AmblesideOnline: Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar

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Study Notes prepared for the AmblesideOnline Curriculum by Anne White, 2017 using Thomas North's text. If you wish to use this Study Guide as a teacher's edition, text-only version of this Life (without the Study Guide) is also available to print for your student. Read Intro to these study guides here.

Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7
Lesson 8
Lesson 9
Lesson 10
Lesson 11
Lesson 12

Julius Caesar

(July 13, 100 B.C.-March 15, 44 B.C.)

Who Was Gaius Julius Caesar?

Julius Caesar was a political leader and general during the last days of the Roman Republic. Over his long career, he held every possible high civic, military, and even religious position in Rome. He was also a noted orator and writer. (An orator was a public speaker, usually someone who used those skills in political or legal matters.)

Who were Sulla and Marius?

Lucias Cornelius Sulla, and Caesar's uncle-by-marriage, Gaius Marius, who was allied with another leader named Lucius Cornelius Cinna. Several personal events happened in Caesar's life at the same time: his father died, leaving him as head of the family; he nominated himself to be the High Priest of Jupiter (see the note below); and he was married to Cinna's daughter Cornelia. When Sulla's side gained power in Rome, Caesar (as a "Marian," or sympathizer with Marius) not only lost his position and inheritance, and was pressured to divorce his wife, but had to go into hiding as well. Even when the threat to his life ended, Caesar thought he would be safer away from Rome, so he joined military expeditions in Asia and Cilicia. It has been noted that that Rome was the real beneficiary of Caesar's "career change," since, as the High Priest of Jupiter (a special position that had many restrictions attached to it), he would not have been allowed to participate in the military.

A note on the spelling of Sulla: North and Dryden spell this name "Sylla," although other sources spell it "Sulla." The reason is that Plutarch wrote in Greek, and "Sylla" was his Greek version of the Latin name. I have used "Sulla" to avoid confusion.

Who were Caesar's wives?

As noted above, Caesar's first wife was Cornelia the daughter of Cinna; his second was Pompeia, the granddaughter of Sulla; and his third was Calpurnia, the one featured in Shakespeare's play. He was also engaged to another girl before his first marriage, but the rules of the priesthood required him to marry someone whose family was of equal rank to his.

What was the priesthood of Jupiter? What was Pontifex Maximus?

Thomas North often used images from his own culture to translate Greek and Roman terms. Knights defended castles (forts); men opened their doublets (see Lesson Eleven) and rode in carriages (chariots); and the high priest became a bishop. For our purposes, it is necessary only to know that there were numerous levels and types of priesthood in Rome and throughout the rest of Italy; and that these positions carried political as well as spiritual authority. Julius Caesar became a pontifex (priest) in 73 B.C., after the death of Sulla; and Pontifex Maximus (chief or high priest) in 63 B.C. These were different positions from his original title of High Priest of Jupiter, and did not keep him from military leadership.

(The Latin word pontifex crossed over to English in words such as "pontiff" and "to pontificate.")

What was an aedile, a quaestor, a consul?

The elected positions or magistracies in Rome were (starting at the bottom): quaestor, aedile, praetor, and consul. (The office of tribune was a separate position, explained in the Lives of the Gracchi.) Ex-consuls could become censors, and a consul could become dictator if the need (usually a great emergency) arose.

Who were the Gauls and the Germans?

One of Julius Caesar's major contributions to the Roman Republic (soon to be the Roman Empire) was to enlarge its boundaries by taking over new territory in Europe. Throughout the story, we have the names (usually in North's spelling) of numerous tribes and sub-tribes, some of them Gauls, others Germans, but all of them seen as potential Roman soldiers/taxpayers. For reasons of space, the names of these tribes are not included in the vocabulary.

Who was Pompey?

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great, was a military and political leader, famous for his exploits in Sulla's Second Civil War. His marriage to Caesar's daughter Julia might have eased the rivalry between them, but her early death ended that possibility.

Who were all those other people whose names started with "C?"

Casca: Two Casca brothers were involved in the assassination of Caesar: Publius Servilius Casca Longus, who struck the first blow; and Gaius Servilius Casca, a close friend of Caesar's.

Marcus Licinius Crassus, called Crassus: a Roman general and politician (115 B.C.-53 B.C.), one of the First Triumvirate with Caesar and Pompey; he was also known for his wealth.

Cassius: Gaius Cassius Longinus, a brother-in-law of Brutus, was a Roman senator and one of the conspirators against Caesar.

Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, or Cato the Younger, was a statesman who had frequent conflicts of opinion with Caesar. His son, Marcus Porcius Cato, was a brother-in-law to Brutus, and died at the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C.

Cicero: Quintus Tullius Cicero was a military leader during Caesar's Gallic wars. Marcus Tullius Cicero, his older brother, was a Roman statesman and orator (see introductory note), and was put to death in 43 B.C. because of his enmity to Marcus Antonius. (Because Shakespeare called Marcus Antonius by the anglicized Mark or Marc Antony, we often use that name. Plutarch refers to him simply as Antonius.)

Cinna: there are several Cinnas in the story, beginning with Lucius Cornelius Cinna (the Elder), Caesar's first father-in-law. Then we have Lucius Cornelius Cinna (the Younger), one of the conspirators against Caesar; and Helvius Cinna or "Cinna the Poet," whose name led to an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Should we read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar at the same time?

In the original PNEU schools, students read William Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in the same term as Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar. And why not? One lends interest to the other, and seeing what an expert dramatist created with his source material is a wonderful lesson in writing. The problem is that the play focuses on the last days of Caesar's life, the conspiracy and assassination; with a shift at the end to Cassius and Brutus. If students are familar with the story, they may not find it too confusing to jump so far ahead of their Plutarch readings. An alternative, not traditional for Charlotte Mason, but workable especially for younger students, might be to focus on Plutarch for the first part of the term; and then read the play.

Notes on the play (Shakespeare Connections) are included in the last few lessons of this study.

Lesson One


In a time when many in Rome were being put to death for their political loyalties (or even for being related to the wrong party), young Julius Caesar was on the wrong side. Most people, realizing that, would have stayed hidden or at least tried to live quietly; but Julius Caesar was never most people. In fact, he decided to put himself forward for the very public position of High Priest of Jupiter. Sulla, who had recently won a civil war and become dictator of Rome, had been too busy to worry much about one teenage boy with Marian connections; but that got his immediate attention, and now Caesar was in trouble.


the country of the Sabines: a mountainous area northeast of Rome

being carried from house to house, in a litter: on a bed or couch which was carried on poles by servants

talent: a unit of money

Isle of Pharmacusa: a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea

Cilicia: an ancient kingdom that is now part of Turkey

had the spoil of their goods: looted their possessions

praetor: the office of praetor could include governorship of a province

more ceremonious: Dryden, "tact and consideration beyond what could have been expected at his age"

he ever kept a good board: he was hospitable

liberal: generous

quail: falter, weaken

underfoot: Dryden says "broken and in a low condition"

the state of the commonwealth: the way things were governed


Sulla: Sulla was made Perpetual Dictator, but resigned after one year, and was elected as consul instead for 80 B.C., along with Metellus Pius, whom Caesar later replaced as Pontifex Maximus.

Marcus Juncus: North's translation has it "Iunius," and Dryden "Junius," but modern sources say that Caesar dealt with Marcus Juncus, the governor of Asia in 75 B.C.

Historic Occasions

75 B.C.: Caesar's kidnapping by pirates

67 B.C.: Caesar returned from Spain and married Pompeia


Part One

When [Sulla] was determined to have killed [Caesar], some of his friends told him, that it was to no purpose to put so young a boy as he to death. But Sulla told them again, that they did not consider that there were many Marians in that young boy. Caesar understanding that, stole out of Rome, and hid himself a long time in the country of the Sabines, wandering still from place to place. But one day being carried from house to house, he fell into the hands of Sulla's soldiers, who searched all those places, and took them whom they found hidden. Caesar bribed the captain, whose name was Cornelius, with two talents which he gave him.

After he had escaped them thus, he went unto the seaside, and took ship, and sailed into Bithynia to go unto King Nicomedes. When he had been with him awhile, he took [to] sea again, and was taken by pirates about the Isle of Pharmacusa: for those pirates kept all upon that seacoast, with a great fleet of ships and boats. They asking him at the first twenty talents for his ransom, Caesar laughed them to scorn, as though they knew not what a man they had taken, and of himself promised them fifty talents. Then he sent his men up and down to get him this money, so that he was left in manner alone among these thieves of the Cilicians, (which are the cruellest butchers in the world) with one of his friends, and two of his slaves only: and yet he made so little reckoning of them, that when he was desirous to sleep, he sent unto them to command them to make no noise.

Thus was he eight and thirty days among them, not kept as prisoner, but rather waited upon by them as a prince. All this time he would boldly exercise himself in any sport or pastime they would go to. And otherwhile also he would write verses, and make orations, and call them together to say them before them: and if any of them seemed as though they had not understood him, or passed not for them, he called them blockheads, and brute beasts, and laughing, threatened them that he would hang them up. But they were as merry with the matter as could be, and took all in good part, thinking that this his bold speech came through the simplicity of his youth.

So when his ransom was come from the city of Miletum, they being paid their money, and he again set at liberty he then presently armed, and manned out certain ships out of the haven of Miletum, to follow those thieves, whom he found yet riding at anchor in the same island. So he took the most of them, and had the spoil of their goods, but for their bodies, he brought them into the city of Pergamum, and there committed them to prison, whilst he himself went to speak with Marcus Juncus, who had the government of Asia, as unto whom the execution of these pirates did belong, for that he was praetor of that country. But this praetor having a great fancy to be fingering of the money, because there was good store of it, answered that he would consider of these prisoners at better leisure. Caesar leaving Juncus there, returned again unto Pergamum, and there hung up all these thieves openly upon a cross, as he had oftentimes promised them in the isle he would do, when they thought he did but jest.

Part Two

[Caesar spent some time studying in Rhodes, and then returned to Rome. He became active in public life, taking cases as a lawyer.]

Now Caesar immediately won many men's good wills at Rome, through his eloquence in pleading of their causes: and the people loved him marvellously also, because of the courteous manner he had to speak to every man, and to use them gently, being more ceremonious therein than was looked for in one of his years.

Furthermore, he ever kept a good board, and fared well at his table, and was very liberal besides: the which indeed did advance him forward, and brought him in estimation with the people. His enemies judg[ed] that this favour of the common people would soon quail, when he could no longer hold out that charge and expense, [so they] suffered him to run on, till by little and little he was grown to be of great strength and power. But in fine, when they had thus given him the bridle to grow to this greatness, and that they could not then pull him back, though indeed in sight it would turn one day to the destruction of the whole state and commonwealth of Rome: too late they found, that there is not so little a beginning of anything, but continuance of time will soon make it strong, when through contempt there is no impediment to hinder the greatness.

Part Three

[Caesar became first a tribune [72 B.C.] and then treasurer, or quaestor [68/67 B.C.], and aedile [65 B.C.]. He lost his wife Cornelia, but then married again.]

At that time there were two factions in Rome, to wit, the faction of Sulla, which was very strong and of great power, and the other of Marius, which then was underfoot and durst not shew itself. [And to this end, whilst he was in the height of his repute with the people for the magnificent shows he gave as aedile, he ordered images of Marius and figures of Victory, with trophies in their hands, to be carried privately in the night and placed in the Capitol.] The next morning when every man saw the glistering of these golden images excellently well wrought, shewing by the inscriptions that they were the victories which Marius had won upon the Cimbres: everyone marvelled much at the boldness of him that durst set them up there, knowing well enough who it was. Hereupon, it ran straight through all the city, and every man came thither to see them. Then some cried out upon Caesar, and said it was a tyranny which he meant to set up, by renewing of such honours as before had been trodden under foot, and forgotten, by common decree and open proclamation: and that it was no more but a bait to gauge the people's good wills, which he had set out in the stately shews of his common plays, to see if he had brought them to his lure, that they would abide such parts to be played, and a new alteration of things to be made.

They of Marius' faction on the other side, encouraging one another, shewed themselves straight a great number gathered together, and made the Mount of the Capitol ring again with their cries and clapping of hands: insomuch as the tears ran down many of their cheeks for very joy, when they saw the images of Marius, and they extolled Caesar to the skies, judging him the worthiest man of all the kindred of Marius.

The Senate being assembled thereupon, Catulus Luctatius, one of the greatest authority at that time in Rome, rose, and vehemently inveighed against Caesar, and spake that then which ever since hath been noted much: that Caesar did not now covertly go to work, but by plain force sought to alter the state of the commonwealth. [Dryden: that Caesar was now not working mines, but planting batteries to overthrow the state.] Nevertheless, Caesar at that time answered him so that the Senate was satisfied. Thereupon they that had him in estimation did grow in better hope than before, and persuaded him, that hardily he should give place to no man, and that through the goodwill of the people, he should be better than all [of them], and come to be the chiefest man of the city.

Narration and Discussion

The pirate story ends in quite a gruesome way. What impression do you get here of Julius Caesar?

