Caesar depicts his violent deeds in the Bellum Civile as regrettable but necessary responses to the provocations of his opponents. His version of the inception of civil war is reiterated in the series of four cohortationes that precede the battle of Pharsalus. Examining these speeches with respect to the usual parainetic motifs as they appear elsewhere in the continuators shows Caesar repurposing the generic topoi of exhortation and referencing his earlier writings to justify his actions.
It is reasonably supposed that most battle exhortations are the artistic creations of the author. With Pompey’s speech, Caesar carefully marks it as reflecting Pompey’s actual views (ut postea cognitum est). Pompey’s speech explains his intended tactics – typical of cohortatio(Keitel). His emphasis on cavalry, however, evokes Curio’s massacre by African cavalry and chimes with Caesar’s de-romanization of the Pompeian forces (e.g. Rossi). Pompey celebrates the notion of an easy victory, proclaiming, “we will win almost without a wound” (paene sine vulnere bellum conficiemus). The words here evoke what could have been by looking back to the informal truce in Spain – sine vulnere tantas res confecisse videbantur (1.74). The joy of the reunited citizens was destroyed when Petreius used foreign mercenaries to hunt down any Julians remaining in his camp.
Labienus argues that the other side can be beaten, a motif that often references previous victories (Albertus). The catalogue of ills suffered by the Julian forces, however, re-invigorates the underlying narrative cycle of vengeance. The mention of Dyrrachium in particular calls forth the memory of Labienus’ execution of the captives (3.71). Absent in both speeches is any appeal to the virtue of the soldiers. A mainstay of exhortations elsewhere in the corpus, the absence of virtue is a chief feature of Caesar’s representation of his Roman enemies (Collins/Brown).
Caesar’s exhortation is so unusual in terms of content that he marks it by introducing it with the phrase “exercitum cum militari more ad pugnam cohortaretur” and closes it with his soldiers’ eager response, “hac habita oratione exposcentibus militibus et studio pugnae ardentibus tuba signum dedit.” Rather than following “commemoravit” by recalling the virtues and earlier battles fought by his men (as in B. Afr. 81.1) – a task conveniently performed by Labienus - he instead calls upon them to witness the many times he had attempted to make peace and been rebuffed. He does not commemorate his soldiers’ exemplary virtue, but his own.
The place of Caesar’s exhortation is taken by Crastinus’ direct address to his fellow soldiers. His valorous death in battle highlights the cowardice of the named Pompeians. Despite having sworn not to return to their camp except as victors, they all flee. Caesar shows Pompey voiding his oath and ordering the camp guards to “Guard the camp and defend it diligently” (94). This phrase echoes the form (deponent then active imperative) of Crastinus’ final words to his men before he leads his final charge (Rasmussen). The pairing of Crastinus and Pompey again suggests that Crastinus is serving as a double for his general.
Caesar first shows the necessity of retaliation by providing a quick summary of his complaints in the speeches before Pharsalus. This he achieves both through the manipulation of genre and by allusion to earlier scenes. Second, he shows his opponents acting with a lack of fides and virtus thereby demonstrating the moral necessity of his response. The anxieties of civil war inform Caesar’s telling of Crastinus’ fate, but the dispatch of his literary double could not staunch the violence that would ultimately destroy him.