History of Julius Caesar
History of Julius Caesar
II. CÆSAR'S EARLY YEARS
CAESAR does not seem to have been much disheartened and depressed by his misfortunes. He possessed in his early life more than the usual share of buoyancy and light-heartedness of youth, and he went away from Rome to enter, perhaps, upon years of exile and wandering, with a determination to face boldly and to brave the evils and dangers which surrounded him, and not to succumb to them.
Sometimes they who become great in their maturer years are thoughtful, grave, and sedate when young. It was not so, however, with Cæsar. He was of a very gay and lively disposition. He was tall and handsome in his person, fascinating in his manners, and fond of society, as people always are who know or who suppose that they shine in it. He had seemed, in a word, during his residence at Rome, wholly intent upon the pleasures of a gay and joyous life, and upon the personal observation which his rank, his wealth, his agreeable manners and his position in society secured for him. In fact, they who observed and studied his character in these early years, thought that, although his situation was very favorable for acquiring power and renown, he would never feel any strong degree of ambition to avail himself of its advantages. He was too much interested, they thought, in personal pleasures ever to become great, either as a military commander or a statesman.
Sylla, however, thought differently. He had penetration enough to perceive, beneath all the gayety and love of pleasure which characterized Cæsar's youthful life, the germs of a sterner and more aspiring spirit, which, he was very sorry to see, was likely to expend its future energies in hostility to him. By refusing to submit to Sylla's commands, Cæsar had, in effect, thrown himself entirely upon the other party, and would be, of course, in future identified with them. Sylla consequently looked upon him now as a confirmed and settled enemy. Some friends of Cæsar among the patrician families interceded in his behalf with Sylla again, after he had fled from Rome. They wished Sylla to pardon him, saying that he was a mere boy and could do him no harm. Sylla shook his head, saying that, young as he was, he saw in him indications of a future power which he thought was more to be dreaded than that of many Mariuses.
One reason which led Sylla to form this opinion of Cæsar was, that the young nobleman, with all his love of gayety and pleasure, had not neglected his studies, but had taken great pains to perfect himself in such intellectual pursuits as ambitious men who looked forward to political influence and ascendency were accustomed to prosecute in those days. He had studied the Greek language, and read the works of Greek historians; and he attended lectures on philosophy and rhetoric, and was obviously interested deeply in acquiring power as a public speaker. To write and speak well gave a public man great influence in those days. Many of the measures of the government were determined by the action of great assemblies of the free citizens, which action was itself, in a great measure, controlled by the harangues of orators who had such powers of voice and such qualities of mind as enabled them to gain the attention and sway the opinions of large bodies of men.
It most not be supposed, however, that this popular power was shared by all the inhabitants of the city. At one time, when the population of the city was about three millions the number of free citizens was only three hundred thousand. The rest were laborers, artisans, and slaves, who had no voice in public affairs. The free citizens held very frequent public assemblies. There were various squares and open spaces in the city where such assemblies were convened, and where courts of justice were held. The Roman name for such a square was forum. There was one which was distinguished above all the rest, and was called emphatically The Forum. It was a magnificent square, surrounded by