Julius Caesar's Gallic War Commentaries
"De Bello Gallico" & Other Commentaries: of Caius Julius Caesar
First Published in This Edition, 1915 Reprinted 1923, 1929
By Thomas De Quincey - The Commentaries of Caius Julius Caesar
The War In Gaul
The character of the First Caesar has perhaps never been worse appreciated than by him who in one sense described it best; that is, with most force and eloquence wherever he really did comprehend it. This was Lucan, who has nowhere exhibited more brilliant rhetoric, nor wandered more from the truth, than in the contrasted portraits of Caesar and Pompey. The famous line, "Nil actum reputans si quid superesset agendum," is a fine feature of the real character, finely expressed. But, if it had been Lucan's purpose (as possibly, with a view to Pompey's benefit, in some respects it was) utterly and extravagantly to falsify the character of the great Dictator, by no single trait could he more effectually have fulfilled that purpose, nor in fewer words, than by this expressive passage, "Gaudensque viam fecisse ruina." Such a trait would be almost extravagant applied even to Marius, who (though in many respects a perfect model of Roman grandeur, massy, columnar, imperturbable, and more perhaps than any one man recorded in History capable of justifying the bold illustration of that character in Horace, "Si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinae") had, however, a ferocity in his character, and a touch of the devil in him, very rarely united with the same tranquil intrepidity. But, for Caesar, the all-accomplished statesman, the splendid orator, the man of elegant habits and polished taste, the patron of the fine arts in a degree transcending all example of his own or the previous age, and as a man of general literature so much beyond his contemporaries, except Cicero, that he looked down even upon the brilliant Sylla as an illiterate person -- to class such a man with the race of furious destroyers exulting in the desolations they spread is to err not by an individual trait, but by the whole genus. The Attilas and the Tamerlanes, who rejoice in avowing themselves the scourges of God, and the special instruments of his wrath, have no one feature of affinity to the polished and humane Caesar, and would as little have comprehended his character as he could have respected theirs. Even Cato, the unworthy hero of Lucan, might have suggested to him a little more truth in this instance, by a celebrated remark which he made on the characteristic distinction of Caesar, in comparison with other revolutionary disturbers; for, said he, whereas others had attempted the overthrow of the state in a continued paroxysm of fury, and in a state of mind resembling the lunacy of intoxication, Caesar, on the contrary, among that whole class of civil disturbers, was the only one who had come to the task in a temper of sobriety and moderation (unum accessisse sobrium ad rempublicam delendam)....
Great as Caesar was by the benefit of his original nature, there can be no doubt that he, like others, owed something to circumstances; and perhaps amongst those which were most favourable to the premature development of great self-dependence we must reckon the early death of his father. It is, or it is not, according to the nature of men, an advantage to be orphaned at as early age. Perhaps utter orphanage is rarely or never such: but to lose a father betimes may, under appropriate circumstances, profit a strong mind greatly. To Caesar it was a prodigious benefit that he lost his father when not much more than fifteen. Perhaps it was an advantage also to his father that he died thus early. Had he stayed a year longer, he might have seen himself despised, baffled, and made ridiculous. For where, let us ask, in any age, was the father capable of adequately sustaining that relation to the unique Caius Julius -- to him, in the appropriate language of Shakespeare
"The foremost man of all this world?"
