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Chapters 27-51


Chapter 27 Not far from Alexandria lies Delta, the most celebrated province of Egypt, which derives its name from the Greek letter so called. For the Nile, dividing into two channels, which gradually diverge as they approach the sea, into which they at last discharge themselves, at a considerable distance from one another, leaves an intermediate space in form of a triangle. The king understanding that Mithridates was approaching this place, and knowing he must pass the river, sent a large body of troops against him, sufficient, as he thought, if not to overwhelm and crush him, at least to stop his march, for though he earnestly desired to see him defeated, yet he thought it a great point gained, to hinder his junction with Caesar. The troops that first passed the river, and came up with Mithridates, attacked him immediately, hastening to snatch the honor of victory from the troops that were marching to their aid. Mithridates at first confined himself to the defense of his camp, which he had with great prudence fortified according to the custom of the Romans: but observing that they advanced insolently and without caution, he sallied upon them from all parts, and put a great number of them to the sword; insomuch that, but for their knowledge of the ground, and the neighborhood of the vessels in which they had passed the river, they must have been all destroyed. But recovering by degrees from their terror, and joining the troops that followed them, they again prepared to attack Mithridates.

Chapter 28 A messenger was sent by Mithridates to Caesar, to inform him of what had happened. The king learns from his followers that the action had taken place. Thus, much about the same time, Ptolemy set out to crush Mithridates, and Caesar to relieve him. The king made use of the more expeditious conveyance of the Nile, where he had a large fleet in readiness. Caesar declined the navigation of the river, that he might not be obliged to engage the enemy's fleet; and coasting along the African shore, found means to join the victorious troops of Mithridates, before Ptolemy could attack him. The king had encamped in a place fortified by nature, being an eminence surrounded on all sides by a plain. Three of its sides were secured by various defenses. One was washed by the river Nile, the other was steep and inaccessible, and the third was defended by a morass.

Chapter 29 Between Ptolemy's camp and Caesar's route lay a narrow river with very steep banks, which discharged itself into the Nile. This river was about seven miles from the king's camp; who, understanding that Caesar was directing his march that way, sent all his cavalry, with a choice body of light-armed foot, to prevent Caesar from crossing, and maintain an unequal fight from the banks, where courage had no opportunity to exert itself, and cowardice ran no hazard. Our men, both horse and foot, were extremely mortified, that the Alexandrians should so long maintain their ground against them. Wherefore, some of the German cavalry, dispersing in quest of a ford, found means to swim the river where the banks were lowest; and the legionaries at the same time cutting down several large trees, that reached from one bank to another, and constructing suddenly a mound, by their help got to the other side. The enemy were so much in dread of their attack, that they betook themselves to flight; but in vain: for very few returned to the king, almost all being cut to pieces in the pursuit.

Chapter 30 Caesar, upon this success, judging that his sudden approach must strike great terror into the Alexandrians, advanced toward their camp with his victorious army. But finding it well intrenched, strongly fortified by nature, and the ramparts covered with armed soldiers, he did not think proper that his troops, who were very much fatigued both by their march and the late battle, should attack it; and therefore encamped at a small distance from the enemy. Next day he attacked a fort, in a village not far off, which the king had fortified and joined to his camp by a line of communication, with a view to keep possession of the village. He attacked it with his whole army, and took it by storm; not because it would have been difficult to carry it with a few forces; but with the design of falling immediately upon the enemy's camp, during the alarm which the loss of this fort must give them. Accordingly, the Romans, in continuing the pursuit of those that fled from the fort, arrived at last before the Alexandrian camp, and commenced a most furious action at a distance. There were two approaches by which it might be attacked; one by the plain, of which we have spoken before, the other by a narrow pass, between their camp and the Nile. The first, which was much the easiest, was defended by a numerous body of their best troops; and the access on the side of the Nile gave the enemy great advantage in distressing and wounding our men; for they were exposed to a double shower of darts: in front from the rampart, behind from the river; where the enemy had stationed a great number of ships, furnished with archers and slingers, that kept up a continual discharge.

