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Cicero by Rev. W. Lucas Collins

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The reply, when it came, was the terrible second Philippic; never spoken,
however, but only handed about in manuscript to admiring friends. There is
little doubt, as Mr. Long observes, that Antony had also some friend kind
enough to send him a copy; and if we may trust the Roman poet Juvenal, who
is at least as likely to have been well informed upon the subject as any
modern historian, this composition eventually cost the orator his life. It
is not difficult to understand the bitter vindictiveness of Antony. Cicero
had been not merely a political opponent; he had attacked his private
character (which presented abundant grounds for such attack) with all
the venom of his eloquence. He had said, indeed, in the first of these
powerful orations, that he had never taken this line.

"If I have abused his private life and character, I have no right to
complain if he is my enemy: but if I have only followed my usual custom,
which I have ever maintained in public life,--I mean, if I have only
spoken my opinion on public questions freely,--then, in the first place, I
protest against his being angry with me at all: or, if this be too much
to expect, I demand that he should be angry with me only as with a

If there had been any sort of reticence on this point hitherto on the part
of Cicero, he made up for it in this second speech. Nothing can equal its
bitter personality, except perhaps its rhetorical power. He begins the
attack by declaring that he will not tell all he knows--"in order that, if
we have to do battle again hereafter, I may come always fresh-armed to the
attack; an advantage which the multiplicity of that man's crimes and vices
gives me in large measure". Then he proceeds:

"Would you like us, then, to examine into your course of life from
boyhood? I conclude you would. Do you remember that before you put on the
robe of manhood, you were a bankrupt? That was my father's fault, you will
say. I grant it--it is a defence that speaks volumes for your feelings as
a son. It was your own shamelessness, however, that made you take your
seat in the stalls of honourable knights, whereas by law there is a fixed
place for bankrupts, even when they have become so by fortune's fault, and
not their own. You put on the robe which was to mark your manhood,--on
your person it became the flaunting gear of a harlot".

It is not desirable to follow the orator through some of his accusations;
when he had to lash a man whom he held to be a criminal, he did not much
care where or how he struck. He even breaks off himself--after saying a
good deal.

"There are some things, which even a decent enemy hesitates to speak
of.... Mark, then, his subsequent course of life, which I will trace as
rapidly as I can. For though these things are better known to you than
even to me, yet I ask you to hear me with attention--as indeed you do; for
it is right that in such cases men's feelings should be roused not
merely by the knowledge of the facts, but by calling them back to their
remembrance; though we must dash at once, I believe, into the middle of
his history, lest we should be too long in getting to the end".

The peroration is noble and dignified, in the orator's best style. He
still supposes himself addressing his enemy. He has warned Antony that
Caesar's fate may be his: and he is not unconscious of the peril in which
his own life may stand.

"But do you look to yourself--I will tell you how it stands with me. I
defended the Commonwealth when I was young--I will not desert it now I am
old. I despised the swords of Catiline--I am not likely to tremble before
yours. Nay, I shall lay my life down gladly, if the liberty of Rome can be
secured by my death, so that this suffering nation may at last bring to
the birth that which it his long been breeding.[1] If, twenty years ago, I
declared in this house that death could never be said to have come before
its time to a man who had been consul of Rome, with how much more truth,
at my age, may I say it now! To me indeed, gentlemen of the Senate, death
may well be a thing to be even desired, when I have done what I have done
and reaped the honours I have reaped. Only two wishes I have,--the one,
that at my death I may leave the Roman people free--the immortal gods can
give me no greater boon than this; the other, that every citizen may meet
with such reward as his conduct towards the state may have deserved".

[Footnote 1: _I.e._, the making away with Antony.]

The publication of this unspoken speech raised for the time an enthusiasm
against Antony, whom Cicero now openly declared to be an enemy to the
state. He hurled against him Philippic after Philippic. The appeal at the
end of that which comes the sixth in order is eloquent enough.

"The time is come at last, fellow-citizens; somewhat too late, indeed, for
the dignity of the people of Rome, but at least the crisis is so ripe,
that it cannot now be deferred an instant longer. We have had one calamity
sent upon us, as I may say, by fate, which we bore with--in such sort as
it might be borne. If another befalls us now, it will be one of our own
choosing. That this Roman people should serve any master, when the gods
above have willed us to be the masters of the world, is a crime in the
sight of heaven. The question hangs now on its last issue. The struggle is
for our liberties. You must either conquer, Romans,--and this, assuredly,
with such patriotism and such unanimity as I see here, you must do, or you
must endure anything and everything rather than be slaves. Other nations
may endure the yoke of slavery, but the birthright of the people of Rome
is liberty".

Antony had left Rome, and thrown himself, like Catiline, into the arms
of his soldiers, in his province of Cisalpine Gaul. There he maintained
himself in defiance of the Senate, who at last, urged by Cicero, declared
him a public enemy. Caesar Octavianus (great-nephew of Julius) offered his
services to the state, and with some hesitation they were accepted. The
last struggle was begun. Intelligence soon arrived that Antony had been
defeated at Mutina by the two last consuls of the Republic, Hirtius and
Pansa. The news was dashed, indeed, afterwards by the further announcement
that both consuls had died of their wounds. But it was in the height of
the first exultation that Cicero addressed to the Senate his fourteenth
Philippic--the last oration which he was ever to make. For the moment,
he found himself once more the foremost man at Rome. Crowds of roaring
patriots had surrounded his house that morning, escorted him in triumph up
to the Capitol, and back to his own house, as they had done in the days of
his early glory. Young Caesar, who had paid him much personal deference,
was professing himself a patriot; the Commonwealth was safe again--and
Cicero almost thought that he again himself had saved it.

But Rome now belonged to those who had the legions. It had come to that:
and when Antony succeeded in joining interests with Octavianus (afterwards
miscalled Augustus)--"the boy", as both Cicero and Antony called him--a
boy in years as yet, but premature in craft and falsehood--who had come
"to claim his inheritance", and succeeded in rousing in the old veterans
of his uncle the desire to take vengeance a on his murderers, the fate of
the Republic and of Cicero was sealed.

It was on a little eyot formed by the river Reno, near Bologna, that
Antony, young Caesar, and Lepidus (the nominal third in what is known as
the Second Triumvirate) met to arrange among themselves the division of
power, and what they held to be necessary, to the securing it for the
future--the proscription of their several enemies. No private affections
or interests were to be allowed to interfere with this merciless
arrangement. If Lepidus would give up his brother, Antony would
surrender an obnoxious uncle. Octavianus made a cheaper sacrifice in
Cicero, whom Antony, we may be sure, with those terrible Philippics
ringing in his ears, demanded with an eager vengeance. All was soon
amicably settled; the proscription-lists were made out, and the
Triumvirate occupied Rome.

Cicero and his brother--whose name was known to be also on the fatal
roll--heard of it while they were together at the Tusculan villa. Both
took immediate measures to escape. But Quintus had to return to Rome to
get money for their flight, and, as it would appear, to fetch his son. The
emissaries of the Triumvirate were sent to search the house: the father
had hid himself, but the son was seized, and refusing to give any
information, was put to the torture. His father heard his cries of agony,
came forth from his hiding-place, and asked only to be put to death first.
The son in his turn made the same request, and the assassins were so far
merciful that they killed both at once.

Cicero himself might yet have escaped, but for some thing of his old
indecision. He had gone on board a small vessel with the intention of
joining Brutus in Macedonia, when he suddenly changed his mind, and
insisted on being put on shore again. He wandered about, half-resolving
(for the third) time on suicide. He would go to Rome, stab himself on
the altar-hearth in young Caesar's house, and call down the vengeance of
heaven upon the traitor. The accounts of these last hours of his life are,
unfortunately, somewhat contradictory, and none of the authorities to be
entirely depended on; Abeken has made a careful attempt to harmonise them,
which it will be best here to follow.

Urged by the prayers of his slaves, the faithful adherents of a kind
master, he once more embarked, and once more (Appian says, from
sea-sickness, which he never could endure) landed near Caieta, where be
had a seaside villa. Either there, or, as other accounts say, at his house
at Formiae, he laid himself down to pass the night, and wait for death.
"Let me die", said he, "in my own country, which I have so often saved".
But again the faithful slaves aroused him, forced him into a litter, and
hurried him down through the woods to the sea-shore--for the assassins
were in hot pursuit of him. They found his house shut up; but some traitor
showed them a short cut by which to overtake the fugitive. As he lay
reading (it is said), even during these anxious moments, a play of his
favourite Euripides, every line of whom he used to declare contained some
maxim worth remembering, he heard their steps approaching, and ordered the
litter to be set down. He looked out, and recognised at the head of the
party an officer named Laenas, whom he had once successfully defended on
a capital charge; but he saw no gratitude or mercy in the face, though
there were others of the band who covered their eyes for pity, when they
saw the dishevelled grey hair and pale worn features of the great Roman
(he was within a month of sixty-four). He turned from Laenas to the
centurion, one Herennius, and said, "Strike, old soldier, if you
understand your trade!" At the third blow--by one or other of those
officers, for both claimed the evil honour--his head was severed. They
carried it straight to Antony, where he sat on the seat of justice in the
Forum, and demanded the offered reward. The triumvir, in his joy, paid it
some ten times over. He sent the bloody trophy to his wife; and the Roman
Jezebel spat in the dead face, and ran her bodkin through the tongue which
had spoken those bold and bitter truths against her false husband. The
great orator fulfilled, almost in the very letter, the words which,
treating of the liberty of the pleader, he had put into the mouth of
Crassus--"You must cut out this tongue, if you would check my free
speech: nay, even then, my very breathing should protest against your
lust for power". The head, by Antony's order, was then nailed upon the
Rostra, to speak there, more eloquently than ever the living lips had
spoken, of the dead liberty of Rome.



Cicero shared very largely in the feeling which is common to all men of
ambition and energy,--a desire to stand well not only with their own
generation, but with posterity. It is a feeling natural to every man who
knows that his name and acts must necessarily become historical. If it
is more than usually patent in Cicero's case, it is only because in his
letters to Atticus we have more than usual access to the inmost heart of
the writer; for surely such a thoroughly confidential correspondence has
never been published before or since. "What will history say of me six
hundred years hence?" he asks, unbosoming himself in this sort to his
friend. More than thrice the six hundred years have passed, and, in
Cicero's case, history has hardly yet made up its mind. He has been
lauded and abused, from his own times down to the present, in terms as
extravagant as are to be found in the most passionate of his own orations;
both his accusers and his champions have caught the trick of his
rhetorical exaggeration more easily than his eloquence. Modern German
critics like Drumann and Mommsen have attacked him with hardly less
bitterness, though with more decency, than the historian Dio Cassius, who
lived so near his own times. Bishop Middleton, on the other hand, in those
pleasant and comprehensive volumes which are still to this day the great
storehouse of materials for Cicero's biography, is as blind to his faults
as though he were himself delivering a panegyric in the Rostra at Rome.
Perhaps it is the partiality of the learned bishop's view which has
produced a reaction in the minds of sceptical German scholars, and of some
modern writers of our own. It is impossible not to sympathise in some
degree with that Athenian who was tired of always hearing Aristides
extolled as "the Just;" and there was certainly a strong temptation to
critics to pick holes in a man's character who was perpetually, during
his lifetime and for eighteen centuries after his death, having a trumpet
sounded before him to announce him as the prince of patriots as well as
philosophers; worthy indeed, as Erasmus thought, to be canonised as a
saint of the Catholic Church, but for the single drawback of his not
having been a Christian.

On one point some of his eulogists seem manifestly unfair. They say
that the circumstances under which we form our judgment of the man are
exceptional in this--that we happen to possess in his case all this mass
of private and confidential letters (there are nearly eight hundred of his
own which have come down to us), giving us an insight into his private
motives, his secret jealousies, and hopes, and fears, and ambitions, of
which in the case of other men we have no such revelation. It is quite
true; but his advocates forget that it is from the very same pages which
reveal his weaknesses, that they draw their real knowledge of many of
those characteristics which they most admire--his sincere love for his
country, his kindness of heart, his amiability in all his domestic
relations. It is true that we cannot look into the private letters of
Caesar, or Pompey, or Brutus, as we can into Cicero's; but it is not
so certain that if we could, our estimate of their characters would be
lowered. We might discover, in their cases as in his, many traces of what
seems insincerity, timidity, a desire to sail with the stream; we might
find that the views which they expressed in public were not always those
which they entertained in private; but we might also find an inner current
of kindness, and benevolence, and tenderness of heart, for which the world
gives them little credit. One enthusiastic advocate, Wieland, goes so far
as to wish that this kind of evidence could, in the case of such a man as
Cicero, have been "cooked", to use a modern phrase: that we could have had
only a judicious selection from this too truthful mass, of correspondence;
that his secretary, Tiro, or some judicious friend, had destroyed the
whole packet of letters in which the great Roman bemoaned himself, during
his exile from Rome, to his wife, to his brother, and to Atticus. The
partisan method of writing history, though often practised, has seldom
been so boldly professed.

