The Life of Cicero, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter vii.

Marcellus, Ligarius, and Deiotarus.

B.C. 46, ætat. 61.

The battle of Thapsus, in Africa, took place in the spring of this year, and Cato destroyed himself with true stoical tranquillity, determined not to live under Cæsar’s rule. If we may believe the story which, probably, Hirtius has given us, in his account of the civil war in Africa, and which has come down to us together with Cæsar’s Commentaries, Cato left his last instructions to some of his officers, and then took his sword into his bed with him and stabbed himself. Cicero, who, in his dream of Scipio, has given his readers such excellent advice in regard to suicide, has understood that Cato must be allowed the praise of acting up to his own principles. He would die rather than behold the face of the tyrant who had enslaved him.1 To Cato it was nothing that he should leave to others the burden of living under Cæsar; but to himself the idea of a superior caused an unendurable affront. The “Catonis nobile letum” has reconciled itself to the poets of all ages. Men, indeed, have refused to see that he fled from a danger which he felt to be too much for him, and that in doing so he had lacked something of the courage of a man. Many other Romans of the time did the same thing, but to none has been given all the honor which has been allowed to Cato.

Cicero felt as others have done, and allowed all his little jealousies to die away. It was but a short time before that Cato had voted against the decree of the Senate giving Cicero his “supplication.” Cicero had then been much annoyed; but now Cato had died fighting for the Republic, and was to be forgiven all personal offences. Cicero wrote a eulogy of Cato which was known by the name of Cato, and was much discussed at Rome at the time. It has now been lost. He sent it to Cæsar, having been bold enough to say in it whatever occurred to him should be said in Cato’s praise. We may imagine that, had it not pleased him to be generous — had he not been governed by that feeling of “De mortuis nil nisi bonum,” which is now common to us all — he might have said much that was not good. Cato had endeavored to live up to the austerest rules of the Stoics — a mode of living altogether antagonistic to Cicero’s views. But we know that he praised Cato to the full — and we know also that Cæsar nobly took the praise in good part, as coming from Cicero, and answered it in an Anti–Cato, in which he stated his reasons for differing from Cicero. We can understand how Cæsar should have shown that the rigid Stoic was not a man likely to be of service to his country.

There came up at this period a question which made itself popular among the “optimates” of Rome, as to the return of Marcellus. The man of Como, whom Marcellus had flogged, will be remembered — the Roman citizen who had first been made a citizen by Cæsar. This is mentioned now not as the cause of Cæsar’s enmity, who did not care much probably for his citizen, but as showing the spirit of the man. He, Marcellus, had been Consul four years since, B.C. 51, and had then endeavored to procure Cæsar’s recall from his province. He was one of the “optimates,” an oligarch altogether opposed to Cæsar, a Roman nobleman of fairly good repute, who had never bent to Cæsar, but had believed thoroughly in his order, and had thought, till the day of Pharsalia came, that the Consuls and the Senate would rule forever. The day of Pharsalia did come, and Marcellus went into voluntary banishment in Mitylene. After Pharsalia, Cæsar’s clemency began to make itself known. There was a pardon for almost every Roman who had fought against him, and would accept it. No spark of anger burnt in Cæsar’s bosom, except against one or two, of whom Marcellus was one. He was too wise to be angry with men whose services he might require. It was Cæsar’s wish not to drive out the good men but to induce them to remain in Rome, living by the grace of his favor. Marcellus had many friends, and it seems that a public effort was made to obtain for him permission to come back to Rome. We must imagine that Cæsar had hitherto refused, probably with the idea of making his final concession the more valuable. At last the united Senators determined to implore his grace, and the Consulares rose one after another in their places, and all, with one exception,2 asked that Marcellus might be allowed to return. Cicero, however, had remained silent to the last. There must have been, I think, some plot to get Cicero on to his legs. He had gone to meet Cæsar at Brundisium when he came back from the East, had returned to Rome under his auspices, and had lived in pleasant friendship with Cæsar’s friends. Pardon seems to have been accorded to Cicero without an effort. As far as he was concerned, that hostile journey to Dyrrachium — for he did not travel farther toward the camp — counted for nothing with Cæsar. He was allowed to live in peace, at Rome or at his villas, as he might please, so long as Cæsar might rule. The idea seems to have been that he should gradually become absorbed among Cæsar’s followers. But hitherto he had remained silent. It was now six years since his voice had been heard in Rome. He had spoken for Milo — or had intended to speak — and, in the same affair, for Munatius Plancus, and for Saufeius, B.C. 52. He had then been in his fifty-fifth year, and it might well be that six years of silence at such a period of his life would not be broken. It was manifestly his intention not to speak again, at any rate in the Senate; though the threats made by him as to his total retirement should not be taken as meaning much. Such threats from statesmen depend generally on the wishes of other men. But he held his place in the Senate, and occasionally attended the debates. When this affair of Marcellus came on, and all the Senators of consular rank — excepting only Volcatius and Cicero — had risen, and had implored Cæsar in a few words to condescend to be generous; when Claudius Marcellus had knelt at Cæsar’s feet to ask for his brother’s liberty, and Cæsar himself, after reminding them of the bitterness of the man, had still declared that he could not refuse the prayers of the Senate, then Cicero, as though driven by the magnanimity of the conqueror, rose from his place, and poured forth his thanks in the speech which is still extant.