Dryden translates the last sentence in Part Two this way: "When his power at last was established and not to be overthrown, and now openly tended to the altering of the whole constitution, they were aware too late that there is no beginning so mean [little], which continued application will not make considerable, and that despising a danger at first will make it at last irresistible." What is the danger in ignoring a small problem? Can you think of any Scriptures that support this? (Song of Solomon 2:15)

Lesson Two


From quaestor and aedile to Pontifex Maximus, praetor, and finally consul: was there any higher that Caesar could go?


chief bishop: Pontifex Maximus (see introductory notes)

room: position

made suit for it, sued for something: ran for the position

importunate: pressing, impatient

boldness and courage: Dryden: "youthful vigour and heat"

commonwealth: a group or union of states or countries that work together, in this case Rome and its provinces and colonies

surety: one taking financial responsibility

suffered: allowed

footmen: foot soldiers

the great sea Oceanum: Mare Oceanum, the Atlantic Ocean

triumph: an official parade in celebration of a military victory

let the triumph fall: let it pass, drop it

device: strategy

at jar: in conflict

gainsaying: interfering, preventing


Isauricus: father of the Isauricus who was co-consul with Caesar

Pompey and Crassus: Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar together are called the First Triumvirate or "rule of three men."

Cato: see introductory notes

Historic Occasions

63 B.C.: Caesar became Pontifex Maximus

62 B.C.: Caesar served as praetor and governor of Spain

60 B.C.: Caesar was elected consul along with Marcus Bibulus


Part One

At that time, the chief bishop Metellus died, and two of the notablest men of the city, and of greatest authority (Isauricus and Catulus) contended for his room: Caesar notwithstanding their contention, would give neither of them place, but presented himself to the people, and made suit for it as they did. The suit being equal betwixt either of them, Catulus, because he was a man of greater calling and dignity than the other, doubting the uncertainty of the election: sent unto Caesar a good sum of money, to make him leave off his suit. But Caesar sent him word again, that he would [borrow] a greater sum than that, to maintain the suit against him.

When the day of the election came, his mother bringing him to the door of his house, Caesar weeping, kissed her, and said, "Mother, this day thou shalt see thy son chief bishop of Rome, or banished from Rome." In fine, when the voices of the people were gathered together, and the strife well debated: Caesar won the victory, and made the Senate and noble men all afraid of him, for that they thought that thenceforth he would make the people do what he thought good.

Part Two

[Caesar made some powerful enemies during the Catiline Conspiracy crisis, when he argued against putting criminals of noble families to death. But shortly afterwards, he became praetor.]

The government of the province of Spain being fallen unto Caesar for that he was praetor: his creditors came and cried out upon him, and were importunate of him to be paid. Caesar being unable to satisfy them, was compelled to go unto Crassus, who was the richest man of all Rome, and that stood in need of Caesar's boldness and courage to withstand Pompey's greatness in the commonwealth. Crassus became his surety unto his greediest creditors for the sum of eight hundred and thirty talents: whereupon they suffered Caesar to depart to the government of his province.

In his journey it is reported that, passing over the mountains of the Alps, they came through a little poor village that had not many households, and yet poor cottages. There, his friends that did accompany him, asked him merrily, if there were any contending for offices in that town, and whether there were any strife there amongst the noble men for honour. Caesar speaking in good earnest, answered: "I cannot tell that," said he, "but for my part, I had rather be the chiefest man here, than the second person in Rome."

Another time also when he was in Spain, reading the history of Alexander's acts, when he had read it, he was sorrowful a good while after, and then burst out in weeping. His friends, seeing that, marvelled what should be the cause of his sorrow. "Do ye not think," said he, "that I have good cause to be heavy, when King Alexander being no older than myself is now, had in old time won so many nations and countries: and that I hitherunto have done nothing worthy of myself?"

Therefore when he was come into Spain, he was very careful of his business, and had in few days joined ten new ensigns more of footmen unto the other twenty which he had before. Then marching forward against the Callaecians and Lusitanians, he conquered all, and went as far as the great sea Oceanum, subduing all the people which before knew not the Romans for their lords. There he took order for pacifying of the war, and did as wisely take order for the establishing of peace. For he did reconcile the cities together, and made them friends one with another, but specially he pacified all suits of law, and strife, betwixt the debtors and creditors, which [had grown] by reason of usury. For he ordained that the creditors should take yearly two parts of the revenue of their debtors, until such time as they had paid themselves: and that the debtors should have the third part to themselves to live withal. He having won great estimation by this good order taken, returned from his government very rich, and his soldiers also [were] full of rich spoils, who called him Imperator, [that is] to say, sovereign captain.

Part Three

[Caesar now had a problem. He was in line for a military triumph, but he also wanted to run for consul, and the rules for the two contradicted each other.]

Now the Romans having a custom, that such as demanded honour of triumph, should remain awhile without the city, and that they on the other side which sued for the consulship, should of necessity be there in person: Caesar coming unhappily at that very time when the consuls were chosen, he sent to pray the Senate to do him that favour, that being absent, he might by his friends sue for the consulship. Cato at the first did vehemently inveigh against it, vouching an express law forbidding the contrary. But afterwards, perceiving that notwithstanding the reasons he alleged, many of the senators (being won by Caesar) favoured his request: yet he cunningly sought all he could to prevent [and delay] them.

Caesar thereupon determined rather to [let the triumph fall], and to make suit for the consulship: and so came into the city, and had such a device with him, as went beyond them all [except for] Cato. His device was this: Pompey and Crassus, two of the greatest personages of the city of Rome, being at jar together, Caesar made them friends, and by that means got unto himself the power of them both: for, by colour of that gentle act and friendship of his, he subtly (unawares to them all) did greatly alter and [caused what was in effect a revolution in the government].

Thus Caesar being brought unto the assembly of the election, in the midst of these two noble persons, whom he had before reconciled together: he was there chosen consul, with Calpurnius Bibulus, without gainsaying or contradiction of any man.

Narration and Discussion

Caesar speaking in good earnest, answered: "I cannot tell that," said he, "but for my part, I had rather be the chiefest man here, than the second person in Rome." What did he mean?

Discuss Caesar's reaction to his reading of Alexander. Should the stories of heroes make us weep?

Why was Caesar's reconciliation of Pompey and Crassus actually a play for power? Can peacemaking ever be a bad thing?

Creative Narration: Interview the newly-elected consul Julius Caesar. You may wish to review his past history, ask him about his plans as consul, and perhaps something about how he is going to deal with his political opponents.

Lesson Three


The year 59 B.C. was referred to afterwards as the "Consulship of Julius and Caesar." In this political soap opera, alliances between the heavyweights alternated with smear campaigns and backstabbing. Votes, or "voices," could be easily bought--or lost. By the end of the year, Caesar was badly in need of something that would regain the Romans' trust and respect. (A war might work.)

What ailed Caesar?

Because of Plutarch's comments, there is a belief that Julius Caesar had "the falling sickness," or epilepsy. However, medical scholars have not agreed on what sort of seizures or spells of weakness he had, or what caused them.


he was entered into his office: he was acting officially as consul

meeter for a seditious tribune of the people: that would better have been proposed by an audacious tribune

preferred the division of lands: proposed a redistribution of land (outside the city) that would give property to veteran soldiers

gratis: free

device: the strategy he proposed

having Crassus on the one side . . .: this was a public declaration that the three had teamed up together

to let him: to prevent him

target: shield

unmeet for his gravity, uncomely: undignified, disrespectful

which was made sure before; was sure: was engaged to be married

empire of Rome: there was no official Roman Empire yet, since there was no emperor, so this is a general term

the marketplace: the Roman Forum

legion: a Roman military unit then made up of about 4500 men

attended the house: came to meetings of the Senate

prowess: skill

subject to headache, and otherwhile to the falling sickness: see note on this (above)

soberly: plainly, without luxury

by writing ciphers in letters: the Roman writer Suetonius wrote this about Caesar: " . . . if he had anything confidential to say, he wrote it in cipher, that is, by so changing the order of the letters of the alphabet, that not a word could be made out." This type of substitution cipher is still called a Caesar Cipher.

sparage: asparagus


Piso: Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (c. 100 BC - 43 BC), consul in 58 B.C. He is known for his antagonism to Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Calpurnius Bibulus: the son-in-law of Cato

P. Claudius: Claudius had "party-crashed" a women's ceremony at Julius Caesar's house, which was a serious matter and caused Caesar to divorce his wife. Like Piso, Claudius was an enemy of Cicero.


Part One

Now when he was entered into his office, he began to put forth laws meeter for a seditious tribune of the people, than for a consul: because by them he preferred the division of lands, and distributing of corn to every citizen gratis, to please [the common people]. But when the noble men of the Senate were against his device, he desiring no better occasion, began to cry out, and to protest, that by the overhardness and austerity of the Senate, they drove him against his will to lean unto the people: and thereupon having Crassus on the one side of him, and Pompey on the other, he asked [the two of] them openly in the assembly, if they did give their consent unto the laws which he had put forth. They both answered, they did. Then he prayed them to stand by him against those that threatened him with force of sword to let him. Crassus gave him his word, he would. Pompey also did the like, and added thereunto, that he would come with his sword and target both, against them that would withstand him with their swords. These words offended much the Senate, being far unmeet for his gravity, and indecent for the majesty and honour he carried, and most of all uncomely for the presence of the Senate whom he should have reverenced: and were speeches fitter for a rash light-headed youth, than for his person. Howbeit the common people on the other side, they rejoiced.

Then Caesar, because he would be more assured of Pompey's power and friendship, he gave him his daughter Julia in marriage, which was made sure before unto Servilius Caepio, and promised him [Servilius] in exchange, Pompey's [daughter], the which was sure also unto Faustus the son of Sulla. And shortly after also, Caesar [him]self did marry Calpurnia the daughter of Piso, whom he caused to be made consul, to succeed him the next year following. Cato then cried out with open mouth, and called the gods to witness, that it was a shameful matter, and not to be suffered, that they should in that sort make havoc of the empire of Rome, distributing among themselves, through those wicked marriages, the governments of the provinces, and of great armies. Calpurnius Bibulus, fellow consul with Caesar, perceiving that he did contend in vain, making all the resistance he could to withstand this law, and that oftentimes he was in danger to be slain with Cato, in the marketplace and assembly: he kept close in his house all the rest of his consulship.

When Pompey had married Julia, he filled all the marketplace with soldiers, and by open force authorized the laws which Caesar made in the behalf of the people. Furthermore, [he secured Caesar the government of all Gaul], and beyond the Alps, and all Illyria, with four legions granted him for five years. Then Cato standing up to speak against it: Caesar bade his officers lay hold of him, and carry him to prison, thinking he would have appealed unto the tribunes. But Cato said never a word, when he went his way. Caesar perceiving then, that not only the senators and nobility were offended, but that the common people also for the reverence they bare unto Cato's virtues, were ashamed, and went away with silence: he himself secretly did pray one of the tribunes that he would take Cato from the officers. [As for the other senators, some few of them attended the house, the rest, being disgusted, absented themselves.]

The shamefullest part that Caesar played while he was consul, seemeth to be this: when he chose P. Claudius tribune of the people, (that had offered his wife such dishonour, and profaned the holy ancient mysteries of the women, which were celebrated in his own house). Claudius sued to be tribune to no other end but to destroy Cicero: and Caesar [him]self also departed not from Rome to his army, before he had set them together by the ears, and driven Cicero out of Italy.

Part Two

All these things they say he did, before the wars with the Gauls. But the time of the great armies and conquests he made afterwards, and of the war in the which he subdued all the Gauls: (entering into another course of life far contrary unto the first) made him to be known for as valiant a soldier and as excellent a captain to lead men, as those that afore him had been counted the wisest and most valiantest generals that ever were, and that by their valiant deeds had achieved great honour. For whosoever would compare the house of the Fabians, of the Scipioes, of the Metellians, yea those also of his own time, or long before him, as Sulla, Marius, the two Lucullians, and Pompey [him]self, whose fame ascendeth up unto the heavens: [but] it will appear that Caesar's prowess and deeds of arms, did excel them all together. For in less than ten years' war in Gaul he took [by storm] above eight hundred towns: he conquered three hundred several nations: and having before him in battle thirty hundred thousand soldiers, at sundry times he slew ten hundred thousand of them, and took as many more prisoners.

[He was so much master of the good-will and hearty service of his soldiers that those who in other expeditions were but ordinary men displayed a courage past defeating or withstanding when they went upon any danger where Caesar's glory was concerned.] And this appeareth plainly by the example of Acilius: who in a battle by sea before the city of Marselles, boarding one of his enemies' ships, one cut off his right hand with a sword, but yet he forsook not his target which he had in his left hand, but thrust it in his enemies' faces, and made them flee, so that he won their ship from them.

[Omitted for length: other stories of soldiers who demonstrated unusual dedication and courage. They are referred to in the following section.]

Part Three

Now Caesar's self did breed this noble courage and life in them. First, for that he gave them bountifully, and did honour them also, shewing thereby, that he did not heap up riches in the wars to maintain his life afterwards in wantonness and pleasure, but that he did keep it in store, honourably to reward their valiant service: and that by so much he thought himself rich, by how much he was liberal in rewarding of them that had deserved it.

