The Life of Cicero, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter x.

Cicero After His Consulship.

The idea that the great Consul had done illegally in putting citizens to death was not allowed to lie dormant even for a day. It must be remembered that a decree of the Senate had no power as a law. The laws could be altered, or even a new law made, only by the people. Such was the constitution of the Republic. Further on, when Cicero will appeal as, in fact, on trial for the offence so alleged to have been committed, I shall have to discuss the matter; but the point was raised against him, even in the moment of his triumph, as he was leaving the Consulship. The reiteration of his self-praise had created for him many enemies. It had turned friends against him, and had driven men even of his own party to ask themselves whether all this virtue was to be endured. When a man assumes to be more just than his neighbors there will be many ways found of throwing in a shell against him. It was customary for a Consul when he vacated his office to make some valedictory speech. Cicero was probably expected to take full advantage of the opportunity. From other words which have come from him, on other occasions but on the same subject, it would not be difficult to compose such a speech as he might have spoken. But there were those who were already sick of hearing him say that Rome had been saved by his intelligence and courage. We can imagine what Cæsar might have said among his friends of the expediency of putting down this self-laudatory Consul. As it was, Metellus Nepos, one of the Tribunes, forbade the retiring officer to do more than take the oath usual on leaving office, because he had illegally inflicted death upon Roman citizens. Metellus, as Tribune, had the power of stopping any official proceeding. We hear from Cicero himself that he was quite equal to the occasion. He swore, on the spur of the moment, a solemn oath, not in accordance with the form common to Consuls on leaving office, but to the effect that during his Consulship Rome had been saved by his work alone.1 We have the story only as it is told by Cicero himself, who avers that the people accepted the oath as sworn with exceeding praise.2 That it was so we may, I think, take as true. There can be no doubt as to Cicero’s popularity at this moment, and hardly a doubt also as to the fact that Metellus was acting in agreement with Cæsar, and also in accord with the understood feelings of Pompey, who was absent with his army in the East. This Tribune had been till lately an officer under Pompey, and went into office together with Cæsar, who in that year became Prætor. This, probably, was the beginning of the party which two years afterward formed the first Triumvirate, B.C. 60. It was certainly now, in the year succeeding the Consulship of Cicero, that Cæsar, as Prætor, began his great career.

B.C. 62, ætat. 45.

It becomes manifest to us, as we read the history of the time, that the Dictator of the future was gradually entertaining the idea that the old forms of the Republic were rotten, and that any man who intended to exercise power in Rome or within the Roman Empire must obtain it and keep it by illegal means. He had probably adhered to Catiline’s first conspiracy, but only with such moderate adhesion as enabled him to withdraw when he found that his companions were not fit for the work. It is manifest that he sympathized with the later conspiracy, though it may be doubted whether he himself had ever been a party to it. When the conspiracy had been crushed by Cicero, he had given his full assent to the crushing of it. We have seen how loudly he condemned the wickedness of the conspirators in his endeavor to save their lives. But, through it all, there was a well-grounded conviction in his mind that Cicero, with all his virtues, was not practical. Not that Cicero was to him the same as Cato, who with his Stoic grandiloquence must, to his thinking, have been altogether useless. Cicero, though too virtuous for supreme rule, too virtuous to seize power and hold it, too virtuous to despise as effete the institutions of the Republic, was still a man so gifted, and capable in so many things, as to be very great as an assistant, if he would only condescend to assist. It is in this light that Cæsar seems to have regarded Cicero as time went on; admiring him, liking him, willing to act with him if it might be possible, but not the less determined to put down all the attempts at patriotic republican virtue in which the orator delighted to indulge. Mr. Forsyth expresses an opinion that Cæsar, till he crossed the Rubicon after his ten years’ fighting in Gaul, had entertained no settled plan of overthrowing the Constitution. Probably not; nor even then. It may be doubted whether Cæsar ever spoke to himself of overthrowing the Constitution. He came gradually to see that power and wealth were to be obtained by violent action, and only by violent action. He had before him the examples of Marius and Sulla, both of whom had enjoyed power and had died in their beds. There was the example, also, of others who, walking unwarily in those perilous times, had been banished as was Verres, or killed as was Catiline. We can easily understand that he, with his great genius, should have acknowledged the need both of courage and caution. Both were exercised when he consented to be absent from Rome, and almost from Italy, during the ten years of the Gallic wars. But this, I think, is certain, that from the time in which his name appears prominent — from the period, namely, of the Catiline conspiracy — he had determined not to overthrow the Constitution, but so to carry himself, amid the great affairs of the day, as not to be overthrown himself.

