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Life of Cicero by Anthony Trollope

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I am conscious of a certain audacity in thus attempting to give a
further life of Cicero which I feel I may probably fail in justifying
by any new information; and on this account the enterprise, though it
has been long considered, has been postponed, so that it may be left
for those who come after me to burn or publish, as they may think
proper; or, should it appear during my life, I may have become
callous, through age, to criticism.

The project of my work was anterior to the life by Mr. Forsyth, and
was first suggested to me as I was reviewing the earlier volumes of
Dean Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire. In an article
on the Dean's work, prepared for one of the magazines of the day, I
inserted an apology for the character of Cicero, which was found to be
too long as an episode, and was discarded by me, not without regret.
From that time the subject has grown in my estimation till it has
reached its present dimensions.

I may say with truth that my book has sprung from love of the man, and
from a heartfelt admiration of his virtues and his conduct, as well as
of his gifts. I must acknowledge that in discussing his character with
men of letters, as I have been prone to do, I have found none quite to
agree with me His intellect they have admitted, and his industry; but
his patriotism they have doubted, his sincerity they have disputed,
and his courage they have denied. It might have become me to have been
silenced by their verdict; but I have rather been instigated to appeal
to the public, and to ask them to agree with me against my friends. It
is not only that Cicero has touched all matters of interest to men,
and has given a new grace to all that he has touched; that as an
orator, a rhetorician, an essayist, and a correspondent he was
supreme; that as a statesman he was honest, as an advocate fearless,
and as a governor pure; that he was a man whose intellectual part
always dominated that of the body; that in taste he was excellent, in
thought both correct and enterprising, and that in language he
was perfect. All this has been already so said of him by other
biographers. Plutarch, who is as familiar to us as though he had been
English, and Middleton, who thoroughly loved his subject, and latterly
Mr. Forsyth, who has struggled to be honest to him, might have
sufficed as telling us so much as that. But there was a humanity in
Cicero, a something almost of Christianity, a stepping forward out of
the dead intellectualities of Roman life into moral perceptions, into
natural affections, into domesticity, philanthropy, and conscious
discharge of duty, which do not seem to have been as yet fully
appreciated. To have loved his neighbor as himself before the teaching
of Christ was much for a man to achieve; and that he did this is what
I claim for Cicero, and hope to bring home to the minds of those
who can find time for reading yet another added to the constantly
increasing volumes about Roman times.

It has been the habit of some latter writers, who have left to Cicero
his literary honors, to rob him of those which had been accorded
to him as a politician. Macaulay, expressing his surprise at the
fecundity of Cicero, and then passing on to the praise of the
Philippics as senatorial speeches, says of him that he seems to have
been at the head of the "minds of the second order." We cannot judge
of the classification without knowing how many of the great men of
the world are to be included in the first rank. But Macaulay probably
intended to express an opinion that Cicero was inferior because he
himself had never dominated others as Marius had done, and Sylla, and
Pompey, and Caesar, and Augustus. But what if Cicero was ambitious
for the good of others, while these men had desired power only for

Dean Merivale says that Cicero was "discreet and decorous," as with
a similar sneer another clergyman, Sydney Smith, ridiculed a Tory
prime-minister because he was true to his wife. There is nothing so
open to the bitterness of a little joke as those humble virtues
by which no glitter can be gained, but only the happiness of many
preserved. And the Dean declares that Cicero himself was not, except
once or twice, and for a "moment only, a real power in the State."
Men who usurped authority, such as those I have named, were the "real
powers," and it was in opposition to such usurpation that Cicero
was always urgent. Mr. Forsyth, who, as I have said, strives to be
impartial, tells us that "the chief fault of Cicero's moral character
was a want of sincerity." Absence of sincerity there was not.
Deficiency of sincerity there was. Who among men has been free from
such blame since history and the lives of men were first written? It
will be my object to show that though less than godlike in that gift,
by comparison with other men around him he was sincere, as he was
also self-denying; which, if the two virtues be well examined, will
indicate the same phase of character.

