmed himself, and laid all on the ground, and went and sat down at Caesar's feet, and said never a word. So Caesar at length committed him as a prisoner taken in the wars, to lead him afterwards in his triumph at Rome.

Narration and Discussion

"For there, in that instant and extreme danger, he showed more valiantness and wisdom than he did in any battle he fought before." Explain.

Creative narration: You work at the Roman News Magazine (you can give it a better name), and your job is to design the cover. This month's feature is about Caesar's wars in the north. What will the headlines say? What illustration will you use? (You can use this narration activity in other lessons as well.)

Lesson Six


The struggle for power in Rome was becoming ugly. Some wanted to bring back the authority of a king or a dictator, to end the chaos; or at least elect a powerful consul to do the same thing, and the obvious choice for that was Pompey. He was elected for a third term as consul in 52 B.C., the same year as Caesar's victory at Alesia.


be beforehand: act before the other person did

apprehensions: worries

retired: retreated

bare suffrages: mere votes

monarchy: a state ruled by a king (or queen)

in Caesar's room: in the position of governor of Gaul

silver drachmas: coins

declare for him: declare him their new leader

presumptuous: overconfident

carried great semblance of reason: seemed quite reasonable

as private persons: out of office, without authority

tyrant: one who rules as a dictator, making decisions as he/she pleases. The Romans had a formal "dictatorship" that was used when the times required it, but that sort of dictator was seen as acting for the good of the state rather than in his own interests. "Tyranny" recalled the era of kings in Rome, prior to the Republic: so allowing one person as ruler, for more than a limited time, was something most Romans wanted to avoid at any cost.

lay down their commissions: give up their public positions

for the execution of his enterprise: to do what he intended

posterity: descendants

stayed: paused


Antony: Mark Antony (see introductory notes)

Scipio: Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica, also called Metellus Scipio; a senator, consul (52 B.C.), and military commander.

Lentulus: Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus, consul in 49 B.C., along with Marcellus (Maior). Special note on the Marcellus family for anyone reading a version without omissions: In 51 B.C., one of the consuls was Marcus Claudius Marcellus, often referred to simply as Marcellus; he was the brother of Marcellus (Maior). In 50 B.C., the two consuls were Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus (or Paul the Consul) and Gaius Claudius Marcellus, called Marcellus (Minor), a cousin of the other two. Referring to the time when "Marcellus" was consul can cause confusion, but it probably means 51 B.C.

Asinius Pollio: Gaius Asinius Pollio, a Roman orator and historian

Historic Occasions

50 B.C.: The Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as governor had ended

January, 49 B.C.: Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy, an act of defiance which began a civil war

On the Map

Ariminum: the modern city of Rimini, in northern Italy

river of Rubicon: see previous lesson


Part One

Caesar had long ago resolved upon the overthrow of Pompey, as had Pompey, for that matter, upon his. For Crassus, the fear of whom had hitherto kept them in peace, had been killed in Parthia; so that if the one of them wished to make himself the greatest man in Rome, he had only to overthrow the other; and if he again wished to prevent his own fall, he had nothing for it but to be beforehand with him whom he feared.

Pompey had not been long under any such apprehensions, having till lately despised Caesar, as thinking it no difficult matter to put down him whom he himself had advanced. But Caesar had entertained this design from the beginning against his rivals, and had retired, like an expert wrestler, to prepare himself apart for the combat. Making the Gallic wars his exercise-ground, he had at once improved the strength of his soldiery, and had heightened his own glory by his great actions, so that he was looked on as one who might challenge comparison with Pompey.

Nor did he let go any of those advantages which were now given him both by Pompey himself and the times, and the ill-government of Rome, where all who were candidates for offices publicly gave money, and without any shame bribed the people, who, having received their pay, did not contend for their benefactors with their bare suffrages, but with bows, swords, and slings. So that after having many times stained the place of election with blood of men killed upon the spot, they left the city at last without a government at all, to be carried about like a ship without a pilot to steer her; while all who had any wisdom could only be thankful if a course of such wild and stormy disorder and madness might end no worse than in a monarchy.

[Omission for length: Many people thought that giving Pompey sole power would be their only chance to restore order in Rome. This did not happen, but Pompey continued to have a great deal of power in the Senate, and also commanded a sort of private army (said to be bodyguards). Caesar, for his part, began to make large gifts to influential people who might support his cause. In 50 B.C., he sent a request to Rome that his term as governor of Gaul should be extended; but the Senate ordered him to disband his army and return to Rome as a private citizen.]

Part Two

Furthermore, it was found that a captain or centurion sent from Caesar, being near unto the Senate, understanding that the council would not prolong Caesar's government which he required, clapping his hand upon the handle of his sword: "Well," said he, "this shall give it him." (Plutarch's Life of Pompey)

Pompey, alarmed at Caesar's attempts to buy people's favour, now openly took steps, both by himself and his friends, to have a successor appointed in Caesar's room, and sent to demand back the soldiers whom he had lent him to carry on the wars in Gaul. Caesar returned them, and made each soldier a present of two hundred and fifty drachmas. The officer who brought them home to Pompey spread amongst the people no very fair or favourable report of Caesar, and flattered Pompey himself with false suggestions that he was wished for by Caesar's army; and though his affairs here were in some embarrassment through the envy of some, and the ill state of the government, yet there the army was at his command; and if they once crossed into Italy they would presently declare for him, so weary were they of Caesar's endless expeditions, and so suspicious of his designs for a monarchy.

Upon this Pompey grew presumptuous, and neglected all warlike preparations, as fearing no danger; and he used no other means against him than mere speeches and votes, for which Caesar cared nothing [omission]. Notwithstanding, the requests that Caesar propounded carried great semblance of reason with them. For he said that he was contented to lay down arms, so that Pompey did the like; and that both of them as private persons should come and make suit of their citizens to obtain honourable recompense: declaring that in taking arms from him, and granting them unto Pompey, they did wrongfully accuse him in going about to make himself a tyrant, and in the meantime to grant the other man the means to be a tyrant [omission].

Then Antony, one of the tribunes, brought a letter sent from Caesar, and made it openly to be read in despite of the consuls. But Scipio in the Senate, Pompey's father-in-law, made this motion: that if Caesar did not dismiss his army by a certain day appointed him, the Romans should proclaim him an enemy unto Rome. And the consuls, putting it to the question whether Pompey should dismiss his soldiers, and again, whether Caesar should disband his, very few assented to the first, but almost all to the latter. But Antony proposing again that both should lay down their commissions, all but a very few agreed to it. Scipio was upon this very violent, and Lentulus the consul cried aloud that they had need of arms, and not of suffrages, against a robber; so that the senators for the present adjourned, and appeared in mourning as a mark of their grief for the dissension. After that, there came other letters from Caesar, which seemed much more reasonable: in the which he requested that they would grant him the nearer part of Gaul, and Illyria, with two legions only, and then that he would request nothing else, until he made suit for the consulship.

Part Three

Now at that time, Caesar had not in all about him above five thousand footmen, and three thousand horsemen: for the rest of his army, he left on the other side of the mountains, to be brought after him by his lieutenants. So, considering that for the execution of his enterprise, he should not need so many men of war at the first, but rather suddenly stealing upon them, so to astound his enemies with the boldness of it, taking benefit of the opportunity of time: as it would be easier, he thought, to throw them into consternation by doing what they never anticipated than fairly to conquer them, if he had alarmed them by his preparations.

And therefore he commanded his captains and lieutenants to go before, without any other armour than their swords, to take the city of Ariminum (a great city of Gaul, being the first city men come to, when they come out of Gaul), with as little bloodshed and tumult, as they could possibly. He committed the care of these forces to Hortensius, and himself spent the day in public as a stander-by and spectator of the gladiators, who exercised before him.

A little before night he went into his lodging, and bathing his body a little, came afterwards into the hall amongst them, and made merry with them awhile, whom he had bidden to supper. Then when it was well forward night, and very dark, he rose from the table, and prayed his company to be merry, and no man to stir, for he would straight come to them again: howbeit he had secretly before commanded a few of his trustiest friends to follow him, not altogether, but some one way, and some another way. He himself in the meantime took a coach he had hired, and made as though he would have gone some other way at the first, but suddenly he turned back again towards the city of Ariminum.

When he was come unto the little river of Rubicon, which divideth Gaul on this side the Alps from Italy: he stayed upon a sudden. For, the nearer he came to execute his purpose, the more remorse he had in his conscience, to think what an enterprise he took in hand: and his thoughts also fell out more doubtful, when he entered into consideration of the desperateness of his attempt. So he fell into many thoughts with himself, and spoke never a word, wavering sometime one way, sometime another way [Dryden: while he revolved with himself], and often times changed his determination, contrary to himself. So did he talk much also with his friends he had with him, amongst whom was Asinius Pollio, telling them what mischiefs the beginning of this passage over that river would breed in the world, and how much their posterity and them that lived after them, would speak of it in time to come. But at length, casting from him with a noble courage all those perilous thoughts to come, and speaking these words which valiant men commonly say, that attempt dangerous and desperate enterprises, "A desperate man feareth no danger, come on" [Dryden: "The die is cast", which can also be translated "Let the die be cast"]: he passed over the river, and when he was come over, he ran with his coach and never stayed, so that before daylight he was within the city of Ariminum, and took it.