Of what nature was the intercourse between him and Pompey when Pompey was still absent in the East we do not know; but we can hardly doubt that some understanding had begun to exist. Of this Cicero was probably aware. Pompey was the man whom Cicero chose to regard as his party-leader, not having himself been inured to the actual politics of Rome early enough in life to put himself forward as the leader of his party. It had been necessary for him, as a “novus homo,” to come forward and work as an advocate, and then as an administrative officer of the State, before he took up with politics. That this was so I have shown by quoting the opening words of his speech Pro Lege Manilia. Proud as he was of the doings of his Consulship, he was still too new to his work to think that thus he could claim to stand first. Nor did his ambition lead him in that direction. He desired personal praise rather than personal power. When in the last Catiline oration to the people he speaks of the great men of the Republic — of the two Scipios, and of Paulus Æmilius and of Marius — he adds the name of Pompey to these names; or gives, rather, to Pompey greater glory than to any of them; “Anteponatur omnibus Pompeius.” This was but a few days before Metellus as Tribune had stopped him in his speech — at the instigation, probably, of Cæsar, and in furtherance of Pompey’s views. Pompey and Cæsar could agree, at any rate, in this — that they did not want such a one as Cicero to interfere with them.

All of which Cicero himself perceived. The specially rich province of Macedonia, which would have been his had he chosen to take it on quitting the Consulship, he made over to Antony — no doubt as a bribe, as with us one statesman may resign a special office to another to keep that other from kicking over the traces. Then Gaul became his province, as allotted — Cisalpine Gaul, as northern Italy was then called; a province less rich in plunder and pay than Macedonia. But Cicero wanted no province, and had contrived that this should be confided to Metellus Celer, the brother of Nepos, who, having been Prætor when he himself was Consul, was entitled to a government. This too was a political bribe. If courtesy to Cæsar, if provinces given up here and there to Antonys and Metelluses, if flattery lavished on Pompey could avail anything, he could not afford to dispense with such aids. It all availed nothing. From this time forward, for the twenty years which were to run before his death, his life was one always of trouble and doubt, often of despair, and on many occasions of actual misery. The source of this was that Pompey whom, with divine attributes, he had extolled above all other Romans.

The first extant letter written by Cicero after his Consulship was addressed to Pompey.3 Pompey was still in the East, but had completed his campaigns against Mithridates successfully. Cicero begins by congratulating him, as though to do so were the purpose of his letter. Then he tells the victorious General that there were some in Rome not so well pleased as he was at these victories. It is supposed that he alluded here to Cæsar; but, if so, he probably misunderstood the alliance which was already being formed between Cæsar and Pompey. After that comes the real object of the epistle. He had received letters from Pompey congratulating him in very cold language as to the glories of his Consulship. He had expected much more than that from the friend for whom he had done so much. Still, he thanks his friend, explaining that the satisfaction really necessary to him was the feeling that he had behaved well to his friend. If his friend were less friendly to him in return, then would the balance of friendship be on his side. If Pompey were not bound to him, Cicero, by personal gratitude, still would he be bound by necessary cooperation in the service of the Republic. But, lest Pompey should misunderstand him, he declares that he had expected warmer language in reference to his Consulship, which he believes to have been withheld by Pompey lest offence should be given to some third person. By this he means Cæsar, and those who were now joining themselves to Cæsar. Then he goes on to warn him as to the future: “Nevertheless, when you return, you will find that my actions have been of such a nature that, even though you may loom larger than Scipio, I shall be found worthy to be accepted as your Lælius.”4

Infinite care had been given to the writing of this letter, and sharp had been the heart-burnings which dictated it. It was only by asserting that he, on his own part, was satisfied with his own fidelity as a friend, that Cicero could express his dissatisfaction at Pompey’s coldness. It was only by continuing to lavish upon Pompey such flattery as was contained in the reference to Scipio, in which a touch of subtle irony is mixed with the flattery, that he could explain the nature of the praise which had, he thought, been due to himself. There is something that would have been abject in the nature of these expressions, had it not been Roman in the excess of the adulation. But there is courage in the letter, too, when he tells his correspondent what he believes to have been the cause of the coldness of which he complains: “Quod verere ne cujus animum offenderes”—“Because you fear lest you should give offence to some one.” But let me tell you, he goes on to say, that my Consulship has been of such a nature that you, Scipio, as you are, must admit me as your friend.

In these words we find a key to the whole of Cicero’s connection with the man whom he recognizes as his political leader. He was always dissatisfied with Pompey; always accusing Pompey in his heart of ingratitude and insincerity; frequently speaking to Atticus with bitter truth of the man’s selfishness and incapacity, even of his cruelty and want of patriotism; nicknaming him because of his absurdities; declaring of him that he was minded to be a second Sulla; but still clinging to him as the political friend and leader whom he was bound to follow. In their earlier years, when he could have known personally but little of Pompey, because Pompey was generally absent from Rome, he had taken it into his head to love the man. He had been called “Magnus;” he had been made Consul long before the proper time; he had been successful on behalf of the Republic, and so far patriotic. He had hitherto adhered to the fame of the Republic. At any rate, Cicero had accepted him, and could never afterward bring himself to be disloyal to the leader with whom he had professed to act. But the feeling evinced in this letter was carried on to the end. He had been, he was, he would be, true to his political connection with Pompey; but of Pompey’s personal character to himself he had nothing but complaints to make.