But of all modern writers Mr. Froude has been the hardest to Cicero.
His sketch of the life of Caesar is one prolonged censure on that of
Cicero. Our historian, with all that glory of language for which he is
so remarkable, has covered the poor orator with obloquy. There is no
period in Cicero's life so touching, I think, as that during which he
was hesitating whether, in the service of the Republic, it did or did
not behoove him to join Pompey before the battle of Pharsalia. At this
time he wrote to his friend Atticus various letters full of agonizing
doubts as to what was demanded from him by his duty to his country,
by his friendship for Pompey, by loyalty to his party, and by his own
dignity. As to a passage in one of those, Mr. Froude says "that Cicero
had lately spoken of Caesar's continuance in life as a disgrace to
the State." "It has been seen also that he had long thought of
assassination as the readiest means of ending it,"[1] says Mr. Froude.
The "It has been seen" refers to a statement made a few pages earlier,
in which he translates certain words written by Cicero to Atticus."[2]
"He considered it a disgrace to them that Caesar was alive." That is
his translation; and in his indignation he puts other words, as it
were, into the mouth of his literary brother of two thousand years
before. "Why did not somebody kill him ?" The Latin words themselves
are added in a note, "Cum vivere ipsum turpe sit nobis."[3] Hot
indignation has so carried the translator away that he has missed the
very sense of Cicero's language." When even to draw the breath of life
at such a time is a disgrace to us!" That is what Cicero meant. Mr.
Froude in a preceding passage gives us another passage from a letter
to Atticus,[4] "Caesar was mortal."[5] So much is an intended
translation. Then Mr. Froude tells us how Cicero had "hailed Caesar's
eventual murder with rapture;" and goes on to say, "We read the words
with sorrow and yet with pity." But Cicero had never dreamed of
Caesar's murder. The words of the passage are as follows: "Hunc
primum mortalem esse, deinde etiam multis modis extingui posse
cogitabam." "I bethought myself in the first place that this man was
mortal, and then that there were a hundred ways in which he might be
put on one side." All the latter authorities have, I believe, supposed
the "hunc" or "this man" to be Pompey. I should say that this was
proved by the gist of the whole letter--one of the most interesting
that was ever written, as telling the workings of a great man's mind
at a peculiar crisis of his life--did I not know that former learned
editors have supposed Caesar to have been meant. But whether Caesar
or Pompey, there is nothing in it to do with murder. It is a
question--Cicero is saying to his friend--of the stability of the
Republic. When a matter so great is considered, how is a man to
trouble himself as to an individual who may die any day, or cease from
any accident to be of weight? Cicero was speaking of the effect of
this or that step on his own part. Am I, he says, for the sake
of Pompey to bring down hordes of barbarians on my own country,
sacrificing the Republic for the sake of a friend who is here to-day
and may be gone to-morrow? Or for the sake of an enemy, if the reader
thinks that the "hunc" refers to Caesar. The argument is the same. Am
I to consider an individual when the Republic is at stake? Mr. Froude
tells us that he reads "the words with sorrow and yet with pity." So
would every one, I think, sympathizing with the patriot's doubts as to
his leader, as to his party, and as to his country. Mr. Froude does so
because he gathers from them that Cicero is premeditating the murder
of Caesar!

It is natural that a man should be judged out of his own mouth. A man
who speaks much, and so speaks that his words shall be listened to and
read, will be so judged. But it is not too much to demand that when a
man's character is at stake his own words shall be thoroughly sifted
before they are used against him.

The writer of the biographical notice in the Encyclopedia Britannica
on Cicero, sends down to posterity a statement that in the time of the
first triumvirate, when our hero was withstanding the machinations of
Caesar and Pompey against the liberties of Rome, he was open to be
bought. The augurship would have bought him. "So pitiful," says the
biographer, "was the bribe to which he would have sacrificed his
honor, his opinions, and the commonwealth!" With no more sententious
language was the character of a great man ever offered up to public
scorn. And on what evidence? We should have known nothing of the bribe
and the corruption but for a few playful words in a letter from Cicero
himself to Atticus. He is writing from one of his villas to his friend
in Rome, and asks for the news of the day: Who are to be the new
consuls? Who is to have the vacant augurship? Ah, says he, they might
have caught even me with that bait;[6] as he said on another occasion
that he was so much in debt as to be fit for a rebel; and again, as
I shall have to explain just now, that he was like to be called in
question under the Cincian law because of a present of books! This
was just at the point of his life when he was declining all offers of
public service--of public service for which his soul longed--because
they were made to him by Caesar. It was then that the "Vigintiviratus"
was refused, which Quintilian mentions to his honor. It was then that
he refused to be Caesar's lieutenant. It was then that he might have
been fourth with Caesar, and Pompey, and Crassus, had he not felt
himself bound not to serve against the Republic. And yet the
biographer does not hesitate to load him with infamy because of a
playful word in a letter half jocose and half pathetic to his friend.
If a man's deeds be always honest, surely he should not be accused of
dishonesty on the strength of some light word spoken in the confidence
of familiar intercourse. The light words are taken to be grave because
they meet the modern critic's eye clothed in the majesty of a dead
language; and thus it comes to pass that their very meaning is