But it cannot be denied, that if we know too much of Cicero to judge him
merely by his public life, as we are obliged to do with so many heroes of
history, we also know far too little of those stormy times in which he
lived, to pronounce too strongly upon his behaviour in such difficult
circumstances. The true relations between the various parties at Rome, as
we have tried to sketch them, are confessedly puzzling even to the careful
student. And without a thorough understanding of these, it is impossible
to decide, with any hope of fairness, upon Cicero's conduct as a patriot
and a politician. His character was full of conflicting elements, like the
times in which he lived, and was necessarily in a great degree moulded
by them. The egotism which shows itself so plainly alike in his public
speeches and in his private writings, more than once made him personal
enemies, and brought him into trouble, though it was combined with great
kindness of heart and consideration for others. He saw the right clearly,
and desired to follow it, but his good intentions were too often
frustrated by a want of firmness and decision. His desire to keep well
with men of all parties, so long as it seemed possible (and this not so
much from the desire of self-aggrandisement, as from a hope through their
aid to serve the commonwealth) laid him open on more than one occasion to
the charge of insincerity.

There is one comprehensive quality which may be said to lave been wanting
in his nature, which clouded his many excellences, led him continually
into false positions, and even in his delightful letters excites in the
reader, from time to time, an impatient feeling of contempt. He wanted
manliness. It was a quality which was fast dying out, in his day, among
even the best of the luxurious and corrupt aristocracy of Rome. It was
perhaps but little missed in his character by those of his contemporaries
who knew and loved him best. But without that quality, to an English mind,
it is hard to recognise in any man, however brilliant and amiable, the
true philosopher or hero.

The views which this great Roman politician held upon the vexed question
of the ballot did not differ materially from those of his worthy
grandfather before-mentioned.[1] The ballot was popular at Rome,--for many
reasons, some of them not the most creditable to the characters of the
voters; and because it was popular, Cicero speaks of it occasionally, in
his forensic speeches, with a cautious praise; but of his real estimate
of it there can be no kind of doubt. "I am of the same opinion now", he
writes to his brother, "that ever I was; there is nothing like the open
suffrage of the lips". So in one of his speeches, he uses even stronger
language: "The ballot", he says, "enables men to open their faces, and to
cover up their thoughts; it gives them licence to promise whatever they
are asked, and at the same time to do whatever they please". Mr. Grote
once quoted a phrase of Cicero's, applied to the voting-papers of his day,
as a testimony in favour of this mode of secret suffrage--grand words,
and wholly untranslatable into anything like corresponding
English--"_Tabella vindex tacitae libertatis_"--"the tablet which
secures the liberty of silence". But knowing so well as Cicero did what
was the ordinary character of Roman jurors and Roman voters, and how often
this "liberty of silence" was a liberty to take a bribe and to vote the
other way, one can almost fancy that we see upon his lips, as he utters
the sounding phrase, that playful curve of irony which is said to have
been their characteristic expression.[2] Mr. Grote forgot, too, as was
well pointed out by a writer in the 'Quarterly Review',[3] that in the
very next sentence the orator is proud to boast that he himself was not so
elected to office, but "by the living voices" of his fellow-citizens.

[Footnote 1: See p. 3.]

[Footnote 2: No bust, coin, or gem is known which bears any genuine
likeness of Cicero. There are several existing which purport to be such,
but all are more or less apocryphal.]

[Footnote 3: Quart. Rev., lxi. 522.]

The character of his eloquence may be understood in some degree by the
few extracts which have been given from his public speeches; always
remembering how many of its charms are necessarily lost by losing the
actual language in which his thoughts were clothed. We have lost perhaps
nearly as much in another way, in that we can only read the great orator
instead of listening to him. Yet it is possible, after all, that this loss
to us is not so great as it might seem. Some of his best speeches, as we
know--those, for instance, against Verres and in defence of Milo--were
written in the closet, and never spoken at all; and most of the others
were reshaped and polished for publication. Nor is it certain that his
declamation, which some of his Roman rivals found fault with as savouring
too much of the florid Oriental type, would have been agreeable to our
colder English taste. He looked upon gesture and action as essential
elements of the orator's power, and had studied them carefully from the
artists of the theatre. There can be no doubt that we have his own
views on this point in the words which he has put into the mouth of his
"Brutus", in the treatise on oratory which bears that name. He protests
against the "Attic coldness" of style which, he says, would soon empty the
benches of their occupants. He would have the action and bearing of the
speaker to be such that even the distant spectator, too far off to hear,
should "know that there was a Roscius on the stage". He would have found a
French audience in this respect more sympathetic than an English one.[1]
His own highly nervous temperament would certainly tend to excited action.
The speaker, who, as we are told, "shuddered visibly over his whole body
when he first began to speak", was almost sure, as he warmed to his work,
to throw himself into it with a passionate energy.

[Footnote 1: Our speakers certainly fall into the other extreme. The
British orator's style of gesticulation may still be recognised,
_mutatis mutandis_, in Addison's humorous sketch of a century ago:
"You may see many a smart rhetorician turning his hat in his hands,
moulding it into several different cocks, examining sometimes the lining
and sometimes the button, during the whole course of his harangue. A
deaf man would think that he was cheapening a beaver, when he is talking
perhaps of the fate of the British nation".]

He has put on record his own ideas of the qualifications and the duties
of the public speaker, whether in the Senate or at the bar, in three
continuous treatises on the subject, entitled respectively, 'On Oratory',
'Brutus', and 'The Orator', as well as in some other works of which we
have only fragments remaining. With the first of these works, which he
inscribed to his brother, he was himself exceedingly well satisfied, and
it perhaps remains still the ablest, as it was the first, attempt to
reduce eloquence to a science. The second is a critical sketch of the
great orators of Rome: and in the third we have Cicero's view of what the
perfect orator should be. His ideal is a high one, and a true one; that
he should not be the mere rhetorician, any more than the mere technical
lawyer or keen partisan, but the man of perfect education and perfect
taste, who can speak on all subjects, out of the fulness of his mind,
"with variety and copiousness".

Although, as has been already said, he appears to have attached but little
value to a knowledge of the technicalities of law, in other respects his
preparation for his work was of the most careful kind; if we may assume,
as we probably may, that it is his own experience which, in his treatise
on Oratory, he puts into the mouth of Marcus Antonius, one of his greatest
predecessors at the Roman bar.

"It is my habit to have every client explain to me personally his own
case; to allow no one else to be present, that so he may speak more
freely. Then I take the opponent's side, while I make him plead his own
cause, and bring forward whatever arguments he can think of. Then, when
he is gone, I take upon myself, with as much impartiality as I can,
three different characters--my own, my opponent's, and that of the jury.
Whatever point seems likely to help the case rather than injure it, this I
decide must be brought forward; when I see that anything is likely to do
more harm than good, I reject and throw it aside altogether. So I gain
this,--that I think over first what I mean to say, and speak afterwards;
while a good many pleaders, relying on their abilities, try to do both at

[Footnote 1: De Oratore, II. 24, 72.]

He reads a useful lesson to young and zealous advocates in the same
treatise--that sometimes it may be wise not to touch at all in reply upon
a point which makes against your client, and to which you have no real
answer; and that it is even more important to say nothing which may injure
your case, than to omit something which might possibly serve it. A maxim
which some modern barristers (and some preachers also) might do well to
bear in mind.

Yet he did not scorn to use what may almost be called the tricks of his
art, if he thought they would help to secure him a verdict. The outward
and visible appeal to the feelings seems to have been as effective in the
Roman forum as with a British jury. Cicero would have his client stand by
his side dressed in mourning, with hair dishevelled, and in tears, when
he meant to make a pathetic appeal to the compassion of the jurors; or a
family group would be arranged, as circumstances allowed,--the wife and
children, the mother and sisters, or the aged father, if presentable,
would be introduced in open court to create a sensation at the right
moment. He had tears apparently as ready at his command as an eloquent
and well-known English Attorney-General. Nay, the tears seem to have been
marked down, as it were, upon his brief. "My feelings prevent my saying
more", he declares in his defence of Publius Sylla. "I weep while I make
the appeal"--"I cannot go on for tears"--he repeats towards the close of
that fine oration in behalf of Milo--the speech that never was spoken.
Such phrases remind us of the story told of a French preacher, whose
manuscripts were found to have marginal stage directions: "Here take out
your handkerchief;"--"here cry--if possible". But such were held to be the
legitimate adjuncts of Roman oratory, and it is quite possible to conceive
that the advocate, like more than one modern tragedian who could be named,
entered so thoroughly into the spirit of the part that the tears flowed
quite naturally.

A far less legitimate weapon of oratory--offensive and not defensive--was
the bitter and coarse personality in which he so frequently indulged. Its
use was held perfectly lawful in the Roman forum, whether in political
debate or in judicial pleadings, and it was sure to be highly relished by
a mixed audience. There is no reason to suppose that Cicero had
recourse to it in any unusual degree; but employ it he did, and most
unscrupulously. It was not only private character that he attacked, as in
the case of Antony and Clodius, but even personal defects or peculiarities
were made the subject of bitter ridicule. He did not hesitate to season
his harangue by a sarcasm on the cast in the prosecutor's eye, or the wen
on the defendant's neck, and to direct the attention of the court to these
points, as though they were corroborative evidence of a moral deformity.
The most conspicuous instance of this practice of his is in the invective
which he launched in the Senate against Piso, who had made a speech
reflecting upon him. Referring to Cicero's exile, he had made that sore
subject doubly sore by declaring that it was not Cicero's unpopularity, so
much as his unfortunate propensity to bad verse, which had been the cause
of it. A jingling line of his to the effect that

"The gown wins grander triumphs than the sword"[1]

had been thought to be pointed against the recent victories of Pompey, and
to have provoked him to use his influence to get rid of the author. But
this annotation of Cicero's poetry had not been Piso's only offence. He
had been consul at the time of the exile, and had given vent, it may be
remembered, to the witticism that the "saviour of Rome" might save the
city a second time by his absence. Cicero was not the man to forget it.
The beginning of his attack on Piso is lost, but there is quite enough
remaining. Piso was of a swarthy complexion, approaching probably to the
negro type. "Beast"--is the term by which Cicero addresses him. "Beast!
there is no mistaking the evidence of that slave-like hue, those bristly
cheeks, those discoloured fangs. Your eyes, your brows, your face, your
whole aspect, are the tacit index to your soul".[2]

[Footnote 1: "Cedant arma togae, concedat laurea linguae".]

[Footnote 2: Such flowers of eloquence are not encouraged at the modern
bar. But they were common enough, even in the English law-courts, in
former times. Mr. Attorney-General Coke's language to Raleigh at his
trial--"Thou viper!"--comes quite up to Cicero's. Perhaps the Irish House
of Parliament, while it existed, furnished the choicest modern specimens
of this style of oratory. Mr. O'Flanagan, in his 'Lives of the Lord
Chancellors of Ireland', tells us that a member for Galway, attacking
an opponent when he knew that his sister was present during the debate,
denounced the whole family--"from the toothless old hag that is now
grinning in the gallery, to the white-livered scoundrel that is shivering
on the floor".]

It is not possible, within the compass of these pages, to give even
the briefest account of more than a few of the many causes (they are
twenty-four in number) in which the speeches made by Cicero, either for
the prosecution or the defence, have been preserved to us. Some of them
have more attraction for the English reader than others, either from the
facts of the case being more interesting or more easily understood, or
from their affording more opportunity for the display of the speaker's

Mr. Fox had an intense admiration for the speech in defence of Caelius.
The opinion of one who was no mean orator himself, on his great Roman
predecessor, may be worth quoting:

"Argumentative contention is not what he excels in; and he is never, I
think, so happy as when he has an opportunity of exhibiting a mixture of
philosophy and pleasantry, and especially when he can interpose anecdotes
and references to the authority of the eminent characters in the history
of his own country. No man appears, indeed, to have had such a real
respect for authority as he; and therefore when he speaks on that subject
he is always natural and earnest".[1]

[Footnote 1: Letter to G. Wakefield--Correspondence, p. 35.]