Chapter 31 Caesar, observing that his troops fought with the utmost ardor, and yet made no great progress, on account of the disadvantage of the ground; and perceiving they had left the highest part of their camp unguarded, because, it being sufficiently fortified by nature, they had all crowded to the other attacks, partly to have a share in the action, partly to be spectators of the issue; he ordered some cohorts to wheel round the camp, and gain that ascent: appointing Carfulenus to command them, a man distinguished for bravery and acquaintance with the service. When they had reached the place, as there were but very few to defend it, our men attacked them so briskly that the Alexandrians, terrified by the cries they heard behind them, and seeing themselves attacked both in front and rear, fled in the utmost consternation on all sides. Our men, animated by the confusion of the enemy, entered the camp in several places at the same time, and running down from the higher ground, put a great number of them to the sword. The Alexandrians, endeavoring to escape, threw themselves in crowds over the rampart in the quarter next the river. The foremost tumbling into the ditch, where they were crushed to death, furnished an easy passage for those that followed. It is ascertained that the king escaped from the camp, and was received on board a ship; but by the crowd that followed him, the ship in which he fled was overloaded and sunk.

Chapter 32 After this speedy and successful action, Caesar, in consequence of so great a victory, marched the nearest way by land to Alexandria with his cavalry, and entered triumphant into that part of the town which was possessed by the enemy's guards. He was not mistaken in thinking that the Alexandrians, upon hearing of the issue of the battle, would give over all thoughts of war. Accordingly, as soon as he arrived, he reaped the just fruit of his valor and magnanimity. For all the multitude of the inhabitants, throwing down their arms, abandoning their works, and assuming the habit of suppliants, preceded by all those sacred symbols of religion with which they were wont to mollify their offended kings, met Caesar on his arrival and surrendered. Caesar, accepting their submission, and encouraging them, advanced through the enemy's works into his own quarter of the town, where he was received with the universal congratulations of his party, who were no less overjoyed at his arrival and presence, than at the happy issue of the war.

Chapter 33 Caesar, having thus made himself master of Alexandria and Egypt, lodged the government in the hands of those to whom Ptolemy had bequeathed it by will, conjuring the Roman people not to permit any change. For the eldest of Ptolemy's two sons being dead, Caesar settled the kingdom upon the youngest, in conjunction with Cleopatra, the elder of the two sisters, who had always continued under his protection and guardianship. The younger, Arsinoe, in whose name Ganymed, as we have seen, tyrannically reigned for some time he thought proper to banish the kingdom, that she might not raise any new disturbance, through the agency of seditious men, before the king's authority should be firmly established. Taking the sixth veteran legion with him into Syria, he left the rest in Egypt to support the authority of the king and queen, neither of whom stood well in the affections of their subjects, on account of their attachment to Caesar, nor could be supposed to have given any fixed foundation to their power, in an administration of only a few days' continuance. It was also for the honor and interest of the republic that if they continued faithful our forces should protect them; but if ungrateful that they should be restrained by the same power. Having thus settled the kingdom, he marched by land into Syria.

Chapter 34 While these things passed in Egypt, king Deiotarus applied to Domitius Calvinus, to whom Caesar had intrusted the government of Asia and the neighboring provinces, beseeching him "not to suffer the Lesser Armenia which was his kingdom, or Cappadocia, which belonged to Ariobarzanes, to be seized and laid waste by Pharnaces, because, unless they were delivered from these insults, it would be impossible for them to execute Caesar's orders, or raise the money they stood engaged to pay." Domitius, who was not only sensible of the necessity of money to defray the expenses of the war, but likewise thought it dishonorable to the people of Rome and the victorious Caesar, as well as infamous to himself, to suffer the dominions of allies and friends to be usurped by a foreign prince, sent embassadors to Pharnaces, to acquaint him, "That he must withdraw immediately from Armenia and Cappadocia, and no longer insult the majesty and right of the Roman people, while engaged in a civil war." But believing that his deputation would have greater weight, if he was ready to second it himself at the head of an army; he repaired to the legions which were then in Asia, ordering two of them into Egypt, at Caesar's desire, and carrying the thirty-sixth: along with him. To the thirty-sixth legion Deiotarus added two more, which he had trained up for several years, according to our discipline; and a hundred horse. The like number of horse were furnished by Ariobarzanes. At the same time, he sent P. Sextius to C. Plaetorius the questor, for the legion which had been lately levied in Pontus; and Quinctius Partisius into Cilicia, to draw thence a body of auxiliary troops. All these forces speedily assembled at Comana, by orders of Domitius.

