Cicero was soon driven by the violence of Antony’s conduct to relinquish the idea of moderate language, and was ready enough to pick up the gauntlet thrown down for him. From this moment to the last scene of his life it was all the fury of battle and the shout of victory, and then the scream of despair. Antony, when he read Cicero’s speech, the first Philippic, the language of which was no doubt instantly sent to him, seems to have understood at once that he must either vanquish Cicero or be vanquished by him. He appreciated to the letter the ironically cautious language in which his conduct was exposed. He had not chosen to listen to Cicero, but was most anxious to get Cicero to listen to him. Those “advocates” of whom Cicero had spoken would be around him, and at a nod, or perhaps without a nod, would do to Cicero as Brutus and Cassius had done to Cæsar. The last meeting of the Senate had been on the 2d of September. When it was over, Antony, we are told, went down to his villa at Tivoli, and there devoted himself for above a fortnight to the getting up of a speech by which he might silence, or at any rate answer Cicero. Nor did he leave himself to his own devices, but took to himself a master of eloquence who might teach him when to make use of his arms, where to stamp his feet, and in what way to throw his toga about with a graceful passion. He was about forty at this time,1 and in the full flower of his manhood, yet, for such a purpose, he did not suppose himself to know all that lessons would teach him in the art of invective. There he remained, mouthing out his phrases in the presence of his preceptor, till he had learned by heart all that the preceptor knew. Then he summoned Cicero to meet him in the Senate on the 19th. This Cicero was desirous of doing, but was prevented by his friends, who were afraid of the “advocates.” There is extant a letter from Cicero to Cassius in which he states it to be well known in Rome that Antony had declared that he, Cicero, had been the author of Cæsar’s death, in order that Cæsar’s old soldiers might slay him.2 There were other Senators, he says, who did not dare to show themselves in the Senate-house — Piso, and Servilius, and Cotta. Antony came down and made his practised oration against Cicero. The words of his speech have not been preserved, but Cicero has told us the manner of it, and some of the phrases which he used. The authority is not very good, but we may imagine from the results that his story is not far from the truth. From first to last it was one violent tirade of abuse which he seemed to vomit forth from his jaws, rather than to “speak after the manner of a Roman Consular.” Such is Cicero’s description.
It has been said of Antony that we hear of him only from his enemies. He left behind him no friend to speak for him, and we have heard of him certainly from one enemy; but the tidings are of a nature to force upon us belief in the evil which Cicero spoke of him. Had he been a man of decent habits of life, and of an honest purpose, would Cicero have dared to say to the Romans respecting him the words which he produced, not only in the second Philippic, which was unspoken, but also in the twelve which followed? The record of him, as far as it goes, is altogether bad. Plutarch tells us that he was handsome, and a good soldier, but altogether vicious. Plutarch is not a biographer whose word is to be taken as to details, but he is generally correct in his estimate of character. Tacitus tells us but little about him as direct history, but mentions him ever in the same tone. Tacitus knew the feeling of Rome regarding him. Paterculus speaks specially of his fraud, and breaks out into strong repudiation of the murder of Cicero.3 Valerius Maximus, in his anecdotes, mentions him slightingly, as an evil man is spoken of who has forced himself into notice. Virgil has stamped his name with everlasting ignominy. “Sequiturque nefas Egyptia conjux.” I can think of no Roman writer who has named him with honor. He was a Roman of the day — what Rome had made him — brave, greedy, treacherous, and unpatriotic.
Cicero again was absent from the Senate, but was in Rome when Antony attacked him. We learn from a letter to Cornificius that Antony left the city shortly afterward, and went down to Brundisium to look after the legions which had come across from Macedonia, with which Cicero asserts that he intends to tyrannize over them all in Rome.4 He then tells his correspondent that young Octavius has just been discovered in an attempt to have Antony murdered, but that Antony, having found the murderer in his house, had not dared to complain. He seems to think that Octavius had been right! The state of things was such that men were used to murder; but this story was probably not true. He passes on to declare in the next sentence that he receives such consolation from philosophy as to be able to bear all the ills of fortune. He himself goes to Puteoli, and there he writes the second Philippic. It is supposed to be the most violent piece of invective ever produced by human ingenuity and human anger. The readers of it must, however, remember that it was not made to be spoken — was not even written, as far as we are aware, to be shown to Antony, or to be published to the world. We do not even know that Antony ever saw it. There has been an idea prevalent that Antony’s anger was caused by it, and that Cicero owed to it his death; but the surmise is based on probability — not at all on evidence. Cicero, when he heard what Antony had said of him, appears to have written all the evil he could say of his enemy, in order that he might send it to Atticus. It contained rather what he could have published than what he did intend to publish. He does, indeed, suggest, in the letter which accompanied the treatise when sent to Atticus, in some only half-intelligible words, that he hopes the time may come when the speech “shall find its way freely even into Sica’s house;"5 but we gather even from that his intention that it should have no absolutely public circulation. He had struggled to be as severe as he knew how, but had done it, as it were, with a halter round his neck; and for Antony’s anger — the anger which afterward produced the proscription — there came to be cause enough beyond this. Before that day he had endeavored to stir up the whole Empire against Antony, and had all but succeeded.
It has been alleged that Cicero again shows his cowardice by writing and not speaking his oration, and also by writing it only for private distribution. If he were a coward, why did he write it at all? If he were a coward, why did he hurry into this contest with Antony? If he be blamed because his Philippic was anonymous, how do the anonymous writers of today escape? If because he wrote it, and did not speak it, what shall be said of the party writers of today? He was a coward, say his accusers, because he avoided a danger. Have they thought of the danger which he did run when they bring those charges against him? of what was the nature of the fight? Do they remember how many Romans in public life had been murdered during the last dozen years? We are well aware how far custom goes, and that men became used to the fear of violent death. Cicero was now habituated to that fear, and was willing to face it. But not on that account are we to imagine that, with his eyes open, he was to be supposed always ready to rush into immediate destruction. To write a scurrilous attack, such as the second Philippic, is a bad exercise for the ingenuity of a great man; but so is any anonymous satire. It is so in regard to our own times, which have received the benefit of all antecedent civilization. Cicero, being in the midst of those heartless Romans, is expected to have the polished manners and high feelings of a modern politician! I have hardly a right to be angry with his critics because by his life he went so near to justify the expectation.
He begins by asking his supposed hearers how it has come to pass that during the last twenty years the Republic had had no enemy who was not also his enemy. “And you, Antony, whom I have never injured by a word, why is it that, more brazen-faced than Catiline, more fierce than Clodius, you should attack me with your maledictions? Will your enmity against me be a recommendation for you to every evil citizen in Rome?