There is anecdote and pleasantry enough in this particular oration; but
the scandals of Roman society of that day, into which the defence of
Caelius was obliged to enter, are not the most edifying subject for any
readers. Caelius was a young man of "equestrian" rank, who had been a kind
of ward of Cicero's, and must have given him a good deal of trouble by his
profligate habits, if the guardianship was anything more than nominal. But
in this particular case the accusation brought against him--of trying to
murder an ambassador from Egypt by means of hired assassins, and then
to poison the lady who had lent him the money to bribe them with--was
probably untrue. Clodia, the lady in question, was the worthy sister of
the notorious Clodius, and bore as evil a reputation as it was possible
for a woman to bear in the corrupt society of Rome--which is saying a
great deal. She is the real mover in the case, though another enemy
of Caelius, the son of a man whom he had himself brought to trial for
bribery, was the ostensible prosecutor. Cicero, therefore, throughout the
whole of his speech, aims the bitter shafts of his wit and eloquence
at Clodia. His brilliant invectives against this lady, who was, as he
pointedly said, "not only noble but notorious", are not desirable to
quote. But the opening of the speech is in the advocate's best style. The
trial, it seems, took place on a public holiday, when it was not usual to
take any cause unless it were of pressing importance.

"If any spectator be here present, gentlemen, who knows nothing of our
laws, our courts of justice, or our national customs, he will not fail to
wonder what can be the atrocious nature of this case, that on a day of
national festival and public holiday like this, when all other business in
the Forum is suspended, this single trial should be going on; and he will
entertain no doubt but that the accused is charged with a crime of
such enormity, that if it were not at once taken cognisance of, the
constitution itself would be in peril. And if he heard that there was a
law which enjoined that in the case of seditious and disloyal citizens who
should take up arms to attack the Senate-house, or use violence against
the magistrates, or levy war against the commonwealth, inquisition into
the matter should be made at once, on the very day;--he would not find
fault with such a law: he would only ask the nature of the charge. But
when he heard that it was no such atrocious crime, no treasonable attempt,
no violent outrage, which formed the subject of this trial, but that a
young man of brilliant abilities, hard-working in public life, and of
popular character, was here accused by the son of a man whom he had
himself once prosecuted, and was still prosecuting, and that all a bad
woman's wealth and influence was being used against him,--he might take no
exception to the filial zeal of Atratinus; but he would surely say that
woman's infamous revenge should be baffled and punished.... I can excuse
Atratinus; as to the other parties, they deserve neither excuse nor

It was a strange story, the case for the prosecution, especially as
regarded the alleged attempt to poison Clodia. The poison was given to a
friend of Caelius, he was to give it to some slaves of Clodia whom he was
to meet at certain baths frequented by her, and they were in some way to
administer it. But the slaves betrayed the secret; and the lady employed
certain gay and profligate young men, who were hangers-on of her own,
to conceal themselves somewhere in the baths, and pounce upon Caelius's
emissary with the poison in his possession. But this scheme was said
to have failed. Clodia's detectives had rushed from their place of
concealment too soon, and the bearer of the poison escaped. The counsel
for the prisoner makes a great point of this.

"Why, 'tis the catastrophe of a stage-play--nay, of a burlesque; when no
more artistic solution of the plot can be invented, the hero escapes, the
bell rings, and--the curtain falls! For I ask why, when Licinius was there
trembling, hesitating, retreating, trying to escape--why that lady's
body-guard let him go out of their hands? Were they afraid lest, so
many against one, such stout champions against a single helpless man,
frightened as he was and fierce as they were, they could not master him? I
should like exceedingly to see them, those curled and scented youths, the
bosom-friends of this rich and noble lady; those stout men-at-arms who
were posted by their she-captain in this ambuscade in the baths. And I
should like to ask them how they hid themselves, and where? A bath?--why,
it must rather have been a Trojan horse, which bore within its womb this
band of invincible heroes who went to war for a woman! I would make them
answer this question,--why they, being so many and so brave, did not
either seize this slight stripling, whom you see before you, where he
stood, or overtake him when he fled? They will hardly be able to explain
themselves, I fancy, if they get into that witness-box, however clever and
witty they may be at the banquet,--nay, even eloquent occasionally, no
doubt, over their wine. But the air of a court of justice is somewhat
different from that of the banquet-hall; the benches of this court are
not like the couches of a supper-table; the array of this jury presents a
different spectacle from a company of revellers; nay, the broad glare of
sunshine is harder to face than the glitter of the lamps. If they venture
into it, I shall have to strip them of their pretty conceits and fools'
gear. But, if they will be ruled by me, they will betake themselves to
another trade, win favour in another quarter, flaunt themselves elsewhere
than in this court. Let them carry their brave looks to their lady there;
let them lord it at her expense, cling to her, lie at her feet, be her
slaves; only let them make no attempt upon the life and honour of an
innocent man".

The satellites of Clodia could scarcely have felt comfortable under this
withering fire of sarcasm. The speaker concluded with an apology--much
required--for his client's faults, as those of a young man, and a promise
on his behalf--on the faith of an advocate--that he would behave better
for the future. He wound up the whole with a point of sensational rhetoric
which was common, as has been said, to the Roman bar as to our own--an
appeal to the jurymen as fathers. He pointed to the aged father of the
defendant, leaning in the most approved attitude upon the shoulder of
his son. Either this, or the want of evidence, or the eloquence of the
pleader, had its due effect. Caelius was triumphantly acquitted; and it
is a proof that the young man was not wholly graceless, that he rose
afterwards to high public office, and never forgot his obligations to his
eloquent counsel, to whom he continued a stanch friend. He must have had
good abilities, for he was honoured with frequent letters from Cicero when
the latter was governor of Cilicia. He kept up some of his extravagant
tastes; for when he was Aedile (which involved the taking upon him the
expense of certain gladiatorial and wild-beast exhibitions), he wrote to
beg his friend to send him out of his province some panthers for his
show. Cicero complied with the request, and took the opportunity, so
characteristic of him, of lauding his own administration of Cilicia, and
making a kind of pun at the same time. "I have given orders to the hunters
to see about the panthers; but panthers are very scarce, and the few there
are complain, people say, that in the whole province there are no traps
laid for anybody but for them". Catching and skinning the unfortunate
provincials, which had been a favourite sport with governors like Verres,
had been quite done away with in Cilicia, we are to understand, under
Cicero's rule.

His defence of Ligarius, who was impeached of treason against the state
in the person of Caesar, as having borne arms against him in his African
campaign, has also been deservedly admired. There was some courage in
Cicero's undertaking his defence; as a known partisan of Pompey, he was
treading on dangerous and delicate ground. Caesar was dictator at the
time; and the case seems to have been tried before him as the sole
judicial authority, without pretence of the intervention of anything like
a jury. The defence--if defence it may be called--is a remarkable instance
of the common appeal, not to the merits of the case, but to the feelings
of the court. After making out what case he could for his client, the
advocate as it were throws up his brief, and rests upon the clemency of
the judge. Caesar himself, it must be remembered, had begun public life,
like Cicero, as a pleader: and, in the opinion of some competent judges,
such as Tacitus and Quintilian, had bid fair to be a close rival.

"I have pleaded many causes, Caesar--some, indeed, in association with
yourself, while your public career spared you to the courts; but surely I
never yet used language of this sort,--'Pardon him, sirs, he has offended:
he has made a false step: he did not think to do it; he never will again'.
This is language we use to a father. To the court it must be,--'He did
not do it: he never contemplated it: the evidence is false; the charge is
fabricated'. If you tell me you sit but as the judge of the fact in this
case, Caesar,--if you ask me where and when he served against you,--I am
silent; I will not now dwell on the extenuating circumstances, which even
before a judicial tribunal might have their weight. We take this course
before a judge, but I am here pleading to a father. 'I have erred--I have
done wrong, I am sorry: I take refuge in your clemency; I ask forgiveness
for my fault; I pray you, pardon me'.... There is nothing so popular,
believe me, sir, as kindness; of all your many virtues none wins men's
admiration and their love like mercy. In nothing do men reach so near the
gods, as when they can give life and safety to mankind. Fortune has given
you nothing more glorious than the power, your own nature can supply
nothing more noble than the will, to spare and pardon wherever you can.
The case perhaps demands a longer advocacy--your gracious disposition
feels it too long already. So I make an end, preferring for my cause that
you should argue with your own heart, than that I or any other should
argue with you. I will urge nothing more than this,--the grace which you
shall extend to my client in his absence, will be felt as a boon by all
here present".

The great conqueror was, it is said, visibly affected by the appeal, and
Ligarius was pardoned.



Not content with his triumphs in prose, Cicero had always an ambition--to
be a poet. Of his attempts in this way we have only some imperfect
fragments, scattered here and there through his other works, too scanty
to form any judgment upon. His poetical ability is apt to be unfairly
measured by two lines which his opponents were very fond of quoting and
laughing at, and which for that reason have become the best known. But it
is obvious that if Wordsworth or Tennyson were to be judged solely by a
line or two picked out by an unfavourable reviewer--say from 'Peter Bell'
or from the early version of the 'Miller's Daughter'--posterity would have
a very mistaken appreciation of their merits. Plutarch and the younger
Pliny, who had seen more of Cicero's poetry than we have, thought highly
of it. So he did himself; but so it was his nature to think of most of his
own performances; and such an estimate is common to other authors besides
Cicero, though few announce it so openly. Montaigne takes him to task for
this, with more wit, perhaps, than fairness. "It is no great fault to
write poor verses; but it is a fault not to be able to see how unworthy
such poor verses were of his reputation". Voltaire, on the other hand, who
was perhaps as good a judge, thought there was "nothing more beautiful"
than some of the fragments of his poem on 'Marius', who was the ideal hero
of his youth. Perhaps the very fact, however, of none of his poems having
been preserved, is some argument that such poetic gift as he had was
rather facility than genius. He wrote, besides this poem on 'Marius', a
'History of my Consulship', and a 'History of my Own Times', in verse, and
some translations from Homer.

He had no notion of what other men called relaxation: he found his own
relaxation in a change of work. He excuses himself in one of his orations
for this strange taste, as it would seem to the indolent and luxurious
Roman nobles with whom he was so unequally yoked.

"Who after all shall blame me, or who has any right to be angry with me,
if the time which is not grudged to others for managing their private
business, for attending public games and festivals, for pleasures of any
other kind,--nay, even for very rest of mind and body,--the time
which others give to convivial meetings, to the gaming-table, to the
tennis-court,--this much I take for myself, for the resumption of my
favourite studies?"

In this indefatigable appetite for work of all kinds, he reminds us of no
modern politician so much as of Sir George Cornewall Lewis; yet he would
not have altogether agreed with him in thinking that life would be very
tolerable if it were not for its amusements. He was, as we have seen, of a
naturally social disposition. "I like a dinner-party", he says in a letter
to one of his friends; "where I can say just what comes uppermost, and
turn my sighs and sorrows into a hearty laugh. I doubt whether you are
much better yourself, when you can laugh as you did even at a philosopher.
When the man asked--'Whether anybody wanted to know anything?' you said
you had been wanting to know all day when it would be dinner-time. The
fellow expected you to say you wanted to know how many worlds there were,
or something of that kind".[1]

[Footnote 1: These professional philosophers, at literary dinner-parties,
offered to discuss and answer any question propounded by the company.]