B.C. 62, ætat. 45.

We have two other letters written by Cicero in this year, the first of which is in answer to one from Metellus Celer to him, also extant. Metellus wrote to complain of the ill-treatment which he thought he had received from Cicero in the Senate, and from the Senate generally. Cicero writes back at much greater length to defend himself, and to prove that he had behaved as a most obliging friend to his correspondent, though he had received a gross affront from his correspondent’s brother Nepos. Nepos had prevented him in that matter of the speech. It is hardly necessary to go into the question of this quarrel, except in so far as it may show how the feeling which led to Cicero’s exile was growing up among many of the aristocracy in Rome. There was a counterplot going on at the moment — a plot on the behalf of the aristocracy for bringing back Pompey to Rome, not only with glory but with power, probably originating in a feeling that Pompey would be a more congenial master than Cicero. It was suggested that as Pompey had been found good in all State emergencies — for putting down the pirates, for instance, and for conquering Mithridates — he would be the man to contend in arms with Catiline. Catiline was killed before the matter could be brought to an issue, but still the conspiracy went on, based on the jealousy which was felt in regard to Cicero. This man, who had declared so often that he had served his country, and who really had crushed the Catilinarians by his industry and readiness, might, after all, be coming forward as another Sulla, and looking to make himself master by dint of his virtues and his eloquence. The hopelessness of the condition of the Republic may be recognized in the increasing conspiracies which were hatched on every side. Metellus Nepos was sent home from Asia in aid of the conspiracy, and got himself made Tribune, and stopped Cicero’s speech. In conjunction with Cæsar, who was Prætor, he proposed his new law for the calling of Pompey to their aid. Then there was a fracas between him and Cæsar on the one side and Cato on the other, in which Cato at last was so far victorious that both Cæsar and Metellus were stopped in the performance of their official duties. Cæsar was soon reinstated, but Metellus Nepos returned to Pompey in the East, and nothing came of the conspiracy. It is only noticed here as evidence of the feeling which existed as to Cicero in Rome, and as explaining the irritation on both sides indicated in the correspondence between Cicero and Metellus Celer, the brother of Nepos,5 whom Cicero had procured the government of Gaul.

The third letter from Cicero in this year was to Sextius, who was then acting as Quæstor — or Proquæstor, as Cicero calls him — with Antony as Proconsul in Macedonia. It is specially interesting as telling us that the writer had just completed the purchase of a house in Rome from Crassus for a sum amounting to about £30,000 of our money. There was probably no private mansion in Rome of greater pretension. It had been owned by Livius Drusus, the Tribune — a man of colossal fortune, as we are told by Mommsen — who was murdered at the door of it thirty years before. It afterward passed into the hands of Crassus the rich, and now became the property of Cicero. We shall hear how it was destroyed during his exile, and how fraudulently made over to the gods, and then how restored to Cicero, and how rebuilt at the public expense. The history of the house has been so well written that we know even the names of Cicero’s two successors in it, Censorinus and Statilius.6

It is interesting to know the sort of house which Cicero felt to be suitable to his circumstances, for by that we may guess what his circumstances were. In making this purchase he is supposed to have abandoned the family house in which his father had lived next door to the new mansion, and to have given it up to his brother. Hence we may argue that he had conceived himself to have risen in worldly circumstances. Nevertheless, we are informed by himself in this letter to Sextius that he had to borrow money for the occasion — so much so that, being a man now indebted, he might be supposed to be ripe for any conspiracy. Hence has come to us a story through Aulus Gellius, the compiler of anecdotes, to the effect that Cicero was fain to borrow this money from a client whose cause he undertook in requital for the favor so conferred. Aulus Gellius collected his stories two centuries afterward for the amusement of his children, and has never been regarded as an authority in matters for which confirmation has been wanting. There is no allusion to such borrowing from a client made by any contemporary. In this letter to Sextius, in which he speaks jokingly of his indebtedness, he declares that he has been able to borrow any amount he wanted at six per cent — twelve being the ordinary rate — and gives as a reason for this the position which he has achieved by his services to the State. Very much has been said of the story, as though the purchaser of the house had done something of which he ought to have been ashamed, but this seems to have sprung entirely from the idea that a man who, in the midst of such wealth as prevailed at Rome, had practised so widely and so successfully the invaluable profession of an advocate, must surely have taken money for his services. He himself has asserted that he took none, and all the evidence that we have goes to show that he spoke the truth. Had he taken money, even as a loan, we should have heard of it from nearer witnesses than Aulus Gellius, if, as Aulus Gellius tells us, it had become known at the time. But because he tells his friend that he has borrowed money for the purpose, he is supposed to have borrowed it in a disgraceful manner! It will be found that all the stones most injurious to Cicero’s reputation have been produced in the same manner. His own words have been misinterpreted — either the purport of them, if spoken in earnest, or their bearing, if spoken in joke — and then accusations have been founded on them.7

Another charge of dishonest practice was about this time made against Cicero without a grain of evidence, though indeed the accusations so made, and insisted upon, apparently from a feeling that Cicero cannot surely have been altogether clean when all others were so dirty, are too numerous to receive from each reader’s judgment that indignant denial to which each is entitled. The biographer cannot but fear that when so much mud has been thrown some will stick, and therefore almost hesitates to tell of the mud, believing that no stain of this kind has been in truth deserved.

