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CHARACTER OF JULIUS CÆSAR.
JULIUS CÆSAR had from the beginning a fortune full of exercise: which turned to his advantage : for it took away his pride and braced his sinews. A mind he had, in desires and affections turbulent, but in judgment and intellect very serene; as appears by the ease with which he delivered himself both in action and speech. For no man decided quicker, or spoke clearer : there was nothing embarrassed, nothing involved about him. But in will and appetite he was one who never rested in what he had got, but ever pressed forward to things beyond. And yet he was not hurried from one action to another by a humour of weariness, but made the transitions at the just periods : for he always brought his actions to the most perfect closes. And therefore he that after winning so many victories and making himself so secure did not despise the relics of civil war in Spain, but went in person to put an end to them; as soon as ever that last civil war was concluded and peace established everywhere, immediately set about an expedition against the Parthians. Greatness of mind he undoubtedly had in a very high degree; yet such as aspired more after personal aggrandisement than merit towards the public. For he referred everything to himself, and was himself the true and perfect centre of all his own actions: which was the cause of his singular and almost perpetual felicity. For he allowed neither country, nor religion, nor services, nor kindred, nor friendships, to be any hindrance or bridle to his purposes.
Neither was he much bent upon perpetuity; as one who neither established the state of affairs, nor founded or erected anything remarkable either in the way of building or institution; but as it were referred all things to himself. So also he confined his thoughts within the circle of his own times. Only his name he wished to make famous; because he thought he had himself some interest in that. And assuredly in his private wishes he cared more for power than reputation. For he sought reputation and fame not for themselves, but as instruments of power. By natural impulse therefore, not by any moral guiding, he aspired to the supreme authority; and aspired rather to possess it than to be thought worthy of it: a thing which gave him favour with the people, who had no dignity of their own; but with the nobles and great persons, who wished also to preserve their own dignity, procured him the reputation of covetousness and boldness. Wherein assuredly they were not far from the truth: for he was by nature extremely bold, and never showed any bashfulness except when he assumed it on purpose. And yet for all that, this boldness was so fashioned as neither to impeach him of rashness, nor to make him intolerable, nor to bring his nature into suspicion : but was thought to proceed from a simplicity of manners, and confidence, and the nobility of his birth. And the same held good in all things else, that he was taken to be by no means cunning or wily, but frank and veracious. And though he was in fact a consummate master of simulation and dissimulation, and made up entirely of arts, insomuch that nothing was left to his nature except what art had approved, nevertheless there appeared in him nothing of artifice, nothing of dissimulation; and it was thought that his nature and disposition had full play and that he did but follow the bent of them. Yet for the smaller and meaner artifices and precautions, to which men unskilled in affairs and depending not on their own strength but on help from without, are driven for the support of their authority, he was not at all beholden to these ; as being a man exceedingly expert in all human actions, and who managed all business of any consequence for himself, not by others. How to extinguish envy he knew excellently well; and thought it an object worth purchasing even by the sacrifice of dignity; and being in quest of real power, he was content during the whole course of his life to decline and put by all the empty show and pomp and circumstance of it: until at last, whether satiated with power or corrupted by flattery, he aspired likewise to the external emblems thereof, the name of king and the crown; which turned to his destruction. The sovereignty was the mark he aimed at even from his youth; the example of Sylla, the relationship of Marius, the emulation of Pompey, the corruptions and perturbation of the times, readily suggesting it to him. But he made himself a way to the sovereignty in a strange order; first by means of a power popular and seditious, afterwards by a power military and imperatorial. For at first he had to break the force and authority of the senate; during the maintenance of which no man could find a passage to immoderate and extraordinary commands. And after that, he had to overthrow the power of Crassus and Pompey, which could not be done except by arms. And therefore (as a most skilful carpenter of his own fortune) he raised the first structure by means of largesses, corruption of the courts of justice, revival of the memory of Caius Marius and his party (most of the senators and nobles being of the Syllan faction), agrarian laws, putting in of seditious tribunes, secret