Chapter 35 Meanwhile his embassadors bring back the following answer from Pharnaces: "That he had quitted Cappadocia; but kept possession of the Lesser Armenia, as his own, by right of inheritance: that he was willing, however, to submit every thing to the decision of Caesar, to whose commands he would pay immediate obedience." C. Domitius, sensible that he had quitted Cappadocia, not voluntarily, but out of necessity; because he could more easily defend Armenia, which lay contiguous to his own kingdom, than Cappadocia, which was more remote: and because believing, at first, that Domitius had brought all the three legions along with him, upon hearing that two were gone to Caesar, he seemed more determined to keep possession; and insisted "upon his quitting Armenia likewise, as the same right existed in both cases; nor was it just to demand that the matter should be postponed till Caesar's return, unless things were put in the condition in which they were at first." Having returned this answer, he advanced toward Armenia, with the forces above-mentioned, directing his march along the hills; for from Pontus, by way of Comana, runs a woody ridge of hills, that extends as far as Lesser Armenia, dividing it from Cappadocia. The advantages he had in view, by such a march, were, that he would thereby effectually prevent all surprises, and be plentifully supplied with provisions from Cappadocia.

Chapter 36 Meantime Pharnaces sends several embassies to Domitius to treat of peace, bearing royal gifts. All these he firmly rejected, telling the deputies: "That nothing was more sacred with him, than the majesty of the Roman people, and recovering the rights of their allies." After long and continued marches, he reached Nicopolis (which is a city of Lesser Armenia, situated in a plain, having mountains, however, on its two sides, at a considerable distance), and encamped about seven miles from the town. Between his camp and Nicopolis, lay a difficult and narrow pass, where Pharnaces placed a chosen body of foot, and all his horse, in ambuscade. He ordered a great number of cattle to be dispersed in the pass, and the townsmen and peasants to show themselves, that if Domitius entered the defile as a friend, he might have no suspicion of an ambuscade, when he saw the men and flocks dispersed, without apprehension, in the fields; or if he should come as an enemy, that the soldiers, quitting their ranks to pillage, might be cut to pieces when dispersed.

Chapter 37 While this design was going forward, he never ceased sending embassadors to Domitius, with proposals of peace and amity, fancying, by this means, the more easy to ensnare him. The expectation of peace kept Domitius in his camp; so that Pharnaces, having missed the opportunity, and fearing the ambuscade might be discovered, drew off his troops. Next day Domitius approached Nicopolis, and encamped near the town. While our men were working at the trenches, Pharnaces drew up his army in order of battle, forming his front into one line, according to the custom of the country, and securing his wings with a triple body of reserves. In the same manner, the center was formed in single files, and two intervals were left on the right and left. Domitius, ordering part of the troops to continue under arms before the rampart, completed the fortifications of his camp.

Chapter 38 Next night, Pharnaces, having intercepted the couriers who brought Domitius an account of the posture of affairs at Alexandria, understood that Caesar was in great danger, and requested Domitius to send him succors speedily, and come himself to Alexandria by the way of Syria. Pharnaces, upon this intelligence, imagined that protracting the time would be equivalent to a victory, because Domitius, he supposed, must very soon depart. He therefore dug two ditches, four feet deep, at a moderate distance from each other, on that side where lay the easiest access to the town and our forces might, most advantageously, attack him; resolving not to advance beyond them. Between these, he constantly drew up his army, placing all his cavalry upon the wings without them, which greatly exceeded ours in number, and would otherwise have been useless.

