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Chapter 2 - The Early Caesar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2021

Robert Morstein-Marx
University of California, Santa Barbara


Caesar, a patrician war hero already from his youth, followed the model of the Scipiones in the combination of a patrician pedigree with a "popular" political stance and the pursuit of military glory. Despite his family connection, he was no "Marian" in the strong sense of reviving and refighting the battles of the 80s. By the time of his entry in 63 on the highest stage of politics, he was known as a popularis of a particular sort: one exceptionally skilled at cultivating the support of the Roman People but not a demagogue or even a significant player in the classic popularis proposals for land redistribution, debt relief, or the like. Caesar’s reputation for "largesse" does not seem to have exceeded the norms of his day, or perhaps even what many of his contemporaries considered to be mere necessity. The best evidence suggests that his objective at this time was, as Sallust writes, to obtain "a great command, an army, a new war in which his excellence could shine forth." But that path lay through the Senate. Like many aristocrats Caesar did not shy away from a feud with a powerful figure (Q. Catulus), but that did not put him at odds with the aristocracy as a whole.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

Biographers are especially prone to scrutinize the early life of an extraordinary person for signs of the greatness or evil to come. Teleology comes naturally to the biographical mode and it was particularly congenial to ancient writers with their focus on character, often treated as more or less fixed early in life.Footnote 1 So it is only to be expected that the retrospective hunt for signs of future tendency proved highly productive in Caesar’s case, magnifying aspects of his activity out of all proportion and even enhancing his importance among his contemporaries to a highly implausible degree. If we want to get closer to the historical reality of Caesar’s early career we must accordingly subject all such references to relentlessly skeptical scrutiny, given the questionable historiographical impulse that likely gave rise to them.

Foreshadowing Tyranny

A famous anecdote nicely illuminates the tendency just mentioned and is therefore a good place to begin. In the version told by the Roman biographer Suetonius, writing roughly a century and a half after Caesar’s death, Caesar, holding the assizes as quaestor during provincial service in Gades (modern Cadiz), Spain (thus in 69 or 68, when he was about thirty-one), happened to see a statue of Alexander the Great in the famous temple of Hercules/Melqart there. Heaving a great sigh, he expressed his dismay at reaching Alexander’s age without yet having accomplished anything comparable. The next night he dreamed of raping his mother; the interpreters claimed that this portended that he would rule the world, inasmuch as the world was “the mother of all.”Footnote 2

The Greek biographer Plutarch, an almost exact contemporary of Suetonius, tells a similar story, but this time Caesar is reading about Alexander’s achievements in a book, the moment is transferred to Caesar’s next Spanish assignment while praetor fully eight years later, and the incestuous dream is moved to a more meaningful point in Caesar’s story: just before the crossing of the Rubicon, itself a crucial step in gaining the personal domination portended by the dream.Footnote 3 The ease with which Plutarch decomposes the story and reassigns its elements chronologically tells us something important that should be kept in mind as we approach the whole story of Caesar’s early political career – one for which, in contrast to the rest of his life, we are almost exclusively dependent on the information provided by the biographers. Their objective was to reveal their subject’s true character, and in doing so it was to them perfectly legitimate to extrapolate from the ultimate outcome to the earliest stages of his public life. Caesar’s expression of impatience, exalted ambitions, and dreams of personal domination foreshadow that lust for monarchic power which would drive him to overthrow the “aristocratic” constitution and then cause and justify his death. The theme is struck again and again in the opening chapters of both biographies and gives them their unity and narrative direction.Footnote 4 The dominance of this leitmotif raises the suspicion that some actions, remembered and given their significance after the end point of Caesar’s life had been reached, have been misleadingly set into a teleological frame or even in some cases manufactured wholesale.

According to Plutarch, Caesar “had sought dominion and power all his days,” and it was this “passion to be king” (Plut. Caes. 60.1, tr. Pelling) that would ultimately get him killed.Footnote 5 This is a lifelong theme, the foundation of Plutarch’s construction of the meaning of Caesar’s life, and the biographer wastes no time in planting the idea, which appears as early as the third paragraph of the extant work (3.2–3 – curiously both biographies suffer from a lacuna at their beginning) and reemerges repeatedly thereafter in his account of Caesar’s early career.Footnote 6 Caesar cultivates the multitude by his successful prosecution of corrupt senators, by his easy association with the citizens, and by generous banquets and daily extravagance (4.5–7); by displaying the portrait of the popular hero Marius in his mother Julia’s funeral and his generous tribute to his wife Cornelia at her funeral, the first eulogy performed for a young woman (5.2–7); by going deeply into debt to finance improvements to the Appian Way and to put on spectacular shows in his aedileship of 65 (5.8–9). When in that capacity he also restored the splendid triumphal monuments of Marius destroyed by Sulla, some denounced this action as “pursuing tyranny” (6.3 τυραννίδα πολιτεύεσθαι), and the senior consular Q. Lutatius Catulus is said to have declared openly that Caesar was now “no longer undermining the walls of the Republic but trying to take it by storm.”Footnote 7 His successful election only two years later to the high post of pontifex maximus, in preference to Catulus and another high personage many years his senior, made the Senate and the nobles fear that he would lead the People to the utmost recklessness (7.4), evidently resuming that “tyrannical purpose” which has been persistently suggested over the previous chapters.

If we turn again to Suetonius we find an even more strenuous effort to emphasize the theme of “tyranny” from the very start. Similarly to Plutarch, Suetonius states toward the end of the Life that ultimately his subject’s overreaching dominatio justified his assassination (Iul. 76.1: ut et abusus dominatione et iure caesus existimetur). So the early stage of Caesar’s life is made to point relentlessly in this direction from its very start. At the beginning of the preserved text, Sulla prophesies that Caesar will destroy the “optimate” party (Iul. 1.3);Footnote 8 Caesar rushes home from Cilicia after the death of Sulla and the beginnings of Lepidus’s revolt, driven by “hope of new tumult,” although in the event he did nothing (3); and Suetonius quotes a short (quite interesting) fragment of Caesar’s funeral oration for his aunt in 69 probably not for its antiquarian interest but in order to point up strikingly the presence in the young politician of a combination of royal and even divine aspirations that would ultimately explain both his actions and his doom (Iul. 6.1). Next comes the story of Caesar’s Alexandrian lament and incestuous dream with which we began this chapter.

The biographer continues to sound the drumbeat. On his way back from Spain, Caesar tries to exploit the aspirations of the Transpadanes for full Roman citizenship to stir up disturbance, and would have incited them to some act of daring had not the consuls withheld some troops destined for the East to meet the threat (Iul. 8); once back in the City he immediately “stirred up bigger things” by joining in a plot to assassinate the consuls (9.2).Footnote 9 Once again nothing happens after all, and historians have resoundingly rejected the whole story of the “First Catilinarian Conspiracy” in general, and in particular of Caesar’s involvement in a murky pair of conspiracies in 66–65.Footnote 10 For us it is enough simply to note the authorities Suetonius cites for the story: the notoriously anti-Caesarian historian Tanusius Geminus, the inflammatory edicts of M. Bibulus, and the elder Curio’s invectives – the substratum of an “invective tradition” on Caesar that Strasburger isolated and discredited long ago.Footnote 11 However, Suetonius is certainly convinced. Caesar, undeterred (and, be it noted, undetected) continues to seize every opportunity for sedition or seizing power: an extraordinarium imperium while only aedile to restore Ptolemy to his throne (Iul. 11). Nothing again came of it, however, and Caesar as an aedile can hardly have been more than a pawn in the contest; in any case Suetonius’s story is a bizarre conflation of the events of 65 and 56.Footnote 12

What is most notable in this farrago is how many items never actually issued in an observable result that could serve as at least minimal verification of the claim. Allegations of unfilled intentions are the most convenient slanders available against controversial figures (or those, like Caesar, who eventually became controversial). Without further anxiety we can dismiss on these grounds the Lepidan temptations, the Transpadane provocations, the abortive Egyptian adventure, and the “First Catilinarian Conspiracy,” whose very existence nearly all recent authorities rightly reject. Suetonius is far from done, however. He continues by citing an alleged attack on the authority of the optimates by restoring the monuments of Marius, Caesar’s encouragement of the prosecution of Sullan bounty hunters for murder (ibid.), his suborning an accuser against the man who had nearly forty years before killed the tribune Saturninus under cover of the Senate’s Emergency Decree (Iul. 12), and his victory – by means of massive bribery (non sine profusissima largitione) – over two extremely powerful competitors in the election of pontifex maximus (Iul. 13). These last items will be dealt with in due course; I mention them now only to give a fuller demonstration of the pattern.

It must be acknowledged that in ascribing a lifelong lust for domination to Caesar, the biographers were following a first-rate contemporary source: Cicero. When Suetonius reaches the beginning of the Civil War, a key moment in the development of this narrative, he notes that “some thought” Caesar had been looking for a chance to seize dominatio since his youth, and he cites in support (Iul. 30.5) a passage from Cicero’s De officiis. Caesar, Cicero writes (3.82), “had conceived the desire to be monarch [or tyrant: rex] of the Roman People and master of the whole world – and actually attained his end.” Now of course Cicero has a right to his opinion, but judicious readers of Cicero have learned to read his judgments on the rise and fall of the Republic (which coincide strikingly with periods of his own prominence or impotence) with a grain of salt, and likewise I think we should not set too much store by allegations the orator makes long after Caesar’s early career, indeed after his assassination, about his lifelong pursuit of “tyranny.” The comment just quoted, like a similar one in the contemporary Second Philippic, is part of a larger Ciceronian discourse of late 44 that pulled no punches in seeking to justify Caesar’s assassination retroactively as “tyrannicide.”Footnote 13 Yet if Caesar’s “tyrannical” aspirations were so blindingly obvious during his early career, Cicero could hardly have effusively praised his achievements in the Senate in 56 and 55, defended his alignment with him in his famous, probably semipublic, letter to Lentulus Spinther in 54, or have spoken so glowingly of him in his private comments to Atticus and brother Quintus in the middle and late 50s, even binding himself to Caesar financially by taking out a large loan (HS 800,000) from him.Footnote 14 The same reservations apply to Cicero’s quoted statement from a now-lost letter to his friend Axius at some unknown date after 59 that “in his consulship Caesar had established the regnum that he had planned while aedile.”Footnote 15 Yet there is no reliable sign of such nefarious plans during Caesar’s early career. Such statements, then, may stand as Cicero’s eventual judgment of the man, perhaps only after the Ides of March but possibly at some moment of outrage no earlier than 59, but they obviously cast little light on the contemporary reality of Caesar’s methodical and hardly hair-raising early steps up the ladder of offices (as shown in what follows).

Suetonius is also impressed by Cicero’s claim, made in the same passage of the De officiis discussed earlier, that Caesar “could never stop quoting” (in ore semper … habebat) Eteocles’s lines from Euripides’s Phoenician Women, “If one must do wrong, it is best to do wrong for the sake of absolute power, while being god-fearing in all else.”Footnote 16 If indeed Caesar “could never stop quoting” these disturbing lines given by Euripides to the morally objectionable Eteocles, why did Cicero (and everyone else) fail to bring this up before 44, the date of De officiis?Footnote 17 As it happens, we know from Cicero’s private correspondence with his friend Atticus that he, Cicero, had this famous Euripidean passage in mind shortly after Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon – yet he doesn’t there claim that Caesar himself quoted the lines, and the suspicion must be that they were more on Cicero’s mind than on Caesar’s lips.Footnote 18 Again, little credence is due this kind of retrojection at best, if not outright partisan fabrication.

Suetonius continues to pour it on. In a much later chapter focusing on Caesar’s supposedly kingly arrogance, he puts on record some notorious sayings of Caesar’s: “The Republic [res publica] was nothing, a name without substance or form,” and “Sulla had been an ignoramus [or alternatively, was ‘illiterate’] because he had laid down the dictatorship” (Iul. 77). As we noted in the Introduction (p. 26ff.), these alleged pronouncements were collected and published by one of Caesar’s enemies in the later civil war. Serious scholars still spill ink over these statements, which of course the standard teleology makes almost irresistibly seductive given that Caesar did in fact take up the dictatorship for life in 44 and that he is so often seen as the destroyer of the Republic. But however ingeniously explicated, the partisan or even propagandistic assertions of an enemy in a civil war deserve no credence; far worse was said of Cicero (Footnote Chapter 1, n. 90).

Already in 1938, in what remains the most thorough and sober sifting of the material yet undertaken, Hermann Strasburger showed persuasively that a revolutionary life plan was retrospectively constructed and imposed upon Caesar’s early career only after the crisis year of 59, and probably a good deal later. Remarkably little concrete information exists about Caesar’s early years, which in itself suggests that his contemporaries took relatively little notice of him, certainly not before his splashy aedileship of 65, probably not before his defeat of senior rivals for the high pontificate in 63, and not verifiably until his tumultuous consulship of 59. This can be demonstrated in some detail from the corpus of the works of Cicero, where Caesar is not so much as mentioned before a speech of 63 (the Fourth Catilinarian Oration) and does not intrude upon the rich and vivid observations of the correspondence until June 60 (Att. 2.1.6), during Caesar’s consular candidacy. Later writers probably drew their scarce factual information on the period before Caesar took center stage from a rather thin biographical sketch which doubtless postdated his assassination and was bound therefore to have taken a teleological perspective. “The ancient authors’ knowledge of Caesar’s early plans and political role increases with their distance in time from him,” Strasburger drily observes; by the time we get to the end of the series of authorities for Caesar’s early life, Dio in the early third century AD “surpasses all his predecessors in his knowledge of Caesar’s soul.”Footnote 19 As for Cicero, had Caesar been disastrously defeated in his Spanish campaign of 61 and his future thrown on the skids, we may be fairly sure his ostensibly tyrannical tendencies would never have been discovered by even the keenest contemporary observer.


Closely related to the biographers’ assumption that Caesar was possessed from the beginning by a desire to overthrow the Republic is Christian Meier’s notion that Caesar was an “outsider” (Außenseiter) to the aristocratic circles with whom the Republic was identified, and that he was therefore able to view the Republic itself with critical detachment as the sinking ship that it was, and indeed ultimately to look beyond it.Footnote 20 Yet the notion that a member of the patrician Julii – a family at the heart of the nobility that traced its line back to Aeneas and Venus and carried in its funerals the imagines of more than a dozen consuls – and the grandson of a noble lady who proudly claimed descent from the ancient king Ancus Marcius was an “outsider” to the Roman aristocracy is highly paradoxical on its face.Footnote 21

Meier’s view can only be sustained if by “the Roman aristocracy” he really means only the “Sullan oligarchy” whose dominance was forged by victory in the civil wars of the 80s, and if one follows Plutarch (but no one else) in attributing to Caesar’s early political interventions a strongly partisan “Marian” flavor.Footnote 22 Both of these positions are highly problematic.

Regarding the first point, then – Caesar’s ostensible alienation from the ex-Sullan noble clique that dominated the Senate in the 70s and 60s – we can acknowledge from the outset that after Sulla’s victory Caesar was at first deeply compromised by his close Marian connections: nephew to Marius’s widow, Julia, husband of Cinna’s daughter, handpicked by the latter for succession to the recently vacated post of Flamen Dialis.Footnote 23 Sulla himself ordered him to annul his marriage to Cinna’s daughter (perhaps to bind the young patrician to the new “aristocratic” regime by means of a new conjugal connection), and upon his refusal, stripped him of her dowry. Whether or not Caesar actually appeared on any proscription list (probably not), the bounty hunters were soon after him and he was forced into hiding, on one occasion (it was said) escaping only due to a substantial bribe.Footnote 24 But for one so close to the Marian core, what is more remarkable than the consequences Caesar suffered for defiance – pretty minimal compared to so many others – is how successfully he recovered his position, and by what means. Sulla called off the dogs after the Vestal Virgins and Caesar’s relations, among them “the most distinguished and closest of his [Sulla’s] friends,” interceded for him.Footnote 25 Unfortunately the names of the six Vestals are not well known to us in this year, so prosopographical conjecture is limited; the important point for us is that their intercession as a body gives a suggestive indication of Caesar’s social standing among the aristocracy as a whole.Footnote 26 Distinctively “Sullan” in character, however, are the names that Suetonius provides of two of Caesar’s propinqui et adfines who interceded for him: the patrician Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus, consul in 77, and one of the three Aurelii Cottae prominent at this time (cousins on his mother Aurelia’s side), probably the eldest, Gaius (cos. 75).Footnote 27 These two men (though there may have been more), men of authority in the circle of “Sullan” nobles who wielded great power in the Senate after the Dictator’s death, would perfectly suit Suetonius’s reference to Sulla’s prominent associates who begged him to relent. Caesar’s next step was to serve on the personal staff (conturbernalis) of the man Sulla had left in charge of mopping-up operations against the island of Lesbos, then briefly continued in Cilicia under another prominent Sullan, the consul of 79, P. Servilius Vatia.Footnote 28 Particularly notable in this context is Caesar’s co-optation in 73 by the board of pontifices into the priesthood vacated by the death of his cousin, C. Cotta. The college was dominated by prominent former Sullani, including Q. Metellus Pius (cos. 80), Q. Catulus (cos. 78), M. Terentius Varro Lucullus (cos. 73), and also two of the old Sullan guard mentioned already, Caesar’s relative and former intercessor Mamercus Lepidus (cos. 77) and his recent commander in Cilicia, P. Servilius Vatia (cos. 79), now endowed with the honorific Isauricus.Footnote 29 Meier maintains Caesar’s “outsider” status by supposing that Caesar’s friends in effect stood surety for him against the reservations harbored by the “ruling aristocracy,” perhaps raising the hope that by such generosity “the establishment” could “draw this promising young nobleman on to its side.”Footnote 30 But if, in view of what we have already seen, we decline to adopt the prior characterization of Caesar as an “outsider,” then such conjectures are unnecessary. We might more straightforwardly interpret the college’s action as a stamp of approval by “the cream of the Sullan establishment” (Jehne).Footnote 31 As Lily Ross Taylor put it, “it was … not through the popularity with the mob which is so much emphasized in the accounts of Caesar’s early career but through the favor of Sullan aristocrats that Caesar obtained his first office.”Footnote 32 When, after the death of Cinna’s daughter Cornelia (probably in 67), Caesar was in the market for a new wife, his choice fell on none other than Pompeia, Sulla’s granddaughter through his daughter Cornelia. Pompeia was niece of Sulla’s living son Faustus, and granddaughter also of Q. Pompeius, Sulla’s staunch “optimate” ally against Marius and Sulpicius in the fighting of 88.Footnote 33

The idea of Caesar as “outsider,” strained to the limit by his patrician status and remarkable lineage, simply fails to fit the facts. Yet what about Plutarch’s stress on Caesar’s cultivation of the legacy of Marius in the 60s among the still-smoldering embers of the civil wars?

