CHAPTER XI. THE CONSPIRACY.
Caesar's greatness and glory came at last to a very sudden and violent end. He was assassinated. All the attendant circumstances of this deed, too, were of the most extraordinary character, and thus the dramatic interest which adorns all parts of the great conqueror's history marks strikingly its end.
[Jealousies awakened by Caesar's power.] [The Roman Constitution.] [Struggles and Conflicts.]
His prosperity and power awakened, of course, a secret jealousy and ill will. Those who were disappointed in their expectations of his favor murmured. Others, who had once been his rivals, hated him for having triumphed over them. Then there was a stern spirit of democracy, too, among certain classes of the citizens of Rome which could not brook a master. It is true that the sovereign power in the Roman commonwealth had never been shared by all the inhabitants. It was only in certain privileged classes that the sovereignty was vested; but among these the functions of government were divided and distributed in such a way as to balance one interest against another, and to give all their proper share of influence and authority. Terrible struggles and conflicts often occurred among these various sections of society, as one or another attempted from time to time to encroach upon the rights or privileges of the rest. These struggles, however, ended usually in at last restoring again the equilibrium which had been disturbed. No one power could ever gain the entire ascendency; and thus, as all monarchism seemed excluded from their system, they called it a republic. Caesar, however, had now concentrated in himself all the principal elements of power, and there began to be suspicions that he wished to make himself in name and openly, as well as secretly and in fact, a king.
[Roman repugnance to royalty.] [Firmness of the Romans.]
The Romans abhorred the very name of king. They had had kings in the early periods of their history, but they made themselves odious by their pride and their oppressions, and the people had deposed and expelled them. The modern nations of Europe have several times performed the same exploit, but they have generally felt unprotected and ill at ease without a personal sovereign over them and have accordingly, in most cases, after a few years, restored some branch of the expelled dynasty to the throne The Romans were more persevering and firm. They had managed their empire now for five hundred years as a republic, and though they had had internal dissensions, conflicts, and quarrels without end, had persisted so firmly and unanimously in their detestation of all regal authority, that no one of the long line of ambitious and powerful statesmen, generals, or conquerors by which the history of the empire had been signalized, had ever dared to aspire to the name of king.
[Caesar's ambitious plans.]
There began, however, soon to appear some indications that Caesar, who certainly now possessed regal power, would like the regal name. Ambitious men, in such cases, do not directly assume themselves the titles and symbols of royalty. Others make the claim for them, while they faintly disavow it, till they have opportunity to gee what effect the idea produces on the public mind. The following incidents occurred which it was thought indicated such a design on the part of Caesar.
There were in some of the public buildings certain statues of kings; for it must be understood that the Roman dislike to kings was only a dislike to having kingly authority exercised over themselves. They respected and sometimes admired the kings of other countries, and honored their exploits, and made statues to commemorate their fame. They were willing that kings should reign elsewhere, so long as there were no king of Rome. The American feeling at the present day is much the same. If the Queen of England were to make a progress through this country, she would receive, perhaps, as many and as striking marks of attention and honor as would be rendered to her in her own realm. We venerate the antiquity of her royal line; we admire the efficiency of her government and the sublime grandeur of her empire, and have as high an idea as any, of the powers and prerogatives of her crown - and these feelings would show themselves most abundantly on any proper occasion. We are willing, nay, wish that she should continue to reign over Englishmen; and yet, after all, it would take some millions of bayonets to place a queen securely upon a throne over this land.
Regal power was accordingly, in the abstract, looked up to at Rome, as it is elsewhere, with great respect; and it was, in fact, all the more tempting as an object of ambition, from the determination felt by the people that it should not be exercised there. There were, accordingly, statues of kings at Rome. Caesar placed his own statue among them. Some approved, others murmured.
[Caesar's seat in the theater.]
There was a public theater in the city, where the officers of the government were accustomed to sit in honorable seats prepared expressly for them, those of the Senate being higher and more distinguished than the rest. Caesar had a seat prepared for himself there, similar in form to a throne, and adorned it magnificently with gilding and ornaments of gold, which gave it the entire pre-eminence over all the other seats.
He had a similar throne placed in the senate chamber, to be occupied by himself when attending there, like the throne of the King of England in the House of Lords.
[Public celebrations.] [Caesar receives the Senate sitting.] [Consequent excitement.]