Caesar: a Sketch
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Caesar: a Sketch


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Title: Caesar: A Sketch
Author: James Anthony Froude
Release Date: July, 2005 [EBook #8425] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on July 9, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
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"Pardon, gentles all  The flat unraised spirit that hath dared  On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth  So great an object."
Map of GALLIA in the time of Caesar.
I have called this work a "sketch" because the materials do not exist for a portrait which shall be at once authentic and complete. The original authorities which are now extant for the life of Caesar are his own writi ngs, the speeches and letters of Cicero, the eighth book of the "Commentaries" on the wars in Gaul and the history of the Alexandrian war, by Aulus Hirtius, the accounts of the African war and of the war in Spain, composed by persons who were unquestionab ly present in those two campaigns. To these must be added the "Leges Juliae" which are preserved in the Corpus Juris Civilis. Sallust contributes a speech, and Catullus a poem. A few hints can be gathered from the Epitome of Livy and the fragments of Varro; and here the contemporary sources which can be entirely depended upon are brought to an end.
The secondary group of authorities from which the popular histories of the time have been chiefly taken are Appian, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Dion Cassius. Of these the first three were divided from the period which they describe by nearly a century and a half, Dion Cassius by more than two centuries. They had means of knowledge which no longer exist--the writings, for instance, of Asinius Pollio, who was one of Caesar's officers. But Asinius Pollio's accounts of Caesar's actions, as reported by Appian, cannot always be reconciled with the Commen taries; and all these four writers relate incidents as facts which are sometimes demonstrably false. Suetonius is apparently the most trustworthy. His narrative, like those of his contemporaries, was colored by tradition. His biographies of the earlier Caesars betray the same spirit of animosity against them which taints the credibility of Tacitus, and prevailed for so many years in aristocratic Roman society. But Suetonius shows nevertheless an effort at veracity, an antiquarian curiosity and diligence, and a serious anxiety to tell his story impartially. Suetonius, in the absence of evidence direct or presumptive to the contrary, I have felt myself able to follow. The other three writers I have trusted only when I have found them partially confirmed by evidence which is better to be relied upon.
The picture which I have drawn will thus be found deficient in many details which have passed into general acceptance, and I have been unable to claim for it a higher title than that of an outline drawing.
Free Constitutions and Imperial Tendencies.--Instructiveness of Roman History.--Character of Historical Epochs.--The Age of Caesar.--Spiritual State of Rome.--Contrasts between Ancient and Modern Civilization.
The Roman Constitution.--Moral Character of the Romans.--Roman Religion.--Morality and Intellect.--Expansion of Roman Power.--The Senate.--Roman Slavery.--Effects of Intercourse with Greece.--Patrician Degeneracy.--The Roman Noble.--Influence of Wealth.--Beginnings of Discontent.
Tiberius Gracchus.--Decay of the Italian Yeomanry.--Agrarian Law.--Success and Murder of Gracchus.--Land Commission.--Caius Gracchus.--Transfer of Judicial Functions from the Senate to the Equites.--Sempronian Laws.--Free Grants of Corn.--Plans for Extension of the Franchise.--New Colonies.-- Reaction.--Murder of Caius Gracchus
Victory of the Optimates.--The Moors.--History of Jugurtha.--The Senate corrupted.--Jugurthine War.--Defeat of the Romans.--Jugurtha co mes to Rome.--Popular Agitation.--The War renewed.--Roman Defeats in Afri ca and Gaul.--Caecilius Metellus and Caius Marius.--Marriage of Marius.--The Caesars.--Marius Consul.--First Notice of Sylla.--Capture and Death of Jugurtha
Birth of Cicero.--The Cimbri and Teutons.--German Immigration into Gaul.-- Great Defeat of the Romans on the Rhone.--Wanderings of the Cimbri.-- Attempted Invasion of Italy.--Battle of Aix.--Destruction of the Teutons.--Defeat of the Cimbri on the Po.--Reform in the Roman Army.-- Popular Disturbances in Rome.--Murder of Memmius.--Murder of Saturninus and Glaucia
Birth and Childhood of Julius Caesar.--Italian Franchise.--Discontent of the Italians.--Action of the Land Laws.--The Social War.--Partial Concessions.--Sylla and Marius.--Mithridates of Pontus.--First Mission of Sylla into Asia.