The key evidence here are the famous incidents in 69 and 65 when Caesar revived the public commemoration of Marius’s honors and met with sharp criticism from the senior consular Q. Catulus and some others for doing so. Notably, Plutarch is the only one who reports the earlier of the two incidents, Caesar’s display of Marius’s imago and probably also that of Marius’s son at the funeral of Caesar’s aunt, Marius’s widow and mother to the younger Marius (Caes. 5.2–3).Footnote 34 This bold action was bound to be controversial, for the two men had been declared public enemies by Sulla, and some now indeed cried foul; but Plutarch notes that “the People” shouted in opposition, applauding enthusiastically as they marveled at the return of Marius’s honors after such a long time.Footnote 35 Seen through the lens of the still relatively recent civil wars and Caesar’s own close association as a teenager with the Marian side, it is tempting to interpret this moment quite dramatically as nothing less than “[laying] down a definite line to follow in politics: espousal of the cause of Marius and Cinna.”Footnote 36 That is no doubt what the objectors would have claimed, especially those, like the princeps senatus Q. Catulus, who had strong reason to hate Marius. (His father, who had claimed equal credit for the victory of Vercellae, had escaped execution after Marius’s capture of the City in 87 only by suicide.)Footnote 37 On the other hand it was also probably already customary to include the imago of a deceased husband in the funeral of a noble lady.Footnote 38 Any “political” interpretation of Caesar’s action could likely then be countered by one resting on the observance of social custom. Sulla’s execration of the memory of the man once honored as the “third founder of Rome” was one of the pettiest of his cruel reprisals in victory; restoration of Marius’s place in civic memory was presumably indeed seen by “the People” as a repudiation of Sulla’s cruelty as well as long-overdue recognition for a Roman hero, but need not have been seen as an attempt to revive Marius’s political cause and the divisions of civil war.

A more attractive reading of the event, then, is that this event was symbolic of the end of a politics chiefly defined by memories of the civil war: “It was high time that Romans put the violence and divisiveness of the Sullan years behind them,” Erich Gruen observes.Footnote 39 Evidence of the gradual erosion of the Sullan-Marian dichotomy may be found in the steps by which the tribunes regained their former powers taken away by Sulla (including the law already of 75 sponsored by Cotta, a man Sallust regarded as ex media factione) and mixed criminal juries were restored in 70, as well as the very decision by the board of pontifices mentioned earlier to admit Caesar into its ranks in 73. Notable efforts to put an end to the penalties inflicted upon those on the losing side followed. First, the exile imposed on the remnants of Lepidus’s followers who had fled to Sertorius was ended by a law of the People (probably in 70) with Caesar’s predictable, but obviously not isolated support (his brother-in-law L. Cinna was one of the exiles).Footnote 40 Sulla’s ban on future office holding for the descendants of “Marians” was widely conceded to be unjust but was maintained through the 60s and 50s even by moderates such as Cicero because it seemed politically necessary.Footnote 41 On the other hand other remnants of Sullan cruelty were targeted in the mid-60s not merely by Caesar but also by the likes of Cato, no advocate of popular politics or “Marian” anti-senatorial agitation. In 65, the year of Caesar’s aedileship, and the following year efforts were made to bring Sulla’s bounty hunters under the proscriptions to book for murder. Caesar himself predictably plays a leading role in this effort in 64, either as a prosecutor or as a presiding judge seconded to the court de sicariis after his aedileship.Footnote 42 But it was none other than Marcus Cato – a man tied by various connections to the post-Sullan clique – who had opened the door to Caesar’s action when as quaestor in 65, the very year of Caesar’s aedileship, he had stripped the bounty hunters of their supposed legal cover under the proscriptions and forced them to repay the rewards they had received for their killings. According to Plutarch, “all” were delighted at Cato’s punishment of these men and thought that by this action Sulla and his “tyranny” had been wiped away.Footnote 43The People” who applauded Caesar’s restoration of Marius’s imago were giving expression to the same potent sense of relief.

What is clear is that Caesar’s actions on the problem of the proscribed were always in favor of “normalization” and reconciliation, in no case explicitly directed against Sulla’s respectable followers as such. The public revival of Marius’s memory fits easily into such a context: not a partisan political gesture but a return to normalcy in which the achievements of one of Rome’s great heroes were properly recognized (while reflecting familial glory and the glow of pietas and patriotic duty back upon Caesar himself). Marius, let us recall, had been celebrated as Rome’s “third founder” (Plut. Mar. 27.9), its savior from the terrifying Cimbric menace.Footnote 44 In a speech before the Roman People delivered in 66, even so cautious a rising “new man” as Cicero refers to Marius as the “sole hope of the empire” in the sequence of military crises toward the end of the second century; as consul in 63 Cicero praises Marius in a contio as “the father of our country … the founder of your freedom and this very Commonwealth.”Footnote 45 Even addressing the Senate, facing its leader, Q. Catulus, Cicero includes Marius in a roll call of great Roman military heroes from Scipio to Pompey: “Let eternal glory attach to Marius, who twice saved Italy from attack and freed her from the fear of enslavement!”Footnote 46 But the memory of Marius was bound to raise some men’s blood pressure – especially, for instance, the same Q. Catulus, acknowledged leader of the Sullan Senate after the Dictator’s death, whose hatred of Marius for his crimes against his father had probably not been much appeased by the perpetrator’s demise.Footnote 47 But among the mass of the Roman People Marius remained a hero whose dark final days were largely cast into obscurity by Sulla’s cruel victory. To bury Marius’s fame in eternal ignominy was untenable in the long run, and Caesar must have judged the time right for restoring his great relative’s memory – and of course, glorifying his own familial connections in the process. Despite Plutarch’s emphasis on continuing Marian-Sullan partisan discord, we have positive evidence that Julia’s funeral did not seriously exacerbate the old Sullan-Marian partisan division and that this dichotomy was not in fact the dominant frame of public perception of Caesar. As we have seen, when the young patrician widower remarried soon thereafter, he received the hand of Sulla’s and Q. Pompeius’s granddaughter, which hardly fits the partisan interpretation. Probably significantly, Plutarch passes over Pompeia’s ancestry, which would indeed have been “embarrassing” (Pelling) for his “Marian” representation of Caesar.Footnote 48

In 65, only four years after his aunt Julia’s funeral, Caesar again engaged in an act of Marian rehabilitation, this time a good deal more conspicuously. Marius’s victory monuments over Jugurtha and the Germans had been thrown down by Sulla after his victory, perhaps even literally buried.Footnote 49 As curule aedile, whose charge included the maintenance and restoration of public buildings and sometimes new construction, Caesar had the monuments – probably mostly new copies – restored in secret and under cover of night to their original place on the Capitol and in the Forum.Footnote 50 Our sources are unanimous in describing the outrage that Caesar’s action unleashed among leaders of the Sullan nobility.Footnote 51 Plutarch is again fullest here: after the shining, gilded trophies come to light at daybreak, “some” attack Caesar for aiming at tyranny; “the Marians” on the other hand fill the Capitol, applaud enthusiastically, are moved to tears of joy as they look upon the representations of their great captain, and praise Caesar to the skies as the only one worthy of his kinship to the hero. In a senatorial meeting called to discuss the matter, however, Q. Catulus, the princeps senatus, long-standing chief of the remnants of the post-Sullan oligarchy, and scourge of Marius’s memory, was moved to declare an opinion that was long remembered: Caesar was no longer simply undermining the walls of the Republic but was now taking it by assault.Footnote 52

Scholars often interpret this moment, if not already the earlier one, as something like the open declaration of a “Marian” political stance and a declaration of open “warfare” against the “optimates.”Footnote 53 It is true that the sources make clear how much displeasure was expressed by certain elements among the aristocracy, especially those clustered around Catulus, and it is also true that here Plutarch (uniquely) invokes the idea of a surviving party of “Marians” who applaud the revival of their leader’s honors. But on careful consideration it becomes clear that Plutarch’s dramatic story must at the very least be handled with some care.

A minor point first: it is simply impossible to imagine that Caesar as aedile would have been able to restore, or more likely, completely rebuild anew Marius’s monuments in absolute secrecy. On the contrary: the sites, in two of the most hallowed locations of the City, would have to be cleared and demarcated, any religious obstructions cleared (Sulla would certainly have thought of that!), architects or restorers and workers hired, money raised and paid, and so on.Footnote 54 And even if Marius’s trophies were considerably more compact than we generally suppose, it strains credulity to imagine that the work itself, undertaken in darkness, occupied only a single night. Then there is the fact that even according to Plutarch, once Caesar is called to account in the Senate he wins that body over despite Catulus’s forceful complaints.Footnote 55 Catulus appears to have been relatively isolated in his fulminations, which may explain their hysterical tone.

Catulus’s overblown statement raises the problem of “Caesarian exceptionalism” to which, as we have seen, the biographers are especially susceptible. In retrospect it was all too easy to pick out the signs that Caesar was head and shoulders above the rest, the future “Colossus” as Shakespeare’s Cassius and so many book titles have it. At the time it seems very unlikely that anyone saw a mere aedile as such a threat to the Roman system, however eye-catching his gladiatorial shows, however provocative his rehabilitation of the famous husband of his aunt.Footnote 56 In 65 the trials of the sponsor of the recent lex Manilia and of the controversial ex-tribune Cornelius, pitting the heart of the Sullan oligarchy against the rising master-orator Cicero in the first great test of the restored tribunician power, will probably have seemed much more momentous to those engaged in the political life of the City; likewise, the battle in this year between the two censors, Catulus and M. Crassus, involving major controversies over the possible annexation of Egypt and the rights of the Transpadanes. In these struggles Caesar played a miniscule role if any, visible only because of the spotlight shone on him by the late biographers.Footnote 57 Outside of Rome, Pompey was in victorious pursuit of Mithridates as far as the Caucasus as those whose achievements he had begun to cast into shadow – the deeply resentful Lucullus, Marcius Rex, probably joined in the course of the year by Metellus Creticus too – all brooded outside the city walls while their demands for triumphs were rudely put off. Much bigger things were in motion than an aedile’s self-promotion.

Returning now to the Marian monuments, we may note that curule aediles, especially, it seems, patricians, liked to refurbish or restore what one might loosely call “family monuments” while they held this early office – for patricians, their first opportunity to draw the public eye as a magistrate. The clearest example we possess is that of Q. Fabius Maximus’s restoration, while curule aedile in 57, of the Fornix Fabianus, a “triumphal arch” where the Sacra Via entered the Forum, which had been originally erected around 120 and commemorated the victory of Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus (cos. 121) in Gallia Transalpina. The Fornix Fabianus also contained inscriptions celebrating the achievements of kin outside the Fabian gens proper, such as Allobrogicus’s grandfather, L. Aemilius Paulus, and his uncle, Scipio Aemilianus – a parallel, perhaps, for Caesar’s implicit appropriation of some of the reflected glory due one who was not of his immediate family or line of descent.Footnote 58 At any rate, the kin connection did not of course go unnoticed (see n. 56), and to that extent it would be understood that Caesar was cleaving to the good old Roman virtue of pietas, demonstrating his own adherence to the traditional value system, righting a wrong done to one of Rome’s greatest heroes, a lingering reminder of the recent fratricidal wars, and of course connecting himself to the memory of Marius’s greatest military victories (not, of course, his regrettable slide into bloody atrocities). “He celebrated the exploits of a great military hero and enhanced the profile of his own family by reminding the public of his illustrious heritage.”Footnote 59 But it was only to be expected that Catulus, son of one of Marius’s greatest enemies and victims, would have viewed Caesar’s action in the frame of the civil wars a decade and more past, and have voiced strong objection. Suetonius and Velleius believe that he carried most of the nobilitas with him. Yet even in Plutarch’s version of the story “the Senate” as a whole ended up siding with Caesar, not Catulus – hardly a likely result if Caesar’s purpose was in fact to signal his assumption of the mantle of Marius in a conspicuous attempt to reverse the results of the civil wars.

Some scholars, including the great Ronald Syme, have been inclined to apply a Marian coloring to Caesar’s entire career, which might encourage us to see the actions of 69 and 65 as the signal for the revival of a “Marian party.” Yet there is no evidence whatever for a renascent Marian party at this time or thereafter. Syme did in fact argue on prosopographical and ideological grounds that Caesar’s coalition in the civil war of 49–45 was just such a revived “Marian party,” but H. Bruhns thoroughly refuted his arguments in 1978.Footnote 60 The two sides in the Caesarian Civil War are in no way coextensive with the battle lines of the 80s: too many descendants of Marians turn up on the Pompeian side, too many sons of Sullani on Caesar’s. Restoration in 49 of the full civic rights of the sons and grandsons of the proscribed fits into a larger pattern that also includes many of those recently condemned in the courts; again the emphasis is on conciliation and the restoration of justice.Footnote 61 (Indeed, looking ahead, we may say that civil war reconciliation is a “red thread” that runs through Caesar’s career from beginning to end.) The descendants of proscripti play no conspicuous role in the civil war itself and seem to have been beneficiaries of Caesar’s victory rather than agents of it. Nor is Caesar known to have employed any distinctively Marian symbols or slogans in the Civil War. In his own account of his Gallic War campaigns Caesar never so much as mentions his kinship relation with Marius even where it could be quite relevant, for example when he encourages his officers by citing Marius’s victory over the Cimbri and Teutones, or his desire to avenge a bloody defeat in the Cimbric Wars.Footnote 62 We should remember that criticism of Sulla’s cruelty was not in itself peculiarly “Marian” but a symptom of widely shared revulsion at his methods in victory.Footnote 63 (We shall return to the question of Marius’s possible influence on Caesar as a model for his future career.)

Only Plutarch places such a strongly partisan emphasis on Caesar’s rehabilitation of Marius’s honors in the 60s.Footnote 64 His view is only superficially plausible and is fatally undermined by a more fine-grained analysis of the facts. We should give it up.

Bribery, Public Extravagance, and Indebtedness

In the biographical tradition both ancient and modern, a further aspect of Caesar’s aedileship looms large: its fantastic munificence, or largitio (roughly, “bribery”) from a negative perspective. As curule aediles, Caesar and his colleague M. Bibulus were jointly responsible for putting on the Megalensian Games in honor of the “Great Mother” and the Roman Games; although a modest public grant was made for this purpose, ambitious aediles had to supplement this grant with a heavy outlay from their own pockets. According to Plutarch, Caesar’s extravagance in this office, in the form of gladiatorial shows, theatrical performances, processions and banquets, cast all his predecessors in the office into shadow and induced the People unanimously to seek out new offices and honors for him with which to reciprocate the favor (Caes. 5.9). Suetonius too marks Caesar’s aedilician extravagance as a key moment in “winning the favor of the People.”Footnote 65 Suetonius cites the impressive temporary structures around the Comitium and Forum built by Caesar (apparently to house displays in connection with his games), and the wild beast hunts, plays, and gladiatorial combats he put on. The biographer adds the bitter joke of Caesar’s frustrated colleague, M. Bibulus, who received little public notice for their joint outlay: just as the Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Forum went popularly by the name of the former alone, so their shared munificentia as curule aediles was credited to Caesar alone.Footnote 66

The splendor of Caesar’s gladiatorial shows deserves some attention. Gladiatorial munera were not a part of an aedile’s official duties (not until 42 were they even made a part of the official festival calendar); these were funeral games held in honor of Caesar’s long-dead father, which he had held off for twenty years presumably for financial and strategic reasons. This was therefore a “private” obligation of pietas, but it certainly made a splash, apparently setting a new standard in terms of the number of combatants provided – Plutarch says 320 – and the splendor of their weaponry.Footnote 67 A propos of the number involved, Suetonius adds that the number of fighters Caesar had collected was so great and so frightening to his “enemies” that a restriction was imposed (by a senatorial decree or magisterial edict?) upon the number of gladiators anyone could keep in the City, and he was forced therefore to present fewer than he had intended. Although the biographer implies that the restriction was prompted by fears specifically of Caesar (an interpretation in keeping with the monarchical interpretation Suetonius presses throughout these chapters), it seems more likely that only six years after the Spartacus rebellion had finally been put down concerns lingered about the concentration of large numbers of trained fighters in the City under any person’s control.Footnote 68 In view of this consideration, which Plutarch passes over, it is legitimate to wonder whether the impressive number he gives of the contestants (320) was that which Caesar actually presented or only what he had originally intended.Footnote 69

Given the well-known importance of aedilician generosity for future prospects in elections, there is no reason to doubt that Caesar pulled out all the stops as aedile to try smooth his path to the praetorship, at great financial cost.Footnote 70 Several stories cluster around the next step in his political career that emphasize the enormous magnitude of his indebtedness – doubtless the result of his aedilician extravagance and his near-simultaneous campaigns in 63 for the praetorship and high pontificate.Footnote 71 But once again we must not allow the biographers’ narrow focus on Caesar and their teleological perspective to exaggerate his exceptional character in this regard.Footnote 72 Aedilician munificentia was far from unique to Caesar in this period.Footnote 73

Cicero’s rather extended discussion in De officiis of this very aspect of a young senator’s self-promotion offers some useful points of comparison. Cicero surveys the high-water marks of aedilician extravagance and other largitio, but Caesar and his spectacular aedileship are now nowhere to be found, despite the anti-Caesarian animus that frequently motivates the work, written in the aftermath of his assassination. Cicero skips directly from the previous “record” set by D. Iunius Silanus (around 70) to P. Lentulus Spinther, curule aedile in 63, “who outdid all his predecessors.”Footnote 74 “It is an old tradition of our community, observed even in the good old days, that the best men are called upon to spend lavishly in their aedileship,” Cicero acknowledges.Footnote 75 Thus, he concedes, “public largesse” cannot simply be condemned outright: while extravagant, strategic largitiones are wrong by an absolute moral standard, in a Roman political context one must strike a balance corresponding to the circumstances and one’s own fortunes. In speaking of his own case, Cicero quite explicitly excuses his large expenditure during his aedileship by pointing to the high offices he was able thereby to attain on the first attempt without losing a single tribe or century.Footnote 76 By the same standard, Cicero ought to have admired Caesar’s investment! Nor was Caesar’s fiercest critic, the elder statesman Q. Catulus, above treating the People to an extravagant spectacle: in 69, only a few years before, he had celebrated his dedication of the rebuilt temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus with theatrical performances over which he had stretched a great awning (the first to do so) and whose stage building he had faced with ivory. He was supposedly accused in his own right of importing “Campanian luxury” into Rome.Footnote 77