[short omission for mature content]

Narration and Discussion

"Pompey had not been long under any such apprehensions, having till lately despised Caesar, as thinking it no difficult matter to put down him whom he himself had advanced." How was he mistaken?

Caesar said "that he was contented to lay down arms, so that Pompey did the like." If Pompey had (unexpectedly) agreed, do you think Caesar would have stuck to his word?

"To cross the Rubicon" is an expression we use to mean "the point of no return." What did it mean for Julius Caesar?

Creative narration #1: Plutarch says that when Caesar came to the Rubicon, "he fell into many thoughts with himself." You are Caesar: make a numbered list of your thoughts.

Creative narration #2: "The officer . . . spread amongst the people no very fair or favourable report of Caesar." How might he have carried out this discrediting campaign?

Lesson Seven


The reaction to Caesar's taking of the city of Ariminum was immediate and violent. Hordes of people from outside Rome arrived in the city, hoping for protection in case of military attacks. Some people blamed Pompey for not co-operating more fully with Caesar; others blamed him for not controlling him. Both of the consuls fled from the city, along with many senators.


succour: help, aid

deluge: flood

conflux: confluence; merging

tempestuous agitation: the city was in an uproar

in a state of anarchy: without government

tumult: confusion

deference: respect

plausibly: reasonably

pulpit or pulpit for orations: the Rostra, or speakers' platform

smiths: metalworkers, locksmiths

treat of peace: to discuss peace terms

created dictator . . . : see the definition of tyrant in Lesson Six

whose fathers before had been slain in Sulla's time: Remember that Julius Caesar was related to Sulla's enemy Marius, so this action was important to him personally.


Domitius (#1): Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, also referred to as Ahenobarbus. An enemy of Caesar, and the brother-in-law of Cato, he was praetor in 58 B.C., ran unsuccessfully for the consulship of 55 B.C. (defeated by Pompey and Crassus); was consul in 54 B.C.; and succeeded Caesar as governor of Gaul. He commanded the right wing of Pompey's army in the Battle of Pharsalus, and was killed afterwards while trying to escape from the captured city. Not to be confused with Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus (#2), a general and consul (53 B.C., 40 B.C.) who was loyal to Caesar and commanded the center of the army in the same battle.

Publius Servilius Isauricus: A friend of Caesar, and co-consul with him for 48 B.C.; son of the Isauricus who had been beaten out by Caesar for the office of Pontifex Maximus.

Historic Occasions

January 1, 49 B.C.: Gaius Claudius Marcellus and Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus took office as consuls

January 10, 49 B.C.: Caesar crossed the border of Cisalpine Gaul and Italy, which was a declaration of civil war.

January 12, 49 B.C.: Caesar captured Ariminum

January 17, 49 B.C.: The consuls left Rome (they went south to Capua)

June-August 49 B.C.: Caesar's victory over Pompey's supporters in Spain, and then his return to Rome

January 48 B.C.: Caesar began to move his troops out against Pompey

On the Map

Capua: a city in southern Italy, 16 miles (25 km) north of Naples

Corfinium: a fortified city on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains

Dyrrhachium: or Dyrrachium; a city in what is now Albania. Pompey used Dyrrhachium as a storage site for supplies such as food; so Caesar hoped that if Pompey could be drawn away to fight elsewhere, his army might be cut off from those supplies.

Brundisium: This has several possible spellings: Brundisium, or Brundusium, or Brindisium, or (its present-day name) Brindisi; a city on the Adriatic Sea. North and Dryden spell it Brundusium, but Brundisium seems to be more currently accepted.

The Ionian Sea: the sea between Italy and Greece

Oricum: or Orikon; a Greek city in the northern part of Epirus (now part of Albania). The Roman province of Epirus, at this time, was part of the larger province of Macedonia.

Apollonia: a city of southern Illyria or Illyricum. Illyricum was located along the coast of the Adriatic Sea, north of the River Drin; south of the river was the province of Macedonia.


Part One

As soon as Ariminum was taken, wide gates, so to say, were thrown open, to let in war upon every land and sea alike; [and the laws were broken along with the state boundaries, my paraphrase]. Nor would one have thought that, as at other times, the mere men and women fled from one town of Italy to another in their consternation; but that the very towns themselves left their sites and fled for succour to each other. The city of Rome was overrun, as it were, with a deluge, by the conflux of people flying in from all the neighbouring places. Magistrates could no longer govern, nor the eloquence of any orator quiet it; it was all but suffering shipwreck by the violence of its own tempestuous agitation [omission].

Lentulus, being now entered into his consulship, along with Marcellus, did not assemble the Senate. But Cicero, lately returned out of Cilicia, tried to bring them to agreement, proposing that Caesar should leave Gaul, and all the rest of his army; reserving only two legions together with the government of Illyria; and should thus be put in nomination for a second consulship. Pompey liked not this motion, but Caesar's friends were contented to grant that he should have but one of his legions. But Lentulus still opposed it, and Cato cried out on the other side also, that Pompey did ill to be deceived again. So all treaty of peace was cut off. (Plutarch's Life of Pompey)

Pompey, sufficiently disturbed of himself, was yet more perplexed by the clamours of others; some telling him that he justly suffered for having armed Caesar against himself and the government; others blaming him for permitting Caesar to be insolently used by Lentulus, when he made such ample concessions, and offered such reasonable proposals towards an accommodation. Favonius bade him now stamp upon the ground; for once, talking big in the Senate, he desired them not to trouble themselves about making any preparations for the war, for that he himself, with one stamp of his foot, would fill all Italy with soldiers. Yet, still Pompey at that time had more forces than Caesar; but he was not permitted to pursue his own thoughts, but, being continually disturbed with false reports and alarms, as if the enemy was close upon him and carrying all before him, he gave way, and let himself be borne down by the general cry. He put forth an edict declaring the city to be in a state of anarchy, and left it, with orders that the Senate should follow him, and that no one should stay behind who did not prefer tyranny to their country and liberty.

The consuls at once fled, without making even the usual sacrifices; so did most of the servants, carrying off their own goods in as much haste as if they had been robbing their neighbours. There were some Romans also, that always loved Caesar, whose wits were then so troubled and beside themselves, with the fear they had conceived, that they also fled, and followed the stream of this tumult, without manifest cause or necessity. But above all things, it was a lamentable sight to see the city itself, that in this fear and trouble was left at all adventure, as a ship tossed in storm of sea, forsaken of her pilots, and despairing of her safety.

Their departure being thus miserable, yet men esteemed their own banishment (for the love they bore unto Pompey) to be their natural country, and reckoned Rome no better than Caesar's camp. At that time also Labienus, who was one of Caesar's greatest friends, and who had been always used as his lieutenant in the wars of Gaul, and had valiantly fought in his cause: he likewise forsook him then, and fled unto Pompey.

Part Two

Caesar sent all his money and equipage after him, and then sat down before Corfinium, which was garrisoned with thirty cohorts under the command of Domitius (#1). Domitius, in despair of maintaining the defense, requested a physician, whom he had among his attendants, to give him poison; and taking the dose, drank it, thinking to have died. But soon after, when he was told that Caesar showed the utmost clemency towards those he took prisoners, he lamented his misfortune, and blamed the hastiness of his resolution. The physician did comfort him again, and told him, that he had taken a drink, only to make him sleep, but not to destroy him. Then Domitius rejoiced, and went straight and yielded himself unto Caesar, who gave him his life; but he notwithstanding stole away immediately, and fled unto Pompey.

When these news were brought to Rome, they did marvellously rejoice and comfort them that still remained there; and moreover there were some of them that had forsaken Rome, which returned thither again. Caesar took into his army Domitius's soldiers, as he did all those whom he found in any town enlisted for Pompey's service. Being now strong and formidable enough, he advanced against Pompey himself, who did not stay to receive him, but fled to Brundisium, having sent the consuls before with a body of troops to Dyrrhachium. Soon after, upon Caesar's approach, he set to sea (as shall be more particularly related in his Life). Caesar would have immediately pursued him, but needed ships, and therefore went back to Rome, having made himself master of all Italy without bloodshed in the space of sixty days.

Part Three

When he was come to Rome, and found it much quieter than he looked for, and many senators present, to whom he addressed himself with courtesy and deference, desiring them to send to Pompey about any reasonable accommodations towards a peace. But nobody complied with this proposal; whether out of fear of Pompey, whom they had deserted, or that they thought Caesar did not mean what he said, but only thought it in his interest to talk plausibly.

Afterwards, when Metellus, the tribune, would have hindered him from taking money out of the public treasury, and cited some laws against it, Caesar replied that arms and laws had their own time.

"Tush," said he, "time of war and law are two things. If this that I do," quoth he, "do offend thee, then get thee hence for this time: for war cannot abide this frank and bold speech. But when wars are done, and that we are all quiet again, then thou shalt speak in the pulpit what thou wilt: and yet I do tell thee this of favour, impairing so much my right, for thou art mine, both thou and all them that have risen against me, and whom I have in my hands."