Furthermore, they did not wonder so much at his valiantness in putting himself at every instant in such manifest danger, and in taking so extreme pains as he did, knowing that it was his greedy desire of honour that set him afire, and pricked him forward to do it: but that he always continued all labour and hardness, more than his body could bear, that filled them all with admiration. For, concerning the constitution of his body, he was lean, white, and soft skinned, and often subject to headache, and otherwhile to the falling sickness: (the which took him the first time, as it is reported, in Corduba, a city of Spain) but yet therefore yielded not to the disease of his body, to make it a cloak to cherish him withal, but contrarily, took the pains of war, as a medicine to cure his sick body fighting always with his disease, travelling continually, living soberly, and commonly lying abroad in the field. For the most nights he slept in his coach or litter, and thereby bestowed his rest, to make him always able to do something: and in the daytime, he would travel up and down the country to see towns, castles, and strong places.

He had always a secretary with him in his coach, who did still write as he went by the way, and a soldier behind him that carried his sword. He made such speed the first time he came from Rome, when he had his office: that in eight days, he came to the river of Rhone. He was so excellent a rider of horse from his youth, that holding his hands behind him, he would gallop his horse upon the spur.

In his wars in Gaul, he did further exercise himself to [dictate] letters as he rode by the way, and did occupy two secretaries at once with as much as they could write; and as Oppius writeth, more than two at a time. And it is reported, that Caesar was the first that devised friends might talk together by writing ciphers in letters, when he had no leisure to speak with them for his urgent business, and for the great distance besides from Rome.

How little account Caesar made of his diet, this example doth prove it. Caesar supping one night in Milan with his friend Valerius Leo, there was served sparage to his board, and oil of perfume put into it instead of salad oil. He simply ate it, and found no fault, blaming his friends that were offended: and told them, that it had been enough for them to have abstained to eat of that they misliked, and not to shame their friend, and how that he lacked good manner that found fault with his friend.

Narration and Discussion

Plutarch seems to jump quickly from Caesar's negative experience as consul to his career as "the wisest and most valiantest general." Should later success allow us to forget someone's earlier mistakes or misdeeds?

How did Caesar show himself an expert on time management as well as dinner-party etiquette?

Lesson Four


"All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, and those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third. All these differ from each other in language, customs and laws." This is the famous beginning of The Gallic Wars, by Julius Caesar. The war for European control was a long, expensive gamble, but one that promised large returns.


gave no place: refused to come second

break their strength: break down their fortification

void: empty, unoccupied

magistrates: elected officials

prorogue: extend

in choler: in a rage


Ariovistus: the leader of the Suebi tribe

Historic Occasions

58 B.C.: the beginning of the Gallic Wars

56 B.C: the meeting at Luca

55 B.C.: Caesar built a bridge across the Rhine, and invaded Britain


Part One

The first war that Caesar made with the Gauls, was with the Helvetians and Tigurinians, who having set fire of all their good cities, to the number of twelve, and four hundred villages besides, came to invade that part of Gaul which was subject to the Romans, as the Cimbri and Teutons had done before: unto whom for valiantness they gave no place, and [there] were also a great number of them (for they were three hundred thousand souls in all) whereof there were a hundred, fourscore, and ten thousand fighting men. Of those, it was not Caesar himself that overcame the Tigurinians, but [Titus] Labienus his lieutenant, that overthrew them by the river of Arax. But the Helvetians themselves came suddenly with their army to set upon him, as he was going towards a city of his confederates. Caesar perceiving that, made haste to get him some place of strength, and there did set his men in battle [ar]ray. When one brought him his horse to get up on which he used in battle, he said unto them: "When I have overcome mine enemies, I will then get up on him to follow the chase, but now let us give them charge."

Therewith he marched forward afoot, and gave charge: and there fought it out a long time, before he could make them flee that were in battle. But the greatest trouble he had, was to distress their camp, and to break their strength which they had made with their carts. For there, they that before had fled from the battle, did not only put themselves in force, and valiantly fought it out: but their wives and children also fighting for their lives to the death, were all slain, and the battle was scant ended at midnight.

Now if the act of this victory was famous, unto that he also added another as notable, or exceeding it. For of all the barbarous people that had escaped from [this] battle, he gathered together again above a hundred thousand of them, and compelled them to return home into their country which they had forsaken, and unto their towns also which they had burnt: because he feared the Germans would come over the river of Rhine, and occupy that country lying void.

Part Two

The second war he made was in defence of the Gauls against the Germans: although before, he himself had caused Ariovistus, their king, to be received for [an ally] of the Romans. Notwithstanding, they were grown very unquiet neighbours, and it appeared plainly, that having any occasion offered them to enlarge their territories, they would not content them with their own, but meant to invade and possess the rest of Gaul. Caesar, perceiving that some of his captains trembled for fear, but specially the young gentlemen of noble houses of Rome, who thought to have gone to the wars with him, as only for their pleasure and gain: he called them to council, and commanded them that were afraid, that they should depart home, and not put themselves in danger against their wills, [since] they had such womanish faint hearts to shrink when he had need of them. And for himself, he said, he would set upon the barbarous people, [even if] he had left him but the Tenth Legion only, saying that the enemies were no valianter than the Cimbri had been, nor that he [Caesar] was a captain inferior unto Marius.

This oration being made, the soldiers of the Tenth Legion sent their lieutenants unto him, to thank him for the good opinion he had of them: and the other legions also fell out with their captains, and all of them together followed him many days' journey with good will to serve him, until they came within two hundred furlongs of the camp of the enemies.

[A short description of the battle follows; the Romans were again victorious. After this, Caesar's army won a battle against the Nervians, "the stoutest warriors of all the Belgae."]

Part Three

For when Caesar had set his affairs at a stay in Gaul, on the other side of the Alps: he always used to lie about the river of Po in the wintertime, to give direction for the establishing of things at Rome, at his pleasure. For [instance], not only they that made suit for offices at Rome were chosen magistrates, by means of Caesar's money which he gave them, with the which, bribing the people, they bought their voices, and when they were in office, did all that they could to increase Caesar's power and greatness: but the greatest and chiefest men also of the nobility, [went to visit him at Luca, such as] Pompey; Crassus; Appius, praetor of Sardinia; and Nepos, proconsul in Spain. (Insomuch that there were at one time, six score sergeants carrying rods and axes before the magistrates: and above two hundred senators besides.) There [at this conference] they fell in consultation, and determined that Pompey and Crassus should again be chosen consuls the next year following.

Furthermore, they did appoint, that Caesar should have money again delivered him to pay his army, and besides, did prorogue the time of his government five years further. This was thought a very strange and an unreasonable matter unto wise men. For they themselves that had taken so much money of Caesar, persuaded the Senate to let him have money of the common treasure, as though he had had none before: yea to speak more plainly, they compelled the Senate unto it, sighing and lamenting to see the decrees they passed. Cato was not there then, for they had purposely sent him before into Cyprus. Howbeit Favonius that followed Cato's steps, when he saw that he could not prevail, nor withstand them: he went out of the Senate in choler, and cried out amongst the people, that it was a horrible shame. But no man did hearken to him: some for the reverence they bare unto Pompey and Crassus, and others favouring Caesar's proceedings, did put all their hope and trust in him: and therefore did quiet themselves, and stirred not.

Narration and Discussion

Why was the Roman Senate now more willing to grant Caesar money and other favours (even if the proposal came from his friends)?

Creative narration: Based on Plutarch's description, write (or give orally) Caesar's speech to his soldiers.

Lesson Five


Caesar continued his military adventures in Gaul, but was somewhat disappointed by not finding much financial reward in fighting against barbarous peoples. At this time, he also received the news that his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, had died in childbirth. When the Roman army had been divided into garrisons for the wintertime, and Caesar was in Italy, the Gauls rebelled against him again. But this time, fate seemed to favour the Romans.


should the less esteem of them: would think they were weaker than they really were

plate and moveables: treasure, such as silver cups

caparison; caparison and furniture: decorative coverings for a horse


Ambiorix: the leader of the Eburones, an important tribe in northeastern Gaul

Cotta and Titurius: Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta and Quintus Titurius Sabinus

Quintus Cicero: Quintus Tullius Cicero; see introductory notes

Vercingentorix: the king of the Arverni; captured at the Battle of Alesia

Historic Occasions

53 B.C.: the death of Crassus; Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus was consul (see Lesson Eight)

52 B.C.: the Battle of Alesia


Part One

[Caesar's army was now grown very numerous, so that he was forced to disperse them into various camps for their winter quarters, and he having gone himself to Italy as he used to do, in his absence a general outbreak throughout the whole of Gaul commenced, and large armies marched about the country, and attacked the Roman quarters, and attempted to make themselves masters of the forts where they lay. The greatest and strongest party of the rebels, under the command of Ambiorix, cut off Cotta and Titurius with all their men, while a force sixty thousand strong besieged the legion under the command of Quintus Cicero, and had almost taken it by storm, the Roman soldiers being all wounded, and having quite spent themselves by a defence beyond their natural strength ]

These news being come to Caesar, who was far from thence at that time, he returned with all possible speed, and levying seven thousand soldiers, made haste to help Cicero that was in such distress. The Gauls that did besiege Cicero, understanding of Caesar's coming, raised their siege to go and meet him: making account that he was but a handful in their hands, they were so few. Caesar, to deceive them, still drew back, and made as though he fled from them, lodging in places meet for a captain that had but a few, to fight with a great number of his enemies, and commanded his men in no wise to stir out to skirmish with them, but compelled them to raise up the ramparts of his camp, and to fortify the gates, as men that were afraid, because the enemies should the less esteem of them: until that at length he took opportunity, by their disorderly coming, to assail the trenches of his camp (they were grown to such a presumptuous boldness and bravery); and then sallying out upon them, he put them all to flight with slaughter of a great number of them.

This did suppress all the rebellions of the Gauls in those parts, and furthermore, he himself in person went in the midst of winter thither, where[ever] he heard they did rebel: for that there was come a new supply out of Italy of three whole legions: of the which, two of them Pompey lent him, and the other legion, he himself had levied in Gaul about the river of Po.

[But in a while the seeds of war, which had long since been secretly sown and scattered by the most powerful men in those warlike nations, broke forth into the greatest and most dangerous war that was in those parts.] For everywhere they levied multitudes of men, and great riches besides, to fortify their strongholds. Furthermore the country where they rose, was very ill to come unto, and specially at that time being winter, when the rivers were frozen, the woods and forests covered with snow, the meadows drowned with floods, and the fields so deep of snow, that no ways were to be found, neither the marshes nor rivers to be discerned, all was so overflown and drowned with water: all which troubles together were enough (as they thought) to keep Caesar from setting upon the rebels.

Many nations of the Gauls were of this conspiracy, but two of the chiefest were the Arvernians and Carnutes: who had chosen Vercingentorix for their lieutenant general, whose father the Gauls before had put to death, because they thought he [the father] aspired to make himself king. [Vercingentorix having disposed his army in several bodies, and set officers over them, drew over to him all the country round about as far as those that lie upon the Arar, and having intelligence of the opposition which Caesar now experienced at Rome, thought to engage all Gaul in the war.] So that if he had but tarried a little longer, until Caesar had entered into his civil wars: he [would have] put all Italy in as great fear and danger, as it was when the Cimbri did come and invade it.

[But Caesar, who above all men was gifted with the faculty of making the right use of everything in war, and most especially of seizing the right moment]: so soon as he understood the news of the rebellion, he departed with speed, and returned back the selfsame way which he had gone, making the barbarous people know, that they should deal with an army invincible, and which they could not possibly withstand, considering the great speed he had made with the same, in so sharp and hard a winter. For where they would not possibly have believed, that a post or courier could have come in so short a time from the place where he was, unto them: they wondered when they saw him burning and destroying the country, the towns and strong forts where he came with his army, taking all to mercy that yielded unto him: until such time as the Hedvi took arms against him, who before were wont to be called the brethren of the Romans, and were greatly honoured of them. Wherefore Caesar's men, when they understood that they had joined with the rebels, they were marvellous sorry, and half discouraged.

Part Two

Thereupon Caesar, departing from those parts, went through the country of the Lingones, to enter the country of the Burgonians, who were confederates of the Romans, and the nearest unto Italy on that side, in respect of all the rest of Gaul. Thither the enemies came to set upon him, and to environ him of all sides, with an infinite number of thousands of fighting men. Caesar on the other side tarried their coming, and fighting with them a long time, he made them so afraid of him, that at length he overcame the barbarous people. But at the first, it seemeth notwithstanding, that he had received some overthrow: for the Arvernians shewed a sword hanged up in one of their temples, which they said they had won from Caesar. Insomuch as Caesar [him]self coming that way by occasion, saw it, and fell a-laughing at it. But some of his friends going about to take it away, he would not suffer them, but bade them let it alone, and touch it not, for it was a holy thing.