War with Mithridates.--Massacre of Italians in Asia.--Invasion of Greece.--Impotence and Corruption of the Senate.--End of the Social Wa r.-- Sylla appointed to the Asiatic Command.--The Assembly transfer the Command to Marius.--Sylla marches on Rome.--Flight of Marius.--Change of the Constitution.--Sylla sails for the East.--Four Years' Absence.--Defeat of Mithridates.--Contemporary Incidents at Rome.--Counter Revolution.-- Consulship of Cinna.--Return of Marius.--Capitulation of Rome.--Massacre of Patricians and Equites.--Triumph of Democracy.
The Young Caesar.--Connection with Marius.--Intimacy with the Ciceros.-- Marriage of Caesar with the Daughter of Cinna.--Sertorius.--Death of Cinna.--Consulships of Norbanus and Scipio.--Sylla's Return.--First Appearance of Pompey.--Civil War.--Victory of Sylla.--The Dictatorship and the Proscription.--Destruction of the Popular Party and Murder of the Popular Leaders.--General C haracter of Aristocratic Revolutions.--The Constitution remodelled.--Concentration of Power in the Senate.--
Sylla's General Policy.--The Army.--Flight of Sertorius to Spain.--Pompey and Sylla.--Caesar refuses to divorce his Wife at Sylla's Orde r.--Danger of Caesar.--His Pardon.--Growing Consequence of Cicero.--Defence of Roscius.--Sylla's Abdication and Death
Sertorius in Spain.--Warning of Cicero to the Patri cians.--Leading Aristocrats.--Caesar with the Army in the East.--Nicomedes of Bithynia.-- The Bithynian Scandal.--Conspiracy of Lepidus.--Caesar returns to Rome.-- Defeat of Lepidus.--Prosecution of Dolabella.--Caesar taken by Pirates.-- Senatoria l Corruption.--Universal Disorder.--Civil War in Spain.--Growth of Mediterranean Piracy.--Connivance of the Senate.--Provincial Administration.--Verres in Sici ly.--Prosecuted by Cicero.--Second War with Mithridates.--First Success of Lucullus.--Failure of Lucullus, and the Cause of it.--Avarice of Roman Commanders.--The Gladiators.--The Servile War.--Results of the Change in the Constitution introduced by Sylla
Caesar Military Tribune.--Becomes known as a Speake r.--Is made Quaestor.--Speech at his Aunt's Funeral.--Consulship of Pompey and Crassus.--Caesar marries Pompey's Cousin.--Mission to Spain.--Restoration of the Powers of the Tribunes.--The Equites and the Senate.--The Pirates.--Food Supplies cut off from Rome.--The Gabinian Law.--Resistance of the Patrici ans.-- Suppression of the Pirates by Pompey.--The Manilian Law.--Speech of Ci cero.--Recall of Lucullus.--Pompey sent to command in Asia.--Defeat and Death of Mithridates.--Conquest of Asia by Pompey
History of Catiline.--A Candidate for the Consulshi p.--Catiline and Cicero.--Cicero chosen Consul.--Attaches Himself to the Senatorial Party.--Caesar elected Aedile.--Conducts an Inquiry into the Syllan Proscriptions.--Prosecution of Rabirius.--Caesar becomes Pontifex Maximus--and Praetor.--Cicero's Conduct as Consul.--Proposed Agrarian Law.--Resisted by Cicero.--Catiline again stands for the Consulship.--Violent Language in the Senate.--Threatened Revolution.--Catiline again defeated.--The Conspiracy.--Warnings sent to Cicero.--Meeting at Catiline's House.--Speech of Cicero in the Senate.--Cataline joins an Army of Insurrection in Etruria.--His Fellow-conspirators.--Correspondence with the Allobroges.--Letters read in the Senate.--The Conspirators seized.-- Debate upon their Fate.--Speech of Caesar.--Caesar on a Future State.-- Speech of Cato--and of Cicero.--T he Conspirators executed untried.--Death of Catiline.