My friend Mr. Collins speaks, in his charming little volume on Cicero,
of "quiet evasions" of the Cincian law,[7] and tells us that we are
taught by Cicero's letters not to trust Cicero's words when he was in
a boasting vein. What has the one thing to do with the other? He names
no quiet evasions. Mr. Collins makes a surmise, by which the character
of Cicero for honesty is impugned--without evidence. The anonymous
biographer altogether misinterprets Cicero. Mr. Froude charges Cicero
with anticipation of murder, grounding his charge on words which he
has not taken the trouble to understand. Cicero is accused on the
strength of his own private letters. It is because we have not the
private letters of other persons that they are not so accused.
The courtesies of the world exact, I will not say demand, certain
deviations from straightforward expression; and these are made most
often in private conversations and in private correspondence. Cicero
complies with the ways of the world; but his epistles are no longer
private, and he is therefore subjected to charges of falsehood. It is
because Cicero's letters, written altogether for privacy, have been
found worthy to be made public that such accusations have been made.
When the injustice of these critics strikes me, I almost wish that
Cicero's letters had not been preserved.

As I have referred to the evidence of those who have, in these latter
days, spoken against Cicero, I will endeavor to place before the
reader the testimony of his character which was given by writers,
chiefly of his own nation, who dealt with his name for the hundred and
fifty years after his death--from the time of Augustus down to that
of Adrian--a period much given to literature, in which the name of a
politician and a man of literature would assuredly be much discussed.
Readers will see in what language he was spoken of by those who came
after him. I trust they will believe that if I knew of testimony on
the other side, of records adverse to the man, I would give them. The
first passage to which I will allude does not bear Cicero's name; and
it may be that I am wrong in assuming honor to Cicero from a passage
in poetry, itself so famous, in which no direct allusion is made to
himself. But the idea that Virgil in the following lines refers to the
manner in which Cicero soothed the multitude who rose to destroy the
theatre when the knights took their front seats in accordance with
Otho's law, does not originate with me. I give the lines as translated
by Dryden, with the original in a note.[8]

"As when in tumults rise the ignoble crowd,
Mad are their motions, and their tongues are loud;
And stones and brands in rattling volleys fly,
And all the rustic arms that fury can supply;
If then some grave and pious man appear,
They hush their noise, and lend a listening ear;
He soothes with sober words their angry mood,
And quenches their innate desire of blood."

This, if it be not intended for a portrait of Cicero on that occasion,
exactly describes his position and his success. We have a fragment of
Cornelius Nepos, the biographer of the Augustan age, declaring that at
Cicero's death men had to doubt whether literature or the Republic had
lost the most.[9] Livy declared of him only, that he would be the
best writer of Latin prose who was most like to Cicero.[10] Velleius
Paterculus, who wrote in the time of Tiberius, speaks of Cicero's
achievements with the highest honor. "At this period," he says, "lived
Marcus Cicero, who owed everything to himself; a man of altogether a
new family, as distinguished for ability as he was for the purity
of his life."[11] Valerius Maximus quotes him as an example of a
forgiving character.[12] Perhaps the warmest praise ever given to him
came from the pen of Pliny the elder, from whose address to the memory
of Cicero I will quote only a few words, as I shall refer to it more
at length when speaking of his consulship. "Hail thou," says Pliny,
"who first among men was called the father of your country."[13]
Martial, in one of his distichs, tells the traveller that if he have
but a book of Cicero's writing he may fancy that he is travelling with
Cicero himself.[14] Lucan, in his bombastic verse, declares how Cicero
dared to speak of peace in the camp of Pharsalia. The reader may think
that Cicero should have said nothing of the kind, but Lucan mentions
him with all honor.[15] Not Tacitus, as I think, but some author whose
essay De Oratoribus was written about the time of Tacitus, and whose
work has come to us with the name of Tacitus, has told us of Cicero
that he was a master of logic, of ethics, and of physical science.[16]
Everybody remembers the passage in Juvenal,

"Sed Roma parentem
Roma patrem patriae Ciceronem libera dixit."

