Superphysics Superphysics

Part 7b

by Francis Bacon Icon
6 minutes  • 1237 words

22 Julius Cæsar’s excellency of learning needs not to be argued from his education, or his company, or his speeches.

It declares itself in his writings and works.

For first, we see there is left unto us that excellent history of his own wars, which he entitled only a Commentary, wherein all succeeding times have admired the solid weight of matter, and the real passages and lively images of actions and persons, expressed in the greatest propriety of words and perspicuity of narration that ever was; which that it was not the effect of a natural gift, but of learning and precept, is well witnessed by that work of his entitled De Analogia, being a grammatical philosophy, wherein he did labour to make this same Vox ad placitum to become Vox ad licitum, and to reduce custom of speech to congruity of speech; and took as it were the pictures of words from the life of reason.

23 So we receive from him, as a monument both of his power and learning, the then reformed computation of the year; well expressing that he took it to be as great a glory to himself to observe and know the law of the heavens, as to give law to men upon the earth.

24 His Anti-Cato book shows that he did aspire as well to victory of wit as victory of war: undertaking therein a conflict against the greatest champion with the pen that then lived, Cicero the orator.

25 In his book of Apophthegms, which he collected, he esteemed it more honour to make himself but a pair of tables, to take the wise and pithy words of others, than to have every word of his own to be made an apophthegm or an oracle, as vain princes, by custom of flattery, pretend to do. And yet if I should enumerate divers of his speeches, as I did those of Alexander, they are truly such as Solomon noteth, when he saith, Verba sapientum tanquam aculei, et tanquam clavi in altum defixi: whereof I will only recite three, not so delectable for elegancy, but admirable for vigour and efficacy.

(26) As first, it is reason he be thought a master of words, that could with one word appease a mutiny in his army, which was thus: The Romans, when their generals did speak to their army, did use the word Milites, but when the magistrates spake to the people they did use the word Quirites. The soldiers were in tumult, and seditiously prayed to be cashiered; not that they so meant, but by expostulation thereof to draw Cæsar to other conditions; wherein he being resolute not to give way, after some silence, he began his speech, Ego Quirites, which did admit them already cashiered—wherewith they were so surprised, crossed, and confused, as they would not suffer him to go on in his speech, but relinquished their demands, and made it their suit to be again called by the name of Milites.

(27) The second speech was thus: Cæsar did extremely affect the name of king; and some were set on as he passed by in popular acclamation to salute him king. Whereupon, finding the cry weak and poor, he put it off thus, in a kind of jest, as if they had mistaken his surname: Non Rex sum, sed Cæsar; a speech that, if it be searched, the life and fulness of it can scarce be expressed. For, first, it was a refusal of the name, but yet not serious; again, it did signify an infinite confidence and magnanimity, as if he presumed Cæsar was the greater title, as by his worthiness it is come to pass till this day. But chiefly it was a speech of great allurement toward his own purpose, as if the state did strive with him but for a name, whereof mean families were vested; for Rex was a surname with the Romans, as well as King is with us.

(28) The last speech which I will mention was used to Metellus, when Cæsar, after war declared, did possess himself of this city of Rome; at which time, entering into the inner treasury to take the money there accumulate, Metellus, being tribune, forbade him. Whereto Cæsar said, “That if he did not desist, he would lay him dead in the place.” And presently taking himself up, he added, “Young man, it is harder for me to speak it than to do it—Adolescens, durius est mihi hoc dicere quàm facere.” A speech compounded of the greatest terror and greatest clemency that could proceed out of the mouth of man.

(29) But to return and conclude with him, it is evident himself knew well his own perfection in learning, and took it upon him, as appeared when upon occasion that some spake what a strange resolution it was in Lucius Sylla to resign his dictators, he, scoffing at him to his own advantage, answered, “That Sylla could not skill of letters, and therefore knew not how to dictate.”

30 And here it were fit to leave this point, touching the concurrence of military virtue and learning (for what example should come with any grace after those two of Alexander and Cæsar?), were it not in regard of the rareness of circumstance, that I find in one other particular, as that which did so suddenly pass from extreme scorn to extreme wonder: and it is of Xenophon the philosopher, who went from Socrates’ school into Asia in the expedition of Cyrus the younger against King Artaxerxes. This Xenophon at that time was very young, and never had seen the wars before, neither had any command in the army, but only followed the war as a voluntary, for the love and conversation of Proxenus, his friend.

He was present when Falinus came in message from the great king to the Grecians, after that Cyrus was slain in the field, and they, a handful of men, left to themselves in the midst of the king’s territories, cut off from their country by many navigable rivers and many hundred miles. The message imported that they should deliver up their arms and submit themselves to the king’s mercy. To which message, before answer was made, divers of the army conferred familiarly with Falinus; and amongst the rest Xenophon happened to say, “Why, Falinus, we have now but these two things left, our arms and our virtue; and if we yield up our arms, how shall we make use of our virtue?” Whereto Falinus, smiling on him, said, “If I be not deceived, young gentleman, you are an Athenian, and I believe you study philosophy, and it is pretty that you say; but you are much abused if you think your virtue can withstand the king’s power.”

Here was the scorn; the wonder followed: which was that this young scholar or philosopher, after all the captains were murdered in parley by treason, conducted those ten thousand foot, through the heart of all the king’s high countries, from Babylon to Græcia in safety, in despite of all the king’s forces, to the astonishment of the world, and the encouragement of the Grecians in times succeeding to make invasion upon the kings of Persia, as was after purposed by Jason the Thessalian, attempted by Agesilaus the Spartan, and achieved by Alexander the Macedonian, all upon the ground of the act of that young scholar.

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