CHAPTER XXVII. CAESAR. - CICERO. - VERRES.
The Caesars were a family belonging to the Julian gens, which claimed descent from IÚLUS, the son of AENÉAS. Eight generations of Caesars had held prominent places in the commonwealth. They had been Consuls, Praetors, Censors, Aediles, and were aristocrats of the moderate wing. The direct ancestry of GAIUS JULIUS CAESAR can be traced no further back than his grandfather. This gentleman, of the same name as the great Caesar, married Marcia, who claimed descent from Ancus Marcius, the fourth King of Rome. They had three children, Gaius Julius, the father of the Dictator, Sextus Julius, and Julia, who became the wife of Marius. Gaius Julius held no higher office than Praetor. He was married to Aurelia, a stately woman of simple and severe tastes. Their son Gaius was born on July 12th, 100.
During Cinna's consulship (86), Caesar is first mentioned as a youth, tall, slight, handsome, with dark, piercing eyes, sallow complexion, and features refined and intellectual. The bloody scenes attending the proscription of his uncle Marius, to whose party his father belonged, must have made a deep impression upon him. One of his most intimate companions was CICERO, who was six years his senior.
Marius had seen in his nephew the materials which make great men, and determined to help him to promotion. He made him, when scarcely fifteen, a priest of Jupiter (flamen dialis), which sacred office carried with it a handsome income.
Shortly after the death of his father, in 84, Caesar married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna. By this marriage he was connected more closely with the popular party, whose champion he remained.
When Sulla returned to Rome from his Eastern campaign, Caesar was but eighteen. In the wholesale murders that followed, his party was ruined, his nearest friends dispersed or killed. He himself was yet free from proscription, for Sulla wished to win such a promising young man to his own side. He made proposals that Caesar divorce his wife and marry one whom he might select. Caesar refused. Force was then tried. His priesthood was taken from him, and his wife's dowry. His estate was confiscated, and, when this had no effect, he was himself declared an outlaw, and a price was set on his head. Influential friends, however, interceded in his behalf, and the Dictator was finally persuaded to pardon him; but with reluctance, and with the remark that in Caesar was the making of many a Marius. The youth then left Italy, and joined the army in Asia.
Here Caesar served his apprenticeship as a soldier. He joined the forces of the Praetor Thermus, who had been sent against the pirates that were making their head-quarters in Lesbos. The Praetor, finding his troops insufficient to accomplish his work, sent Caesar to Nicomédes, a Roman ally and the King of Bithynia, to obtain additional forces. He was successful in his mission, and, upon his return to Lesbos, distinguished himself for his bravery in the attack upon Mityléne, and was awarded the oak wreath, a coveted honor, for saving the life of a fellow-soldier.
Caesar is next seen in Cilicia, serving under Servilius, in a campaign against the pirates who were marauding along the coast of that country. While here he was informed of Sulla's death, and at once left the army and returned home (77). The next year he began his struggle with the nobility by prosecuting for extortion Dolabella, a former Governor of Macedonia. Dolabella was a favorite of the Senate, and his cause was theirs. The best talent was engaged to defend him, and Caesar lost the case.
Feeling his deficiency as an orator, Caesar went to Rhodes and studied rhetoric under the famous Apollonius. He had recovered his property and priesthood, and could well afford the time. While on his way he was captured by pirates, and not released until a ransom of some $50,000 was raised and paid. Upon arriving at Milétus he at once got together some vessels, returned to the island where he had been in captivity, seized the crew of pirates, took them to Pergamus, and had them tried, convicted, and crucified. He then resumed his journey to Rhodes, where he remained two years in the pursuit of his studies. Then the report of the uprisal of Mithradátes reached him, and he at once crossed over to the mainland, collected a body of volunteers, and saved Caria to Rome.
Having finished his studies, Caesar returned to Rome and lived quietly for a time with his wife and mother, watching the course of events.
While Caesar was thus preparing himself for the great struggle in which he was destined to take the leading part, Cicero, the companion of his youth, was beginning to attract attention at Rome.
MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO (106-43) was a townsman of Marius. He belonged to the Equites, and received a good education under the best Greek teachers. As he ripened into manhood, he chose in politics the party opposed to Caesar, and for a profession he selected the bar, hoping to gain fame as a speaker before the Senate, and finally to become one of its members. He took part in the Social War (89), but during the troubled times that followed he remained quietly engaged in literary pursuits. His first public oration (80), the defence of Roscius, who was falsely accused of murdering his father, was a great success, and guaranteed for him a brilliant future. Cicero improved the next few years by study and travel in Asia and Greece. Shortly after his return, in 75, he was elected Quaestor, and thus became a member of the Senate. His year of office he spent in Sicily, in the performance of his duties. There he obtained an insight into the corrupt extortions of the Roman governors. Five years later, he conducted his famous case against Verres.