Notwithstanding, such as at the first had saved themselves by fleeing, the most of them were gotten with their king into the city of Alesia, the which Caesar went and besieged, although it seemed [impregnable], both for the height of the walls, as also for the multitude of soldiers they had to defend it. But now, during this siege, he fell into a marvellous great danger without, almost incredible. For an army of three hundred thousand fighting men of the best men that were among all the nations of the Gauls, came against him, being at the siege of Alesia, besides them that were within the city, which amounted to the number of three score and ten thousand fighting men at the least: so that perceiving he was shut in betwixt two so great armies, he was driven to fortify himself with two walls, the one against them of the city, and the other against them without. For if those two armies had joined together, Caesar [would have] been utterly undone. And therefore this siege of Alesia, and the battle he won before it, did deservedly win him more honour and fame, than any other. For there, in that instant and extreme danger, he shewed more valiantness and wisdom than he did in any battle he fought before.

But what a wonderful thing was this? that they of the city never heard anything of them that came to aid them, until Caesar had overcome them: and furthermore, that the Romans themselves which kept watch upon the wall that was built against the city, knew also no more of it than they, but when it was done, and that they heard the cries and lamentations of men and women in Alesia, when they perceived on the other side of the city such a number of glistering shields of gold and silver, such store of bloody corselets and armours, such a deal of plate and moveables, and such a number of tents and pavilions after the fashion of the Gauls, which the Romans had gotten of their spoils in their camp. [So soon did so vast an army dissolve and vanish like a ghost or dream, the greatest part of them being killed upon the spot.]

Furthermore, after they within the city of Alesia had done great hurt to Caesar, and themselves also: in the end, they all yielded themselves. And Vercingentorix (he that was their king and captain in all this war) went out of the gates excellently well armed, and his horse furnished with rich caparison accordingly, and rode round about Caesar, who sat in his chair of estate. Then lighting from his horse, he took off his caparison and furniture, and unarmed himself, and laid all on the ground, and went and sat down at Caesar's feet, and said never a word. So Caesar at length committed him as a prisoner taken in the wars, to lead him afterwards in his triumph at Rome.

Narration and Discussion

What skills as a general did Caesar demonstrate during these battles?

Lesson Six


The struggle for power in Rome was becoming ugly. Some wanted to bring back the authority of a king or a dictator, to end the chaos; or at least elect a powerful consul to do the same thing, and the obvious choice for that was Pompey. He was elected for a third (non-consecutive) term as consul in 52 B.C., the same year as Caesar's victory at Alesia.


the commonwealth: Rome and its provinces and colonies

covertly: secretly

lay all the irons in the fire he could: try everything he could think of

prorogue: extend

Marcellus and Lentulus . . .withstood them: they were both running against Caesar for consul, and they spoke out against his representatives

magistrates: elected officials

basilica: a Roman building used as a court of justice

send Caesar a successor [as governor]: send a replacement and force him to return to Rome

silver drachmas: coins

as private persons: out of office, without authority

Ariminum: the modern city of Rimini

stayed: stopped


Cato: Cato the Younger (see introductory notes)

Marcellus: Marcus Claudius Marcellus, consul in 51 B.C., and the brother of Marcellus (Maior)

Paul the consul: Lucius Aemilius Lepidus Paullus, consul in 50 B.C. along with Gaius Claudius Marcellus, called Marcellus (Minor)

Lentulus: Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus, consul in 49 B.C., along with Marcellus (Maior), a cousin of the previous consul

Curio: an orator (see introductory note) and statesman

Antonius: Marcus Antonius, or Mark Antony

Asinius Pollio: Gaius Asinius Pollio, a Roman orator and historian

Historic Occasions

50 B.C.: The Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as governor had ended

January, 49 B.C.: Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy, an act of defiance which began a civil war


Part One

[So that after having many times stained the place of election with blood of men killed upon the spot, they left the city at last without a government at all, to be carried about like a ship without a pilot to steer her; while all who had any wisdom could only be thankful if a course of such wild and stormy disorder and madness might end no worse than in a monarchy.] Furthermore, there were many that were not afraid to speak it openly, that there was no other help to remedy the troubles of the commonwealth, but by the authority of one man only, that should command them all: and that this medicine must be ministered by the hands of him that was the gentlest physician, meaning, covertly, Pompey. Now Pompey used many fine speeches, making semblance as though he would [have] none of it, and yet cunningly underhand did lay all the irons in the fire he could, to bring it to pass, that he might be chosen dictator. Cato finding the mark he shot at, and fearing lest in the end the people should be compelled to make him dictator: he persuaded the Senate rather to make him [Pompey] sole consul, that contenting himself with that more just and lawful government, he should not covet the other [which was] unlawful.

The Senate following his [Cato's] counsel, did not only make him [Pompey] consul, but further did prorogue his government of the provinces he [governed]. For he had two provinces, all Spain, and Africa, which he governed by his lieutenants: and further, he received yearly of the common treasure to pay his soldiers a thousand talents.

Hereupon Caesar took occasion also to send his men to make suit in his name for the consulship, and also to have the government of his [own] provinces prorogued. Pompey at the first held his peace. But Marcellus and Lentulus (that otherwise hated Caesar) withstood them [Caesar's representatives], and to shame and dishonour him, had much needless speech in matters of weight. [For they took away the privilege of Roman citizens from the people of New Comum, who were a colony that Caesar had lately planted in Gaul.] And moreover, when [Marcus Claudius Marcellus] was consul, he made one of the senators in that city to be whipped with rods, who came to Rome about those matters: and said [that] he gave him those marks, that he should know he was no Roman citizen, and bade him go his way, and tell Caesar of it.

After [Marcus Claudius Marcellus'] consulship, Caesar setting open his coffers of the treasure he had gotten among the Gauls, did frankly give it out amongst the magistrates at Rome, without restraint or spare. First, he set Curio, the tribune, clear out of debt: and gave also unto Paul the consul, a thousand five hundred talents, with which money he built that notable palace by the marketplace, called Paul's Basilica, in the place of Fulvius' Basilica. Then Pompey, being afraid of this practice, began openly to procure, both by himself and his friends, that they should send Caesar a successor [as governor]; moreover, he sent unto Caesar for [the return of] his two legions of men of war which he had lent him, for the conquest of Gaul. Caesar sent him them again, and gave every private soldier two hundred and fifty silver drachmas.

Notwithstanding, the requests that Caesar propounded carried great semblance of reason with them. For he said, that he was contented to lay down arms, so that Pompey did the like: and that both of them as private persons should come and make suit of their citizens to obtain honourable recompense: declaring unto them, that taking arms from him, and granting them unto Pompey, they did wrongfully accuse him in going about to make himself a tyrant, and in the meantime to grant the other [man the] means to be a tyrant.

Curio making these offers and persuasions openly before the people, in the name of Caesar: he was heard with great rejoicing and clapping of hands, and there were some that cast flowers and nosegays upon him when he went his way, as they commonly used to do for [successful wrestlers, crowned with flowers]. Then Antonius, one of the tribunes, brought a letter sent from Caesar, and made it openly to be read in despite of the consuls. But Scipio in the Senate, Pompey's father-in-law, made this motion: that if Caesar did not dismiss his army by a certain day appointed him, the Romans should proclaim him an enemy unto Rome.

After that, there came other letters from Caesar, which seemed much more reasonable: in the which he requested that they would grant him Gaul, that lieth between the Mountains of the Alps and Italy, and Illyria, with two legions only, and then that he would request nothing else, until he made suit for the second consulship.

Part Two

Now at that time, Caesar had not in all about him above five thousand footmen, and three thousand horsemen: for the rest of his army, he left on the other side of the mountains, to be brought after him by his lieutenants. So, considering that for the execution of his enterprise, he should not need so many men of war at the first, but rather suddenly stealing upon them, [so to astound his enemies with the boldness of it], taking benefit of the opportunity of time, because he should more easily make his enemies afraid of him, coming so suddenly when they looked not for him, than he should otherwise distress them, assailing them with his whole army, in giving them leisure to provide further for him: he commanded his captains and lieutenants to go before, without any other armour than their swords, to take the city of Ariminum (a great city of Gaul, being the first city men come to, when they come out of Gaul), with as little bloodshed and tumult, as they could possibl[y].

Then committing that force and army he had with him, unto Hortensius, one of his friends: he remained a whole day together, openly in the sight of every man, [as a stander-by and spectator of the gladiators, who exercised before him]. At night he went into his lodging, and bathing his body a little, came afterwards into the hall amongst them, and made merry with them awhile, whom he had bidden to supper. Then when it was well forward night, and very dark, he rose from the table, and prayed his company to be merry, and no man to stir, for he would straight come to them again: howbeit he had secretly before commanded a few of his trustiest friends to follow him, not altogether, but some one way, and some another way. He himself in the meantime took a coach he had hired, and made as though he would have gone some other way at the first, but suddenly he turned back again towards the city of Ariminum. When he was come unto the little river of Rubicon, which divideth Gaul on this side the Alps from Italy: he stayed upon a sudden.

For, the nearer he came to execute his purpose, the more remorse he had in his conscience, to think what an enterprise he took in hand: and his thoughts also fell out more doubtful, when he entered into consideration of the desperateness of his attempt. So he fell into many thoughts with himself, and spake never a word, wav[er]ing sometime one way, sometime another way [Dryden: while he revolved with himself], and often times changed his determination, contrary to himself. So did he talk much also with his friends he had with him, amongst whom was Asinius Pollio, telling them what mischiefs the beginning of this passage over that river would breed in the world, and how much their posterity and them that lived after them, would speak of it in time to come.

But at length, casting from him with a noble courage, all those perilous thoughts to come, and speaking these words which valiant men commonly say, that attempt dangerous and desperate enterprises, "A desperate man feareth no danger, come on" [Dryden: "The die is cast", which can also be translated "Let the die be cast"]: he passed over the river, and when he was come over, he ran with his coach and never stayed, so that before daylight he was within the city of Ariminum, and took it.

Narration and Discussion

Why did the Romans decide against electing a dictator?

In Part One, Plutarch says that Caesar put his name forward for a second term as consul. It sounds at first as if this happened during the year (52 B.C.) that Pompey was consul, but it appears to have taken place during the elections of 50 B.C., which would determine the consuls for 49 B.C. What might Caesar's intention have been? Why did he lose the race to Marcellus and Lentulus?

"To cross the Rubicon" is an expression we use to mean "the point of no return." What did it mean for Julius Caesar?

Lesson Seven


The reaction to Caesar's taking of the city of Ariminium was immediate and violent. Hordes of people from outside Rome arrived in the city, fearing their own homes would be attacked. Some people blamed Pompey for not co-operating more fully with Caesar; others blamed him for not controlling him. The general panic led to the fleeing of both the consuls and many of the senators.


Corfinium: a fortified city on the eastern side of the Apennines

clemency: mercy

tarried not: did not wait for

fled into the city of Brundisium: Pompey was trying to get to Epirus, to raise support for a blockade of Italy.

Dyrrhachium: the capital of the province of Epirus, where a battle was fought between Caesar's and Pompey's forces

they were words of course, to colour his purpose withal: it was just a lot of talk, and not the truth

the temple of Saturn: the public treasury

pulpit, pulpit for orations: the Rostra, or speakers' platform

bigly: loudly

victuals: food, supplies

to treat of peace: to discuss a peace treaty or agreement

follow the wars: renew his pursuit of Pompey

the Sea Ionium: the Ionian Sea, between Italy and Greece


Domitius: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, an enemy of Caesar; not to be confused with Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus, who remained loyal to Caesar

Servilius Isauricus: co-consul with Caesar for 48 B.C.

Historic Occasions

48 B.C.: Caesar became consul for the second time, but immediately took an army to Greece to hunt down Pompey


Part One

There were some [Romans] also, that always loved Caesar, whose wits were then so troubled and beside themselves, with the fear they had conceived: that they also fled, and followed the stream of this tumult, without manifest cause or necessity. But above all things, it was a lamentable sight to see the city itself, that in this fear and trouble was left at all adventure, as a ship tossed in storm of sea, forsaken of her pilots, and despairing of her safety. Their departure being thus miserable, yet men esteemed their [own] banishment (for the love they bare unto Pompey) to be their natural country and reckoned Rome no better than Caesar's camp.

At that time also Labienus, who was one of Caesar's greatest friends, and [who] had been always used as his lieutenant in the wars of Gaul, and had valiantly fought in his cause: he likewise forsook him then, and fled unto Pompey. But Caesar sent his money and carriage after him, and then went and encamped before the city of Corfinium, which Domitius kept, with thirty cohorts or ensigns.

When Domitius saw he was besieged, he straight thought himself but undone, and despairing of his success, he bade a physician, a slave of his, give him poison. The physician gave him a drink, which he drank, thinking to have died. But shortly after, Domitius hearing them report what clemency and wonderful courtesy Caesar used unto them he took: [he] repented him then that he had drunk this drink, and began to lament and bewail his desperate resolution taken to die. The physician did comfort him again, and told him, that he had taken a drink, only to make him sleep, but not to destroy him. Then Domitius rejoiced, and went straight and yielded himself unto Caesar: who gave him his life, but he notwithstanding stole away immediately, and fled unto Pompey.

