What official arrangements were made for Proconsuls in regard to money, when in command of a province, we do not know. The amounts allowed were no doubt splendid, but it was not to them that the Roman governor looked as the source of that fortune which he expected to amass. The means of plunder were infinite, but of plunder always subject to the danger of an accusation. We remember how Verres calculated that he could divide his spoil into three sufficient parts — one for the lawyers, one for the judges, so as to insure his acquittal, and then one for himself. This plundering was common — so common as to have become almost a matter of course; but it was illegal, and subjected some unfortunate culprits to exile, and to the disgorging of a part of what they had taken. No accusation was made against Cicero. As to others there were constantly threats, if no more than threats. Cicero was not even threatened. But he had saved out of his legitimate expenses a sum equal to £18,000 of our money — from which we may learn how noble were the appanages of a Roman governor. The expenses of all his staff passed through his own hands, and many of those of his army. Any saving effected would therefore be to his own personal advantage. On this money he counted much when his affairs were in trouble, as he was going to join Pompey at Pharsalia in the following year. He then begged Atticus to arrange his matters for him, telling him that the sum was at his call in Asia,1 but he never saw it again: Pompey borrowed it — or took it; and when Pompey had been killed the money was of course gone.
His brother Quintus was with him in Cilicia, but of his brother’s doings there he says little or nothing. We have no letters from him during the period to his wife or daughter. The latter was married to her third husband, Dolabella, during his absence, with no opposition from Cicero, but not in accordance with his advice. He had purposed to accept a proposition for her hand made to him by Tiberius Nero, the young Roman nobleman who afterward married that Livia whom Augustus took away from him even when she was pregnant, in order that he might marry her himself, and who thus became the father of the Emperor Tiberius. It is worthy of remark at the same time that the Emperor Tiberius married the granddaughter of Atticus. Cicero when in Cilicia had wished that Nero should be chosen; but the family at home was taken by the fashion and manners of Dolabella, and gave the young widow to him as her third husband when she was yet only twenty-five. This marriage, like the others, was unfortunate. Dolabella, though fashionable, nobly born, agreeable, and probably handsome, was thoroughly worthless. He was a Roman nobleman of the type then common — heartless, extravagant, and greedy. His country, his party, his politics were subservient, not to ambition or love of power, but simply to a desire for plunder. Cicero tried hard to love him, partly for his daughter’s sake, more perhaps from the necessity which he felt for supporting himself by the power and strength of the aristocratic party to which Dolabella belonged.
I cannot bring him back to Rome, and all that he suffered there, without declaring that much of his correspondence during his government, especially during the latter months of it, and the period of his journey home, is very distressing. I have told the story of his own doings, I think, honestly, and how he himself abstained, and compelled those belonging to him to do so; how he strove to ameliorate the condition of those under his rule; how he fully appreciated the duty of doing well by others, so soon to be recognized by all Christians. Such humanity on the part of a Roman at such a period is to me marvellous, beautiful, almost divine; but, in eschewing Roman greed and Roman cruelty, he was unable to eschew Roman insincerity. I have sometimes thought that to have done so it must have been necessary for him altogether to leave public life. Why not? my readers will say. But in our days, when a man has mixed himself for many years with all that is doing in public, how hard it is for him to withdraw, even though, in withdrawing he fears no violence, no punishment, no exile, no confiscation. The arguments, the prayers, the reproaches of those around him draw him back; and the arguments, the reproaches from within are more powerful even than those from his friends. To be added to these is the scorn, perhaps the ridicule, of his opponents. Such are the difficulties in the way of the modern politician who thinks that he has resolved to retire; but the Roman exConsul, exPrætor, exGovernor had entered upon a mode of warfare in which his all, his life, his property, his choice of country, his wife, his children, were open to the ready attacks of his eager enemies. To have deserved well would be nothing, unless he could keep a party round him bound by mutual interests to declare that he had deserved well. A rich man, who desired to live comfortably beyond the struggle of public life, had to abstain, as Atticus had done, from increasing the sores, from hurting the ambition, from crushing the hopes of aspirants. Such a man might be safe, but he could not be useful; such, at any rate, had not been Cicero’s life. In his earlier days, till he was Consul, he had kept himself free from political interference in doing the work of his life; but since that time he had necessarily put himself into competition with many men, and had made many enemies by the courage of his opinions. He had found even those he had most trusted opposed to him. He had aroused the jealousy not only of the Cæsars and the Crassuses and the Pisos, but also of the Pompeys and Catos and Brutuses. Whom was he not compelled to fear? And yet he could not escape to his books; nor, in truth, did he wish it. He had made for himself a nature which he could not now control.
