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Frank Frost Abbott
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 172 pages of information about The Common People of Ancient Rome.
close of it Caesar gave him an independent commission for the occupation of Sicily and northern Africa.  No more important command could have been given him, for Sicily and Africa were the granaries of Rome, and if the Pompeians continued to hold them, the Caesarians in Italy might be starved into submission.  To this ill-fated campaign Caesar devotes the latter half of the second book of his Civil War.  In the beginning of his account of it he remarks:  “Showing at the outset a total contempt for the military strength of his opponent, Publius Attius Varus, Curio crossed over from Sicily, accompanied by only two of the four legions originally given him by Caesar, and by only five hundred cavalry."[142] The estimate which Caelius had made of him was true, after all, at least in military affairs.  He was bold and impetuous, and lacked a settled policy.  Where daring and rapidity of movement could accomplish his purpose, he succeeded, but he lacked patience in finding out the size and disposition of the enemy’s forces and calmness of judgment in comparing his own strength with that of his foe.  It was this weakness in his character as a military leader which led him to join battle with Varus and Juba’s lieutenant, Saburra, without learning beforehand, as he might have done, that Juba, with a large army, was encamped not six miles in the rear of Saburra.  Curio’s men were surrounded by the enemy and cut down as they stood.  His staff begged him to seek safety in flight, but, as Caesar writes,[143] “He answered without hesitation that, having lost the army which Caesar had entrusted to his charge, he would never return to look him in the face, and with that answer he died fighting.”

Three years later the fortunes of war brought Caesar to northern Africa, and he traversed a part of the region where Curio’s luckless campaign had been carried on.  With the stern eye of the trained soldier, he marked the fatal blunders which Curio had made, but he recalled also the charm of his personal qualities, and the defeat before Utica was forgotten in his remembrance of the great victory which Curio had won for him, single-handed, in Rome.  Even Lucan, a partisan of the senate which Curio had flouted, cannot withhold his admiration for Curio’s brilliant career, and his pity for Curio’s tragic end.  As he stands in imagination before the fallen Roman leader, he exclaims:[144] “Happy wouldst thou be, O Rome, and destined to bless thy people, had it pleased the gods above to guard thy liberty as it pleased them to avenge its loss.  Lo! the noble body of Curio, covered by no tomb, feeds the birds of Libya.  But to thee, since it profiteth not to pass in silence those deeds of thine which their own glory defends forever ’gainst the decay of time, such tribute now we pay, O youth, as thy life has well deserved.  No other citizen of such talent has Rome brought forth, nor one to whom the law would be indebted more, if he the path of right had followed out.  As it was, the corruption of

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