When these news were brought to Rome, they did marvellously rejoice and comfort them that still remained there: and moreover there were [some] of them that had forsaken Rome, which returned thither again. In the meantime, Caesar did put all Domitius' men in pay, and he did the like through all the cities, where he had taken any captains that levied men for Pompey.

Now Caesar having assembled a great and dreadful power together, went straight where he thought to find Pompey himself. But Pompey tarried not his coming, but fled into the city of Brundisium, from whence he had sent the two consuls before, with that army he had, unto Dyrrhachium: and he himself also went [to Dyrrhachium] afterwards, when he understood that Caesar was come, as you shall hear more amply hereafter in his Life. Caesar lacked no goodwill to follow him, but wanting ships to take the seas, he returned forthwith to Rome.

So that in less than threescore days, he was lord of all Italy, without any bloodshed. When he was come to Rome, and found it much quieter than he looked for, and many senators there also: he courteously entreated them, and prayed them to send unto Pompey, to pacify all matters between them, upon reasonable conditions. But no man did attempt it, either because they feared Pompey for that they had forsaken him, or else for that they thought Caesar meant not as he spake, but that they were words of course, to colour his purpose withal.

And when Metellus also, one of the tribunes, would not suffer him to take any of the common treasure out of the temple of Saturn, but told him that it was against the law:

"Tush," said he, "time of war and law are two things. If this that I do," quoth he, "do offend thee, then get thee hence for this time: for war can not abide this frank and bold speech. But when wars are done, and that we are all quiet again, then thou shalt speak in the pulpit what thou wilt: and yet I do tell thee this of favour, impairing so much my right, for thou art mine, both thou and all them that have risen against me, and whom I have in my hands."

When he had spoken thus unto Metellus, he went to the temple door where the treasure lay: and finding no keys there, he caused smiths to be sent for, and made them break open the locks. Metellus thereupon began again to withstand him, and certain men that stood by praised him in his doing: but Caesar at length speaking bigly to him, threatened him he would kill him presently, if he troubled him any more: and told him furthermore, "Young man," quoth he, "thou knowest it is harder for me to tell it thee, than to do it." That word made Metellus quake for fear, that he got him away roundly: and ever after that, Caesar had all at his commandment for the wars.

Part Two

From thence he went into Spain, to make war with Lucius Afranius and Marcus Petreius, Pompey's lieutenants: first to get their armies and provinces into his hands which they governed, [and then] afterwards he might follow Pompey the better, leaving never an enemy behind him. In this journey he was oftentimes himself in danger, through the ambushes that were laid for him in divers strange sorts and places, and likely also to have lost all his army for lack of victuals. All this notwithstanding, he never left following of Pompey's lieutenants, provoking them to battle, and entrenching them in: until he had gotten their camp and armies into his hands [at the Battle of Ilerda], albeit that the lieutenants themselves fled unto Pompey.

When Caesar returned again to Rome [December, 49 B.C.], Piso his father-in-law gave him counsel to send ambassadors unto Pompey, to treat of peace. But Isauricus, to flatter Caesar, was against it. Caesar being then created dictator by the Senate, called home again all the banished men, and restored their children to honour, whose fathers before had been slain in Sulla's time: [and he relieved the debtors by an act remitting some part of the interest on their debts], and besides, did make some such other ordinances as those, but very few. For he was dictator but eleven days only, and then did yield it up of himself, and made himself consul, with Servilius Isauricus, and after that [he] determined to follow the wars.

[He marched so fast that he left all his army behind him], and went himself before with six hundred horse, and five legions only of footmen, in the winter quarter, about the month of January, which after the Athenians, is called Posideon. Then having passed over the Sea Ionium, and landed his men, he won the cities of Oricum and Apollonia. Then he sent his ships back again unto Brundisium, to transport the rest of his soldiers that could not come with that speed he did. They as they came by the way, (like men whose strength of body was decayed) being wearied with so many sundry battles as they had fought with their enemies: complained of Caesar in this sort.

"To what end and purpose doth this man hale us after him, up and down the world, using us like slaves and drudges? It is not our armour, but our bodies that bear the blows away: and what, shall we never be without our harness of our backs, and our shields on our arms? Should not Caesar think, at the least when he seeth our blood and wounds, that we are all mortal men, and that we feel the misery and pains that other men do feel? And now even in the dead of winter, he putteth us unto the mercy of the sea and tempest, yea which the gods themselves can not withstand: as if he fled before his enemies, and pursued them not."

Thus spending time with this talk, the soldiers still marching on, by small journeys, [they] came at length unto the city of Brundisium. But when they were come, and found that Caesar had already passed over the sea, then they straight changed their complaints and minds. For they blamed themselves, and took on also with their captains, because they had not made them make more haste in marching: and sitting upon the rocks and cliffs of the sea, they looked over the main sea, towards the realm of Epirus, to see if they could discern the ships returning back, to transport them over.

Narration and Discussion

"Time of war and law are two things." Do you agree?

Why did the soldiers' discovery that Caesar had arrived in Greece ahead of them give them new motivation to continue?

Lesson Eight


Caesar and Antonius, in spite of difficulty and foot-dragging by battle-weary soldiers, gathered an army together in Epirus to fight Pompey's Republican resistance troops. They lost the battle, but not the war, because, according to Caesar, Pompey had victory in his hands but did not seem to know what to do with it. Both armies moved on to Thessaly, where a final showdown was in the air.


who was passingly well lodged, for victualing of his camp: who was in a fairly good position to keep his army supplied

hard to the trenches: almost up to the boundary

saving once only: A traitor in Caesar's army informed Pompey of a weak spot in their fortifications. Pompey took advantage of this and broke through, forcing Caesar's army to retreat (although, as Plutarch says, he decided not to follow them).

straited with victuals: frustrated by lack of supplies

the infection of the pestilence: there had been illness in Caesar's camp

dancing, masquing, and playing the Baccherians: what we would call partying

the chief bishopric: the office of Pontifex Maximus. They argued over which one would get the position, once they had defeated Caesar.

devise some fetch: come up with some ruse or trick

environ: surround


Spinther: Publius Cornelius Lentulus, nicknamed Spinther

Cornificius: Plutarch says Corfinius here, but that may be an error

[Gnaeius] Domitius Calvinus: a general, senator, and former consul who was loyal to Caesar and (later) to Octavius (Caesar Augustus). After the Battle of Pharsalus, he was made the Governor of Asia.

Historic Occasions

July, 48 B.C.: the Battle of Dyrrhachium

August, 48 B.C.: the Battle of Pharsalus


Part One

Then Caesar finding himself strong enough, went and offered Pompey battle, who was passingly well lodged, for victualing of his camp both by sea and land. Caesar on the other side, who had no great plenty of victuals at the first, was in a very hard case: insomuch as his men gathered roots, and mingled them with milk, and ate them. Furthermore, they did make bread of it also, and [and advancing up to the enemy's outposts, would throw these loaves [at the guards], telling them, that as long as the earth produced such roots they would not give up blockading Pompey. [But Pompey took what care he could that neither the loaves nor the words should reach his men, who were out of heart and despondent through terror at the fierceness and hardihood of their enemies, whom they looked upon as a sort of wild beasts.]

Caesar's men did daily skirmish hard to the trenches of Pompey's camp, in the which Caesar had ever the better, saving once only, at what time his men fled with such fear, that all his camp that day was in great hazard to have been cast away. For Pompey came on with his battle upon them, and they were not able to abide it, but were fought with, and driven into their camp, and their trenches were filled with dead bodies, which were slain within the very gate and bulwarks of their camp, they were so valiantly pursued. Caesar stood before them that fled, to make them to turn head again: but he could not prevail. For when he would have taken the ensigns to have stayed them, the ensign bearers threw them down on the ground: so that the enemies took thirty-two of them, and Caesar [him]self also escaped hardly with life. For striking a great big soldier that fled by him, commanding him to stay, and turn his face to his enemy: the soldier being afraid, lift[ed] up his sword to strike at Caesar. But one of Caesar's pages preventing him, gave him such a blow with his sword, that he struck off his shoulder. [Caesar's affairs were so desperate at that time that when Pompey, either through over-cautiousness or his ill fortune, did not give the finishing stroke to that great success, but retreated after he had driven the routed enemy within their camp; Caesar, upon seeing his withdrawal, said to his friends, "The victory today had been on the enemies' side, if they had had a general who knew how to gain it."]

So when he was come to his lodging, he went to bed, and that night troubled him more than any night that ever he had. For still his mind ran with great sorrow of the foul fault he had committed in leading of his army. [For when he had a fertile country before him, and all the wealthy cities of Macedonia and Thessaly, he had neglected to carry the war thither, and had sat down by the seaside, where his enemies had such a powerful fleet, so that he was, in fact, rather besieged by the want of necessaries, than besieging others with his arms.] Thus, fretting and chafing to see himself so straited with victuals, and to think of his ill luck, he raised his camp, intending to go set upon Scipio, [who lay in Macedonia], making account, that either he should draw Pompey to battle against his will, when he had not the sea at his back to furnish him with plenty of victuals: or else that he should easily overcome Scipio, finding him alone, unless he were aided.

Part Two

Then was Caesar, at the first, marvellously perplexed, and troubled by the way: because he found none that would give him any victuals, being despised of every man, for the late loss and overthrow he had received. But after he had taken the city of Gomphi in Thessaly, he did not only meet with plenty of victuals to relieve his army: but he strangely also did rid them of their disease. For the soldiers meeting with plenty of wine, drinking hard, and making merry: drove away the infection of the pestilence. For they disposed themselves unto dancing, masquing, and playing the Baccherians by the way: insomuch that drinking drunk, they overcame their disease, and made their bodies new again.

[Pompey would have preferred to avoid engaging Caesar's army, because he knew that the enemy was short on supplies and might have to back down for that reason. However, his own men provoked him to follow Caesar and to fight.]

When they both came into the country of Pharsalus, and both camps lay before the other: Pompey returned again to his former determination [to avoid fighting], and the rather, because he had ill signs and tokens of misfortune in his sleep. [But] they that were about him grew to such boldness and security, assuring themselves of victory: that Domitius, Spinther, and Scipio, in a bravery, contended between themselves for the chief bishopric which Caesar had. [And many sent to Rome to take houses fit to accommodate consuls and praetors, as being sure of entering upon those offices as soon as the battle was over.] But besides those, the young gentlemen and Roman knights were marvellous desirous to fight, that were bravely mounted, and armed with glistering gilt armours, their horses fat and very finely kept, and themselves goodly young men, to the number of seven thousand, where the gentlemen of Caesar's side were but one thousand only. The number of his footmen also were much after the same reckoning; for he had five, and Pompey's forty thousand, against two and twenty thousand.

Wherefore Caesar called his soldiers together, and told them how Cornificius was at hand, who brought two whole legions, and that he had fifteen ensigns led by Calenus, the which he made to stay about Megara and Athens. Then he asked them if they would tarry for that aid or not, or whether they would rather themselves alone venture battle. The soldiers cried out to him, and prayed him not to defer battle, but rather to devise some fetch to make the enemy fight as soon as he could. Then as he sacrificed unto the gods, for the purifying of his army: the first beast was no sooner sacrificed, but his soothsayer assured him that he should fight within three days. Caesar asked him again, if he saw in the sacrifices, any lucky sign, or token of good luck. The soothsayer answered, "For that, thou shalt answer thyself, better than I can do: for the gods do promise us a marvellous great change, and alteration of things that are now, unto another clean contrary. For if thou beest well now, dost thou think to have worse fortune hereafter? and if thou be ill, assure thyself thou shalt have better."

The night before the battle, as he went about midnight to visit the watch, [there was a light seen in the heavens, very bright and flaming, which seemed to pass over Caesar's camp and fall into Pompey's]. In the morning also, when they relieved the watch, they heard a false alarm in the enemies' camp, without any apparent cause: which they commonly call a sudden fear that makes men besides themselves. This notwithstanding, Caesar thought not to fight that day, but was determined to have raised his camp from thence, and to have gone towards the city of Scotusa: and his tents in his camp were already overthrown when his scouts came in with great speed, to bring him news that his enemies were preparing themselves to fight.

Then he was very glad, and after he had made his prayers unto the gods to help him that day, he set his men in battle [ar]ray, and divided them into three squadrons: giving the middle battle unto Domitius Calvinus, and the left wing unto Antonius, and placed himself in the right wing, choosing his place to fight in the tenth legion. But seeing that against [his forces] his enemies had set all their horsemen: he was half afraid when he saw the great number of them, and so brave besides. Wherefore he [privately] made six ensigns to come from the rearward of his battle, whom he had laid as an ambush behind his right wing, having first appointed his soldiers what they should do, when the horsemen of the enemies came to give them charge.

On the other side, Pompey placed himself in the right wing of his battle, gave the left wing unto Domitius [the other Domitius], and the middle battle unto Scipio, his father-in-law.