“You deny that I have had legacies? I wish it were true, for then my friends might still be living. But where have you learned that, seeing that I have inherited twenty million sesterces?7 I am happier in this than you. No one but a friend has made me his heir. Lucius Rubrius Cassinas, whom you never even saw, has named you.” He here refers to a man over whose property Antony was supposed to have obtained control fraudulently. “Did he know of you whether you were a white man or a negro? * * * Would you mind telling me what height Turselius stood?” Here he names another of whose property Antony is supposed to have obtained possession illegally. “I believe all you know of him is what farms he had. * * * Do you bear in mind,” he says, “that you were a bankrupt as soon as you had become a man? Do you remember your early friendship with Curio, and the injuries you did his father?” Here it is impossible to translate literally, but after speaking as he had done very openly, he goes on: “But I must omit the iniquities of your private life. There are things I cannot repeat here. You are safe, because the deeds you have done are too bad to be mentioned. But let us look at the affairs of your public life. I will just go through them;” which he does, laying bare as he well knew how to do, every past act. “When you had been made Quæstor you flew at once to Cæsar. You knew that he was the only refuge for poverty, debt, wickedness, and vice. Then, when you had gorged upon his generosity and your plunderings — which indeed you spent faster than you got it — you betook yourself instantly to the Tribunate. * * * It is you, Antony, you who supplied Cæsar with an excuse for invading his country.” Cæsar had declared at the Rubicon that the Tribunate had been violated in the person of Antony. “I will say nothing here against Cæsar, though nothing can excuse a man for taking up arms against his country. But of you it has to be confessed that you were the cause. * * * He has been a very Helen to us Trojans. * * * He has brought back many a wretched exile, but has forgotten altogether his own uncle”— Cicero’s colleague in the Consulship, who had been banished for plundering his province. “We have seen this Tribune of the people carried through the town on a British war-chariot. His lictors with their laurels went before him. In the midst, on an open litter, was carried an actress. When you come back from Thessaly with your legions to Brundisium you did not kill me! Oh, what a kindness! * * * You with those jaws of yours, with that huge chest, with that body like a gladiator, drank so much wine at Hippea’s marriage that in the sight of all Rome you were forced to vomit.* * * When he had seized Pompey’s property he rejoiced like some stage-actor who in a play is as poor as Poverty, and then suddenly becomes rich. All his wine, the great weight of silver, the costly furniture and rich dresses, in a few days where were they all? A Charybdis do I call him? He swallowed them all like an entire ocean!” Then he accuses him of cowardice and cruelty in the Pharsalian wars, and compares him most injuriously with Dolabella. “Do you remember how Dolabella fought for you in Spain, when you were getting drunk at Narbo? And how did you get back from Narbo? He has asked as to my return to the city. I have explained to you, O conscript fathers, how I had intended to be here in January, so as to be of some service to the Republic. You inquire how I got back. In daylight — not in the dark, as you did; with Roman shoes on and a Roman toga — not in barbaric boots and an old cloak.* * * When Cæsar returned from Spain you again pushed yourself into his intimacy — not a brave man, we should say, but still strong enough for his purposes. Cæsar did always this — that if there were a man ruined, steeped in debt, up to his ears in poverty — a base, needy, bold man — that was the man whom he could receive into his friendship.” This as to Cæsar was undoubtedly true. “Recommended in this way, you were told to declare yourself Consul.” Then he describes the way in which he endeavored to prevent the nomination of Dolabella to the same office. Cæsar had said that Dolabella should be Consul, but when Cæsar was dead this did not suit Antony. When the tribes had been called in their centuries to vote, Antony, not understanding what form of words he ought to have used as augur to stop the ceremony, had blundered. “Would you not call him a very Lælius?” says Cicero. Lælius had made for himself a name among augurs for excellence.
“Miserable that you are, you throw yourself at Cæsar’s feet asking only permission to be his slave. You sought for yourself that state of slavery which it has ever been easy for you to endure. Had you any command from the Roman people to ask the same for them? Oh, that eloquence of yours; when naked you stood up to harangue the people! Who ever saw a fouler deed than that, or one more worthy scourges?” “Has Tarquin suffered for this; have Spurius Cassius, Melius, and Marcus Manlius suffered, that after many ages a king should be set up in Rome by Marc Antony?” With abuse of a similar kind he goes on to the end of his declamation, when he again professes himself ready to die at his post in defence of the Republic. That he now made up his mind so to die, should it become necessary, we may take for granted, but we cannot bring ourselves to approve of the storm of abuse under which he attempted to drown the memory and name of his antagonist. So virulent a torrent of words, all seeming, as we read them, to have been poured out in rapid utterances by the keen energy of the moment, astonish us, when we reflect that it was the work of his quiet moments. That he should have prepared such a task in the seclusion of his closet is marvellous. It has about it the very ring of sudden passion; but it must be acknowledged that it is not palatable. It is more Roman and less English than anything we have from Cicero — except his abuse of Piso, with whom he was again now half reconciled.
But it was solely on behalf of his country that he did it. He had grieved when Cæsar had usurped the functions of the government; but in his grief he had respected Cæsar, and had felt that he might best carry on the contest by submission. But, when Cæsar was dead, and Antony was playing tyrant, his very soul rebelled. Then he sat down to prepare his first instalment of keen personal abuse, adding word to word and phrase to phrase till he had built up this unsavory monument of vituperation. It is by this that Antony is now known to the world. Plutarch makes no special mention of the second Philippic. In his life of Antony he does not allude to these orations at all, but in that of Cicero he tells us how Antony had ordered that right hand to be brought to him with which Cicero had written his Philippics.
The “young Octavius” of Shakespeare had now taken the name of Octavianus — Caius Julius Cæsar Octavianus — and had quarrelled to the knife with Antony. He had assumed that he had been adopted by Cæsar, and now demanded all the treasures his uncle had collected as his own. Antony, who had already stolen them, declared that they belonged to the State. At any rate there was cause enough for quarrelling among them, and they were enemies. Each seems to have brought charges of murder against the other, and each was anxious to obtain possession of the soldiery. Seen as we see now the period in Rome of which we are writing — every safeguard of the Republic gone, all law trampled under foot, Consuls, Prætors, and Tribunes not elected but forced upon the State, all things in disorder, the provinces becoming the open prey of the greediest plunderer — it is apparent enough that there could be no longer any hope for a Cicero. The marvel is that the every-day affairs of life should have been carried on with any reference to the law. When we are told that Antony stole Cæsar’s treasures and paid his debts with them, we are inclined to ask why he had paid his debts at all. But Cicero did hope. In his whole life there is nothing more remarkable than the final vitality with which he endeavored to withstand the coming deluge of military despotism. Nor in all history is there anything more wonderful than the capacity of power to reestablish itself, as is shown by the orderly Empire of Augustus growing out of the disorder left by Cæsar. One is reminded by it of the impotency of a reckless heir to bring to absolute ruin the princely property of a great nobleman brought together by the skill of many careful progenitors. A thing will grow to be so big as to be all but indestructible. It is like that tower of Cæcilia Metella against which the storms of twenty centuries have beaten in vain. Looking at the state of the Roman Empire when Cicero died, who would not declare its doom? But it did “retrick its beams,” not so much by the hand of one man, Augustus, as by the force of the concrete power collected within it —“Quod non imber edax non aquilo impotens Possit diruere.”8 Cicero with patriotic gallantry thought that even yet there might be a chance for the old Republic — thought that by his eloquence, by his vehemence of words, he could turn men from fraud to truth, and from the lust of plundering a province to a desire to preserve their country. Of Antony now he despaired, but he still hoped that his words might act upon this young Cæsar’s heart. The youth was as callous as though he had already ruled a province for three years. No Roman was ever more cautious, more wise, more heartless, more able to pick his way through blood to a throne, than the young Augustus. Cicero fears Octavian — as we must now call him — and knows that he can only be restrained by the keeping of power out of his hands. Writing to Atticus from Arpinum, he says, “I agree altogether with you. If Octavian gets power into his hands he will insist upon the tyrant’s decrees much more thoroughly than he did when the Senate sat in the temple of Tellus. Everything then will be done in opposition to Brutus. But if he be conquered, then see how intolerable would be the dominion of Antony.”9 In the same letter he speaks of the De Officiis, which he has just written. In his next and last epistle to his old friend he congratulates himself on having been able at last to quarrel with Dolabella. Dolabella had turned upon him in the end, bought by Antony’s money. He then returns to the subject of Octavian, and his doubts as to his loyalty. He has been asked to pledge himself to Octavian, but has declined till he shall see how the young man will behave when Casea becomes candidate for the Tribunate. If he show himself to be Casea’s enemy, Casea having been one of the conspirators, Cicero will know that he is not to be trusted. Then he falls into a despairing mood, and declares that there is no hope. “Even Hippocrates was unwilling to bestow medicine on those to whom it could avail nothing.” But he will go to Rome, into the very jaws of the danger. “It is less base for such as I am to fall publicly than privately.” With these words, almost the last written by him to Atticus, this correspondence is brought to an end: the most affectionate, the most trusting, and the most open ever published to the world as having come from one man to another. No letters more useful to the elucidation of character were ever written; but when read for that purpose they should be read with care, and should hardly be quoted till they have been understood.B.C. 44, ætat. 63.