Preparations for the Return of Pompey.--Scene in the Forum.--Cato and Metellus.--Caesar suspended from the Praetorship.--Caesar supp orts Pompey.--Scandals against Caesar's Private Life.--General Character of them.--Festival of the Bona Dea.--Publius Clodius enters Caesar's House dressed as a Woman.--Prosecution and Trial of Clodius.--His Acquittal, and the Reason of it.--Successes of Caesar as Propraetor in Spain.--Conquest of Lusitania.--Return of Pompey to Italy.--First Speech in the Senate.-- Precarious Position of Cice ro.--Cato and the Equites.--
Caesar elected Consul.--Revival of the Democratic P arty.--Anticipated Agrarian Law.-- Uneasiness of Cicero.
The Consulship of Caesar.--Character of his Intended Legislation.--The Land Act first proposed in the Senate.--Violent Opposition.--Caesar appeals to the Assembly.--Interference of the Second Consul Bibulus.--The Land Act submitted to the People.--Pompey and Crassus support it.--Bibulus interposes, but without Success.--The Act carried--and other Laws.--The Senate no longer being Consulted.--General Purpose of the Leges Juliae.-- Caesar appointed to Command in Gaul for Five Years.--His Object in accepting that Province.--Condition of Ga ul, and the Dangers to be apprehended from it.--Alliance of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.--The Dynasts.--Indignation of the Aristocracy.--Threats to repeal Caesar's Laws.--Necessity of Controlling Cicero and Cato.--Clodius is made Tribune.--Prosecution of Cicero for Illegal Acts when Consul.--Cicero's Friends forsake him.--He flies, and is banished.
Caesar's Military Narrative.--Divisions of Gaul.--D istribution of Population.--The Celts.--Degree of Civilization.--Tribal System.--The Druids.--The AEdui and the Sequani.--Roman and German Parties.--Intended Migra tion of the Helvetii.--Composition of Caesar's Army.--He goes to Gaul.--Checks the Helvetii.--Returns to Italy for Larger Forces.--The Helvetii on the Saône.--Defeated, and sent back to Switzerland.--Invasion of Gaul by Ariovistus.--Caesar invites him to a Conference.--He refuses.-- Alarm in the Roman Army.--Caesar marc hes against Ariovistus.--Interview between them.--Treachery of the Roman Senate.--Great Battle at Colmar.--Defeat and Annihilation of the Germans.--End of the First Campaign.-- Confederacy among the Belgae.--Battle on the Aisne.--War with the Nervii.--Battle of Maubeuge.--Capture of Namur.--The Belgae conquered.-- Submissi on of Brittany.--End of the Second Campaign.
Cicero and Clodius.--Position and Character of Clod ius.--Cato sent to Cyprus.--Attempted Recall of Cicero defeated by Clodius.--Fight in the Forum.--Pardon and Return of Cicero.--Moderate Speech to the People.-- Violence in the Senate.--Abuse of Piso and Gabinius.--Coldness of the Senate toward Cicero.--Restoration of Cicero's House.--Interfered with by Clodius.--Factions of Clodius and Milo.--Ptolemy Auletes expelled by his Subjects.--Appeals to Rome for Help.--Alexandrian Envoys assassinated.-- Clodius elected aedile.--Fight in the Forum.--Parties in Rome.--Situation of Cicero.--Rally of the Aristocracy.--Attempt to repeal the Leges Juliae.--Conference at Lucca.--Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.--Cicero deserts the Senate.--Explains his Motives.--Confirmation of the Ordinanc es of Lucca.--Pompey and Crassus Consuls.--Caesar's Command prolonged for Fi ve Additional Years.--Rejoicings in Rome.--Spectacle in the Amphitheater.