The biographers’ vision of Caesar’s “exceptionalism” must also be tempered when we consider the various juicy anecdotes they convey about his indebtedness at this time, which for their shock value have become irresistible staples of the undergraduate lecture hall and even scholarly biographies. For example, we hear that before even attaining his first public office, or more likely, just after his praetorship in 62, Caesar was mired in debt to the astonishing tune of 25–31 million sesterces.Footnote 78 In 63 he is supposed to have spent so lavishly in his successful effort to defeat two senior consulars for the position of pontifex maximus that he told his mother as he departed for the voting assembly that he must either come back victorious or not at all.Footnote 79 Still, we are told, after his praetorship his creditors prevented him from leaving for his province until M. Crassus agreed to guarantee his staggering debts to the amount of HS 20 million.Footnote 80 Entertaining stories, no doubt, but should we believe them? Who could have been an authoritative source for Caesar’s words to his mother? What source would have been privy to Caesar’s account books? The invectives that played such an important role in the elaboration of the tradition on Caesar’s early career may have left their mark here as well.Footnote 81 And why would his creditors have tried to block the most reliable path to their repayment – Caesar’s departure for Spain with the opportunity it provided for an aggressive governor to enrich himself?Footnote 82

As a general phenomenon, senators’ indebtedness was particularly acute and pervasive in the middle and late 60s due to a dangerous convergence of factors: the sharpening of political competition after Sulla’s doubling of the number of lower magistrates, clearly much exacerbated by the expulsion of numerous high-ranking senators in the censorship of 70, many of whom immediately set about working their way back up the political ladder at great expense; and a wider financial and liquidity crisis created by the revival of the Mithridatic Wars, especially after the shocking defeat at Zela in 67.Footnote 83 In the already heated atmosphere of the 60s debt was a highly destabilizing factor in political life, notably helping to precipitate the “Catilinarian” Conspiracy of 63.Footnote 84 Of course the phenomenon may have looked more positive from below. It seems likely that one understandable political response to the financial crisis may have been that candidates increased electoral handouts to potential voters in the capital in a peculiarly Roman form of “stimulus spending.” This may have lent an agreeable air of Carnival to the electoral season, but of course it further raised the cost of politics for all competitors and greatly increased what even Romans recognized as corruption, resulting in a flurry of ambitus legislation during these years.Footnote 85

Caesar, then, was far from alone in his indebtedness. “The Roman senator, particularly in the early part of his career, was frequently in debt well above his wealth and disposable assets.”Footnote 86 In a nice precedent for the “bailouts” for the rich in our own day, senatorial conservatives, led by Cicero, held the line against popular pressure for a general rescheduling of debts in 63 but then, during the instability of the Catilinarian crisis, lavished praise on one particularly powerful moneylender, Q. Considius for declining to press his claims on loans totaling 15 million sesterces to insolvent “rich” men – very likely including senators, as Rosillo López has suggested.Footnote 87 In 62 even Cicero, that scourge of debtors, was obliged by what he regarded as what was expected of his new station as consular to run up his own debts enormously; after purchasing Crassus’s sumptuous house on the Palatine for the astronomical sum of HS 3,500,000, he grimly joked that he was ready to join any conspiracy that would take him.Footnote 88

Caesar’s level of indebtedness in the mid-to-late 60s was probably far from exceptional in his milieu, although it was probably higher than usual given the magnitude of the expenses he incurred in 65 and with not one but two electoral campaigns in 63. Yet his astonishing success in that very year should have proven to any anxious creditors that he was a good horse to bet on.

Caesar as Popularis: Military Achievement and Respect for the Populus

We have spent much time – necessarily – struggling against the general teleological and “exceptionalist” tendency of the biographers and making a case for what Caesar was not at this point in his career: he was not an aspiring autocrat, he was not signaling the revival of the “Marian party,” he was not unique either in his aedilian extravagance or (probably) even in his indebtedness. What was he then?

In Cicero’s Fourth Catilinarian Orationhis intervention as presiding magistrate in the midst of the debate about the punishment of the “Catilinarian” conspirators on December 5, 63 BC – Caesar at last emerges in a contemporary text, freeing us from our chafing dependency on biographers writing some sixteen decades after the events. Cicero crisply describes the now praetor-elect Caesar, author of one of the motions under discussion, as one who “has taken the political path that is considered popularis” (Cat. 4.9). With these words, the earliest contemporary notice of the man who would eventually become cloaked in ex post facto mythmaking, Julius Caesar first comes into the light of day for the historian.Footnote 89

Caesar’s speech on this occasion appears to have been his first major intervention in a senatorial debate, and a tour de force it was. However, the nature of the speech and its content merit separate and full consideration, which they receive in the next chapter. Here I wish only to use Cicero’s contemporary characterization of Caesar in his Fourth Catilinarian as popularis to cast light backward on Caesar’s early career, which I have labored to strip of the anticipatory accretions of the biographers.

What, first of all, does Cicero mean when he characterizes Caesar in passing here as a popularis? Caesar is, to be sure, “dear and pleasing to the People” (Cat. 4.11). Yet Caesar’s specific way of being popularis is very carefully defined as anything but seditious:Footnote 90 his dignitas (here perhaps “proven worthiness” – i.e. earned status) and the splendor of his ancestry act as a sort of guarantee of his good faith to the res publica,Footnote 91 and his motion itself demonstrates the difference between a truly “popularis” spirit, which is actually devoted to the People’s well-being, and the fecklessness (levitas) of demagogues.Footnote 92 Caesar is further distinguished from some unnamed senators who “desire to be thought populares” and therefore have absented themselves from an inevitably invidious senatorial debate.Footnote 93 On the contrary, unlike these others, who seem unable to be populares and also carry out their senatorial responsibilities, Caesar can do both things. He has not been shy about going on record in support of Cicero’s actions instead of trying to preserve “deniability” before the People by absenting himself: he has made his position clear by being fully supportive of the previous decrees that handed over the men to Cicero’s custody, by joining the majority of the Senate in voting an honorific thanksgiving in his name, and by supporting rewards for the informers in the case.Footnote 94 He is even envisioned by Cicero as potentially playing a useful role as a kind of intermediary between Senate and People by joining the consul in the contio after the debate, there to use his popular influence to support the consul and to fend off any popularis attacks.Footnote 95 For after all, even Caesar has proposed an extremely severe punishment for the men, one that joins “want and poverty with every torture of mind and body;”Footnote 96 this stance, coming from “a man most mild and gentle,” will help to shield Cicero and the whole Senate from any accusations of “cruelty” that so-called populares might make.Footnote 97 This may be a mischievous suggestion on the part of Cicero (seeking to instill anxiety in Caesar about the possible price to be paid for victory in the debate, namely, forfeiting at least some of his “popularity”), yet it is surely true that Caesar could not simply back away from his own motion if or when Cicero brought him before the People.

No doubt Cicero is being very careful here: he is constrained by the unwritten rules that govern senatorial debate not to appear to dampen senators’ freedom of speech by manifestly taking sides in a debate despite his ostensibly neutral position as presiding officer.Footnote 98 So the passage should not be read naively as a sincere portrayal of Cicero’s views about Caesar at the time. But that is not anyway what we are after; Cicero’s characterization of Caesar in the Fourth Catilinarian can still stand as a valuable public representation of Caesar suitable for a senatorial audience, at a time when the great controversies of 59 had not yet made him a deeply polarizing figure. In a nutshell, here Caesar is represented as both a proud, noble senator and an advocate of the People. Not only are these aspects represented as united in Caesar but they are shown to be embraced by the consul (through his praise) and indeed to a non-negligible extent by the Senate – for even though Cicero makes no mention of the fact that Caesar’s proposal had turned the tide of the debate, any minimally informed reader will have known that at the moment Cicero made his speech, the debate had begun to go very much in Caesar’s way. That is, his recognized political stance as popularis had not at all undermined his credibility, or dignitas, as seen by a large number of senators.

This is important, but on reflection should not be surprising. After all, many junior senators “played the popular card” on their way to the top, not least Cicero himself.Footnote 99 Popularis stances or gestures were remembered to have been made by some of the greatest heroes of the past, in particular the two Scipiones Africani, the latter of whom was in fact embraced as a model by populares of the present.Footnote 100 (Indeed, given the right – that is popular – audience, Cicero is perfectly willing to assert that the maiores, the “Forefathers,” were themselves populares.)Footnote 101 As I stressed in the Introduction, we must at last abandon the old tendency (influenced, no doubt, by Cicero) to write as if being popularis was somehow to be opposed to “the Republic.” By the Late Republic, indeed, the popular assemblies were in the habit of rebuffing the Senate in legislative controversies at least once every few years if not more frequently, yet there was no movement to “democratize” the system as a whole, nor did the Senate thereby lose its auctoritas or overarching legitimacy. On the contrary, the sovereign assemblies functioned rather as a corrective, ultimately legitimizing rather than undermining the broadly paternalistic role enjoyed by the senatorial elite.Footnote 102 No doubt conservatives in the Senate and even among the People had their suspicions about the essential political soundness of any man who set out on the via popularis, yet Caesar’s noble name and personal dignitas, as Cicero allows, served as a warrant of his fundamental respect for the mos maiorum and made it highly implausible that his object was outright “sedition.”Footnote 103

Caesar’s early actions in the public eye are entirely consistent with Cicero’s description. They suggest that he would have been seen by much of the citizenry not as a fomenter of populist sedition but as a brilliant young representative of the illustrious traditions of the Roman aristocracy.

Let us go back nearly to the beginning to construct an alternative story more in line with Cicero’s description here and avoiding the misleading temptations of teleology. Although by Caesar’s time the old requirement of ten years’ military service was in abeyance (if it truly ever existed: Polybius 6.19.4 is our only strong evidence), a now somewhat old-fashioned path to glory was that of military heroism.Footnote 104 In 221 BC Q. Caecilius Metellus, in his eulogy of his father, took pride in the fact that he had attained the ten “greatest and best things that wise men should spend their lives seeking.” Among these the first mentioned was to be the foremost warrior (primarium bellatorem esse), but – interestingly stacking the deck in favor of the military virtues – two further and apparently distinct life goals were to be the bravest general (fortissimum imperatorem) and to win great victories while holding supreme command (auspicio suo maximas res geri).Footnote 105 This was the path on which the young patrician now struck out: we noted earlier that Caesar was awarded the corona civica for his role in the siege of Mytilene in 80 or 79, when he was only about twenty-one years of age on the staff of M. Minucius Thermus.Footnote 106 The corona civica, a crown of oak leaves granted for exceptional valor in saving the life of a citizen in battle, was an extraordinarily prestigious decoration comparable in public esteem to the US Congressional Medal of Honor or Britain’s Victoria Cross, but probably much rarer.Footnote 107 According to Pliny, one decorated with the civic crown was entitled to wear it at all times, and all citizens, including senators, whatever their age and dignity, were obliged to rise when he made his way to his seat at the games (HN 16.13). The honor was thus also a highly conspicuous one in the great festival gatherings, the Roman ludi. E. Badian takes what one might call the “megalomanic” interpretation of the psychological impact of the award on Caesar.Footnote 108 A less teleological view, however, and one accessible to contemporaries, would tend to look back to the great exempla virtutis of the past rather than the unknowable future. By winning the civic crown Caesar joined a line of aristocratic warriors reaching back to the presumably largely legendary L. Siccius Dentatus, the “Roman Achilles” of the fifth century who supposedly had earned the corona civica no fewer than fourteen times, and the only slightly less legendary Manlius Capitolinus (six or eight times).Footnote 109

For a young patrician starting his career in the 70s, however, more salient would have been the youthful military honors won by two of the greatest military heroes in the Roman pantheon, the Scipiones Africani, Elder and Younger. About 140 years before Caesar’s feat, Scipio Africanus, also a very young man (aged about eighteen), was said to have been offered the civic crown after saving the life of his father, the consul, at the battle of Ticinus in 218. Scipio had declined the honor, presumably because of the family complications inherent in the circumstances and the apparent “conflict of interest” when a father decorated his own son, but the memory of the deed and the remarkable distinction he had earned remained.Footnote 110 The younger Africanus too (whom we usually know by his adoptive name Aemilianus) had won an even higher distinction for bravery and valor before his days as commander, though not at so young an age as his adoptive grandfather. As military tribune in Spain in 151 he had killed an enemy champion in single combat at Intercatia and then been the first to mount the town’s wall in the assault, for which he was duly honored with the corona muralis.Footnote 111 Again, in the Third Punic War, having saved a surrounded force of four (or three) cohorts Aemilianus attained the highest Roman military honor available, the “siege” or “grass crown” for saving a multitude of citizens simultaneously.Footnote 112 The great Marcus Marcellus, although not a patrician, also stood out in the roll call of Roman military heroes for his youthful exploits: while still a very young man in the closing phases of the First Punic War, he had more than once killed his challenger in single combat and appears likely to have won the corona civica for saving his brother’s life in a battle in Sicily.Footnote 113 If it was too early to predict a glorious future for Caesar, it is likely that these were the kind of models that would naturally have suggested themselves to an ambitious young aristocrat who had won the corona civica at twenty years of age. (We may note in passing that Marius, though he clearly distinguished himself in his early military service under Scipio Aemilianus at Numantia, seems not to have won any of the major coronae.Footnote 114)

Caesar, then, first came to public notice in Rome not as a demagogue or “politician” but as a patrician warrior in the mold of the Scipiones. The tendency of ancient biographers and modern scholars is to characterize him implicitly or explicitly as one looking to the future (the end of the republican system) rather than aspiring to inscribe his name among the greatest leaders of the Roman past, but in fact a moment’s reflection suggests that this has it precisely backward.

When Caesar returned to Rome in 78 he must have made quite an entrance at the ludi, with the whole audience, including the most exalted senators, rising to their feet in his honor. Capitalizing on his precocious military fame, in 77 and 76 he sought to bring himself more fully into the public eye by prosecuting two rather disreputable figures on charges of extortion in the provinces, Cn. Cornelius Dolabella, the Sullan ex-commander of Macedonia, and C. Antonius Hybrida, who had served in Greece as a Sullan officer.Footnote 115 The result of the trials was mixed (Dolabella acquitted, Antonius convicted but his sentence aborted), but this probably mattered little. More important was the reputation Caesar had won for championing justice and pursuing injustice as well as for the excellence of his oratory – a skill fundamental to traditional political leadership.Footnote 116 He furthered his reputation among the educated class by publishing the failed but highly regarded speech against Dolabella.Footnote 117 Plutarch is no doubt quite right to claim that Caesar’s oratory and advocacy won him great goodwill in Rome (Caes. 4.4); this was the path that Cicero also took to high office, with great success (Leg. Man. 1–2). What is out of order, however, is for Plutarch to tack on to this unexceptionable observation various sinister suggestions foreshadowing the telos to which his narrative tends: mention of his ingratiating manner and extravagant banquets leads directly to grossly anachronistic imputations of dunamis, “tyrannical” aspirations, and suspicion of revolution (4.4–9). Caesar had not yet been elected to his very first office.

Electoral success suo anno followed, perhaps with a statutory boost given to those of patrician status due to their omission of the tribunate.Footnote 118 Caesar’s first electoral success was for a military tribunate in 72 or 71.Footnote 119 Suetonius strenuously assures us that in this minor office, while not yet even a senator, he strongly supported those seeking to restore the powers of the tribunate Sulla had taken away – a key popular demand which had been building through the 70s – but if that is so, no other source seems to have noticed, and in any case, the successful push did not come until the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70.Footnote 120 The quaestorship probably followed in 69, with assignment to Farther Spain, then the splendid curule aedileship in 65 which we have already discussed. An appointment as “Caretaker of the Appian Way,” probably ca. 66, will have offered an opportunity to present an agreeable face to the populace: for instance, one L. Fabricius, as curator viarum a few years later, saw to the construction of the handsome bridge linking the Tiber Island to the City that still stands today.Footnote 121

Apart from the unverifiable, insidious steps toward revolution dubiously reported by the biographers (see earlier in this chapter), Caesar’s record in these years reveals little sign of controversial populism. If he had supported the restoration of the full powers of the tribunate by the end of the decade of the 70s, so did most others, it seems, and its passage into law in 70 was by now apparently unstoppable.Footnote 122 Most likely Plutarch’s statement – which he makes only in the Life of Pompey and omits from his Caesar – that in 67 Caesar was the only senator who spoke in favor of the lex Gabinia empowering Pompey to deal decisively with the problem of piracy is simply a conflation with his support of the lex Manilia in the next year.Footnote 123 But if indeed he, a mere quaestorian, was the only senator to speak in favor of the Gabinian Law in 67, as Plutarch claims, his role seems to have been fairly insignificant since he is entirely absent from Dio’s detailed narrative of the passage of the law.Footnote 124 And to take a stand for the lex Manilia in the following year (66) would not have been terribly adventurous or controversial for a very junior figure since political cover was provided by no fewer than four senior consulars and Cicero himself – no rabble-rouser he – as praetor.Footnote 125 Caesar may well have been eager to attach himself to Pompey’s rising star, but the advocacy of such a low-ranking senator as he was at this stage may have been little noted even by Magnus himself.

