I can best continue my record of Cicero’s life for this and the two subsequent years by following his speeches and his letters. It was at this period the main object of his political life to reconcile the existence of a Cæsar with that of a Republic — two poles which could not by any means be brought together. Outside of his political life he carried on his profession as an advocate with all his former energy, with all his former bitterness, with all his old friendly zeal, but never, I think, with his former utility. His life with his friends and his family was prosperous; but that ambition to do some great thing for his country which might make his name more famous than that of other Romans was gradually fading, and, as it went, was leaving regrets and remorse behind which would not allow him to be a happy man. But it was now, when he had reached his fifty-second year, that he in truth began that career in literature which has made him second to no Roman in reputation. There are some early rhetorical essays, which were taken from the Greek, of doubtful authenticity; there are the few lines which are preserved of his poetry; there are the speeches which he wrote as well as spoke for the Rome of the day; and there are his letters, which up to this time had been intended only for his correspondents. All that we have from his pen up to this time has been preserved for us by the light of those great works which he now commenced. In this year, B.C. 55, there appeared the dialogue De Oratore, and in the next the treatise De Republica. It was his failure as a politician which in truth drove Cicero to the career of literature. As I intend to add to this second volume a few chapters as to his literary productions, I will only mention the dates on which these dialogues and treatises were given to the world as I go on with my work.
In the year B.C. 55, the two of the Triumvirate who had been left in Rome, Pompey and Crassus, were elected Consuls, and provinces were decreed to each of them for five years — to Pompey the two Spains, and to Crassus that Syria which was to be so fatal to him. All this had been arranged at Lucca, in the north of Italy, whither Cæsar was able to come as being within the bounds of his province, to meet his friends from Rome — or his enemies. All aristocratic Rome went out in crowds to Lucca, so that two hundred Senators might be seen together in the streets of that provincial town. It was nevertheless near enough to Rome to permit the conqueror from Gaul to look closely into the politics of the city. By his permission, if not at his instigation, Pompey and Crassus had been chosen Consuls, and to himself was conceded the government of his own province for five further years — that is, down to year B.C. 49 inclusive. It must now at least have become evident to Cicero that Cæsar intended to rule the Empire.
Though we already have Cicero’s letters arranged for us in a chronological sequence which may be held to be fairly correct for biographical purposes, still there is much doubt remaining as to the exact periods at which many of them were written. Abeken, the German biographer, says that this year, B.C. 55, produced twelve letters. In the French edition of Cicero’s works published by Panckoucke thirty-five are allotted to it. Mr. Watson, in his selected letters, has not taken one from the year in question. Mr. Tyrrell, who has been my Mentor hitherto in regard to the correspondence, has not, unfortunately, published the result of his labors beyond the year 53 B.C. at the time of my present writing. Some of those who have dealt with Cicero’s life and works, and have illustrated them by his letters, have added something to the existing confusion by assuming an accuracy of knowledge in this respect which has not existed. We have no right to quarrel with them for having done so; certainly not with Middleton, as in his time such accuracy was less valued by readers than it is now; and we have the advantage of much light which, though still imperfect, is very bright in comparison with that enjoyed by him. A study of the letters, however, in the sequence now given to them affords an accurate picture of Cicero’s mind during the years between the period of his return from exile B.C. 57 and Milo’s trial B.C. 52, although the reader may occasionally be misled as to the date of this or the other letter.
With the dates of his speeches, at any rate with the year in which they were made, we are better acquainted. They are of course much fewer in number, and are easily traced by the known historical circumstances of the time. B.C. 55, he made that attack upon his old enemy, the late Consul Piso, which is perhaps the most egregious piece of abuse extant in any language. Even of this we do not know the precise date, but we may be sure that it was spoken early in the year, because Cicero alludes in it to Pompey’s great games which were in preparation, and which were exhibited when Pompey’s new theatre was opened in May.1 Plutarch tells us that they did not take place till the beginning of the following year.2 Piso on his return from Macedonia attacked Cicero in the Senate in answer to all the hard things that had already been said of him, and Cicero, as Middleton says, “made a reply to him on the spot in an invective speech, the severest, perhaps, that ever was spoken by any man, on the person, the parts, the whole life and conduct of Piso, which as long as the Roman name subsists must deliver down a most detestable character of him to all posterity.”