He is said to have been a great laugher. Indeed, he confesses honestly
that the sense of humour was very powerful with him--"I am wonderfully
taken by anything comic", he writes to one of his friends. He reckons
humour also as a useful ally to the orator. "A happy jest or facetious
turn is not only pleasant, but also highly useful occasionally;" but he
adds that this is an accomplishment which must come naturally, and cannot
be taught under any possible system.[1] There is at least sufficient
evidence that he was much given to making jokes, and some of them which
have come down to us would imply that a Roman audience was not very
critical on this point. There is an air of gravity about all courts of
justice which probably makes a very faint amount of jocularity hailed as a
relief. Even in an English law-court, a joke from the bar, much more from
the bench, does not need to be of any remarkable brilliancy in order to be
secure of raising a laugh; and we may fairly suppose that the same was the
case at Rome. Cicero's jokes were frequently nothing more than puns, which
it would be impossible, even if it were worth while, to reproduce to an
English ear. Perhaps the best, or at all events the most intelligible, is
his retort to Hortensius during the trial of Verres. The latter was said
to have feed his counsel out of his Sicilian spoils--especially, there was
a figure of a sphinx, of some artistic value, which had found its way from
the house of the ex-governor into that of Hortensius. Cicero was putting
a witness through a cross-examination of which his opponent could not see
the bearing. "I do not understand all this", said Hortensius; "I am no
hand at solving riddles". "That is strange, too", rejoined Cicero, "when
you have a sphinx at home". In the same trial he condescended, in the
midst of that burning eloquence of which we have spoken, to make two puns
on the defendant's name. The word "_Verres_" had two meanings in
the old Latin tongue: it signified a "boar-pig", and also a "broom" or
"sweeping-brush". One of Verres's friends, who either was or had the
reputation of being a Jew, had tried to get the management of the
prosecution out of Cicero's hands. "What has a Jew to do with
_pork_?" asked the orator. Speaking, in the course of the same trial,
of the way in which the governor had made "requisitions" of all the most
valuable works of art throughout the island, "the broom", said he, "swept
clean". He did not disdain the comic element in poetry more than in prose;
for we find in Quinitilian [2] a quotation from a punning epigram in some
collection of such trifles which in his time bore Cicero's name. Tiro is
said to have collected and published three volumes of his master's good
things after his death; but if they were not better than those which have
come down to us, as contained in his other writings, there has been no
great loss to literature in Tiro's 'Ciceroniana'. He knew one secret at
least of a successful humourist in society: for it is to him that we
owe the first authoritative enunciation of a rule which is universally
admitted--"that a jest never has so good an effect as when it is uttered
with a serious countenance".

[Footnote 1: De Orat. II. 54.]

[Footnote 2: 'Libellus Jocularis', Quint. viii. 6.]

Cicero had a wonderful admiration for the Greeks. "I am not ashamed to
confess", he writes to his brother, "especially since my life and career
have been such that no suspicion of indolence or want of energy can rest
upon me, that all my own attainments are due to those studies and those
accomplishments which have been handed down to us in the literary
treasures and the philosophical systems of the Greeks". It was no mere
rhetorical outburst, when in his defence of Valerius Flaccus, accused
like Verres, whether truly or falsely, of corrupt administration in his
province, he thus introduced the deputation from Athens and Lacedaemon who
appeared as witnesses to the character of his client.

"Athenians are here to-day, amongst whom civilisation, learning, religion,
agriculture, public law and justice, had their birth, and whence they have
been disseminated over all the world: for the possession of whose city,
on account of its exceeding beauty, even gods are said to have contended:
which is of such antiquity, that she is said to have bred her citizens
within herself, and the same soil is termed at once their mother, their
nurse, and their country: whose importance and influence is such that the
name of Greece, though it has lost much of its weight and power, still
holds its place by virtue of the renown of this single city".

He had forgotten, perhaps, as an orator is allowed to forget, that in the
very same speech, when his object was to discredit the accusers of his
client, he had said, what was very commonly said of the Greeks at Rome,
that they were a nation of liars. There were excellent men among them, he
allowed--thinking at the moment of the counter-evidence which he had ready
for the defendant--but he goes on to make this sweeping declaration:

"I will say this of the whole race of the Greeks: I grant them literary
genius, I grant them skill in various accomplishments, I do not deny them
elegance in conversation, acuteness of intellect, fluent oratory; to any
other high qualities they may claim I make no objection: but the sacred
obligation that lies upon a witness to speak the truth is what that nation
has never regarded".[1]

[Footnote 1: Defence of Val. Flaccus, c. 4.]

There was a certain proverb, he went on to say, "Lend me your evidence",
implying--"and you shall have mine when you want it;" a Greek proverb, of
course, and men knew these three words of Greek who knew no Greek besides.
What he loved in the Greeks, then, was rather the grandeur of their
literature and the charm of their social qualities (a strict regard for
truth is, unhappily, no indispensable ingredient in this last); he had no
respect whatever for their national character. The orator was influenced,
perhaps, most of all by his intense reverence for the Athenian
Demosthenes, whom, as a master in his art, he imitated and well-nigh
worshipped. The appreciation of his own powers which every able man has,
and of which Cicero had at least his share, fades into humility when he
comes to speak of his great model. "Absolutely perfect", he calls him in
one place; and again in another, "What I have attempted, Demosthenes has
achieved". Yet he felt also at times, when the fervour of genius was
strong within him, that there was an ideal of eloquence enshrined in his
own inmost mind, "which I can _feel_", he says, "but which I never
knew to exist in any man".

He could not only write Greek as a scholar, but seems to have spoken it
with considerable ease and fluency; for on one occasion he made a speech
in that language, a condescension which some of his friends thought
derogatory to the dignity of a Roman.

From the Greeks he learnt to appreciate art. How far his taste was really
cultivated in this respect is difficult for us to judge. Some passages
in his letters to Atticus might lead us to suspect that, as Disraeli
concludes, he was rather a collector than a real lover of art. His appeals
to his friend to buy up for him everything and anything, and his surrender
of himself entirely to Atticus's judgment in such purchases, do not
bespeak a highly critical taste. In a letter to another friend, he seems
to say that he only bought statuary as "furniture" for the gymnasium at
his country-seat; and he complains that four figures of Bacchanals, which
this friend had just bought for him, had cost more than he would care to
give for all the statues that ever were made. On the other hand, when he
comes to deal with Verres's wholesale plunder of paintings and statues in
Sicily, he talks about the several works with considerable enthusiasm.
Either he really understood his subject, or, like an able advocate, he
had thoroughly got up his brief. But the art-notices which are scattered
through his works show a considerable acquaintance with the artist-world
of his day. He tells us, in his own admirable style, the story of Zeuxis,
and the selection which he made from all the beauties of Crotona, in
order to combine their several points of perfection in his portrait of
Helen; he refers more than once, and always in language which implies an
appreciation of the artist, to the works of Phidias, especially that
which is said to have cost him his life--the shield of Minerva; and he
discusses, though it is but by way of illustration, the comparative
points of merit in the statues of Calamis, and Myron, and Polycletus,
and in the paintings of the earlier schools of Zeuxis, Polygnotus, and
Timanthes, with their four primitive colours, as compared with the more
finished schools of Protogenes and Apelles.




It seems wonderful how, in the midst of all his work, Cicero found time to
keep up such a voluminous correspondence. Something like eight hundred of
his letters still remain to us, and there were whole volumes of them long
preserved which are now lost,[1] to say nothing of the very many which may
never have been thought worth preserving. The secret lay in his wonderful
energy and activity. We find him writing letters before day-break, during
the service of his meals, on his journeys, and dictating them to an
amanuensis as he walked up and down to take needful exercise.

[Footnote 1: Collections of his letters to Caesar, Brutus, Cornelius Nepos
the historian, Hirtius, Pansa, and to his son, are known to have existed.]

His correspondents were of almost all varieties of position and character,
from Caesar and Pompey, the great men of the day, down to his domestic
servant and secretary, Tiro. Amongst them were rich and ease-loving
Epicureans like Atticus and Paetus, and even men of pleasure like Caelius:
grave Stoics like Cato, eager patriots like Brutus and Cassius, authors
such as Cornelius Nepos and Lucceius the historians, Varro the grammarian,
and Metius the poet; men who dabbled with literature in a gentleman-like
way, like Hirtius and Appius, and the accomplished literary critic and
patron of the day--himself of no mean reputation as poet, orator, and
historian--Caius Asinius Pollio. Cicero's versatile powers found no
difficulty in suiting the contents of his own letters to the various
tastes and interests of his friends. Sometimes he sends to his
correspondent what was in fact a political journal of the day--rather
one-sided, it must be confessed, as all political journals are, but
furnishing us with items of intelligence which throw light, as nothing
else can, on the history of those latter days of the Republic. Sometimes
he jots down the mere gossip of his last dinner-party; sometimes he
notices the speculations of the last new theorist in philosophy, or
discusses with a literary friend some philological question--the latter
being a study in which he was very fond of dabbling, though with little
success, for the science of language was as yet unknown.

His chief correspondent, as has been said, was his old school-fellow and
constant friend through life, Pomponius Atticus. The letters addressed to
him which still remain to us cover a period of twenty-four years, with
a few occasional interruptions, and the correspondence only ceased with
Cicero's death. The Athenianised Roman, though he had deliberately
withdrawn himself from the distracting factions of his native city, which
he seldom revisited, kept on the best terms with the leaders of all
parties, and seems to have taken a very lively interest, though merely in
the character of a looker-on, in the political events which crowded so
fast upon each other during the fifty years of his voluntary expatriation.
Cicero's letters were to him what an English newspaper would be now to an
English gentleman who for his own reasons preferred to reside in Paris,
without forswearing his national interests and sympathies. At times, when
Cicero was more at leisure, and when messengers were handy (for we have
to remember that there was nothing like our modern post), Cicero would
despatch one of these letters to Atticus daily. We have nearly four
hundred of them in all. They are continually garnished, even to the point
of affectation, with Greek quotations and phrases, partly perhaps in
compliment to his friend's Athenian tastes, and partly from the writer's
own passion for the language.

So much reference has been made to them throughout the previous
biographical sketch,--for they supply us with some of the most important
materials for Cicero's life and times,--that it may be sufficient to give
in this place two or three of the shorter as specimens of the collection.
One which describes a visit which he received from Julius Caesar, already
dictator, in his country-house near Puteoli, is interesting, as affording
a glimpse behind the scenes in those momentous days when no one knew
exactly whether the great captain was to turn out a patriot or a
conspirator against the liberties of Rome.

"To think that I should have had such a tremendous visitor! But never
mind; for all went off very pleasantly. But when he arrived at Philippus's
house[1] on the evening of the second day of the Saturnalia, the place was
so full of soldiers that they could hardly find a spare table for Caesar
himself to dine at. There were two thousand men. Really I was in a state
of perplexity as to what was to be done next day: but Barba Cassius came
to my aid,--he supplied me with a guard. They pitched their tents in the
grounds, and the house was protected. He stayed with Philippus until one
o'clock on the third day of the Saturnalia, and would see no one. Going
over accounts, I suppose, with Balbus. Then he walked on the sea-shore.
After two he had a bath: then he listened to some verses on Mamurra,
without moving a muscle of his countenance: then dressed,[2] and sat down
to dinner. He had taken a precautionary emetic, and therefore ate and
drank heartily and unrestrainedly. We had, I assure you, a very good
dinner, and well served; and not only that, but

'The feast of reason and the flow of soul'[3]

besides. His suite were abundantly supplied at three other tables: the
freedmen of lower rank, and even the slaves, were well taken care of. The
higher class had really an elegant entertainment. Well, no need to make a
long story; we found we were both 'flesh and blood'. Still he is not the
kind of guest to whom you would say--'Now do, pray, take us in your way on
your return'. Once is enough. We had no conversation on business, but a
good deal of literary talk. In short, he seemed to be much pleased, and to
enjoy himself. He said he should stay one day at Puteoli, and another at
Baiae. So here you have an account of this visit, or rather quartering of
troops upon me, which I disliked the thoughts of, but which really, as I
have said, gave me no annoyance. I shall stay here a little longer, then
go to my house at Tusculum. When Caesar passed Dolabella's villa, all
the troops formed up on the right and left of his horse, which they did
nowhere else.[4] I heard that from Nicias".

[Footnote 1: This was close to Cicero's villa, on the coast.]

[Footnote 2: Literally, "he got himself oiled". The emetic was a
disgusting practice of Roman _bon vivants_ who were afraid of

[Footnote 3: The verse which Cicero quotes from Lucilius is fairly
equivalent to this.]

[Footnote 4: Probably by way of salute; or possibly as a precaution.]

In the following, he is anticipating a visit from his friend, and from the
lady to whom he is betrothed.