That used to be the story till there came the German critic Wolf, who at the beginning of this century told us that Cicero did not utter the words attributed to him, and could not have uttered them. According to Wolf, it would be doing Cicero an egregious wrong to suppose him capable of having used such words, which are not Latin, and which were probably written by some ignoramus in the time of Tiberius. Such a verdict might have been taken as fatal — for Wolf’s scholarship and powers of criticism are acknowledged — in spite of La Harpe, the French scholar and critic, who has named the Marcellus as a thing of excellence, comparing it with the eulogistic speeches of Isocrates. The praise of La Harpe was previous to the condemnation of Wolf, and we might have been willing to accede to the German as being the later and probably the more accurate. Mr. Long, the British editor of the Orations — Mr. Long, who has so loudly condemned the four speeches supposed to have been made after Cicero’s return from exile — gives us no certain guidance. Mr. Long, at any rate, has not been so disgusted by the Tiberian Latin as to feel himself bound to repudiate it. If he can read the Pro Marcello, so can I, and so, my reader, might you do probably without detriment. But these differences among the great philologic critics tend to make us, who are so infinitely less learned, better contented with our own lot. I, who had read the Pro Marcello without stumbling over its halting Latinity, should have felt myself crushed when I afterward came across Wolf’s denunciations, had I not been somewhat comforted by La Harpe. But when I found that Mr. Long, in his introduction to the piece, though he discusses Wolf’s doctrine, still gives to the orator the advantage, as it may be, of his “imprimatur,” I felt that I might go on, and not be ashamed of myself.3

This is the story that has now to be told of the speech Pro Marcello. At the time the matter ended very tragically. As soon as Cæsar had yielded, Cicero wrote to Marcellus giving him strong reasons for coming home. Marcellus answered him, saying that it was impossible. He thanks Cicero shortly; but, with kindly dignity, he declines. “With the comforts of the city I can well dispense,” he says.4 Then Cicero urges him again and again, using excellent arguments for his return — which at length prevail. In the spring of the next year Marcellus, on his way back to Rome, is at Athens. There Servius Sulpicius spends a day with him; but, just as Sulpicius is about to pass on, there comes a slave to him who tells him that Marcellus has been murdered. His friend Magius Chilo had stabbed him overnight, and had then destroyed himself. It was said that Chilo had asked Marcellus to pay his debts for him, and that Marcellus had refused. It seems to be more probable that Chilo had his own reasons for not choosing that his friend should return to Rome.

Looking back at my own notes on the speech — it would make with us but a ten minutes’ after-dinner speech — I see that it is said “that it is chiefly remarkable for the beauty of the language, and the abjectness of the praise of Cæsar.” This was before I had heard of Wolf. As to the praise, I doubt whether it should be called abject, regard being had to the feelings of the moment in which it was delivered. Cicero had risen to thank Cæsar — on whose breath the recall of Marcellus depended — for his unexpected courtesy. In England we should not have thanked Cæsar as Cicero did: “O Cæsar, there is no flood of eloquence, no power of the tongue or of the pen, no richness of words, which may emblazon, or even dimly tell the story of your great deeds.”5 Such language is unusual with us — as it would also be unusual to abuse our Pisos and our Vatiniuses, as did Cicero. It was the Southerner and the Roman who spoke to Southerners and to Romans. But, undoubtedly, there was present to the mind of Cicero the idea of saying words which Cæsar might receive with pleasure. He was dictator, emperor, lord of all things — king. Cicero should have remained away, as Marcellus had done, were he not prepared to speak after this fashion. He had long held aloof from speech. At length the time had come when he was, as it were, caught in a trap, and compelled to be eloquent.

B.C. 46, ætat. 61.