We are here asked to imagine that this attack was delivered on the spur of the moment in answer to Piso’s attack. I cannot believe that it should have been so, however great may have been the orator’s power over thoughts and words. We have had in our own days wonderful instances of ready and indignant reply made instantaneously, but none in which the angry eloquence has risen to such a power as is here displayed. We cannot but suppose that had human intellect ever been perfect enough for such an exertion, it would have soared high enough also to have abstained from it. It may have been that Cicero knew well enough beforehand what the day was about to produce, so as to have prepared his reply. It may well have been that he himself undertook the polishing of his speech before it was given to the public in the words which we now read. We may, I think, take it for granted that Piso did make an attack upon him, and that Cicero answered him at once with words which crushed him, and which are not unfairly represented by those which have come down to us.
The imaginative reader will lose himself in wonder as he pictures to himself the figure of the pretentious Proconsul, with his assumption of confidence, as he was undergoing the castigation which this great master of obloquy was inflicting upon him, and the figure of the tall, lean orator, with his long neck and keen eyes, with his arms trained to assist his voice, managing his purple bordered toga with a perfect grace, throwing all his heart into his impassioned words as they fell into the ears of the Senators around him without the loss of a syllable. This Lucius Calpurnius Piso Cæsoronius had come from one of the highest families in Rome, and had possessed interest enough to be elected Consul for the year in which Cicero was sent into banishment.3 He was closely connected with that Piso Frugi to whom Cicero’s daughter had been married; and Cicero, when he was threatened by the faction of Clodius — a faction which he did not then believe to be supported by the Triumvirate — had thought that he was made safe, at any rate, from cruel results by consular friendship and consular protection. Piso Cæsoronius had failed him altogether, saying, in answer to Cicero’s appeal, that the times were of such a nature that every one must look to himself. The nature of Cicero’s rage may be easily conceived. An attempt to describe it has already been made. It was not till after his Consulate that he was ever waked to real anger, and the one object whom he most entirely hated with his whole soul was Lucius Piso.
By the strength of Cicero’s eloquence this man has occupied an immortality of meanness. We cannot but believe that he must have in some sort deserved it, or the justice of the world would have vindicated his character. It should, however, be told of him that three years afterward he was chosen Censor, together with Appius Claudius. But it must also be told that, as far as we can judge, both these men were unworthy of the honor. They were the last two Censors elected in Rome before the days of the Empire. It is impossible not to believe that Piso was vile, but impossible also to believe that he was as vile as Cicero represented him. Cæsar was at this time his son-in-law, as he was father to Calphurnia, with whom Shakspeare has made us familiar. I do not know that Cæsar took in bad part the hard things that were said of his father-in-law.
The first part of the speech is lost. The first words we know because they have been quoted by Quintilian, “Oh ye gods immortal, what day is this which has shone upon me at last?”4 We may imagine from this that Cicero intended it to be understood that he exulted in the coming of his revenge. The following is a fair translation of the opening passage of what remains to us: “Beast that you are, do you not see, do you not perceive, how odious to the men around you is that face of yours?” Then with rapid words he heaps upon the unfortunate man accusations of personal incompetencies. Nobody complains, says Cicero, that that fellow of yesterday, Gabinius, should have been made Consul: we have not been deceived in him. “But your eyes and eyebrows, your forehead, that face of yours, which should be the dumb index of the mind within, have deceived those who have not known you. Few of us only have been aware of your infamous vices, the sloth of your intellect, your dulness, your inability to speak. When was your voice heard in the Forum? when has your counsel been put to the proof? when did you do any service either in peace or war? You have crept into your high place by the mistakes of men, by the regard to the dirty images of your ancestors, to whom you have no resemblance except in their present grimy color. And shall he boast to me,” says the orator, turning from Piso to the audience around, “that he has gone on without a check from one step in the magistracy to another? That is a boast for me to make, for me —“homini novo”— a man without ancestors, on whom the Roman people has showered all its honors. You were made Ædile, you say; the Roman people choose a Piso for their Ædile — not this man from any regard for himself, but because he is a Piso. The Prætorship was conferred not on you but on your ancestors who were known and who were dead! Of you, who are alive no one has known anything. But me —!” Then he continues the contrast between himself and Piso; for the speech is as full of his own merits as of the other man’s abominations.