Having said this to Metellus, he went to the doors of the treasury, and, the keys not to be found, sent for smiths to force them open. Metellus again making resistance and some encouraging him in it, Caesar, in a louder tone, told him he would put him to death if he gave him any further disturbance.

"Young man," quoth he, "thou knowest it is harder for me to tell it thee, than to do it." That word made Metellus quake for fear, that he got him away roundly: and ever after that, Caesar had all at his commandment for the wars.

[Omission for length: Instead of attacking Pompey directly, Caesar first went to Spain and captured Pompey's forces there for his own army.]

Part Four

When Caesar returned again to Rome, Piso, his father-in-law, gave him counsel to send ambassadors unto Pompey, to treat of peace. But Isauricus, to flatter Caesar, was against it.

Caesar being then created dictator by the Senate, called home again all the banished men, and restored their children to honour, whose fathers before had been slain in Sulla's time: and he relieved the debtors by an act remitting some part of the interest on their debts, and besides, did make some such other ordinances as those, but very few. For he was dictator but eleven days only, and then did yield it up of himself, and having declared himself consul, with Publius Servilius Isauricus, hastened again to the war.

He marched so fast that he left all his army behind him, and went himself before with six hundred horse, and five legions only of footmen, in the winter quarter, about the month of January [omission]. Then having passed over the Ionian Sea, and landed his men, he won the cities of Oricum and Apollonia. Then he sent his ships back again unto Brundisium, to transport the rest of his soldiers that could not come with that speed he did. They as they came by the way, (like men whose strength of body was decayed) being wearied with so many sundry battles as they had fought with their enemies, could not but exclaim against Caesar,

"When at last, and where, will this Caesar let us be quiet? He carries us from place to place, and uses us as if we were not to be worn out, and had no sense of labour. Even our iron itself is spent by blows, and we ought to have some pity on our bucklers and breastplates, which have been used so long. Our wounds, if nothing else, should make him see that we are mortal men whom he commands, subject to the same pains and sufferings as other human beings. The very gods themselves cannot force the winter season, or hinder the storms in their time; yet he pushes forward, as if he were not pursuing, but flying from an enemy."

Still marching on, by small journeys, they came at length unto the city of Brundisium. But when they were come, and found that Caesar had already passed over the sea, then they straight changed their complaints and minds. For they blamed themselves, and took on also with their captains, because they had not made them make more haste in marching; and sitting upon the rocks and cliffs of the sea, they looked over the main sea, towards the realm of Epirus, to see if they could discern the ships returning back, to transport them over.

Narration and Discussion

How did Caesar make himself "master of all Italy without bloodshed in the space of sixty days?"

Why did the soldiers' discovery that Caesar had already arrived in Greece ahead of them "straight change their complaints and minds?"

"Time of war and law are two things." Do you agree?

Creative narration: This might be a good time to produce another cover for the Roman News Magazine (Lesson Five). Who or what should be on the cover? What is the top story? Are there any other special features in this issue, perhaps a contest or a pull-out poster?

Lesson Eight


Julius Caesar and Mark Antony gathered an army together in Epirus to fight Pompey's resistance troops. They lost the Battle of Dyrrhachium, but not the war, because, according to Caesar, Pompey had victory in his hands but did not know what to do with it. Both armies then moved on to Thessaly, where a final showdown was in the air.


tack about: to change a boat's course by sailing into the wind

discovered himself: revealed himself

pinnace: small boat

young gentlemen and Roman knights: the cavalry

devise some fetch: come up with a scheme

javelin: a light spear which is thrown

with an impetus: with force

the general concurrence: the rest of the fighting

apprehensive: fearful

blemish: scar

shifted him: hurried to do a job; got moving


Spinther: Publius Cornelius Lentulus, nicknamed Spinther

Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus (#2): see note in Lesson Seven.

Quintus Cornificius: quaestor for Illyricum in 48 B.C.

Calenus: Quintus Fufius Calenus, Roman general and consul (47 B.C.)

Historic Occasions

48 B.C.: Caesar was declared dictator, but resigned after eleven days and declared himself consul instead, along with Isauricus.

48 B.C.: Caesar renewed his pursuit of Pompey. (What had Pompey been doing all this time? Training his army, according to Plutarch: " . . . they were men of all sorts, and raw soldiers untrained, whom Pompey continually exercised, lying at the city of Beroea . . . ")

July, 48 B.C.: Battle of Dyrrhachium

August 48 B.C.: Pompey's defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus

On the Map

Gomphi: a town of Thessaly which guarded two passes through the mountains.

country of Pharsalus: Pharsalus was a city of Thessaly. However, the battle was likely fought on the Pharsalian Plain, rather than very close to the city itself.

Scotussa: another town of Thessaly


Part One

He in the meantime was posted in Apollonia, but had not an army with him able to fight the enemy, the forces from Brundisium being so long in coming, which put him to great suspense and embarrassment what to do. At last, he resolved upon a most hazardous experiment, and embarked, without anyone's knowledge, in a boat of twelve oars, to cross over to Brundisium, though the sea was at that time covered with a vast fleet of the enemy. He got on board in the night-time, in the dress of a slave, and throwing himself down like a person of no consequence, lay along at the bottom of the vessel. The river Anius was to carry them down to sea, and there used to blow a gentle gale every morning from the land, which made it calm at the mouth of the river, by driving the waves forward; but this night there had blown a strong wind from the sea, which overpowered that form the land, so that where the river met the influx of the sea-water, and the opposition of the waves, it was extremely rough and angry; and the current was beaten back with such a violent swell that the master of the boat could not make good his passage, but ordered his sailors to tack about and return.

Caesar, hearing that, straight discovered himself unto the master of the pinnace, who at the first was amazed when he saw him: but Caesar then taking him by the hand said unto him, "Good fellow, be of good cheer, and forwards hardily, fear not, for thou hast Caesar and his fortune with thee." The mariners, when they heard that, forgot the storm, and laying all their strength to their oars, did what they could to force their way down the river. But when it was to no purpose, and the vessel now took in much water, Caesar finding himself in such danger in the very mouth of the river, much against his will permitted the master to turn back.

When he was come to land, his soldiers ran to him in a multitude, reproaching him for what he had done, and indignant that he should think himself not strong enough to get a victory by their sole assistance, but must disturb himself, and expose his life for those who were absent, as if he could not trust those who were with him.

Part Two

After this, Antony came over with the forces from Brundisium, which encouraged Caesar to give Pompey battle, though he (Pompey) was encamped very advantageously, and furnished with plenty of provisions, both by sea and land, whilst Caesar was at the beginning but ill supplied, and before the end was extremely pinched for want of necessaries, so that his soldiers were forced to dig up a kind of root which grew there, and tempering it with milk, to feed on it. Furthermore, they did make bread of it also, and advancing up to the enemy's outposts, would throw these loaves at the guards, telling them, that as long as the earth produced such roots they would not give up blockading Pompey. But Pompey took what care he could that neither the loaves nor the words should reach his men, who were out of heart and despondent through terror at the fierceness and hardihood of their enemies, whom they looked upon as a sort of wild beasts.

[Omission for length: During several minor battles, Caesar's army seemed to be coming out ahead, except for one event, the Battle of Dyrrhachium, where Pompey was, technically, victorious; he failed to follow through and take the camp, but it was a close call just the same. That incident shook the morale of Caesar's soldiers, and food supplies were running low (which caused an outbreak of disease in the camp). Caesar, frustrated and worried, raised his camp, intending to go and attack Scipio in Macedonia instead. Pompey's officers assumed that Caesar's troops were retreating, and wanted to pursue them. Pompey disagreed, predicting that the worn-out army would soon "fall of itself"; but he was eventually pressured into following them. Caesar's army had a sudden turn of fate after capturing the city of Gomphi in Thessaly: they now had plenty of food and wine, and they quickly recovered both their health and their motivation to fight.]

Part Two

When they both came into the country of Pharsalus, and both camps lay before the other, Pompey returned again to his former determination to avoid fighting, partly because he had ill signs and tokens of misfortune in his sleep. But they that were about him grew to such boldness and security, assuring themselves of victory, that Domitius (#1), Spinther, and Scipio, as if they had already conquered, quarreled which should succeed Caesar as Pontifex Maximus. And many sent to Rome to take houses fit to accommodate consuls and praetors, as being sure of entering upon those offices as soon as the battle was over.

But besides those, the young gentlemen and Roman knights were marvellous desirous to fight, that were bravely mounted, and armed with glistering gilt armours, their horses fat and very finely kept, and themselves goodly young men, to the number of seven thousand; where the gentlemen of Caesar's side were but one thousand only. The number of his footmen also were much after the same reckoning; for he had five, and Pompey's forty thousand, against two and twenty thousand.

Wherefore Caesar called his soldiers together, and told them how Quintus Cornificius was at hand, who brought two whole legions, and that he had fifteen cohorts led by Calenus, the which he made to stay about Megara and Athens. Then he asked them if they would await that aid, or whether they would rather venture battle by themselves alone. The soldiers cried out to him, and prayed him not to defer battle, but rather to devise some fetch to make the enemy fight as soon as he could.

