"You did not mean to be unkind, dear little mistress," she said, as she kissed the hand which had been caressing her own golden hair.
"I am sure you did not mean to be unkind; but I am in great trouble, and I have just said 'Good-bye' to my father, and I can think of no one else but him. When those we love are in danger we cannot help being anxious, can we?"
At that moment the curtains were drawn aside, and Claudius himself came into the beautiful apartment. Livia ran to greet him; she was a child of ten years old, bright and winning in her ways, in beauty and bearing every inch the child of a patrician. She was dressed in soft silk of dark purple.
"I do not want the brooch," she said, as she put up her face to be kissed. "I want Marcella's father to be victorious to-morrow."
"What has Marcella's father got to do with you, little one?" he asked roughly. "Neither he nor she is anything to you, a patrician's daughter. Slaves both of them! Let me hear no more of them. And as for the brooch, it shall be a handsome one."
But when he had gone Livia turned to the slave and said, "I shall never wear that brooch, Marcella."
So the day wore into the night, and all through the night Marcella lay awake, wondering what the morrow would bring forth. When at last she fell asleep she dreamed that she was in the Circus Maximus watching her father, who was fighting with a new gladiator. She saw her father fall. She heard the cries of the populace. She herself, a girl of fourteen summers, sprang up to help him. And then she awoke.
"Ah, it was only a dream!" she cried, with a sigh of relief. "Father will win the fight to-morrow, and then he will buy his own freedom and mine, too."
It was a beautiful day for the Public Games. People had come from all parts of the country, and the streets of Rome were crowded with all manner of folk.
The AEdile whose duty it was to arrange the Public Games had provided a very costly entertainment, and great excitement prevailed everywhere to know the issue of the contest between the gladiators Naevus and Lucius. It was a wonderful sight to see the Circus Maximus crowded with the rich and luxurious patrician nobles and ladies arid their retinues of slaves, and the poorer classes, all bent on amusing themselves on this great public festival.
No doubt, amongst all those masses there were many anxious hearts, but none so anxious as that of the slave-girl Marcella. She sat behind her little mistress, eagerly expectant. At last a peal of trumpets and a clash of cymbals, accompanied by some wild kind of music, announced that the performance was about to begin. The folding-doors under the archway were flung open, and the gladiators marched in slowly, two by two. In all the pride of their strength and bearing they walked once round the arena, and then they stepped aside to wait until their turn came. The performance began with some fights between animals; for at the time of which we are speaking the Romans had learned to love this cruel bloodshed, and had learned to despise the less exciting, if more manly, trials of strength in which their ancestors had delighted. When this part of the cruel amusement was over the trumpets again sounded, and the gladiators made ready for their contest. Then it was that Marcella's heart beat wildly with fear. She saw her father advance together with the other gladiator; she saw their swords flash; she heard the people around her call out the name now of Naevus, and now of Lucius; she heard one near her say:
"He of the red scarf will prove the stronger mark my words."
Marcella's father wore the red scarf,
"Nay, nay," answered the speaker's companion. "He of the green scarf will win the day."
It was all that Marcella could do to prevent herself from saying, "The gladiator with the red scarf will prove the stronger--he must prove the stronger."
She sat spell-bound, watching for the event of the contest, which had now begun between the two in real earnest. The people encouraged now the one and now the other. At this moment it seemed probable that the new man, Lucius, would be the winner; at that moment the tide had turned in the favour of Naevus. But suddenly there was a loud cry, for Lucius had felled Naevus to the ground, and now stood over him with his sword ready for use, waiting to learn from the populace whether the favourite gladiator was to be spared or killed.
The slave-girl Marcella had risen from her seat.
"That is my father," she cried; "spare him--spare him!"
But no one heard her or noticed her, and the signal for mercy was not shown; on the contrary, the thumbs of thousands of hands pointed upwards; and that meant that the vanquished man, who had been the hero of so many contests, having now failed of his accustomed valour, was to die. So Lucius gave him a thrust with his sword, and he died while he was being carried away from the arena.