What is left, then, stripped of a great deal of ex post facto insinuation, is a quite unrevolutionary record of respectable self-promotion before the Roman People while steering clear of any conspicuous association with the more serious and risky popularis contests of the mid-decade: in 67, not just the Gabinian Law but, equally important, the tribune Cornelius’s extended set-to with the consul, Piso; or in 65, the trials of Manilius and especially of Cornelius, where even Cicero stepped forward to justify the tradition of tribunician aggressiveness against the “optimate” leaders, Q. Catulus and Hortensius.Footnote 126 Caesar’s magnificent aedileship in that very year won him much popularity but his only more overt political move – the restoration of Marius’s monuments – was of essentially symbolic importance while he avoided exposure in the more serious struggle over the rights of the recently restored tribunes. Not that this caution should be surprising in an ambitious young patrician, who faced by the ideological and pragmatic constraints upon any senator seeking to climb to the top would have understood that his hopes of future gloria were likely to depend as much on the Senate as on the People. This is a surprise only to one who has internalized the teleological perspective of the biographers and imagines Caesar as one looking to a future beyond the Republic rather than to the Republic’s past. As we shall see in due course, even to follow Cicero in describing Caesar as a popularis is a move not without difficulties and contradictions.Footnote 127

So at last we come to the year 63, in December of which Caesar truly enters upon the political stage with his momentous speech on the punishment of the “Catilinarian” conspirators.Footnote 128 That speech marks a new, important phase in Caesar’s career which will occupy our full attention in the next chapter; for now we will focus on the earlier events of the year, which Caesar will long have anticipated for quite another reason. For in the year we call 63 he knew he would be campaigning for the praetorship suo anno (“in his year”), seeking to win the office at the earliest possible date: a mark of preferment that would mark him as one of the favorites to win one of the two consulships three years later. As luck would have it, however, the aged pontifex maximus (the chief “pontiff” and thus the highest-ranking official in the state religious apparatus), Q. Metellus Pius, now died, and according to long-standing tradition his successor was to be elected by voters of seventeen of Rome’s thirty-five “tribes” or voting units selected by lot. As was no doubt expected, two of the most senior and eminent members of the board of pontifices declared their candidacy for the prestigious position, the most eminent senior consular, Q. Catulus (cos. 78), whose personal hostility to Caesar was repeatedly noted earlier, and another senior consular and double triumphator (and Caesar’s old commander), P. Servilius Isauricus (cos. 79). Caesar, also a pontifex but still a very junior senator, threw his hat into the ring – and won. The relatively youthful Caesar (actually thirty-seven, but this is a society in which a man in his thirties could be called adulescens: Cic. Cael. 1) therefore faced two elections in 63 and prevailed in both. (Unfortunately we do not know which came first.)Footnote 129 It was quite a year.

Not only Caesar’s victory in the pontifical election but his mere candidacy provokes astonishment among modern scholars, for his competitors, as the sources stress, were far his superiors in age and distinction.Footnote 130 Gelzer claims that this “highest religious honour in the Roman state” “had previously always gone to most respected consulars.”Footnote 131 For once he is wrong. In the twelve elections for pontifex maximus held since 212 (our earliest known instance), in only three cases (which may be a consequence of the gaps in our evidence) does it not appear that at least one senior consular among the pontiffs was passed over in favor of the winning candidate. In five elections it is evident that the winning candidate was much junior in dignitas (a consulship at least a decade later) than at least one of his pontifical colleagues; in six cases the winner was not even a consular (although in half of these cases he was on the verge of the consulship), and in two famous instances he was not even yet a praetor.Footnote 132 The general picture then is very mixed, but there were also eye-catching precedents for victory by a very junior senator. As far back as 212, in the earliest election of a pontifex maximus of which we hear, the curule aedile P. Licinius Crassus Dives prevailed in an extremely contentious vote over T. Manlius Torquatus, twice consul and an ex-censor, and Q. Fulvius Flaccus, himself also an ex-censor then in his third consulship.Footnote 133 Our source, Livy, acknowledges the exceptional nature of this result but also notes that 120 years earlier, a candidate who had not yet even held curule office had become pontifex maximus: as rare as it was, then, in 63 the phenomenon had the patina of antiquity. More relevant to Caesar’s success however is probably the case of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, who as tribune in 104 had extended the traditional procedure for election of the pontifex maximus to all priesthoods: he was not only immediately elected pontifex on the new procedure but, in the very next year, elected pontifex maximus, despite the fact that his highest known honor up to this point was the very tribunate in which he had introduced the innovation. These precedents, especially this last, arouse the suspicion that on certain, relatively rare occasions the election for pontifex maximus was determined not by seniority but by a candidate’s popular appeal – possibly actually increased rather than hindered by his relative youth.Footnote 134

We may grant then that in 63 Caesar’s victory was remarkable, if not unheard of, and rather humiliating for poor old Catulus and Isauricus (who may after all have split the votes of those who preferred seniority).Footnote 135 But the history of elections to the highest pontificate that we have just reviewed should make us think twice about the common assumption that the result could only have been produced by bribery on a massive scale. Our sources do not speak with one voice on the matter: Suetonius implies that Caesar in effect “bought” the election with massive expenditure (for bribery or splendor or both); Plutarch emphasizes not so much bribery as such but “the cost of doing politics,” while Dio focuses rather on Caesar’s shamelessly ingratiating conduct as candidate.Footnote 136 These all sound like plausible guesses and need not have been based on careful inquiry. It certainly would have been electoral suicide in this age to have rejected the great old Roman tradition of electoral “generosity.” “Tokens of respect” were expected in an electoral campaign, and ambitus legislation, which did indeed tighten up considerably in the 60s in response to a felt need, persistently exempted gifts that could be plausibly construed as made in recognition of an existing social tie (i.e. to the members of one’s own “tribe” or locality).Footnote 137 The sponsorship of public banquets, a popular form of such gift giving, was entirely legal down to the lex Tullia of 63 (no evidence whether this was before or after Caesar’s pontifical election), and even thereafter the force of the new ban was heavily undermined by the easy dodge of permitting one’s friends to play host.Footnote 138 It was also the norm to show ingratiating condescension toward the voters as Caesar had done according to Dio.Footnote 139 Any popular election, even a pontifical election by a minority of tribes, symbolically involved “supplication” of the Roman People, and any time supplication of the People was demanded, popularity and “electioneering” – the wide range of practices by which a candidate tried to garner votes and orchestrate success on election day – must enter into the question.Footnote 140 Given the nature of our evidence it would be hard to decide which factor was the most important in effecting Caesar’s victory, particularly since defeat deeply stung the princeps senatus, Q. Catulus, who had already spoken out against Caesar in the latter’s recent aedileship.Footnote 141 Hostile observers and especially disappointed competitors typically raised the suspicion of bribery any time an electoral result went contrary to their expectations of the respect due to rank and privilege from the Roman voter, so we can be pretty certain how Catulus and those sympathetic to him explained Caesar’s victory.Footnote 142

“Bribery” pure and simple hardly seems to be the explanation, however. The curious procedure traditionally used for the election of the pontifex maximus (and now under the lex Labiena for those of all priesthoods), under which eighteen tribes were eliminated by lot from the vote, was one defense against the effects of money: one would have to bribe twenty-seven tribes in order to be assured of victory by this method, as opposed to “only” eighteen to gain the majority of the crucial First Class of voting units in a consular election.Footnote 143 Further, Caesar was never so much as charged with ambitus – either on this occasion or any other – although even a trial on such a charge, not to mention a conviction, would have been an efficacious way not only of reversing this result but of heading off any further high office if there were strong evidence that the law was broken.Footnote 144 Only three years before, a spectacular demonstration of the potential effectiveness of this tactic was given when the two consuls-elect for 65 were forced to step down after their conviction by rival competitors on a charge of ambitus.Footnote 145

A hitherto unappreciated factor may be the fact that at the very time when the adventitious death of the pontifex maximus forced an election to fill the office, Caesar’s campaign for the praetorship was either in full swing or may even have just successfully concluded. Canvassing for election to higher office was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on one’s virtues, while on the other hand any senior consular who was competing might be ten or twenty years past his last great electoral contest. Looking back at our historical data, we find that in three of those cases in which the successful candidate for the highest pontificate was not even of consular rank, the election fell also in the very year – just as was the case for Caesar – of success in a major election, usually consular but in one other case praetorian.Footnote 146 Perhaps, then, Caesar was simply a more skilled, attractive, and zealous campaigner, assisted by fortuitously favorable timing. It would not be so surprising if the Roman voters simply liked what they saw in him – his peculiar combination of military virtus, aristocratic pedigree, and deference to the saturnalian claims of the Roman People – and preferred him to two pillars of the Sullan establishment whose consular elections and major achievements most voters will not have been old enough to remember personally. His eye-catching aedileship was a recent memory, as a result of which Plutarch himself said that “each and every man” of the People was disposed “to repay him with new offices and new honors” (Caes. 5.9); on the other hand Catulus had been on the wrong side of the Gabinian and Manilian debates and had spoken out forcefully against the long-overdue revival of honors to Marius.

As I have already noted, this was also the year of Caesar’s successful candidacy for the praetorship (which passed without notice). We do not know whether it preceded the pontifical election (in which case it could have provided quite a boost) or, perhaps less likely, followed it (which would still have been beneficial for his chances in the pontifical election).Footnote 147

Of Caesar’s other activities in 63 before the Catilinarian debates of December we hear little and know even less. It has often been supposed that he was one of the shadowy operatives behind the tribune P. Servilius Rullus’s land bill combated so ably by Cicero at the beginning of his consulship. But he is never actually mentioned in this connection; his association with this event in some historians’ minds seems to derive more from the irresistible magnetism of Caesar’s name than from any actual evidence.Footnote 148 Indeed, the complete silence even of the ancient biographers on the matter calls for attention: if there had been significant suspicion of Caesar in this matter, it surely would have been mentioned somewhere (if only in Cicero’s posthumous de consiliis suis) and put to service by the biographers in constructing their image of Caesar as a subtle but relentless agitator. It looks as if once again Caesar was not conspicuous where contentious popularis efforts were being made, now along the traditional popular path of agrarian reform. The same may be said of the debt agitation with which the year 63 had begun.Footnote 149

Caesar’s name does explicitly emerge in the confusing maneuvers surrounding the trial of the elderly senator C. Rabirius later in the year for the killing of Saturninus almost forty years before.Footnote 150 Rabirius could plausibly claim legal and political cover by virtue of the Senate’s Emergency Decree, so the case necessarily touched upon the Senate’s authority to advise the consuls to take emergency action against what it defined as acts of insurrection.Footnote 151 The tribune T. Labienus (Caesar’s future lieutenant in Gaul) brought the charge under the ancient procedure of perduellio rather than the recent law of treason (maiestas), probably to ensure a hearing before the People rather than a jury of the well-off. According to Suetonius, Caesar had actually bribed Labienus to bring the charge (Iul. 12). This is an easy but unverifiable allegation, which seems to overlook the fact that Labienus surely needed no bribe to avenge the killing of his own uncle in the Saturninus tumult and simultaneously to advertise his dedication to basic popular rights before the People.Footnote 152 The curious procedure of perduellio called first for a judge to pronounce sentence, followed, in the event of conviction, by a popular hearing and vote; this made conviction by the sole judge a virtually automatic formality in order to place the real decision in the hands of the People.Footnote 153 This was a natural way to proceed against a defendant alleged to have violated the cherished popular right of provocatio under the authority of the Emergency Decree: so too had Opimius, the consul who had first used the decree, been tried apud populum in 120 for having thrown citizens into prison without a trial and executed some of the Gracchans.Footnote 154 The parallel with the Opimian case is in fact rather close, since the issue in Rabirius trial, as in Opimius’s, does not seem to have been the legality of use of the decree to suppress open insurrection as such but whether it gave impunity to a consul to kill and imprison citizens after the tumult had been put down and therefore the emergency had arguably passed.Footnote 155 Since this does not seem to have been a particularly salient political question at the time of the trial (certainly well before the arrest and execution of the “Catilinarians” in December), it is most simply interpreted as a bit of popularis image-making by Labienus, the tribune who played the central role. Naturally, Cicero, who undertook the defense, interpreted the trial as an attack on the authority of the Senate in general, but Labienus’s sights need not in fact have been so high.Footnote 156

Caesar enters the story only for a brief moment in the spotlight: he was chosen as judge, either by lot or by “the praetor,” or perhaps both, if the praetor was obliged to name the man selected by the lot.Footnote 157 Unfortunately prosopographical research has thus far failed to identify the praetor involved (probably the urban praetor), but no source suggests that he had engineered some predetermined choice or acted as a pawn in some popularis game orchestrated by Caesar (or Labienus, for that matter).Footnote 158 L. Caesar, the consul of 64 and distant cousin of our Caesar, was also selected as a iudex, but there is no evidence for close political cooperation between the two Caesars at this time and nothing in his record suggests that this rather colorless and “safe” noble would have gone in for popularis posturing.Footnote 159 Inasmuch as Caesar’s role as iudex is the only evidence available to corroborate Suetonius’s claim that he was closely involved in bringing the accusation, it is surprising that so few scholars have been able to convince themselves that Caesar was not the driving force behind this trial.Footnote 160 The trial was sufficiently determined by its public relations value to the ambitious young tribune, Labienus. Conceivably, Caesar may have tried to exploit some of the publicity, though his formal conviction of Rabirius as duumvir does not amount to much since he could hardly have acted otherwise, and his non-popularis cousin did exactly the same. Nor did he play a prominent role in the trial; his name is not even mentioned in Cicero’s defense. Rabirius was not even convicted. It is unclear whether the trial actually gave Labienus much of a boost, much less Caesar, who was well out of the limelight.

In 63 came the news that Mithridates had committed suicide. His long series of wars against the Roman People could now be declared over. The time was right for the supporters of Pompey, or opportunistic populares, to celebrate the general’s great achievements. The tribunes Labienus and T. Ampius Balbus successfully promulgated a law decreeing that Pompey should wear a gold crown at the games and triumphal dress in the Circus.Footnote 161 Dio mentions neither tribune, but in accordance with his practice in his narrative of this year he cites Caesar as the one chiefly responsible for the honors.Footnote 162 The suggestion that Caesar here took the lead among so many peers and seniors may be questioned: other, more senior senators will have been as eager as was the consul Cicero to propose unprecedented honors for the victorious Pompey.Footnote 163 Like Plutarch and Suetonius, in his account of the year 63 Dio is repeatedly eager to foreshadow the future by dropping Caesar’s name and crediting him with far more prominence in the matter than he is likely to deserve. There is every reason to assume that Caesar readily leapt aboard the bandwagon currying favor to the absent Pompey, but little reason to suppose that he was its driver.Footnote 164

Some ancient authors allege that Caesar was a partner in the “Catilinarian” conspiracy of 63 who deftly evaded detection, or at least public condemnation, while at the same time almost succeeding in persuading the Senate to let the captured conspirators off with a punishment lighter than death.Footnote 165 Assessing this kind of argument judiciously is notoriously difficult: on one hand Caesar is not entitled to any “presumption of innocence,” a judicial rather than a scholarly concept, but on the other we have seen how ready some ancient authors were to see Caesar lurking down every dark corner in this period and it is nearly impossible to prove a negative to a committed believer. The best approach, then, is to review the evidence methodically and ask ourselves in each case how determinative it appears to be, keeping in mind that in a matter that was by its nature secret we can do no more than judge probabilities.

Let us start with a simple statistic: approximately 2.5 percent or less of the membership of the Senate appears to have been seriously involved in the conspiracy.Footnote 166 In other words, without any further evidence explicitly mentioning Caesar we could assume that the probability of his being among the conspirators (or anyone else, for that matter) was no more than 2.5 percent. But in fact the conspiracy (or conspiracies) had very few high-ranking senators of Caesar’s praetorian standing or higher. Apart from Catiline himself – who may in fact not have been an actual participant in the urban conspiracy that was rolled up on December 3 – only three known participants had been elected to high office before, and all of these had suffered major setbacks in their careers: P. Lentulus Sura, cos. 71, expelled from the Senate in 70 and thus forced to climb his way back up the ladder of offices, now praetor for the second time; P. Autronius, elected consul in 66 but immediately deprived of that office by conviction in the bribery court during his climb and expelled from the Senate; and L. Cassius Longinus, who had failed in his consular candidacy this very year.Footnote 167 Caesar, who had suffered no setbacks or electoral defeats but quite the contrary had enjoyed great success and public esteem both in his aedileship and in this very year, including a surprising victory over two of the most senior senators as well as election to the praetorship, simply does not naturally belong in this group of disappointed and probably increasingly impoverished also-rans. With his record of success, why ever would Caesar associate himself with an extremely risky plan to overthrow the system, which was working extremely well for him, and replace it with some kind of dominatio or junta over which he had no control?Footnote 168

So much for general concerns, which in sum warn us not to be inclined to believe in Caesar’s culpability without quite convincing evidence. Now for the evidence, such as it is: (a) Asconius’s claim that Caesar supported Catiline in his previous consular campaign of 64;Footnote 169 (b) Sallust’s report that Q. Catulus and C. Piso tried to prompt Cicero to implicate Caesar falsely (n.b.: falso) around the time of the debate, and failing in that attempt, had started a whispering campaign that he was involved;Footnote 170 (c) Cato’s innuendoes or direct imputations against Caesar in his speech during the debate;Footnote 171 (d) the fact reported by Sallust and Plutarch that equestrian guards at the debate of December 5 were persuaded by these innuendoes or outright allegations to threaten his life as he exited the senatorial meeting;Footnote 172 and (e) Suetonius’s report (partly backed by Plutarch) that after the debate (probably very early in 62) Caesar was named among the allies of Catiline both in court by the informer L. Vettius and in the Senate by Q. Curius, a “mole” in the conspiracy apparently relied on by Cicero who had turned state’s evidence to reveal the details of the plot.Footnote 173