Now all [Pompey's] knights (as we have told you before) were placed in the left wing, of purpose to environ Caesar's right wing behind, and to give their hottest charge there, where the general of their enemies was: making their account, that there was no squadron of footmen how thick soever they were, that could receive the charge of so great a troop of horsemen, [but that they must necessarily be broken and shattered all to pieces upon the onset of so immense a force of cavalry].

[Pompey's horsemen were ambushed by Caesar's ensigns, and began to flee.]

Pompey, seeing his horsemen from the other wing of his battle so scattered and dispersed, fleeing away: forgot that he was any more Pompey the Great which he had been before, but rather was like a man whose wits the gods had taken from him, being afraid and amazed with the slaughter sent from above, and so retired into his tent speaking never a word, and sat there to see the end of this battle. Until at length all his army being overthrown, and put to flight, the enemies came, and got up upon the ramparts and defence of his camp, and fought hand to hand with them that stood to defend the same. Then as a man come to himself again, he spake but this only word: "What, even into our camp?" So in haste, casting off his coat [of] armour and apparel of a general, he shifted him, and put on such [clothing], as became his miserable fortune, and so stole out of his camp. Furthermore, what he did after this overthrow, and how he had put himself into the hands of the Egyptians, by whom he was miserably slain: we have set it forth at large in his Life.

Narration and Discussion

Why did Caesar decide to change his strategy after the defeat at the Battle of Dyrrhachium?

If we cannot credit "drinking drunk" with healing the soldiers' disease, what might have been the cause of their return to health and better spirits?

Creative Narration: After the Battle of Dyrrhachium, Caesar moved most of his troops into the region of Thessaly (in Greece), and took the city of Gomphi. Another source says that at this time he reconnected with Domitius Calvinus, during the time that his men were taking their "holiday." Imagine (write or act out) a conversation that might have taken place between them at that point.

What were some of the good and not-so-good decisions that Caesar and Pompey made during the Battle of Pharsalus?

Lesson Nine


After the Battle of Pharsalus, a great deal happened quickly for Caesar. He was appointed dictator of Rome, and kept that title just long enough to oversee his own election as consul; he then left for Egypt to look for Pompey. He arrived there just after Pompey's death, and had his murderers executed At this point Caesar might have returned to Rome, but he became involved in Egyptian politics, and also with the pharaoh's sister, Cleopatra. He also fought with Pharnaces, the king of Pontus.


vaunt: boast

fardel: package, bundle

that notable library of Alexandria: Plutarch claims that the library was burned at this time, but other sources say that the fire did not much damage the library, and that it was destroyed later.

tower of Phar: the Pharos or Lighthouse of Alexandria

But for the king . . .: King Ptolemy XIII is assumed to have drowned during the battle.

Cleopatra Queen of Egypt: she was co-ruler with another brother, Ptolemy XIV


Pothinus the eunuch: a high-ranking servant of King Ptolemy XIII, and also his regent since Ptolemy was very young

Achillas: a guardian of King Ptolemy, and one of the murderers of Pompey

Caesarion: Caesar's son (it is assumed), and the last pharaoh of Egypt.

Historic Occasions

48/47 B.C.: Caesar's adventures in Egypt, including the Siege of Alexandria

47 B.C.: the Battle of Zela, against King Pharnaces of Pontus


Part One

As for [the footsoldiers of Pompey] that were taken prisoners, Caesar did put many of them amongst his legions, and did pardon also many men of estimation; among whom Brutus was one, that afterwards slew Caesar himself; and it is reported, that Caesar was very sorry for him, when he could not immediately be found after the battle, and that he rejoiced again, when he knew he was alive, and that he came to yield himself unto him. Caesar [kindly treated] all Pompey's friends and familiars who, wandering up and down the country, were taken of the king of Egypt; and won them all to be at his commandment. Continuing these courtesies, he wrote unto his friends at Rome, that the greatest pleasure he took of his victory was that he daily saved the lives of some of his countrymen that bare arms against him.

And for the war he made in Alexandria, some say he needed not have done it, but that he willingly did it for the love of Cleopatra: wherein he won little honour, and besides did put his person in great danger. Others do lay the fault upon the king of Egypt's ministers, but specially on Pothinus the eunuch, who bearing the greatest sway of all the king's servants, after he had caused Pompey to be slain, and driven Cleopatra from the court, secretly laid wait all the ways he could, how he might likewise kill Caesar.

Wherefore Caesar, hearing an inkling of it, began thenceforth to spend all the night long in feasting and banqueting, that his person might be in the better safety. But besides all this, Pothinus spake many things openly not to be borne, only to shame Caesar, and to stir up the people to envy him. For he made his soldiers have the worst and oldest wheat that could be gotten: then if they did complain of it, he told them, they must be contented, seeing they ate at another man's cost. [He also ordered that his table should be served with wooden and earthen dishes, and said Caesar had carried off all the gold and silver plate, under pretence of arrears of debt.]

Caesar secretly sent for Cleopatra, which was in the country, to come unto him. She only taking Apollodorus Sicilian of all her friends, took a little boat, and went away with him in it in the night, and came and landed hard by the foot of the castle. Then having no other mean[s] to come into the court without being known, she laid herself down upon a mattress or flockbed, which Apollodorus her friend tied and bound up together like a bundle with a great leather thong, and so took her up on his back, and brought her thus hampered in this fardel unto Caesar, in at the castle gate. This was the first occasion, (as it is reported) that made Caesar to love her: but afterwards, when he saw her sweet conversation and pleasant entertainment, he fell then in further liking with her, and did reconcile her again unto her brother the king, with condition, that they two jointly should reign together.

Part Two

Upon this new reconciliation, a great feast being prepared, a slave of Caesar's that was his barber, the fearfullest wretch that lived, still busily prying and listening abroad in every corner, being mistrustful by nature: found that Pothinus and Achillas did lie in wait to kill his master Caesar. This being proved unto Caesar, he did set such sure watch about the hall, where the feast was made, that in fine, he slew Pothinus himself. Achillas on the other side, saved himself, and fled unto the king's camp, where he raised a marvellous dangerous and difficult war for Caesar: because he having then but a few men about him as he had, he was to fight against a great and strong city.

The first danger he fell into, was for the lack of water he had: for that his enemies had stopped the mouth of the pipes, which conveyed the water unto the castle. The second danger he had, was, that seeing his enemies came to take his ships from him, he was driven to repulse that danger with fire [by setting fire to his own ships], the which burnt the arsenal where the ships lay, and that notable library of Alexandria withal. The third danger was in the battle by sea, that was fought by the tower of Phar: where meaning to help his men that fought by sea, he leapt from the pier, into a boat. Then the Egyptians made towards him with their oars, on every side: but he leaping into the sea, with great hazard saved himself by swimming. It is said, that then holding divers books in his hand, he did never let them go, but kept them always upon his head above water, and swam with the other hand, notwithstanding that they shot marvellously at him, and was driven sometime to duck into the water: howbeit the boat was drowned presently. In fine, the king coming to his men that made war with Caesar, he went against him and gave him battle, and won it with great slaughter and effusion of blood. But [as] for the king, no man could ever tell what became of him after. Thereupon Caesar made Cleopatra [the king's] sister, Queen of Egypt, who being great with child, was shortly brought to bed of a son, whom the Alexandrians named Caesarion.

Part Three

From thence he went into Syria, and so going into Asia, there it was told him that [Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus] was overthrown in battle, by Pharnaces, the son of King Mithridates, and was fled out of the realm of Pontus, with a few men with him; and that this King Pharnaces, greedily following his victory, was not contented with the winning of Bithynia, and Cappadocia, but further would needs attempt to win Lesser Armenia, procuring all those kings, princes, and governors of the provinces thereabouts to rebel against the Romans. Thereupon Caesar went thither straight with three legions, and fought a great battle with King Pharnaces, by the city of Zela, where he slew his army, and drove him out of all the realm of Pontus.

And because he would advertise one of his friends of the suddenness of this victory, he only wrote three words unto Anitius at Rome: "Veni, Vidi, Vici": to wit, "I came, I saw, I overcame [conquered]." These three words ending all with like sound and letters in the Latin, have a certain short grace, more pleasant to the ear, than can be well expressed in any other tongue.

After this, he returned again into Italy, and came to Rome, ending his year for the which he was made dictator the second time, which office before was never granted for one whole year, but unto him. Then he was chosen consul for the year following [46 B.C., with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus].

Narration and Discussion

Caesar's interest in, or obsession with, Cleopatra, has been explored by many artists and storytellers. Do you find the story romantic, or head-shaking?

Fun narration: If you could save a few books from a fire by swimming away with them (like Caesar), which ones would you take?

Lesson Ten


Part One covers an important battle in modern-day Tunisia. After Pompey's assassination in Egypt, his allies (the Optimates) had escaped to Roman territory in Africa, and had organized a resistance there. The force was led by Scipio and Marcus Cato the Younger, but involved others such as the two sons of Pompey, and King Juba of Numidia. Caesar and his troops landed in Africa in December of 47 B.C., and the Battle of Thapsus--a siege of the resistance army's stronghold there--took place in February.

In Part Two, we have a brief description of the last battle of the civil war: the Battle of Munda against the sons of Pompey.

Shakespeare Connections

Shakespeare's play opens on the day of Caesar's triumph after his victory over the sons of Pompey. "Knew you not Pompey?" demands the tribune Marullus. "And do you now cull out a holiday? / And do you now strew flowers in his way, / That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood?" Shakespeare combines this event with the Feast of Lupercal (in Lesson Eleven), at which Caesar is publicly offered, but refuses, a crown. The Lupercal was held in February, but the triumph had actually taken place in October.


puissant: powerful

predestined: fated, foretold

eftsoons: soon afterward

told him: it's not clear whether Caesar was talking to the eagle or to the ensign bearer

men would never have mistrusted: most would not have attempted

clemency: mercy

the commonwealth: Rome and its provinces and colonies


King Juba I (or Iuba): king of Numidia from 60-46 B.C.

Scipio Scallutius: Cornelius Scipio 'Salvito,' a relative of the Roman general Scipio Africanus (see notes for The Gracchi)

Afranius: Lucius Afranius, a former consul who supported Pompey

Quintus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Pedius: Caesar's generals in the Battle of Munda

Historic Occasions

46 B.C.: the year with three extra months, because of Caesar's change to the calendar

46 B.C.: the Battle of Thapsus

45 B.C.: the Battle of Munda


Part One

After the Battle of Pharsalus [Lessons Eight and Nine], Cato and Scipio being fled into Africa, King Juba joined with them, and levied a great puissant army. Wherefore Caesar determined to make war with them, and in the midst of winter, he took his journey into Sicily. There, because he would [remove] all hope from his captains and soldiers to make any long abode there, he went and lodged upon the very sands by the seaside, and with the next gale of wind that came, he took the sea with three thousand footmen, and a few horsemen. Then having put them a-land, unawares to them, he hoisted sail again, to go fetch the rest of his army, being afraid least they should meet with some danger in passing over, and meeting them midway, he brought them all into his camp.

Where, when it was told him that his enemies trusted in an ancient oracle, which said that it was predestined unto the family of the Scipios to be conquerors in Africa: either of purpose to mock Scipio the general of his enemies, or otherwise in good earnest to take the benefit of this name (given by the oracle) unto himself, in all the skirmishes and battles he fought, [Caesar] gave the charge of his army, unto a man of mean quality and account, called Scipio Sallutius, who came of the race of Scipio Africanus, and made him always his general when he fought.

For he was eftsoons compelled to weary and harry his enemies: for that neither his men in his camp had corn enough, nor his beasts forage, but the soldiers were driven to take seaweeds, called Alga; and (washing away the brackishness thereof with fresh water, putting to it a little herb called dog's tooth), to cast it so to their horse[s] to eat.

For the Numidians (which are light horsemen, and very ready of service) being a great number together, would be on a sudden in every place, and spread all the fields over thereabout, so that no man durst peep out of the camp to go for forage. And one day as the men of arms were staying to behold an African doing notable things in dancing, and playing with the flute: they being set down quietly to take their pleasure of the view thereof, having in the meantime given their slaves their horses to hold, the enemies stealing suddenly upon them, compassed them in round about, and slew a number of them in the field, and, chasing the other[s] also that fled, followed them pell-mell into their camp. Furthermore, had not Caesar himself, and Asinius Pollio with him, gone out of the camp to the rescue, and stayed them that fled: the war that day [would have] been ended.

There was also another skirmish where his enemies had the upper hand, in the which it is reported, that Caesar taking the ensign bearer by the collar that carried the Eagle in his hand, stayed him by force, and turning his face, told him: "See, there be thy enemies."

These advantages did lift up Scipio's heart aloft, and gave him courage to hazard battle: and leaving Afranius on the one hand of him, and King Juba on the other hand, both their camps lying near to other, he did fortify himself by the city of Thapsus, above the lake, to be a safe refuge for them all in this battle. But whilst he was busy entrenching of himself, Caesar having marvellous speed passed through a great country full of wood, by bypaths which men would never have mistrusted: he stole upon some behind, and suddenly assailed the other before, so that he overthrew them all, and made them flee. Then following this first good hap he had, he went forthwith to set upon the camp of Afranius, the which he took at the first onset, and the camp of the Numidians also, King Juba being fled. Thus in a little piece of the day only, he took three camps, and slew fifty thousand of his enemies, and lost but fifty of his soldiers. In this sort is set down the effect of this battle by some writers. Yet others do write also, that Caesar [him]self was not there in person at the execution of this battle. For as he did set his men in battle [ar]ray, the falling sickness took him, whereunto he was given, and therefore feeling it coming, before he was overcome withal, he was carried into a castle not far from thence, where the battle was fought, and there took his rest till the extremity of his disease had left him.