The struggles for the provinces were open and acknowledged. Under Cæsar, Decimus Brutus had been nominated for Cisalpine Gaul, Marcus Brutus for Macedonia, and Cassius for Syria. It will be observed that these three men were the most prominent among the conspirators. Since that time Antony and Dolabella had obtained votes of the people to alter the arrangement. Antony was to go to Macedonia, and Dolabella to Syria. This was again changed when Antony found that Decimus had left Rome to take up his command. He sent his brother Caius to Macedonia, and himself claimed to be Governor of Cisalpine Gaul. Hence there were two Roman governors for each province; and in each case each governor was determined to fight for the possession. Antony hurried out of Rome before the end of the year with the purpose of hindering Decimus from the occupation of the north of Italy, and Cicero went up to Rome, determined to take a part in the struggle which was imminent. The Senate had been summoned for the 19th of December, and attended in great numbers. Then it was that he spoke the third Philippic, and in the evening of the same day he spoke the fourth to the people. It should be understood that none of these speeches were heard by Antony. Cicero had at this time become the acknowledged chief of the Republican party, having drifted into the position which Pompey had so long filled. Many of Cæsar’s friends, frightened by his death, or rather cowed by the absence of his genius, had found it safer to retreat from the Cæsarean party, of which the Antonys, with Dolabella, the cutthroats and gladiators of the empire, had the command. Hirtius and Pansa, with Balbus and Oppius, were among them. They, at this moment, were powerful in Rome. The legions were divided — some with Antony, some with Octavian, and some with Decimus Brutus. The greater number were with Antony, whom they hated for his cruelty; but were with him because the mantle of Cæsar’s power had fallen on to his shoulders. It was felt by Cicero that if he could induce Octavian to act with him the Republic might be again established. He would surely have influence enough to keep the lad from hankering after his great uncle’s pernicious power. He was aware that the dominion did in fact belong to the owner of the soldiers, but he thought that he could control this boy-officer, and thus have his legions at the command of the Republic.
The Senate had been called together, nominally for the purpose of desiring the Consuls of the year to provide a guard for its own safety. Cicero makes it an occasion for perpetuating the feeling against Antony, which had already become strong in Rome. He breaks out into praise of Octavian, whom he calls “this young Cæsar — almost a boy;” tells them what divine things the boy had already done, and how he had drawn away from the rebels those two indomitable legions, the Martia and the Fourth. Then he proceeds to abuse Antony. Tarquinius, the man whose name was most odious to Romans, had been unendurable as a tyrant, though himself not a bad man; but Antony’s only object is to sell the Empire, and to spend the price. Antony had convoked the Senate for November, threatening the Senators with awful punishments should they absent themselves; but, when the day came, Antony, the Consul, had himself fled. He not only pours out the vials of his wrath but of his ridicule upon Antony’s head, and quotes his bungling words. He gives instances of his imprudence, and his impotence, and of his greed. Then he again praises the young Cæsar, and the two Consuls for the next year, and the two legions, and Decimus Brutus, who is about to fight the battle of the Republic for them in the north of Italy, and votes that the necessary guard be supplied. In the same evening he addresses the people in his fourth Philippic. He again praises the lad and the two legions, and again abuses Antony. No one can say after this day that he hid his anger, or was silent from fear. He congratulates the Romans on their patriotism — vain congratulations — and encourages them to make new efforts. He bids them rejoice that they have a hero such as Decimus Brutus to protect their liberties, and, almost, that they have such an enemy as Antony to conquer. It seems that his words, few as they were — perhaps because they were so few — took hold of the people’s imaginations; so that they shouted to him that he had on that day a second time saved his country, as he reminds them afterward.10
From this time forward we are without those intimate and friendly letters which we have had with us as our guide through the last twenty-one years of Cicero’s life. For though we have a large body of correspondence written during the last year of his life, which are genuine, they are written in altogether a different style from those which have gone before. They are for the most part urgent appeals to those of his political friends to whom he can look for support in his views — often to those to whom he looked in vain. They are passionate prayers for the performance of a public duty, and as such are altogether to the writer’s credit. His letters to Plancus are beautiful in their patriotism, as are also those to Decimus Brutus. When we think of his age, of his zeal, of his earnestness, and of the dangers which he ran, we hardly know how sufficiently to admire the public spirit with which at such a crisis he had taken on himself to lead the party. But our guide to his inner feelings is gone. There are no further letters to tell us of every doubt at his heart. We think of him as of some stalwart commander left at home to arrange the affairs of the war, while the less experienced men were sent to the van.
There is also a book of letters published as having passed between Cicero and Junius Brutus. The critics have generally united in condemning them as spurious. They are at, any rate, if genuine, cold and formal in their language.B.C. 43, ætat. 64.
Antony had proceeded into Cisalpine Gaul to drive out of the province the Consul named by the people to govern it. The nomination of Decimus had in truth been Cæsar’s nomination; but the right of Decimus to rule was at any rate better than that of any other claimant. He had been appointed in accordance with the power then in existence, and his appointment had been confirmed by the decree of the Senate sanctioning all Cæsar’s acts. It was, after all, a question of simple power, for Cæsar had overridden every legal form. It became necessary, however, that they who were in power in Rome should decide. The Consuls Hirtius and Pansa had been Cæsar’s friends, and had also been the friends of Antony. They had not the trust in Antony which Cæsar had inspired; but they were anxious to befriend him — or rather not to break with him. When the Senate met, they called on one Fufius Calenus — who was Antony’s friend and Pansa’s father-in-law — first to offer his opinion. He had been one of Cæsar’s Consuls, appointed for a month or two, and was now chosen for the honorable part of first spokesman, as being a Consular Senator. He was for making terms with Antony, and suggested that a deputation of three Senators should be sent to him with a message calling upon him to retire. The object probably was to give Antony time, or rather to give Octavian time, to join with Antony if it suited him. Others spoke in the same sense, and then Cicero was desired to give his opinion. This was the fifth Philippic. He is all for war with Antony — or rather he will not call it war, but a public breach of the peace which Antony has made. He begins mildly enough, but warms with his subject as he goes on: “Should they send ambassadors to a traitor to his country?