"Rome, even when she was free, declared him to be the father of his
country."[17] Even Plutarch, who generally seems to have a touch
of jealousy when speaking of Cicero, declares that he verified the
prediction of Plato, "That every State would be delivered from its
calamities whenever power should fortunately unite with wisdom and
justice in one person."[18] The praises of Quintilian as to the
man are so mixed with the admiration of the critic for the hero of
letters, that I would have omitted to mention them here were it not
that they will help to declare what was the general opinion as to
Cicero at the time in which it was written. He has been speaking of
Demosthenes,[19] and then goes on: "Nor in regard to Cicero do I
see that he ever failed in the duty of a good citizen. There is in
evidence of this the splendor of his consulship, the rare integrity of
his provincial administration, his refusal of office under Caesar,[20]
the firmness of his mind on the civil wars, giving way neither to hope
nor fear, though these sorrows came heavily on him in his old age.
On all these occasions he did the best he could for the Republic."
Florus, who wrote after the twelve Caesars, in the time of Trajan and
of Adrian, whose rapid summary of Roman events can hardly be called
a history, tells us, in a few words, how Catiline's conspiracy was
crushed by the authority of Cicero and Cato in opposition to that of
Caesar.[21] Then, when he has passed in a few short chapters over all
the intervening history of the Roman Empire, he relates, in pathetic
words, the death of Cicero. "It was the custom in Rome to put up on
the rostra the heads of those who had been slain; but now the city was
not able to restrain its tears when the head of Cicero was seen there,
upon the spot from which the citizens had so often listened to his
words."[22] Such is the testimony given to this man by the writers who
may be supposed to have known most of him as having been nearest to
his time. They all wrote after him. Sallust, who was certainly his
enemy, wrote of him in his lifetime, but never wrote in his dispraise.
It is evident that public opinion forbade him to do so. Sallust is
never warm in Cicero's praise, as were those subsequent authors whose
words I have quoted, and has been made subject to reproach for envy,
for having passed too lightly over Cicero's doings and words in his
account of Catiline's conspiracy; but what he did say was to Cicero's
credit. Men had heard of the danger, and therefore, says Sallust,[23]
"They conceived the idea of intrusting the consulship to Cicero. For
before that the nobles were envious, and thought that the consulship
would be polluted if it were conferred on a _novus homo_, however
distinguished. But when danger came, envy and pride had to give way."
He afterward declares that Cicero made a speech against Catiline most
brilliant, and at the same time useful to the Republic. This was
lukewarm praise, but coming from Sallust, who would have censured if
he could, it is as eloquent as any eulogy. There is extant a passage
attributed to Sallust full of virulent abuse of Cicero, but no one
now imagines that Sallust wrote it. It is called the Declamation of
Sallust against Cicero, and bears intrinsic evidence that it was
written in after years. It suited some one to forge pretended
invectives between Sallust and Cicero, and is chiefly noteworthy here
because it gives to Dio Cassius a foundation for the hardest of hard
words he said against the orator.[24]

Dio Cassius was a Greek who wrote in the reign of Alexander Severus,
more than two centuries and a half after the death of Cicero, and he
no doubt speaks evil enough of our hero. What was the special cause of
jealousy on his part cannot probably be now known, but the nature of
his hatred may be gathered from the passage in the note, which is so
foul-mouthed that it can be only inserted under the veil of his own
language.[25] Among other absurdities Dio Cassius says of Cicero that
in his latter days he put away a gay young wife, forty years younger
than himself, in order that he might enjoy without disturbance the
company of another lady who was nearly as much older than himself as
his wife was younger.

