CHAPTER XXXIV. MURDER OF CAESAR.
Upon his return from Spain, Caesar granted pardon to all who had fought against him, the most prominent of whom were GAIUS CASSIUS, MARCUS BRUTUS, and CICERO. He increased the number of the Senate to nine hundred. He cut off the corn grants, which nursed the city mob in idleness. He sent out impoverished men to colonize old cities. He rebuilt Corinth, and settled eighty thousand Italians on the site of Carthage. As a censor of morals he was very rigid. His own habits were marked by frugality. The rich young patricians were forbidden to be carried about in litters, as had been the custom. Libraries were formed. Eminent physicians and scientists were encouraged to settle in Rome. The harbor of Ostia was improved, and a road constructed from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea, over the Apennines. A temple to Mars was built, and an immense amphitheatre was erected at the foot of the Tarpeian Rock.
In the midst of this useful activity he was basely murdered.
CASSIUS LONGINUS and MARCUS JUNIUS BRUTUS were the leaders in the conspiracy to effect Caesar's death, Cassius, a former lieutenant of Crassus, had shown great bravery in the war with the Parthians. At Pharsalia he fought on the side of Pompey, but was afterwards pardoned by Caesar. He was married to a sister of Brutus. The latter, a nephew and son-in-law of Cato, had also fought at Pharsalia against Caesar, and also been pardoned by him. Cassius, it was said, hated the tyrant, and Brutus tyranny.
These conspirators were soon joined by persons of all parties; and men who had fought against each other in the civil war now joined hands. Cicero was not taken into the plot. He was of advanced years, and all who knew him must have felt that he would never consent to the taking the life of one who had been so lenient towards his conquered enemies.
On the morning of the IDES (15th) OF MARCH, 44, as Caesar entered the Senate and took his seat, he was approached by the conspirators, headed by Tullius Cimber, who prayed for the pardon of his exiled brother; and while the rest joined him in the request, he, grasping Caesar's hand, kissed his head and breast. As Caesar attempted to rise, Cimber dragged his cloak from his shoulders, and Casca, who was standing behind his chair, stabbed him in the neck. The first blow was struck, and the whole pack fell upon their noble victim. Cassius stabbed him in the face, and Marcus Brutus in the groin. He made no further resistance; but, wrapping his gown over his head and the lower part of his body, he fell at the base of POMPEY'S STATUE, which was drenched with the martyr's blood.
Great tumult and commotion followed; and, in their alarm, most of the Senators fled. It was two days before the Senate met, the conspirators meanwhile having taken refuge in the Capitol. Public sentiment was against them. Many of Caesar's old soldiers were in the city, and many more were flocking there from all directions. The funeral oration of Mark Antony over the remains produced a deep impression upon the crowd. They became so excited when the speaker removed the dead man's toga, and disclosed his wounds, that, instead of allowing the body to be carried to the Campus Martius for burial, they raised a funeral pile in the Forum, and there burned it. The crowd then dispersed in troops, broke into and destroyed the houses of the conspirators. Brutus and Cassius fled from the city for their lives, followed by the other murderers.
As a general Caesar was probably superior to all others, excepting possibly Hannibal. He was especially remarkable for the fertility of his resources. It has been said that Napoleon taught his enemies how to conquer him; but Caesar's enemies never learned how to conquer him, because he had not a mere system of tactics, but a new stratagem for every emergency. He was, however, not only a great general, but a pre-eminent statesman, and second only to Cicero in eloquence. As a historian, he wrote in a style that was clear, vigorous, and also simple. Most of his writings are lost; but of those that remain Cicero said that fools might try to improve on them, but no wise man would attempt it.