So the oration goes on to the end. He asserts, addressing himself to Piso, that if he saw him and Gabinius crucified together, he did not know whether he would be most delighted by the punishment inflicted on their bodies or by the ruin of their reputation. He declares that he has prayed for all evil on Piso and Gabinius, and that the gods have heard him, but it has not been for death, or sickness, or for torment, that he had prayed, but for such evils as have in truth come upon them. Two Consuls sent with large armies into two of the grandest provinces have returned with disgrace. That one — meaning Piso — has not dared even to send home an account of his doings; and the other — Gabinius — has not had his words credited by the Senate, nor any of his requests granted! He Cicero, had hardly dared to hope for all this, but the gods had done it for him! The most absurd passage is that in which he tells Piso that, having lost his army — which he had done — he had brought back nothing in safety but that “old impudent face of his.”5 Altogether it is a tirade of abuse very inferior to Cicero’s dignity. Le Clerc, the French critic and editor, speaks the truth when he says, “Il faut avouer qu’il manque surtout de modération, et que la gravité d’un orateur consulaire y fait trop souvent place à l’emportement d’un ennemi.” It is, however, full of life, and amusing as an expression of honest hatred. The reader when reading it will of course remember that Roman manners allowed a mode of expression among the upper classes which is altogether denied to those among us who hope to be regarded as gentlemen.
The games in Pompey’s theatre, to the preparation of which Cicero alludes in his speech against Piso, are described by him with his usual vivacity and humor in a letter written immediately after them to his friend Marius. Pompey’s games, with which he celebrated his second Consulship, seem to have been divided between the magnificent theatre which he had just built — fragments of which still remain to us — and the “circus maximus.” This letter from Cicero is very interesting, as showing the estimation in which these games were held, or were supposed to be held, by a Roman man of letters, and as giving us some description of what was done on the occasion. Marius had not come to Rome to see them, and Cicero writes as though his friend had despised them. Cicero himself, having been in Rome, had of course witnessed them. To have been in Rome and not to have seen them would have been quite out of the question. Not to come to Rome from a distance was an eccentricity. He congratulated Marius for not having come, whether it was that he was ill, or that the whole thing was too despicable: “You in the early morning have been looking out upon your view over the bay while we have been staring at puppets half asleep. Most costly games, but I should say — judging of you by myself — that they would have been quite revolting to you. Poor Æsopus was there acting, but so unfitted by age that all his friends could not but wish that he had desisted. Why should I tell you of it all? The very costliness of the affair took away all the pleasure. Six hundred mules on the stage in the acting of Clytemnestra, or three thousand golden goblets in The Trojan Horse — what delight could they give you? If your slave Protogenes was reading to you something — so that it were not one of my speeches — you were better off at any rate than we. There were two marvellous slaughterings of beasts which lasted for five days. Nobody denies but that they were very grand. But what pleasure can there be to a man of letters6 when some weak human creature is destroyed by a sturdy beast, or when some lonely animal is pierced through by a hunting-spear. The last day was the day of elephants, in which there could be no delight except to the vulgar crowd. You could not but pity them, feeling that the poor brutes had something in common with humanity.” In these combats were killed twenty elephants and two hundred lions. The bad taste and systematical corruption of Rome had reached its acme when this theatre was opened and these games displayed by Pompey.
He tells Atticus,7 in a letter written about this time, that he is obliged to write to him by the hand of a secretary; from which we gather that such had not been, at any rate, his practice. He is every day in the Forum, making speeches; and he had already composed the dialogues De Oratore, and had sent them to Lentulus. Though he was no longer in office, his time seems to have been as fully occupied as when he was Prætor or Consul.