[Omission: Caesar sacrificed to the gods and asked for predictions of success; the soothsayer would only promise "a marvellous great change."]

Part Three

The night before the battle, as he went about midnight to visit the watch, there was a light seen in the heavens, very bright and flaming, which seemed to pass over Caesar's camp and fall into Pompey's. In the morning also, when they relieved the watch, they heard a false alarm in the enemies' camp, without any apparent cause: which they commonly call a sudden fear that makes men besides themselves. This notwithstanding, Caesar thought not to fight that day, but was determined to have raised his camp from thence, and to have gone towards the city of Scotussa: and his tents in his camp were already overthrown when his scouts came in with great speed, to bring him news that his enemies were preparing themselves to fight.

Then he was very glad, and after he had made his prayers unto the gods to help him that day, he set his men in battle array, and divided them into three squadrons: giving the middle battle unto Domitius Calvinus (#2), and the left wing unto Antony, and placed himself in the right wing, choosing his place to fight in the tenth legion. But seeing that against his forces his enemies had set all their horsemen: he was half afraid when he saw the great number of them, and so brave besides. Wherefore he privately made six cohorts to come from the rearward of his battle, whom he had laid as an ambush behind his right wing, having first appointed his soldiers what they should do, when the horsemen of the enemies came to give them charge.

On the other side, Pompey placed himself in the right wing of his battle, gave the left wing unto Domitius (#1), and the middle battle unto Scipio, his father-in-law. Now all Pompey's knights (as we have told you before) were placed in the left wing, of purpose to surround Caesar's right wing behind, and to give their hottest charge there, where the general of their enemies was: making their account, that there was no squadron of footmen how thick soever they were, that could receive the charge of so great a troop of horsemen, but that they must necessarily be broken and shattered all to pieces upon the onset of so immense a force of cavalry.

When they were ready on both sides to give the signal for battle, Pompey commanded his foot, who were in the front, to stand their ground, and without breaking their order, receive, quietly, the enemy's first attack, till they came within a javelin's cast. Caesar, in this respect, also, blames Pompey's generalship, as if he had not been aware how the first encounter, when made with an impetus and upon the run, gives weight and force to the strokes, and fires the men's spirits into a flame, which the general concurrence fans to full heat.

[omission for length]

Whilst the foot was thus sharply engaged in the main battle, on the flank Pompey's horse rode up confidently, and opened their ranks very wide, that they might surround the right wing of Caesar. But before they engaged, Caesar's cohorts rushed out and attacked them, and did not dart their javelins at a distance, nor strike at the thighs and legs, as they usually did in close battle, but aimed at their faces. For thus Caesar had instructed them, in hope that young gentlemen, who had not known much of battles and wounds, but came wearing their hair long, in the flower of their age and height of their beauty, would be more apprehensive of such blows, and not care for hazarding both a danger at present and a blemish for the future. And so it proved, for they were so far from bearing the stroke of the javelins, that they could not stand the sight of them, but turned about, and covered their faces to secure them.

Once in disorder, presently they turned about to fly; and so most shamefully ruined all. For those who had beat them back at once outflanked the infantry, and, falling on them at the rear, cut them to pieces. Pompey, seeing his horsemen from the other wing of his battle so scattered and dispersed, fleeing away, forgot that he was any more "Pompey the Great," but rather was like a man whose wits the gods had taken from him, being afraid and amazed with the slaughter sent from above; and so retired into his tent, speaking never a word, and sat there to see the end of this battle. Until at length all his army being overthrown, and put to flight, the enemies came, and got up upon the ramparts and defense of his camp, and fought hand to hand with them that stood to defend the same. Then as a man come to himself again, he spoke but this only: "What, even into our camp?" So in haste, casting off his coat of armour and apparel of a general, he shifted him, and put on such clothing, as became his miserable fortune, and so stole out of his camp. Furthermore, what he did after this overthrow, and how he had put himself into the hands of the Egyptians, by whom he was miserably slain: we have set it forth at large in his Life.

[omission for length]

Narration and Discussion

What were some of the good and not-so-good decisions that Caesar and Pompey made during the Battle of Pharsalus?

For older students and further thought: Was Caesar's command to "aim at their faces" justified?

Creative narration #1: "Caesar then taking him by the hand said unto him, 'Good fellow, be of good cheer, and forwards hardily, fear not, for thou hast Caesar and his fortune with thee.'" Tell the story from the captain's point of view.

Creative Narration #2: After the Battle of Dyrrhachium, Caesar moved most of his troops into the region of Thessaly (in Greece), and took the city of Gomphi (Part One). Another source says that at this time he reconnected with Domitius Calvinus (#2), during the time that his men were taking their "holiday." Write or act out a conversation that might have taken place between a) Caesar and Domitius Calvinus or b) some of the soldiers.

Lesson Nine


Julius Caesar tracked Pompey to Egypt, but he was too late: Pompey had already been put to death there. At this point Caesar might have returned to Rome; but he became involved in Egyptian politics, and also with the Pharaoh's sister, Cleopatra. He also fought with Pharnaces, the king of Pontus.


men of estimation: nobles or other respected citizens

eunuch: a type of royal servant who was often in charge of the women's quarters or who managed household affairs. This particular eunuch held an unusually influential position at the Egyptian court.

under pretense of arrears of debt: saying that it was owed to them as payment of an old debt

myriad: "Myriad" means ten thousand, and was often used to refer to numbers of soldiers; but it was also a unit of currency.

remitted: Caesar had forgiven or cancelled part of the debt

fardel: package, bundle

in fine: in short; to sum up

destroyed the great library of Alexandria: Other sources say that the fire did not much damage the library, and that it was destroyed later.

But as for the king . . . : King Ptolemy XIII is assumed to have drowned during the battle.

wrote three words . . . : the historian Suetonius says that they were inscribed on a tablet which was carried during Caesar's triumph.


Cleopatra: she became co-ruler with another brother, Ptolemy XIV

Pothinus the eunuch: or Potheinus; a high-ranking servant of King Ptolemy XIII, and also his regent since Ptolemy was very young

Achillas: a guardian of King Ptolemy; one of the murderers of Pompey

Caesarion: Caesar's son (it is assumed), and the last pharaoh of Egypt

Pharnaces: Pharnaces II of Pontus, whose father Mithridates VI had conquered a number of neighbouring territories (including Bithynia and Cappadocia), but who was defeated by the Romans himself

Historic Occasions

48 B.C.: Caesar followed Pompey to Egypt, but arrived after his death.

48/47 B.C.: Caesar's adventures in the Egyptian civil war

47 B.C.: the Battle of Zela, against Pharnaces II of Pontus

On the Map

Pharos: the famous lighthouse at Alexandria

Syria: a Middle Eastern country which had become a Roman province

Pontus: a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea

Lesser Armenia: the part of Armenia lying north and west of the Euphrates River

Zela: now called Zile, a city in Turkey


Part One

As for the foot soldiers of Pompey that were taken prisoners, Caesar did put many of them amongst his legions, and did pardon also many men of estimation; among whom Brutus was one, that afterwards slew Caesar himself; and it is reported that Caesar was very sorry for him when he could not immediately be found after the battle, and that he rejoiced again when he knew he was alive, and that he (Brutus) came to yield himself unto him.

[omission for length]

Caesar treated kindly all Pompey's friends and familiars who, wandering up and down the country, were taken of the king of Egypt; and won them all to be at his commandment. Continuing these courtesies, he wrote unto his friends at Rome that the greatest pleasure he took of his victory was that he daily saved the lives of some of his countrymen that bore arms against him.

As to the war in Egypt, some say it was at once dangerous and dishonourable, and no ways necessary, but occasioned only by his passion for Cleopatra. Others blame the ministers of the king, and especially the eunuch Pothinus, who was the chief favourite and who had lately killed Pompey; had banished Cleopatra, and was now secretly plotting Caesar's destruction (to prevent which, Caesar from that time began to sit up whole nights, under pretense of drinking, for the security of his person.) And, openly, Pothinus was intolerable in his affronts to Caesar, both by his words and actions. For when Caesar's soldiers had musty and unwholesome corn measured out to them, Pothinus told them they must be content with it, since they were fed at another's cost. He also ordered that his table should be served with wooden and earthen dishes, and said Caesar had carried off all the gold and silver plate, under pretense of arrears of debt. For the present king's father owed Caesar one thousand seven hundred and fifty myriads of money. Caesar had formerly remitted to his children the rest, but thought fit to demand the thousand myriads at that time to maintain his army. Pothinus told him that he had better go now and attend to his other affairs of greater consequence, and that he should receive his money at another time with thanks. Caesar replied that he did not want Egyptians to be his counsellors; and soon after he privately sent for Cleopatra from her retirement.