Chapter 39 Domitius, more concerned at Caesar's danger than his own, and believing he could not retire with safety, should he now desire the conditions he had rejected, or march away without any apparent cause, drew his forces out of the camp, and ranged them in order of battle. He placed the thirty-sixth legion on the right, that of Pontus on the left, and those of Deiotarus in the main body; drawing them up with a very narrow front, and posting the rest of the cohorts to sustain the wings. The armies being thus drawn up on each side, they advanced to the battle.

Chapter 40 The signal being given at the same time by both parties, they engage. The conflict was sharp and various, for the thirty-sixth legion falling upon the king's cavalry, that was drawn up without the ditch, charged them so successfully, that they drove them to the very walls of the town, passed the ditch, and attacked their infantry in the rear. But on the other side, the legion of Pontus having given way, the second line, which advanced to sustain them, making a circuit round the ditch, in order to attack the enemy in flank, was overwhelmed and borne down by a shower of darts, in endeavoring to pass it. The legions of Deiotarus made scarcely any resistance; thus the victorious forces of the king turned their right wing and main body against the thirty-sixth legion, which yet made a brave stand; and though surrounded by the forces of the enemy, formed themselves into a circle, with wonderful presence of mind, and retired to the foot of a mountain, whither Pharnaces did not think fit to pursue them, on account of the disadvantage of the place. Thus the legion of Pontus being almost wholly cut off, with great part of those of Deiotarus, the thirty-sixth legion retreated to an eminence, with the loss of about two hundred and fifty men. Several Roman knights, of illustrious rank, fell in this battle. Domitius, after this defeat, rallied the remains of his broken army, and retreated, by safe ways, through Cappadocia, into Asia.

Chapter 41 Pharnaces, elated with this success, as he expected that Caesar's difficulties would terminate as he Chapter Pharnaces wished, entered Pontus with all his forces. There, acting as conqueror and a most cruel king, and promising himself a happier destiny than his father, he stormed many towns, and seized the effects of the Roman and Pontic citizens, inflicted punishments, worse than death, upon such as were distinguished by their age or beauty, and having made himself master of all Pontus, as there was no one to oppose his progress, boasted that he had recovered his father's kingdom.

Chapter 42 About the same time, we received a considerable check in Illyricum; which province, had been defended the preceding months, not only without insult, but even with honor. For Caesar's quaestor, Q. Cornificius, had been sent there as propraetor, the summer before, with two legions; and though it was of itself little able to support an army, and at that time in particular was almost totally ruined by the war in the vicinity, and the civil dissensions; yet, by his prudence, and vigilance, being very careful not to undertake any rash expedition, he defended and kept possession of it. For he made himself master of several forts, built on eminences, whose advantageous situation tempted the inhabitants to make descents and inroads upon the country; and gave the plunder of them to his soldiers (and although this was but inconsiderable, yet as they were no strangers to the distress and ill condition of the province, they did not cease to be grateful; the rather as it was the fruit of their own valor). And when, after the battle of Pharsalia, Octavius had retreated to that coast with a large fleet; Cornificius, with some vessels of the inhabitants of Jadua, who had always continued faithful to the commonwealth, made himself master of the greatest part of his ships, which, joined to those of his allies, rendered him capable of sustaining even a naval engagement. And while Caesar, victorious, was pursuing Pompey to the remotest parts of the earth; when he Chapter Cornificius heard that the enemy had, for the most part, retired into Illyricum, on account of its neighborhood to Macedonia, and were there collecting such as survived the defeat Chapter at Pharsalia , he wrote to Gabinius, "To repair directly thither, with the new raised legions, and join Cornificius, that if any danger should assail the province, he might ward it off, but if less forces sufficed, to march into Macedonia, which he foresaw would never be free from commotions, so long as Pompey lived."