And, in this fine and Caesarean line, "this world" is to be understood not of the order of co-existences merely,` but also of the order of successions; he was the foremost man not only of his contemporaries, but also, within his own intellectual class, of men generally -- of all that ever should come after him, or should sit on thrones under the denominations of Czars, Kesars, or Caesars of the Bosphorus and the Danube; of all in every age that should inherit his supremacy of mind, or should subject to themselves the generations of ordinary men by qualities analogous to his. Of this infinite superiority some part must be ascribed to his early emancipation from paternal control. There are very many cases in which, simply from considerations of sex, a female cannot stand forward as the head of a family, or as its suitable representative. If they are even ladies paramount, and in situations of command, they are also women. The staff of authority does not annihilate their sex; and scruples of female delicacy interfere for ever to unnerve and emasculate in their hands the sceptre however otherwise potent. Hence we see, in noble families, the merest boys put forward to represent the family dignity, as fitter supporters of that burden than their mature mothers. And of Caesar's mother, though little is recorded, and that little incidentally, this much at least we learn -- that, if she looked down upon him with maternal pride and delight, she looked up to him with female ambition as the re-edifier of her husband's honours, -- looked with reverence as to a column of the Roman grandeur and with fear and feminine anxieties as to one whose aspiring spirit carried him but too prematurely into the fields of adventurous strife. One slight and evanescent sketch of the relations which subsisted between Caesar and his mother, caught from the wrecks of time, is preserved both by Plutarch and Suetonius. We see in the early dawn the young patrician standing upon the steps of his patrimonial portico, his mother with her arms wreathed about his neck, looking up to his noble countenance, sometimes drawing auguries of hope from features so fitted for command, sometimes boding an early blight to promises so dangerously magnificent. That she had something of her son's aspiring character, or that he presumed so much in a mother of his, we learn from the few words which survive of their conversation. He addressed to her no language that could tranquillise her fears. On the contrary, to any but a Roman mother his valedictory words, taken in connexion with the known determination of his character, were of a nature to consummate her depression, as they tended to confirm the very worst of her fears. He was then going to stand his chance in a popular electioneering contest for an office of the highest dignity, and to launch himself upon the storms of the Campus Martius. At that period, besides other and more ordinary dangers, the bands of gladiators, kept in the pay of the more ambitious or turbulent amongst the Roman nobles, gave a popular tone of ferocity and of personal risk to the course of such contests; and, either to forestall the victory of an antagonist, or to avenge their own defeat, it was not at all impossible that a body of incensed competitors might intercept his final triumph by assassination. For this danger, however, he had no leisure in his thoughts of consolation; the sole danger which he contemplated, or supposed his mother to contemplate, was the danger of defeat, and for that he reserved his consolations. He bade her fear nothing; for that his determination was to return with victory, and with the ensigns of the dignity he sought, or to return a corpse.
Early indeed did Caesar's trials commence; and it is probable, that, had not the death of his father, by throwing him prematurely upon his own resources, prematurely developed the masculine features of his character, forcing him whilst yet a boy under the discipline of civil conflict and the yoke of practical life, even his energies might have been insufficient to sustain them. His age is not exactly ascertained; but it is past a doubt that he had not reached his twentieth year when he had the hardihood to engage in a struggle with Sylla, then Dictator, and exercising the immoderate powers of that office with the licence and the severity which History has made so memorable. He had neither any distinct grounds of hope, nor any eminent example at that time, to countenance him in this struggle -- which yet he pushed on in the most uncompromising style, and to the utmost verge of defiance. The subject of the contest gives it a further interest. It was the youthful wife of the youthful Caesar who stood under the shadow of the great Dictator's displeasure; not personally, but politically, on account of her connexions: and her it was, Cornelia, the daughter of a man who had been four times consul, that Caesar was required to divorce: but he spurned the haughty mandate, and carried his determination to a triumphant issue, notwithstanding his life was at stake, and at one time saved only by shifting his place of concealment every night; and this young lady it was who afterwards became the mother of his only daughter. Both mother and daughter, it is remarkable, perished prematurely, and at critical periods of Caesar's life; for it is probable enough that these irreparable wounds to Caesar's domestic affections threw him with more exclusiveness of devotion upon the fascinations of glory and ambition than might have happened under a happier condition of his private life. That Caesar should have escaped destruction in this unequal contest with an enemy then wielding the whole thunders of the state, is somewhat surprising; and historians have sought their solution of the mystery in the powerful intercessions of the vestal virgins, and several others of high rank amongst the connexions of his great house. These may have done something; but it is due to Sylla, who had a sympathy with everything truly noble, to suppose him struck with powerful admiration for the audacity of the young patrician, standing out in such severe solitude among so many examples of timid concession; and that to this magnanimous feeling in the Dictator much of the indulgence which he showed may have been really due. In fact, according to some accounts, it was not Sylla, but the creatures of Sylla (adjutores), who pursued Caesar. We know, at all events, that Sylla formed a right estimate of Caesar's character, and that, from the complexion of his conduct in this one instance, he drew that famous prophecy of his future destiny; bidding his friends beware of that slipshod boy, "for that in him lay couchant many a Marius." A grander testimony to the awe which Caesar inspired, or from one who knew better the qualities of that Cyclopean man by whose scale he measured the patrician boy, cannot be imagined.