The silence had been broken, and in the course of the autumn he spoke on behalf of Ligarius, beseeching the conqueror to be again merciful. This case was by no means similar to that of Marcellus, who was exiled by no direct forfeiture of his right to live in Italy, but who had expatriated himself. In this case Ligarius had been banished with others; but it seems that the punishment had been inflicted on him, not from the special ill-will of Cæsar, but from the malice of certain enemies who, together with Ligarius, had found themselves among Pompey’s followers when Cæsar crossed the Rubicon. Ligarius had at this time been left as acting governor in Africa. In the confusion of the times an unfortunate Pompeian named Varus had arrived in Africa, and to him, as being superior in rank, Ligarius had given up the government. Varus had then gone, leaving Ligarius still acting, and one Tubero had come with his son, and had demanded the office. Ligarius had refused to give it up, and the two Tuberos had departed, leaving the province in anger, and had fought at the Pharsalus. After the battle they made their peace with Cæsar, and in the scramble that ensued Ligarius was banished. Now the case was brought into the courts, in which Cæsar sat as judge. The younger Tubero accused Ligarius, and Cicero defended him. It seems that, having been enticed to open his mouth on behalf of Marcellus, he found himself launched again into public life. But how great was the difference from his old life! It is not to the Judices, or Patres Conscripti, or to the Quirites that he now addresses himself, determined by the strength of his eloquence to overcome the opposition of stubborn minds, but to Cæsar, whom he has to vanquish simply by praise. Once again he does the same thing when pleading for Deiotarus, the King of Galatia, and it is impossible to deny, as we read the phrases, that the orator sinks in our esteem. It is not so much that we judge him to be small, as that he has ceased to be great. He begins his speech for Ligarius by saying, “My kinsman Tubero has brought before you, O Cæsar, a new crime, and one not heard of up to this day — that Ligarius has been in Africa.”6 The commencement would have been happy enough if it had not been addressed to Cæsar; for he was addressing a judge not appointed by any form, but self-assumed — a judge by military conquest. We cannot imagine how Cæsar found time to sit there, with his legions round him still under arms, and Spain not wholly conquered. But he did do so, and allowed himself to be persuaded to the side of mercy. Ligarius came back to Rome, and was one of those who plunged their daggers into him. But I cannot think that he should have been hindered by this trial and by Cæsar’s mercy from taking such a step, if by nothing else. Brutus and Cassius also stabbed him. The question to be decided is whether, on public grounds, these men were justified in killing him — a question as to which I should be premature in expressing an opinion here.

There are some beautiful passages in this oration. “Who is there, I ask,” he says, “who alleges Ligarius to have been in fault because he was in Africa? He does so who himself was most anxious to be there, and now complains that he was refused admittance by Ligarius, he who was in arms against Cæsar. What was your sword doing, Tubero, in that Pharsalian army? Whom did you seek to kill then? What was the meaning of your weapon? What was it that you desired so eagerly, with those eyes and hands, with that passion in your heart? I press him too much; the young man seems to be disturbed. I will speak of myself, then, for I also was in that army.”7 This was in Cæsar’s presence, and no doubt told with Cæsar. We were all together in the same cause — you, and I, and Ligarius. Why should you and I be pardoned and not Ligarius? The oration is for the most part simply eulogistic. At any rate it was successful, and became at Rome, for the time, extremely popular. He writes about it early in the following year to Atticus, who has urged him to put something into it, before it was published, to mitigate the feeling against Tubero. Cicero says in his reply to Atticus that the copies have already been given to the public, and that, indeed, he is not anxious on Tubero’s behalf.

Early in this year he had divorced Terentia, and seems at once to have married Publilia. Publilia had been his ward, and is supposed to have had a fortune of her own. He explains his own motives very clearly in a letter to his friend Plancius. In these wretched times he would have formed no new engagement, unless his own affairs had been as sad for him as were those of the Republic; but when he found that they to whom his prosperity should have been of the greatest concern were plotting against him within his own walls, he was forced to strengthen himself against the perfidy of his old inmates by placing his trust in new.8 It must have been very bad with him when he had recourse to such a step as this. Shortly after this letter just quoted had been written, he divorced Publilia also — we are told because Publilia had treated Tullia with disrespect. We have no details on the subject, but we can well understand the pride of the young woman who declined to hear the constant praise of her step-daughter, and thought herself to be quite as good as Tullia. At any rate, she was sent away quickly from her new home, having remained there only long enough to have made not the most creditable episode in Cicero’s life.

At this time Dolabella, who assumed the Consulship upon Cæsar’s death, and Hirtius, who became Consul during the next year, used to attend upon Cicero and take lessons in elocution. So at least the story has been told, from a letter written in this year to his friend Poetus; but I should imagine that the lessons were not much in earnest. “Why do you talk to me of your tunny-fish, your pilot-fish, and your cheese and sardines? Hirtius and Dolabella preside over my banquets, and I teach them in return to make speeches.”9 From this we may learn that Cæsar’s friends were most anxious to be also Cicero’s friends. It may be said that Dolabella was his son-in-law; but Dolabella was at this moment on the eve of being divorced. It was in spite of his marriage that Dolabella still clung to Cicero. All Cæsar’s friends in Rome did the same; so that I am disposed to think that for this year, just till Tullia’s death, he was falling, not into a happy state, but to the passive contentment of those who submit themselves to be ruled over by a single master. He had struggled all his life, and now finding that he must yield, he thought that he might as well do so gracefully. It was so much easier to listen to the State secrets of Balbus, and hear from Oppius how the money was spent, and then to dine with Hirtius or Dolabella, than to sit ever scowling at home, as Cato would have done had Cato lived. But with his feelings about the Republic at heart, how sad it must have been! Cato was gone, and Pompey, and Bibulus; and Marcellus was either gone or just about to go. Old age was creeping on. It was better to write philosophy, in friendship with Cæsar’s friends, than to be banished again whither he could not write it at all. Much, no doubt, he did in preparation for all those treatises which the next eighteen months were to bring forth.

