Notwithstanding the restoration of the Tribunate and the alteration in the judicial power in Pompey's Consulship, the popular party had received such a severe blow during Sulla's supremacy, that the aristocracy still retained the chief political influence during Pompey's absence in the East. But meantime a new leader of the popular party had been rapidly rising into notice, who was destined not only to crush the aristocracy, but to overthrow the Republic and become the undisputed master of the Roman world.
C. JULIUS CÆSAR, who was descended from an old Patrician family, was six years younger than Pompey, having been born in B.C. 100. He was closely connected with the popular party by the marriage of his aunt Julia with the great Marius, and he himself married, at an early age, Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, the most distinguished of the Marian leaders. Sulla commanded him to divorce his wife, and on his refusal he was included in the list of the proscription. The Vestal virgins and his friends with difficulty obtained his pardon from the Dictator, who observed, when they pleaded his youth and insignificance, "that that boy would some day or another be the ruin of the aristocracy, for that there were many Mariuses in him"
This was the first proof which Cæsar gave of the resolution and decision of character which distinguished him throughout life. He went to Asia in B.C. 81, where he served his first campaign under M. Minucius Thermus, and was rewarded, at the siege of Mitylene, with a civic crown for saving the life of a fellow-soldier. On his return to Rome he accused (B.C. 77) Cn. Dolabella of extortion in his province of Macedonia. Dolabella was acquitted by the senatorial judges; but Cæsar gained great reputation by this prosecution, and showed that he possessed powers of oratory which bade fair to place him among the foremost speakers at Rome. To render himself still more perfect in oratory, he went to Rhodes, which was then celebrated for its school of rhetoric, but in his voyage thither he was captured by pirates, with whom the seas of the Mediterranean then swarmed. In this island he was detained by them till he could obtain fifty talents from the neighboring cities for his ransom. Immediately on obtaining his liberty, he manned some Milesian vessels, overpowered the pirates, and conducted them as prisoners to Pergamus, where he shortly afterward crucified them - a punishment he had frequently threatened them with in sport when he was their prisoner. He then repaired to Rhodes, where he studied under Apollonius for a short time, but soon afterward crossed over into Asia, on the outbreak of the Mithridatic war in B.C. 74. Here, although he held no public office, he collected troops on his own authority, and repulsed the commander of the king, and then returned to Rome in the same year, in consequence of having been elected Pontiff during his absence. His affable manners, and, still more, his unbounded liberality, won the hearts of the people.
Cæsar obtained the Quæstorship in B.C. 68. In this year he lost his aunt Julia, the widow of Marius, and his own wife Cornelia. He pronounced orations over both of them in the forum, in which he took the opportunity of passing a panegyric upon the former leaders of the popular party. At the funeral of his aunt he caused the images of Marius to be carried in the procession: they were welcomed with loud acclamations by the people, who were delighted to see their former favorite brought, as it were, into public again.
Cæsar warmly supported the Gabinian and Manilian Laws, which bestowed upon Pompey the command against the pirates and Mithridates. These measures, as we have already seen, were opposed by the aristocracy, and widened still farther the breach between them and Pompey. In B.C. 65 Cæsar was Curule Ædile along with M. Bibulus, and still farther increased his popularity by the splendid games which he exhibited. He now took a step which openly proclaimed him the leader of the Marian party. He caused the statues of Marius and the Cimbrian trophies, which had been all destroyed by Sulla, to be privately restored and placed at night in the Capitol. In the morning the city was in the highest state of excitement; the veterans of Marius cried with joy at beholding his countenance once more, and greeted Cæsar with shouts of applause. Q. Catulus brought the conduct of Cæsar before the notice of the Senate, but the popular excitement was so great that they thought it better to let the matter drop.
In Cæsar's Ædileship the first Catilinarian conspiracy occurred, and from this time his history forms a portion of that of the times. But before passing on, the early life of another distinguished man, the greatest of Roman orators, also claims our notice.
M. TULLIUS CICERO was born at Arpinum in B.C. 106, and consequently in
the same year as Pompey. His father was of the Equestrian order, and
lived upon his hereditary estate near Arpinum, but none of his ancestors
had ever held any of the offices of state. Cicero was therefore,
according to the Roman phraseology, a New Man (see p.
Coin of Pompey