It is not our intention, or consistent with our plan, to pursue this great man through the whole circumstances of his romantic career; though it is certain that many parts of his life require investigation much keener than has ever been applied to them, and that many might be placed in a new light. Indeed, the whole of this most momentous section of ancient history ought to be recomposed with the critical scepticism of a Niebuhr, and the same comprehensive collation, resting, if possible, on the felicitous interpretation of authorities. In reality it is the hinge upon which turned the future destiny of the whole earth, and, having therefore a common relation to all modern nations whatsoever, should naturally have been cultivated with the zeal which belongs to a personal concern. In general, the anecdotes which express most vividly the grandeur of character in the first Caesar are those which illustrate his defiance of danger in extremity: the prodigious energy and rapidity of his decisions and motions in the field (looking to which it was that Cicero called him [Greek: teras] or portentous revelation); the skill with which he penetrated the designs of his enemies, and the electric speed with which he met disasters with remedy and reparation, or, where that was impossible, with relief; the extraordinary presence of mind which he showed in turning adverse omens to his own advantage, as when, upon stumbling in coming on shore (which was esteemed a capital omen of evil), he transfigured as it were in one instant its whole meaning by exclaiming, "Thus, and by this contact with the earth, do I take possession of thee, O Africa!" in that way giving to an accident the semblance of a symbolic purpose. Equally conspicuous was the grandeur of fortitude with which he faced the whole extent of a calamity when palliation could do no good, "non negando, minuendove, sed insuper amplificando, ementiendoque"; as when, upon finding his soldiery alarmed at the approach of Juba, with forces really great, but exaggerated by their terrors, he addressed them in a military harangue to the following effect: -- "Know that within a few days the king will come up with us, bringing with him sixty thousand legionaries, thirty thousand cavalry, one hundred thousand light troops, besides three hundred elephants. Such being the case, let me hear no more of conjectures and opinions, for you have now my warrant for the fact, whose information is past doubting. Therefore, be satisfied; otherwise, I will put every man of you on board some crazy old fleet, and whistle you down the tide -- no matter under what winds, no matter towards what shore." Finally, we might seek for characteristic anecdotes of Caesar in his unexampled liberalities and contempt of money.
Upon this last topic it is the just remark of Casaubon that some instances of Caesar's munificence have been thought apocryphal, or to rest upon false readings, simply from ignorance of the heroic scale upon which the Roman splendours of that age proceeded. A forum which Caesar built out of the products of his last campaign, by way of a present to the Roman people, cost him -- for the ground merely on which it stood -- nearly eight hundred thousand pounds. To the citizens of Rome he presented, in one congiary, about two guineas and a half a head. To his army, in one donation, upon the termination of the Civil War, he gave a sum which allowed about two hundred pounds a man to the infantry, and four hundred to the cavalry. It is true that the legionary troops were then much reduced by the sword of the enemy, and by the tremendous hardships of their last campaigns. In this, however, he did perhaps no more than repay a debt. For it is an instance of military attachment, beyond all that Wallenstein or any commander, the most beloved amongst his troops, has ever experienced, that, on the breaking out of the Civil War, not only did the centurions of every legion severally maintain a horse soldier, but even the privates volunteered to serve without pay, and (what might seem impossible) without their daily rations. This was accomplished by subscriptions amongst themselves, the more opulent undertaking for the maintenance of the needy. Their disinterested love for Caesar appeared in another and more difficult illustration: it was a traditionary anecdote in Rome that the majority of those amongst Caesar's troops who had the misfortune to fall into the enemy's hands refused to accept their lives under the condition of serving against him.