Part Two

She, taking only Apollodorus the Sicilian of all her friends, took a little boat, and went away with him in it in the night, and came and landed hard by the foot of the castle. Then having no other means to come into the court without being known, she laid herself down upon a mattress or flock bed, which Apollodorus her friend tied and bound up together like a bundle with a great leather thong, and so took her up on his back, and brought her thus hampered in this fardel unto Caesar, in at the castle gate. This was the first occasion, (as it is reported) that made Caesar to love her: but afterwards, when he saw her sweet conversation and pleasant entertainment, he fell then in further liking with her, and did reconcile her again unto her brother the king, with condition that they two jointly should reign together.

Part Three

Upon this new reconciliation, a great feast being prepared, a slave of Caesar's that was his barber, the fearfullest wretch that lived, still busily prying and listening abroad in every corner, being mistrustful by nature: found that Pothinus and Achillas did lie in wait to kill his master Caesar. This being proved unto Caesar, he did set such sure watch about the hall where the feast was made, that, in fine, he slew Pothinus himself. Achillas on the other side, saved himself, and fled unto the king's camp, where he raised a marvellous dangerous and difficult war for Caesar: because he having then but a few men about him as he had, he was to fight against a great and strong city.

The first danger he fell into was for the lack of water he had: for his enemies had stopped the mouth of the pipes which conveyed water unto the castle. The second danger he had was that, seeing his enemies came to take his ships from him, he was driven to repulse that danger with fire by setting fire to his own ships, which, after burning the docks, thence spread on and destroyed the great library of Alexandria. A third was when, in an engagement near Pharos, he leaped from into a small boat to assist his soldiers who were in danger, and when the Egyptians pressed him on every side, he threw himself into the sea, and with much difficulty swam off. It is said, that then holding divers books in his hand, he did never let them go, but kept them always upon his head above water, and swam with the other hand, notwithstanding that they shot marvellously at him, and was driven sometime to duck into the water; howbeit, the boat was drowned presently.

In fine, the king coming to his men that made war with Caesar, he went against him and gave him battle, and won it with great slaughter and effusion of blood. But as for the king, no man could ever tell what became of him after. Thereupon Caesar made Cleopatra, the king's sister, Queen of Egypt; who being great with child, was shortly brought to bed of a son, whom the Alexandrians named Caesarion.

From thence he went into Syria, and so going into Asia, there it was told him that Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus (#2) was overthrown in battle by Pharnaces, the son of King Mithridates, and was fled out of the realm of Pontus with a handful of men; and that Pharnaces was not contented with the winning of Bithynia and Cappadocia, but further would needs attempt to win Lesser Armenia, procuring all those kings, princes, and governors of the provinces thereabouts to rebel against the Romans. Thereupon Caesar went thither straight with three legions, and fought a great battle with King Pharnaces, by the city of Zela, where he slew his army, and drove him out of all the realm of Pontus. And because he would advertise one of his friends of the suddenness of this victory, he only wrote three words unto his friend Amantius at Rome: "Veni, Vidi, Vici": to wit, "I came, I saw, I overcame [conquered]." These three words ending all with like sound and letters in the Latin, have a certain short grace, more pleasant to the ear, than can be well expressed in any other tongue.

Hence he crossed into Italy, and came to Rome at the end of that year, for which he had been a second time chosen dictator [omission]; and was elected consul for the next.

Narration and Discussion

Caesar wrote that "the greatest pleasure he took of his victory was that he daily saved the lives of some of his countrymen that bore arms against him." Is this laudable or reasonable, considering that he had only recently been throwing spears at them?

Caesar's love affair with Cleopatra has been explored by many artists and storytellers. Do you find the story romantic, or head-shaking?

Creative narration #1: If you have not yet designed a cover for the Roman News Magazine (or if you would just like to do it again), create a special "Came, Saw, Conquered" edition.

Creative narration #2: If you could save a few books by swimming away with them (like Caesar), which ones would you take?

Lesson Ten


Part One covers an important battle in what is now Tunisia. After Pompey's assassination in Egypt, his allies (the Optimates) had escaped to Roman territory in Africa, and had organized a resistance there. The force was led by Scipio and Marcus Cato the Younger, but involved others such as the two sons of Pompey, and King Juba of Numidia. Caesar and his troops landed in Africa in December of 47 B.C., and the Battle of Thapsus--a siege of the resistance army's stronghold there--took place a few months afterwards.

In Part Two, we have a brief description of the last battle of Caesar's civil war: the Battle of Munda against the sons of Pompey.


engage: make war against

the time of the winter solstice: in December

in raillery: in mockery; as a joke

peep: put one's nose out of the camp (peek out); venture out

pell-mell: hastily, and/or in a confused and disorderly manner

told him: it's not clear whether Caesar was talking to the eagle or to the ensign bearer

carried: captured

reposed himself: rested

three triumphs: other sources say four, if the Gallic Wars are included

meet: proper

perpetual dictator: a permanent position of absolute power in Rome

deposed: removed from power


Scipio: Scipio Nasica (see note in Lesson Five)

King Juba I: king of Numidia from 60-46 B.C. After fleeing from certain defeat at the Battle of Pharsalus, it is believed that he and the Roman general Marcus Petreius formed a suicide pact, one of them killing the other and then ending his own life.

Gaius Asinius Pollio: a soldier, politician, historian, and writer

Afranius: former consul and Pompey's lieutenant in Spain

as it was professed: as it was officially stated

whose little son: Juba II, who became king of Numidia and Mauretania, and who was a respected scholar and author of books such as Roman Archaeology. He was raised in Rome by Julius Caesar and then by his nephew Octavian (Caesar Augustus).

Historic Occasions

46 B.C.: The year with three extra months, because of Caesar's change to the calendar. Julius Caesar was consul along with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus.

January, 46 B.C.: Caesar defeated by his former lieutenant Titus Labienus at the Battle of Ruspina

April, 46 B.C.: Caesar's victory at the Battle of Thapsus (and the deaths of Cato and Scipio by suicide)

April, 46 B.C.: Caesar's triple (or quadruple) triumph, celebrating his victories in Gaul, in Egypt, against Pharnaces, and against King Juba. Caesar was made dictator for ten years.

45 B.C.: Caesar was consul without a colleague (which was unusual).

March, 45 B.C.: Battle of Munda, in southern Spain (death of Titus Labienus)

April, 45 B.C.: Great celebrations were held to celebrate this final victory and the end of the civil war, but some found that offensive.

October 45 B.C.: Caesar resigned as sole consul, which allowed two consuls to be elected for the next year. He was re-elected consul for 44 B.C., along with Mark Antony.

January/February 44 B.C.: Caesar was declared perpetual dictator

On the Map

Africa: the Roman province called Africa, which included present-day Tunisia and parts of Algeria and Libya

Sicily: the very large island at the toe of Italy's "boot"

Numidia (Numidians): a kingdom of northwest Africa

Thapsus: a port city on Tunisia's Mediterranean coast


Part One

After the Battle of Pharsalus, Cato and Scipio fled into Africa, and there, with the assistance of King Juba, got together a considerable force, which Caesar resolved to engage. He accordingly passed into Sicily at about the time of the winter solstice, and to remove from his officers' minds all hopes of delay there, encamped by the seashore; and as soon as ever he had a fair wind, put to sea with three thousand foot and a few horse. When he had landed them, he went back secretly, under some apprehensions for the larger part of his army, but met them upon the sea, and brought them all to the same camp.

There he was informed that the enemies relied much upon an ancient oracle, that the house of the Scipios should be always victorious in Africa. There was in his army a man, otherwise mean and contemptible, but of that family, and his name was Cornelius Scipio Salvito. This man, Caesar (whether in raillery to ridicule Scipio, who commanded the enemy, or seriously to bring over the omen to his side, it were hard to say), put at the head of his troops, as if he were general, in all the frequent battles which he was compelled to fight.

For he was in such want both of victualling for his men, and forage for his horses, that he was forced to feed the horses with seaweed, which he washed thoroughly to take off its saltiness, and mixed with a little grass to give it a more agreeable taste. The Numidians (which are light horsemen, and very ready of service) being a great number together, would be on a sudden in every place, and spread all the fields over thereabout, so that no man dared peep out of the camp to go for forage. And one day as the men-of-arms were staying to behold an African doing notable things in dancing, and playing with the flute: they being set down quietly to take their pleasure of the view thereof, having in the meantime given their slaves their horses to hold, the enemies stealing suddenly upon them, compassed them in round about, and slew a number of them in the field, and, chasing the others also that fled, followed them pell-mell into their camp. Furthermore, had not Caesar himself, and Gaius Asinius Pollio with him, gone out of the camp to the rescue, and stayed them that fled, the war that day would have been ended.

There was also another skirmish where his enemies had the upper hand, in the which it is reported, that Caesar taking the ensign bearer by the collar that carried the Eagle in his hand, stayed him by force, and turning his face, told him: "See, there be thy enemies."

Scipio, flushed with this success at first, had a mind to come to one decisive action. He therefore left Afranius and Juba in two distinct bodies not far distant; and marched himself toward Thapsus, where he proceeded to build a fortified camp above a lake, to serve as a center-point for their operations, and also as a place of refuge.