Cæsar, just at the end of the year, had been again called to Spain, B.C. 46, to quell the last throbbings of the Pompeians, and then to fight the final battle of Munda. It would seem odd to us that so little should have been said about such an event by Cicero, and that the little should depend on the education of his son, were it not that if we look at our own private letters, written today to our friends, we find the same omission of great things. To Cicero the doings of his son were of more immediate moment than the doings of Cæsar. The boy had been anxious to enlist for the Spanish war. Quintus, his cousin, had gone, and young Marcus was anxious to flutter his feathers beneath the eyes of royalty. At his age it was nothing to him that he had been taken to Pharsalia and made to bear arms on the opposite side. Cæsar had become Cæsar since he had learned to form his opinion on politics, and on Cæsar’s side all things seemed to be bright and prosperous. The lad was anxious to get away from his new step-mother, and asked his father for the means to go with the army to Spain. It appears by Cicero’s letter to Atticus on the subject10 that, in discussing the matter with his son, he did yield. These Roman fathers, in whose hands we are told were the very lives of their sons, seem to have been much like Christian fathers of modern days in their indulgences. The lad was now nineteen years old, and does not appear to have been willing, at the first parental attempt, to give up his military appanages and that swagger of the young officer which is so dear to the would-be military mind. Cicero tells him that if he joined the army he would find his cousin treated with greater favor than himself. Young Quintus was older, and had been already able to do something to push himself with Cæsar’s friends. “Sed tamen permisi”—“Nevertheless, I told him he might go,” said Cicero, sadly. But he did not go. He was allured, probably, by the promise of a separate establishment at Athens, whither he was sent to study with Cratippus. We find another proof of Cicero’s wealth in the costliness of his son’s household at Athens, as premeditated by the father. He is to live as do the sons of other great noblemen. He even names the young noblemen with whom he is to live. Bibulus was of the Calpurnian “gens.” Acidinus of the Manlian, and Messala of the Valerian, and these are the men whom Cicero, the “novus homo” from Arpinum, selects as those who shall not live at a greater cost than his son.11 “He will not, however, at Athens want a horse.” Why not? Why should not a young man so furnished want a horse at Athens? “There are plenty here at home for the road,” says Cicero. So young Cicero is furnished, and sent forth to learn philosophy and Greek. But no one has essayed to tell us why he should not want the horse. Young Cicero when at Athens did not do well. He writes home in the coming year, to Tiro, two letters which have been preserved for us, and which seem to give us but a bad account, at any rate, of his sincerity. “The errors of his youth,” he says, “have afflicted him grievously.” Not only is his mind shocked, but his ears cannot bear to hear of his own iniquity.12 “And now,” he says, “I will give you a double joy, to compensate all the anxiety I have occasioned you. Know that I live with Cratippus, my master, more like a son than a pupil. I spend all my days with him, and very often part of the night.” But he seems to have had some wit. Tiro has been made a freedman, and has bought a farm for himself. Young Marcus — from whom Tiro has asked for some assistance which Marcus cannot give him — jokes with him as to his country life, telling him that he sees him saving the apple-pips at dessert. Of the subsequent facts of the life of young Marcus we do not know much. He did not suffer in the proscriptions of Antony and Augustus, as did his father and uncle and his cousin. He did live to be chosen as Consul with Augustus, and had the reputation of a great drinker. For this latter assertion we have only the authority of Pliny the elder, who tells us an absurd story, among the wonders of drinking which he adduces.13 Middleton says a word or two on behalf of the young Cicero, which are as well worthy of credit as anything else that has been told. One last glance at him which we can credit is given in that letter to Tiro, and that we admit seems to us to be hypocritical.

B.C. 45, ætat. 62.

In the spring of the year Cicero lost his daughter Tullia. We have first a letter of his to Lepta, a man with whom he had become intimate, saying that he had been kept in Rome by Tullia’s confinement, and that now he is still detained, though her health is sufficiently confirmed, by the expectation of obtaining from Dolabella’s agents the first repayment of her dowry. The repayment of the divorced lady’s marriage portion was a thing of every-day occurrence in Rome, when she was allowed to take away as much as she had brought with her. Cicero, however, failed to get back Tullia’s dowry. But he writes in good spirits. He does not think that he cares to travel any more. He has a house at Rome better than any of his villas in the country, and greater rest than in the most desert region. His studies are now never interrupted. He thinks it probable that Lepta will have to come to him before he can be induced to go to Lepta. In the mean time let the young Lepta take care and read his Hesiod.14

Then he writes in the spring to Atticus a letter from Antium, and we first hear that Tullia is dead. She had seemed to recover from childbirth; but her strength did not suffice, and she was no more.15 A boy had been born, and was left alive. In subsequent letters we find that Cicero gives instructions concerning him, and speaks of providing for him in his will.16 But of the child we hear nothing more, and must surmise that he also died. Of Tullia’s death we have no further particulars; but we may well imagine that the troubles of the world had been very heavy on her. The little stranger was being born at the moment of her divorce from her third husband. She was about thirty-two years of age, and it seems that Cicero had taken consolation in her misfortunes from the expected pleasure of her companionship. She was now dead, and he was left alone.

She had died in February, and we know nothing of the first outbreak of his sorrow. It appears that he at first buried himself for a while in a villa belonging to Atticus, near Rome, and that he then retreated to his own at Astura. From thence, and afterward from Antium, there are a large number of letters, all dealing with the same subject. He declares himself to be inconsolable; but he does take consolation from two matters — from his books on philosophy, and from an idea which occurs to him that he will perpetuate the name of Tullia forever by the erection of a monument that shall be as nearly immortal as stones and bricks can make it.