Revolt of the Veneti.--Fleet prepared in the Loire.--Sea-fight at Quiberon.--Reduction of Normandy and of Aquitaine.--Complete Conquest of Gaul.--Fresh Arrival of Germans over the Lower Rhine.--Caesar orders them to retire, and promises them
Lands elsewhere.--They refuse to go--and are destroyed.--Bridge over the Rhine.--Caesar invades Germany.--Returns after a Short Inro ad.--First Expedition into Britain.--Caesar lands at Deal, or Walmer.--Storm and Injury to the Fleet.--Approach of the Equinox.-- Further Prosecution of the Enterprise postponed till the following Year.-- Caesar goes to Italy for the Winter.--Large Naval Preparations.--Return of Spring.--Alarm on the Moselle.--Fleet collects at Boulogne.--Caesar sails for Britain a Second Time.--Lands at Deal.--Second and more Des tructive Storm.--Ships repaired, and placed out of Danger.--Caesar marches through Kent.--Crosses the Thames, and reaches St. Albans.--Goes no further, and returns to Gaul.--Object of the Invasion of Britain.--Description of the Country and People.
Distribution of the Legions after the Return from B ritain.--Conspiracy among the Gallic Chiefs.--Rising of the Eburones.--Destruction of Sabinus, and a Division of the Roman Army.--Danger of Quintus Cicero.--Relieved by Caesar in Person.--General Disturbance.--Labienus attacked at Lavacherie.--Defeats and kills Induciomarus.--Second Conquest of the Belgae.--Caesar again crosses the Rhine.--Quintus Cicero in Danger a Second Time.--Courage of a Roman Office r.--Punishment of the Revolted Chiefs.--Execution of Acco.
Correspondence of Cicero with Caesar.--Intimacy with Pompey and Crassus.--Attacks on Piso and Gabinius.---Cicero compelled to defend Gabinius--and Vatinius.--Dissatisfaction with his Position.--Corruption at the Consular Elections.--Public Scandal.--Caesar and Pompey.--Deaths of Aurelia and Julia.--Catastrophe in the East.--Overthrow and Death of Crassus.-- Intrig ue to detach Pompey from Caesar.---Milo a Candidate for the Consulship.--Murder of Clodius.--Burning of the Senate-house.--Trial and Exile of Milo.--Fresh Engagements with Caesar.--Promise of the Consulship at the End of his Term in Gaul.
Last Revolt of Gaul.--Massacre of Romans at Gien.--Vercingetorix.--Effect on the Celts of the Disturbances at Rome.--Caesar crosses the Cevennes.-- Defeats the Arverni.--Joins his Army on the Seine.--Takes Gien, Nevers, and Bourges.--Fails at Gergovia.--Rapid March to Sens.--Labienus at Paris.--Battle of the Vingeanne.--Siege of Alesia.--Caesar's Double Lines.--Arrival of the Relieving Army of Gauls.--First Battle on the Plain.--Second Battle.--Great D efeat of the Gauls.--Surrender of Alesia.--Campaign against the Carnutes and the Bell ovaci.--Rising on the Dordogne.--Capture of Uxellodunum.--Caesar at Arras .--Completion of the Conquest.
