Save in battle his health was poor. He was epileptic, his strength undermined by incessant debauches; yet let a nation fancying him months away put on insurgent airs, and on that nation he descended as the thunder does. In his campaigns time and again he overtook his own messengers. A phantom in a ballad was not swifter than he. Simultaneously his sword flashed in Germany, on the banks of the Adriatic, in that Ultima Thule where the Britons lived. From the depths of Gaul he dominated Rome, and therewith he was penetrating impenetrable forests, trailing legions as a torch trails smoke, erecting walls that a nation could not cross, turning soldiers into marines, infantry into cavalry, building roads that are roads to-day, fighting with one hand and writing an epic with the other, dictating love-letters, chronicles, dramas; finding time to make a collection of witticisms; overturning thrones while he decorated Greece; mingling initiate into orgies of the Druids, and, as the cymbals clashed, coquetting with those terrible virgins who awoke the tempest; not only conquering, but captivating, transforming barbarians into soldiers and those soldiers into senators, submitting three hundred nations and ransacking Britannia for pearls for his mistresses’ ears.
Each epoch has its secret, and each epoch-maker his own. Caesar’s secret lay in the power he had of projecting a soul into the ranks of an army, of making legions and their leader one. Disobedience only he punished; anything else he forgave. After a victory his soldiery did what they liked. He gave them arms, slaves to burnish them, women, feasts, sleep. They were his comrades; he called them so; he wept at the death of any of them, and when they were frightened, as they were in Gaul before they met the Germans, and in Africa before they encountered Juba, Caesar frightened them still more. He permitted no questions, no making of wills. The cowards could hide where they liked; his old guard, the Tenth, would do the work alone; or, threat still more sinister, he would command a retreat. Ah, that, never! Fanaticism returned, the legions begged to be punished.
Michelet says he would like to have seen him crossing Gaul, bareheaded, in the rain. It would have been as interesting, perhaps, to have watched him beneath the shade of the velarium pleading the cause of Masintha against the Numidian king. Before him was a crowd that covered not the Forum alone, but the steps of the adjacent temples, the roofs of the basilicas, the arches of Janus, one that extended remotely to the black walls of the Curia Hostilia beyond. And there, on the rostrum, a musician behind him supplying the la from a flute, the air filled with gold motes, Caesar, his toga becomingly adjusted, a jewelled hand extended, opened for the defence. Presently, when through the exercise of that art of his which Cicero pronounced incomparable, he felt that the sympathy of the audience was won, it would have been interesting, indeed, to have heard