Cicero’s eloquence was on this occasion futile. At this sitting the Senate came to no decision, but on the third day afterward they decreed that the Senators, Servius Sulpicius, Lucius Piso, and Lucius Philippus, should be sent to Antony. The honors which he had demanded for Lepidus and the others were granted, but he was outvoted in regard to the ambassadors. On the 4th of January Cicero again addressed the people in the Forum. His task was very difficult. He wished to give no offence to the Senate, and yet was anxious to stir the citizens and to excite them to a desire for immediate war. The Senate, he told them, had not behaved disgracefully, but had — temporized. The war, unfortunately, must be delayed for those twenty days necessary for the going and coming of the ambassadors. The ambassadors could do nothing. But still they must wait. In the mean time he will not be idle. For them, the Roman people, he will work and watch with all his experience, with diligence almost above his strength, to repay them for their faith in him. When Cæsar was with them they had had no choice but obedience — so much the times were out of joint. If they submit themselves to be slaves now, it will be their own fault. Then in general language he pronounces an opinion — which was the general Roman feeling of the day: “It is not permitted to the Roman people to become slaves — that people whom the immortal gods have willed to rule all nations of the earth.”11 So he ended the sixth Philippic, which, like the fourth, was addressed to the people. All the others were spoken in the Senate.
He writes to Decimus at Mutina about this time a letter full of hope — of hope which we can see to be genuine. “Recruits are being raised in all Italy — if that can be called recruiting which is in truth a spontaneous rushing into arms of the entire population.”12 He expects letters telling him what “our Hirtius” is doing, and what “my young Cæsar.” Hirtius and Pansa, the Consuls of the year, though they had been Cæsar’s party, and made Consuls by Cæsar, were forced to fight for the Republic. They had been on friendly terms with Cicero, and they doubted Antony. Hirtius had now followed the army, and Pansa was about to do so. They both fell in the battle that was fought at Mutina, and no one can now accuse them of want of loyalty. But “my Cæsar,” on whose behalf Cicero made so many sweet speeches, for whose glory he was so careful, whose early republican principles he was so anxious to direct, made his terms with Antony on the first occasion. At that time Cicero wrote to Plancus. Consul elect for the next year, and places before his eyes a picture of all that he can do for the Republic. “Lay yourself out — yes, I pray you, by the immortal gods — for that which will bring you to the height of glory and renown.”13
At the end of January or beginning of February he again addressed the Senate on the subject of the embassy — a matter altogether foreign from that which it had been convoked to discuss. To Cicero’s mind there was no other subject at the present moment fit to occupy the thoughts of a Roman Senator. “We have met together to settle something about the Appian Way, and something about the coinage. The mind revolts from such little cares, torn by greater matters.” The ambassadors are expected back — two of them at least, for Sulpicius had died on his road. He cautions the Senate against receiving with quiet composure such an answer as Antony will probably send them. “Why do I— I who am a man of peace — refuse peace? Because it is base, because it is full of danger — because peace is impossible.” Then he proceeds to explain that it is so. “What a disgrace would it be that Antony, after so many robberies, after bringing back banished comrades, after selling the taxes of the State, putting up kingdoms to auction, shall rise up on the consular bench and address a free Senate! * * * Can you have an assured peace while there is an Antony in the State — or many Antonys? Or how can you be at peace with one who hates you as does he; or how can he be at peace with those who hate him as do you? * * * You have such an opportunity,” he says at last, “as never fell to the lot of any. You are able, with all senatorial dignity, with all the zeal of the knights, with all the favor of the Roman people, now to make the Republic free from fear and danger, once and forever.” Then he thus ends his speech. “About those things which have been brought before us, I agree with Servilius.” That is the seventh Philippic.
In February the ambassadors returned, but returned laden with bad tidings. Servius Sulpicius, who was to have been their chief spokesman, died just as they reached Antony. The other two immediately began to treat with him, so as to become the bearers back to Rome of conditions proposed by him. This was exactly what they had been told not to do. They had carried the orders of the Senate to their rebellious officer, and then admitted the authority of that rebel by bringing back his propositions. They were not even allowed to go into Mutina so as to see Decimus; but they were, in truth, only too well in accord with the majority of the Senate, whose hearts were with Antony. Anything to those lovers of their fish-ponds was more desirable than a return to the loyalty of the Republic. The Deputies were received by the Senate, who discussed their embassy, and on the next day they met again, when Cicero pronounced his eighth Philippic. Why he did not speak on the previous day I do not know. Middleton is somewhat confused in his account. Morabin says that Cicero was not able to obtain a hearing when the Deputies were received. The Senate did on that occasion come to a decision; against which act of pusillanimity Cicero on the following day expressed himself very vehemently. They had decided that this was not to be called a war, but rather a tumult, and seem to have hesitated in denouncing Antony as a public enemy. The Senate was convoked on the next day to decide the terms of the amnesty to be accorded to the soldiers who had followed Antony, when Cicero, again throwing aside the minor matter, burst upon them in his wrath. He had hitherto inveighed against Antony; now his anger is addressed to the Senate. “Lucius Cæsar,” he said, “has told us that he is Antony’s uncle, and must vote as such. Are you all uncles to Antony?” Then he goes on to show that war is the only name by which this rebellion can be described. “Has not Hirtius, who has gone away, sick as he is, called it a war? Has not young Cæsar, young as he is, prompted to it by no one, undertaken it as a war?” He repeats the words of a letter from Hirtius which could only have been used in war: “I have taken Claterna. Their cavalry has been put to flight. A battle has been fought. So many men have been killed. This is what you call peace!” Then he speaks of other civil wars, which he says have grown from difference of opinion —“except that last between Pompey and Cæsar, as to which I will not speak. I have been ignorant of its cause, and have hated its ending.” But in this war all men are of one opinion who are worthy of the name of Romans. “We are fighting for the temples of our gods, for our walls, our homes, for the abode of the Roman people, for their Penates, their altars, their hearths for the graves of ancestors — and we are fighting only against Antony. * * * Fufius Calenus tells us of peace — as though I of all men did not know that peace was a blessing. But tell me, Calenus, is slavery peace?” He is very angry with Calenus. Although he has called him his friend, he was in great wrath against him. “I am fighting for Decimus and you for Antony. I wish to preserve a Roman city; you wish to see it battered to the ground. Can you deny this, you who are creating all means of delays by which Decimus may be weakened and Antony made strong?”