Whilst Scipio was thus employed, Caesar, with incredible dispatch, made his way through thick woods and a country supposed to be impassable, cut off one part of the enemy and attacked another in the front. Having routed these, he followed up his opportunity and the current of his good fortune, and on the first onset carried Afranius's camp, and ravaged that of the Numidians (Juba, their king, being glad to save himself by flight); so that in a small part of a single day he made himself master of three camps, and killed fifty thousand of the enemy, with the loss only of fifty of his own men. This is the account some give of that fight.

Yet others do write also, that Caesar himself was not there in person at the execution of this battle. For as he did set his men in battle array, the falling sickness took him. He perceived the approaches of it, and before it had too far disordered his senses, when he was already beginning to shake under its influence, withdrew into a neighbouring fort where he reposed himself. Of the men of consular and praetorian dignity that were taken after the fight, several Caesar put to death; others [such as Cato] anticipated him by killing themselves.

[omission for length: the death of Cato]

Part Two

Caesar, upon his return to Rome, did not omit to pronounce before the people a magnificent account of his victory, telling them that he had subdued a country which would supply the public every year with two hundred thousand attic bushels of corn, and three million pounds' weight of oil. He then led three triumphs for Egypt, Pontus, and Africa: the last for the victory over, not Scipio, but King Juba, as it was professed, whose little son was then carried in the triumph, the happiest captive that ever was (and who [omission] came by this means to obtain a place among the most learned historians of Greece).

After the triumphs, he distributed rewards to his soldiers, and treated the people with feasting and shows. He entertained the whole people together at one feast, where twenty-two thousand dining couches were laid out; and he made a display of gladiators, and of battles by sea, in honour, as he said, of his daughter Julia, though she had been long since dead. When these shows were over, an account was taken of the people who, from three hundred and twenty thousand, were now reduced to one hundred and fifty thousand. So great a waste had the civil war made in Rome alone, not to mention what the other parts of Italy and the provinces suffered.

Part Three

After all these things were ended, Caesar was chosen consul the fourth time, and went into Spain to make war with the sons of Pompey, who were yet but very young, but had notwithstanding raised a marvellous great army together, and showed themselves to have had manhood and courage worthy to command such an army, insomuch as they put Caesar himself in great danger of his life.

[Omission for length: details of Caesar's victory at the Battle of Munda.]

But the triumph he made into Rome for the same, did as much offend the Romans, and more, than anything that ever he had done before: because he had not overcome captains that were strangers, nor barbarous kings, but had destroyed the sons of the noblest man in Rome, whom fortune had overthrown. And because he had plucked up his race by the roots, men did not think it meet for him to triumph so, for the calamities of his country, rejoicing at a thing for the which he had but one excuse to allege in his defense, unto the gods and men: that he was compelled to do that which he did. And the rather they thought it not meet, because he had never before sent letters nor messengers unto the commonwealth at Rome for any victory that he had ever won in all the civil wars: but did always for shame refuse the glory of it.

This notwithstanding, the Romans inclining to Caesar's prosperity, and taking the bit in the mouth, supposing that to be ruled by one man alone, it would be a good means for them to take breath a little, after so many troubles and miseries as they had abidden in these civil wars: they chose him perpetual dictator. This was a plain tyranny: for to this absolute power of dictator, they added this: never to be afraid to be deposed. Cicero propounded before the Senate that they should give him such honours as were meet for a man; howbeit, others afterwards added honours beyond all reason. For men striving who should most honour him, they made him hateful and troublesome to themselves that most favoured him, by reason of the unmeasurable greatness and honours which they gave him. His enemies, too, are thought to have had some share in this, as well as his flatterers. It gave them advantage against him, and would be their justification for any attempt they should make upon him; for since the civil wars were ended, he had nothing else that he could be charged with.

And they had good reason to decree a temple to Clementia, in token of their thanks for the mild use he made of his victory. For he not only pardoned many of those who fought against him, but, further, to some gave honours and offices; as particularly to Brutus and Cassius, who both of them were praetors.

And where Pompey's images had been thrown down, he caused them to be set up again: whereupon Cicero said then, that in Caesar setting up Pompey's images again, he made his own to stand the surer. And when some of his friends did counsel him to have a guard for the safety of his person, and some also did offer themselves to serve him: he would never consent to it, but said it was better to die once, than always to be afraid of death.

Narration and Discussion

" . . . they made him hateful and troublesome . . . by reason of the unmeasurable greatness and honours which they gave him." Is it possible to make someone an enemy by honouring him too much?

For further thought: Compare these statements: "And they had good reason to decree a temple to Clementia, in token of their thanks for the mild use he made of his victory." "So great a waste had the civil war made in Rome alone, not to mention what the other parts of Italy and the provinces suffered." Can both be true?

Creative narration #1: Write an account of the triumph from the point of view of Juba II (perhaps as a reminiscence in later years).

Creative narration #2: If you have not already been reading Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, you may want to read or watch it now.

Shakespeare Connections

Shakespeare's play opens on the day of Caesar's triumph after his victory over the sons of Pompey. "Knew you not Pompey?" demands the tribune Marullus. "And do you now cull out a holiday? / And do you now strew flowers in his way, / That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?" Shakespeare combines this event with the Feast of Lupercal (in Lesson Eleven), at which Caesar is publicly offered, but refuses, a crown. The Lupercal was held in February, but the triumph had actually taken place in October.

Lesson Eleven


Now is a good time to review the things that Julius Caesar did over his long career, to see how things stood at the end of 45 B.C. Who were his friends? How did the people of Rome feel about him? Now that the wars were over, what did he want or expect?


no place to repair unto: no home

preferments: appointments to high positions

a sort of emulous struggle with himself: Caesar was almost jealous of himself

honest colour: good reason

tearing open his doublet collar: pulling back his toga to expose his neck

affront: insult

diadem: a jeweled crown or headband

proof: test

named for the consulship four years after: This seems to have been a promise that Caesar made to Brutus, but it never took place.

the praetor's seat where he gave audience: the place where he carried out his duties and heard people's cases

seditious: rebellious

egg him on: encourage, provoke

jealousy: mistrust

pretended: intended

carrion: dead, decaying flesh


Brutus, who had in old time . . . ; the first Brutus: the ancestor of this Brutus; see Plutarch's Life of Publicola

Historic Occasions

44 B.C.: Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were consuls

44 B.C.: Marcus Brutus was praetor in Rome


Part One

But to win himself the love and goodwill of the people, as the honourablest guard and best safety he could have, Caesar made common feasts again, and general distributions of corn. Furthermore, to gratify the soldiers also, he replenished many cities again with inhabitants, which before had been destroyed, and placed them there that had no place to repair unto: of the which the noblest and chiefest cities were these two, Carthage, and Corinth [omission].

And as for the men of high rank, he won them also, promising some of them to make them praetors and consuls in time to come; and unto others, offices and honours; but to all men generally good hope, seeking all the ways he could to make every man contented with his reign [omission].

Caesar was born to do great things, and had a passion after honour; and the many noble exploits he had done did not now serve as an inducement to him to sit still and reap the fruit of his past labours, but were incentives and encouragements to go on, and raised in him ideas of still greater actions, and a desire of new glory, as if the present were all spent. It was in fact a sort of emulous struggle with himself, as if it had been with another, how he might outdo his past actions by his future.

[Omission for length: Caesar had many plans and ideas, some of which were carried out and some not. One idea that he did put into action was the reworking of the calendar.]

Part Two

But the chiefest cause that made him mortally hated was the covetous desire he had to be called king: which first gave the people just cause, and next his secret enemies honest colour to bear him ill-will. This notwithstanding, they that procured him this honour and dignity gave it out among the people that it was written in the prophecies, how the Romans might overcome the Parthians if they made war with them, and were led by a king; but otherwise that they were unconquerable. And furthermore, they were so bold besides, that, Caesar returning to Rome from the city of Alba, when they came to salute him, they called him king. But the people being offended, and Caesar also angry, he said he was not called king, but Caesar. Then every man keeping silence, he went his way heavy and sorrowful.

When they had decreed divers honours for him in the Senate, the consuls and praetors, accompanied with the whole assembly of the Senate, went unto him in the marketplace, where he was set by the pulpit for orations, to tell him what honours they had decreed for him in his absence. But he, sitting still in his majesty, disdaining to rise up unto them when they came in, as if they had been private men, answered them that his honours had more need to be cut off, than enlarged. This treatment offended not only the Senate, but the commonalty too, as if they thought the affront upon the Senate equally reflected upon the whole Republic; so that all who could decently leave him went off, looking much discomposed.

Thereupon also Caesar rising, departed home to his house, and tearing open his doublet collar, making his neck bare, he cried out aloud to his friends that his throat was ready to offer to any man that would come and cut it. But afterwards he made the malady from which he suffered the excuse for his sitting, saying that those who are attacked by it lose their presence of mind if they talk much standing; that they presently grow giddy, fall into convulsions, and quite lose their reason. But this was not the reality, for he would willingly have stood up to the Senate, had not Cornelius Balbus, one of his friends, or rather flatterers, hindered him. "Will you not remember," said he, "you are Caesar, and will you not let them reverence you, and do their duties?"