"I had a delightful visit from Cincius on the 30th of January, before
daylight. For he told me that you were in Italy, and that he was going
to send off some messengers to you, and would not let them go without a
letter from me. Not that I have much to write about (especially when
you are all but here), except to assure you that I am anticipating your
arrival with the greatest delight. Therefore fly to me, to show your own
affection, and to see what affection I bear you. Other matters when we
meet. I have written this in a hurry. As soon as ever you arrive, bring
all your people to my house. You will gratify me very much by coming. You
will see how wonderfully well Tyrrannio has arranged my books, the remains
of which are much better than I had thought. And I should be very glad if
you could send me a couple of your library clerks whom Tyrrannio could
make use of as binders, and to help him in other ways; and tell them to
bring some parchment to make indices--syllabuses, I believe you Greeks
call them. But this only if quite convenient to you. But, at any rate, be
sure you come yourself, if you can make any stay in our parts, and bring
Pilia with you, for that is but fair, and Tullia wishes it much. Upon my
word you have bought a very fine place. I hear that your gladiators fight
capitally. If you had cared to hire them out, you might have cleared
your expenses at these two last public shows. But we can talk about this
hereafter. Be sure to come; and do your best about the clerks, if you love

The Roman gentleman of elegant and accomplished tastes, keeping a troop of
private gladiators, and thinking of hiring them out, to our notions, is a
curious combination of character; but the taste was not essentially more
brutal than the prize-ring and the cock-fights of the last century.


Another of Cicero's favourite correspondents was Papirius Paetus, who
seems to have lived at home at ease, and taken little part in the
political tumults of his day. Like Atticus, he was an Epicurean, and
thought more of the pleasures of life than of its cares and duties. Yet
Cicero evidently took great pleasure in his society, and his letters to
him are written in the same familiar and genial tone as those to his old
school-fellow. Some of them throw a pleasant light upon the social
habits of the day. Cicero had had some friends staying with him at his
country-seat at Tusculum, to whom, he says, he had been giving lessons in
oratory. Dolabella, his son-in-law, and Hirtius, the future consul, were
among them. "They are my scholars in declamation, and I am theirs in
dinner-eating; for I conclude you have heard (you seem to hear everything)
that they come to me to declaim, and I go to them for dinners. 'Tis all
very well for you to swear that you cannot entertain me in such grand
fashion as I am used to, but it is of use.... Better be victimised by your
friend than by your debtors, as you have been. After all, I don't require
such a banquet as leaves a great waste behind it; a little will do, only
handsomely served and well cooked. I remember your telling me about a
dinner of Phamea's--well, it need not be such a late affair as that, nor
so grand in other respects; nay, if you persist in giving me one of your
mother's old family dinners, I can stand even that. My new reputation
for good living has reached you, I find, before my arrival, and you are
alarmed at it; but, pray, put no trust in your ante-courses--I have given
up that altogether. I used to spoil my appetite, I remember, upon your oil
and sliced sausages.... One expense I really shall put you to; I must have
my warm bath. My other habits, I assure you, are quite unaltered; all the
rest is joke".

Paetus seems to answer him with the same good-humoured badinage. Balbus,
the governor of Africa, had been to see him, he says, and _he_ had
been content with such humble fare as he feared Cicero might despise. So
much, at least, we may gather from Cicero's answer.

"Satirical as ever, I see. You say Balbus was content with very modest
fare. You seem to insinuate that when grandees are so moderate, much more
ought a poor ex-consul like myself so to be. You don't know that I fished
it all out of your visitor himself, for he came straight to my house on
his landing. The very first words I said to him were, 'How did you get on
with our friend Paetus?' He swore he had never been better entertained.
If this referred to the charms of your conversation, remember, I shall
be quite as appreciative a listener as Balbus; but if it meant the good
things on the table, I must beg you will not treat us men of eloquence
worse than you do a 'Lisper'".[1]

[Footnote 1: One of Cicero's puns. Balbus means 'Lisper'.]

They carry on this banter through several letters. Cicero regrets that he
has been unable as yet to pay his threatened visit, when his friend would
have seen what advances he had made in gastronomic science. He was
able now to eat through the whole bill of fare--"from the eggs to the

"I [Stoic that used to be] have gone over with my whole forces into the
camp of Epicurus. You will have to do with a man who can eat, and who
knows what's what. You know how conceited we late learners are, as the
proverb says. You will have to unlearn those little 'plain dinners' and
makeshifts of yours. We have made such advances in the art, that we
have been venturing to invite, more than once, your friends Verrius and
Camillus (what elegant and fastidious gentlemen they are!). But see how
audacious we are getting! I have even given Hirtius a dinner--but without
a peacock. My cook could imitate nothing in his entertainments except the
hot soup".

Then he hears that his friend is in bed with the gout.

"I am extremely sorry to hear it, as in duty bound; still, I am quite
determined to come, that I may see you, and pay my visit,--yes, and have
my dinner: for I suppose your cook has not got the gout as well".

Such were the playful epistles of a busy man. But even in some of these
lightest effusions we see the cares of the statesman showing through. Here
is a portion of a later letter to the same friend.

"I am very much concerned to hear you have given up going out to
dinner; for it is depriving yourself of a great source of enjoyment and
gratification. Then, again, I am afraid--for it is as well to speak
honestly--lest you should unlearn certain old habits of yours, and forget
to give your own little dinners. For if formerly, when you had good
examples to imitate, you were still not much of a proficient in that way,
how can I suppose you will get on now? Spurina, indeed, when I mentioned
the thing to him, and explained your previous habits, proved to
demonstration that there would be danger to the highest interests of the
state if you did not return to your old ways in the spring. But indeed, my
good Paetus, I advise you, joking apart, to associate with good fellows,
and pleasant fellows, and men who are fond of you. There is nothing better
worth having in life, nothing that makes life more happy.... See how I
employ philosophy to reconcile you to dinner-parties. Take care of your
health; and that you will best do by going out to dinner.... But don't
imagine, as you love me, that because I write jestingly I have thrown off
all anxiety about public affairs. Be assured, my dear Paetus, that I seek
nothing and care for nothing, night or day, but how my country may be kept
safe and free. I omit no opportunity of advising, planning, or acting. I
feel in my heart that if in securing this I have to lay down my life, I
shall have ended it well and honourably".


Between Marcus Cicero and his younger brother Quintus there existed a very
sincere and cordial affection--somewhat warmer, perhaps, on the side of
the elder, inasmuch as his wealth and position enabled him rather to
confer than to receive kindnesses; the rule in such cases being (so
cynical philosophers tell us) that the affection is lessened rather than
increased by the feeling of obligation. He almost adopted the younger
Quintus, his nephew, and had him educated with his own son; and the two
cousins received their earlier training together in one or other of Marcus
Cicero's country-houses under a clever Greek freedman of his, who was an
excellent scholar, and--what was less usual amongst his countrymen, unless
Cicero's estimate of them does them great injustice--a very honest man,
but, as the two boys complained, terribly passionate. Cicero himself,
however, was the head tutor--an office for which, as he modestly writes,
his Greek studies fully qualified him. Quintus Cicero behaved ill to his
brother after the battle of Pharsalia, making what seem to have been very
unjust accusations against him in order to pay court to Caesar; but they
soon became friends again.

Twenty-nine of the elder Cicero's letters to his brother remain, written
in terms of remarkable kindness and affection, which go far to vindicate
the Roman character from a charge which has sometimes been brought against
it of coldness in these family relationships. Few modern brothers,
probably, would write to each other in such terms as these:

"Afraid lest your letters bother me? I wish you would bother me, and
re-bother me, and talk to me and at me; for what can give me more
pleasure? I swear that no muse-stricken rhymester ever reads his own last
poem with more delight than I do what you write to me about matters
public or private, town or country. Here now is a letter from you full of
pleasant matter, but with this dash of the disagreeable in it, that you
have been afraid--nay, are even now afraid--of being troublesome to me.
I could quarrel with you about it, if that were not a sin. But if I have
reason to suspect anything of that sort again, I can only say that I shall
always be afraid lest, when we are together, I may be troublesome to you".

Or take, again, the pathetic apology which he makes for having avoided an
interview with Quintus in those first days of his exile when he was so
thoroughly unmanned:

"My brother, my brother, my brother! Did you really fear that I was angry,
because I sent off the slaves without any letter to you? And did you even
think that I was unwilling to see you? I angry with you? Could I possibly
be angry with you?... When I miss you, it is not a brother only that I
miss. To me you have always been the pleasantest of companions, a son in
dutiful affection, a father in counsel. What pleasure ever had I without
you, or you without me?"

Quintus had accompanied Caesar on his expedition into Britain as one
of his lieutenants, and seems to have written home to his brother some
notices of the country; to which the latter, towards the end of his reply,
makes this allusion:

"How delighted I was to get your letter from Britain! I had been afraid of
the voyage across, afraid of the rock-bound coast of the island. The other
dangers of such a campaign I do not mean to despise, but in these there is
more to hope than to fear, and I have been rather anxiously expecting the
result than in any real alarm about it. I see you have a capital subject
to write about. What novel scenery, what natural curiosities and
remarkable places, what strange tribes and strange customs, what a
campaign, and what a commander you have to describe! I will willingly help
you in the points you request, and I will send you the verses you ask
for--though it is sending 'an owl to Athens',[1] I know".

[Footnote 1: A Greek proverb, equivalent to our 'coals to Newcastle'.]

In another letter he says, "Only give me Britain to paint with your
colours and my own pencil". But either the Britons of those days did not,
after all, seem to afford sufficient interest for poem or history, or for
some other reason this joint literary undertaking, which seems once to
have been contemplated, was never carried out, and we have missed what
would beyond doubt have been a highly interesting volume of Sketches in
Britain by the brothers Cicero.

Quintus was a poet, as well as his brother--nay, a better poet, in the
latter's estimation, or at least he was polite enough to say so more than
once. In quantity, at least, if not in quality, the younger must have been
a formidable rival, for he wrote, as appears from one of these letters,
four tragedies in fifteen days--possibly translations only from the Greek.

One of the most remarkable of all Cicero's letters, and perhaps that which
does him most credit both as a man and a statesman, is one which he wrote
to his brother, who was at the time governor of Asia. Indeed, it is much
more than a letter; it is rather a grave and carefully weighed paper
of instructions on the duties of such a position. It is full of sound
practical sense, and lofty principles of statesmanship--very different
from the principles which too commonly ruled the conduct of Roman
governors abroad. The province which had fallen to the lot of Quintus
Cicero was one of the richest belonging to the Empire, and which presented
the greatest temptations and the greatest facilities for the abuse of
power to selfish purposes. Though called Asia, it consisted only of the
late kingdom of Pergamus, and had come under the dominion of Rome, not by
conquest, as was the case with most of the provinces, but by way of legacy
from Attalus, the last of its kings; who, after murdering most of his own
relations, had named the Roman people as his heirs. The seat of government
was at Ephesus. The population was of a very mixed character, consisting
partly of true Asiatics, and partly of Asiatic Greeks, the descendants of
the old colonists, and containing also a large Roman element--merchants
who were there for purposes of trade, many of them bankers and
money-lenders, and speculators who farmed the imperial taxes, and were
by no means scrupulous in the matter of fleecing the provincials. These
latter--the 'Publicani', as they were termed--might prove very dangerous
enemies to any too zealous reformer. If the Roman governor there really
wished to do his duty, what with the combined servility and double-dealing
of the Orientals, the proverbial lying of the Greeks, and the grasping
injustice of the Roman officials, he had a very difficult part to play.
How Quintus had been playing it is not quite clear. His brother, in this
admirable letter, assumes that he had done all that was right, and urges
him to maintain the same course. But the advice would hardly have been
needed if all had gone well hitherto.

"You will find little trouble in holding your subordinates in check, if
you can but keep a check upon yourself. So long as you resist gain, and
pleasure, and all other temptations, as I am sure you do, I cannot fancy
there will be any danger of your not being able to check a dishonest
merchant or an extortionate collector. For even the Greeks, when they see
you living thus, will look upon you as some hero from their old annals, or
some supernatural being from heaven, come down into their province.