We have records of at least a dozen speeches, made B.C. 55 and B.C. 54, between that against Piso and the next that is extant, which was delivered in defence of Plancius. He defended Cispius, but Cispius was convicted. He defended Caninius Gallus, of whom we may presume that he was condemned and exiled, because Cicero found him at Athens on his way to Cilicia, Athens being the place to which exiled Roman oligarchs generally betook themselves.8 In this letter to his young friend Cælius he speaks of the pleasure he had in meeting with Caninius at Athens; but in the letter to Marius which I have quoted he complains of the necessity which has befallen him of defending the man. The heat of the summer of this year he passed in the country, but on his return to the city in November he found Crassus defending his old enemy Gabinius. Gabinius had crept back from his province into the city, and had been received with universal scorn and a shower of accusations. Cicero at first neither accused nor defended him, but, having been called on as a witness, seems to have been unable to refrain from something of the severity with which he had treated Piso. There was at any rate a passage of arms in which Gabinius called him a banished criminal.9 The Senate then rose as one body to do honor to their late exile. He was, however, afterward driven by the expostulations of Pompey to defend the man. At his first trial Gabinius was acquitted, but was convicted and banished when Cicero defended him. Cicero suffered very greatly in the constraint thus put upon him by Pompey, and refused Pompey till Cæsar’s request was added. We can imagine that nothing was more bitter to him than the obligation thus forced upon him. We have nothing of the speech left, but can hardly believe that it was eloquent. From this, however, there rose a reconciliation between Crassus and Cicero, both Cæsar and Pompey having found it to their interest to interfere. As a result of this, early in the next year Cicero defended Crassus in the Senate, when an attempt was made to rob the late Consul of his coveted mission to Syria. Of what he did in this respect he boasts in a letter to Crassus,10 which, regarded from our point of view, would no doubt be looked upon as base. He despised Crassus, and here takes credit for all the fine things he had said of him; but we have no right to think that Cicero could have been altogether unlike a Roman. He speaks also in the Senate on behalf of the people of Tenedos, who had brought their immunities and privileges into question by some supposed want of faith. All we know of this speech is that it was spoken in vain. He pleaded against an Asiatic king, Antiochus of Comagene, who was befriended by Pompey, but Cicero seems to have laughed him out of some of his petty possessions.11 He spoke for the inhabitants of Reate on some question of water-privilege against the Interamnates. Interamna we now know as Terne, where a modern Pope made a lovely water-fall, and at the same time rectified the water-privileges of the surrounding district. Cicero went down to its pleasant Tempe, as he calls it, and stayed there awhile with one Axius.12 He returned thence to Rome to undertake some case for Fonteius, and attended the games which Milo was giving, Milo having been elected Ædile. Here we have a morsel of dramatic criticism on Antiphon the actor and Arbuscula the actress, which reminds one of Pepys. Then he defended Messius, then Drusus, then Scaurus. He mentions all these cases in the same letter, but so slightly that we cannot trouble ourselves with their details. We only feel that he was kept as busy as a London barrister in full practice. He also defended Vatinius — that Vatinius with whose iniquities he had been so indignant at the trial of Sextius. He defended him twice at the instigation of Cæsar; and he does not seem to have suffered in doing so, as he had certainly done when called upon to stand up and plead for his late consular enemy, Gabinius. Valerius Maximus, a dull author, often quoted but seldom read, whose task it was to give instances of all the virtues and vices produced by mankind, refers to these pleadings for Gabinius and Vatinius as instances of an almost divine forgiveness of injury.13 I think we must seek for the good, if good is to be discovered in the proceeding, in the presumed strength which might be added to the Republic by friendly relations between himself and Cæsar.B.C. 54, ætat. 53.
In the spring of the year we find Cicero writing to Cæsar in apparently great intimacy. He recommends to Cæsar his young friend Trebatius, a lawyer, who was going to Gaul in search of his fortune, and in doing so he refers to a joking promise from Cæsar that he would make another friend, whom he had recommended, King of Gaul; or, if not that, foreman at least to Lepta, his head of the mechanics. Lepta was an officer in trust under Cæsar, with whose name we become familiar in Cicero’s correspondence, though I do not remember that Cæsar ever mentions him. “Send me some one else that I may show my friendship,” Cæsar had said, knowing well that Cicero was worth any price of the kind. Cicero declares to Cæsar that on hearing this he held up his hands in grateful surprise, and on this account he had sent Trebatius. “Mi Cæsar,” he says, writing with all affection; and then he praises Trebatius, assuring Cæsar that he does not recommend the young man loosely, as he had some other young men who were worthless — such as Milo, for instance. This results in much good done to Trebatius, though the young man at first does not like the service with the army. He is a lawyer, and finds the work in Gaul very rough. Cicero, who is anxious on his behalf, laughs at him and bids him take the good things that come in his way. In subsequent years Trebatius was made known to the world as the legal pundit whom Horace pretends to consult as to the libellous nature of his satires.14