His letters to Atticus at this time are tedious to the general reader, because he reiterates so often his instructions as to the purchase of the garden near Rome in which the monument is to be built; but they are at the same time touching and natural. “Nothing has been written,” he says, “for the lessening of grief which I have not read at your house; but my sorrow breaks through it all.”17 Then he tells Atticus that he too has endeavored to console himself by writing a treatise on Consolation. “Whole days I write; not that it does any good.” In that he was wrong. He could find no cure for his grief; but he did know that continued occupation would relieve him, and therefore he occupied himself continually. “Totos dies scribo.” By doing so, he did contrive not to break his heart. In a subsequent letter he says, “Reading and writing do not soften it, but they deaden it.”18

On the Appian Way, a short distance out of Rome, the traveller is shown a picturesque ancient building, of enormous strength, called the Mole of Cæcilia Metella. It is a castle in size, but is believed to have been the tomb erected to the memory of Cæcilia, the daughter of Metellus Creticus, and the wife of Crassus the rich. History knows of her nothing more, and authentic history hardly knows so much of the stupendous monument. There it stands, however, and is supposed to be proof of what might be done for a Roman lady in the way of perpetuating her memory. She was, at any rate, older than Tullia, having been the wife of a man older than Tullia’s father. If it be the case that this monument be of the date named, it proves to us, at least, that the notion of erecting such monuments was then prevalent. Some idea of a similar kind — of a monument equally stupendous, and that should last as long — seems to have taken a firm hold of Cicero’s mind. He has read all the authors he could find on the subject, and they agree that it shall be done in the fashion he points out. He does not, he says, consult Atticus on that matter, nor on the architecture, for he has already settled on the design of one Cluatius. What he wants Atticus to do for him now is to assist him in buying the spot on which it shall be built. Many gardens near Rome are named. If Drusus makes a difficulty, Atticus must see Damasippus. Then there are those which belong to Sica and to Silius! But at last the matter dies away, and even the gardens are not bought. We are led to imagine that Atticus has been opposed to the monument from first to last, and that the immense cost of constructing such a temple as Cicero had contemplated is proved to him to be injudicious. There is a charming letter written to him at this time by his friend Sulpicius, showing the great feeling entertained for him. But, as I have said before, I doubt whether that or any other phrases of consolation were of service to him. It was necessary for him to wait and bear it, and the more work that he did when he was bearing it, the easier it was borne. Lucceius and Torquatus wrote to him on the same subject, and we have his answers.

B.C. 45, ætat. 62.

In September Cæsar returned from Spain, having at last conquered the Republic. All hope for liberty was now gone. Atticus had instigated Cicero to write something to Cæsar as to his victories — something that should be complimentary, and at the same time friendly and familiar; but Cicero had replied that it was impossible. “When I feel,” he said, “that to draw the breath of life is in itself base, how base would be my assent to what has been done!19 But it is not only that. There are not words in which such a letter ever can be written. Do you not know that Aristotle, when he addressed himself to Alexander, wrote to a youth who had been modest; but then, when he had once heard himself called king, he became proud, cruel, and unrestrained? How, then, shall I now write in terms which shall suffice for his pride to the man who has been equalled to Romulus?” It was true; Cæsar had now returned inflated with such pride that Brutus, and Cassius, and Casca could no longer endure him. He came back, and triumphed over the five lands in which he had conquered not the enemies of Rome, but Rome itself. He triumphed nominally over the Gauls, the Egyptians, the Asiatics of Pontus, over the Africans, and the Spaniards; but his triumph was, in truth, over the Republic. There appears from Suetonius to have been five separate triumphal processions, each at the interval of a few days.20 Amid the glory of the first Vercingetorix was strangled. To the glory of the third was added — as Suetonius tells us — these words, “Veni, vidi, vici,” displayed on a banner. This I think more likely than that he had written them on an official despatch. We are told that the people of Rome refused to show any pleasure, and that even his own soldiers had enough in them of the Roman spirit to feel resentment at his assumption of the attributes of a king. Cicero makes but little mention of these gala doings in his letters. He did not see them, but wrote back word to Atticus, who had described it all. “An absurd pomp,” he says, alluding to the carriage of the image of Cæsar together with that of the gods; and he applauds the people who would not clap their hands, even in approval of the Goddess of Victory, because she had shown herself in such bad company.21 There are, however, but three lines on the subject, showing how little there is in that statement of Cornelius Nepos that he who had read Cicero’s letters carefully wanted but little more to be well informed of the history of the day.

Cæsar was not a man likely to be turned away from his purpose of ruling well by personal pride — less likely, we should say, than any self-made despot dealt with in history. He did make efforts to be as he was before. He endeavored to live on terms of friendship with his old friends; but the spirit of pride which had taken hold of him was too much for him. Power had got possession of him, and he could not stand against it. It was sad to see the way in which it compelled him to make himself a prey to the conspirators, were it not that we learn from history how impossible it is that a man should raise himself above the control of his fellow-men without suffering.