In connexion with this subject of his extraordinary munificence, there is one aspect of Caesar's life which has suffered much from the misrepresentations of historians, and that is -- the vast pecuniary embarrassments under which he laboured, until the profits of war had turned the scale even more prodigiously in his favour. At one time of his life, when appointed to a foreign office, so numerous and so clamorous were his creditors that he could not have left Rome on his public duties had not Crassus come forward with assistance in money, or by guarantees, to the amount of nearly two hundred thousand pounds. And at another he was accustomed to amuse himself with computing how much money it would require to make him worth exactly nothing (i.e. simply to clear him of debts); this, by one account, amounted to upwards of two millions sterling. Now, the error of historians has been to represent these debts as the original ground of his ambition and his revolutionary projects, as though the desperate condition of his private affairs had suggested a civil war to his calculations as the best or only mode of redressing it. Such a policy would have resembled the last desperate resource of an unprincipled gambler, who, on seeing his final game at chess, and the accumulated stakes depending upon it, all on the brink of irretrievable sacrifice, dexterously upsets the chess-board, or extinguishes the lights. But Julius, the one sole patriot of Rome, could find no advantage to his plans in darkness or in confusion. Honestly supported, he would have crushed the oligarchies of Rome by crushing in its lairs that venal and hunger-bitten democracy which made oligarchy and its machineries resistless. Caesar's debts, far from being stimulants and exciting causes of his political ambition, stood in an inverse relation to the ambition; they were its results, and represented its natural costs, being contracted from first to last in the service of his political intrigues, for raising and maintaining a powerful body of partisans, both in Rome and elsewhere. Whosoever indeed will take the trouble to investigate the progress of Caesar's ambition, from such materials as even yet remain, may satisfy himself that the scheme of revolutionizing the Republic, and placing himself at its head, was no growth of accident or circumstances; above all, that it did not arise upon any so petty and indirect a suggestion as that of his debts; but that his debts were in their very first origin purely ministerial to his wise, indispensable, and patriotic ambition; and that his revolutionary plans were at all periods of his life a direct and foremost object, but in no case bottomed upon casual impulses. In this there was not only patriotism, but in fact the one sole mode of patriotism which could have prospered, or could have found a field of action.
Chatter not, sublime reader, commonplaces of scoundrel moralists against ambition. In some cases ambition is a hopeful virtue; in others (as in the Rome of our resplendent Julius) ambition was the virtue by which any other could flourish. It had become evident to everybody that Rome, under its present constitution, must fall; and the sole question was -- by whom? Even Pompey, not by nature of an aspiring turn, and prompted to his ambitious course undoubtedly by circumstances and, the friends who besieged him, was in the habit of saying, "Sylla potuit: ego non potero?" Sylla found it possible: shall I find it not so? Possible to do what? To overthrow the political system of the Republic. This had silently collapsed into an order of things so vicious, growing also so hopelessly worse, that all honest patriots invoked a purifying revolution, even though bought at the heavy price of a tyranny, rather than face the chaos of murderous distractions to which the tide of feuds and frenzies was violently tending.
Such a revolution at such a price was not less Pompey's object than Caesar's. In a case, therefore, where no benefit of choice was allowed to Rome as respected the thing, but only as respected the person, Caesar had the same right to enter the arena in the character of combatant as could belong to any one of his rivals. And that he did enter that arena constructively, and by secret design, from his very earliest manhood, may be gathered from this -- that he suffered no openings towards a revolution, provided they had any hope in them, to escape his participation. It is familiarly known that he was engaged pretty deeply in the conspiracy of Catiline, and that he incurred considerable risk on that occasion; but it is less known that he was a party to at least two other conspiracies. There was even a fourth, meditated by Crassus, which Caesar so far encouraged as to undertake a journey to Rome from a very distant quarter merely with a view to such chances as it might offer to him; but, as it did not, upon examination, seem to him a very promising scheme, he judged it best to look coldly upon it, or not to embark in it by any personal co-operation. Upon these and other facts we build our inference -- that the scheme of a revolution was the one great purpose of Caesar from his first entrance upon public life. Nor does it appear that he cared much by whom it was undertaken, provided only there seemed to be any sufficient resources for carrying it through, and for sustaining the first collision with the regular forces of the existing oligarchies, taking or not taking the shape of triumvirates. He relied, it seems, on his own personal superiority for raising him to the head of affairs eventually, let who would take the nominal lead at first.