None of these facts or allegations does much to increase the almost vanishingly low preexisting probability of Caesar’s complicity in the conspiracy. (a) fails to distinguish between supporting Catiline in the election the previous year (64) and participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the Republic. Cicero himself may be adduced to defend him in the same terms he used to defend his protégé M. Caelius of a similar charge: Catiline enjoyed at one point the electoral support of many optimi cives before he was finally unmasked; even he, Cicero, had at one time been deceived by his appearance of virtue! In fact, among Catiline’s most trusted friends even after his flight from Rome was none other than the princeps senatus, Q. Catulus, who seems likely to have endorsed him in this same election (64); certainly, Catiline still enjoyed the conspicuous support of eminent senior senators during his trial in that year.Footnote 174 But the claim about Caesar’s support for Catiline in 64 is further tainted by its likely origin in Cicero’s posthumously published secret account of his consulship, which also contained wild allegations of Caesar’s complicity with Crassus in plans for a coup d’état in 65 – part of the debunked myth of the “First Catilinarian Conspiracy.”Footnote 175 (b) is explicitly labeled a partisan fabrication by Sallust (falso), and anyway charges spread at the time by two personal enemies of Caesar – Q. Catulus again, the princeps senatus humiliated by Caesar in the election for pontifex maximus earlier in this very year, and C. Piso, consul in 67, prosecuted or at least attacked by Caesar for his ostensibly illegal punishment of a Transpadane – hardly deserve much credence in themselves.Footnote 176 Instead, this very story alerts us to the opportunity provided by Caesar’s ostensibly “lenient” motion (hardly: Cic. Att. 12.21.1 and Chapter 3) on the conspirators to exploit the occasion with imputations of guilt. Similarly, (c) Cato’s insidious suggestions of sympathy or even complicity with the “Catilinarians” – if Sallust’s version of the speech can be trusted this far – are an adroit, but it must be said rather unscrupulous, rhetorical move to undercut support for any sentence short of death by raising the fear that this would appear tantamount to a confession of guilt.Footnote 177 The equestrian guards (d) knew nothing independently; the sources make clear that they were responding to the allegations made by Catulus, Piso, or Cato. (b), (c), and (d) clearly form a cluster and surely fall together. (e) is no doubt the most serious evidence for Caesar’s possible complicity in the conspiracy. There are indeed troubling features in the unfortunately very obscure references we have to these incidents: Vettius, whom Cicero later calls “that informer of mine” in a private letter to his friend Atticus, claimed to have an incriminating letter from Caesar to Catiline; his evidence and Curius’s too seemed sufficient to convict a number of others; perhaps most troubling, Suetonius tells us that Caesar punished Vettius quite severely for his revelations, destroying some of his personal goods, allowing him to be roughly beaten by a crowd at a contio, and throwing him into prison along with (so at least Suetonius says) the quaesitor Novius himself (the latter for allowing a superior magistrate to be brought before his court). How things got to this state remains very unclear, but evidently the incriminating letter was never produced, and Caesar’s harsh treatment of Vettius, who was something of a professional informer, is consistent with Roman legal custom protecting the dignity of magistrates and attitudes toward those who gave false accusation, while Dio’s account makes clear that there were serious questions about Vettius’s integrity that drew the attention and intervention of the Senate in particular (as would also be central to the incident to come in 59), whether he was supplying names at someone else’s bidding to settle personal or political scores.Footnote 178 Several others were convicted on Vettius’s and Curius’s evidence, so Caesar’s avoidance even of a trial appears significant.Footnote 179 To Curius’s accusation in the Senate Caesar deftly responded that Cicero himself attested that he (Caesar) had provided information to him about the plot, and nothing further appears to have come of it even with a possible trial in view, in a body that was hardly disposed to ignore incriminating rumors.Footnote 180 Indeed, despite all the controversy that attached to Caesar’s name in years to come, this allegation seems never to have been repeated publicly in his lifetime or backed by more credible evidence than (perhaps) Cicero’s secret history.

In sum, although other scholars may rate the probative value of these tidbits somewhat higher than I do, none of them does actually move the needle very far past the exceedingly low general probability (<2.5 percent) that Caesar was involved in the conspiracy of 63.Footnote 181 Neither, when there were such strong motives for distortion, should one be impressed by the mere number of the allegations on the oft-fallible assumption that “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.” As E. Gruen aptly comments in another connection, “After the execution of the Catilinarians in December 63, it was in any politician’s interest to associate his enemies with Catiline. And after 59 the episode or episodes took on added significance as a means whereby to discredit Caesar and Crassus.”Footnote 182 Insinuation of association with Catiline remained for decades a potentially useful line of attack against anyone one wished to discredit in the Senate or courts: not only Cicero’s bêtes noires, P. Clodius and Antony for example, but also his own clients P. Sulla in 62 and M. Caelius in 56.Footnote 183 Even among those who were not Caesar’s avowed enemies, by proposing a relatively “lenient’ sentence of life imprisonment for the conspirators rather than death (see next chapter), Caesar naturally made himself a target for such suspicion and innuendo – quite unfairly, it should go without saying. When we add the impulse of the biographers and the anti-Caesar invective tradition to attach retrospectively every possible suspect action to his name, we have more than enough reason to reject this particular allegation.

To summarize, Caesar is nowhere to be seen in our accounts of the truly important popularis initiatives of the year, such as the Rullan land bill or a tribunician bill calling for relieving pressure on debtors. His role in Labienus’s invidious trial of Rabirius was a minor one. It is hard to say even whether (as Dio thinks) he stood out very much among those lining up to shower Pompey with praises for his victory over Mithridates. Rumor swirled of his possible association with Catiline or with the urban conspiracy but no plausible evidence was ever produced and he was able to clear himself both in court and before the Senate; the rumors probably originated in Catulus’s enmity and gained a specious plausibility because of Caesar’s opposition to the execution of the conspirators. On the other hand Caesar’s skill in cultivating popular support in electoral contests was amply demonstrated with his dual victories in this year, in one case against heavy odds. Ingratiating self-promotion in the pursuit of personal dignitas was Caesar’s version of the via popularis, not invidious rabble-rousing, controversial reforms or outright sedition.Footnote 184

Patrician Popularis

If this picture seems at odds with the one so familiar to us from the biographical tradition, it is also perfectly consistent with that which the contemporary Sallust provides us. Sallust’s much-discussed “synkrisis” comparing Caesar and Cato, the two paragons of virtus in his day, is an important crux in the interpretation of the Catiline, but one central part of the characterization of Caesar deserves special emphasis in our context. After describing various emphatic divergences between Caesar and Cato in their manner of interaction and style of politics, where Sallust repeatedly stresses the contrast between Caesar’s strategic, ingratiating dealings with others and Cato’s strict moral code in the same realm, he attributes to each a larger goal. Cato’s objective is to gain moral authority instead of pursuing gloria, “to be rather than to appear good”;Footnote 185 Caesar’s, however, was to seek “a great command, an army, a new war … that would permit his excellence to shine forth.”Footnote 186 Now it is perfectly possible that Sallust is himself falling for the teleological perspective here, since of course Caesar would in fact turn out to be one of the greatest generals in the annals of Rome. Yet his imputation of Caesar’s goal is well supported by the evidence we have reviewed in this chapter, as well as Roman reverence for exempla virtutis and the great military heroes of the past. Sallust is therefore probably right to suppose that Caesar’s chief goal in his rise to high office was not demagogic rabble-rousing, subversion of the constitution, or pursuit of monarchy as his enemies, the biographers, and (retrospectively) Cicero claim, but obtaining the opportunity to demonstrate his virtus in the good old Roman way by martial feats.

Seeking an opportunity to demonstrate one’s preeminent virtus through military leadership (“a great command, an army, a new war”) is probably a repugnant idea to most of us, but for a noble Roman this was perhaps the most conventional and honorable form of advancement available. A great roster of Roman military heroes – not, of course, only the Scipiones whose youthful military exploits we have noted, but also many others, from Fabius Maximus and M. Marcellus in the Hannibalic War through L. Aemilius Paulus to the more recent exempla of Marius, Lucullus and now Pompey – all had “let their excellence shine forth” and won gloria in great, terrible, but ultimately victorious wars. “On the shoulders of every young man born into a leading senatorial family weighed the self-evident duty to strike out on a political path which was inextricably bound up with high military command.”Footnote 187 Even Cicero, the consul togatus, had to acknowledge that “military excellence outstrips all other kinds of virtus” in the scale of values typical of the Roman voter.Footnote 188 The “Roman voter” is highly relevant here for in the Republic this means of self-advancement depended on a community of free men for its proper recognition in the form of honor (further offices) and gloria (in the collective memory).Footnote 189 If Sallust is right, then, Caesar had adopted an entirely traditional republican goal for himself; what was truly remarkable was how he proved to be up to it. (It is in fact Cato who is shown in the synkrisis to be the unconventional one by replacing the traditional pursuit of gloria with a rather untraditional emphasis on moral rigor.)Footnote 190 Caesar’s pursuit of “a command, an army, a war” was a mark of adherence to the norms of the Republic, not of an intent to subvert them.

No doubt Caesar had models, exempla, from the great Roman past in mind as he climbed the ladder of political office, and no doubt he prompted some observers to consider such models as well. Scholars have nearly universally assumed that Caesar’s primary model was his own relative by marriage, his aunt’s husband C. Marius, whose memory and honors he had in fact restored.Footnote 191 Yet an act of pietas and historical justice (undoing acts of excessive vindictiveness by a personal enemy in civil war) does not imply, as we saw, any appetite for emulation except for Marius’s extraordinary military achievements and victories. Beyond this the differences between the two men are more striking than any similarity. A huge social gulf separated the patrician Caesar, whose family boasted descent from Venus, Aeneas, and Romulus and whose consulships distinguished a score or more years of the fasti of the Republic, from the “new man” who hailed from rustic Arpinum. Marius furthermore had also proven fatally susceptible to ambitio and anger, had advanced himself by sharp attacks on the nobility as such, and had marred his glorious record with an unworthy end, a vindictive monster bathed in the blood of citizens.Footnote 192 It is impossible to imagine the aristocratic Caesar at any time in his career excoriating the nobility for its inertia, incompetence, and outright viciousness in the terms Marius used (at least according to Sallust) at the time of his first election to the consulship.Footnote 193

Far more attractive models to a patrician who had set before himself the goal of attaining military gloria, especially after having won great honor already as a soldier, would have been the patrician Scipiones Africani, both the elder (the conqueror of Hannibal) and his grandson by adoption, the younger (destroyer of Carthage and Numantia, usually known to us as Aemilianus).Footnote 194 Their preeminence in the annals of Roman military achievement is clear.Footnote 195 Great nobles both, victors over Rome’s greatest imperial rival, they were notable not only for the magnitude of their martial res gestae but also for their honores, dignitas, and massive popularity.Footnote 196 In fact they were the prime examples for the successful use of that popularity to attain the military commands that enabled them to win gloria. The elder Africanus had actually been elected to the aedileship at age twenty-two or twenty-three, well before the customary time (“If all citizens want to elect me aedile, then I am old enough”: Livy 25.2.7), and gained his great opportunity to command the Roman theater of war in Spain when he prevailed in a special election to the post (privatus with proconsular imperium) at age twenty-five.Footnote 197 “Scipio’s career was the most extraordinary of the entire Middle Republic,” observes H. Beck; he was, R. Feig Vishnia adds, “a new phenomenon: a member of the most distinguished patrician family, a brilliant and charismatic general who did not hesitate to turn directly to the people over the senate’s head to achieve his goals … in short, a popularis in an age when the via popularis had not yet been defined.”Footnote 198 Similarly, the younger Africanus (Aemilianus) moved directly from the military tribunate to the consulship at age thirty-seven in direct violation of the lex Villia annalis, although in fact he had been a candidate only for the aedileship. As we saw in the Introduction, massive popular pressure exerted through tribunes forced the suspension of the law (“by the laws of Tullius and Romulus the People were the judges of elections”), and when Scipio’s colleague suggested the casting of lots for provinces, a tribune effected the assignment of the war with Carthage to Scipio by a law of the Roman People – apparently the first known case of thus forcing the Senate’s hand.Footnote 199 When the cry rose up for Scipio to be chosen consul a second time to finish the drawn-out war with Numantia, contrary to custom and perhaps to law, the procedure was repeated, and once again senatorial resistance was circumvented by a law assigning him to the Spanish command as demanded by the popular will.Footnote 200 An “essential continuity in the fundamentals of Scipio’s political position from 145 to 134 … is his continued ability to win and exploit popular favor.”Footnote 201 No wonder later populares retroactively recruited him into their ranks.Footnote 202 For models of the kind of “cult of dignitas that often strikes modern scholars as such a novelty in Caesar, contemporaries – and Caesar himself – need have looked no further than the two Scipiones.Footnote 203 But the Scipios were by no means antithetical to the Republic: on the contrary, they stand as paradigmatic examples of its strong tradition of achievement recognized by a voting populace, and if, at least in the case of the elder Africanus, their very success also inspired anxieties about their personal preeminence and retaliation, this did not, of course, remove them from the pantheon of Roman heroes or ban their virtues from emulation.Footnote 204 Cato the Elder was not the sole arbiter of Roman virtue: the peculiar combination of patrician blood, military achievement, and cultivation of the populace that we see emerging already in Caesar’s early career was sanctioned by republican tradition and the Roman community’s apportionment of gloria.


1 For Plutarch’s Caesar, for example, see Reference PellingPelling 2011: 21–22, 60–61. Reference GillGill 1983 issues an important corrective to the frequent modern assumption that ancient biographers and historians were rigidly committed to the idea of an unchanging, inborn ingenium, but their inclination remains clear enough.

2 Suet. Iul. 7; likewise, Dio 37.52.2.

3 Plut. Caes. 11.5–6, 32.9.

4 The stories may have originated in the early biography by Caesar’s friend and agent C. Oppius: FRHist no. 40; Reference TownendTownend 1987; Reference PellingPelling 2011: 49–50. Caesar’s dream falls squarely in the category of “literary” dreams that William Harris, in his recent study of dreams in classical antiquity, considers of highly doubtful authenticity (Reference HarrisHarris 2009: 91–122, note esp. his criteria 1, 2, and 5 on pp. 105–106. “It is evident at once that the historical and biographical writers of Greece and Rome are unlikely to provide us with many reliable dream-descriptions”).

5 Plut. Caes. 69.1; see Footnote n. 1.

6 Reference PellingPelling 2011: 21–24. Besides passages cited in the main text cf. Plut. Caes. 3.3, 4.6–9, 6.7. Plutarch is so eager to enlist the testimony of Cicero as well (4.8–9) in the matter that he explicitly moves this reference up anachronistically. Cicero later claimed to have become aware of the threat posed by Caesar already in 63 (Cic. Att. 10.4.5 with Shackleton Bailey’s n.), but even this is probably only an effect of Cicero’s late attempt to link Caesar and Catiline. See in general Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 45–72.

7 Plut. Caes. 6.6: ἤδη μηχαναῖς αἱρεῖ τὴν πολιτείαν. Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 68–69 thinks the remark historical: possible, given τὸ μνημονευόμενον (see Reference PellingPelling 2011 ad loc.).

8 Plutarch’s version of the same scene has only the prediction that he saw “many Mariuses” in the boy (1.4), which Suetonius repeats.

9 Among them his own cousin, L. Cotta, which Suetonius fails to mention.

10 On Caesar specifically see already Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 107–109; Reference BruntBrunt 1957; Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 39. On the story of the “first conspiracy” generally see Reference SeagerSeager 1964; Reference SymeSyme 1964: 86–102; Gruen; CPh 64 (1969) 20–24. Reference CanforaCanfora 2007: 43–46 revives the old canard, and Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 82–84 again refutes it.

11 See Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 36–39 on the powerful effect on the tradition of the “early Caesar” (esp. prominent in Suet. Iul. 9, 49–51) exerted by invectives (Bibulus, Curio, Memmius, and Dolabella), partisan pamphlets (Ampius Balbus and A. Caecina), and equally partisan histories (Tanusius Geminus), all composed no earlier than 59 and heavily influenced by the events of that year, not to mention Cicero’s De consiliis suis, disseminated after Caesar’s assassination, which contained various explosive allegations linking Caesar as well as Crassus to Catiline (Ascon. 83C; Plut. Crass. 13; Cic. 15; cf. Dio 39.10.2–3; Cic. Att. 2.6.2, 14.17.6; cf. Sall. Cat. 49; Reference MarshallMarshall 1974: 807; Reference MolesMoles 1982: 136–137; Reference RawsonRawson 1982: 212–224). Drummond, in FRHist no. 44, 1:391–394, suggests that Suetonius relied heavily on Tanusius for his “depiction of Caesar as a restless opportunist of vaunting ambition and arrogance, never deterred by the frequent failure of his schemes or the opposition of his enemies or the optimates.”

13 Cic. Phil. 2.116 multos annos regnare meditatus, magno labore, magnis periculis quod cogitarat effecerat. This was the time also when Cicero was preparing for publication, or perhaps indeed published, his scurrilous secret history, the De consiliis suis, linking Caesar to Catiline (Footnote n. 11); cp. also Cic. Off. 2.84, also of late 44, with Reference DyckDyck 1996: 478–479.

14 Letter to Spinther: Fam. 1.9. Loan: Att. 5.1.2, 5.4.3; probably contracted early in 54 (Q. fr. 2.11.5).

15 Picked up by Suetonius, Iul. 9.2. There once were two books of Cicero’s correspondence with Axius (Reference WhiteWhite 2010: 171). As Suetonius infers, Cicero probably meant to insinuate involvement in the fictitious “First Catilinarian Conspiracy” (Footnote n. 10). Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938 is inclined to think, however, of Caesar’s spectacular aedileship (cf. Phil. 5.49), when Catulus is said to have complained that he was assaulting the Republic (Footnote n. 7 and Footnote n. 52).

16 Suet. Iul. 30.5, Cic. Off. 3.82 (Eur. Phoen. 524–525), which Cicero translates as Nam si violandum est ius, regnandi gratia / violandum est; aliis rebus pietatem colas.

18 Cic. Att. 7.11.1: honestum igitur habere exercitum nullo publico consilio … sescenta alia scelera moliri, “τὴν θεῶν μεγίστην ὥστ’ ἔχειν τυραννίδα”? Reference Gildenhard and LewisGildenhard 2006: 199. Chapter 7, p. 381.

19 Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 140. Cf. pp. 50–71 (56: Cicero never even invented a mocking pseudonym for him in his correspondence to Atticus!), 72–73, 137–141.

20 Some of Reference MeierMeier’s (1982) most notable characterizations of Caesar as “outsider” and of his concept itself are: 8–11, 49–50, 71–72, 97–98, 131–135, 162. These are mostly rhetorical rather than analytical.

21 Reference Badian and GriffinBadian 2009: 12–16: fifteen to twenty consulships in the fifth and fourth centuries (some of them no doubt “doubles”); four more consuls between 267 and 90; a distant cousin of Caesar’s was consul in 64. The Julii were far from unique among the Roman nobility in glorifying their origins in this way: the Antonii and Fabii claimed descent from Hercules, the Mamilii from Ulysses, and a whole host of noble families (Dion. Hal. 1.85.3 says about fifty of them) – including Marcus Brutus’s – connected their family trees with the Trojan refugees who came over with Aeneas: for details see Reference ErskineErskine 2001: 21–22; Reference FarneyFarney 2007: 53–65.