B.C. 45, ætat. 62.

During these days Cicero kept himself in the country, giving himself up to his philosophical writings, and indulging in grief for Tullia. Efforts were repeatedly made to bring him to Rome, and he tells Atticus in irony that if he is wanted there simply as an augur, the augurs have nothing to do with the opening of temples. In the same letter he speaks of an interview he has just had with his nephew Quintus, who had come to him in his disgrace. He wants to go to the Parthian war, but he has not money to support him. Then Cicero uses, as he says, the eloquence of Atticus, and holds his tongue.22 We can imagine how very unpleasant the interview must have been. Cicero, however, decides that he will go up to the city, so that he may have Atticus with him on his birthday. This letter was written toward the close of the year, and Cicero’s birthday was the 3d of January.

He then goes to Rome, and undertakes to plead the cause of Deiotarus, the King of Galatia, before Cæsar. This very old man had years ago become allied with Pompey, and, as far as we can judge, been singularly true to his idea of Roman power. He had seen Pompey in all his glory when Pompey had come to fight Mithridates. The Tetrarchs in Asia Minor, of whom this Deiotarus was one, had a hard part to play when the Romans came among them. They were forced to comply, either with their natural tendency to resist their oppressors, or else were obliged to fleece their subjects in order to satisfy the cupidity of the invaders. We remember Ariobarzanes, who sent his subjects in gangs to Rome to be sold as slaves in order to pay Pompey the interest on his debt. Deiotarus had similarly found his best protection in being loyal to Pompey, and had in return been made King of Armenia by a decree of the Roman Senate. He joined Pompey at the Pharsalus, and, when the battle was over, returned to his own country to look for further forces wherewith to aid the Republic. Unfortunately for him, Cæsar was the conqueror, and Deiotarus found himself obliged to assist the conqueror with his troops. Cæsar seems never to have forgiven him his friendship for Pompey. He was not a Roman, and was unworthy of forgiveness. Cæsar took away from him the kingdom of Armenia, but left him still titular King of Galatia. But this enmity was known in the king’s own court, and among his own family. His own daughter’s son, one Castor, became desirous of ruining his grandfather, and brought a charge against the king. Cæsar had been the king’s compelled guest in his journey in quest of Pharnaces, and had passed quickly on. Now, when the war was over and Cæsar had returned from his five conquered nations, Castor came forward with his accusation. Deiotarus, according to his grandson, had endeavored to murder Cæsar while Cæsar was staying with him. At this distance of time and place we cannot presume to know accurately what the circumstances were; but it appears to have been below the dignity of Cæsar to listen to such a charge. He did do so, however, and heard more than one speech on the subject delivered in favor of the accused. Brutus spoke on behalf of the aged king, and spoke in vain. Cicero did not speak in vain, for Cæsar decided that he would pronounce no verdict till he had himself been again in the East, and had there made further inquiries. He never returned to the East; but the old king lived to fight once more, and again on the losing side. He was true to the party he had taken, and ranged himself with Brutus and Cassius at the field of Philippi.

The case was tried, if tried it can be called, in Cæsar’s private house, in which the audience cannot have been numerous. Cæsar seems to have admitted Cicero to say what could be said for his friend, rather than as an advocate to plead for his client, so that no one should accuse him, Cæsar, of cruelty in condemning the criminal. The speech must have occupied twenty minutes in the delivery, and we are again at a loss to conceive how Cæsar should have found the time to listen to it. Cicero declares that he feels the difficulty of pleading in so unusual a place — within the domestic walls of a man’s private house, and without any of those accustomed supports to oratory which are to be found in a crowded law court. “But,” he says, “I rest in peace when I look into your eyes and behold your countenance.” The speech is full of flattery, but it is turned so adroitly that we almost forgive it.23

There is a passage in which Cicero compliments the victor on his well-known mercy in his victories — from which we may see how much Cæsar thought of the character he had achieved for himself in this particular. “Of you alone, O Cæsar, is it boasted that no one has fallen under your hands but they who have died with arms in their hands.”24 All who had been taken had been pardoned. No man had been put to death when the absolute fighting was brought to an end. Cæsar had given quarter to all. It is the modern, generous way of fighting. When our country is invaded, and we drive back the invaders, we do not, if victorious, slaughter their chief men. Much less, when we invade a country, do we kill or mutilate all those who have endeavored to protect their own homes. Cæsar has evidently much to boast, and among the Italians he has caused it to be believed. It suited Cicero to assert it in Cæsar’s ears. Cæsar wished to be told of his own clemency among the men of his own country. But because Cæsar boasted, and Cicero was complaisant, posterity is not to run away with the boast, and call it true. For all that is great in Cæsar’s character I am willing to give him credit; but not for mercy; not for any of those divine gifts the loveliness of which was only beginning to be perceived in those days by some few who were in advance of their time. It was still the maxim of Rome that a “supplicatio” should be granted only when two thousand of the enemy should have been left on the field. We have something still left of the pagan cruelty about us when we send triumphant words of the numbers slain on the field of battle. We cannot but remember that Cæsar had killed the whole Senate of the Veneti, a nation dwelling on the coast of Brittany, and had sold all the people as slaves, because they had detained the messengers he had sent to them during his wars in Gaul. “Gravius vindicandum statuit”25—“He had thought it necessary to punish them somewhat severely.” Therefore he had killed the entire Senate, and enslaved the entire people. This is only one of the instances of wholesale horrible cruelty which he committed throughout his war in Gaul — of cruelty so frightful that we shudder as we think of the sufferings of past ages. The ages have gone their way, and the sufferings are lessened by increased humanity. But we cannot allow Cicero’s compliment to pass idly by. The “nemo nisi armatus” referred to Italians, and to Italians, we may take it, of the upper rank — among whom, for the sake of dramatic effect, Deiotarus was placed for the occasion.

