CHAPTER II. CAESAR'S EARLY YEARS.
In this situation, Caesar, though entirely in the power and at the mercy of his lawless captors, assumed such an air of superiority and command in all his intercourse with them as at first awakened their astonishment, then excited their admiration, and ended in almost subjecting them to his will. He asked them what they demanded for his ransom. They said twenty talents, which was quite a large amount, a talent itself being a considerable sum of money. Caesar laughed at this demand, and told them it was plain that they did not know who he was, He would give them fifty talents. He then sent away his attendants to the shore, with orders to proceed to certain cities where he was known, in order to procure the money, retaining only a physician and two servants for himself. While his messengers were gone, he remained on board the ship of his captors, assuming in every respect the air and manner of their master. When he wished to sleep, if they made a noise which disturbed him, he sent them orders to be still. He joined them in their sports and diversions on the deck, surpassing them in their feats, and taking the direction of every thing as if he were their acknowledged leader. He wrote orations and verses which he read to them, and if his wild auditors did not appear to appreciate the literary excellence of his compositions, he told them that they were stupid fools without any taste, adding, by way of apology, that nothing better could be expected of such barbarians.
The pirates asked him one day what he should do to them if he should ever, at any future time, take them prisoners. Caesar said that he would crucify every one of them.
[Caesar at liberty.] [He captures the pirates in his turn.]
The ransom money at length arrived. Caesar paid it to the pirates, and they, faithful to their covenant, sent him in a boat to the land. He was put ashore on the coast of Asia Minor. He proceeded immediately to Miletus, the nearest port, equipped a small fleet there, and put to sea. He sailed at once to the roadstead where the pirates had been lying, and found them still at anchor there, in perfect security. He attacked them, seized their ships, recovered his ransom money, and took the men all prisoners. He conveyed his captives to the land, and there fulfilled his threat that he would crucify them by cutting their throats and nailing their dead bodies to crosses which his men erected for the purpose along the shore.
[Footnote 1: See Frontispiece]
[Caesar at Rhodes.]
During his absence from Rome Caesar went to Rhodes, where his former preceptor resided, and he continued to pursue there for some time his former studies. He looked forward still to appearing one day in the Roman Forum. In fact, he began to receive messages from his friends at home that they thought it would be safe for him to return. Sylla had gradually withdrawn from power, and finally had died. The aristocratical party were indeed still in the ascendency, but the party of Marius had begun to recover a little from the total overthrow with which Sylla's return, and his terrible military vengeance, had overwhelmed them. Caesar himself, therefore, they thought, might, with prudent management, be safe in returning to Rome.
[He returns to Rome.] [Caesar impeaches Dolabella.] [Excitement in consequence.]
He returned, but not to be prudent or cautious; there was no element of prudence or caution in his character. As soon as he arrived, he openly espoused the popular party. His first public act was to arraign the governor of the great province of Macedonia, through which he had passed on his way to Bithynia. It was a consul whom he thus impeached, and a strong partisan of Sylla's. His name was Dolabella. The people were astonished at his daring in thus raising the standard of resistance to Sylla's power, indirectly, it is true, but none the less really on that account. When the trial came on, and Caesar appeared at the Forum, he gained great applause by the vigor and force of his oratory. There was, of course, a very strong and general interest felt in the case; the people all seeming to understand that, in this attack on Dolabella, Caesar was appearing as their champion, and their hopes were revived at having at last found a leader capable of succeeding Marius, and building up their cause again. Dolabella was ably defended by orators on the other side, and was, of course, acquitted, for the power of Sylla's party was still supreme. All Rome, however, was aroused and excited by the boldness of Caesar's attack, and by the extraordinary ability which he evinced in his mode of conducting it. He became, in fact, at once one of the most conspicuous and prominent men in the city.
[Caesar's increasing power.]
Encouraged by his success, and the applauses which he received, and feeling every day a greater and greater consciousness of power, he began to assume more and more openly the character of the leader of the popular party. He devoted himself to public speaking in the Forum, both before popular assemblies and in the courts of justice, where he was employed a great deal as an advocate to defend those who were accused of political crimes. The people, considering him as their rising champion, were predisposed to regard every thing that he did with favor, and there was really a great intellectual power displayed in his orations and harangues. He acquired, in a word, great celebrity by his boldness and energy, and his boldness and energy were themselves increased in their turn as he felt the strength of his position increase with his growing celebrity.
[Death of Marius's wife.] [Caesar's panegyric on Marius's wife.] [Its success.]