He had not been long in Cilicia before he knew well how cruel, how dishonest, how greedy, how thoroughly Roman had been the conduct of his predecessor Appius. His letters to Atticus are full of the truths which he had to tell on that matter. His conduct, too, with regard to Appius was mainly right. As far as in him lay he endeavored to remedy the evils which the unjust Proconsul had done, and to stop what further evil was still being done. He did not hesitate to offend Appius when it was necessary to do so by his interference. But Appius was a great nobleman, one of the “optimates,” a man with a strong party at his back in Rome. Appius knew well that Cicero’s good word was absolutely necessary to save him from the ruin of a successful accusation. Cicero knew also that the support of Appius would be of infinite service to him in his Roman politics. Knowing this, he wrote to Appius letters full of flattery — full of falsehood, if the plain word can serve our purpose better. Dolabella, the new son-in-law, had taken upon himself, for some reason as to which it can hardly be worth our while to inquire, to accuse Appius of malversation in his province. That Appius deserved condemnation there can be no doubt; but in these accusations the contests generally took place not as to the proof of the guilt, but as to the prestige and power of the accuser and the accused. Appius was tried twice on different charges, and was twice acquitted; but the fact that his son-in-law should be the accuser was fraught with danger to Cicero. He thought it necessary for the hopes which he then entertained to make Appius understand that his son-in-law was not acting in concert with him, and that he was desirous that Appius should receive all the praise which would have been due to a good governor. So great was the influence of Appius at Rome that he was not only acquitted, but shortly afterward elected Censor. The office of Censor was in some respects the highest in Rome. The Censors were elected only once in four years, remaining in office for eighteen months. The idea was that powers so arbitrary as these should be in existence only for a year and a half out of each four years. Questions of morals were considered by them. Should a Senator be held to have lived as did not befit a Senator, a Censor could depose him. As Appius was elected Censor immediately after his acquittal, together with that Piso whom Cicero had so hated, it may be understood that his influence was very great.2 It was great enough to produce from Cicero letters which were flattering and false. The man who had been able to live with a humanity, a moderation, and an honesty befitting a Christian, had not risen to that appreciation of the beauty of truth which an exercise of Christianity is supposed to exact.
“Sed quid agas? Sic vivitur!”3—“What would you have me do? It is thus we live now!” This he exclaims in a letter to Cælius, written a short time before he left the province. “What would you say if you read my last letter to Appius?” You would open your eyes if you knew how I have flattered Appius — that was his meaning. “Sic vivitur!”—“It is so we live now.” When I read this I feel compelled to ask whether there was an opportunity for any other way of living. Had he seen the baseness of lying as an English Christian gentleman is expected to see it, and had adhered to truth at the cost of being a martyr, his conduct would have been high though we might have known less of it; but, looking at all the circumstances of the period, have we a right to think that he could have done so?
From Athens on his way home Cicero wrote to his wife, joining Tullia’s name with hers. “Lux nostra,” he calls his daughter; “the very apple of my eye!” He had already heard from various friends that civil war was expected. He will have to declare himself on his arrival — that is, to take one side or the other — and the sooner he does so the better. There is some money to be looked for — a legacy which had been left to him. He gives express directions as to the persons to be employed respecting this, omitting the name of that Philotomus as to whose honesty he is afraid. He calls his wife “suavissima et optatissima Terentia,” but he does not write to her with the true love which was expressed by his letters when in exile. From Athens, also, where he seems to have stayed nearly two months, he wrote in December. He is easy, he says, about his triumph unless Cæsar should interfere — but he does not care much about his triumph now. He is beginning to feel the wearisomeness of the triumph; and indeed it was a time in which the utter hollowness of triumphal pretensions must have made the idea odious to him. But to have withdrawn would have been to have declared his own fears, his own doubts, his own inferiority to the two men who were becoming declared as the rival candidates for Roman power. We may imagine that at such a time he would gladly have gone in quiet to his Roman mansion or to one of his villas, ridding himself forever of the trouble of his lictors, his fasces, and all the paraphernalia of imperatorial dignity; but a man cannot rid himself of such appanages without showing that he has found it necessary to do so. It was the theory of a triumph that the victorious Imperator should come home hot (as it were) from the battle-field, with all his martial satellites around him, and have himself carried at once through Rome. It was barbaric and grand, as I have said before, but it required the martial satellites. Tradition had become law, and the Imperator intending to triumph could not dismiss his military followers till the ceremony was over. In this way Cicero was sadly hampered by his lictors when, on his landing at Brundisium, he found that Italy was already preparing for her great civil war.B.C. 50, ætat. 57.