Bibulus in Syria.--Approaching Term of Caesar's Gov ernment.--Threats of Impeachment.--Caesar to be Consul or not to be Cons ul?--Caesar's Political Ambition.--Hatred felt toward him by the Aristocracy.--Two Legions taken from him on Pretense of Service against the Parthians.--Caesar to be recalled before the Expiration of his Government.--Senatorial Intrigues.-- Curio deserts the Senate.--Labienus deserts Caesar.--Cicero in Cilicia.-- Retu rns to Rome.--Pompey
determined on War.--Cicero's Uncertainties.-- Resol ution of the Senate and Consuls.--Caesar recalled.--Alarm in Rome.-- Altern ative Schemes.--Letters of Cicero.--Caesar's Crime in the Eyes of the Optimates.
Caesar appeals to his Army.--The Tribunes join him at Rimini.--Panic and Flight of the Senate.--Incapacity of Pompey.--Fresh Negotiations.-- Advance of Caesar.--The Country Districts refuse to arm against him.-- Capture of Corfinium.--Release of the Prisoners.--Offers of Caesar.-- Continued Hesitation of Cicero.--Advises Pompey to make Peace.--Pompey, with the Senate and Consuls, flies to Greece.--Cicero's Reflections.-- Pompey to be another Sylla.--Caesar Mortal, and may die by more Means than one.
Pompey's Army in Spain.--Caesar at Rome.--Departure for Spain.--Marseilles refuses to receive him.--Siege of Marseilles.--Defeat of Pompey's Lieutenants at Lerida.--The whole Army made Prisoners.--Surrender of Varro.--Marseilles taken.--Defeat of Curio by King Juba in Africa.-- Caesar na med Dictator.--Confusion in Rome.--Caesar at Brindisi.--Crosses to Greece in Midwinter.--Again offers Peace.--Pompey's Fleet in the Adriatic.--Death of Bibulus.--Failure of Negotiations.--Caelius and Milo killed.--Arrival of Antony in Greece with the Second Division of Caesar's Army.--Siege of Durazzo.--Defeat and Retreat of Caesar.--The Senate and Pompey.--Pursuit of Caesar.--Battle of Pharsalia.--Flight o f Pompey.--The Camp taken.--Complete Overthrow of the Senatorial Faction.--Cicero on the Situation once more.
Pompey flies to Egypt.--State of Parties in Egypt.- -Murder of Pompey.--His Character.--Caesar follows him to Alexandria.--Rising in the City.-- Caesar besieged in the Palace.--Desperate Fighting.--Arrival of Mithridates of Pergamus.--Battle near Cairo, and Death of the Young Ptolemy.--Cleopatra.--The Detention of Caesar enables the Optimates to rally.--Ill Conduct of Caesar's Officers in Spain.--War with Pharnaces.-- Battle of Zela, and Settlement of Asia Minor.
The Aristocracy raise an Army in Africa.--Supported by Juba.--Pharsalia not to end the War.--Caesar again in Rome.--Restores Order.--Mutiny in Caesar's Army.--The Mutineers submit.--Caesar lands in Africa.-- Difficulties of the Campaign.--Battle of Thapsus.--No more Pardons.-- Afranius and Faustus Sylla put to Death.--Cato kills himself at Utica.-- Scipio killed.--Juba and Petreius die on each other's Swords.--A Scene in Caesar's Camp.
Rejoicings in Rome.--Caesar Dictator for the Year.--Reforms the Constitution.--Reforms the Calendar--and the Criminal Law.-- Dissa tisfaction of Cicero.--Last Efforts in Spain of Labienus and the Young Pompeys.--Caesar goes thither in Person, accompanied by Octavius.-- Caesar's Last Ba ttle at Munda.--Death of Labienus.--Capture of Cordova.-- Close of the Civil War.--General Reflections.