It seems that Antony, Cicero’s colleague in the Consulship, who became Proconsul in Macedonia, had undertaken to pay some money to Cicero. Why the money was to be paid we do not know, but there are allusions in Cicero’s letters to Atticus to one Teucris (a Trojan woman), and it seems that Antony was designated by the nickname. Teucris is very slow at paying his money, and Cicero is in want of it. But perhaps it will be as well not to push the matter. He, Antony, is to be tried for provincial peculation, and Cicero declares that the case is so bad that he cannot defend his late colleague. Hence have arisen two different suspicions: one that Antony had agreed to make over to Cicero a share of the Macedonian plunder in requital of Cicero’s courtesy in giving up the province which had been allotted to himself; the second, that Antony was to pay Cicero for defending him. As to the former, Cicero himself alludes to such a report as being common in Macedonia, and as having been used by Antony himself as an excuse for increased rapine. But this has been felt to be incredible, and has been allowed to fall to the ground because of the second accusation. But in support of that there is no word of evidence,8 whereas the tenor of the story as told by Cicero himself is against it. Is it likely, would it be possible, that Cicero should have begun his letter to Atticus by complaining that he could not get from Antony money wanted for a peculiar purpose — it was wanted for his new house — and have gone on in the same letter to say that this might be as well, after all, as he did not intend to perform the service for which the money was to be paid? The reader will remember that the accusation is based solely on Cicero’s own statement that Antony was negligent in paying to him money that had been promised. In all these accusations the evidence against Cicero, such as it is, is brought exclusively from Cicero’s own words. Cicero did afterward defend this Antony, as we learn from his speech Pro Domo Suâ; but his change of purpose in that respect has nothing to do with the argument.

B.C. 62, ætat. 45.

We have two speeches extant made this year: one on behalf of P. Sulla, nephew to the Dictator; the other for Archias the Greek scholar and poet, who had been Cicero’s tutor and now claimed to be a citizen of Rome. I have already given an extract from this letter, as showing the charm of words with which Cicero could recommend the pursuit of literature to his hearers. The whole oration is a beautiful morsel of Latinity, in which, however, strength of argument is lacking. Cicero declares of Archias that he was so eminent in literature that, if not a Roman citizen, he ought to be made one. The result is not known, but the literary world believes that the citizenship was accorded to him.9

The speech on behalf of Sulla was more important, but still not of much importance. This Sulla, as may be remembered, had been chosen as Consul with Autronius, two years before the Consulship of Cicero, and he had then after his election been deposed for bribery, as had also Autronius. L. Aurelius Cotta and L. Manlius Torquatus had been elected in their places. It has also been already explained that the two rejected Consuls had on this account joined Catiline in his first conspiracy. There can be no doubt that whether as Consuls or as rejected Consuls, and on that account conspirators, their purpose was to use their position as aristocrats for robbing the State. They were of the number of those to whom no other purpose was any longer possible. Then there came Catiline’s second conspiracy — the conspiracy which Cicero had crushed — and there naturally rose the question whether from time to time this or the other noble Roman should not be accused of having joined it. Many noble Romans had no doubt joined besides those who had fallen fighting, or who had been executed in the dungeons. Accusations became very rife. One Vettius accused Cæsar, the Prætor; but Cæsar, with that potentiality which was peculiar to him, caused Vettius to be put into prison instead of going to prison himself. Many were convicted and banished; among them Porcius Læca, Vargunteius, Servius Sulla, the brother of him of whom we are now speaking, and Autronius his colleague. In the trial of these men Cicero took no part. He was specially invited by Autronius, who was an old school-fellow, to defend him, but he refused; indeed, he gave evidence against Autronius at the trial. But this Publius Sulla he did defend, and defended successfully. He was joined in the case with Hortensius, and declared that as to the matter of the former conspiracy he left all that to his learned friend, who was concerned with political matters of that date.10 He, Cicero, had known nothing about them. The part of the oration which most interests us is that in which he defends himself from the accusations somewhat unwisely made against himself personally by young Torquatus, the son of him who had been raised to the Consulship in the place of P. Sulla. Torquatus had called him a foreigner because he was a “novus homo,” and had come from the municipality of Arpinum, and had taunted him with being a king, because he had usurped authority over life and death in regard to Lentulus and the other conspirators. He answers this very finely, and does so without an ill-natured word to young Torquatus, whom, from respect to his father, he desires to spare. “Do not,” he says, “in future call me a foreigner, lest you be answered with severity, nor a king, lest you be laughed at — unless, indeed, you think it king-like so to live as to be a slave not only to no man but to no evil passion; unless you think it be king-like to despise all lusts, to thirst for neither gold nor silver nor goods, to express yourself freely in the Senate, to think more of services due to the people than of favors won from them, to yield to none, and to stand firm against many. If this be king-like, then I confess that I am a king.” Sulla was acquitted, but the impartial reader will not the less feel sure that he had been part and parcel with Catiline in the conspiracy. It is trusted that the impartial reader will also remember how many honest, loyal gentlemen have in our own days undertaken the causes of those whom they have known to be rebels, and have saved those rebels by their ingenuity and eloquence.