“I had consoled myself with this,” he says, “that when these ambassadors had been sent and had returned despised, and had told the Senate that not only had Antony refused to leave Gaul but was besieging Mutina, and would not let them even see Decimus — that then, in our passion and our rage, we should have gone forth with our arms, and our horses, and our men, and at once have rescued our General. But we — since we have seen the audacity, the insolence, and the pride of Antony — we have become only more cowardly than before.” Then he gives his opinion about the amnesty: “Let any of those who are now with Antony, but shall leave him before the ides of March and pass to the armies of the Consuls, or of Decimus, or of young Cæsar, be held to be free from reproach. If one should quit their ranks through their own will, let them be rewarded and honored as Hirtius and Pansa, our Consuls, may think proper.” This was the eighth Philippic, and is perhaps the finest of them all. It does not contain the bitter invective of the second, but there is in it a true feeling of patriotic earnestness. The ninth also is very eloquent, though it is rather a pæan sung on behalf of his friend Sulpicius, who in bad health had encountered the danger of the journey, and had died in the effort, than one of these Philippics which are supposed to have been written and spoken with the view of demolishing Antony. It is a specimen of those funereal orations delivered on behalf of a citizen who had died in the service of his country which used to be common among the Romans.
The tenth is in praise of Marcus Junius Brutus. Were I to attempt to explain the situation of Brutus in Macedonia, and to say how he had come to fill it, I should be carried away from my purpose as to Cicero’s life, and should be endeavoring to write the history of the time. My object is simply to illustrate the life of Cicero by such facts as we know. In the confusion which existed at the time, Brutus had obtained some advantages in Macedonia, and had recovered for himself the legions of which Caius Antonius had been in possession, and who was now a prisoner in his hands. At this time young Marcus Cicero was his lieutenant, and it is told us how one of those legions had put themselves under his command. Brutus had at any rate written home letters to the Senate early in March, and Pansa had called the Senate together to receive them.
Again he attacks Fufius Calenus, Pansa’s father-in-law, who was the only man in the Senate bold enough to stand up against him; though there were doubtless many of those foot Senators — men who traversed the house backward and forward to give their votes — who were anxious to oppose him. He thanks Pansa for calling them so quickly, seeing that when they had parted yesterday they had not expected to be again so soon convoked. We may gather from this the existence of a practice of sending messengers round to the Senators’ houses to call them together. He praises Brutus for his courage and his patience. It is his object to convince his hearers, and through them the Romans of the day, that the cause of Antony is hopeless. Let us rise up and crush him. Let us all rise, and we shall certainly crush him. There is nothing so likely to attain success as a belief that the success has been already attained. “From all sides men are running together to put out the flames which he has lighted. Our veterans, following the example of young Cæsar, have repudiated Antony and his attempts. The ‘Legio Martia’ has blunted the edge of his rage, and the ‘Legio Quarta’ has attacked him. Deserted by his own troops, he has broken through into Gaul, which he has found to be hostile to him with its arms and opposed to him in spirit. The armies of Hirtius and of young Cæsar are upon his trail; and now Pansa’s levies have raised the heart of the city and of all Italy. He alone is our enemy, although he has along with him his brother Lucius, whom we all regret so dearly, whose loss we have hardly been able to endure! What wild beast do you know more abominable than that, or more monstrous — who seems to have been created lest Marc Antony himself should be of all things the most vile?” He concludes by proposing the thanks of the Senate to Brutus, and a resolution that Quintus Hortensius, who had held the province of Macedonia against Caius Antonius, should be left there in command. The two propositions were carried.
As we read this, all appears to be prospering on behalf of the Republic; but if we turn to the suspected correspondence between Brutus and Cicero, we find a different state of things. And these letters, though we altogether doubt their authenticity — for their language is cold, formal, and unCiceronian — still were probably written by one who had access to those which Cicero had himself penned: “As to what you write about wanting men and money, it is very difficult to give you advice. I do not see how you are to raise any except by borrowing it from the municipalities”— in Macedonia —“according to the decree of the Senate. As to men, I do not know what to propose. Pansa is so far from sparing men from his army, that he begrudges those who go to you as volunteers. Some think that he wishes you to be less strong than you are — which, however. I do not suspect myself.”14 A letter might fall into the hands of persons not intended to read it, and Cicero was forced to be on his guard in communicating his suspicions — Cicero or the pseudo-Cicero. In the next Brutus is rebuked for having left Antony live when Cæsar was slain. “Had not some god inspired Octavian,” he says, “we should have been altogether in the power of Antony, that base and abominable man. And you see how terrible is our contest with him.” And he tries to awaken him to the necessity of severity. “I see how much you delight in clemency. That is very well. But there is another place, another time, for clemency. The question for us is whether we shall any longer exist or be put out of the world.” These, which are intended to represent his private fears, deal with the affairs of the day in a tone altogether different from that of his public speeches. Doubt, anxiety, occasionally almost despair, are expressed in them. But not the less does he thunder on in the Senate, aware that to attain success he must appear to have obtained it.
The eleventh Philippic was occasioned by the news which had arrived in Rome of the death of Trebonius. Trebonius had been surprised in Smyrna by a stratagem as to which alone no disgrace would have fallen on Dolabella, had he not followed up his success by killing Trebonius. How far the bloody cruelty, of which we have the account in Cicero’s words, was in truth executed, it is now impossible to say. The Greek historian Appian gives us none of these horrors, but simply intimates that Trebonius, having been taken in the snare, had his head cut off.15 That Cicero believed the story is probable. It is told against his son-in-law, of whom he had hitherto spoken favorably. He would not have spoken against the man except on conviction. Dolabella was immediately declared an enemy to the Republic. Cicero inveighs against him with all his force, and says that such as Dolabella is, he had been made by the cruelty of Antony. But he goes on to philosophize, and declare how much more miserable than Trebonius was Dolabella himself, who is so base that from his childhood those things had been a delight to him which have been held as disgraceful by other children. Then he turns to the question which is in dispute, whether Brutus should be left in command of Macedonia, and Cassius of Syria — Cassius was now on his way to avenge the death of Trebonius — or whether other noble Romans, Publius Servilius, for instance, or that Hirtius and Pansa, the two Consuls, when they can be spared from Italy, shall be sent there. It is necessary here to read between the lines. The going of the Consuls would mean the withdrawing of the troops from Italy, and would leave Rome open to the Cæsarean faction. At present Decimus and Cicero, and whoever else there might be loyal to the Republic, had to fight by the assistance of other forces than their own. Hirtius and Pansa were constrained to take the part of the Republic by Cicero’s eloquence, and by the action of those Senators who felt themselves compelled to obey Cicero. But they did not object to send the Consuls away, and the Consular legions, under the plea of saving the provinces. This they were willing enough to do — with the real object of delivering Italy over to those who were Cicero’s enemies but were not theirs. All this Cicero understood, and, in conducting the contest, had to be on his guard, not only against the soldiers of Antony but against the Senators also, who were supposed to be his own friends, but whose hearts were intent on having back some Cæsar to preserve for them their privileges.
Cicero in this matter talked some nonsense. “By what right, by what law,” he asks, “shall Cassius go to Syria? By that law which Jupiter sanctioned when he ordained that all things good for the Republic should be just and legal.” For neither had Brutus a right to establish himself in Macedonia as Proconsul nor Cassius in Syria. This reference to Jupiter was a begging of the question with a vengeance. But it was perhaps necessary, in a time of such confusion, to assume some pretext of legality, let it be ever so poor. Nothing could now be done in true obedience to the laws. The Triumvirate, with Cæsar at its head, had finally trodden down all law; and yet every one was clamoring for legal rights! Then he sings the praises of Cassius, but declares that he does not dare to give him credit in that place for the greatest deed he had done. He means, of course, the murder of Cæsar.