22 Thus, for example, Reference MeierMeier 1982: 73. Badian trenchantly criticizes Meier’s characterization, yet seems simply to redate it to the beginning of 58 (1990: 33–34). See further Reference GruenGruen 1974: 50–53. Reference SantangeloSantangelo 2012 and 2014 has properly warned of the strict anachronism of the term Sullani after 78 and of the dangers of applying it loosely to explain the political developments of the 70s and 60s. Yet it remains true that the post-Sullan Senate was dominated by a narrow elite of nobles, most of whom had been Sullan loyalists (the “inner circle” described by Reference SteelSteel 2014b: 325–329). This elite frequently (though not always) cooperated to resist modification of Sulla’s reforms or “popular” legislation and its influence seems undeniable as late as the arguments over the leges Gabinia and Manilia in 67 and 66 and the counterattack on the tribune Cornelius in 65 (Ascon. 60C). A “victory of the nobility” is trumpeted by Cicero in Rosc. Am. 16 (cf. 135, 138, 149) and the nontechnical use of the word “oligarchy” is justified, among other things, by the references to the paucorum dominatio and factio in the famous, indignant speech Sallust put in the mouth of the tribune of 73, C. Licinius Macer (Sall. Hist. 3.48.6, 8 M; see Reference RosenblittRosenblitt 2016). On the state of Roman politics after Sulla see Reference RosenblittRosenblitt 2019.

23 Note, however, that Marius and Cinna had killed C. and L. Caesar (cur. aed. 90, cos. 90) – possibly distant cousins (see Reference BillowsBillows 2009: xvii), but Caesars still – and displayed their heads on the Rostra (Livy, Per. 80; Cic. De Or. 3.10).

24 Plut. Caes. 1.4–7. See Reference RidleyRidley 2000, who however insists that Caesar must have been formally proscribed (221–222; cf. also Reference KeaveneyKeaveney, 1982: 134n114; Reference Badian and GriffinBadian 2009: 17). Under the circumstances he well recounts, however, formal proscription is hardly necessary to explain the manhunt (note Vell. Pat. 2.41.2: magis ministris Sullae adiutoribusque partium quam ipso conquirentibus eum ad necem), while Caesar’s escape with a bribe no greater than the minimum reward for the killing of a proscriptus (Reference PellingPelling 2011: 137) is more easily explicable if he was not one. Furthermore, neither Suet. or Plut. explicitly uses the well-established terminology of proscription (proscribere, προγράφειν), and it seems inconceivable that such a notable legal disability would go unmentioned in the mass of evidence, contemporary as well as posthumous, relating to Caesar’s career, despite the continued controversy over the status of the sons of the proscribed right down to 44. Reference KeaveneyKeaveney 1982: 133–134; Reference HinardHinard 1985: 128–133 omits Caesar from his list (cf. 116n55).

25 Suet. Iul. 1.2–3 deprecantibus amicissimis et ornatissimis.

26 Reference RüpkeRüpke 2005: 1.117: only Fonteia, sister to Cicero’s client M. Fonteius, is certain (Rüpke no. 1733), but likely members include Licinia, kinswoman to Cicero’s client (2218) Popillia, probably of the Laenates (2806), and Perpennia, probably daughter of Perperna (cos. 92). It is unclear when in the subsequent period down to 70 Arruntia (no. 722) and the patrician Fabia, half-sister to Cicero’s wife Terentia (no. 1577), were selected. For what it is worth, this group comprises both high and low aristocracy with both probable Sullan and Marian ties. Sullan ties may be conjectured for Licinia and Fonteia; Perpennia’s father was probably the Marian censor of 86, her brother possibly the Marian-Lepidan-Sertorian general put to death by Pompey, while Popillia’s relative, the tr. pl. of 86, had carried out a notorious Marian execution (MRR 2.47).

27 The precise nature of the relationship with Mam. Lepidus is unclear. Gaius Cotta: Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 21. For the composition of the Sullani see Reference KeaveneyKeaveney 1984: 114–150.

28 Suet. Iul. 2–3: the Sullan character of Caesar’s commanders is rightly stressed by Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 22n2. Sallust’s Macer described C. Cotta as ex factione media consul (Hist. 3.48.8 M).

29 Vell. Pat. 2.43.1, with MRR 2.113–114, and Reference RüpkeRüpke 2005: 1.122. Servilius’s son was to be a notable Caesarian in the civil war.

31 Reference JehneJehne 2001: 20. “The nobility accepted him as one of themselves” (Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 25); of course he was a noble, and a patrician to boot.

32 Reference TaylorTaylor 1941: 117–120, 1942, 1942b: 7–8; Reference GruenGruen 1974: 77–78.

33 Suet. Iul. 6.2, Plut. Caes. 5.7. The Pompeii had by no means given up pride in their Sullan heritage: Pompeia’s brother minted a coin in 54 with a quite unusual pairing of portraits on the two sides of the coin, viz. Pompeia’s two grandfathers: Sulla senior on one, Q. Pompeius (cos. 88) on the other: RRC 434/1.

34 If Reiske’s emendation of the singular Μαρίου to the plural is right (it is consistent with the plural number elsewhere in the passage), then more than one Marius was represented: presumably there was only one other, Julia’s son, Marius the younger (Reference PellingPelling 2011: 150), since Marius was a new man sine imaginibus.

35 From Plutarch’s wording it does not appear as if Sulla legally banned display of Marius’s image but rather that such display was de facto excluded for prudential reasons (Reference PellingPelling 2011: 151, contra Reference FlowerFlower 2006: 103 with Footnote n. 68).

36 Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 81 (who also assumes that Cinna’s imago was carried in Cornelia’s funeral). Similarly, Reference Badian and GriffinBadian 2009: 21: “a powerful political proclamation” which “laid the foundation of Caesar’s career as a champion of the People.” Cf. Reference FlowerFlower 1996: 124.

37 Cic. De or. 3.9; Vell. Pat. 2.22.4; Val. Max. 9.12.4.

38 Tac. Ann. 3.76.2, SC de Pisone Patre, lines 76–81, clearly imply that at least by the early Principate a husband’s imago would be perfectly normal at a noblewoman’s funeral; there is no obvious reason why this practice should not have gone back to the earliest laudationes for women, probably to be dated around the end of the second century BC. (As it happens, when the very first known laudatio of a woman was delivered – that of a certain Popilia – her husband, Q. Catulus the Elder [cos. 102], was still alive.) Cf. Reference FlowerFlower 1996: 103, 122–123; Reference Badian and GriffinBadian 2009: 21; Reference Pepe, Gray, Balbo, Marshall and SteelPepe 2018: 283–285.

40 Suet. Iul. 5; note that Sall. Hist. 4.52 (McGushin) attributes the measure to the Senate, which suggests that it was supported by that body. Cf. Dio 44.47.4, Cic. Verr. 2.5.151–155. Date: Reference McGushinMcGushin 1994: 2:164–165.

41 Reference CrawfordCrawford 1994: 201–207; Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 127–136, 157–158. Cic. Pis. 4 and Quint. 11.1.85 indicate Cicero’s line of argument in his now-lost consular speech on the matter. Vell. Pat. 2.43.4 is obviously wrong to imply that Caesar already as aedile had managed to restore the right to stand for office to the sons of the proscribed: this was done only in 49 (Plut. Caes. 37.2; Dio 44.47.2, with Reference PellingPelling 2011: 338; Reference HinardHinard 1985: 87–100, updated in 2008: 107–120). Possibly Velleius has conflated this with the condemnation of the bounty hunters (see the next n.). Yet it is entirely plausible to assume that Caesar publicly supported lifting the ban already in the 60s (Reference GruenGruen 1974: 77n125).

42 Suet. Iul. 11; Dio 37.10.1–2; Cic. Lig. 12; Ascon. 90–91C names two of the most important men convicted, a centurion named L. Luscius and (for the murder of Lucretius Ofella) L. Bellienus, an uncle of Catiline’s. Broughton unfortunately perpetuates the myth that Caesar actually blocked the prosecution of Catiline on the same charge (MRR 2.162; cf. Reference GruenGruen 1974: 77n124). Exactly in what capacity Caesar furthered these prosecutions remains unclear: Suetonius suggests that he was in charge of the court de sicariis, which leads to the inference that he presided over the court as ex-aedile in 64 (Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 42, following Mommsen; MRR 2.162; Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: nos. 215–216). Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 117–119 suggests that he prosecuted the men (so too Gruen), but this is probably to take too literally the emphatic nature of our sources’ language. Cf. Reference HinardHinard 1985: 204–206.

43 Plut. Cat. min. 17.6–7; cf. Dio 47.6.4. Reference SantangeloSantangelo 2014: 21: “The political realignment that brings to an end a major aspect of the Sullan age is made possible by a curious union sacrée that brings together Cato and Caesar.” For Cato’s connections, see Reference GruenGruen 1974: 53. Despite his relative youth, the group of former Sullani seems partly to have reassembled around Cato after Q. Catulus’s death in 61 or 60.

44 This does not of course imply that he was awarded some such formal title: Reference MuccioliMuccioli 1994; Reference MilesMiles 1995: 104–105.

45 Cic. Leg. Man. 60; Rab. perd. 27. Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 110–111.

46 Cat. 4.21.

48 Reference PellingPelling 2011: 152–153. Meier, equally embarrassed, is inclined to put the marriage outside of rational consideration as a “love-match” (Reference Pelling1982: 142). Rightly, Reference JehneJehne 2001: 24.

49 Reference SehlmeyerSehlmeyer 1999: 196, inferring from Catulus’s use of the word κατορωρυγμένας.

50 Suet. Iul. 11; Plut. Caes. 6 (§1: κρύφα, νυκτὸς §2 ἅμα δ’ ἡμέρᾳ); Vell. Pat. 2.43.4. For the monuments themselves see Reference SehlmeyerSehlmeyer 1999: 192–193, 196–197; C. Reusser, LTUR 5.91; Reference MackayMackay 2000: 162–168; Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 111n192. Copies: R. J. Reference EvansEvans 1994: 4.

51 Cf. Suet. Iul. 11: quorum [sc. optimatium] auctoritatem ut quibus posset modis in vicem diminueret; Vell. Pat. 2.43.4 adversante quidem nobilitate.

52 Plut. Caes. 6.3–6.6; Footnote n. 7. But see Footnote n. 77.

53 Reference SymeSyme 1939: 65: “His ascension revived the party of Marius and the battle-cries of the last civil war, only thirty years before.” More recently, Reference CanforaCanfora 2007: 20; Reference TatumTatum 2008: 35; Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 85 take some version of this line. I myself have previously been too inclined toward it: Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 111.

55 Plut. Caes. 6.7: ἔπεισε τὴν σύγκλητον.

56 “Husband of his aunt”: see Plutarch’s careful phrasing at Caes. 5.2 (συγγενείας at 6.5). It remains unclear whether this kind of connection through marriage was perceived as being as close as that of an uncle and nephew related by blood or formal adoption. Suetonius does not so much as mention the kin relationship with Marius, in this context (Iul. 11) or any other.

57 Reference SeagerSeager, 2002: 22, 68–71 gives a usefully non-Caesarocentric picture. See Footnote n. 11.

58 ILS 43–43a (CIL VI 1303, 1304, 31593). Less certain but likely later examples are M. Scaurus’s (aed. cur. 58) restoration of his father’s adornment of the entrance to the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Cic. Scaur. 47: paternis atque etiam huius amplissimis donis ornati aditus Iovis, presumably damaged in the fire of 83 BC; he is otherwise known to have erected the extraordinarily large and opulent Theatrum Scauri in his curule aedileship [Plin. HN 36.113–115]) and L. Aemilius Paulus’s (aed. cur. 56?) restoration of the Basilica Aemilia (Cic. Att. 4.16.8 [ca. July 54]. MRR 2.216, 3.9; the basilica remains a vexed problem of the topography of the Forum: E. Steinby, LTUR 1.167–168).

59 Reference Gruen and GriffinGruen 2009: 25; cf. Reference JehneJehne 2001: 26, “Familiensolidarität.” Similarly, Reference BlomBlom 2016: 162.

61 For a summary see Reference PellingPelling 2011: 337–338.

62 Caes. BGall. 1.7.4, 12.4–7, 13.2, 40.5. See Reference GrilloGrillo 2012: 154.

63 Sall. Iug. 95.4 is illustrative. See Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 111–113.

65 Iul. 11: init. conciliato populi favore; cf. Dio 37.8.1: ἐν τῃ ἀγορανομίᾳ ἐπῃνέθη (note here no restriction to the People).

66 Iul. 10.1; Dio 37.8.1.

67 Plut. Caes. 5.9; Dio 37.8.1; Pliny HN 33.53 says that Caesar was the first to equip gladiators and venatores with silver armor; Suet. Iul. 10.1 adds that Caesar’s temporary structures were designed to display the splendid equipment.

68 Contra Reference PellingPelling 2011: 155. Note cuiquam (Suet. Iul. 10.2). The Spartacan revolt had begun with a breakout of only about seventy gladiators from Batiatus’s school in Capua: Livy, Per. 95; Plut. Crass. 8.2; App. BCiv. 1.116/539.

69 Rightly, Reference MeierMeier 1982: 148. For what it is worth, Plutarch thinks the former.

70 On the phenomenon in general, see esp. Reference YakobsonYakobson 1999: 33–38. Reference GruenGruen 1992: 188–193 cautions against exaggeration, but his criticism is largely focused on an earlier period.

71 To be dealt with later in this chapter. Plutarch indeed claims that he owed as much as 31 million sesterces before his very first public office (Caes. 5.8), but App. BCiv. 2.8/26 reports a similar debt after his praetorship (HS 25 million). Appian’s sequence is far more plausible, since at the time when Plutarch sets the story Caesar’s lavish spending was still to come.

73 A convenient survey in Reference BernsteinBernstein 1998: 298–308.

74 Cic. Off. 2.55–60, esp. 57. Likewise in the survey at Val. Max. 2.4.6 (who also notes Spinther, citing his innovation in outfitting the stage equipment with silver).

75 Cic. Off. 2.57.

76 Cic. Off. 2.60, 59. Cicero himself offered three sets of games in his aedileship (Verr. 2.5.36; Mur. 40), partly financed by “grateful” Sicilians, whose gifts in kind also allowed him to lower the price of food in Rome (Plut. Cic. 8.2) Cf. also Cicero’s public rationalization of Milo’s lavish expenditure before his run for the consulship: Mil. 95 (but privately he judges this stulte bis terque Q. fr. 3.8.6, 3.9.2). In this case, be it noted, Milo dramatically failed to obtain the expected return on his investment of “three patrimonies”; apparently the Roman People could not actually be bought and sold in this manner.

77 Val. Max. 2.4.6; Plin. HN 19.23; Livy, Per. 98; cf. Amm. Marc. 14.6.25, who, as Münzer, RE 13 [1927] 2088 thought, has almost certainly mistakenly transposed the story to Catulus’s aedileship. (Cf. also Reference BernsteinBernstein 1998: 40n102; E. Papi, LTUR 5.31.) It remains uncertain whether under the disturbed conditions of the 80s Catulus ever held that office (MRR 3.131), but if he did, nothing is known of his tenure. For Catulus’s commission to restore the temple after the devastating fire of 83 see S. De Angeli, LTUR 3.148–150, and Footnote n. 176 of this chapter.

79 Plut. Caes. 7.3; Suet. Iul. 13.

80 Plut. Caes. 11.1–2; cf. Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 154 and the speculations of Reference Schulz and SpielvogelSchulz 2002: 266–268.

81 “Debt, whether caused by extravagant living or lack of means, was an eminently suitable topic for invective” (Reference CrawfordCrawford 1994: 248): cf. Cic. In Clodium et Curionem Frr. 8–12, with Reference CrawfordCrawford 1994: 248–250 (Clodius), Pis. 12 (Gabinius), Phil. 2.36, 44–46 (HS 6 million – it is sobering in this context to note that Plutarch takes this number from Cicero as fact: Ant. 2.5 with Pelling ad loc.), 50, 71–72, 78 (Antony) Dio 46.18.3 (Cicero in speech of Calenus). For the standard topoi see now esp. Reference Craig, Powell and Patterson (eds.)Craig 2004: 187–213. According to Suet. Iul. 46, multi (Bibulus? Curio? Ampius Balbus? Tanusius?) related that Caesar at around this time (tenuem adhuc et obaeratum) built a lavishly appointed villa at Nemi and then tore it down because it did not please him in every particular. Serious scholars have believed this (Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 30; Shackleton Bailey 1965: 3.254, balking only at Suetonius’s implied date; Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 63), yet potlatch spending on villas is another popular topos of invective (e.g. Cic. Pis. 48, [Sall.] Inv. in Cic. 2, 4 [cf. Cic. Att. 1.16.10]; cf. Sall. Cat. 12.3, 13.1). Cicero (Att. 6.1.25) refers only to Caesar’s building at Nemi in 51–50; nothing about demolition.

82 Reported in its fullest form by Plutarch (Caes. 11.1–2; cf. Crass. 7.6); Suet. Iul. 18.1, App. BCiv. 2.8/26, apparently all from the same source. A similar type of scenario is envisioned in a classic of invective, Cicero’s In Clodium et Curionem (frr. 8–12, with Reference CrawfordCrawford 1994), yet there its authority is given very little weight (Reference TatumTatum 1999: 87–88). I am hesitant to give the Caesarian anecdote any more credence. Reference Blösel, Beck, Jehne and SerratiBlösel 2016 has interestingly discussed the declining profitability of holding a province at this time, but this seems to apply mainly to “unmilitary” provinces and the conquest of Spain was still promisingly incomplete (see his p. 77). Reference Schulz and SpielvogelSchulz 2002: 265–266 conjectures that Caesar’s creditors were themselves invested heavily in Spanish debt and therefore stood to lose either way.

83 On the phenomenon in general see Reference FrederiksenFrederiksen 1966. Reference Rosillo LópezRosillo López 2010: 179–229. Financial crisis of 67–62: Cic. Leg. Man. 17–19; Off. 2.84 (next n.); Val. Max. 4.8.3. Reference AndreauAndreau 1999: 103. Reference KayKay 2014: 257–260.