Chapter 43 Gabinius, whether he imagined the province better provided than it really was, or depended much upon the auspicious fortune of Caesar, or confided in his own valor and abilities, he having often terminated with success difficult and dangerous wars, marched into Illyricum, in the middle of winter, and the most difficult season of the year; where, not finding sufficient subsistence in the province, which was partly exhausted, partly disaffected, and having no supplies by sea, because the season of the year had put a stop to navigation, he found himself compelled to carry on the war, not according to his own inclination, but as necessity allowed. As he was therefore obliged to lay siege to forts and castles, in a very rude season, he received many checks, and fell under such contempt with the barbarians, that while retiring to Salona, a maritime city, inhabited by a set of brave and faithful Romans, he was compelled to come to an engagement on his march; and after the loss of two thousand soldiers, thirty-eight centurions, and four tribunes, got to Salona with the rest; where his wants continually increasing, he died a few days after. His misfortunes and sudden death gave Octavius great hopes of reducing the province. But fortune, whose influence is so great in matters of war, joined to the diligence of Cornificius, and the valor of Vatinius, soon put an end to his triumphs.

Chapter 44 Vatinius, who was then at Brundusium, having intelligence of what passed in Illyricum, by letters from Cornificius, who pressed him to come to the assistance of the province, and informed him, that Octavius had leagued with the barbarians, and in several places attacked our garrisons, partly by sea with his fleet, partly by land with the troops of the barbarians; Vatinius, I say, upon notice of these things, though extremely weakened by sickness, insomuch that his strength of body no way answered his resolution and greatness of mind; yet, by his valor, surmounted all opposition, the force of his distemper, the rigor of the winter and the difficulties of a sudden preparation. For having himself but a very few galleys, he wrote to Q. Kalenus, in Achaia, to furnish him with a squadron of ships. But these not coming with that dispatch which the danger our army was in required, because Octavius pressed hard upon them, he fastened beaks to all the barks and vessels that lay in the port, whose number was considerable enough, though they were not sufficiently large for an engagement. Joining these to what galleys he had, and putting on board the veteran soldiers, of whom he had a great number, belonging to all the legions, who had been left sick at Brundusium, when the army went over to Greece, he sailed for Illyricum; where, having subjected several maritime states that had declared for Octavius, and neglecting such as continued obstinate in their revolt, because he would suffer nothing to retard his design of meeting the enemy, he came up with Octavius before Epidaurus; and obliging him to raise the siege, which he was carrying on with vigor, by sea and land, joined the garrison to his own forces.

Chapter 45 Octavius, understanding that Vatinius's fleet consisted mostly of small barks, and confiding in the strength of his own, stopped at the Isle of Tauris. Vatinius followed him thither, not imagining he would halt at that place, but being determined to pursue him wherever he went. Vatinius, who had no suspicion of an enemy, and whose ships were moreover dispersed by a tempest, perceived, as he approached the isle, a vessel filled with soldiers that advanced toward him, in full sail. Upon this he gave orders for furling the sails, lowering the sail-yards, and arming the soldiers; and hoisting a flag, as a signal for battle, intimated to the ships that followed to do the same. Vatinius's men prepared themselves in the best manner their sudden surprise would allow, while Octavius advanced in good order, from the port. The two fleets drew up; Octavius had the advantage in arrangement, and Vatinius in the bravery of his troops.

Chapter 46 Vatinius, finding himself inferior to the enemy, both in the number and largeness of his ships, resolved to commit the affair to fortune, and therefore in his own quinquereme, attacked Octavius in his four-banked galley. This he did with such violence, and the shock was so great, that the beak of Octavius's galley was broken. The battle raged with great fury likewise in other places, but chiefly around the two admirals; for as the ships on each side advanced to sustain those that fought, a close and furious conflict ensued in a very narrow sea, where the nearer the vessels approached the more had Vatinius's soldiers the advantage. For, with admirable courage, they leaped into the enemy's ships, and forcing them by this means to an equal combat, soon mastered them by their superior valor. Octavius's galley was sunk, and many others were taken or suffered the same fate; the soldiers were partly slain in the ships, partly thrown overboard into the sea. Octavius got into a boat, which sinking under the multitude that crowded after him, he himself, though wounded, swam to his brigantine; where, being taken up, and night having put an end to the battle, as the wind blew very strong, he spread all his sails and fled. A few of his ships, that had the good fortune to escape, followed him.