Paterculus tells us that all these things were decreed by the Senate.16 But he is wrong. The decree of the Senate went against Cicero, and on the next day, amid much tumult, he addressed himself to the people on the subject. This he did in opposition to Pansa, who endeavored to hinder him from speaking in the Forum, and to Servilia, the mother-in-law of Cassius, who was afraid lest her son-in-law should encounter the anger of the Consuls. He went so far as to tell the people that Cassius would not obey the Senate, but would take upon himself, on such an emergency, to act as best he could for the Republic.17 There was no moment in this stirring year, none, I think, during Cicero’s life, in which he behaved with greater courage than now in appealing from the Senate to the people, and in the hardihood with which he declared that the Senate’s decree should be held as going for nothing. Before the time came in which it could be carried out both Hirtius and Pansa were dead. They had fallen in relieving Decimus at Mutina. His address on this occasion to the people was not made public, and has not been preserved.
Then there came up the question of a second embassy, to which Cicero at first acceded. He was induced to do so, as he says, by news which had arrived of altered circumstances on Antony’s part. Calenus and Piso had given the Senate to understand that Antony was desirous of peace. Cicero had therefore assented, and had agreed to be one of the deputation. The twelfth Philippic was spoken with the object of showing that no such embassy should be sent. Cicero’s condition at this period was most peculiar and most perilous. The Senate would not altogether oppose his efforts, but they hated them. They feared that, if Antony should succeed, they who had opposed Antony would be ruined. Those among them who were the boldest openly reproached Cicero with the danger which they were made to incur in fighting his battles.18 To be rid of Cicero was their desire and their difficulty. He had agreed to go on this embassy — who can say for what motives? To him it would be a mission of especial peril. It was one from which he could hardly hope ever to come back alive. It may be that he had agreed to go with his life in his hand, and to let them know that he at any rate had been willing to die for the Republic. It may be that he had heard of some altered circumstances. But he changed his mind and resolved that he would not go, unless driven forth by the Senate. There seems to have been a manifest attempt to get him out of Rome and send him where he might have his throat cut. But he declined; and this is the speech in which he did so. “It is impossible,” says the French critic, speaking of the twelfth Philippic, “to surround the word ‘I fear’ with more imposing oratorical arguments.” It has not occurred to him that Cicero may have thought that he might even yet do something better with the lees and dregs of his life than throw them away by thus falling into a trap. Nothing is so common to men as to fear to die — and nothing more necessary, or men would soon cease to live. To fear death more than ignominy is the disgrace — a truth which the French critic does not seem to have recognized when he twits the memory of Cicero with his scornful sneer. “J’ai peur.” Did it occur to the French critic to ask himself for what purpose should Cicero go to Antony’s camp, where he would probably be murdered, and by so doing favor the views of his own enemies in Rome? The deputation was not sent; but in lieu of the deputation Pansa, the remaining Consul, led his legions out of Rome at the beginning of April.B.C. 43, ætat. 64.
Lepidus, who was Proconsul in Gaul and Northern Spain, wrote a letter at this time to the Senate recommending them to make peace with Antony. Cicero in his thirteenth Philippic shows how futile such a peace would be. That Lepidus was a vain, inconstant man, looking simply to his own advantage in the side which he might choose, is now understood; but when this letter was received he was supposed to have much weight in Rome. He had, however, given some offence to the Senate, not having acknowledged all the honors which had been paid to him. The advice had been rejected, and Cicero shows how unfit the man was to give it. This, however, he still does with complimentary phrases, though from a letter written by him to Lepidus about this time the nature of his feeling toward the man is declared: “You would have done better, in my judgment, if you had left alone this attempt at making peace, which approves itself neither to the Senate nor to the people, not to any good man.”19 When we remember the ordinary terms of Roman letter-writing, we must acknowledge that this was a plain and not very civil attempt to silence Lepidus. He then goes on in the Philippic to read a letter which Antony had sent to Hirtius and to young Cæsar, and which they had sent on to the Senate. The letter is sufficiently bold and abusive — throwing it in their teeth that they would rather punish the murderer of Trebonius than those of Cæsar. Cicero does this with some wit, but we feel compelled to observe that as much is to be said on the one side as on the other. Brutus, Cassius, with Trebonius and others, had killed Cæsar. Dolabella, perhaps with circumstances of great cruelty, had killed Trebonius. Cicero had again and again expressed his sorrow that Antony had been spared when Cæsar was killed. We have to go back before the first slaughter to resolve who was right and who was wrong, and even afterward can only take the doings of each in that direction as part of the internecine feud. Experience has since explained to us the results of introducing bloodshed into such quarrels. The laws which recognize war are and were acknowledged. But when A kills B because he thinks B to have done evil. A can no longer complain of murder. And Cicero’s criticism is somewhat puerile. “And thou, boy,” Antony had said in addressing Octavian —“Et te, puer!” “You shall find him to be a man by-and-by,” says Cicero. Antony’s Latin is not Ciceronian. “Utrum sit elegantius,” he asks, putting some further question about Cæsar and Trebonius. “As if there could be anything elegant in this war,” demands Cicero. He goes through the letter in the same way, turning Antony into ridicule in a manner which must have riveted in the heart of Fulvia, Antony’s wife, who was in Rome, her desire to have that bitter-speaking tongue torn out of his mouth. Such was the thirteenth Philippic.
On the 21st of April was spoken the fourteenth and the last. Pansa early in the month had left Rome, and marched toward Mutina with the intention of relieving Decimus. Antony, who was then besieging Mutina after such a fashion as to prevent all egress or ingress, and had all but brought Decimus to starvation, finding himself about to be besieged, put his troops into motion, and attacked those who were attacking him. Then was fought the battle in which Antony was beaten, and Pansa, one of the Consuls, so wounded that he perished soon afterward. Antony retreated to his camp, but was again attacked by Hirtius and Octavian, and by Decimus, who sallied out of the town. He was routed, and fled, but Hirtius was killed in the battle. Suetonius tells us that in his time a rumor was abroad that Augustus, then Octavian, had himself killed Hirtius with his own hands in the fight — Hirtius having been his fellow-general, and fighting on the same side; and that he had paid Glyco, Pansa’s doctor, to poison him while dressing his wounds.20 Tacitus had already made the story known.21 It is worth repeating here only as showing the sort of conduct which a grave historian and a worthy biographer were not ashamed to attribute to the favorite Emperor of Rome.