Early in this year it had been again proposed in the Senate that Cæsar should give up his command. At this time the two Consuls, L. Æmilius Paulus and C. Claudius Marcellus, were opposed to Cæsar, as was also Curio, who had been one of Cicero’s young friends, and was now Tribune. But two of these Cæsar managed to buy by the payment of enormous bribes. Curio was the more important of the two, and required the larger bribe. The story comes to us from Appian,4 but the modern reader will find it efficiently told by Mommsen.5 The Consul had fifteen hundred talents, or about £500,000! The sum named as that given by Cæsar to Curio was something greater, because he was so deeply in debt! Bribes to the amount of above a million of money, such as money is to us now, bestowed upon two men for their support in the Senate! It was worth a man’s while to be a Consul or a Tribune in those days. But the money was well earned — plunder, no doubt, extracted from Gaul. The Senate decided that both Pompey and Cæsar should be required to abandon their commands — or rather they adopted a proposal to that effect without any absolute decree. But this sufficed for Cæsar, who was only anxious to be relieved from the necessity of obeying any order from the Senate by the knowledge that Pompey also was ordered, and also was disobedient. Then it was — in the summer of this year — that the two commanders were desired by the Senate to surrender each of them a legion, or about three thousand men, under the pretence that the forces were wanted for the Parthian war. The historians tell us that Pompey had lent a legion to Cæsar, thus giving us an indication of the singular terms on which legions were held by the proconsular officers who commanded them. Cæsar nobly sends up to Rome two legions, the one as having been ordered to be restored by himself, and the other as belonging to Pompey. He felt, no doubt, that a show of nobleness in this respect would do him better service than the withholding of the soldiers. The men were stationed at Capua, instead of being sent to the East, and no doubt drifted back into Cæsar’s hands. The men who had served under Cæsar would not willingly find themselves transferred to Pompey.
Cæsar in the summer came across the Alps into Cisalpine Gaul, which as yet had not been legally taken from him, and in the autumn sat himself down at Ravenna, which was still within his province. It was there that he had to meditate the crossing of the Rubicon and the manifestation of absolute rebellion. Matters were in this condition when Cicero returned to Italy, and heard the corroboration of the news as to the civil war which had reached him at Athens.
In a letter written from Athens, earlier than the one last quoted, Cicero declared to Atticus that it would become him better to be conquered with Pompey than to conquer with Cæsar.6 The opinion here given may be taken as his guiding principle in politics till Pompey was no more. Through all the doubts and vacillations which encumbered him, this was the rule not only of his mind but of his heart. To him there was no Triumvirate: the word had never been mentioned to his ears. Had Pompey remained free from Cæsar it would have been better. The two men had come together, and Crassus had joined them. It was better for him to remain with them and keep them right, than to stand away, angry and astray, as Cato had done. The question how far Cæsar was justified in the position which he had taken up by certain alleged injuries, affected Cicero less than it has done subsequent inquirers. Had an attempt been made to recall Cæsar illegally? Was he subjected to wrong by having his command taken away from him before the period had passed for which the people had given it? Was he refused indulgences to which the greatness of his services entitled him — such as permission to sue for the Consulship while absent from Rome — while that, and more than that, had been granted to Pompey? All these questions were no doubt hot in debate at the time, but could hardly have affected much the judgment of Cicero, and did not at all affect his conduct. Nor, I think, should they influence the opinions of those who now attempt to judge the conduct of Cæsar. Things had gone beyond the domain of law, and had fallen altogether into that of potentialities. Decrees of the Senate or votes of the people were alike used as excuses. Cæsar, from the beginning of his career, had shown his determination to sweep away as cobwebs the obligations which the law imposed upon him. It is surely vain to look for excuses for a man’s conduct to the practice of that injustice against him which he has long practised against others. Shall we forgive a house-breaker because the tools which he has himself invented are used at last upon his own door? The modern lovers of Cæsar and of Cæsarism generally do not seek to wash their hero white after that fashion. To them it is enough that the man has been able to trample upon the laws with impunity, and to be a law not only to himself but to all the world around him. There are some of us who think that such a man, let him be ever so great — let him be ever so just, if the infirmities of human nature permit justice to dwell in the breast of such a man — will in the end do more harm than good. But they who sit at the feet of the great commanders admire them as having been law-breaking, not law-abiding. To say that Cæsar was justified in the armed position which he took in Northern Italy in the autumn of this year, is to rob him of his praise. I do not suppose that he had meditated any special line of policy during the years of hard work in Gaul, but I think that he was determined not to relinquish his power, and that he was ready for any violence by which he might preserve it.