84 See Cic. De off. 2.84: “Never was debt greater, nor was it ever paid off better and easier; for once the hope of cheating was removed there was nothing to do but pay up.” (Cicero’s insinuation in the following sentence that Caesar was behind the debt agitation of 63 is probably based on the tradition that he was an unexposed member of the “Catilinarian” conspiracy.) Dio 37.25.4 mentions a tribunician bill for χρεῶν ἀποκοπάς at the beginning of 63, and of course during his consular candidacy in this year Catiline associated himself with demands for debt relief (but not cancellation, as Reference Giovannini, Malkin and Rubinsohn (eds.)Giovannini 1995 persuasively shows). See also Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 136–147.

85 Reference Rosillo LópezRosillo López 2010: 216–223 notes the focus on nonmonetary transactions in the ambitus legislation during the financial/liquidity crisis of 67–62; this is interesting, but does not seem to be strong evidence that less money was being scattered about.

87 Val. Max. 4.8.3; Reference Rosillo LópezRosillo López 2010: 201. On Considius see Reference NicoletNicolet 1966/1974: 848–849.

88 Cic. Fam. 5.6.2, cf. Att. 1.13.6 (which notes, unless the text is corrupt [Shackleton Bailey], that the consul Messalla had paid HS 13,400,000 for a house; Clodius is supposed to have bought Scaurus’s house for HS 14,800,000). Caesar’s election to the high pontificate may have saved him this exorbitant expense since he was able then to move directly from his unimpressive house in the Subura to the domus publica (Suet. Iul. 46). It is by no means clear that this was “in a grand style” (Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 93); indeed, in comparison to the extravagant luxury houses at the foot of the Palatine such as that excavated by A. Carandini, it seems to have been relatively austere. (Cf. R. T. Scott, LTUR 2.165–166 with E. Papi, LTUR 2.26, 4.25–26.)

89 The publication of the speech is traditionally dated three years later on the basis of Att. 2.1.3 (see Chapter 3, Footnote n. 38), yet even if that arguable proposition be accepted, it remains probable that it was written down shortly after actual delivery, as was usual. Nothing in the characterization of Caesar in Cat. IV would seem to imply its “contamination” by his praetorian activities or indeed consular candidacy in 60.

90 On popularis and populares see Chapter 1, Footnote n. 24.

91 4.9: habemus enim a Caesare, sicut ipsius dignitas et maiorum eius amplitudo postulabat, sententiam tamquam obsidem perpetuae in rem publicam voluntatis.

92 Footnote Ibid.: intellectum est quid interesset inter levitatem contionatorum et animum vere popularem saluti populi consulentem. See the classic treatment by Reference SeagerSeager 1972: 328–338; Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 207–230.

93 4.10: video de istis qui se populares haberi volunt abesse non neminem, ne de capite videlicet civium Romanorum sententiam ferat. Possibly not Crassus, as usually supposed, though we know he was absent (Cic. Att. 12.21.1): Reference DrummondDrummond 1995: 14–15. Yet no better candidate has been uncovered; Cicero would probably not have been so circumspect in attacking a junior figure like the tribunes Bestia or Nepos.

94 4.10: iam hoc nemini dubium est, qui reo custodiam, quaesitori gratulationem, indici praemium decrerit quid de tota re et causa iudicarit.

95 4.11: sive hoc statueritis, dederitis mihi comitem ad contionem populo carum atque iucundum. For bringing the introducer of a major senatorial motion before the People in the immediately subsequent contio, see Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 247–248. Cf. also §9: fortasse minus erunt hoc auctore et cognitore huiusce sententiae mihi populares impetus pertimescendi.

96 4.10: ut omnis animi cruciatus et corporis etiam egestas ac mendicitas consequatur.

97 4.10: homo mitissimus atque lenissimus (as Dyck notes ad loc., this was a “popular” virtue); §11: facile me atque vos crudelitatis vituperatione populus Romanus exsolvet atque obtinebo eam multo leniorem fuisse. Probably eam refers back to Silani sententiam, not crudelitas (so Dyck), which Cicero would not after all own.

98 See Reference CapeCape 1995 (though I sense no irony in Cicero’s reference to Caesar’s dignitas).

99 Q. Cicero (?), Comment. pet. 51–53, etc. On the phenomenon in general see Reference Yakobson, Rosenstein and Morstein-MarxYakobson 2006.

101 Cic. Leg. agr. 2.18 (cf. 2.26–27).

102 Chapter 1, p. 4ff.

104 Ten-year rule no longer observed: Reference HarrisHarris 1979: 12n4 and see now Reference SegalSegal 2019: 30–112 with a pertinent review of the best-known careers of our period. Cicero’s service of only two years suggests that some minimal service was still expected but that the bar was set rather low; even Caesar seems to have served only five years before his quaestorship. On the military path to public honors, see Cic. Off. 2.45; recent scholarship has shown that this was hardly the norm by Caesar’s generation (convenient recent summary in Reference BlomBlom 2016: 55–59; Segal, op. cit., expands the argument).

105 Pliny, HN 7.139–40 = ORF no. 6, fr. 2. On the speech see Reference FlowerFlower 1996: 136–142.

106 Suet. Iul. 2.

107 See Plin. HN 16.7–14, Gell. 5.6.11–15, Polyb. 6.39.6. That Caesar reached the aedileship, praetorship, and consulship two years before the statutory minimum ages for those offices led Reference TaylorTaylor 1957: 12–13 to adopt Helen White’s suggestion in her 1950 dissertation (Broughton MRR 3.106) that the corona civica gave him the right to pursue office (at least from the aedileship on up) two years earlier than usual. Reference GoldsworthyGoldsworthy 2006: 106 and Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 57 follow. But there is no substantial evidence for this privilege, and since Caesar apparently held the quaestorship at the usual age of thirty, I favor Badian’s view (see Footnote n. 118).

109 Pliny, HN 16.13; cf. 22.9, Liv. 6.20.7.

110 Pliny HN 16.14 (who however places the action at the Trebia); cf. Polyb. 10.3.4–7 with Walbank HCP 2:198–199; Livy 21.46.7–10. Reference ZecchiniZecchini 2001 notes the connection to Caesar (125) but fails to mention that Scipio declined the honor (Plin. HN 16.14; cf. 7.106). It is possible that the exploit or the story of its recognition is an invention (Reference WeinstockWeinstock 1971: 163; Reference BeckBeck 2005: 335), but even if it was only part of the Scipio legend, this legend is likely to have been influential in Caesar’s generation.

111 App. Hisp. 53–54; Livy Per. 48. For the context Reference AstinAstin 1967: 46–47. On the “mural crown” see Polyb. 6.39.5; Liv. 26.48.5; Gell. 5.6.16.

112 App. Pun. 98–110; Livy Per. 49; Vell. Pat. 1.12.4. Pliny makes clear in his discussion of the corona obsidionalis (HN 22.6–13) that this honor was far rarer than the civica. Among its other republican recipients he lists Dentatus (again), P. Decius Mus, Fabius Cunctator, and Sulla, as well as one other military tribune besides Aemilianus and a single centurion. A recent review of the various Roman “crowns” in Reference BergmannBergmann 2010.

113 Plut. Marc. 2.3: ἔτι νέῳ στέφανοι καὶ γέρα παρὰ τῶν στρατηγῶν ἦσαν. Later, of course, Marcellus was to win the spolia opima, though his military reputation was in the end somewhat tarnished by the rashness that brought about his death in 208. Reference McDonnellMcDonnell 2006: 206–240 considers Marcellus the creator of a new ideology of virtus associated with popular appeal and attempts “to overcome traditional aristocratic restrictions on glory and power” (236); however that may be, the Scipiones more effectively realized this tendency in the memory of subsequent generations.

114 Plut. Mar. 3.2–3. Surely one of the chief coronae would have been explicitly mentioned by “Marius” in his great speech if Sallust had known about it (Sall. Iug. 85.29: hastas, vexillum, phaleras, alia militaria dona). The tradition is in fact notably vague about Marius’s youthful military action other than that he served with distinction: cf. Sall. Iug. 6.3–4; Val. Max. 8.15.7; Reference EvansEvans 1994: 27–28.

115 Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: nos. 140, 141; Reference Damon and MackayDamon and Mackay 1995; Reference BlomBlom 2016: 153–154. On Antonius’s activities in Greece see now also Reference KeaveneyKeaveney 2018: 54–56.

116 On Caesar’s reputed eloquence see Suet. Iul. 55.1–2; Plut. Caes. 3.2–4; cf. Cic. Brut. 252, 258, 261; Quint. 10.114; Tac. Dial. 21.5, 25.3, Ann. 13.3.4. Forensic speeches, esp. prosecutions, were an acknowledged way of demonstrating one’s worthiness for a further career: see e.g. Cic. Leg. Man. 1–2, Off. 2.49–50, and Reference BlomBlom 2016: 26–33.

117 ORF 121, frs. 15–23 (pp. 386–387). Reference BlomBlom 2016: 154–156. Dolabella is the author of the first dated public appearance of the notorious allegation that Caesar had been the Bithynian king’s young lover, which would give Bibulus and Memmius good material for their invectives in 59: Suet. Iul. 49, with Reference OsgoodOsgood 2008.

118 See Reference BadianBadian 1964: 140–156 for the view that this was a patrician privilege. Broughton demurs on the grounds that patrician careers are not well enough known to prove the point, and alone among modern authorities inclines to Mommsen’s proposed date of 102 for Caesar’s birth (MRR 3.105), rather than 100, which is clearly indicated by our most direct evidence (Suet. Iul. 88; App. BCiv. 2.149/620; cf. Reference DeutschDeutsch 1914: 17–28 for full evidence) and is generally accepted among scholars today. Cf. Footnote n. 107. I leave out here the famous story of Caesar’s capture by pirates in the winter of 74–73 (Plut. Caes. 1.8–2.7, Suet. Iul. 4, et al.; see Reference PellingPelling 2011: 138–141; on the date, also Reference Kallet-MarxKallet-Marx 1995: 300n34). True or not, it seems most likely to be a product of the (late) biographical tradition and there is no evidence that the story was even known or public in the late 70s.

119 The dates of the military tribunate and the quaestorship are plausibly inferred (Broughton, MRR 3.105–106; Reference TaylorTaylor 1941: 120–123). Taylor conjectured that as military tribune Caesar served under Crassus in the Spartacan War.

121 CIL I2 751 = ILS 5892 = ILLRP 379, with Dio 37.45.3. Plut. Caes. 5.9; for the favorable publicity the road-building posts tended to give see Cic. Att. 1.1.2, Plut. C. Gracch. 7 (tribune).

122 Reference GruenGruen 1974: 28–35; Reference MitchellMitchell 1979: 130–132. For a somewhat more nuanced view see now Reference SantangeloSantangelo 2014: 5–10.

123 Plut. Pomp. 25.8. Cf. Plutarch’s shifting of the Alexander and dream anecdotes to more notable moments in the narrative. Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 63, 100–101; Reference WatkinsWatkins 1987: 120–121n6; Reference HeftnerHeftner 1995: 192; Reference BlomBlom 2016: 163.

124 Dio 36.20–37.

125 Dio 36.43.2–4; Cic. Leg. Man. 68 lists the consulars, including Caesar’s old commander P. Servilius Isauricus and another senior Sullanus, C. Scribonius Curio.

126 See Asconius’s sketch of the background, 57–62 C, esp. 60–61. It is true that Caesar was a sitting aedile and thus might have had scruples about associating himself directly with the defendant; but note that Faustus Sulla, a sitting quaestor, and C. Memmius, a sitting tribune, appeared as supplicatores on behalf of Scaurus the Younger in 54.

127 Reference CanforaCanfora 2007: 42 notes Caesar’s departure from the “old, traditional politics of the populares.”

128 I leave aside the empty suspicion held by many that Caesar, with Crassus as senior partner, was pulling the strings behind the Rullan land bill (Footnote n. 148) or the bizarre machinations of the Rabirius trial.

129 Reference JehneJehne 2009: 56, thinks the pontifical election came first. There seems to be no solid evidence either way, since Dio’s implication that it came after December 5 is clearly wrong (Broughton, MRR, 2.172n3); however, Ramsey’s late date for the elections of 63 (2019: September) makes the priority of the pontifical election more probable. Describing the run-up to the P.M. election Dio mentions a law of the tribune Labienus (allegedly supported by Caesar) restoring in essence the lex Domitia of 104 (37.37.1–2), which instituted elections for the main priestly colleges rather than the ancient procedure of cooptation reinstituted by Sulla. Since Dio ascribes to Caesar the motive of improving his own chances in his run for pontifex maximus, there has been a tendency to assume that the lex Labiena changed the procedure for that election as well, but there is no evidence for that, and it is difficult to see why Sulla would have wanted to change a practice that had been part of the mos maiorum since at least the third century (Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 102n30; Reference TaylorTaylor 1942a; see more recently Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 166; Reference North, Richardson and SantangeloNorth 2011). If indeed Caesar supported Labienus’s law and this is not simply Dio’s inference, a motive is not hard to seek: this was a “popular” move, and an attractive precedent could be found in Cn. Domitius’s success in the election of pontifex maximus in 103, the year immediately after the passage of the lex Domitia.

130 Suet. Iul. 13; cf. Sall. Cat. 49.2; Plut. Caes. 7.1; Dio 37.37.2; Vell. Pat. 2.43.3. Reference JehneJehne 2009: 57–58 attributes profound effects to this election by demonstrating Caesar’s disregard for norms and aristocratic opposition, thus even accelerating the end of the Republic.

131 Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 46. Reference Gruen and GriffinGruen 2009: 23–24 was on the right track.

132 The evidence is contained in Reference RüpkeRüpke 2005. The elections took place in 212, 183, 180, 150, 141, 132, 130, ca. 114, 107, 103, 89, and 81 (which I have counted as an election, though under the conditions this may be open to some doubt). Only in 130, 89, and 81 is it impossible in the state of our evidence to show that at least one pontiff was senior to the successful candidate (81 is a weak positive because no pontifex was even a consular). Winner much junior to at least one pontiff: 212, 180, 141, 132, and 103. Of course our evidence rarely reveals who were the candidates (212 is an exception: see next n.), but the assumption must be strong, especially if the common view has any validity whatever, that normally at least one of the most senior consulars among the pontiffs competed in the election. Winner not a consular: 212, 141, 132, 107, 103, 81.

133 Reference Gruen and GriffinGruen 2009: 23. Livy 25.5.2–4; ingenti certamine. The great Fabius Maximus Cunctator, now cos. IV, was also eligible as a pontiff but did not throw his hat into the ring.

135 As suggested to me by N. Rosenstein.

136 Suet. Iul. 13, non sine profusissima largitione; Plut. Caes. 7.1–4, with Reference PellingPelling 2011: 159; Dio 37.37.1–3.

137 Reference Rosillo LópezRosillo López 2010. On Roman electoral “generosity,” distinguishable from mere bribery in theory if not so much in practice, see esp. Cic. Off. 2.52–64. On electioneering and its regulation cf. Reference LintottLintott 1990; Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 1998: 265–266 on benignitas (Q. Cic. Comment. pet. 41, 44, 49–50); Reference YakobsonYakobson 1999: 22–43; Reference AlexanderAlexander 2002: 123–124, 132–134. Cicero’s own brother (?) in the Comment. pet. recommends the same ingratiating manner that Caesar is alleged by Dio to have employed. Sall. Cat. 53.2–4 indicates that this behavior was remembered as characteristic of Caesar. For the unpleasant consequences of setting oneself against the tradition, consider Cato’s failed consular run of 52, which was specifically attributed to this (Plut. Cat. Min. 49 [cf. 44.3–4]; Dio 40.58.3).

139 Dio 37.37.3 θεραπεῦσαι καὶ κολακεῦσαι πάντα τινὰ καὶ τῶν τυχόντων. For Dio this was only a strategy to gain “power to come” (πρὸς τὴν ἐκ τοῦ ἔπειτα ἰσχυν) over those toward whom he was currently adopting a servile attitude.

140 On “supplicating” the Roman People cf. Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 1998: 265–269, Reference YakobsonYakobson 1999: esp. 211–225; Reference TatumTatum 2018: 19–20, 264–266; Q. Cic. Comment. pet. 41, 44, 49–50 (benignitas). For elite distaste for the “carnivalesque” inversion of the social hierarchy, see Cic. De or. 1.112. Cic. Leg. agr. 2.18 in eo (sc. pontifice creando) tamen propter amplitudinem sacredoti voluerint populo supplicari shows that “supplication of the People” was expected even in elections for the pontifex maximus.

141 Catulus’s bitterness is stressed by Sall. Cat. 49.2 and Vell. Pat. 2.43.3. Plut. (Caes. 7.2) says that Catulus tried to bribe (!) Caesar to leave the race.

142 Cic. Mur. 15–53, Planc. 6, 17, 51, with Alexander 2003: 124–125, 140–141.

143 Cic. Leg. agr. 2.21 implies that the sortition of the seventeen tribes would take place just before the vote, which is in any case the usual time for sortition to establish the tribal order of voting.

144 Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 104, though it is a bit naive to assume that this proves Caesar’s innocence.

146 P. Licinius Crassus Mucianus 132; Q. Servilius Caepio 107; probably P. Scipio Nasica Serapio 141 (praetorian: Broughton, MRR 1.478n2; 3.72).

147 Dio 37.37.2 puts the pontifical election after the Catilinarian debate of December 5, when we know that Caesar was already praetor-elect, yet in this he is directly contradicted by Sall. Cat. 49.2. If Reference RamseyRamsey 2019 is correct to date the consular election of 63 to the last week of September, the odds are roughly three to one on present evidence that the pontifical election preceded it. Suet. Iul. 12–13 implicitly places the pontifical election after the Rabirius trial (for which see Footnote n. 150). Reference JehneJehne 2009: 56 (cf. Reference Jehne2001: 29) suggests that Caesar put his entire political existence on the line by choosing to contest the pontifical election in addition to the praetorian in the face of extremely poor odds, when failure might have cost him the praetorian election as well and resulted in bankruptcy. This is probably overstating the case, and in any case we are not certain which election preceded.

148 Strasburger complained in 1938: 114–115 that although no ancient source so much as mentions Caesar’s involvement he had not yet found a modern treatment that expressed even the slightest doubt of Caesar’s “authorship” of the measure. Yet the tradition continued in Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 42–45; Reference MitchellMitchell 1979: 194; Reference MeierMeier 1982: 158; Reference GoldsworthyGoldsworthy 2006: 120; against: esp. Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 158–162; Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 196n148.