Chapter 47 But Vatinius, after his success, sounded a retreat, and entered victorious the port whence Octavius had sailed to fight him, without the loss of a single vessel. He took, in this battle, one quinquereme, two triremes, eight two-banked galleys, and a great number of rowers. The next day was employed in repairing his own fleet, and the ships he had taken from the enemy: after which, he sailed for the island of Issa, imagining Octavius had retired thither after his defeat. In this island was a flourishing city, well affected to Octavius, which however, surrendered to Vatinius, upon the first summons. Here he understood that Octavius, attended by a few small barks, had sailed, with a fair wind, for Greece, whence he intended to pass on to Sicily, and afterward to Africa. Vatinius, having in so short a space successfully terminated the affair, restored the province, in a peaceable condition, to Cornificius, and driven the enemy's fleet out of those seas, returned victorious to Brundusium, with his army and fleet in good condition.

Chapter 48 But during the time that Caesar besieged Pompey at Dyrrachium, triumphed at Old Pharsalia, and carried on the war, with so much danger, at Alexandria, Cassius Longinus, who had been left in Spain as propraetor of the further province, either through his natural disposition, or out of a hatred he had contracted to the province, on account of a wound he had treacherously received there when quaestor, drew upon himself the general dislike of the people. He discerned this temper among them, partly from a consciousness that he deserved it, partly from the manifest indications they gave of their discontent. To secure himself against their disaffection, he endeavored to gain the love of the soldiers; and having, for this purpose, assembled them together, promised them a hundred sesterces each. Soon after, having made himself master of Medobriga, a town in Lusitania, and of Mount Herminius, whither the Medobrigians had retired, and being upon that occasion saluted imperator by the army, he gave them another hundred sesterces each. These, accompanied by other considerable largesses, in great number, seemed, for the present, to increase the good-will of the army, but tended gradually and imperceptibly to the relaxation of military discipline.

Chapter 49 Cassius, having sent his army into winter quarters, fixed his residence at Corduba, for the administration of justice. Being greatly in debt, he resolved to pay it by laying heavy burdens upon the province: and, according to the custom of prodigals, made his liberalities a pretense to justify the most exorbitant demands. He taxed the rich at discretion, and compelled them to pay, without the least regard to their remonstrances; frequently making light and trifling offenses the handle for all manner of extortions. All methods of gain were pursued, whether great and reputable, or mean and sordid. None that had any thing to lose could escape accusation; insomuch, that the plunder of their private fortunes was aggravated by the dangers they were exposed to from pretended crimes.

Chapter 50 For which reasons it happened that when Longinus as proconsul did those same things which he had done as quaestor, the provincials formed similar conspiracies against his life. Even his own dependents concurred in the general hatred; who, though the ministers of his rapine, yet hated the man by whose authority they committed those crimes. The odium still increased upon his raising a fifth legion, which added to the expense and burdens of the province. The cavalry was augmented to three thousand, with costly ornaments and equipage: nor was any respite given to the province.

Chapter 51 Meanwhile he received orders from Caesar, to transport his army into Africa and march through Mauritania, toward Numidia, because king Juba had sent considerable succors to Pompey, and was thought likely to send more. These letters filled him with an insolent joy, by the opportunity they offered him of pillaging new provinces, and a wealthy kingdom. He therefore hastened into Lusitania, to assemble his legions, and draw together a body of auxiliaries; appointing certain persons to provide corn, ships, and money, that nothing might retard him at his return; which was much sooner than expected: for when interest called, Cassius wanted neither industry nor vigilance.

Julius Caesar

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