In September of this year Cicero pleaded in court for his friend Cn. Plancius, against whom there was brought an accusation that, in canvassing and obtaining the office of Ædile, he had been guilty of bribery. In all these accusations, which come before us as having been either promoted or opposed by Cicero, there is not one in which the reader sympathizes more strongly with the person accused than in this. Plancius had shown Cicero during his banishment the affection of a brother, or almost of a son. Plancius had taken him in and provided for him in Macedonia, when to do so was illegal. Cicero now took great delight in returning the favor. The reader of this oration cannot learn from it that Plancius had in truth done anything illegal. The complaint really made against him was that he, filling the comparatively humble position of a knight, had ventured to become the opposing candidate of such a gallant young aristocrat as M. Juventius Laterensis, who was beaten at this election, and now brought this action in revenge. There is no tearing of any enemy to tatters in this oration, but there is much pathos, and, as was usual with Cicero at this period of his life, an inordinate amount of self-praise. There are many details as to the way in which the tribes voted at elections, which the patient and curious student will find instructive, but which will probably be caviare to all who are not patient and curious students. There are a few passages of peculiar force. Addressing himself to the rival of Plancius, he tells Laterensis that, even though the people might have judged badly in selecting Plancius, it was not the less his duty to accept the judgment of the people.15 Say that the people ought not to have done so; but it should have been sufficient for him that they had done so. Then he laughs with a beautiful irony at the pretensions of the accuser. “Let us suppose that it was so,” he says.16 “Let no one whose family has not soared above prætorian honors contest any place with one of consular family. Let no mere knight stand against one with prætorian relations.” In such a case there would be no need of the people to vote at all. Farther on he gives his own views as to the honors of the State in language that is very grand. “It has,” he says, “been my first endeavor to deserve the high rank of the State; my second, to have been thought to deserve it. The rank itself has been but the third object of my desires.”17 Plancius was acquitted — it seems to us quite as a matter of course.
In this perhaps the most difficult period of his existence, when the organized conspiracy of the day had not as yet overturned the landmarks of the constitution, he wrote a long letter to his friend Lentulus,18 him who had been prominent as Consul in rescuing him from his exile, and who was now Proconsul in Cilicia. Lentulus had probably taxed him, after some friendly fashion, with going over from the “optimates” or Senatorial party to that of the conspirators Pompey, Cæsar, and Crassus. He had been called a deserter for having passed in his earlier years from the popular party to that of the Senate, and now the leading optimates were doubtful of him — whether he was not showing himself too well inclined to do the bidding of the democratic leaders. The one accusation has been as unfair as the other. In this letter he reminds Lentulus that a captain in making a port cannot always sail thither in a straight line, but must tack and haul and use a slant of wind as he can get it. Cicero was always struggling to make way against a head-wind, and was running hither and thither in his attempt, in a manner most perplexing to those who were looking on without knowing the nature of the winds; but his port was always there, clearly visible to him, if he could only reach it. That port was the Old Republic, with its well-worn and once successful institutions. It was not to be “fetched.” The winds had become too perverse, and the entrance had become choked with sand. But he did his best to fetch it; and, though he was driven hither and thither in his endeavors, it should be remembered that to lookers-on such must ever be the appearance of those who are forced to tack about in search of their port.
I have before me Mr. Forsyth’s elaborate and very accurate account of this letter. “Now, however,” says the biographer, “the future lay dark before him; and not the most sagacious politician at Rome could have divined the series of events — blundering weakness on the one side and unscrupulous ambition on the other — which led to the Dictatorship of Cæsar and the overthrow of the constitution.” Nothing can be more true. Cicero was probably the most sagacious politician in Rome; and he, though he did understand much of the weakness — and, it should be added, of the greed — of his own party, did not foresee the point which Cæsar was destined to reach, and which was now probably fixed before Cæsar’s own eyes. But I cannot agree with Mr. Forsyth in the result at which he had arrived when he quoted a passage from one of the notes affixed by Melmoth to his translation of this letter: “It was fear alone that determined his resolution; and having once already suffered in the cause of liberty, he did not find himself to be disposed to be twice its martyr.” I should not have thought these words worthy of refutation had they not been backed by Mr. Forsyth. How did Cicero show his fear? Had he feared — as indeed there was cause enough, when it was difficult for a leading man to keep his throat uncut amid the violence of the times, or a house over his head — might he not have made himself safe by accepting Cæsar’s offers? A Proconsul out of Rome was safe enough, but he would not be a Proconsul out of Rome till he could avoid it no longer. When the day of danger came, he joined Pompey’s army against Cæsar, doubting, not for his life but for his character, as to what might be the best for the Republic. He did not fear when Cæsar was dead and only Antony remained. When the hour came in which his throat had to be cut, he did not fear. When a man has shown such a power of action in the face of danger as Cicero displayed at forty-four in his Consulship, and again at sixty-four in his prolonged struggle with Antony, it is contrary to nature that he should have been a coward at fifty-four.