At the end of this year, B.C. 62, there occurred a fracas in Rome which was of itself but of little consequence to Rome, and would have been of none to Cicero but that circumstances grew out of it which created for him the bitterest enemy he had yet encountered, and led to his sorest trouble. This was the affair of Clodius and of the mysteries of the Bona Dea, and I should be disposed to say that it was the greatest misfortune of his life, were it not that the wretched results which sprung from it would have been made to spring from some other source had that source not sufficed. I shall have to tell how it came to pass that Cicero was sent into exile by means of the misconduct of Clodius; but I shall have to show also that the misconduct of Clodius was but the tool which was used by those who were desirous of ridding themselves of the presence of Cicero.

This Clodius, a young man of noble family and of debauched manners, as was usual with young men of noble families, dressed himself up as a woman, and made his way in among the ladies as they were performing certain religious rites in honor of the Bona Dea, or Goddess Cybele, a matron goddess so chaste in her manners that no male was admitted into her presence. It was specially understood that nothing appertaining to a man was to be seen on the occasion, not even the portrait of one; and it may possibly have been the case that Clodius effected his entrance among the worshipping matrons on this occasion simply because his doing so was an outrage, and therefore exciting. Another reason was alleged. The rites in question were annually held, now in the house of this matron and then of that, and during the occasion the very master of the house was excluded from his own premises. They were now being performed under the auspices of Pompeia, the wife of Julius Cæsar, the daughter of one Quintus Pompeius, and it was alleged that Clodius came among the women worshippers for the sake of carrying on an intrigue with Cæsar’s wife. This was highly improbable, as Mr. Forsyth has pointed out to us, and the idea was possibly used simply as an excuse to Cæsar for divorcing a wife of whom he was weary. At any rate, when the scandal got abroad, he did divorce Pompeia, alleging that it did not suit Cæsar to have his wife suspected.

B.C. 61, ætat. 46.

The story became known through the city, and early in January Cicero wrote to Atticus, telling him the facts: “You have probably heard that Publius Clodius, the son of Appius, has been taken dressed in a woman’s clothes in the house of Caius Cæsar, where sacrifice was being made for the people, and that he escaped by the aid of a female slave. You will be sorry to hear that it has given rise to a great scandal.”11 A few days afterward Cicero speaks of it again to Atticus at greater length, and we learn that the matter had been taken up by the magistrates with the view of punishing Clodius. Cicero writes without any strong feeling of his own, explaining to his friend that he had been at first a very Lycurgus in the affair, but that he is now tamed down.12 Then there is a third letter in which Cicero is indignant because certain men of whom he disapproves, the Consul Piso among the number13 are anxious to save this wicked young nobleman from the punishment due to him; whereas others of whom he approves Cato among the number, are desirous of seeing justice done. But it was no affair special to Cicero. Shortly afterward he writes again to Atticus as to the result of the trial — for a trial did take place — and explains to his friend how justice had failed. Atticus had asked him how it had come to pass that he, Cicero, had not exerted himself as he usually did.14 This letter, though there is matter enough in it of a serious kind, yet jests with the Clodian affair so continually as to make us feel that he attributed no importance to it as regarded himself. He had exerted himself till Hortensius made a mistake as to the selection of the judges. After that he had himself given evidence. An attempt was made to prove an alibi, but Cicero came forward to swear that he had seen Clodius on the very day in question. There had, too, been an exchange of repartee in the Senate between himself and Clodius after the acquittal, of which he gives the details to his correspondent with considerable self-satisfaction. The passage does not enhance our idea of the dignity of the Senate, or of the power of Roman raillery. It was known that Clodius had been saved by the wholesale bribery of a large number of the judges. There had been twenty-five for condemning against thirty-one for acquittal.15 Cicero in the Catiline affair had used a phrase with frequency by which he boasted that he had “found out” this and “found out” that —“comperisse omnia.” Clodius, in the discussion before the trial, throws this in his teeth: “Comperisse omnia criminabatur.” This gave rise to ill-feeling, and hurt Cicero much worse than the dishonor done to the Bona Dea. As for that, we may say that he and the Senate and the judges cared personally very little, although there was no doubt a feeling that it was wise to awe men’s minds by the preservation of religious respect. Cicero had cared but little about the trial; but as he had been able to give evidence he had appeared as a witness, and enmity sprung from the words which were spoken both on one side and on the other. Clodius was acquitted, which concerns us not at all, and concerns Rome very little; but things had so come to pass at the trial that Cicero had been very bitter, and that Clodius had become his enemy. When a man was wanted, three years afterward, to take the lead in persecuting Cicero, Clodius was ready for the occasion.