If such was Cicero’s idea of this man — if such the troubled outlook which he took into the circumstances of the Empire — he thought probably but little of the legality of Cæsar’s recall. What would the Consuls do, what would Curio do, what would Pompey do, and what Cæsar? It was of this that he thought. Had law-abiding then been possible, he would have been desirous to abide by the law. Some nearest approach to the law would be the best. Cæsar had ignored all laws, except so far as he could use them for his own purposes. Pompey, in conspiring with Cæsar, had followed Cæsar’s lead; but was desirous of using the law against Cæsar when Cæsar outstripped him in lawlessness. But to Cicero there was still some hope of restraining Pompey. Pompey, too, had been a conspirator, but not so notorious a conspirator as Cæsar. With Pompey there would be some bond to the Republic; with Cæsar there could be none; therefore it was better for him to fall with Pompey than to rise with Cæsar. That was his conviction till Pompey had altogether fallen.
His journey homeward is made remarkable by letters to Tiro, his slave and secretary. Tiro was taken ill, and Cicero was obliged to leave him at Patræ, in Greece. Whence he had come to Cicero we do not know, or when; but he had not probably fallen under his master’s peculiar notice before the days of the Cilician government, as we find that on his arrival at Brundisium he writes to Atticus respecting him as a person whom Atticus had not much known.7 But his affection for Tiro is very warm, and his little solicitudes for the man whom he leaves are charming. He is to be careful as to what boat he takes, and under what captain he sails. He is not to hurry. The doctor is to be consulted and well paid. Cicero himself writes various letters to various persons, in order to secure that attention which Tiro could not have insured unless so assisted.
Early in January Cicero reached the city, but could not enter it because of his still unsettled triumph, and Cæsar crossed the little river which divided his province from the Roman territory. The 4th of January is the date given for the former small event. For the latter I have seen no precise day named, I presume that it was after the 6th, as on that day the Senate appointed Domitian as his successor in his province. On this being done, the two Tribunes, Antony and Cassius, hurried off to Cæsar, and Cæsar then probably crossed the stream. Cicero was appointed to a command in Campania — that of raising levies, the duties of which were not officially repugnant to his triumph.