And all the evidence of the period is opposed to this theory of cowardice. There was nothing special for him to fear when Cæsar was in Gaul, and Crassus about to start for Syria, and Pompey for his provinces. Such was the condition of Rome, social and political, that all was uncertain and all was dangerous. But men had become used to danger, and were anxious only, in the general scramble, to get what plunder might be going. Unlimited plunder was at Cicero’s command — provinces, magistracies, abnormal lieutenancies — but he took nothing. He even told his friend in joke that he would have liked to be an augur, and the critics have thereupon concluded that he was ready to sell his country for a trifle. But he took nothing when all others were helping themselves.
The letter to Lentulus is well worth studying, if only as evidence of the thoughtfulness with which he weighed every point affecting his own character. He did wish to stand well with the “optimates,” of whom Lentulus was one. He did wish to stand well with Cæsar, and with Pompey, who at this time was Cæsar’s jackal. He did find the difficulty of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. He must have surely learned at last to hate all compromise. But he had fallen on hard times, and the task before him was impossible. If, however, his hands were clean when those of others were dirty, and his motives patriotic while those of others were selfish, so much ought to be said for him.
In the same year he defended Rabirius Postumus, and in doing so carried on the purpose which he had been instigated to undertake by Cæsar in defending Gabinius. This Rabirius was the nephew of him whom ten years before Cicero had defended when accused of having killed Saturninus. He was a knight, and, as was customary with the Equites, had long been engaged in the pursuit of trade, making money by lending money, and such like. He had, it seems, been a successful man, but, in an evil time for himself, had come across King Ptolemy Auletes when there was a question of restoring that wretched sovereign to the throne of Egypt. As Cicero was not himself much exercised in this matter, I have not referred to the king and his affairs, wishing as far as possible to avoid questions which concern the history of Rome rather than the life of Cicero; but the affairs of this banished king continually come up in the records of this time. Pompey had befriended Auletes, and Gabinius, when Proconsul in Syria, had succeeded in restoring the king to his throne — no doubt in obedience to Pompey, though not in obedience to the Senate. Auletes, when in Rome, had required large sums of money — suppliant kings when in the city needed money to buy venal Senators — and Rabirius had supplied him. The profits to be made from suppliant kings when in want of money were generally very great, but this king seems so have got hold of all the money which Rabirius possessed, so that the knight-banker found himself obliged to become one of the king’s suite when the king went back to take possession of his kingdom. In no other way could he hang on to the vast debt that was owing to him. In Egypt he found himself compelled to undergo various indignities. He became no better than a head-servant among the king’s servants. One of the charges brought against him was that he, a Roman knight, had allowed himself to be clothed in the half-feminine garb of an Oriental attendant upon a king. It was also brought against him as part of the accusation that he had bribed, or had endeavored to bribe, a certain Senator. The crime nominally laid to the charge of Rabirius was “de repetundis”— for extorting money in the position of a magistrate. The money alluded to had been, in truth, extorted by Gabinius from Ptolemy Auletes as the price paid for his restoration, and had come in great part probably from out of the pocket of Rabirius himself. Gabinius had been condemned, and ordered to repay the money. He had none to repay, and the claim, by some clause in the law to that effect was transferred to Rabirius as his agent. Rabirius was accused as though he had extorted the money — which he had in fact lost, but the spirit of the accusation lay in the idea that he, a Roman knight, had basely subjected himself to an Egyptian king. That Rabirius had been base and sordid there can be no doubt. That he was ruined by his transaction with Auletes is equally certain. It is supposed that he was convicted. He was afterward employed by Cæsar, who, when in power, may have recalled him from banishment. There are many passages in the oration to which I would fain refer the reader had I space to do so. I will name only one in which Cicero endeavors to ingratiate himself with his audience by referring to the old established Roman hatred of kings: “Who is there among us who, though he may not have tried them himself, does not know the ways of kings? ‘Listen to me here!’ ‘Obey my word at once!’ ‘Speak a word more than you are told, and you’ll see what you’ll get!’ ‘Do that a second time, and you die!’ We should read of such things and look at them from a distance, not only for our pleasure, but that we may know of what we have to be aware, and what we ought to avoid.”19
There is a letter written in this year to Curio, another young friend such as Cælius, of whom I have spoken. Curio also was clever, dissipated, extravagant, and unscrupulous. But at this period of his life he was attached to Cicero, who was not indifferent to the services which might accrue to him from friends who might be violent and unscrupulous on the right side.B.C. 53, ætat. 54.