While the expediency of putting Clodius on his trial was being discussed, Pompey had returned from the East, and taken up his residence outside the city, because he was awaiting his triumph. The General, to whom it was given to march through the city with triumphal glory, was bound to make his first entrance after his victories with all his triumphal appendages, as though he was at that moment returning from the war with all his warlike spoils around him. The usage had obtained the strength of law, but the General was not on that account debarred from city employment during the interval. The city must be taken out to him instead of his coming into the city. Pompey was so great on his return from his Mithridatic victories that the Senate went out to sit with him in the suburbs, as he could not sit with it within the walls. We find him taking part in these Clodian discussions. Cicero at once writes of him to Athens with evident dissatisfaction. When questioned about Clodius, Pompey had answered with the grand air of aristocrat. Crassus on this occasion, between whom and Cicero there was never much friendship, took occasion to belaud the late great Consul on account of his Catiline successes. Pompey, we are told, did not bear this well.16 Crassus had probably intended to produce some such effect. Then Cicero had spoken in answer to the remarks of Crassus, very glibly, no doubt, and had done his best to “show off” before Pompey, his new listener.17 More than six years had passed since Pompey could have heard him, and then Cicero’s voice had not become potential in the Senate. Cicero had praised Pompey with all the eloquence in his power. “Anteponatur omnibus Pompeius,” he had said, in the last Catiline oration to the Senate; and Pompey, though he had not heard the words spoken, knew very well what had been said. Such oratory was never lost upon those whom it most concerned the orator to make acquainted with it. But in return for all this praise, for that Manilian oration which had helped to send him to the East, for continual loyalty, Pompey had replied to Cicero with coldness. He would now let Pompey know what was his standing in Rome. “If ever,” he says to Atticus, “I was strong with my grand rhythm, with my quick rhetorical passages, with enthusiasm, and with logic, I was so now. Oh, the noise that I made on the occasion! You know what my voice can do. I need say no more about it, as surely you must have heard me away there in Epirus.” The reader, I trust, will have already a sufficiently vivid idea of Cicero’s character to understand the mingling of triumph and badinage, with a spark of disappointment, which is here expressed. “This Pompey, though I have so true to him, has not thought much of me — of me, the great Consul who saved Rome! He has now heard what even Crassus has been forced to say about me. He shall hear me too, me myself, and perhaps he will then know better.” It was thus that Cicero’s mind was at work while he was turning his loud periods. Pompey was sitting next to him listening, by no means admiring his admirer as that admirer expected to be admired. Cicero had probably said to himself that they two together, Pompey and Cicero, might suffice to preserve the Republic. Pompey, not thinking much of the Republic, was probably telling himself that he wanted no brother near the throne. When of two men the first thinks himself equal to the second, the second will generally feel himself to be superior to the first. Pompey would have liked Cicero better if his periods had not been so round nor his voice so powerful. Not that Pompey was distinctly desirous of any throne. His position at the moment was peculiar. He had brought back his victorious army from the East to Brundisium, and had then disbanded his legions. I will quote here the opening words from one of Mommsen’s chapters:18 “When Pompeius, after having transacted the affairs committed to his charge, again turned his eyes toward home, he found, for the second time, the diadem at his feet.” He says farther on, explaining why Pompey did not lift the diadem: “The very peculiar temperament of Pompeius naturally turned once more the scale. He was one of those men who are capable, it may be, of a crime, but not of insubordination.” And again: “While in the capital all was preparation for receiving the new monarch, news came that Pompeius, when barely landed at Brundisium, had broken up his legions, and with a small escort had entered his journey to the capital. If it is a piece of good-fortune to gain a crown without trouble, fortune never did more for mortal than it did for Pompeius; but on those who lack courage the gods lavish every favor and every gift in vain.” I must say here that, while I acknowledge the German historian’s research and knowledge without any reserve, I cannot accept his deductions as to character. I do not believe that Pompey found any diadem at his feet, or thought of any diadem, nor, according to my reading of Roman history, had Marius or had Sulla; nor did Cæsar. The first who thought of that perpetual rule — a rule to be perpetuated during the ruler’s life, and to be handed down to his successors — was Augustus. Marius, violent, self-seeking, and uncontrollable, had tumbled into supreme power; and, had he not died, would have held it as long as he could, because it pleased his ambition for the moment. Sulla, with a purpose, had seized it, yet seems never to have got beyond the old Roman idea of a temporary Dictatorship. The old Roman horror of a king was present to these Romans, even after they had become kings. Pompey, no doubt, liked to be first, and when he came back from the East thought that by his deeds he was first, easily first. Whether Consul year after year, as Marius had been, or Dictator, as Sulla had been, or Imperator, with a running command over all the Romans, it was his idea still to adhere to the forms of the Republic. Mommsen, foreseeing — if an historian can be said to foresee the future from his standing-point in the past — that a master was to come for the Roman Empire, and giving all his sympathies to the Cæsarean idea, despises Pompey because Pompey would not pick up the diadem. No such idea ever entered Pompey’s head. After a while he “Sullaturized”— was desirous of copying Sulla — to use an excellent word which Cicero coined. When he was successfully opposed by those whom he had thought inferior to himself, when he found that Cæsar had got the better of him, and that a stronger body of Romans went with Cæsar than with him, then proscriptions, murder, confiscations, and the seizing of dictatorial power presented themselves to his angry mind, but of permanent despotic power there was, I think, no thought, nor, as far as I can read the records, had such an idea been fixed in Cæsar’s bosom. To carry on the old trade of Prætor, Consul, Proconsul, and Imperator, so as to get what he could of power and wealth and dignity in the scramble, was, I think, Cæsar’s purpose. The rest grew upon him. As Shakspeare, sitting down to write a play that might serve his theatre, composed some Lear or Tempest — that has lived and will live forever, because of the genius which was unknown to himself — so did Cæsar, by his genius, find his way to a power which he had not premeditated. A much longer time is necessary for eradicating an idea from men’s minds than a fact from their practice. This should be proved to us by our own loyalty to the word “monarch,” when nothing can be farther removed from a monarchy than our own commonwealth. From those first breaches in republican practice which the historian Florus dates back to the siege of Numantia,19 B.C. 133, down far into the reign of Augustus, it took a century and a quarter to make the people understand that there was no longer a republican form of government, and to produce a leader who could himself see that there was room for a despot.