"You have won your brooch, little daughter," laughed Claudius, as he bent over and fondled Livia's hair. "And it shall be a costly brooch, worthy of a patrician's daughter."
But Livia's eyes were full of tears,
"I could never wear it," she sobbed; "I should always be thinking of Marcella's father."
Poor Marcella! and she thought the little charm which he had worn for her sake would preserve his life. Ah! it was cruel to think that she would never see him again, and that all their hopes of freedom and their plans for the future had ended. Well might she weep.
That was hundreds of years ago, you know, but still the same story goes on, and all through the centuries sorrow comes to us, just as we think we are grasping happiness, and we have to be brave and bear that sorrow. But sometimes we are helped by friends, even as Livia helped Marcella. For she did help her; she loved her as a sister, and treated her as such. And as time went on the little patrician lady claimed a gift from her father Claudius, a gift which was far more costly than any brooch--it was the freedom of the Sicilian slave Marcella, the gladiator's daughter.
JULIUS CaeSAR CROSSING THE RUBICON
By Jacob Abbott
There was a little stream in ancient times, in the north of Italy, which flowed eastward into the Adriatic Sea, called the Rubicon.
This stream has been immortalized by the transactions which we are now about to describe.
The Rubicon was a very important boundary, and yet it was in itself so small and insignificant that it is now impossible to determine which of two or three little brooks here running into the sea is entitled to its name and renown. In history the Rubicon is a grand, permanent, and conspicuous stream, gazed upon with continued interest by all mankind for nearly twenty centuries; in nature it is an uncertain rivulet, for a long time doubtful and undetermined, and finally lost.
The Rubicon originally derived its importance from the fact that it was the boundary between all that part of the north of Italy which is formed by the valley of the Po, one of the richest and most magnificent countries of the world, and the more southern Roman territories. This country of the Po constituted what was in those days called the hither Gaul, and was a Roman province. It belonged now to Caesar's jurisdiction, as the commander in Gaul.
All south of the Rubicon was territory reserved for the immediate jurisdiction of the city. The Romans, in order to protect themselves from any danger which might threaten their own liberties from the immense armies which they raised for the conquest of foreign nations, had imposed on every side very strict limitations and restrictions in respect to the approach of these armies to the capital. The Rubicon was the limit on this northern side. Generals commanding in Gaul were never to pass it. To cross the Rubicon with an army on the way to Rome was rebellion and treason. Hence the Rubicon became, as it were, the visible sign and symbol of civil restriction to military power.
As Caesar found the time of his service in Gaul drawing toward a conclusion, he turned his thoughts more and more toward Rome, endeavoring to strengthen his interest there by every means in his power, and to circumvent and thwart the designs of Pompey. He had agents and partisans in Rome who acted for him and in his name. He sent immense sums of money to these men, to be employed in such ways as would most tend to secure the favor of the people. He ordered the Forum to be rebuilt with great magnificence. He arranged great celebrations, in which the people were entertained with an endless succession of games, spectacles, and public feasts. When his daughter Julia, Pompey's wife, died, he celebrated her funeral with indescribable splendor. He distributed corn in immense quantities among the people, and he sent a great many captives home, to be trained as gladiators to fight in the theatres for their amusement.
In many cases, too, where he found men of talents and influence among the populace, who had become involved in debt by their dissipations and extravagance, he paid their debts, and thus secured their influence on his side. Men were astounded at the magnitude of these expenditures, and, while the multitude rejoiced thoughtlessly in the pleasures thus provided for them, the more reflecting and considerate trembled at the greatness of the power which was so rapidly rising to overshadow the land.
It increased their anxiety to observe that Pompey was gaining the same kind of influence and ascendency, too. He had not the advantage which Caesar enjoyed in the prodigious wealth obtained from the rich countries over which Caesar ruled, but he possessed, instead of it, the advantage of being all the time at Rome, and of securing, by his character and action there, a very wide personal popularity and influence. Pompey was, in fact, the idol of the people. At one time, when he was absent from Rome, at Naples, he was taken sick.