His doings during the whole of this time were but little to his credit; but who is there whose doings were to his credit at that period? The effect had been to take all power out of his hand. Cæsar had given him up. Pompey could not do so, but we can imagine how willing Pompey would have been that he should have remained in Cilicia. He had been sent there, out of the way, but had hurried home again. If he would only have remained and plundered! If he would only have remained there and have been honest — so that he would be out of the way! But here he was — back in Italy, an honest, upright man! No one so utterly unlike the usual Roman, so lost amid the self-seekers of Rome, so unnecessarily clean-handed, could be found! Cato was honest, foolishly honest for his time; but with Cato it was not so difficult to deal as with Cicero. We can imagine Cato wrapping himself up in his robe and being savagely unreasonable. Cicero was all alive to what was going on in the world, but still was honest! In the mean time he remained in the neighborhood of Naples, writing to his wife and daughter, writing to Tiro, writing to Atticus, and telling us all those details which we now seem to know so well — because he has told us. In one of his letters to Atticus at this time he is sadly in earnest. He will die with Pompey in Italy, but what can he do by leaving it? He has his “lictors” with him still. Oh, those dreadful lictors! His friendship for Cnæus! His fear of having to join himself with the coming tyrant! “Oh that you would assist me with your counsel!”8 He writes again, and describes the condition of Pompey — of Pompey who had been Magnus. “See how prostrate he is. He has neither courage, counsel, men, nor industry! Put aside those things; look at his flight from the city, his cowardly harangues in the towns, his ignorance of his own strength and that of his enemy! * * * Cæsar in pursuit of Pompey! Oh, sad! * * * Will he kill him?” he exclaims. Then, still to Atticus, he defends himself. He will die for Pompey, but he does not believe that he can do any good either to Pompey or to the Republic by a base flight. Then there is another cause for staying in Italy as to which he cannot write. This was Terentia’s conduct. At the end of one of his letters he tells Atticus that with the same lamp by which he had written would he burn that which Atticus had sent to him. In another he speaks of a Greek tutor who has deserted him, a certain Dionysius, and he boils over with anger. His letters to Atticus about the Greek tutor are amusing at this distance of time, because they show his eagerness. “I never knew anything more ungrateful; and there is nothing worse than ingratitude.”9
He heaps his scorn upon Pompey: “It is true, indeed, that I said that it was better to be conquered with him than to conquer with those others. I would indeed. But of what Pompey was it that I so spoke? Was it of this one who flies he knows not what, nor whom, nor whither he will fly?”10 He writes again the same day: “Pompey had fostered Cæsar, and then had feared him. He had left the city; he had lost Picenum by his own fault, he had betaken himself to Apulia! Then he went into Greece, leaving us in the dark as to his plans!” He excuses a letter of his own to Cæsar. He had written to Cæsar in terms which might be pleasing to the great man. He had told Cæsar of Cæsar’s admirable wisdom. Was it not better so? He was willing that his letter should be read aloud to all the people, if only those of Pompey might also be read aloud. Then follow copies of a correspondence between him and Pompey. In the last he declares11 that “when he had written from Canusium he had not dreamed that Pompey was about to cross the sea. He had known that Pompey had intended to treat for peace — for peace even under unjust conditions — but he had never thought that Pompey was meditating a retreat out of Italy.” He argues well and stoutly, and does take us along with him. Pompey had been beaten back from point to point, never once rallying himself against Cæsar. He had failed, and had slipped away, leaving a man here and there to stand up for the Republic. Pompey was willing to risk nothing for Rome. It had come to pass at last that he was being taught Cæsarism by Cæsar, and when he died was more imperial than his master.
At this time Cicero’s eyes were bad. “Mihi molestior lippitudo erat etiam quam ante fuerat.” And again, “Lippitudinis meæ signum tibi sit librarii manus.” But we may doubt whether any great men have lived so long with so little to tease them as to their health. And yet the amount of work he got through was great. He must have so arranged his affairs as to have made the most he could of his hours, and have carried in his memory information on all subjects. When we remember the size of the books which he read, their unwieldy shapes, their unfitness for such work as that of ours, there seems to have been a continuation of study such as we cannot endure. Throughout his life his hours were early, but they must also have been late. Of his letters we have not a half, of his speeches not a half, of his treatises not more than a half. When he was abroad during his exile, or in Cilicia during his government, he could not have had his books with him. That Cæsar should have been Cæsar, or Pompey Pompey, does not seem to me a matter so difficult as that Cicero should have been Cicero. Then comes that letter of which I spoke in my first chapter, in which he recapitulates the Getæ, the Armenians, and the men of Colchis. “Shall I, the savior of the city, assist to bring down upon that city those hordes of foreign men? Shall I deliver it up to famine and to destruction for the sake of one man who is no more than mortal?”12 It was Pompey as to whom he then asked the question. For Pompey’s sake am I to let in these crowds? We have been told, indeed, by Mr. Froude that the man was Cæsar, and that Cicero wrote thus anxiously with the special object of arranging his death!