This was the last of Cicero’s casual speeches. It was now near the end of the year, and on the ides of March following it was fated that Cæsar should die. After which there was a lull in the storm for a while, and then Cicero broke out into that which I have called his final scream of liberty. There came the Philippics — and then the end. This speech of which I have given record as spoken Pro Rege Deiotaro was the last delivered by him for a private purpose. Forty-two he has spoken hitherto, of which something of the story has been told; the Philippics of which I have got to speak are fourteen in number, making the total number of speeches which we possess to be fifty-six. But of those spoken by him we have not a half, and of those which we possess some have been declared by the great critics to be absolutely spurious. The great critics have perhaps been too hard upon them: they have all been polished. Cicero himself was so anxious for his future fame that he led the way in preparing them for the press. Quintilian tells us that Tiro adapted them.26 Others again have come after him and have retouched them, sometimes, no doubt, making them smoother, and striking out morsels which would naturally become unintelligible to later readers. We know what he himself did to the Milo. Others subsequently may have received rougher usage, but still from loving hands. Bits have been lost, and other bits interpolated, and in this way have come to us the speeches which we possess. But we know enough of the history of the times, and are sufficient judges of the language, to accept them as upon the whole authentic. The great critic, when he comes upon a passage against which his very soul recoils, on the score of its halting Latinity, rises up in his wrath and tears the oration to tatters, till he will have none of it. One set of objectionable words he encounters after another, till the whole seems to him to be damnable, and the oration is condemned. It has been well to allude to this, because in dealing with these orations it is necessary to point out that every word cannot be accepted as having been spoken as we find it printed. Taken collectively, we may accept them as a stupendous monument of human eloquence and human perseverance.

B.C. 45, ætat. 62.

Late in the year, on the 12th before the calends of January, or the 21st of December, there took place a little party at Puteoli, the account of which interests us. Cicero entertained Cæsar at supper. Though the date is given as above, and though December had originally been intended to signify, as it does with us, a winter month, the year, from want of proper knowledge, had run itself out of order, and the period was now that of October. The amendment of the calendar, which was made under Cæsar’s auspices, had not as yet been brought into use, and we must understand that October, the most delightful month of the year, was the period in question. Cicero was staying at his Puteolan villa, not far from Baiæ, close upon the sea-shore — the corner of the world most loved by all the great Romans of the day for their retreat in autumn.27 Puteoli, we may imagine, was as pleasant as Baiæ, but less fashionable, and, if all that we hear be true, less immoral. Here Cicero had one of his villas, and here, a few months before his death, Cæsar came to visit him. He gives, in a very few lines to Atticus, a graphic account of the entertainment. Cæsar had sent on word to say that he was coming, so that Cicero was prepared for him. But the lord of all the world had already made himself so evidently the lord, that Cicero could not entertain him without certain of those inner quakings of the heart which are common to us now when some great magnate may come across our path and demand hospitality for a moment. Cicero jokes at his own solicitude, but nevertheless we know that he has felt it when, on the next morning, he sent Atticus an account of it. His guest has been a burden to him indeed, but still he does not regret it, for the guest behaved himself so pleasantly! We must remark that Cicero did not ostensibly shake in his shoes before him. Cicero had been Consul, and has had to lead the Senate when Cæsar was probably anxious to escape himself as an undetected conspirator. Cæsar has grown since, but only by degrees. He has not become, as Augustus did, “facile princeps.” He is aware of his own power, but aware also that it becomes him to ignore his own knowledge. And Cicero is also aware of it, but conscious at the same time of a nominal equality. Cæsar is now Dictator, has been Consul four times, and will be Consul again when the new year comes on. But other Romans have been Dictator and Consul. All of which Cæsar feels on the occasion, and shows that he feels it. Cicero feels it also, and endeavors, not quite successfully, to hide it.