It was on the receipt of the news in Rome of the first battle, but before the second had been fought, that the last Philippic was spoken. Pansa was not known to have been mortally wounded, nor Hirtius killed, nor was it known that Decimus had been relieved; but it was understood that Antony had received a check. Servilius had proposed a supplication, and had suggested that they should put away their saga and go back to their usual attire. The “sagum” was a common military cloak, which the early Romans wore instead of the toga when they went out to war. In later days, when the definition between a soldier and a civilian became more complete, they who were left at home wore the sagum, in token of their military feelings, when the Republic was fighting its battles near Rome. I do not suppose that when Crassus was in Parthia, or Cæsar in Gaul, the sagum was worn. It was not exactly known when the distant battles were being fought. But Cicero had taken care that the sagum should be properly worn, and had even put it on himself — to do which as a Consular was not required of him. Servilius now proposed that they should leave off their cloaks, having obtained a victory; but Cicero would not permit it. Decimus, he says, has not been relieved, and they had taken to their cloaks as showing their determination to succor their General in his distress. And he is discontented with the language used: “You have not even yet called Antony a ‘public enemy.’” Then he again lashes out against the horror of Antony’s proceedings: “He is waging war, a war too dreadful to be spoken of, against four Roman Consuls”— he means Hirtius and Pansa, who were already Consuls, and in truth already dead, and Decimus and Plancus, who were designated as Consuls for the next year. Plancus, however, joined his legions afterward with those of Antony, and insisted in establishing the Second Triumvirate. “Rushing from one scene of slaughter to another, he causes wherever he goes misery, desolation, bloodshed, and agony.” The language is so fine that it is worth our while to see the words.22 “Is he not responsible for the horrors of Dolabella? What he would do in Rome, were it not for the protection of Jupiter, may be seen from the miseries which his brother has inflicted on those poor men of Parma — that Lucius, whom all men hate, and the gods too would hate, if they hated as they ought. In what city was Hannibal as cruel as Antony at Parma; and shall we not call him an enemy?” Servilius had asked for a supplication, but had only asked for one of moderate length. And Servilius had not called the generals Imperatores. Who should be so called but they who have been valiant, and lucky, and successful? Cicero forgets the meaning of the title, and that even Bibulus had been called Imperator in Syria. Here he runs off from his subject, and at some length praises himself. It seems that Rome was in a tumult at the time, and that Antony’s enemies did all they could to support him, and also to turn his head. He had been carried into the Senate-house in triumph, and had been thanked by the whole city. After lauding the different generals, and calling them all Imperatores, he desires the Senate to decree them a supplication for fifty days. Fifty days are to be devoted to thanksgiving to the gods, though it had already been declared how very little they have done for which to be thankful, as Decimus had not yet been liberated.
Fifty days are granted for the battle of Mutina, which as yet was supposed to have been but half fought. When we hear the term “supplicatio” first mentioned in Livy one day was granted. It had grown to twenty when the gods were thanked for the victory over Vercingetorix. Now for this half-finished affair fifty was hardly enough. When the time was over, Antony and Lepidus had joined their forces triumphantly. Pansa and Hirtius were dead, and Decimus Brutus had fled, and had probably been murdered. Nothing increases so out of proportion to the occasion as the granting of honors. Stars, when they fall in showers, pale their brilliancy, and turn at last to no more than a cloud of dust. Honors are soon robbed of all their honor when once the first step downward has been taken. The decree was passed, and Cicero finished his last speech on so poor an occasion. But though the thing itself then done be small and trivial to us now, it was completed in magnificent language.23 The passage of which I give the first words below is very fine in the original, though it does not well bear translation. Thus he ended his fourteenth Philippic, and the silver tongue which had charmed Rome so often was silent forever.
We at least have no record of any further speech; nor, as I think, did he again take the labor of putting into words which should thrill through all who heard them, not the thoughts but the passionate feelings of the moment.
I will venture to quote from a contemporary his praise of the Philippics. Mr. Forsyth says: “Nothing can exceed the beauty of the language, the rhythmical flow of the periods, and the harmony of the style. The structure of the Latin language, which enables the speaker or writer to collocate his words, not, as in English, merely according to the order of thought, but in the manner best calculated to produce effect, too often baffles the powers of the translator who seeks to give the force of the passage without altering the arrangement. Often again, as is the case with all attempts to present the thoughts of the ancient in a modern dress, a periphrasis must be used to explain the meaning of an idea which was instantly caught by the Greek or Roman ear. Many allusions which flashed like lightning upon the minds of the Senators must be explained in a parenthesis, and many a home-thrust and caustic sarcasm are now deprived of their sting, which pierced sharply at the moment of their utterance some twenty centuries ago.
“But with all such disadvantages I hope that even the English reader will be able to recognize in these speeches something of the grandeur of the old Roman eloquence. The noble passages in which Cicero strove to force his countrymen for very shame to emulate the heroic virtues of their forefathers, and urged them to brave every danger and welcome death rather than slavery in the last struggle for freedom, are radiant with a glory which not even a translation can destroy. And it is impossible not to admire the genius of the orator whose words did more than armies toward recovering the lost liberty of Rome.”
His words did more than armies, but neither could do anything lasting for the Republic. What was one honest man among so many? We remember Mommsen’s verdict: “On the Roman oligarchy of this period no judgment can be passed save one of inexorable and remorseless condemnation.” The farther we see into the facts of Roman history in our endeavors to read the life of Cicero, the more apparent becomes its truth. But Cicero, though he saw far toward it, never altogether acknowledged it. In this consists the charm of his character, though at the same time the weakness of his political aspirations; his weakness — because he was vain enough to imagine that he could talk men back from their fish-ponds; its charm — because he was able through it all to believe in honesty. The more hopeless became the cause, the sweeter, the more impassioned, the more divine, became his language. He tuned his notes to still higher pitches of melody, and thought that thus he could bring back public virtue. Often in these Philippics the matter is small enough. The men he has to praise are so little; and Antony does not loom large enough in history to have merited from Cicero so great a meed of vituperation! Nor is the abuse all true, in attributing to him motives so low. But Cicero was true through it all, anxious, all on fire with anxiety to induce those who heard him to send men to fight the battles to which he knew them, in their hearts, to be opposed.
The courage, the persistency, and the skill shown, in the attempt were marvellous. They could not have succeeded, but they seem almost to have done so. I have said that he was one honest man among many. Brutus was honest in his patriotism, and Cassius, and all the conspirators. I do not doubt that Cæsar was killed from a true desire to restore the Roman Republic. They desired to restore a thing that was in itself evil — the evils of which had induced Cæsar to see that he might make himself its master. But Cicero had conceived a Republic in his own mind — not Utopian, altogether human and rational — a Republic which he believed to have been that of Scipio, of Marcellus, and Lælius: a Republic which should do nothing for him but require his assistance, in which the people should vote, and the oligarchs rule in accordance with the established laws. Peace and ease, prosperity and protection, it would be for the Rome of his dream to bestow upon the provinces. Law and order, education and intelligence, it would be for her rulers to bestow upon Rome. In desiring this, he was the one honest man among many. In accordance with that theory he had lived, and I claim for him that he had never departed from it. In his latter days, when the final struggle came, when there had arisen for him the chance of Cæsar’s death, when Antony was his chief enemy, when he found himself in Rome with authority sufficient to control legions, when the young Cæsar had not shown — probably had not made — his plans, when Lepidus and Plancus and Pollio might still prove themselves at last true men, he was once again alive with his dream. There might yet be again a Scipio, or a Cicero as good as Scipio, in the Republic; one who might have lived as gloriously, and die — not amid the jealousies but with the love of his countrymen.