“Now, if ever, think what we shall do,” he says. “A Roman army sits round Pompey and makes him a prisoner within valley and rampart — and shall we live? The city stands; the Prætors give the law, the Ædiles keep up the games, good men look to their principal and their interest. Shall I remain sitting here? Shall I rush hither and thither madly, and implore the credit of the towns? Men of substance will not follow me. The revolutionists will arrest me. Is there any end to this misery? People will point at me and say, ‘How wise he was not to go with him.’ I was not wise. Of his victory I never wished to be the comrade — yet now I do of his sorrow.”13B.C. 49, ætat. 58.
Pompey had crossed the sea from Brundisium, and Cæsar had retreated across Italy to Capua. As he was journeying he saw Cicero, and asked him to go to Rome. This Cicero refused, and Cæsar passed on. “I must then use other counsels,” said Cæsar, thus leaving him for the last time before the coming battle. Cicero went on to Arpinum, and there heard the nightingales. From that moment he resolved. He had not thought it possible that when the moment came he should have been able to prevail against Cæsar’s advice; but he had done so. He had feared that Cæsar would overcome him; but when the moment came he was strong against even Cæsar. He gave his boy his toga, or, as we should say, made a man of him. He was going after Pompey, not for the sake of Pompey, not for the sake of the Republic, but for loyalty. He was going because Atticus had told him to go. But as he is going there came fresh ground for grief. He writes to Atticus about the two boys, his son and nephew. The one is good by nature, and has not yet gone astray. The other, the elder and his nephew, has been encouraged by this uncle’s indulgence, and has openly adopted evil ways. In other words, he has become Cæsarian — for a reward.14 The young Quintus has shown himself to be very false. Cicero is so bound together with his family in their public life that this falling off of one of them makes him unhappy. Then Curio comes the way, and there is a most interesting conversation. It seems that Curio, who is fond of Cicero, tells him everything; but Cicero, who doubts him, lets him pass on. Then Cælius writes to him. Cælius implores him, for the sake of his children, to bear in mind what he is doing. He tells him much of Cæsar’s anger, and asks him if he cannot become Cæsarian; at any rate to betake himself to some retreat till the storm shall pass by and quieter days should come. But Cælius, though it had suited Cicero to know him intimately, had not read the greatness of the man’s mind. He did not understand in the least the difficulty which pervaded Cicero. To Cælius it was play — play in which a man might be beaten, or banished, or slaughtered; but it was a game in which men were fighting each for himself. That there should be a duty in the matter, beyond that, was inexplicable to Cælius. And his children, too — his anger against young Quintus and his forgiveness of Marcus! He thinks that Quintus had been purchased by a large bribe on Cæsar’s side, and is thankful that it is no worse with him. What can have been worse to a young man than to have been open to such payment? Antony is frequently on the scene, and already disgusts us by the vain frivolity and impudence of his life. And then Cicero’s eyes afflict him, and he cannot see. Servius Sulpicius comes to him weeping. For Servius, who is timid and lachrymose, everything has gone astray. And then there is that Dionysius who had plainly told him that he desired to follow some richer or some readier master. At the last comes the news of his Tullia’s child’s birth. She is brought to bed of a son. He cannot, however, wait to see how the son thrives. From the midst of enemies, and with spies around him, he starts. There is one last letter written to his wife and daughter from on board the ship at Caieta, sending them many loves and many careful messages, and then he is off.
It was now the 11th of June, the third day before the ides, B.C. 49, and we hear nothing special of the events of his journey. When he reached the camp, which he did in safety, he was not well received there. He had given his all to place himself along with Pompey in the republican quarters, and when there the republicans were unwilling to welcome him. Pompey would have preferred that he should have remained away, so as to be able to say hereafter that he had not come.
Of what occurred to Cicero during the great battle which led to the solution of the Roman question we know little or nothing. We hear that Cicero was absent, sick at Dyrrachium, but there are none of those tirades of abuse with which such an absence might have been greeted. We hear, indeed, from other sources, very full accounts of the fighting — how Cæsar was nearly conquered, how Pompey might have prevailed had he had the sense to take the good which came in his way, how he failed to take it, how he was beaten, and how, in the very presence of his wife, he was murdered at last at the mouth of the Nile by the combined energies of a Roman and a Greek.