Part Two

After all these things were ended, [Caesar] was chosen consul the fourth time, and went into Spain to make war with the sons of Pompey: who were yet but very young, but had notwithstanding raised a marvellous great army together, and shewed to have had manhood and courage worthy to command such an army, insomuch as they put Caesar himself in great danger of his life.

The greatest battle that was fought between them in all this war, was by the city of Munda. For then Caesar seeing his men sorely distressed, and having their hands full of their enemies: he ran into the press among his men that fought, and cried out unto them: "What, are ye not ashamed to be beaten and taken prisoners, yielding yourselves with your own hands to these young boys?"

And so, with all the force he could make, having with much ado put his enemies to flight: he slew above thirty thousand of them in the field, and lost of his own men a thousand of the best he had. After this battle he went into his tent, and told his friends, that he had often before fought for victory, but this last time now, that he had fought for the safety of his own life. He won this battle on the very feast day of the Bacchanalians, in which men say, that Pompey the Great went out of Rome, about four years before, to begin this civil war. [As for Pompey's sons], the younger escaped from the battle; but within a few days after, Diddius brought the head of the elder. This was the last war that Caesar made.

But the triumph he made into Rome for the same, did as much offend the Romans, and more, than anything that ever he had done before: because he had not overcome captains that were strangers, nor barbarous kings, but had destroyed the sons of the noblest man in Rome, whom fortune had overthrown. And because he had plucked up his race by the roots, men did not think it meet for him to triumph so, for the calamities of his country, rejoicing at a thing for the which he had but one excuse to allege in his defence, unto the gods and men: that he was compelled to do that he did. And the rather they thought it not meet, because he had never before sent letters nor messengers unto the commonwealth at Rome, for any victory that he had ever won in all the civil wars: but did always for shame refuse the glory of it.

This notwithstanding, the Romans inclining to Caesar's prosperity, and taking the bit in the mouth, supposing that to be ruled by one man alone, it would be a good mean[s] for them to take breath a little, after so many troubles and miseries as they had abidden in these civil wars: they chose him perpetual dictator. This was a plain tyranny: for to this absolute power of dictator, they added this: never to be afraid to be deposed. Cicero propounded before the Senate, that they should give him such honours as were meet for a man: howbeit others afterwards added, honours beyond all reason. For, men striving who should most honour him, they made him hateful and troublesome to themselves that most favoured him, by reason of the unmeasurable greatness and honours which they gave him.

Thereupon, it is reported, that even they that most hated him, were no less favourers and furtherers of his honours, than they that most flattered him: because they might have greater occasions to rise, and that it might appear they had just cause and colour to attempt that [which] they did against him. And now for himself, after he had ended his civil wars, he did so honourably behave himself, that there was no fault to be found in him: and therefore methinks, amongst other honours they gave him, he rightly deserved this, that they should build him a temple of clemency, to thank him for his courtesy he had used unto them in his victory.

For he pardoned many of them that had borne arms against him, and furthermore, did prefer some of them to honour and office in the commonwealth: as amongst others, Cassius and Brutus, both [of] which were made praetors. And where Pompey's images had been thrown down, he caused them to be set up again: whereupon Cicero said then, that [in] Caesar setting up Pompey's images again, he made his own to stand the surer. And when some of his friends did counsel him to have a guard for the safety of his person, and some also did offer themselves to serve him: he would never consent to it, but said, it was better to die once, than always to be afraid of death.

Narration and Discussion

"For, men striving who should most honour him, they made him hateful and troublesome to themselves that most favoured him, by reason of the unmeasurable greatness and honours which they gave him." Is it possible to make someone an enemy by honouring him too much?

Why was Caesar's reaction after the Battle of Munda unusual?

Lesson Eleven


Now is a good time to review the things that Julius Caesar did over his long career, to see how things stood at the end of 45 B.C. Who were his friends and his enemies? How did the people of Rome feel about him? Now that the civil wars were over, what did he want or expect? (This could be dramatized as an interview.)


no place to repair unto: no home

preferments: appointments to high positions

an emulation with himself as with another man: Caesar was almost jealous of himself

magistrates of the commonwealth: rulers of Rome, elders of the people

tearing open his doublet collar: pulling back his toga

proof: test

preferred: proposed, nominated

appointed to be consul: this, obviously, never happened

jealousy: mistrust

pretended: intended

carrion: dead, decaying flesh


Brutus, who had in old time driven the kings out of Rome; the first Brutus: the ancestor of this Brutus; see Plutarch's Life of Publicola

Historic Occasions

44 B.C.: the conspiracy against Julius Caesar

Shakespeare Connections

"After that, there were set up images of Caesar in the city with diadems upon their heads, like kings. Those, the two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, went and pulled down: and furthermore, meeting with them that first saluted Caesar as king, they committed them to prison." Shakespeare uses this (and the tribunes) in Act I Scene I, where Flavius says, "Disrobe the images, / If you do find them deck'd with ceremonies . . .let no images / Be hung with Caesar's trophies." In Scene II, Casca mentions that the tribunes have been "put to silence" for doing so.

In Act I Scene II, Caesar tells Calpurnia to stand directly in Antonius' way when he runs past, and he tells Antonius to make sure he touches Calpurnia. The Lupercal was a fertility festival, and to touch one of the runners might help her bear a son and heir for Caesar.

Antonius says, "When Caesar says, 'Do this,' it is perform'd." When Caesar reformed the calendar, although it was an improvement to the former system, some people thought it was an additional example of his arrogance. Plutarch quoted Cicero, who once said that if Caesar said, "Tomorow the star Lyra will rise," the response should be "'Yea, at the commandment of Caesar,' as if men were compelled so to say and think, by Caesar's edict."

"Cassius finding Brutus' ambition stirred up the more by these seditious bills, did prick him forward, and egg him on the more, for a private quarrel he had conceived against Caesar." In Act I Scene II, Shakespeare brings this scene to life. In Act II Scene I, Brutus says, "Since Cassius first did whet me against Caesar, / I have not slept."

"As for those fat men and smooth combed heads," quoth he, "I never reckon of them: but these pale-visaged and carrion-lean people, I fear them most," meaning Brutus and Cassius. In Act I Scene II, Shakespeare writes "Let me have men about me that are fat, / Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. / Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, / He thinks too much; such men are dangerous."

During the Lupercal, Brutus hears shouting but doesn't see what happened. Afterwards he asks Casca for his narration of the events. "I saw Mark Antony offer him a crown--yet 'twas not a crown neither, 'twas one of these coronets . . ." Shakespeare adds a bit more drama to the scene by saying that Caesar then "fell down in the market-place, and foam'd at mouth, and was speechless"; and that (according to Casca) "he pluck'd me ope his doublet; and offer'd them his throat to cut." This is something that Plutarch describes just before the scene at the Lupercal, in Part Two.


Part One

But to win himself the love and good will of the people, as the honourablest guard and best safety he could have: [Julius Caesar] made common feasts again, and general distributions of corn. Furthermore, to gratify the soldiers also, he replenished many cities again with inhabitants, which before had been destroyed, and placed them there that had no place to repair unto: of the which the noblest and chiefest cities were these two, Carthage, and Corinth, and it chanced so, that like as aforetime they had been both taken and destroyed together, even so were they both set afoot again, and replenished with people, at one self time.

And as for great personages, he won them also, promising some of them, to make them praetors and consuls in time to come, and unto others, honours and preferments, but to all men generally good hope, seeking all the ways he could to make every man contented with his reign. The prosperous good success he had of his former conquests bred no desire in him quietly to enjoy the fruits of his labours, but rather gave him hope of things to come, still kindling more and more in him thoughts of greater enterprises, and desire of new glory, as if that which he had present, were stale and nothing worth. This humour of his was no other but an emulation with himself as with another man, and a certain contention to overcome the things he prepared to attempt. For he was determined, and made preparation also, to make war with the Persians . . .and so to enlarge the Roman Empire round, that it might be every way compassed in with the Great Sea Oceanum.

[Caesar had many other plans and ideas, some of which were carried out and some not. One idea that he did put into action was the reworking of the calendar.]

Part Two

But the chiefest cause that made him mortally hated, was the covetous desire he had to be called king: which first gave the people just cause, and next his secret enemies, honest colour to bear him ill will. This notwithstanding, they that procured him this honour and dignity, gave it out among the people that it was written in the prophecies, how the Romans might overcome the Parthians, if they made war with them, and were led by a king, but otherwise that they were unconquerable. And furthermore, they were so bold besides, that Caesar returning to Rome from the city of Alba, when they came to salute him, they called him king. But the people being offended, and Caesar also angry, he said he was not called king, but Caesar. Then every man keeping silence, he went his way heavy and sorrowful.

When they had decreed divers honours for him in the Senate, the consuls and praetors, accompanied with the whole assembly of the Senate, went unto him in the marketplace, where he was set by the pulpit for orations, to tell him what honours they had decreed for him in his absence. But he sitting still in his majesty, disdaining to rise up unto them when they came in, as if they had been private men, answered them: that his honours had more need to be cut off, than enlarged. This did not only offend the Senate, but the common people also, to see that he should so lightly esteem of the magistrates of the commonwealth: insomuch as every man that might lawfully go his way, departed thence very sorrowfully. Thereupon also Caesar rising, departed home to his house, and tearing open his doublet collar, making his neck bare, he cried out aloud to his friends that his throat was ready to offer to any man that would come and cut it. Notwithstanding, it is reported, that afterwards to excuse this folly, he imputed it to his disease, saying, that their wits are not perfect which have his disease of the falling evil, when standing of their feet they speak to the common people, but are soon troubled with a trembling of their body, and a sudden dimness and giddiness.

But that was not true. For he would have risen up to the Senate, but Cornelius Balbus one of his friends (but rather a flatterer) would not let him, saying: "What, do you not remember that you are Caesar, and will you not let them reverence you, and do their duties?"

Part Three

[The Feast of Lupercal was a Roman religious festival that included a foot race through the streets.]

Caesar sat to behold that sport upon the pulpit for orations, in a chair of gold, apparelled in triumphing manner. Antonius, who was consul at that time, was one of them that ran this holy course. So when he came into the marketplace, the people made a lane for him to run at liberty, and he came to Caesar, and presented him a diadem wreathed about with laurel. Whereupon there rose a certain cry of rejoicing, not very great, done only by a few, appointed for the purpose. But when Caesar refused the diadem, then all the people together made an outcry of joy. Then Antonius offering it him again, there was a second shout of joy, but yet of a few. But when Caesar refused it again the second time, then all the whole people shouted. Caesar having made this proof, found that the people did not like of it, and thereupon rose out of his chair, and commanded the crown to be carried unto Jupiter in the Capitol.

After that, there were set up images of Caesar in the city with diadems upon their heads, like kings. Those, the two tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, went and pulled down; and furthermore, meeting with them that first saluted Caesar as king, they committed them to prison. The people followed them rejoicing at it, and called them Brutes: because of Brutus, who had in old time driven the kings out of Rome, and that brought the kingdom of one person, unto the government of the Senate and people. Caesar was so offended withal, that he deprived Marullus and Flavius of their tribuneships, and accusing them, he spake also against the people, and called them Bruti and Cumani, to wit, beasts and fools. Hereupon the people went straight unto Marcus Brutus, who from his father came of the first Brutus, and by his mother, of the house of the Servilians, a noble house as any was in Rome, and was also nephew and son in law of [the late] Marcus Cato (the Younger). Notwithstanding, the great honours and favour Caesar shewed unto him, kept him back that of himself alone, he did not conspire nor consent to depose him of his kingdom.

For Caesar did not only save his life, after the Battle of Pharsalus when Pompey fled, and did at his request also save many more of his friends besides: but furthermore, he put a marvellous confidence in him. For he had already preferred him to the praetorship for that year; and furthermore was appointed to be consul, the fourth year after that, having through Caesar's friendship obtained it before Cassius, who likewise made suit for the same: and Caesar also, as it is reported, said in this contention: "Indeed Cassius hath alleged best reason, but yet shall he not be chosen before Brutus." Some [people] one day accusing Brutus [of practising] this conspiracy, Caesar would not hear of it, but clapping his hand on his body, told them, "Brutus will look for this skin": meaning thereby, that Brutus for his virtue, deserved to rule after him, but yet, that for ambition's sake, he would not shew himself unthankful nor dishonourable. Now they that desired change, and wished Brutus only their prince and governor above all other:[s] they durst not come to him themselves to tell him what they would have him to do, but in the night did cast sundry papers into the praetor's seat where he gave audience, most of them to this effect: "Thou sleepest Brutus, and art not Brutus indeed." Cassius finding Brutus' ambition stirred up the more by these seditious bills, did prick him forward, and egg him on the more, for a private quarrel he had conceived against Caesar: the circumstance whereof, we have set down more at large in Brutus' Life.