"I write thus, not to urge you so to act, but that you may congratulate
yourself upon having so acted, now and heretofore. For it is a glorious
thing for a man to have held a government for three years in Asia, in such
sort that neither statue, nor painting, nor work of art of any kind,
nor any temptations of wealth or beauty (in all which temptations your
province abounds) could draw you from the strictest integrity and
self-control: that your official progresses should have been no cause
of dread to the inhabitants, that none should be impoverished by your
requisitions, none terrified at the news of your approach;--but that
you should have brought with you, wherever you came, the most hearty
rejoicings, public and private, inasmuch as every town saw in you a
protector and not a tyrant--every family received you as a guest, not as a

"But in these points, as experience has by this time taught you, it is not
enough for you to have these virtues yourself, but you must look to it
carefully, that in this guardianship of the province not you alone, but
every officer under you, discharges his duty to our subjects, to our
fellow-citizens, and to the state.... If any of your subordinates seem
grasping for his own interest, you may venture to bear with him so long
as he merely neglects the rules by which he ought to be personally bound;
never so far as to allow him to abuse for his own gain the power with
which you have intrusted him to maintain the dignity of his office. For
I do not think it well, especially since the customs of official life
incline so much of late to laxity and corrupt influence, that you should
scrutinise too closely every abuse, or criticise too strictly every one of
your officers, but rather place trust in each in proportion as you feel
confidence in his integrity.

"For those whom the state has assigned you as companions and assistants
in public business, you are answerable only within the limits I have just
laid down; but for those whom you have chosen to associate with yourself
as members of your private establishment and personal suite, you will be
held responsible not only for all they do, but for all they say....

"Your ears should be supposed to hear only what you publicly listen to,
not to be open to every secret and false whisper for the sake of private
gain. Your official seal should be not as a mere common tool, but as
though it were yourself; not the instrument of other men's wills, but the
evidence of your own. Your officers should be the agents of your clemency,
not of their own caprice; and the rods and axes which they bear should be
the emblems of your dignity, not merely of your power. In short, the whole
province should feel that the persons, the families, the reputation, and
the fortunes of all over whom you rule, are held by you very precious. Let
it be well understood that you will hold that man as much your enemy who
gives a bribe, if it comes to your knowledge, as the man who receives it.
But no one will offer bribes, if this be once made clear, that those who
pretend to have influence of this kind with you have no power, after all,
to gain any favour for others at your hands.

* * * * *

"Let such, then, be the foundations of your dignity;--first, integrity and
self-control on your own part; a becoming behaviour on the part of all
about you; a very careful and circumspect selection of your intimates,
whether Greeks or provincials; a grave and firm discipline maintained
throughout your household. For if such conduct befits us in our private
and everyday relations, it becomes well-nigh godlike in a government of
such extent, in a state of morals so depraved, and in a province which
presents so many temptations. Such a line of conduct and such rules will
alone enable you to uphold that severity in your decisions and decrees
which you have employed in some cases, and by which we have incurred (and
I cannot regret it) the jealousy of certain interested parties.... You may
safely use the utmost strictness in the administration of justice, so long
as it is not capricious or partial, but maintained at the same level for
all. Yet it will be of little use that your own decisions be just and
carefully weighed, unless the same course be pursued by all to whom you
delegate any portion of your judicial authority. Such firmness and dignity
must be employed as may not only be above partiality, but above the
suspicion of it. To this must be added readiness to give audience,
calmness in deciding, care in weighing the merits of the case and in
satisfying the claims of the parties".

Yet he advises that justice should be tempered with leniency.

"If such moderation be popular at Rome, where there is so much
self-assertion, such unbridled freedom, so much licence allowed to all
men;--where there are so many courts of appeal open, so many means
of help, where the people have so much power and the Senate so much
authority; how grateful beyond measure will moderation be in the governor
of Asia, a province where all that vast number of our fellow-citizens and
subjects, all those numerous states and cities, hang upon one man's nod!
where there is no appeal to the tribune, no remedy at law, no Senate, no
popular assembly. Wherefore it should be the aim of a great man, and one
noble by nature and trained by education and liberal studies, so to behave
himself in the exercise of that absolute power, as that they over whom
he presides should never have cause to wish for any authority other than


Of all Cicero's correspondence, his letters to Tiro supply the most
convincing evidence of his natural kindness of heart. Tiro was a slave;
but this must be taken with some explanation. The slaves in a household
like Cicero's would vary in position from the lowest menial to the
important major-domo and the confidential secretary. Tiro was of this
higher class. He had probably been born and brought up in the service,
like Eliezer in the household of Abraham, and had become, like him, the
trusted agent of his master and the friend of the whole family. He was
evidently a person of considerable ability and accomplishments, acting as
literary amanuensis, and indeed in some sort as a domestic critic, to his
busy master. He had accompanied him to his government in Cilicia, and
on the return home had been taken ill, and obliged to be left behind at
Patrae. And this is Cicero's affectionate letter to him, written from
Leucas (Santa Maura) the day afterwards:

"I thought I could have borne the separation from you better, but it is
plainly impossible; and although it is of great importance to the honours
which I am expecting[1] that I should get to Rome as soon as possible, yet
I feel I made a great mistake in leaving you behind. But as it seemed to
be your wish not to make the voyage until your health was restored, I
approved your decision. Nor do I think otherwise now, if you are still of
the same opinion. But if hereafter, when you are able to eat as usual, you
think you can follow me here, it is for you to decide. I sent Mario to
you, telling him either to join me with you as soon as possible, or, if
you are delayed, to come back here at once. But be assured of this, that
if it can be so without risk to your health, there is nothing I wish so
much as to have you with me. Only, if you feel it necessary for your
recovery to stay a little longer at Patrae, there is nothing I wish so
much as for you to get well. If you sail at once, you will catch us at
Leucas. But if you want to get well first, take care to secure pleasant
companions, fine weather, and a good ship. Mind this, my good Tiro, if you
love me--let neither Mario's visit nor this letter hurry you. By doing
what is best for your own health, you will be best obeying my directions.
Consider these points with your usual good sense. I miss you very much;
but then I love you, and my affection makes me wish to see you well, just
as my want of you makes me long to see you as soon as possible. But the
first point is the most important. Above all, therefore, take care to
get well: of all your innumerable services to me, this will be the most

[Footnote 1: The triumph for the victory gained under his nominal command
over the hill-tribes in Cilicia, during his governorship of that province
(p. 68).]

Cicero writes to him continually during his own journey homewards with the
most thoughtful kindness, begs that he will be cautious as to what vessel
he sails in, and recommends specially one very careful captain. He has
left a horse and a mule ready for him when he lands at Brundusium. Then he
hears that Tiro had been foolish enough to go to a concert, or something
of the kind, before he was strong, for which he mildly reproves him. He
has written to the physician to spare no care or pains, and to charge,
apparently, what he pleases. Several of his letters to his friend Atticus,
at this date, speak in the most anxious and affectionate terms of the
serious illness of this faithful servant. Just as he and his party are
starting from Leucas, they send a note "from Cicero and his son, and
Quintus the elder and younger, to their best and kindest Tiro". Then from
Rome comes a letter in the name of the whole family, wife and daughter

"Marcus Tullius Cicero, and Cicero the younger, and Terentia, and Tullia,
and Brother Quintus, and Quintus's Son, to Tiro send greeting.

"Although I miss your able and willing service every moment, still it is
not on my own account so much as yours that I am sorry you are not well.
But as your illness has now taken the form of a quartan fever (for so
Curius writes), I hope, if you take care of yourself, you will soon be
stronger. Only be sure, if you have any kindness for me, not to trouble
yourself about anything else just now, except how to get well as soon
as may be. I am quite aware how much you regret not being with me; but
everything will go right if you get well. I would not have you hurry,
or undergo the annoyance of sea-sickness while you are weak, or risk a
sea-voyage in winter". Then he tells him all the news from Rome; how
there had been quite an ovation on his arrival there; how Caesar was (he
thought) growing dangerous to the state; and how his own coveted "triumph"
was still postponed. "All this", he says, "I thought you would like to
know". Then he concludes: "Over and over again, I beg you to take care
to get well, and to send me a letter whenever you have an opportunity.
Farewell, again and again".

Tiro got well, and outlived his kind master, who, very soon after this,
presented him with his freedom. It is to him that we are said to be
indebted for the preservation and publication of Cicero's correspondence.
He wrote, also, a biography of him, which Plutarch had seen, and of which
he probably made use in his own 'Life of Cicero', but which has not come
down to us.

There was another of his household for whom Cicero had the same affection.
This was Sositheus, also a slave, but a man, like Tiro, of some
considerable education, whom he employed as his reader. His death affected
Cicero quite as the loss of a friend. Indeed, his anxiety is such, that
his Roman dignity is almost ashamed of it. "I grieve", he says, "more than
I ought for a mere slave". Just as one might now apologise for making too
much fuss about a favourite dog; for the slave was looked upon in scarcely
a higher light in civilised Rome. They spoke of him in the neuter gender,
as a chattel; and it was gravely discussed, in case of danger in a storm
at sea, which it would be right first to cast overboard to lighten the
ship, a valuable horse or an indifferent slave. Hortensius, the rival
advocate who has been mentioned, a man of more luxurious habits and less
kindly spirit than Cicero, who was said to feed the pet lampreys in his
stews much better than he did his slaves, and to have shed tears at the
death of one of these ugly favourites, would have probably laughed at
Cicero's concern for Sositheus and Tiro.

But indeed every glimpse of this kind which Cicero's correspondence
affords us gives token of a kindly heart, and makes us long to know
something more. Some have suspected him of a want of filial affection,
owing to a somewhat abrupt and curt announcement in a letter to Atticus
of his father's death; and his stanch defenders propose to adopt,
with Madvig, the reading, _discessit_--"left us", instead of
_decessit_--"died". There really seems no occasion. Unless Atticus
knew the father intimately, there was no need to dilate upon the old man's
death; and Cicero mentions subsequently, in terms quite as brief, the
marriage of his daughter and the birth of his son--events in which we are
assured he felt deeply interested. If any further explanation of this
seeming coldness be required, the following remarks of Mr. Forsyth are
apposite and true:

"The truth is, that what we call _sentiment_ was almost unknown to
the ancient Romans, in whose writings it would be as vain to look for it
as to look for traces of Gothic architecture amongst classic ruins. And
this is something more than a mere illustration. It suggests a reason
for the absence. Romance and sentiment came from the dark forests of the
North, when Scandinavia and Germany poured forth their hordes to subdue
and people the Roman Empire. The life of a citizen of the Republic of Rome
was essentially a public life. The love of country was there carried to
an extravagant length, and was paramount to, and almost swallowed up, the
private and social affections. The state was everything, the individual
comparatively nothing. In one of the letters of the Emperor Marcus
Aurelius to Fronto, there is a passage in which he says that the
Roman language had no word corresponding with the Greek [Greek:
philostorgia],--the affectionate love for parents and children. Upon
this Niebuhr remarks that the feeling was 'not a Roman one; but Cicero
possessed it in a degree which few Romans could comprehend, and hence he
was laughed at for the grief which he felt at the death of his daughter



The treatise on 'Old Age', which is thrown into the form of a dialogue, is
said to have been suggested by the opening of Plato's 'Republic', in which
Cephalus touches so pleasantly on the enjoyments peculiar to that time
of life. So far as light and graceful treatment of his subject goes, the
Roman essayist at least does not fall short of his model. Montaigne
said of it, that "it made one long to grow old";[1] but Montaigne was a
Frenchman, and such sentiment was quite in his way. The dialogue, whether
it produce this effect on many readers or not, is very pleasant reading:
and when we remember that the author wrote it when he was exactly in his
grand climacteric, and addressed it to his friend Atticus, who was within
a year of the same age, we get that element of personal interest which
makes all writings of the kind more attractive. The argument in defence of
the paradox that it is a good thing to grow old, proceeds upon the only
possible ground, the theory of compensations. It is put into the mouth
of Cato the Censor, who had died about a century before, and who is
introduced as giving a kind of lecture on the subject to his young
friends Scipio and Laelius, in his eighty-fourth year. He was certainly
a remarkable example in his own case of its being possible to grow old
gracefully and usefully, if, as he tells us, he was at that age still able
to take part in the debates in the Senate, was busy collecting materials
for the early history of Rome, had quite lately begun the study of Greek,
could enjoy a country dinner-party, and had been thinking of taking
lessons in playing on the lyre.

[Footnote 1: "Il donne l'appetit de vieiller".]