Part Three

[The Feast of Lupercal was a religious festival that included a foot race through the streets.]

He gave a fresh occasion of resentment by his affront to the tribunes at the Lupercalia [omission]. Caesar sat to behold that sport upon the pulpit for orations, in a chair of gold, appareled in triumphing manner. Antony, who was consul at that time, was one of them that ran this holy course. So when he came into the marketplace, the people made a lane for him to run at liberty, and he came to Caesar, and presented him a diadem wreathed about with laurel. Whereupon there rose a certain cry of rejoicing, not very great, done only by a few, appointed for the purpose. But when Caesar refused the diadem, then all the people together made an outcry of joy. Then Antony offering it him again, there was a second shout of joy, but yet of a few. But when Caesar refused it again the second time, then all the whole people shouted. Caesar having made this proof, found that the people did not like of it, and thereupon rose out of his chair, and commanded the crown to be carried unto Jupiter in the Capitol.

After that, there were set up images of Caesar in the city with diadems upon their heads, like kings. Those, the two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, went and pulled down; and furthermore, meeting with them that first saluted Caesar as king, they committed them to prison. The people followed them rejoicing at it, and called them Brutes: because of Brutus, who had in old time driven the kings out of Rome, and that brought the kingdom of one person unto the government of the Senate and people. Caesar was so offended withal, that he deprived Marullus and Flavius of their tribuneships, and accusing them, he spoke also against the people, and called them Bruti and Cumani, to wit, beasts and fools.

Hereupon the people went straight unto Marcus Brutus, who from his father came of the first Brutus, and by his mother, of the Servilii, a noble house as any was in Rome, being besides nephew and son-in-law to Cato. Notwithstanding, the great honours and favour Caesar showed unto him took off the edge from the desires he might himself have felt for overthrowing the new monarchy. For Caesar did not only save his life, after the Battle of Pharsalus when Pompey fled, and did at his request also save many more of his friends besides: but furthermore, he put a marvellous confidence in him.

He had at that time the most honourable praetorship for the year, and was named for the consulship four years after, being preferred before Cassius, his competitor. Upon the question as to the choice, Caesar, it is related, said that Cassius had the fairer pretensions, but that he could not pass by Brutus. Some people one day accusing Brutus of practising this conspiracy, Caesar would not hear of it, but clapping his hand on his body, told them, "Brutus will look for this skin": meaning thereby, that Brutus for his virtue, deserved to rule after him; but yet, that for ambition's sake, he would not show himself unthankful nor dishonourable.

Now they that desired change, and wished Brutus only their prince and governor above all others: they dared not come to him themselves to tell him what they would have him to do, but in the night did cast sundry papers into the praetor's seat where he gave audience, most of them to this effect: "Thou sleepest, Brutus, and art not Brutus indeed." Cassius finding Brutus' ambition stirred up the more by these seditious bills, did prick him forward, and egg him on the more, for a private quarrel he had conceived against Caesar: the circumstance whereof, we have set down more at large in Brutus' Life.

Caesar also had Cassius in great jealousy, and suspected him much: whereupon he said on a time to his friends, "What will Cassius do, think ye? I like not his pale looks." Another time when Caesar's friends complained unto him of Antony, and Dolabella, that they pretended some mischief towards him: he answered them again, "As for those fat men and smooth-combed heads," quoth he, "I never reckon of them; but these pale-visaged and carrion-lean people, I fear them most," meaning Brutus and Cassius.

Narration and Discussion

Did Caesar want to be a king? Was he already a king in everything but name?

Why did Caesar say that he distrusted pale, thin people?

Creative narration #1: Illustrate something from this lesson, using any art media you prefer.

Creative narration #2: Read or watch these scenes from Shakepeare's play.

Creative narration #3 (this one is a challenge): Long ago, Caesar had wept over the stories of Alexander's exploits, feeling that he himself had accomplished so little. Now (Plutarch says) he seemed to be almost jealous of his own success. Imagine a conversation between Caesar-now and Caesar-the-hero, discussing the problem.

Shakespeare Connections

"After that, there were set up images of Caesar in the city with diadems upon their heads, like kings. Those, the two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, went and pulled down: and furthermore, meeting with them that first saluted Caesar as king, they committed them to prison." Shakespeare uses this (and the tribunes) in Act I Scene I, where Flavius says, "Disrobe the images, / If you do find them deck'd with ceremonies . . . let no images / Be hung with Caesar's trophies." In Scene II, Casca mentions that the tribunes have been "put to silence" for doing so.

In Act I Scene II, Caesar tells Calpurnia to stand directly in Antony' way when he runs past, and he tells Antony to make sure he touches Calpurnia. The Lupercal was a fertility festival, and to touch one of the runners might help her bear a son and heir for Caesar.

Antony says, "When Caesar says, 'Do this,' it is perform'd." When Caesar reformed the calendar, although it was an improvement to the former system, some people thought it was an additional example of his arrogance. Plutarch quoted Cicero, who once said that if Caesar said, "Tomorrow the star Lyra will rise," the response should be "'Yea, at the commandment of Caesar,' as if men were compelled so to say and think, by Caesar's edict."

"Cassius finding Brutus' ambition stirred up the more by these seditious bills, did prick him forward, and egg him on the more, for a private quarrel he had conceived against Caesar." In Act I Scene II, Shakespeare brings this scene to life. In Act II Scene I, Brutus says, "Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, / I have not slept."

"As for those fat men and smooth combed heads," quoth he, "I never reckon of them; but these pale-visaged and carrion-lean people, I fear them most," meaning Brutus and Cassius. In Act I Scene II, Shakespeare writes "Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. / Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, / He thinks too much; such men are dangerous."

During the Lupercal, Brutus hears shouting but doesn't see what happened. Afterwards he asks Casca for his narration of the events. "I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown--yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of these coronets . . . " Shakespeare adds a bit more drama to the scene by saying that Caesar then "fell down in the market-place, and foam'd at mouth, and was speechless"; and that (according to Casca) "he pluck'd me ope his doublet; and offer'd them his throat to cut." This is something that Plutarch describes just before the scene at the Lupercal.

Lesson Twelve


As you read this last passage, watch for differences between what you may have seen or read in other sources, and what Plutarch actually said (for instance, about Caesar's last words).

Not you too?

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar says "Et tu, Brute?" to Brutus, and those words are quoted today as an accusation to a traitorous friend. The historian Suetonius said that the remark was something like "You too, son?" But Plutarch said that when Caesar died, he had pulled his toga over his head, so nobody knows what his last words were.


contending: fighting, battling

with their joint applications: with their added requests

for their importunities: for pestering him in such a manner

mortal: fatal, deadly

challenged part of the honour: took some credit for the deed

for their vain covetousness of honour: as their reward for wanting a share in the "honour"

testament: will

firebrands: torches


Tillius Cimber: in Shakespeare's play, he is named Metellus Cimber.

Casca: Publius Servilius Casca Longus (see introductory notes)

Octavius Caesar: later called Caesar Augustus

Historic Occasions

March 15, 44 B.C.: The Ides of March (the death of Julius Caesar)

October, 42 B.C.: the deaths of Cassius and Brutus


Part One

Certainly, destiny may easier be foreseen than avoided: considering the strange and wonderful signs that were said to be seen before Caesar's death. As to the lights in the heavens, the noises heard in the night, and the wild birds which perched in the Forum, these are not perhaps worth taking notice of in so great a case as this. Strabo, the philosopher, tells us that a number of men were seen, looking as if they were heated through with fire, contending with each other; that a quantity of flame issued from the hand of a soldier's servant, so that they who saw it thought he must be burnt, but that after all he had no hurt. As Caesar was sacrificing, the victim's heart was missing, a very bad omen, because no living creature can subsist without a heart.

Furthermore, there was a certain soothsayer that had given Caesar warning long time afore, to take heed of the day of the Ides of March (which is the fifteenth of the month), for on that day he should be in great danger. That day being come, Caesar going unto the Senate house, and speaking merrily to the soothsayer, told him. "The Ides of March be come." "So be they," softly answered the soothsayer, "but yet are they not past." And the very day before, Caesar supping with Marcus Lepidus [omission], and talk falling out amongst them, reasoning what death was best: he, preventing their opinions, cried out aloud, "Death unlooked for."

[Omission for length: Caesar's wife Calpurnia is reported to have dreamed of his death. Since she was not normally a superstitious woman, Caesar agreed to inquire of the soothsayers, and they agreed that the omens were not good. He decided to request that that day's meeting of the Senate be postponed. However, Decius Brutus Albinus, who was part of the conspiracy, came to Caesar's house and convinced him that he needed to attend the Senate.]

So Caesar coming into the house, all the Senate stood up on their feet to do him honour. Then part of Brutus's company and confederates stood round about Caesar's chair, and part of them also came towards him, pretending to add their petitions to those of Tillius Cimber, on behalf of his brother who was in exile; and they followed him with their joint applications till he came to his seat. When he was sat down, he refused to comply with their requests, and upon their urging him further began to reproach them severely for their importunities; when Tillius, laying hold of his robe with both his hands, pulled it down from his neck, was the signal for the assault.