This letter was written to secure Curio’s services for another friend not quite so young, but equally attached, and perhaps of all the Romans of the time the most unscrupulous and the most violent. This friend was Milo, who was about to stand for the Consulship of the following year. Curio was on his road from Asia Minor, where he had been Quæstor, and is invited by Cicero in language peculiarly pressing to be the leader of Milo’s party on the occasion.20 We cannot but imagine that the winds which Curio was called upon to govern were the tornadoes and squalls which were to be made to rage in the streets of Rome to the great discomfiture of Milo’s enemies during his canvass. To such a state had Rome come, that for the first six months of this year there were no Consuls, an election being found to be impossible. Milo had been the great opponent of Clodius in the city rows which had taken place previous to the exile of Cicero. The two men are called by Mommsen the Achilles and the Hector of the streets.21 Cicero was of course on Milo’s side, as Milo was an enemy to Clodius. In this matter his feeling was so strong that he declares to Curio that he does not think that the welfare and fortunes of one man were ever so dear to another as now were those of Milo to him. Milo’s success is the only object of interest he has in the world. This is interesting to us now as a prelude to the great trial which was to take place in the next year, when Milo, instead of being elected Consul, was convicted of murder.
In the two previous years Cæsar had made two invasions into Britain, in the latter of which Quintus Cicero had accompanied him. Cicero in various letters alludes to this undertaking, but barely gives it the importance which we, as Britons, think should have been attached to so tremendous an enterprise. There might perhaps be some danger, he thought, in crossing the seas, and encountering the rocky shores of the island, but there was nothing to be got worth the getting. He tells Atticus that he can hardly expect any slaves skilled either in music or letters,22 and he suggests to Trebatius that, as he will certainly find neither gold nor slaves, he had better put himself into a British chariot and come back in it as soon as possible.23 In this year Cæsar reduced the remaining tribes of Gaul, and crossed the Rhine a second time. It was his sixth year in Gaul, and men had learned to know what was his nature. Cicero had discovered his greatness, as also Pompey must have done, to his great dismay; and he had himself discovered what he was himself; but two accidents occurred in this year which were perhaps as important in Roman history as the continuance of Cæsar’s success. Julia, Cæsar’s daughter and Pompey’s wife, died in childbed. She seems to have been loved by all, and had been idolized from the time of the marriage by her uxorious husband, who was more than twenty-four years her senior. She certainly had been a strong bond of union between Cæsar and Pompey; so much so that we are surprised that such a feeling should have been so powerful among the Romans of the time. “Concordiæ pignus,” a “pledge of friendship,” she is called by Paterculus, who tells us in the same sentence that the Triumvirate had no other bond to hold it together.24 Whether the friendship might have remained valid had Julia lived we cannot say; but she died, and the two friends became enemies. From the moment of Julia’s death there was no Triumvirate.
The other accident was equally fatal to the bond of union which had bound the three men together. Late in the year, after his Consulship, B.C. 54, Crassus had gone to his Syrian government with the double intention of increasing his wealth and rivalling the military glories of Cæsar and Pompey. In the following year he became an easy victim to Eastern deceit, and was destroyed by the Parthians, with his son and the greater part of the Roman army which had been intrusted to him.25 We are told that Crassus at last destroyed himself. I doubt, however, whether there was enough of patriotism alive among Romans at the time to create the feeling which so great a loss and so great a shame should have occasioned. As far as we can learn, the destruction of Crassus and his legions did not occasion so much thought in Rome as the breaking up of the Triumvirate.