After being for some days in considerable danger, the crisis passed favorably, and he recovered. Some of the people of Naples proposed a public thanksgiving to the gods, to celebrate his restoration to health. The plan was adopted by acclamation, and the example thus set extended from city to city, until it had spread throughout Italy, and the whole country was filled with processions, games, shows, and celebrations, which were instituted everywhere in honor of the event. And when Pompey returned from Naples to Rome the towns on the way could not afford room for the crowds that came forth to meet him. The high roads, the villages, the ports, says Plutarch, were filled with sacrifices and entertainments. Many received him with garlands on their heads and torches in their hands, and, as they conducted him along, strewed the way with flowers.
In fact, Pompey considered himself as standing far above Caesar in fame and power, and this general burst of enthusiasm and applause educed by his recovery from sickness confirmed him in this idea.
He felt no solicitude, he said, in respect to Caesar. He should take no special precautions against any hostile designs which he might entertain on his return from Gaul. It was he himself, he said, that had raised Caesar up to whatever of elevation he had attained, and he could put him down even more easily than he had exalted him.
In the meantime, the period was drawing near in which Caesar's command in the provinces was to expire; and, anticipating the struggle with Pompey which was about to ensue, he conducted several of his legions through the passes of the Alps and advanced gradually, as he had a right to do, across the country of the Po toward the Rubicon, revolving in his capacious mind, as he came, the various plans by which he might hope to gain the ascendency over the power of his mighty rival and make himself supreme.
He concluded that it would be his wisest policy not to attempt to intimidate Pompey by great and open preparations for war, which might tend to arouse him to vigorous measures of resistance, but rather to cover and conceal his designs, and thus throw his enemy off his guard. He advanced, therefore, toward the Rubicon with a small force. He established his headquarters at Ravenna, a city not far from the river, and employed himself in objects of local interest there in order to avert as much as possible the minds of the people from imagining that he was contemplating any great design. Pompey sent to him to demand the return of a certain legion which he had lent him from his own army at a time when they were friends. Caesar complied with this demand without any hesitation, and sent the legion home. He sent with this legion, also, some other troops which were properly his own, thus evincing a degree of indifference in respect to the amount of the force retained under his command which seemed wholly inconsistent with the idea that he contemplated any resistance to the authority of the government at Rome.
In the meantime, the struggle at Rome between the partisans of Caesar and Pompey grew more and more violent and alarming. Caesar, through his friends in the city, demanded to be elected consul.
The other side insisted that he must first, if that was his wish, resign the command of his army, come to Rome, and present himself as a candidate in the character of a private citizen. This the constitution of the state very properly required. In answer to this requisition, Caesar rejoined that, if Pompey would lay down his military commands, he would do so too; if not, it was unjust to require it of him. The services, he added, which he had performed for his country demanded some recompense, which, moreover, they ought to be willing to award even if in order to do it it were necessary to relax somewhat in his favor the strictness of ordinary rules. To a large part of the people of the city these demands of Caesar appeared reasonable. They were clamorous to have them allowed. The partisans of Pompey, with the stern and inflexible Cato at their head, deemed them wholly inadmissible and contended with the most determined violence against them. The whole city was filled with the excitement of this struggle, into which all the active and turbulent spirits of the capital plunged with the most furious zeal, while the more considerate and thoughtful of the population, remembering the days of Marius and Sylla, trembled at the impending danger. Pompey himself had no fear. He urged the Senate to resist to the utmost all of Caesar's claims, saying if Caesar should be so presumptuous as to attempt to march to Rome he could raise troops enough by stamping with his foot to put him down.