To the same result, it will be found, tended the vast stream of Caesar's liberalities. From the senator downwards to the lowest faex Romuli, he had a hired body of dependents, both in and out of Rome, equal in numbers to a nation. In the provinces, and in distant kingdoms, he pursued the same schemes. Everywhere he had a body of mercenary partisans; kings even are known to have taken his pay. And it is remarkable that even in his character of commander-in-chief, where the number of legions allowed to him for the accomplishment of his Gaulish mission raised him for a number of years above all fear of coercion or control, he persevered steadily in the same plan of providing for the distant day when he might need assistance, not from the state, but against the state. For, amongst the private anecdotes which came to light under the researches made into his history after his death, was this -- that, soon after his first entrance upon his government in Gaul, he had raised, equipped, disciplined, and maintained, from his own private funds, a legion amounting, possibly, to six or seven thousand men, who were bound to no sacrament of military obedience to the state, nor owed fealty to any auspices except those of Caesar. This legion, from the fashion of their crested helmets, which resembled the heads of a small aspiring bird, received the popular name of the Alauda (or Lark) legion. And very singular it was that Cato, or Marcellus, or some amongst those enemies of Caesar who watched his conduct during the period of his Gaulish command with the vigilance of rancorous malice, should not have come to the knowledge of this fact; in which case we may be sure that it would have been denounced to the Senate.
Such, then, for its purpose and its uniform motive, was the sagacious munificence of Caesar. Apart from this motive, and considered in and for itself, and simply with a reference to the splendid forms which it often assumed, this munificence would furnish the materials for a volume. The public entertainments of Caesar, his spectacles and shows, his naumachiae, and the pomps of his unrivalled triumphs (the closing triumphs of the Republic), were severally the finest of their kind which had then been brought forward. Sea-fights were exhibited upon the grandest scale, according to every known variety of nautical equipment and mode of conflict, upon a vast lake formed artificially for that express purpose. Mimic land-fights were conducted, in which all the circumstances of real war were so faithfully rehearsed that even elephants "indorsed with towers," twenty on each side, took part in the combat. Dramas were represented in every known language (per omnium linguarum histriones). And hence (that is, from the conciliatory feeling thus expressed towards the various tribes of foreigners resident in Rome) some have derived an explanation of what is else a mysterious circumstance amongst the ceremonial observances at Caesar's funeral -- that all people of foreign nations then residing at Rome distinguished themselves by the conspicuous share which they took in the public mourning; and that, beyond all other foreigners, the Jews for night after night kept watch and ward about the Emperor's grave. Never before, according to traditions which lasted through several generations in Rome, had there been so vast a conflux of the human race congregated to any one centre, on any one attraction of business or of pleasure, as to Rome on occasion of these triumphal spectacles exhibited by Caesar.
In our days, the greatest occasional gatherings of the human race are in India, especially at the great fair of the Hurdwar on the Ganges in northern Hindustan: a confluence of some millions is sometimes seen at that spot, brought together under the mixed influences of devotion and commercial business, but very soon dispersed as rapidly as they had been convoked. Some such spectacle of nations crowding upon nations, and some such Babylonian confusion of dresses, complexions, languages, and jargons, was then witnessed at Rome. Accommodations within doors, and under roofs of houses, or roofs of temples, was altogether impossible. Myriads encamped along the streets, and along the high-roads, fields, or gardens. Myriads lay stretched on the ground, without even the slight protection of tents, in a vast circuit about the city. Multitudes of men, even senators, and others of the highest rank, were trampled to death in the crowds. And the whole family of man might seem at that time to be converged at the bidding of the dead Dictator. But these, or any other themes connected with the public life of Caesar, we notice only in those circumstances which have been overlooked, or partially represented, by historians. Let us now, in conclusion, bring forward, from the obscurity in which they have hitherto lurked, the anecdotes which describe the habits of his private life, his tastes, and personal peculiarities.