favouring of the madnesses of Catiline and his conspirators, banishment of Cicero, upon whose cause the authority of the senate turned, and a number of the like arts ; but most of all by the conjunction of Crassus and Pompey first with one another and then with himself, which completed it. Which part of his design being accomplished, he immediately addressed himself to the other; obtaining the proconsulship of Gaul for five years, and then again for another five years; and so making himself powerful in arms, legions, and a warlike and opulent province, in a position to threaten Italy. For he saw well that as soon as he had strengthened himself with arms and military power, neither Crassus nor Pompey would be a match for him; seeing that the one trusted to his wealth and the other to his fame and reputation; the one waxed old in years, the other in authority; neither had sound and vigorous safeguards to rest upon. All which things fell out to him according to his desire: the rather because he had the several senators and magistrates, and indeed all persons who had any power, so obliged and bound to himself by private benefits, that there was no danger of any combination being formed to oppose his designs, before he should openly invade the commonwealth. Which though he had always intended to do, and at last did, yet he did not put off his mask; but so carried himself that, what with the reasonableness of his demands, what with the pretence of a desire of peace, what with the moderate use of his successes, he turned the envy on the other party, and made it seem that he was driven for his own safety into a necessary war.
The hollowness of which pretence was clearly proved, when the civil wars being ended, and he being in possession of the sovereign power, and all the rivals that could cause him any anxiety being removed out of the way, yet he never once thought of restoring the commonwealth, no, nor cared to make so much as a pretence of doing it. Which plainly shows that the desire and purpose of obtaining the sovereignty had always been in him, and at last came out. For he did not merely seize an occasion that offered itself; himself made and shaped the occasions. It was in the business of war that his ability was most conspicuous; and so great it was, that he could not only lead an army but make one. For he was not more skilful in conducting actions than in the management of men's minds: and that not by any ordinary kind of discipline, that inured them to obey commands, or awakened a sense of shame, or enforced by severity; but one that inspired a wonderful ardour and alacrity, and won the battle almost before it began : and endeared him to the soldiery more than was good for a free commonwealth. Versed as he was moreover in every kind of war, and uniting civil arts with military, no accident took him so unexpectedly but he had a remedy prepared for it; nothing fell out so cross, but he dren some advantage from it. For his own person he had a due respect: as one that would sit in his tent during great battles and manage everything by messages. From which he deriveu a double advantage; first that he went seldomer into danger, and secondly that if ever the fortune of the day were going against him, his own presence was as good as a fresh reinforcement to restore the battle. And in his warlike arrangements and enterprises he did not conduct things merely according to precedent, but would invent with consummate judgment new devices framed to the occasion. In his friendships he was constant enough, and singularly kind and indulgent. And yet he made choice of such friends that it was easy to see that he meant their friendship to be an instrument and not an impediment. And since his aim both by nature and principle was not to be eminent among great men, but to command among followers, he chose for his friends men that were of mean condition, but industrious and active, to whom he might be all in all. Hence the saying “Let me die, so Cæsar live,” and the like. With nobles and equals he made friend
ships according to his occasions; but he admitted no man to intimacy except such whose hopes rested entirely in himself. In letters and learning he was moderately well accomplished, but it was that kind of learning which was of use in the business of life. For he was well versed in history, and had wonderful knowledge of the weight and point of words; and because he attributed much to his felicity, he affected to be learned in the stars. Eloquence he had also, natural and pure. To pleasures he was naturally inclined, and indulged freely in them ; which in his early times served the purpose of simulation; for no one feared any danger from such a disposition. But he so governed bis pleasures, that they were no hindrance to his interest and main business, and his mind was rather invigorated than made languid by them. At the table he was sober, in his lusts not particular, in public entertainments gay and magnificent. Such being the man, the same thing was his destruction at last which in the beginning was his advancement, I mean the desire of popularity. For there is nothing so popular as the forgiveness of enemies: and this it was which, whether it were virtue or art, cost him his life.