It was not to be. Looking back at it now, we wonder that he should have dared to hope for it. But it is to the presence within gallant bosoms of hope still springing, though almost forlorn, of hope which has in its existence been marvellous, that the world is indebted for the most beneficial enterprises. It was not given to Cicero to stem the tide and to prevent the evil coming of the Cæsars; but still the nature of the life he had led, the dreams of a pure Republic, those aspirations after liberty have not altogether perished. We have at any rate the record of the great endeavors which he made.
Nothing can have been worse managed than the victory at Mutina. The two Consuls were both killed; but that, it may be said, was the chance of war. Antony with all his cavalry was allowed to escape eastward toward the Cottian Alps. Decimus Brutus seems to have shown himself deficient in all the qualities of a General, except that power of endurance which can hold a town with little or no provision. He wrote to Cicero saying that he would follow Antony. He makes a promise that Antony shall not be allowed to remain in Italy. He beseeches Cicero to write to that “windy fellow Lepidus,” to prevent him from joining the enemy. Lepidus will never do what is right unless made to do so by Cicero. As to Plancus, Decimus has his doubts, but he thinks that Plancus will be true to the Republic now that Antony is beaten.24 In his next letter he speaks of the great confusion which has come among them from the death of the two Consuls. He declares also how great has been Antony’s energy in already recruiting his army. He has opened all the prisons and workhouses, and taken the men he found there. Ventidius has joined him with his army, and he still fears Lepidus. And young Cæsar, who is supposed to be on their side, will obey no one, and can make none obey him. He, Decimus, cannot feed his men. He has spent all his own money and his friends’. How is he to support seven legions?25 On the next day he writes again, and is still afraid of Plancus and of Lepidus and of Pollio. And he bids Cicero look after his good name: “Stop the evil tongues of men if you can.”26 A few days afterward Cicero writes him a letter which he can hardly have liked to receive. What business had Brutus to think the senate cowardly?27 Who can be afraid of Antony conquered who did not fear him in his strength? How should Lepidus doubt now when victory had declared for the Republic? Though Antony may have collected together the scrapings of the jails, Decimus is not to forget that he, Decimus, has the whole Roman people at his back.
Cicero was probably right to encourage the General, and to endeavor to fill him with hope. To make a man victorious you should teach him to believe in victory. But Decimus knew the nature of the troops around him, and was aware that every soldier was so imbued with an idea of the power of Cæsar that, though Cæsar was dead, they could fight with only half a heart against soldiers who had been in his armies. The name and authority and high office of the two Consuls had done something with them, and young Cæsar had been with the Consuls. But both the Consuls had been killed — which was in itself ominous — and Antony was still full of hope, and young Cæsar was not there, and Decimus was unpopular with the men. It was of no use that Cicero should write with lofty ideas and speak of the spirit of the Senate. Antony had received a severe check, but the feeling of military rule which Cæsar had engendered was still there, and soldiers who would obey their officers were not going to submit themselves to “votes of the people.” Cicero in the mean time had his letters passing daily between himself and the camps, thinking to make up by the energy of his pen for the weakness of his party. Lepidus sends him an account of his movements on the Rhone, declaring how he was anxious to surround Antony. Lepidus was already meditating his surrender. “I ask from you, my Cicero, that if you have seen with what zeal I have in former times served the Republic, you should look for conduct equal to it, or surpassing it for the future; and, that you should think me the more worthy of your protection, the higher are my deserts.”28 He was already, when writing that letter, in treaty with Antony. Plancus writes to him at the same time apologizing for his conduct in joining Lepidus. It was a service of great danger for him. Plancus, but it was necessary for Lepidus that this should be done. We are inclined to doubt them all, knowing whither they were tending. Lepidus was false from the beginning. Plancus doubled for a while, and then yielded himself.
The reader, I think, will have had no hope for Cicero and the Republic since the two Consuls were killed; but as he comes upon the letters which passed between Cicero and the armies he will have been altogether disheartened.
1 The year of his birth is uncertain. He had been Consul three years back, and must have spoken often.
2 Ad Div., lib. xii., 2.
3 It may here be worth our while to quote the impassioned language which Velleius Paterculus uses when he chronicles the death of Cicero, lib. ii., 66: “Nihil tamen egisti, M. Antoni (cogit enim excedere propositi formam operis, erumpens animo ac pectore indignatio), nihil, inquam, egisti, mercedem cælestissimi oris et clarissimi capitis abscissi numerando, auctoramentoque funebri ad conservatoris quondam reipublicæ tantique consulis irritando necem. Rapuisti tu M. Ciceroni lucem solicitam, et ætatem senilem, et vitam miseriorem, te principe, quam sub te triumviro mortem. Famam vero gloriamque factorum atque dictorum adeo non abstulisti, ut auxeris. Vivit, vivetque per omnium sæculorum memoriam; dumque hoc vel forte, vel providentia, vel utcumque constitutum, rerum naturæ corpus, quod ille pæne solus Romanorum animo vidit, ingenio complexus est, eloquentia illuminavit, manebit incolume, comitem ævi sui laudem Ciceronis trahet, omnisque posteritas illius in te scripta mirabitur, tuum in eum factum execrabitur; citiusque in mundo genus hominum, quam ea, cadet.” This was the popular idea of Cicero in the time of Tiberius.
4 Ad Div., lib. xii., 23.
5 Ad Att., lib. xvi., 11.
6 On referring to the Milo, ca. xv., the reader will see the very different tone in which Cicero spoke of this incident when Antony was in favor with him.
7 It was a sign of an excellent character in Rome to have been chosen often as heir in part to a man’s property.
8 Horace, Odes, lib. iii., 30.
9 Ad Att., lib. xvi., 14.
10 Philippics, lib. vi., 1.
11 “Populum Romanum servire fas non est, quem dii immortales omnibus gentibus imperare voluerunt.”
12 Ad Div., lib. xi., 8.
13 Ad Div., lib. x., 3.
14 Ad Brutum, lib. ii., 6.
15 Appian. De Bell. Civ., lib. iii., ca. 26.
16 Vell. Pat., lib. ii., 62: “Quæ omnia senatus decretis comprensa et comprobata sunt.”
17 Ad Div., lib. xii., 7. This is in a letter to Cassius, in which he says, “Promisi enim et prope confirmavi, te non expectasse nec expectaturum decreta nostra, sed te ipsum tuo more rempublicam defensurum.”
18 Appian, lib. iii., ca. 50. The historian of the civil wars declares that Piso spoke up for Antony, saying that he should not be damnified by loose statements, but should be openly accused. Feelings ran very high, but Cicero seems to have held his own.
19 Ad Div., lib. x., 27.
20 Suetonius, Augustus, lib. xi.
21 Tacitus, Ann., lib. i., x.: “Cæsis Hirtio et Pansa, sive hostis illos, seu Pansam venenum vulneri affusum, sui milites Hirtium et, machinator doli, Cæsar abstulerat.”
22 Philip., xiv., 3: “Omnibus, quanquam ruit ipse suis cladibus, pestem, vastitatem, cruciatum, tormenta denuntiat.”
23 Philip., xiv., 12: “O fortunata mors, quæ naturæ debita, pro patria est potissimum reddita.”
24 Ad Div., lib. xi., 9.
25 Ibid., lib. xi., 10.
26 Ibid., lib. xi., 11.
27 Ibid., lib. xi., 18.
28 Ad Div., lib. x., 34.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01