149 Dio 37.25.4; Cic. Off. 2.84. See Footnote n. 84.

150 Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990, nos. 220, 221; a recent summary in Reference LintottLintott 2008: 120–125. Reference RamseyRamsey 2019: 242–244 now gives good grounds for dating the Rabirius trial to late July or early August.

151 See Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 225–226. The decree is also often called the s(enatus) c(onsultum) u(ltimum) after Caesar (BC 1.5.3, where however the full phrase illud extremum atque ultimum senatus consultum makes clear that this was not a technical term).

152 Q. Labienus: Cic. Rab. perd. 14, 18, 20–22.

153 Hence Cic. Rab. perd. 12 hic popularis [Labienus] a IIViris … non iudicari de cive Romano sed indicta causa civem Romanum capitis condemnari coegit. So too in the legendary original trial for perduellio the duumviri consider their hands to be tied: Livy 1.26.7. For the curious role of the duumviri in the perduellio procedure see Reference TyrrellTyrrell 1978, esp. 10–34. See also Reference DrummondDrummond 1995: 61–62, acknowledging that the requirement to condemn was the “first-century interpretation” of the archaic procedure.

154 Livy Per. 61, Cic. De or. 2.106; other sources at GC 50–51. On Opimius’s trial see Reference Ungern-SternbergUngern-Sternberg 1970: 68–71; note that he accepts Mommsen’s emendation of Liv. Per. 61 in carcerem coniecisset to in carcere necasset or in carcerem coniectos necasset, which avoids the implication that the mere imprisonment of a citizen might be seen as contrary to the lex Sempronia.

155 Reference BruntBrunt 1988: 16n16; Reference LintottLintott 1999: 90 (“when it was held to justify extraordinary forms of trial after order had been restored” [my emphasis]); Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 109–110, 225–228. Note that contra Reference ArenaArena 2012: 200–220, who assumes that the legitimacy of the s.c.u. was fundamentally rejected by populares, both Sallust (Cat. 29.2–3) and Caesar (BCiv. 1.7.5–6) raise no doubts about the legitimacy of the so-called s.c.u. to suppress ongoing violent insurrection; both she and Reference GoldenGolden 2013: 104–149 overlook the fact that the most controversial issue of its use in 121 and 100 was its application once the emergency for which it had been invoked had passed. The sources do not name the legal procedure under which Opimius was tried by the populus; perhaps perduellio, which would also make the choice of that procedure for Rabirius less curious.

156 Cic. Pis. 4; Dio 37.26.1–3: Reference Morstein-MarxMorstein-Marx 2004: 225–226; cf. Reference Ungern-SternbergUngern-Sternberg 1970: 81–85.

157 Lot: Suet. Iul. 12. “The praetor”: Dio 37.27.2.

158 Identifications: Cicero’s ally and client L. Valerius Flaccus has been the leading candidate (Broughton, MRR 3.212) until recently, when Ryan made a plausible case for L. Roscius Otho (1997: 239; but see Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 132). Both men seem to have been on quite good terms with Cicero: Flaccus would provide Cicero with his decisive evidence for the conspiracy later in this year and was defended by him later with much praise for his political sympathies (Flac. esp. 6–8, 94–105); Roscius was conspicuously defended against popular displeasure in this year by consul Cicero (Plut. Cic. 13.3–4; Cic. Att. 2.1.3). An older favorite was Q. Metellus Celer (see MRR 3.37), though his role in preventing Rabirius’s conviction (Dio 37.27.3) argues against the assumption that the praetor was in on the scheme. Phillips’s advocacy of P. Lentulus Sura (1974: 94) is patently circular.

159 Reference GruenGruen 1974: 135. Note that L. Caesar held firm for the death sentence in the Catilinarian Debate even after his cousin had spoken: Cic. Cat. 4.13, Att. 12.21.1.

161 Vell. Pat. 2.40.4; Dio 37.21.4 makes the crown laurel (a possible emendation of Velleius: Reference MommsenMommsen 1887: 1:427n.2); cf. Cic. Att. 1.18.6.

162 Dio 37.21.4; Reference DrummondDrummond 1999: 149.

163 Cf. Cicero’s proposal in the Senate for an unprecedented number of days of supplicationes, Chapter 5, Footnote n. 116.

165 Sall. Cat. 49, Suet. Iul. 17. Many modern scholars have been tempted by the possibility of Caesar as a Catilinarian: esp. Reference CanforaCanfora 2007: 39–41, 43–46, who is wedded to an antiquated notion of Sallust as dutiful Caesarian apologist, “vindicator of Caesar’s memory.” Reference BillowsBillows 2009: 88 actually thinks Caesar would have supported Catiline since the latter would likely “follow policies more popularis than not.” But see already Reference StrasburgerStrasburger 1938: 120–125 and the demolition of the “First Catilinarian Conspiracy” (Footnote n. 10). For a judicious recent discussion see now Reference PellingPelling 2011: 163–164.

166 If we assume that all the senators Sallust confidently numbers among the conspirators were in fact guilty we reach the number eleven; adding a handful to allow for the possibility that some escaped denunciation, we reach roughly fifteen, or 2.5 percent of all senators. Sall. Cat. 17.3 lists P. Lentulus Sura (cos. 71, expelled in census of 70, pr. 63), P. Autronius Paetus (cos. des. 65 but convicted de ambitu and expelled from Senate), L. Cassius Longinus (pr. 66), L. Calpurnius Bestia (tr. des. 62), C. Cornelius Cethegus, P. Cornelius Sulla, Ser. Cornelius Sulla, Q. Annius Chilo, M. Porcius Laeca (apparently junior senators), L. Vargunteius (probably convicted de ambitu and expelled from the Senate), Q. Curius (expelled by censors in 70). See Reference GruenGruen 1974: 418–419. Sallust’s list corresponds closely to the roster of those clearly incriminated in the senatorial hearing of 63 plus those subsequently convicted in trials (Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: nos. 229–233). L. Bestia is an exception, though named by Sallust he does not seem to have been formally charged or named in the senatorial debates: Syme is probably right to regard his inclusion as a malicious invention (Reference Syme1964: 132–133).

167 Ascon. 82C; Q. Cicero(?), Comment. pet. 7. Catiline: Seager’s persuasive demonstration (Reference Seager1973) that Lentulus’s urban conspiracy should be distinguished from whatever Catiline had been doing remains unrefuted.

168 For Cicero’s suggestion (Cic. Off. 2.84, written in 44) that Caesar was scheming together with Catiline to cancel debts in 63 see nFootnote n. 84, 149).

169 Ascon. 83C (bis). There is, incidentally, no evidence for the common assumption that Caesar (whether he acted as president of the court or as prosecutor) somehow engineered Catiline’s acquittal in the trials of Sullan bounty hunters of 64.

170 Sall. Cat. 49.1; similarly, Plut. Caes. 7.5, 8.4. Plut. Cic. 20.6–7 also mentions rumors of Caesar’s involvement and seeks to explain why Cicero did not implicate Caesar; at Caes. 8.5, like App. BCiv. 2.6/20, he stresses more directly the immunity provided by Caesar’s great popularity. None of these rumors was brought into the open enough to be refuted, and all of it appears to bear the mark of Cicero’s De consiliis suis, a highly questionable source where Caesar is concerned (see nFootnote n. 11 and 175).

171 Sall. Cat. 52.14–16; App. BCiv. 2.6/21; Plut. Cat. min. 23.1–2, implicitly relying on an account other than Sallust’s (§§3–4).

172 Suet. Iul. 14.2; Plut. Caes. 8.2, whose dating of the event is preferable to that of Sallust, Cat. 49.4, and therefore probably puts Cato on the hook as much as Catulus and Piso. Canfora thinks that the reaction of the overexcited equites “proves” how close Caesar was to the condemned conspirators. Suetonius seems to imply that the equestrian guard actually burst into the meeting (strictos gladios usque eo intentans, ut sedentem una proximi deseruerint), and some scholars have taken this view (Reference GelzerGelzer 1968: 53, Reference CanforaCanfora 2007: 48). Yet Plutarch and Sallust seem very specific in placing the incident during Caesar’s exit from the meeting, and had Cicero actually allowed the guard to intimidate senators during the meeting itself this would certainly have provoked much sharper adverse comment than can possibly be extracted from Cic. Phil. 2.16–17.

173 Suet. Iul. 17. For the allegation made in court see Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: no. 227 (only “threatened”); Novius’s position, given by Suetonius as quaestorem, must surely be emended to quaesitorem (MRR 2.175). Cf. Plut. Caes. 8.5, who puts Caesar’s defense in the Senate only a “few days” after December 5, although Suetonius says he avoided the Senate for the remainder of the year (twenty-five days). Reference PellingPelling 2011: 171 rightly favors the latter. Q. Curius as Cicero’s informer: Sall. Cat. 17.3, 23.1–4, 26.3, 28.2. Vettius as informer: Footnote n. 178.

174 Cic. Cael. 12–15. Sall. Cat. 34.3–35.6, with Reference RamseyRamsey 2007: 155. (Catiline had notoriously avenged the death of Catulus’s father.) Cic. Sull. 81–82 recalls the support of consulares for Catiline in his trials of 73, 65, and even 64 (Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990, no. 217; Reference BerryBarry 1996: 278, 296–298).

175 Rejected, for example, by Reference BruntBrunt 1957; Reference GruenGruen 1974: 138; Reference DrummondDrummond 1995: 21; Reference LintottLintott 2008: 135. On De consiliis suis, see Plut. Crass. 13.3–4; Dio 39.10, with Reference RawsonRawson 1982 = 1991: 408–415; Reference MolesMoles 1982; Reference MarshallMarshall 1985: 285, 287. See also Reference DyckDyck 1996: 478–479.

176 Cf. Plut. Caes. 7.5–7 (cf. Cat. min. 22.5, Cic. 20.6–7), App. BCiv. 2.6/20. A good summary in Reference PellingPelling 2011: 163–164. Reference DrummondDrummond 1995: 19–21 has doubts about the historicity of Sallust’s claim here: the story may even have been an invention of Caesar’s apologists. But it hardly bolsters the allegation if it was merely an authorless rumor. The asymmetrical feud between Catulus and Caesar continued almost immediately with Caesar’s proposal on January 1 (in the midst of the accusations under discussion) that his enemy’s name be removed from the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus: Footnote Chapter 3, n. 84.

178 Dio 37.41.2–4 provides fuller information about Vettius’s information than Suet. Iul. 17, but without so much as mentioning Caesar (Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: no. 226). Cic. Att. 2.24.2 ille noster index; for the “Vettius Affair” of 59 see Chapter 4). Two other known instances of pignoris capio are roughly comparable examples of the infringement of magisterial dignity (Reference GreenidgeGreenidge 1901: 336–337; see also Reference Butler and CaryButler and Cary 1927: 60–61). Vettius was “an informer of little repute” (Reference GruenGruen 1974: 95–96).

179 Reference AlexanderAlexander 1990: nos. 226, 228–232.

180 If Plut. Caes. 8.5 refers to this incident (Reference PellingPelling 2011: 171), a noisy demonstration pressed the Senate to allow Caesar to leave. Note also that Caesar took one of the conspirators (Statilius) into his own custody in accordance with a senatorial decree: Sall. Cat. 47.4.

181 Suet. Iul. 17.2. Some readers may notice that in these pages, while avoiding for the most part quantitative expressions of probability, I have followed the basic principles of Bayesian calculation of conditional probability – the standard method for systematically updating probability estimates in view of additional evidence. For nontechnical introductions to the method, see Lindley 2006: 79–100; Reference SilverSilver 2012: 240–250. Two notable lessons of Bayes’s Rule are (1) that it takes powerful evidence indeed to change a prior unlikelihood appreciably (the <2.5 percent probability of any senator’s involvement), and (2) “false positives” (in our examples: alternative, benign explanations for a piece of evidence adduced for Caesar’s complicity) may greatly weaken an inference even when they are not in themselves actually very likely.

183 Clodius: Reference TatumTatum 1999: 144–145, 277n117. Sulla: Cic. Sull. passim. Caelius: Footnote n. 174.

184 My interpretation thus is close to that of Reference Gruen and GriffinGruen 2009. Reference Raaflaub, Breed, Damon and RossiRaaflaub 2010: 162, describing Caesar’s methods in his early career as “unusual and aggressive,” remains in my opinion too close to the traditional retrospective/teleological narrative.

185 Sall. Cat. 54.6: esse quam videri bonus malebat; ita, quo minus petebat gloriam, eo magis illum assequebatur.

186 Sall. Cat. 54.4 sibi magnum imperium, exercitum, bellum novom exoptabat ubi virtus enitescere posset.

187 Reference JehneJehne 2001: 18 – a modest exaggeration by this date (Reference BlomBlom 2016: 55–59; Reference SegalSegal 2019 passim) but nevertheless a fair expression of the traditional importance attributed to this activity.

188 Cic. Mur. 22–24 (rei militaris virtus praestat ceteris omnibus). Reference HarrisHarris 1979: 10–41; Reference Rosenstein, Rosenstein and Morstein-MarxRosenstein 2006; Reference McDonnellMcDonnell 2006: 181–240.

189 Sall. Cat. 7.5–6. See Reference Morstein-Marx and HölkeskampMorstein-Marx 2009: 118–119.

190 Reference MorrellMorrell 2017: 114: “Cato valued moral excellence above military achievements in a manner atypical for a Roman.”

191 The idea is pervasive in the scholarship, but Reference ZecchiniZecchini 2001: 117–120 is rightly cautious: see Footnote n. 194.

192 Sall. Iug. 63.6: postea ambitione praeceps datus est; 64.5: cupidine et ira, pessumis consultoribus, grassari; 84.1: antea iam infestus nobilitati, tum vero multus atque ferox instare, singulos modo, modo universos laedere, dictitare sese consulatum ex victis illis spolia cepisse, alia praeterea magnifica pro se et illis dolentia.

193 Sall. Iug. 85.

194 Reference ZecchiniZecchini 2001: 124–126 persuasively stresses the usefulness of both Scipiones as models and precedents for Caesar. He focuses on his later career from the victories in Gaul onward, but there is no reason to think that the Scipiones had ever been absent from Roman minds.

195 Various lists of Rome’s greatest military leaders that appear in Cicero’s speeches are instructive (esp. Cic. Cat. 4.21, Planc. 60, Balb. 40, Sest. 143, Pis. 58, Rep. 1.1): the Scipiones are the only men who make it onto all of the lists. Cf. Plutarch’s comparison to the “Fabii, Scipios, and Metelli” at Caes. 15.3. Q. Fabius Cunctator was, as Ennius wrote, “the one man who saved Rome by delaying”; and see Footnote n. 112) but his essentially defensive posture made him a less natural model for emulation in this age.

196 The Elder Africanus had been twice consul, censor, princeps senatus, and triumphator (twice if one includes the quasi-triumph of 206: Reference BeckBeck 2005: 344); his imago, extraordinarily, was preserved in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus (Val. Max. 8.15.1–2; App. Iber. 89; see Reference FlowerFlower 1996: 48: “It is tempting to follow Valerius Maximus in interpreting this as a claim that the temple was in some special sense a home to Africanus during his lifetime”). The Younger Africanus was twice consul in an age when this may have been forbidden by law (Footnote Chapter 5, n. 239), censor, and twice triumphator.

197 Liv. 26.18.4–11. See Reference BeckBeck 2005: 339–340 and his whole discussion, 328–367.

199 See Chapter 1, p. 11ff; App. Pun. 112. Reference ElsterElster 2003: no. 202, pp. 425–426, no. 203, pp. 427–428 (probably too cautious). Reference AstinAstin 1967: 61–69.

200 Reference AstinAstin 1967: 135, 183–184; Reference ElsterElster 2003: nos. 217–218, pp. 450–452.

201 Reference AstinAstin 1967: 182. Astin stresses a growing “readiness to circumvent or set aside constitutional impediments which were formally established in law” (186) and the rise of “popular demonstrations, of cheering and shouting crowds” (187). See also Reference McDonnellMcDonnell 2006: 237–240.

202 Cic. Luc. 13 with Reference MeierMeier 1965: 582–583.

203 Cf. Reference Feig VishniaFeig-Vishnia 1996: 131 on the Elder Africanus: “Scipio would have fitted perfectly into the Roman political arena of the first century.” Of the Younger Africanus, Reference AstinAstin 1967: 243 wrote in words that could have been taken from a (somewhat tendentious assessment) of Caesar, “with conspicuous success, he placed his own advancement above both usage and the law, that in the furtherance of his own ambitions he cultivated and exploited popular favour as an instrument with which to defy the Senate.” Contemporaries of Caesar clearly began to draw the parallel with Africanus: note the surely fabricated claim that the elder Africanus declined the dictatura perpetua and lifelong consulship (Livy 38.56.12–13), and the tradition of his (figurative?) apotheosis (Enn. 5.23 V, Cic. Rep. fr. 3 Powell; Reference WeinstockWeinstock 1971: 294–295). It may not be merely a coincidence that Caesar’s operative Oppius wrote a life of Scipio Africanus (FRHist 40, fr. 1–3) as well as one of Caesar (FRHist 1.381–382).

204 The classic example of this leveling effect is the targeting (apparently driven by the elder Cato) of the elder Africanus (Reference Gruen, Malkin and Rubinsohn (eds.)Gruen 1995; Reference BriscoeBriscoe 2008: 170–179; Rich, FRHist 3.352–358). Yet the strategy was not repeated with Aemilianus, and from even Cicero’s perspective in the late 50s he deserved not to be taken down a few notches but to be elevated to some kind of extraordinary position, possibly even as dictator, to put the state in order (esp. Rep. 6.12.3–4; cf. 1.31.4) in a manner analogous to the rector rei publicae/civitatis described in the De re publica (Rep. 2.51.1; cf. De or. 1.211). For recent summaries of Cicero’s political theory in the Rep. and the old problem of the rector’s place in it see Reference AtkinsAtkins 2013; Reference Zetzel and SteelZetzel 2013; Reference HammerHammer 2014: 76–79; Reference ZareckiZarecki 2014; Reference HodgsonHodgson 2017: 159–162; for Cicero’s high admiration of Aemilianus see Reference MitchellMitchell 1991: 45–46. From a much later perspective, Caesar could be grouped not only with Africanus but also Camillus in an indictment of the Republic’s inability to suffer the preeminence of truly exceptional men (Speech of Maecenas, Dio 52.13.3–4).