Cæsar has come accompanied by troops. Cicero names two thousand men — probably at random. When Cicero hears that they have come into the neighborhood, he is terribly put about till one Barba Cassius, a lieutenant in Cæsar’s employment, comes and reassures him. A camp is made for the men outside in the fields, and a guard is put on to protect the villa. On the following day, about one o’clock, Cæsar comes. He is shut up at the house of one Philippus, and will admit no one. He is supposed to be transacting accounts with Balbus. We can imagine how Cicero’s cooks were boiling and stewing at the time. Then the great man walked down upon the sea-shore. Rome was the only recognized nation in the world. The others were provinces of Rome, and the rest were outlying barbaric people, hardly as yet fit to be Roman provinces. And he was now lord of Rome. Did he think of this as he walked on the shore of Puteoli — or of the ceremony he was about to encounter before he ate his dinner? He did not walk long, for at two o’clock he bathed, and heard “that story about Mamurra” without moving a muscle. Turn to your Catullus, the 57th Epigram, and read what Cæsar had read to him on this occasion, without showing by his face the slightest feeling. It is short enough, but I cannot quote it even in a note, even in Latin. Who told Cæsar of the foul words, and why were they read to him on this occasion? He thought but little about them, for he forgave the author and asked him afterward to supper. This was at the bath, we may suppose. He then took his siesta, and after that “[Greek: emetikên] agebat.” How the Romans went through the daily process and lived, is to us a marvel. I think we may say that Cicero did not practise it. Cæsar, on this occasion, ate and drank plenteously and with pleasure. It was all well arranged, and the conversation was good of its kind, witty and pleasant. Cæsar’s couch seems to have been in the midst, and around him lay supping, at other tables, his freedmen, and the rest of his suite. It was all very well; but still, says Cicero, he was not such a guest as you would welcome back — not one to whom you would say, “Come again, I beg, when you return this way.” Once is enough. There were no politics talked — nothing of serious matters. Cæsar had begun to find now that no use could be made of Cicero for politics. He had tried that, and had given it up. Philology was the subject — the science of literature and languages. Cæsar could talk literature as well as Cicero, and turned the conversation in that direction. Cicero was apt, and took the desired part, and so the afternoon passed pleasantly, but still with a little feeling that he was glad when his guest was gone.28

Cæsar declared, as he went, that he would spend one day at Puteoli and another at Baiæ. Dolabella had a villa down in those parts, and Cicero knows that Cæsar, as he passed by Dolabella’s house, rode in the midst of soldiers — in state, as we should say — but that he had not done this anywhere else. He had already promised Dolabella the Consulship.

Was Cicero mean in his conduct toward Cæsar? Up to this moment there had been nothing mean, except that Roman flattery which was simply Roman good manners. He had opposed him at Pharsalia — or rather in Macedonia. He had gone across the water — not to fight, for he was no fighting man — but to show on which side he had placed himself. He had done this, not believing in Pompey, but still convinced that it was his duty to let all men know that he was against Cæsar. He had resisted every attempt which Cæsar had made to purchase his services. Neither with Pompey nor with Cæsar did he agree. But with the former — though he feared that a second Sulla would arise should he be victorious — there was some touch of the old Republic. Something might have been done then to carry on the government upon the old lines. Cæsar had shown his intention to be lord of all, and with that Cicero could hold no sympathy. Cæsar had seen his position, and had respected it. He would have nothing done to drive such a man from Rome. Under these circumstances Cicero consented to live at Rome, or in the neighborhood, and became a man of letters. It must be remembered that up to the ides of March he had heard of no conspiracy. The two men, Cæsar and Cicero, had agreed to differ, and had talked of philology when they met. There has been, I think, as yet, nothing mean in his conduct.

1 De Officiis, lib. i., ca. xxxi.: “Catoni cum incredibilem tribuisset natura gravitatem, eamque ipse perpetua constantia roborasset, semperque in proposito susceptoque consilio permansisset, moriendum potius quam tyranni vultum aspiciendum fuit.”

2 This was Lucius Volcatius Tullus.

3 But it is now, I believe, the opinion of scholars that Wolf has been proved to be wrong, and the words to have been the very words of Cicero, by the publication of certain fragments of ancient scholia on the Pro Marcello which have been discovered by Cardinal Mai since the time of the dispute.

4 Ad Div., iv., 11.

5 Pro Marcello, ii.

6 Pro Ligario, i.

7 Pro Ligario, iii.

8 Ad Fam., lib. iv., 14.

9 Ad Div., lib. ix., 16.

10 Ad Att., lib. xii., 7.

11 Ibid., 32.

12 Ad Div., lib. xvi., 21.

13 Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib. xiv., 28.

14 Ad Div., lib. vi., 18.

15 Ad Att., lib. xii., 12.

16 Ibid., 18, 28.

17 Ad Att., lib. xii., 14.

18 Ibid., 18, 28.

19 Ad Att., lib. xiii., 28.

20 Suetonius, Julius Cæsar, ca. xxxvii.

21 Ad Att., lib. xiii., 44.

22 Ad Att., lib xiii., 42.

23 Pro Rege Deiotaro, ii.

24 Ibid., ca. xii.: “Solus, inquam, es, C. Cæsar, cujus in victoria cecide it nemo nisi armatus.”

25 Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, lib. iii., 16: “Itaque, omni Senatu necato, reliquos sub corona vendidit,” he says, and passes on in his serene, majestic manner.

26 Quint., lib. x., vii.: “Nam Ciceronis ad præsens modo tempus aptatos libertus Tiro contraxit.”

27 Horace, Epis., lib. i., 1: “Nullus in orbe sinus Baiis prælucet amænis.”

28 Ad Att., lib. xiii., 52.

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