CHAPTER XXXII. CAESAR'S STRUGGLE WITH POMPEY. - BATTLE OF PHARSALIA.
Pompey was elected sole Consul in February, 52. He at once threw off all pretence of an alliance with Caesar, and devoted himself to the interests of the Senate and aristocracy.
The brilliant successes of Caesar in Gaul had made a profound impression upon the minds of the citizens, to whom the name of the northern barbarians was still fraught with terror. Caesar had won for himself distinction as a soldier greater than the Scipios, or Sulla, or Pompey. "He was coming back to lay at his country's feet a province larger than Spain, not only subdued, but reconciled to subjugation; a nation of warriors, as much devoted to him as his own legions." The nobility had watched his successes with bitter envy; but they were forced to vote a thanksgiving of twenty days, which "the people made sixty."
Caesar now declared through his followers at Rome that he desired a second consulship. But he wished first to celebrate his triumph, and on this account would not disband his army; for, according to the custom, he could not triumph without it. According to another custom, however, he must disband it before he could offer himself as a candidate for the consulship. But he asked permission to set aside this custom, and to become a candidate while he was in the province in command of the army.
The law requiring a candidate to give up his command had been suspended several times before this; so that Caesar's request was reasonable. His enemies in the city were numerous and powerful, and he felt that, if he returned as a private citizen, his personal safety would be in danger; whereas, if he were a magistrate, his person would be considered sacred.
The Senate, on the other hand, felt that, if he carried his point, the days of their influence were numbered. Their first step, therefore, was to weaken Caesar, and to provide their champion, Pompey, with a force in Italy, They voted that Caesar should return to Pompey a legion which had been loaned him, and also should send another legion back to Italy. The vote was taken on the ostensible plea that the troops were needed in Asia Minor against the Parthians; but when they reached Italy they were placed under Pompey's command in Campania. The Consuls chosen for the year 49 were both bitter enemies of Caesar. He had taken up his winter quarters at Ravenna, the last town in his province bordering on Italy. From here he sent a messenger with letters to the Senate, stating that he was ready to resign his command, if Pompey did the same. The messenger arrived at Rome, January 1, 49, on the day in which the new Consuls entered upon their duties.
The letters were read in the Senate, and there followed a spirited discussion, resulting in a decree that Caesar should resign his command. The Tribunes opposed; but, being threatened by the Consuls, they were compelled to leave the city, and went directly to Ravenna.
When the action of the Senate was reported to Caesar, he called together his soldiers, and addressed them thus: "For nine years I and my army have served our country loyally and with some degree of success. We have driven the Germans across the Rhine; we have made Gaul a province; and the Senate, for answer, has broken the constitution in setting aside the Tribunes who spoke in my defence. It has voted the state in danger, and has called Italy to arms, when no single act of mine can justify it in this course." The soldiers became enthusiastic, and were eager to follow their leader without pay. Contributions were offered him by both men and officers. LABIENUS, his trusted lieutenant, alone proved false. He stole away, and joined Pompey. Caesar then sent for two legions from across the Alps. With these legions he crossed the RUBICON into Italy, and marched to Ariminum.
Meanwhile the report of his movements reached Rome. The aristocracy had imagined that his courage would fail him, or that his army would desert. Thoroughly frightened, Consuls, Praetors, Senators,-leaving wives, children, and property to their fate,-fled from the city to seek safety with Pompey in Capua. They did not stop even to take the money from the treasury, but left it locked.
Caesar paused at Ariminum, and sent envoys to the Senate, stating that he was still desirous of peace. If Pompey would depart to his province in Spain, he would himself disband his own troops. He was even willing to have a personal interview with Pompey. This message was received by the Senate after its flight from Rome. The substance of its reply was, that Pompey did not wish a personal interview, but would go to Spain, and that Caesar must leave Ariminum, return to his province, and give security that he would dismiss his army.
These terms seemed to Caesar unfair, and he would not accept them. Accordingly he sent his lieutenant, Mark Antony, across the mountains to Arretium, on the road to Rome. He himself pushed on to Ancóna, before Pompey could stop him. The towns that were on his march threw open their gates, their garrisons joined his army, and their officers fled. Steadily he advanced, with constantly increasing forces, until when he reached Corfinium his army had swelled to thirty thousand troops.
This place had been occupied by Domitius with a party of aristocrats and a few thousand men. Caesar surrounded the town, and when Domitius endeavored to steal away, his own troops took him and delivered him over to Caesar. The capture of Corfinium and the desertion of its garrison filled Pompey and his followers with dismay. They hurried to Brundisium, where ships were in readiness for them to depart.