In person, he was tall, fair, gracile, and of limbs distinguished for their elegant proportions. His eyes were black and piercing. These circumstances continued to be long remembered, and no doubt were constantly recalled to the eyes of all persons in the imperial palaces by pictures, busts, and statues; for we find the same description of his personal appearance three centuries afterwards in a work of the Emperor Julian's. He was a most accomplished horseman, and a master (peritissimus) in the use of arms. But, notwithstanding his skill and horsemanship, it seems that, when he accompanied his army on marches, he walked oftener than he rode; no doubt, with a view to the benefit of his example, and to express that sympathy with his soldiers which gained him their hearts so entirely. On other occasions, when travelling apart from his army, he seems more frequently to have ridden in a carriage than on horseback. His purpose, in this preference, must have been with a view to the transport of luggage. The carriage which he generally used was a rheda, a sort of gig, or rather curricle; for it was a four-wheeled carriage, and adapted (as we find from the imperial regulations for the public carriages, etc.) to the conveyance of about half a ton. The mere personal baggage which Caesar carried with him was probably considerable; for he was a man of elegant habits, and in all parts of his life sedulously attentive to elegance of personal appearance. The length of journeys which he accomplished within a given time appears even to us at this day, and might well therefore appear to his contemporaries, truly astonishing. A distance of one hundred miles was no extraordinary day's journey for him in a rheda, such as we have described it. So refined were his habits, and so constant his demand for the luxurious accommodations of polished life as it then existed in Rome, that he is said to have carried with him, as indispensable parts of his personal baggage, the little ivory lozenges, squares and circles or ovals, with other costly materials, wanted for the tessellated flooring of his tent. Habits such as these will easily account for his travelling in a carriage rather than on horseback.
The courtesy and obliging disposition of Caesar were notorious; and both were illustrated in some anecdotes which survived for generations in Rome. Dining on one occasion, as an invited guest, at a table where the servants had inadvertently, for salad-oil, furnished some sort of coarse lamp-oil, Caesar would not allow the rest of the company to point out the mistake to their host, for fear of shocking him too much by exposing what might have been construed into inhospitality. At another time, whilst halting at a little cabaret, when one of his retinue was suddenly taken ill, Caesar resigned to his use the sole bed which the house afforded. Incidents as trifling as these express the urbanity of Caesar's nature; and hence one is the more surprised to find the alienation of the Senate charged, in no trifling degree, upon a gross and most culpable failure in point of courtesy. Caesar, it is alleged -- but might we presume to call upon antiquity for its authority? -- neglected to rise from his seat, on their approaching him with an address of congratulation. It is said, and we can believe it, that he gave deeper offence by this one defect in a matter of ceremonial observance than by all his substantial attacks upon their privileges. What we find it difficult to believe is not that result from that offence -- this is no more than we should all anticipate -- not that, but the possibility of the offence itself, from one so little arrogant as Caesar, and so entirely a man of the world. He was told of the disgust which he had given; and we are bound to believe his apology, in which he charged it upon sickness, that would not at the moment allow him to maintain a standing attitude. Certainly the whole tenor of his life was not courteous only, but kind, and to his enemies merciful in a degree which implied so much more magnanimity than men in general could understand that by many it was put down to the account of weakness.
Weakness, however, there was none in Caius Caesar; and, that there might be none, it was fortunate that conspiracy should have cut him off in the full vigour of his faculties, in the very meridian of his glory, and on the brink of completing a series of gigantic achievements. Amongst these are numbered: -- a digest of the entire body of laws, even then become unwieldy and oppressive; the establishment of vast and comprehensive public libraries, Greek as well as Latin; the chastisement of Dacia (that needed a cow-hiding for insolence as much as Affghanistan from us in 1840); the conquest of Parthia; and the cutting a ship canal through the Isthmus of Corinth. The reformation of the Calendar he had already accomplished. And of all his projects it may be said that they were equally patriotic in their purpose and colossal in their proportions.
As an orator, Caesar's merit was so eminent that, according to the general belief, had he found time to cultivate this department of civil exertion, the received supremacy of Cicero would have been made questionable, or the honour would have been divided. Cicero himself was of that opinion, and on different occasions applied the epithet splendidus to Caesar, as though in some exclusive sense, or with some peculiar emphasis, due to him. His taste was much simpler, chaster, and less inclined to the florid and Asiatic, than that of Cicero. So far he would, in that condition of the Roman culture and feeling, have been less acceptable to the public; but, on the other hand, he would have compensated this disadvantage by much more of natural and Demosthenic fervour.