It would require a volume to contain a full account of the disputes and tumults, the manoeuvres and debates, the votes and decrees, which marked the successive stages of this quarrel. Pompey himself was all the time without the city. He was in command of an army there, and no general, while in command, was allowed to come within the gates. At last an exciting debate was broken up in the Senate by one of the consuls rising to depart, saying that he would hear the subject discussed no longer. The time had arrived for action, and he should send a commander, with an armed force, to defend the country from Caesar's threatened invasion. Caesar's leading friends, two tribunes of the people, disguised themselves as slaves and fled to the north to join their master. The country was filled with commotion and panic. The Commonwealth had obviously more fear of Caesar than confidence in Pompey. The country was full of rumors in respect to Caesar's power, and the threatening attitude which he was assuming, while they who had insisted on resistance seemed, after all, to have provided very inadequate means with which to resist.
A thousand plans were formed, and clamorously insisted upon by their respective advocates, for averting the danger. This only added to the confusion, and the city became at length pervaded with a universal terror.
While this was the state of things at Rome, Caesar was quietly established at Ravenna, thirty or forty miles from the frontier.
He was erecting a building for a fencing school there, and his mind seemed to be occupied very busily with the plans and models of the edifice which the architects had formed. Of course, in his intended march to Rome, his reliance was not to be so much on the force which he should take with him, as on the cooperation and support which he expected to find there. It was his policy, therefore, to move as quietly and privately as possible, and with as little display of violence, and to avoid everything which might indicate his intended march to any spies which might be around him, or to any other persons who might be disposed to report what they observed, at Rome. Accordingly, on the very eve of his departure, he busied himself with his fencing school, and assumed with his officers and soldiers a careless and unconcerned air, which prevented any one from suspecting his design.
In the course of the day, he privately sent forward some cohorts to the southward, with orders for them to encamp on the banks of the Rubicon. When night came, he sat down to supper as usual and conversed with his friends in his ordinary manner, and went with them afterward to a public entertainment. As soon as it was dark and the streets were still, he set off secretly from the city, accompanied by a very few attendants. Instead of making use of his ordinary equipage, the parading of which would have attracted attention to his movements, he had some mules taken from a neighboring bakehouse and harnessed into his chaise. There were torch-bearers provided to light the way. The cavalcade drove on during the night, finding, however, the hasty preparations which had been made inadequate for the occasion. The torches went out, the guides lost their way, and the future conqueror of the world wandered about bewildered and lost, until, just after break of day, the party met with a peasant who undertook to guide them. Under his direction they made their way to the main road again, and advanced then without further difficulty to the banks of the river, where they found that portion of the army which had been sent forward encamped and awaiting their arrival.
Caesar stood for some time upon the banks of the stream, musing upon the greatness of the undertaking in which simply passing across it would involve him. His officers stood by his side. "We can retreat _now_" said he, "but once across that river, we must go on."
He paused for some time, conscious of the vast importance of the decision, though he thought only, doubtless, of its consequences to himself. Taking the step which was now before him would necessarily end either in his realizing the loftiest aspirations of his ambition, or in his utter and irreparable ruin.
There were vast public interests, too, at stake, of which, however, he probably thought but little. It proved, in the end, that the history of the whole Roman world, for several centuries, was depending upon the manner in which the question now in Caesar's mind should turn.
There was a little bridge across the Rubicon at the point where Caesar was surveying it. While he was standing there, the story is, a peasant or shepherd came from the neighboring fields with a shepherd's pipe--a simple musical instrument made of a reed and used much by the rustic musicians of those days. The soldiers and some of the officers gathered around him to hear him play. Among the rest came some of Caesar's trumpeters, with their trumpets in their hands. The shepherd took one of these martial instruments from the hands of its possessor, laying aside his own, and began to sound a charge--which is a signal for a rapid advance--and to march at the same time over the bridge. "An omen! a prodigy!" said Caesar. "Let us march where we are called by such a divine intimation.
_The die is cast._"
So saying, he pressed forward over the bridge, while the officers, breaking up the encampment, put the columns in motion to follow him.