We can imagine how the fate of the world was decided on the Pharsalus where the two armies met, and the victory remained with Cæsar. Then there were weepings and gnashings of teeth, and there were the congratulations and self-applause of the victors. In all Cicero’s letters there is not a word of it. There was terrible suffering before it began, and there is the sense of injured innocence on his return, but nowhere do we find any record of what took place. There is no mourning for Pompey, no turning to Cæsar as the conqueror. Petra has been lost, and Pharsalia has been won, but there is no sign.B.C. 48, ætat. 59.
Cicero, we know, spent the time at Dyrrachium close to which the battle of Petra was fought, and went from thence to Corcyra. There invitation was made to him, as the senior consular officer present, to take the command of the beaten army, but that he declined. We are informed that he was nearly killed in the scuffle which took place. We can imagine that it was so — that in the confusion and turmoil which followed he should have been somewhat roughly told that it behooved him to take the lead and to come forth as the new commander; that there should be a time at last in which no moment should be allowed him for doubt, but that he should doubt, and, after more or less of reticence, pass on. Young Pompey would have it so. What name would be so good to bind together the opponents of Cæsar as that of Cicero? But Cicero would not be led. It seems that he was petulant and out of sorts at the time; that he had been led into the difficulty of the situation by his desire to be true to Pompey, and that he was only able to escape from it now that Pompey was gone. We can well imagine that there should be no man less able to fight against Cæsar, though there was none whose name might be so serviceable to use as that of Cicero. At any rate, as far as we are concerned, there was silence on the subject on his part. He wrote not a word to any of the friends whom Pompey had left behind him, but returned to Italy dispirited, silent, and unhappy. He had indeed met many men since the battle of the Pharsalus, but to none of whom we are conversant had he expressed his thoughts regarding that great campaign.
Here we part from Pompey, who ran from the fighting-ground of Macedonia to meet his doom in the roads of Alexandria. Never had man risen so high in his youth to be extinguished so ingloriously in his age. He was born in the same year with Cicero, but had come up quicker into the management of the world’s affairs, so as to have received something from his equals of that which was due to age. Habit had given him that ease of manners which enabled him to take from those who should have been his compeers the deference which was due not to his age but to his experience. When Cicero was entering the world, taking up the cudgels to fight against Sulla, Pompey had already won his spurs, in spite of Sulla but by means of Sulla. Men in these modern days learn, as they grow old in public life, to carry themselves with indifference among the backslidings of the world. In reading the life of Cicero, we see that it was so then. When defending Amerinus, we find the same character of man as was he who afterward took Milo’s part. There is the same readiness, the same ingenuity, and the same high indignation; but there is not the same indifference as to results. With Amerinus it is as though all the world depended on it; with Milo he felt it to be sufficient to make the outside world believe it. When Pompey triumphed, 70 B.C., and was made Consul for the second time, he was already old in glory — when Cicero had not as yet spoken those two orations against Verres which had made the speaking of another impossible. Pompey, we may say, had never been young. Cicero was never old. There was no moment in his life in which Cicero was not able to laugh with the Curios and the Cæliuses behind the back of the great man. There was no moment in which Pompey could have done so. He who has stepped from his cradle on to the world’s high places has lost the view of those things which are only to be seen by idle and luxurious young men of the day. Cicero did not live for many years beyond Pompey, but I doubt whether he did not know infinitely more of men. To Pompey it had been given to rule them; but to Cicero to live with them.
1 Ad Att., lib. xi., 1.
2 Appius and Piso were the last two Censors elected by the Republic.
3 Ad Div., lib. ii., 15.
4 Appian, De Bell. Civ., lib. ii., 26. The historian tells us that the Consul built a temple with the money, but that Curio had paid his debts.
5 Mommsen, book v., ca. ix.
6 Ad Att., lib. vii., 1: “Video cum altero vinci satius esse quam cum altero vincere.”
7 Ad Att., lib. vii., 2: “Adolescentem, ut nosti, et adde, si quid vis, probum.”
8 Ad Att., lib. vii., 20–23.
9 Ibid., lib. viii., 4.
10 Ibid., lib. viii., 7.
11 Copy of letter D, enclosed in letter to Atticus, lib. viii., 11.
12 Ad Att., lib. ix., 10.
13 Ibid., lib. ix., 12.
14 Ad Att., lib. x., 4.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55