Then Casca behind him struck him in the neck with his sword: howbeit the wound was not great nor mortal, because it seemed, the fear of such a devilish attempt did amaze him, and take his strength from him, that he killed him not at the first blow. But Caesar turning straight unto him, caught hold of his sword, and held it hard: and they both cried out, Caesar in Latin: "O vile traitor Casca, what doest thou?" and Casca in Greek to his brother, "Brother, help me."

At the beginning of this stir, they that were present, not knowing of the conspiracy, were so amazed with the horrible sight they saw, that they had no power to flee, neither to help him, not so much as once to make any outcry. They on the other side that had conspired his death, compassed him in on every side with their swords drawn in their hands, so that Caesar turned him nowhere, but he was stricken at by some, and still had naked swords in his face, and was hacked and mangled among them, as a wild beast taken of hunters. For it was agreed among them that every man should give him a wound, because all their parts should be in this murder. Men report also, that Caesar did still defend himself against the rest, running every way with his body: but when he saw Brutus with his sword drawn in his hand, then he pulled his gown over his head, and made no more resistance [omission].

Part Two

When Caesar was slain, Brutus stood forth to give a reason for what they had done, but the Senate would not hear him: they flew out of doors in all haste, and fleeing, filled all the city with marvellous fear and tumult. Insomuch as some did shut their doors, others forsook their shops and warehouses, and others ran to the place to see what the matter was: and others also that had seen it, ran home to their houses again. But Antony and Lepidus, which were two of Caesar's chiefest friends, got off privately, and hid themselves in some friends' houses.

Brutus and his confederates, on the other side, being yet hot with this murder they had committed, having their swords drawn in their hands, came all in a troop together out of the Senate, and went into the Forum, not as men that made countenance to flee, but otherwise boldly holding up their heads like men of courage, and called to the people to defend their liberty, and stayed to speak with every great personage whom they met in their way. Of them, some followed this troop, and went amongst them, as if they had been of the conspiracy, and falsely challenged part of the honour with them: among them were Gaius Octavius and Lentulus Spinther. But both of them were afterwards put to death, for their vain covetousness of honour, by Antony and Octavius Caesar; and yet they had no part of that honour for the which they were put to death, neither did any man believe that they were any of the confederates, or of counsel with them. For neither did those who punished them profess to revenge the fact, but the ill-will.

Part Three

The next morning, Brutus and his confederates came into the Forum to speak unto the people, who listened without expressing either any pleasure or resentment, but showed by their silence that they pitied Caesar and respected Brutus. Now the Senate granted general pardon for all that was past; and to pacify every man. They ordered that Caesar should be worshipped as a divinity, and nothing, even of the slightest consequence, should be revoked which he had enacted during his government. At the same time they gave Brutus and his followers the command of provinces, and other considerable posts: whereby every man thought all things were brought to good peace and quietness again.

But when they had opened Caesar's testament, and found a liberal legacy of money bequeathed unto every citizen of Rome; and that they saw his body (which was brought into the Forum) all bemangled with gashes of swords; then there was no order to keep the multitude and common people quiet, but they plucked up benches, tables, and stools, and laid them all about the body, and setting them afire, burnt the corpse. Then when the fire was well kindled, they took the firebrands, and went unto the houses of those that had slain Caesar, to set them afire. Other also ran up and down the city to see if they could meet with any of them, to cut them in pieces: howbeit they could meet with never a man of them, because they had locked themselves up safely in their houses.

There was one of Caesar's friends called Cinna, that had a marvellous strange and terrible dream the night before. He dreamed that Caesar bade him to supper, and that he refused, and would not go; then that Caesar took him by the hand, and led him against his will. Now Cinna hearing at that time, that they burnt Caesar's body, notwithstanding that he feared his dream, and though he was suffering from a fever, he went into the Forum to honour his funerals. When he came thither, one of mean sort asked what his name was? He was straight called by his name. The first man told it to another, and that other unto another, so that it ran straight through them all, that he was one of them that murdered Caesar (for indeed one of the traitors to Caesar, was also called Cinna as himself); wherefore, taking him for Cinna the murderer, they fell upon him with such fury, that they presently slew him [omission].

This stir and fury made Brutus and Cassius more afraid than of all that was past; and therefore within a few days after, they departed out of Rome: and touching their doings afterwards, and what calamity they suffered till their deaths, we have written it at large, in the Life of Brutus.


Caesar died at fifty-six years of age: and Pompey also lived not passing four years more than he. So he reaped no other fruit of all his reign and dominion, which he had so vehemently desired all his life, and pursued with such extreme danger: but a vain name only, and a superficial glory, that procured him the envy and hatred of his country. But his great prosperity and good fortune that favoured him all his lifetime did continue afterwards in the revenge of his death, pursuing through every sea and land all those who were concerned in it, and suffering none to escape, but reaching all who in any sort or kind were either actually engaged in the fact, or by their counsels any way promoted it.

Furthermore, of all the chances that happen unto men upon the earth, that which came to Cassius above all others is most to be wondered at. For he, being overcome in battle at the journey of Philippi, slew himself with the same sword with which he struck Caesar.

Again, of signs in the element, the great comet which seven nights together was seen very bright after Caesar's death, the eighth night after was never seen more. Also the brightness of the sun was darkened, the which all that year through rose very pale, and shined not out, whereby it gave but small heat: therefore the air being very cloudy and dark, by the weakness of the heat that could not come forth, did cause the earth to bring forth but raw and unripe fruit, which rotted before it could ripen.

But above all, the ghost that appeared unto Brutus showed plainly that the gods were offended with the murder of Caesar. The vision was thus: Brutus being ready to pass over his army from the city of Abydos, to the other coast lying directly against it, slept every night (as his manner was) in his tent, and being yet awake, thinking of his affairs: (for by report he was as careful a captain, and lived with as little sleep, as ever man did) he thought he heard a noise at his tent door, and looking towards the light of the lamp that waxed very dim, he saw a horrible vision of a man, of a wonderful greatness, and dreadful look, which at the first made him marvellously afraid. But when he saw that it did him no hurt, but stood by his bedside, and said nothing: at length he asked him what he was. The image answered him: "I am thy ill angel, Brutus, and thou shalt see me by the city of Philippi." Then Brutus replied again, and said: "Well, I shall see thee then." Therewithal, the spirit presently vanished from him.

After that time Brutus being in battle near unto the city of Philippi, against Antony and Octavius Caesar, at the first battle he won the victory, and overthrowing all them that withstood him, he drove them into young Caesar's camp, which he took. The second battle being at hand, this spirit appeared again unto him, but spoke never a word. Thereupon Brutus knowing he should die, did put himself to all hazard in battle, but yet fighting could not be slain. So seeing his men put to flight and overthrown, he ran unto a little rock not far off, and there setting his sword's point to his breast, fell upon it, and slew himself, but assisted, as they say, by a friend, who helped him to give the thrust, met his death.

Narration and Discussion

The story ends with Plutarch's pronouncement that "he reaped no other fruit of all his reign and dominion . . . but a vain name only, and a superficial glory, that procured him the envy and hatred of his country." Did Caesar end up with a vain name only?

Shakespeare turned his attention, at the end of the play, to Brutus, calling him "the noblest Roman of them all." In this Life, we have not heard much about Brutus, other than the fact that Caesar pardoned him for his support of Pompey. Is it surprising that Plutarch ended the story in this way?

Creative narration #1: Illustrate one event from this lesson.

Creative narration #2: Read the scenes from Shakespeare's play.

Shakespeare Connections

In Act I Scene I, we have the famous scene with the soothsayer: "Beware the Ides of March!" Act I Scene III begins on the evening before the murder, with Casca, breathless and fearful, describing some of the things he has seen. "Whoever knew the heavens menace so?" Cassius says to Casca that these natural or supernatural phenomena are all symbols of Caesar, "a man / Most like this dreadful night."

Acts II and III continue the story, and there are many points of comparison with Plutarch's text. Act IV begins with the dealings between Mark Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus; and then moves on to focus on Cassius and Brutus. The ghostly messenger ("the ghost of Caesar") appears to Brutus in Act IV, Scene III.

Cassius dies in Act V Scene III, and Brutus in Scene V. (Shakespeare added his own dramatic ending.)

Examination Questions

For younger students:

1. It is said that Caesar travelled continually and with great speed, and made little account of his diet. Tell two stories that illustrate this.

2. a) "I had rather be the chiefest man here, than the second person in Rome." b) "Fear not, for thou hast Caesar and his fortune with thee." On what occasions were these words used? Describe one of them.

For older students:

1. Write about two of the following, in connection with Julius Caesar: a), "He was not kept as a prisoner, but rather as a prince." (b) On his reading the history of Alexander. (c) "He fell into many thoughts with himself" when he came to the Rubicon. e) "[The soldiers at Brundisium] straight changed their complaints and minds."

2. (High school) "Now Caesar [him]self did breed the noble courage and life in them" (meaning his soldiers). Give a sketch of the character of Caesar as shown a) in this connection, b) in his dealings with Pompey.

AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:

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