In literature, the merits of Caesar are familiar to most readers. Under the modest title of Commentaries, he meant to offer the records of his Gallic and British campaigns, simply as notes, or memoranda, afterwards to be worked up by regular historians; but, as Cicero observes, their merit was such in the eyes of the discerning that all judicious writers shrank from the attempt to alter them. In another instance of his literary labours he showed a very just sense of true dignity. Rightly conceiving that everything patriotic was dignified, and that to illustrate or polish his native language was a service of real and paramount patriotism, he composed a work on the grammar and orthoepy of the Latin language. Cicero and himself were the only Romans of distinction in that age who applied themselves with true patriotism to the task of purifying and ennobling their mother tongue. Both were aware of a transcendent value in the Grecian literature as it then stood; but that splendour did not depress their hopes of raising their own to something of the same level. As respected the natural wealth of the two languages, it was the private opinion of Cicero that the Latin had the advantage; and, if Caesar did not accompany him to that length -- which, perhaps, under some limitations he ought to have done -- he yet felt that it was but the more necessary to draw forth any special or exceptional advantage which it really had.
Was Caesar, upon the whole, the greatest of men? We restrict the question, of course, to the classes of men great in action: great by the extent of their influence over their social contemporaries; great by throwing open avenues to extended powers that previously had been closed; great by making obstacles once vast to become trivial, or prizes that once were trivial to be glorified by expansion. I (said Augustus Caesar) found Rome built of brick; but I left it built of marble. Well, my man, we reply, for a wondrously little chap, you did what in Westmoreland they call a good darroch (day's work); and, if navvies had been wanted in those days, you should have had our vote to a certainty. But Caius Julius, even under such a limitation of the comparison, did a thing as much transcending this as it was greater to project Rome across the Alps and the Pyrenees, -- expanding the grand Republic into crowning provinces of i. France (Gallia), 2. Belgium, 3. Holland (Batavia), 4. England (Britannia), 5. Savoy (Allobroges), 6. Switzerland (Helvetia), 7. Spain (Hispania), -- than to decorate a street or to found an amphitheatre. Dr. Beattie once observed that, if that question as to the greatest man in action upon the rolls of History were left to be collected from the suffrages already expressed in books and scattered throughout the literature of all nations, the scale would be found to have turned prodigiously in Caesar's favour as against any single competitor; and there is no doubt whatsoever that even amongst his own countrymen, and his own contemporaries, the same verdict would have been returned, had it been collected upon the famous principle of Themistocles, that he should be reputed the first whom the greatest number of rival voices had pronounced to be the second.
Works: Latin folio, Rome, 1469; Venice, 1471; Florence, 1514; London, 1585. De Bello Gallico, Esslingen (?), 1473. Translations by John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester (John Rastell), of Julius Caesar's Commentaries-"newly translated into Englyshe ... as much as concerneth thys realme of England" -- 1530 folio; by Arthur Goldinge, The Eyght Bookes of C. Julius Caesar, London, 1563, 1565, 1578, 1590; by Chapman, London, 1604 folio; by Clem. Edmonds, London, 1609; the same, with Hirtius, 1655, 1670, 1695 folio with commendatory verses by Camden, Daniel, and Ben Johnson (sic). Works: Translated by W. Duncan, 1753, 1755; by M. Bladen, 8th ed., 1770; MacDevitt, Bohn's Library, 1848. De Bello Gallico, translated by R. Mongan, Dublin, 1850; by J.B. Owgan and C.W. Bateman, 1882. Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, translated by T. Rice Holmes, London, 1908 (see also Holmes' Caesar's Conquest of Gaul, 1911). Caesar's Gallic War, translated by Rev. F.P. Long, Oxford, 1911; Books IV. and V. translated by C.H. Prichard, Cambridge, 1912. For Latin text of De Bello Gallico see Bell's Illustrated Classical Series; Dent's Temple Series of Classical Texts, 1902; Macmillan and Co., 1905; and Blackie's Latin Texts, 1905-7.