Caesar once more in Rome.--General Amnesty.--The Surviving Optimates pretend to submit.--Increase in the Number of Senators.--Introduction of Foreigners.--New Colonies.--Carthage.--Corinth.--Sumptuary Regulations.-- Digest of the Law.--Intended Parthian War.--Honors heaped on Caesar.--The Object of them.--Caesar's Indifference.--Some Consolations.--Hears of Conspiracies, but disregards them.--Speculations of Cicero in the Last Stage of the War.--Speech in the Senate.--A Contrast, and the Meaning of it.--The Kingship.--Antony offers Caesar the Crown, which Caesar refuses.--The Assassins.--Who they were.--Brutus and Cassius.--Two Officers of Caesar's among them.--Warnings.--Meetin g of the Conspirators.--Caesar's Last Evening.--The Ides of March.--The Senate-house.--Caesar killed.
Consternation in Rome.--The Conspirators in the Capitol.--Unforeseen Difficulties.--Speech of Cicero.--Caesar's Funeral.--Speech of Antony.-- Fury of the People.--The Funeral Pile in the Forum.--The King is dead, but t he Monarchy survives.--Fruitlessness of the Murder.--Octavius and Antony.--Union of Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus.--Proscription of the Assassins.--Philippi, and the end of Brutus and Cassius.--Death of Cicero.--His Character.
General Remarks on Caesar.--Mythological Tendencies.--Supposed Profligacy of Caesar.--Nature of the Evidence.--Servilia.--Cleopatra.--Personal Appearance of Caesar.--His Manners in Private Life.--Considerations upon him as a Politician, a Soldier, and a Man of Letters.--Practical Justice his Chief Aim as a Politician.--Universality of Military Genius.--Devotion of his Army to him, how deserved.--Art of reconciling Conquered Peoples.--General Scrupulousn ess and Leniency.--Oratorical and Literary Style.--Cicero's Description of it.--His Lost Works.--Cato's Judgment on the Civil War.--How Caesar should be estimated.--Legend of Charles V.-- Spiritual Condition of the Age in which Caesar lived.--His Work on Earth to establish Order and Good Government, to make possib le the Introduction of Christianity.--A Parallel.
To the student of political history, and to the English student above all others, the conversion of the Roman Republic into a military empire commands a peculiar interest. Notwithstanding many differences, the English and the Romans essentially resemble one another. The early Romans possessed the faculty of self-government beyond any people of whom we have historical knowledge, with the one exception of ourselves. In virtue of their temporal freedom, they became the most powerful
nation in the known world; and their liberties perished only when Rome became the mistress of conquered races, to whom she was unable or unwilling to extend her privileges. If England was similarly supreme, if all rival powers were eclipsed by her or laid under her feet, the Imperial tendencies, which are as strongly marked in us as our love of liberty, might lead us over the same course to the same end. If there be one lesson which history clearly teaches, it is this, that free nations cannot govern subject provinces. If they are unable or unwilling to admit their dependencies to share their own constitution, the constitution itse lf will fall in pieces from mere incompetence for its duties.
We talk often foolishly of the necessities of things, and we blame circumstances for the consequences of our own follies and vices; but there are faults which are not faults of will, but faults of mere inadequacy to some unforeseen position. Human nature is equal to much, but not to everything. It can rise to altitudes where it is alike unable to sustain itself or to retire from them to a safer elevation. Yet when the field is open it pushes forward, and moderation in the pursuit of greatness is never learnt and never will be learnt. Men of genius are governed by their instinct; they follow where instinct leads them; and the public life of a nation is but the life of successive generations of statesmen, whose horizon is bounded, and who act from day to day as immediate interests suggest. The popular leader of the hour sees some present difficulty or present opportunity of distinction. H e deals with each question as it arises, leaving future consequences to those who are to come after him. The situation changes from period to period, and tenden cies are generated with an accelerating force, which, when once established, can never be reversed. When the control of reason is once removed, the catastrophe is no longer distant, and then nations, like all organized creations, all forms of life, from the meanest flower to the highest human institution, pass through the inevitably recurring stages of growth and transformation and decay. A commonwealth, says Cicero, ought to be immortal, and for ever to renew its youth. Yet commonwealths have proved as unenduring as any other natural object:
 Everything that grows  Holds in perfection but a little moment,  And this huge state presenteth nought but shows,  Whereon the stars in silent influence comment.
