[Sidenote: Caesar in Asia Minor.] [Sidenote: He sails for Egypt.]
Caesar passed rapidly on through Asia Minor, examining and comparing, as he advanced, the vague rumors which were continually coming in in respect to Pompey’s movements. He learned at length that he had gone to Cyprus; he presumed that his destination was Egypt, and he immediately resolved to provide himself with a fleet, and follow him thither by sea. As time passed on, and the news of Pompey’s defeat and flight, and of Caesar’s triumphant pursuit of him, became generally extended and confirmed, the various powers ruling in all that region of the world abandoned one after another the hopeless cause, and began to adhere to Caesar. They offered him such resources and aid as he might desire. He did not, however, stop to organize a large fleet or to collect an army. He depended, like Napoleon, in all the great movements of his life, not on grandeur of preparation, but on celerity of action. He organized at Rhodes a small but very efficient fleet of ten galleys, and, embarking his best troops in them, he made sail for the coasts of Egypt. Pompey had landed at Pelusium, on the eastern frontier, having heard that the young king and his court were there to meet and resist Cleopatra’s invasion. Caesar, however, with the characteristic boldness and energy of his character, proceeded directly to Alexandria, the capital.
[Sidenote: Caesar at Alexandria.]
Egypt was, in those days, an ally of the Romans, as the phrase was; that is, the country, though it preserved its independent organization and its forms of royalty, was still united to the Roman people by an intimate league, so as to form an integral part of the great empire. Caesar, consequently, in appearing there with an armed force, would naturally be received as a friend. He found only the garrison which Ptolemy’s government had left in charge of the city. At first the officers of this garrison gave him an outwardly friendly reception, but they soon began to take offense at the air of authority and command which he assumed, and which seemed to them to indicate a spirit of encroachment on the sovereignty of their own king.
[Sidenote: The Roman fasces.] [Sidenote: The lictors.]
Feelings of deeply-seated alienation and animosity sometimes find their outward expression in contests about things intrinsically of very little importance. It was so in this case. The Roman consuls were accustomed to use a certain badge of authority called the fasces. It consisted of a bundle of rods, bound around the handle of an ax. Whenever a consul appeared in public, he was preceded by two officers called lictors, each of whom carried the fasces as a symbol of the power which was vested in the distinguished personage who followed them.
The Egyptian officers and the people of the city quarreled with Caesar on account of his moving about among them in his imperial state, accompanied by a life guard, and preceded by the lictors. Contests occurred between his troops and those of the garrison, and many disturbances were created in the streets of the city. Although no serious collision took place, Caesar thought it prudent to strengthen his force, and he sent back to Europe for additional legions to come to Egypt and join him.