Cicero’s daughter Tullia was now a second time without a husband. She was the widow of her first husband Piso; had then, B.C. 56, married Crassipes, and had been divorced. Of him we have heard nothing, except that he was divorced. A doubt has been thrown on the fact whether she was in truth ever married to Crassipes. We learn from letters, both to his brother and to Atticus, that Cicero was contented with the match, when it was made, and did his best to give the lady a rich dowry.26
In this year Cicero was elected into the College of Augurs, to fill the vacancy made by the death of young Crassus, who had been killed with his father in Parthia. The reader will remember that he had in a joking manner expressed a desire for the office. He now obtained it without any difficulty, and certainly without any sacrifice of his principle. It had formerly been the privilege of the augurs to fill up the vacancies in their own college, but the right had been transferred to the people. It was now conferred upon Cicero without serious opposition.
1 In Pisonem, xxvii. Even in Cicero’s words as used here there is a touch of irony, though we cannot but imagine that at this time he was anxious to stand well with Pompey. “There are coming on the games, the most costly and the most magnificent ever known in the memory of man; such as there never were before, and, as far as I can see, never will be again.” “Show yourself there if you dare!”— he goes on to say, addressing the wretched Piso.
2 Plutarch’s Life of Pompey: “Crassus upon the expiration of his Consulship repaired to his province. Pompey, remaining in Rome, opened his theatre.” But Plutarch, no doubt, was wrong.
3 We may imagine what was the standing of the family from the address which Horace made to certain members of it in the time of Augustus. “Credite Pisones,” De Arte Poetica. The Pisones so addressed were the grandsons of Cicero’s victim.
4 Quin., ix., 4: “Pro dii immortales, quis hic illuxit dies!” The critic quotes it as being vicious in sound, and running into metre, which was considered a great fault in Roman prose, as it is also in English. Our ears, however, are hardly fine enough to catch the iambic twang of which Quintilian complains.
5 Ca. xviii., xx., xxii.
6 “Quæ potest homini esse polito delectatio,” Ad Div., vii., 1. These words have in subsequent years been employed as an argument against all out-of-door sports, with disregard of the fact that they were used by Cicero as to an amusement in which the spectators were merely looking on, taking no active part in deeds either of danger or of skill. —Fortnightly Review, October, 1869, The Morality of Field Sports.
7 Ad Att., lib. iv., 16.
8 Ad Div., ii., 8.
9 See the letter, Ad Quin. Frat., lib. iii., 2: “Homo undique actus, et quam a me maxime vulneraretur, non tulit, et me trementi voce exulem appellavit.” The whole scene is described.
10 Ad Fam., v., 8.
11 Ad Quin. Frat., ii., 12.
12 Ad Att., iv., 15.
13 Val. Max., lib. iv., ca. ii., 4.
14 Horace, Sat., lib. ii., 1:
Quid faciam præscribe.”— TREB. “Quiescas.”— HOR.
“Ne faciam, inquis, Omnino versus?”— TREB. “Aio.”— HOR. “Peream male si non Optimum erat.”
Trebatius became a noted jurisconsult in the time of Augustus, and wrote treatises.
15 Ca. iv.: “Male judicavit populus. At judicavit. Non debuit, at potuit.”
16 Ca. vi.: “Servare necesse est gradus. Cedat consulari generi prætorium, nec contendat cum prætorio equester locus.”
17 Ca. xix.
18 Ad Fam., i., 9.
19 Ca. xi.
20 Ad Fam., lib. ii., 6: “Dux nobis et auctor opus est et eorum ventorum quos proposui moderator quidem et quasi gubernator.”
21 Mommsen, book v., chap. viii. According to the historian, Clodius was the Achilles, and Milo the Hector. In this quarrel Hector killed Achilles.
22 Ad Att., lib. iv., 16.
23 Ad Fam., lib. vii., 7.
24 Vell. Pat., ii., 47.
25 We remember the scorn with which Horace has treated the Roman soldier whom he supposes to have consented to accept both his life and a spouse from the Parthian conqueror:
Milesne Crassi conjuge barbara Turpis maritus vixit? — Ode iii., 5.
It has been calculated that of 40,000 legionaries half were killed, 10,000 returned to Syria, and that 10,000 settled themselves in the country we now know as Merv.
26 Ad Quin. Frat., lib. ii., 4, and Ad Att., lib. iv., 5.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14