Nevertheless, "as the heavens are high above the earth, so is wisdom above folly." Goethe compares life to a game at whist, where the cards are dealt out by destiny, and the rules of the game are fixed: subject to these conditions, the players are left to win or lose, according to their skill or want of skill. The life of a nation, like the life of a man, may be prolonged in honor into the fulness o f its time, or it may perish prematurely, for want of guidance, by violence or i nternal disorders. And thus the history of national revolutions is to statesmanship what the pathology of disease is to the art of medicine. The physician cannot arrest th e coming on of age. Where disease has laid hold upon the constitution he cannot expel it. But he may check the progress of the evil if he can recognize the symptoms in time. He can save life at the cost of an unsound limb. He can tell us how to preserve our health when we have it; he can warn us of the conditions under which particular disorders will have us at disadvantage. And so with nations: amidst the endle ss variety of circumstances there are constant phenomena which give notice of approaching danger; there are courses of action which have uniformly produced the same results; and the wise
politicians are those who have learnt from experience the real tendencies of things, unmisled by superficial differences, who can shun the rocks where others have been wrecked, or from foresight of what is coming can be cool when the peril is upon them.
For these reasons, the fall of the Roman Republic is exceptionally instructive to us. A constitutional government the most enduring and the most powerful that ever existed was put on its trial, and found wanting. We see it in its growth; we see the causes which undermined its strength. We see attemp ts to check the growing mischief fail, and we see why they failed. And we see, finally, when nothing seemed so likely as complete dissolution, the whole system changed by a violent operation, and the dying patient's life protracted for further centuries of power and usefulness.
Again, irrespective of the direct teaching which we may gather from them, particular epochs in history have the charm for us which dramas have-- periods when the great actors on the stage of life stand before us with th e distinctness with which they appear in the creations of a poet. There have not been many such periods; for to see the past, it is not enough for us to be able to loo k at it through the eyes of contemporaries; these contemporaries themselves must have been parties to the scenes which they describe. They must have had full opportunities of knowledge. They must have had eyes which could see things in their true proportions. They must have had, in addition, the rare literary powers which can convey to others through the medium of language an exact picture of their own minds; and such happy combinations occur but occasionally in thousands of years. Generation after generation passes by, and is crumbled into sand as rocks are crumbled by the sea. Each brought with it its heroes and its villains, its triumphs and its sorrows; but the history is formless legend, incredible and unintelligible; the figures of the actors are indistinct as the rude ballad or ruder inscription, which may be the only authentic record of them. We do not see the men and women, we see only the outlines of them which have been woven into tradition as they appeared to the loves or hatreds of passionate admirers or enemies. Of such times we know nothing, save the broad results as they are measured from century to century, with here and there some indestructible pebble, some law, some fragment of remarkable poetry which has resisted decomposition. These periods are the proper subject of the philosophic historian, and to him we leave them. But there are others, a few, at which intellectual activity was as great as it is now, with its writte n records surviving, in which the passions, the opinions, the ambitions of the age are all before us, where the actors in the great drama speak their own thoughts in their own words, where we hear their enemies denounce them and their friends praise them; where we are ourselves plunged amidst the hopes and fears of the hour, to feel the conflicting emotions and to sympathize in the struggles which again seem to live: and here philosophy is at fault. Philosophy, when we are face to face with real men, is as powerless as over the Iliad or King Lear. The overmastering human interest transcends explanation. We do not sit in judgment on the right or the wrong; we do not seek out causes to account for what takes place, feeling too conscious of the inadequacy of our analysis. We see human beings possessed by different impulses, and working out a pre-ordained result, as the subtle forces drive each along the path marked out for him; and history becomes the more impressive to us where it least immediately instructs.
With such vividness, with such transparent clearness, the age stands before us of