Pompey had his triumph; but the same aristocratic airs which had annoyed Cicero had offended others. He was shorn of his honors. Only two days were allowed for his processions. He was irritated, jealous, and no doubt desirous of making his power felt; but he thought of no diadem. Cæsar saw it all; and he thought of that conspiracy which we have since called the First Triumvirate.

B.C. 62, 61, ætat. 45, 46.

The two years to which this chapter has been given were uneventful in Cicero’s life, and produced but little of that stock of literature by which he has been made one of mankind’s prime favorites. Two discourses were written and published, and probably spoken, which are now lost — that, namely, to the people against Metellus, in which, no doubt, he put forth all that he had intended to say when Metellus stopped him from speaking at the expiration of his Consulship; the second, against Clodius and Curio, in the Senate, in reference to the discreditable Clodian affair. The fragments which we have of this contain those asperities which he retailed afterward in his letter to Atticus, and are not either instructive or amusing. But we learn from these fragments that Clodius was already preparing that scheme for entering the Tribunate by an illegal repudiation of his own family rank, which he afterward carried out, to the great detriment of Cicero’s happiness. Of the speeches extant on behalf of Archias and P. Sulla I have spoken already. We know of no others made during this period. We have one letter besides this to Atticus, addressed to Antony, his former colleague, which, like many of his letters, was written solely for the sake of popularity.

During these years he lived no doubt splendidly as one of the great men of the greatest city in the world. He had his magnificent new mansion in Rome, and his various villas, which were already becoming noted for their elegance and charms of upholstery and scenic beauty. Not only had he climbed to the top of official life himself, but had succeeded in taking his brother Quintus up with him. In the second of the two years, B.C. 61, Quintus had been sent out as Governor or Proprætor to Asia, having then nothing higher to reach than the Consulship, which, however, he never attained. This step in the life of Quintus has become famous by a letter which the elder brother wrote to him in the second year of his office, to which reference will be made in the next chapter.

So far all things seemed to have gone well with Cicero. He was high in esteem and authority, powerful, rich, and with many people popular. But the student of his life now begins to see that troubles are enveloping him. He had risen too high not to encounter envy, and had been too loud in his own praise not to make those who envied him very bitter in their malice.

1 In Pisonem, iii.: “Sine ulla dubitatione juravi rempublicam atque hanc urbem mea unius opera esse salvam.”

2 Dio Cassius tells the same story, lib. xxxvii., ca. 38, but he adds that Cicero was more hated than ever because of the oath he took: [Greek: kai ho men kai ek toutou poly mallon emisêthê.]

3 It is the only letter given in the collection as having been addressed direct to Pompey. In two letters written some years later to Atticus, B.C. 49, lib. viii., 11, and lib. viii., 12, he sends copies of a correspondence between himself and Pompey and two of the Pompeian generals.

4 Lib. v., 7. It is hardly necessary to explain that the younger Scipio and Lælius were as famous for their friendship as Pylades and Orestes. The “Virtus Scipiadæ et mitis sapientia Læli” have been made famous to us all by Horace.