He states four reasons why old age is so commonly considered miserable.
First, it unfits us for active employment; secondly, it weakens the bodily
strength; thirdly, it deprives us of nearly all pleasures; fourthly and
lastly, it is drawing near death. As to the first, the old senator argues
very fairly that very much of the more important business of life is not
only transacted by old men, but in point of fact, as is confessed by the
very name and composition of the Roman Senate, it is thought safest to
intrust it to the elders in the state. The pilot at the helm may not be
able to climb the mast and run up and down the deck like the younger
sailor, but he steers none the worse for being old. He quotes some
well-known examples of this from Roman annals; examples which might be
matched by obvious instances in modern English history. The defence which
he makes of old age against the second charge--loss of muscular vigour--is
rather more of the nature of special pleading. He says little more than
that mere muscular strength, after all, is not much wanted for our
happiness: that there are always comparative degrees of strength; and
that an old man need no more make himself unhappy because he has not the
strength of a young man, than the latter does because he has not the
strength of a bull or an elephant. It was very well for the great wrestler
Milo to be able to carry an ox round the arena on his shoulders; but, on
the whole, a man does not often want to walk about with a bullock on his
back. The old are said, too, to lose their memory. Cato thinks they can
remember pretty well all that they care to remember. They are not apt to
forget who owes them money; and "I never knew an old man forget", he says,
"where he had buried his gold". Then as to the pleasures of the senses,
which age undoubtedly diminishes our power of enjoying. "This", says Cato,
"is really a privilege, not a deprivation; to be delivered from the yoke
of such tyrants as our passions--to feel that we have 'got our discharge'
from such a warfare--is a blessing for which men ought rather to be
grateful to their advancing years". And the respect and authority which is
by general consent conceded to old age, is a pleasure more than equivalent
to the vanished pleasures of youth.

There is one consideration which the author has not placed amongst his
four chief disadvantages of growing old,--which, however, he did not
forget, for he notices it incidentally in the dialogue,--the feeling that
we are growing less agreeable to our friends, that our company is less
sought after, and that we are, in short, becoming rather ciphers in
society. This, in a condition of high civilisation, is really perhaps felt
by most of us as the hardest to bear of all the ills to which old age is
liable. We should not care so much about the younger generation rising up
and making us look old, if we did not feel that they are "pushing us from
our stools". Cato admits that he had heard some old men complain that
"they were now neglected by those who had once courted their society", and
he quotes a passage from the comic poet Caecilius

"This is the bitterest pang in growing old,--
To feel that we grow hateful to our fellows".

But he dismisses the question briefly in his own case by observing with
some complacency that he does not think his young friends find _his_
company disagreeable--an assertion which Scipio and Laelius, who
occasionally take part in the dialogue, are far too well bred to
contradict. He remarks also, sensibly enough, that though some old persons
are no doubt considered disagreeable company, this is in great measure
their own fault: that testiness and ill-nature (qualities which, as he
observes, do not usually improve with age) are always disagreeable, and
that such persons attributed to their advancing years what was in truth
the consequence of their unamiable tempers. It is not all wine which turns
sour with age, nor yet all tempers; much depends on the original quality.
The old Censor lays down some maxims which, like the preceding, have
served as texts for a good many modern writers, and may be found expanded,
diluted, or strengthened, in the essays of Addison and Johnson, and in
many of their followers of less repute. "I never could assent", says Cato,
"to that ancient and much-bepraised proverb,--that 'you must become an old
man early, if you wish to be an old man long'". Yet it was a maxim which
was very much acted upon by modern Englishmen a generation or two back. It
was then thought almost a moral duty to retire into old age, and to assume
all its disabilities as well as its privileges, after sixty years or even
earlier. At present the world sides with Cato, and rushes perhaps into the
other extreme; for any line at which old age now begins would be hard to
trace either in dress or deportment. "We must resist old age, and
fight against it as a disease". Strong words from the old Roman; but,
undoubtedly, so long as we stop short of the attempt to affect juvenility,
Cato is right. We should keep ourselves as young as possible. He speaks
shrewd sense, again, when he says--"As I like to see a young man who has
something old about him, so I like to see an old man in whom there remains
something of the youth: and he who follows this maxim may become an old
man in body, but never in heart". "What a blessing it is", says Southey,
"to have a boy's heart!" Do we not all know these charming old people, to
whom the young take almost as heartily as to their own equals in age, who
are the favourite consultees in all amusements, the confidants in all

Cato is made to place a great part of his own enjoyment, in these latter
years of his, in the cultivation of his farm and garden (he had written,
we must remember, a treatise 'De Re Rustica',--a kind of Roman 'Book of
the Farm', which we have still remaining). He is enthusiastic in his
description of the pleasures of a country gentleman's life, and, like a
good farmer, as no doubt he was, becomes eloquent upon the grand subject
of manures. Gardening is a pursuit which he holds in equal honour--that
"purest of human pleasures", as Bacon calls it. On the subject of
the country life generally he confesses an inclination to become
garrulous--the one failing which he admits may be fairly laid to
the charge of old age. The picture of the way of living of a Roman
gentleman-farmer, as he draws it, must have presented a strong contrast
with the artificial city-life of Rome.

"Where the master of the house is a good and careful manager, his
wine-cellar, his oil-stores, his larder, are always well stocked; there is
a fulness throughout the whole establishment; pigs, kids, lambs, poultry,
milk, cheese, honey,--all are in abundance. The produce of the garden is
always equal, as our country-folk say, to a double course. And all these
good things acquire a second relish from the voluntary labours of fowling
and the chase. What need to dwell upon the charm of the green fields, the
well-ordered plantations, the beauty of the vineyards and olive-groves? In
short, nothing can be more luxuriant in produce, or more delightful to the
eye, than a well-cultivated estate; and, to the enjoyment of this, old age
is so far from being any hindrance, that it rather invites and allures us
to such pursuits".

He has no patience with what has been called the despondency of old
age--the feeling, natural enough at that time of life, but not desirable
to be encouraged, that there is no longer any room for hope or promise in
the future which gives so much of its interest to the present. He will not
listen to the poet when he says again--

"He plants the tree that shall not see the fruit"

The answer which he would make has been often put into other and more
elaborate language, but has a simple grandeur of its own. "If any should
ask the aged cultivator for whom he plants, let him not hesitate to make
this reply,--'For the immortal gods, who, as they willed me to inherit
these possessions from my forefathers, so would have me hand them on to
those that shall come after'".

The old Roman had not the horror of country society which so many
civilised Englishmen either have or affect. "I like a talk", he says,
"over a cup of wine". "Even when I am down at my Sabine estate, I
daily make one at a party of my country neighbours, and we prolong our
conversation very frequently far into the night". The words are put into
Cato's mouth, but the voice is the well-known voice of Cicero. We find
him here, as in his letters, persuading himself into the belief that the
secret of happiness is to be found in the retirement of the country. And
his genial and social nature beams through it all. We are reminded of his
half-serious complaints to Atticus of his importunate visitors at Formiae,
the dinner-parties which he was, as we say now, "obliged to go to", and
which he so evidently enjoyed.[1]

[Footnote 1: "A clergyman was complaining of the want of society in the
country where he lived, and said, 'They talk of _runts_' (i.e., young
cows). 'Sir', said Mr. Salusbury, 'Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of
runts;' meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation,
whatever it was".--Boswell's Life. Cicero was like Dr. Johnson.]

He is careful, however, to remind his readers that old age, to be really
either happy or venerable, must not be the old age of the mere voluptuary
or the debauchee; that the grey head, in order to be, even in his
pagan sense, "a crown of glory", must have been "found in the way of
righteousness". Shakespeare might have learned from Cicero in these points
the moral which he puts into the mouth of his Adam--

"Therefore mine age is as a lusty winter,
Frosty but kindly".

It is a miserable old age, says the Roman, which is obliged to appeal to
its grey hairs as its only claim to the respect of its juniors. "Neither
hoar hairs nor wrinkles can arrogate reverence as their right. It is the
life whose opening years have been honourably spent which reaps the reward
of reverence at its close".

In discussing the last of the evils which accompany old age, the near
approach of death, Cicero rises to something higher than his usual level.
His Cato will not have death to be an evil at all; it is to him the
escaping from "the prison of the body",--the "getting the sight of land at
last after a long voyage, and coming into port". Nay, he does not admit
that death is death. "I have never been able to persuade myself"; he says,
quoting the words of Cyrus in Xenophon, "that our spirits were alive while
they were in these mortal bodies, and died only when they departed out of
them; or that the spirit then only becomes void of sense when it escapes
from a senseless body; but that rather when freed from all admixture of
corporality, it is pure and uncontaminated, then it most truly has sense".
"I am fully persuaded", he says to his young listeners, "that your two
fathers, my old and dearly-loved friends, are living now, and living that
life which only is worthy to be so called". And he winds up the dialogue
with the very beautiful apostrophe, one of the last utterances of the
philosopher's heart, well known, yet not too well known to be here quoted:

"It likes me not to mourn over departing life, as many men, and men of
learning, have done. Nor can I regret that I have lived, since I have so
lived that I may trust I was not born in vain; and I depart out of life as
out of a temporary lodging, not as out of my home. For nature has given
it to us as an inn to tarry at by the way, not as a place to abide in.
O glorious day! when I shall set out to join that blessed company and
assembly of disembodied spirits, and quit this crowd and rabble of life!
For I shall go my way, not only to those great men of whom I spoke, but
to my own son Cato, than whom was never better man born, nor more full of
dutiful affection; whose body I laid on the funeral pile--an office he
should rather have done for me.[1] But his spirit has never left me; it
still looks fondly back upon me, though it has gone assuredly into those
abodes where he knew that I myself should follow. And this my great loss I
seemed to bear with calmness; not that I bore it undisturbed, but that
I still consoled myself with the thought that the separation between us
could not be for long. And if I err in this--in that I believe the spirits
of men to be immortal--I err willingly; nor would I have this mistaken
belief of mine uprooted so long as I shall live. But if, after I am dead,
I shall have no consciousness, as some curious philosophers assert, then I
am not afraid of dead philosophers laughing at my mistake".

[Footnote 1: Burke touches the same key in speaking of his son; "I live in
an inverted order. They who ought to have succeeded me have gone before
me: they who should have been to me as posterity are in the place of

* * * * *

The essay on 'Friendship' is dedicated by the author to Atticus--an
appropriate recognition, as he says, of the long and intimate friendship
which had existed between themselves. It is thrown, like the other, into
the form of a dialogue. The principal speaker here is one of the listeners
in the former case--Laelius, surnamed the Wise--who is introduced as
receiving a visit from his two sons-in-law, Fannius and Scaevola (the
great lawyer before mentioned), soon after the sudden death of his great
friend, the younger Scipio Africanus. Laelius takes the occasion, at the
request of the young men, to give them his views and opinions on the
subject of Friendship generally. This essay is perhaps more original
than that upon 'Old Age', but certainly is not so attractive to a modern
reader. Its great merit is the grace and polish of the language; but the
arguments brought forward to prove what an excellent thing it is for a man
to have good friends, and plenty of them, in this world, and the rules for
his behaviour towards them, seem to us somewhat trite and commonplace,
whatever might have been their effect upon a Roman reader.

Cicero is indebted to the Greek philosophers for the main outlines of his
theory of friendship, though his acquaintance with the works of Plato and
Aristotle was probably exceedingly superficial. He holds, with them, that
man is a social animal; that "we are so constituted by nature that there
must be some degree of association between us all, growing closer in
proportion as we are brought into more intimate relations one with
another". So that the social bond is a matter of instinct, not of
calculation; not a cold commercial contract of profit and loss, of giving
and receiving, but the fulfilment of one of the yearnings of our nature.
Here he is in full accordance with the teaching of Aristotle, who, of
all the various kinds of friendship to which he allows the common name,
pronounces that which is founded merely upon interest--upon mutual
interchange, by tacit agreement, of certain benefits--to be the least
worthy of such a designation. Friendship is defined by Cicero to be "the
perfect accord upon all questions, religious and social, together with
mutual goodwill and affection". This "perfect accord", it must be
confessed, is a very large requirement. He follows his Greek masters again
in holding that true friendship can exist only amongst the good; that, in
fact, all friendship must assume that there is something good and lovable
in the person towards whom the feeling is entertained it may occasionally
be a mistaken assumption; the good quality we think we see in our friend
may have no existence save in our own partial imagination; but the
existence of the counterfeit is an incontestable evidence of the true
original. And the greatest attraction, and therefore the truest
friendships, will always be of the good towards the good.