Caesar also had Cassius in great jealousy, and suspected him much: whereupon he said on a time to his friends, "What will Cassius do, think ye? I like not his pale looks. " Another time when Caesar's friends complained unto him of Antonius, and Dolabella, that they pretended some mischief towards him: he answered them again, "As for those fat men and smooth-combed heads," quoth he, "I never reckon of them: but these pale-visaged and carrion-lean people, I fear them most," meaning Brutus and Cassius.

Narration and Discussion

Did Caesar want to be a king? Was he already a king in everything but name?

Why did Caesar say that he distrusted pale, thin people?

Lesson Twelve


As you read the assassination scene, watch for differences between what you may have seen or read in other sources, and what Plutarch actually said (for instance, about Caesar's last words).

Not you too?

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar says "Et tu, Brute?" to Brutus, and those words are quoted today as an accusation to a traitorous friend. The historian Suetonius said that the remark was something like "You too, son?" But Plutarch said that when Caesar died, he had pulled his toga over his head, so nobody knows what his last words were.

Shakespeare Connections

In Act I Scene I, we have the famous scene with the soothsayer: "Beware the Ides of March!"

Act I Scene III begins on the evening before the murder, with Casca, breathless and fearful, describing some of the things he has seen. "Whoever knew the heavens menace so?" Cassius says to Casca that these natural or supernatural phenomena are all symbols of Caesar, "a man / Most like this dreadful night."

Acts II and III continue the story, and there are many points of comparison with Plutarch's text. Act IV begins with the dealings between Mark Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus; and then moves on to focus on Cassius and Brutus. The ghostly messenger ("the ghost of Caesar") appears to Brutus in Act IV, Scene III.

Cassius dies in Act V Scene III, and Brutus in Scene V. Shakespeare added his own dramatic ending, with Antonius and Octavius making speeches over the body of Brutus.


mortal: fatal, deadly

as though he would have said . . .: as if he wanted to say something about what had happened

Caesar's testament: his will

forms: benches

firebrands: torches

an ague: a fever

counsellors: those who planned the murder

dispatched him: killed him


Publius Servilius Casca Longus (84 BC - c. 42 BC): one of the assassins of Gaius Julius Caesar; see introductory notes

Metellus Cimber: the client that Caesar was representing, but who was also part of the conspiracy

Octavius Caesar the younger: later called Caesar Augustus

Historic Occasions

March 15, 44 B.C.: The Ides of March (the death of Julius Caesar)

October, 42 B.C.: the deaths of Gaius Cassius Longinus and Marcius Junius Brutus


Part One

Certainly, destiny may easier be foreseen than avoided: considering the strange and wonderful signs that were said to be seen before Caesar's death.

[Omitted for length: specific omens and happenings.]

Furthermore, there was a certain soothsayer that had given Caesar warning long time afore, to take heed of the day of the Ides of March (which is the fifteenth of the month), for on that day he should be in great danger. That day being come, Caesar going unto the Senate house, and speaking merrily to the soothsayer, told him. "The Ides of March be come." "So be they," softly answered the soothsayer, "but yet are they not past." And the very day before, Caesar supping with Marcus Lepidus, sealed certain letters as he was wont to do at the board: so talk falling out amongst them, reasoning what death was best: he preventing their opinions, cried out aloud, "Death unlooked for."

Then going to bed the same night as his manner was, and lying with his wife Calpumia, all the windows and doors of his chamber flying open, the noise awoke him, and made him afraid when he saw such light: but more, when he heard his wife Calpumia, being fast asleep, weep and sigh, and put forth many fumbling lamentable speeches. For she dreamed that Caesar was slain, and that she had him in her arms. Others also do deny that she had any such dream, as amongst other[s], Titus Livius writeth, that it was in this sort. The Senate having set upon the top of Caesar's house, for an ornament and setting forth of the same, a certain pinnacle: Calpumia dreamed that she saw it broken down, and that she thought she lamented and wept for it.

Insomuch that Caesar rising in the morning, she prayed him if it were possible, not to go out of the doors that day, but to adjourn the session of the Senate until another day. And if that he made no reckoning of her dream, yet that he would search further of the soothsayers by their sacrifices, to know what should happen him that day. Thereby it seemed that Caesar likewise did fear and suspect somewhat, because his wife Calpurnia until that time, was never given to any fear or superstition: and then, for that he saw her so troubled in mind with this dream she had. But much more afterwards, when the soothsayers having sacrificed many beasts one after another, told him that none did like them: then he determined to send Antonius to adjourn the session of the Senate.

[Decius Brutus Albinus, who was part of the conspiracy, came to Caesar's house and convinced him not to listen to the soothsayers, and that he needed to attend the Senate meeting. This might be an interesting place to incorporate the scene from Shakespeare's play.]

So Caesar coming into the house, all the Senate stood up on their feet to do him honour. Then part of Brutus' company and confederates stood round about Caesar's chair, and part of them also came towards him, as though they made suit with Metellus Cimber, to call home his brother again from banishment: and thus prosecuting still their suit, they followed Caesar, till he was set in his chair. Who, denying their petitions, and being offended with them one after another, because the more they were denied, the more they pressed upon him, and were the earnester with him: Metellus at length, taking his gown with both his hands, pulled it over his neck, which was the sign given the confederates to set upon him.

Then Casca behind him strake him in the neck with his sword, howbeit the wound was not great nor mortal, because it seemed, the fear of such a devilish attempt did amaze him, and take his strength from him, that he killed him not at the first blow. But Caesar turning straight unto him, caught hold of his sword, and held it hard: and they both cried out, Caesar in Latin: "O vile traitor Casca, what doest thou?" and Casca in Greek to his brother, "Brother, help me."

At the beginning of this stir, they that were present, not knowing of the conspiracy, were so amazed with the horrible sight they saw: that they had no power to flee, neither to help him, not so much as once to make any outcry. They on the other side that had conspired his death, compassed him in on every side with their swords drawn in their hands, that Caesar turned him nowhere, but he was stricken at by some, and still had naked swords in his face, and was hacked and mangled among them, as a wild beast taken of hunters. For it was agreed among them, that every man should give him a wound, because all their parts should be in this murder. Men report also, that Caesar did still defend himself against the rest, running every way with his body: but when he saw Brutus with his sword drawn in his hand, then he pulled his gown over his head, and made no more resistance.

Part Two

When Caesar was slain, the [senators] (though Brutus stood in the midst amongst them as though he would have said somewhat touching this fact) presently ran out of the house, and fleeing, filled all the city with marvellous fear and tumult. Insomuch as some did shut their doors, others forsook their shops and warehouses, and others ran to the place to see what the matter was: and others also that had seen it, ran home to their houses again. But Antonius and Lepidus, which were two of Caesar's chiefest friends, secretly conveying themselves away, fled into other men's houses, and forsook their own.

Brutus and his confederates on the other side, being yet hot with this murder they had committed, having their swords drawn in their hands, came all in a troop together out of the Senate, and went into the marketplace, not as men that made countenance to flee, but otherwise boldly holding up their heads like men of courage, and called to the people to defend their liberty, and stayed to speak with every great personage whom they met in their way. Of them, some followed this troop, and went amongst them, as if they had been of the conspiracy, and falsely challenged part of the honour with them: among them [were] Gaius Octavius and Lentulus Spinther. But both of them were afterwards put to death, for their vain covetousness of honour, by Antonius and Octavius Caesar the younger: and yet had no part of that honour for the which they were put to death, neither did any man believe that they were any of the confederates, or of counsel with them. For they that did put them to death, took revenge rather of the will they had to offend, than of any fact they had committed.

Part Three

The next morning, Brutus and his confederates came into the marketplace to speak unto the people, who gave them such audience, that it seemed they neither greatly reproved, nor allowed the fact: for by their great silence they showed, that they were sorry for Caesar's death, and also that they did reverence Brutus. Now the Senate granted general pardon for all that was past, and to pacify every man, ordained besides, that Caesar's funerals should be honoured as a god, and established all things that he had done: and gave certain provinces also, and convenient honours unto Brutus and his confederates, whereby every man thought all things were brought to good peace and quietness again.

But when they had opened Caesar's testament, and found a liberal legacy of money, bequeathed unto every citizen of Rome, and that they saw his body (which was brought into the marketplace) all bemangled with gashes of swords: then there was no order to keep the multitude and common people quiet, but they plucked up forms, tables, and stools, and laid them all about the body, and setting them a fire, burnt the corpse. Then when the fire was well kindled, they took the firebrands, and went unto their houses that had slain Caesar, to set them afire. Other also ran up and down the city to see if they could meet with any of them, to cut them in pieces: howbeit they could meet with never a man of them, because they had locked themselves up safely in their houses.

There was one of Caesar's friends called Cinna, that had a marvellous strange and terrible dream the night before. He dreamed that Caesar bade him to supper, and that he refused, and would not go: then that Caesar took him by the hand, and led him against his will. Now Cinna hearing at that time, that they burnt Caesar's body in the marketplace, notwithstanding that he feared his dream, and had an ague on him besides: he went into the marketplace to honour his funerals. When he came thither, one of mean sort asked what his name was? He was straight called by his name. The first man told it to another, and that other unto another, so that it ran straight through them all, that he was one of them that murdered Caesar: (for indeed one of the traitors to Caesar, was also called Cinna as himself) wherefore taking him for Cinna the murderer, they fell upon him with such fury, that they presently dispatched him in the marketplace.

This stir and fury made Brutus and Cassius more afraid, than of all that was past, and therefore within [a] few days after, they departed out of Rome: and touching their doings afterwards, and what calamity they suffered till their deaths, we have written it at large, in the Life of Brutus.

Caesar died at six and fifty years of age: and Pompey also lived not passing four years more than he. So he reaped no other fruit of all his reign and dominion, which he had so vehemently desired all his life, and pursued with such extreme danger: but a vain name only, and a superficial glory, that procured him the envy and hatred of his country. But his great prosperity and good fortune that favoured him all his lifetime, did continue afterwards in the revenge of his death, pursuing the murderers both by sea and land, till they had not left a man more to be executed, of all them that were actors or counsellors in the conspiracy of his death.

Part Four (Epilogue)

Furthermore, of all the chances that happen unto men upon the earth, that which came to Cassius above all other[s], is most to be wondered at. For he, being overcome in battle at the journey of Philippi, slew himself with the same sword with which he strake Caesar.

Again, of signs in the element, the great comet which seven nights together was seen very bright after Caesar's death, the eight[th] night after was never seen more. Also the brightness of the sun was darkened, the which all that year through rose very pale, and shined not out, whereby it gave but small heat: therefore the air being very cloudy and dark, by the weakness of the heat that could not come forth, did cause the earth to bring forth but raw and unripe fruit, which rotted before it could ripe[n].

But above all, the ghost that appeared unto Brutus shewed plainly, that the gods were offended with the murder of Caesar. The vision was thus: Brutus being ready to pass over his army from the city of Abydos, to the other coast lying directly against it, slept every night (as his manner was) in his tent, and being yet awake, thinking of his affairs: (for by report he was as careful a captain, and lived with as little sleep, as ever man did) he thought he heard a noise at his tent door, and looking towards the light of the lamp that waxed very dim, he saw a horrible vision of a man, of a wonderful greatness, and dreadful look, which at the first made him marvellously afraid. But when he saw that it did him no hurt, but stood by his bedside, and said nothing: at length he asked him what he was. The image answered him: "I am thy ill angel, Brutus, and thou shalt see me by the city of Philippi." Then Brutus replied again, and said: "Well, I shall see thee then." Therewithal, the spirit presently vanished from him.

After that time Brutus being in battle near unto the city of Philippi, against Antonius and Octavius Caesar, at the first battle he won the victory, and overthrowing all them that withstood him, he drave them into young Caesar's camp, which he took. The second battle being at hand, this spirit appeared again unto him, but spake never a word. Thereupon Brutus knowing he should die, did put himself to all hazard in battle, but yet fighting could not be slain. So seeing his men put to flight and overthrown, he ran unto a little rock not far off, and there setting his sword's point to his breast, fell upon it, and slew himself, but yet as it is reported, with the help of his friend, that dispatched him.

Narration and Discussion

The story of the life of Julius Caesar ends with Plutarch's pronouncement that "he reaped no other fruit of all his reign and dominion, which he had so vehemently desired all his life, and pursued with such extreme danger: but a vain name only, and a superficial glory, that procured him the envy and hatred of his country." Did Caesar end up with a vain name only?

Shakespeare turned his attention, at the end of the play, to Brutus, calling him "the noblest Roman of them all." This may be partly because he used Plutarch's Life of Brutus as extra source material for the play, and also to create a contrast with Caesar. In this Life, we have not heard much about Brutus, other than the fact that Caesar pardoned him for his support of Pompey. Is it surprising that Plutarch ended the story in this way?