5 These two brothers, neither of whom was remarkable for great qualities, though they were both to be Consuls, were the last known of the great family of the Metelli, a branch of the “Gens Cæcilia.” Among them had been many who had achieved great names for themselves in Roman history, on account of the territories added to the springing Roman Empire by their victories. There had been a Macedonicus, a Numidicus, a Balearicus, and a Creticus. It is of the first that Velleius Paterculus sings the glory — lib. i., ca. xi., and the elder Pliny repeats the story, Hist. Nat., vii., 44 — that of his having been carried to the grave by four sons, of whom at the time of his death three had been Consuls, one had been a Prætor, two had enjoyed triumphal honors, and one had been Censor. In looking through the consular list of Cicero’s lifetime, I find that there were no less than seven taken from the family of the Metelli. These two brothers, Metellus Nepos and Celer, again became friends to Cicero; Nepos, who had stopped his speech and assisted in forcing him into exile, having assisted as Consul in obtaining his recall from exile. It is very difficult to follow the twistings and turnings of Roman friendships at this period.

6 Velleius Paterculus, lib. ii., ca. xiv. Paterculus tells us how, when the architect offered to build the house so as to hide its interior from the gaze of the world, Drusus desired the man so to construct it that all the world might see what he was doing.

7 It may be worth while to give a translation of the anecdote as told by Aulus Gellius, and to point out that the authors intention was to show what a clever fellow Cicero was. Cicero did defend P. Sulla this year; but whence came the story of the money borrowed from Sulla we do not know. “It is a trick of rhetoric craftily to confess charges made, so as not to come within the reach of the law. So that, if anything base be alleged which cannot be denied, you may turn it aside with a joke, and make it a matter of laughter rather than of disgrace, as it is written that Cicero did when, with a drolling word, he made little of a charge which he could not deny. For when he was anxious to buy a house on the Palatine Hill, and had not the ready money, he quietly borrowed from P. Sulla — who was then about to stand his trial, ‘sestertium viciens’— twenty million sesterces. When that became known, before the purchase was made, and it was objected to him that he had borrowed the money from a client, then Cicero, instigated by the unexpected charge, denied the loan, and denied also that he was going to buy the house. But when he had bought it and the fib was thrown in his teeth, he laughed heartily, and asked whether men had so lost their senses as not to be aware that a prudent father of a family would deny an intended purchase rather than raise the price of the article against himself.”— Noctes Atticæ, xii., 12. Aulus Gellius though he tells us that the story was written, does not tell us where he read it.

8 I must say this, “pace” Mr. Tyrrell, who, in his note on the letter to Atticus, lib. i., 12, attempts to show that some bargain for such professional fee had been made. Regarding Mr. Tyrrell as a critic always fair, and almost always satisfactory, I am sorry to have to differ from him; but it seems to me that he, too, has been carried away by the feeling that in defending a man’s character it is best to give up some point.

9 I have been amused at finding a discourse, eloquent and most enthusiastic, in praise of Cicero and especially of this oration, spoken by M. Guéroult at the College of France in June, 1815. The worst literary faults laid to the charge of Cicero, if committed by him — which M. Guéroult thinks to be doubtful — had been committed even by Voltaire and Racine! The learned Frenchman, with whom I altogether sympathize, rises to an ecstasy of violent admiration, and this at the very moment in which Waterloo was being fought. But in truth the great doings of the world do not much affect individual life. We should play our whist at the clubs though the battle of Dorking were being fought.

10 Pro P. Sulla, iv.: “Scis me * * * illorum expertem temporum et sermonum fuisse; credo, quod nondum penitus in republica versabar, quod nondum ad propositum mihi finem honoris perveneram. * * * Quis ergo intererat vestris consiliis? Omnes hi, quos vides huic adesse et in primis Q. Hortensius.”

11 Ad Att., lib. i., 12.

12 Ad Att., lib. i., 13.

13 Ibid., i., 14.

14Ibid., i., 16: “Vis scire quomodo minus quam soleam præliatus sum.”

15 “You have bought a fine house,” said Clodius. “There would be more in what you say if you could accuse me of buying judges,” replied Cicero. “The judges would not trust you on your oath,” said Clodius, referring to the alibi by which he had escaped in opposition to Cicero’s oath. “Yes,” replied Cicero, “twenty-five trusted me; but not one of the thirty-one would trust you without having his bribe paid beforehand.”

16 Ad Att., i., 14: “Proxime Pompeium sedebam. Intellexi hominem moveri.”

17 Ibid.: “Quo modo [Greek: eneperpereusamên], novo auditori Pompeio.”

18 Mommsen, book v., chap. vi. This probably has been taken from the statement of Paterculus, lib. ii., 40: “Quippe plerique non sine exercitu venturum in urbem adfirmabant, et libertati publicæ statuturum arbitrio suo modum. Quo magis hoc homines timuerant, eo gratior civilis tanti imperatoris reditus fuit.” No doubt there was a dread among many of Pompey coming back as Sulla had come: not from indications to be found in the character of Pompey, but because Sulla had done so.

19 Florus, lib. ii., xix. Having described to us the siege of Numantia, he goes on “Hactenus populus Romanus pulcher, egregius, pius, sanctus atque magnificus. Reliqua seculi, ut grandia æque, ita vel magis turbida et f[oe]da.”

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