He admits, however, the notorious fact, that good persons are sometimes
disagreeable; and he confesses that we have a right to seek in our
friends amiability as well as moral excellence. "Sweetness", he
says--anticipating, as all these ancients so provokingly do, some of our
most modern popular philosophers--"sweetness, both in language and in
manner, is a very powerful attraction in the formation of friendships". He
is by no means of the same opinion as Sisyphus in Lord Lytton's 'Tale of

"Now, then, I know thou really art my friend,--
None but true friends choose such unpleasant words".

He admits that it is the office of a friend to tell unpleasant truths
sometimes; but there should be a certain amount of this indispensable
"sweetness" to temper the bitterness of the advice. There are some friends
who are continually reminding you of what they have done for you--"a
disgusting set of people verily they are", says our author. And there are
others who are always thinking themselves slighted; "in which case there
is generally something of which they are conscious in themselves, as
laying them open to contemptuous treatment".

Cicero's own character displays itself in this short treatise. Here, as
everywhere, he is the politician. He shows a true appreciation of the
duties and the qualifications of a true friend; but his own thoughts are
running upon political friendships. Just as when, in many of his letters,
he talks about "all honest men", he means "our party"; so here, when he
talks of friends, he cannot help showing that it was of the essence of
friendship, in his view, to hold the same political opinions, and that
one great use of friends was that a man should not be isolated, as he had
sometimes feared he was, in his political course. When he puts forward
the old instances of Coriolanus and Gracchus, and discusses the question
whether their "friends" were or were not bound to aid them in their
treasonable designs against the state, he was surely thinking of the
factions of his own times, and the troublesome brotherhoods which had
gathered round Catiline and Clodius. Be this as it may, the advice which
he makes Laelius give to his younger relatives is good for all ages,
modern or ancient: "There is nothing in this world more valuable than
friendship". "Next to the immediate blessing and providence of Almighty
God", Lord Clarendon was often heard to say, "I owe all the little I know,
and the little good that is in me, to the friendships and conversation I
have still been used to, of the most excellent men in their several kinds
that lived in that age".




Philosophy was to the Roman what religion is to me. It professed to
answer, so far as it might be answered Pilate's question, "What is truth?"
or to teach men, as Cicero described it, "the knowledge of things human
and divine". Hence the philosopher invests his subject with all attributes
of dignity. To him Philosophy brings all blessings in her train. She is
the guide of life, the medicine for his sorrows, "the fountain-head of
all perfect eloquence--the mother of all good deeds and good words". He
invokes with affectionate reverence the great name of Socrates--the sage
who had "first drawn wisdom down from heaven".

[Footnote 1: 'De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum'.]

No man ever approached his subject more richly laden with philosophic lore
than Cicero. Snatching every leisure moment that he could from a busy
life, he devotes it to the study of the great minds of former ages.
Indeed, he held this study to be the duty of the perfect orator; a
knowledge of the human mind was one of his essential qualifications. Nor
could he conceive of real eloquence without it; for his definition of
eloquence is, "wisdom speaking fluently".[1] But such studies were also
suited to his own natural tastes. And as years passed on, and he grew
weary of civil discords and was harassed by domestic troubles, the great
orator turns his back upon the noisy city, and takes his parchments of
Plato and Aristotle to be the friends of his councils and the companions
of his solitude, seeking by their light to discover Truth, which
Democritus had declared to be buried in the depths of the sea.

[Footnote 1: "Copiose loquens sapientia".]

Yet, after all, he professes to do little more than translate. So
conscious is he that it is to Greece that Rome is indebted for all her
literature, and so conscious, also, on the part of his countrymen, of what
he terms "an arrogant disdain for everything national", that he apologises
to his readers for writing for the million in their mother-tongue. Yet he
is not content, as he says, to be "a mere interpreter". He thought that by
an eclectic process--adopting and rearranging such of the doctrines of his
Greek masters as approved themselves to his own judgment--he might make
his own work a substitute for theirs. His ambition is to achieve what
he might well regard as the hardest of tasks--a popular treatise on
philosophy; and he has certainly succeeded. He makes no pretence to
originality; all he can do is, as he expresses it, "to array Plato in a
Latin dress", and "present this stranger from beyond the seas with the
freedom of his native, city". And so this treatise on the Ends of Life--a
grave question even to the most careless thinker--is, from the nature of
the case, both dramatic and rhetorical. Representatives of the two great
schools of philosophy--the Stoics and Epicureans--plead and counter-plead
in his pages, each in their turn; and their arguments are based on
principles broad and universal enough to be valid even now. For now, as
then, men are inevitably separated into two classes--amiable men of ease,
who guide their conduct by the rudder-strings of pleasure--who for the
most part "leave the world" (as has been finely said) "in the world's
debt, having consumed much and produced nothing";[1] or, on the other
hand, zealous men of duty,

"Who scorn delights and live laborious days",

and act according to the dictates of their honour or their conscience. In
practice, if not in theory, a man must be either Stoic or Epicurean.

[Footnote 1: Lord Derby.]

Each school, in this dialogue, is allowed to plead its own cause. "Listen"
(says the Epicurean) "to the voice of nature that bids you pursue
pleasure, and do not be misled by that vulgar conception of pleasure as
mere sensual enjoyment; our opponents misrepresent us when they say that
we advocate this as the highest good; we hold, on the contrary, that men
often obtain the greatest pleasure by neglecting this baser kind. Your
highest instances of martyrdom--of Decii devoting themselves for
their country, of consuls putting their sons to death to preserve
discipline--are not disinterested acts of sacrifice, but the choice of a
present pain in order to procure a future pleasure. Vice is but ignorance
of real enjoyment. Temperance alone can bring peace of mind; and the
wicked, even if they escape public censure, 'are racked night and day by
the anxieties sent upon them by the immortal gods'. We do not, in this,
contradict your Stoic; we, too, affirm that only the wise man is really
happy. Happiness is as impossible for a mind distracted by passions, as
for a city divided by contending factions. The terrors of death haunt the
guilty wretch, 'who finds out too late that he has devoted himself to
money or power or glory to no purpose'. But the wise man's life is
unalloyed happiness. Rejoicing in a clear conscience, 'he remembers the
past with gratitude, enjoys the blessings of the present, and disregards
the future'. Thus the moral to be drawn is that which Horace (himself, as
he expresses it, 'one of the litter of Epicurus') impresses on his fair
friend Leuconoee:

'Strain your wine, and prove your wisdom; life is short;
should hope be more?
In the moment of our talking envious time has slipped away.
Seize the present, trust to-morrow e'en as little as you may'".

Passing on to the second book of the treatise, we hear the advocate of
the counter-doctrine. Why, exclaims the Stoic, introduce Pleasure to the
councils of Virtue? Why uphold a theory so dangerous in practice? Your
Epicurean soon turns Epicure, and a class of men start up who have never
seen the sun rise or set, who squander fortunes on cooks and perfumers, on
costly plate and gorgeous rooms, and ransack sea and land for delicacies
to supply their feasts. Epicurus gives his disciples a dangerous
discretion in their choice. There is no harm in luxury (he tells us)
provided it be free from inordinate desires. But who is to fix the limit
to such vague concessions?

Nay, more, he degrades men to the level of the brute creation. In his
view, there is nothing admirable beyond this pleasure--no sensation or
emotion of the mind, no soundness or health of body. And what is this
pleasure which he makes of such high account? How short-lived while it
lasts! how ignoble when we recall it afterwards! But even the common
feeling and sentiments of men condemn so selfish a doctrine. We are
naturally led to uphold truth and abhor deceit, to admire Regulus in his
tortures, and to despise a lifetime of inglorious ease. And then follows a
passage which echoes the stirring lines of Scott--

"Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
To all the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name".

Do not then (concludes the Stoic) take good words in your mouth, and prate
before applauding citizens of honour, duty, and so forth, while you make
your private lives a mere selfish calculation of expediency. We were
surely born for nobler ends than this, and none who is worthy the name
of a man would subscribe to doctrines which destroy all honour and all
chivalry. The heroes of old time won their immortality not by weighing
pleasures and pains in the balance, but by being prodigal of their lives,
doing and enduring all things for the sake of their fellow-men.

The opening scene in the third book is as lively and dramatic as (what
was no doubt the writer's model) the introduction of a Platonic dialogue.
Cicero has walked across from his Tusculan villa to borrow some
manuscripts from the well-stocked library of his young friend
Lucullus[1]--a youth whose high promise was sadly cut short, for he
was killed at Philippi, when he was not more than twenty-three. There,
"gorging himself with books", Cicero finds Marcus Cato--a Stoic of the
Stoics--who expounds in a high tone the principles of his sect.

[Footnote 1: See p. 43.]

Honour he declares to be the rule, and "life according to nature" the end
of man's existence. And wrong and injustice are more really contrary to
this nature than either death, or poverty, or bodily suffering, or any
other outward evil.[1] Stoics and Peripatetics are agreed at least on one
point--that bodily pleasures fade into nothing before the splendours of
virtue, and that to compare the two is like holding a candle against the
sunlight, or setting a drop of brine against the waves of the ocean. Your
Epicurean would have each man live in selfish isolation, engrossed in
his private pleasures and pursuits. We, on the other hand, maintain that
"Divine Providence has appointed the world to be a common city for men and
gods", and each one of us to be a part of this vast social system. And
thus every man has his lot and place in life, and should take for his
guidance those golden rules of ancient times--"Obey God; know thyself;
shun excess". Then, rising to enthusiasm, the philosopher concludes: "Who
cannot but admire the incredible beauty of such a system of morality? What
character in history or in fiction can be grander or more consistent than
the 'wise man' of the Stoics? All the riches and glory of the world are
his, for he alone can make a right use of all things. He is 'free',
though he be bound by chains; 'rich', though in the midst of poverty;
'beautiful', for the mind is fairer than the body; 'a king', for, unlike
the tyrants of the world, he is lord of himself; 'happy', for he has no
need of Solon's warning to 'wait till the end', since a life virtuously
spent is a perpetual happiness".

[Footnote 1: So Bishop Butler, in the preface to his Sermons upon 'Human
Nature', says they were "intended to explain what is meant by the nature
of man, when it is said that virtue consists in following, and vice in
deviating from it".]

In the fourth book, Cicero himself proceeds to vindicate the wisdom of the
ancients--the old Academic school of Socrates and his pupils--against what
he considers the novelties of Stoicism. All that the Stoics have said has
been said a hundred times before by Plato and Aristotle, but in nobler
language. They merely "pick out the thorns" and "lay bare the bones"
of previous systems, using newfangled terms and misty arguments with a
"vainglorious parade". Their fine talk about citizens of the world and
the ideal wise man is rather poetry than philosophy. They rightly connect
happiness with virtue, and virtue with wisdom; but so did Aristotle some
centuries before them.

But their great fault (says Cicero) is, that they ignore the practical
side of life. So broad is the line which they draw between the "wise" and
"foolish", that they would deny to Plato himself the possession of wisdom.
They take no account of the thousand circumstances which go to form our
happiness. To a spiritual being, virtue _might_ be the chief good;
but in actual life our physical is closely bound up with our mental
enjoyment, and pain is one of those stern facts before which all theories
are powerless. Again, by their fondness for paradox, they reduce all
offences to the same dead level. It is, in their eyes, as impious to
beat a slave as to beat a parent: because, as they say, "nothing can be
_more_ virtuous than virtue,--nothing _more_ vicious than vice".
And lastly, this stubbornness of opinion affects their personal character.
They too often degenerate into austere critics and bitter partisans, and
go far to banish from among us love, friendship, gratitude, and all the
fair humanities of life.

The fifth book carries us back some twenty years, when we find Cicero once
more at Athens, taking his afternoon walk among the deserted groves of
the Academy. With him are his brother Quintus, his cousin Lucius, and
his friends Piso and Atticus. The scene, with its historic associations,
irresistibly carries their minds back to those illustrious spirits who had
once made the place their own. Among these trees Plato himself had walked;
under the shadow of that Porch Zeno had lectured to his disciples;[1]
yonder Quintus points out the "white peak of Colonus", described by
Sophocles in "those sweetest lines;" while glistening on the horizon were
the waves of the Phaleric harbour, which Demosthenes, Cicero's own
great prototype, had outvoiced with the thunder of his declamation. So
countless, indeed, are the memories of the past called up by the genius
of the place, that (as one of the friends remarks) "wherever we plant

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