Now I ask, having brought forward so strong a testimony, not, I will
say, as to the character of the man, but of the estimation in which
he was held by those who came shortly after him in his own country;
having shown, as I profess that I have shown, that his name was always
treated with singular dignity and respect, not only by the lovers of
the old Republic but by the minions of the Empire; having found
that no charge was ever made against him either for insincerity or
cowardice or dishonesty by those who dealt commonly with his name, am
I not justified in saying that they who have in later days accused him
should have shown their authority? Their authority they have always
found in his own words. It is on his own evidence against himself that
they have depended--on his own evidence, or occasionally on their
own surmises. When we are told of his cowardice, because those human
vacillations of his, humane as well as human, have been laid bare to
us as they came quivering out of his bosom on to his fingers! He is
a coward to the critics because they have written without giving
themselves time to feel the true meaning of his own words. If we had
only known his acts and not his words--how he stood up against the
judges at the trial of Verres, with what courage he encountered the
responsibility of his doings at the time of Catiline, how he joined
Pompey in Macedonia from a sense of sheer duty, how he defied Antony
when to defy Antony was probable death--then we should not call him a
coward! It is out of his own mouth that he is condemned. Then surely
his words should be understood. Queen Christina says of him, in one of
her maxims, that "Cicero was the only coward that was capable of great
actions." The Queen of Sweden, whose sentences are never worth very
much, has known her history well enough to have learned that Cicero's
acts were noble, but has not understood the meaning of words
sufficiently to extract from Cicero's own expressions their true
bearing. The bravest of us all, if he is in high place, has to doubt
much before he can know what true courage will demand of him; and
these doubts the man of words will express, if there be given to him
an _alter ego_ such as Cicero had in Atticus.

In reference to the biography of Mr Forsyth I must, in justice both to
him and to Cicero, quote one passage from the work: "Let those who,
like De Quincey,[26] Mommsen, and others, speak disparagingly of
Cicero, and are so lavish in praise of Caesar, recollect that Caesar
never was troubled by a conscience."

Here it is that we find that advance almost to Christianity of which I
have spoken, and that superiority of mind being which makes Cicero the
most fit to be loved of all the Romans.

It is hard for a man, even in regard to his own private purposes, to
analyze the meaning of a conscience, if he put out of question all
belief in a future life. Why should a man do right if it be not for a
reward here or hereafter? Why should anything be right--or wrong? The
Stoics tried to get over the difficulty by declaring that if a man
could conquer all his personal desires he would become, by doing so,
happy, and would therefore have achieved the only end at which a man
can rationally aim. The school had many scholars, but probably never
a believer. The normal Greek or Roman might be deterred by the law,
which means fear of punishment, or by the opinion of his neighbors,
which means ignominy. He might recognize the fact that comfort would
combine itself with innocence, or disease and want with lust and
greed. In this there was little need of a conscience--hardly, perhaps,
room for it. But when ambition came, with all the opportunities that
chance, audacity, and intellect would give--as it did to Sylla, to
Caesar, and to Augustus--then there was nothing to restrain the
men. There was to such a man no right but his power, no wrong but
opposition to it. His cruelty or his clemency might be more or less,
as his conviction of the utility of this or that other weapon for
dominating men might be strong with him. Or there might be some
variation in the flowing of the blood about his heart which might make
a massacre of citizens a pleasing diversion or a painful process to
him; but there was no conscience. With the man of whom we are about
to speak conscience was strong. In his sometimes doubtful wanderings
after political wisdom--in those mental mazes which have been called
insincerity--we shall see him, if we look well into his doings,
struggling to find whether, in searching for what was his duty, he
should go to this side or to that. Might he best hope a return to that
state of things which he thought good for his country by adhering to
Caesar or to Pompey? We see the workings of his conscience, and, as
we remember that Scipio's dream of his, we feel sure that he had, in
truth, within him a recognition of a future life.

In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so
fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by
salient points, and, seeing them clearly, we jump to conclusions, as
though there were a light-house on every point by which the nature of
the coast would certainly be shown to us. And so it will, if we accept
the light only for so much of the shore as it illumines. But to say
that a man is insincere because he has vacillated in this or the other
difficulty, that he is a coward because he has feared certain dangers,
that he is dishonest because he has swerved, that he is a liar because
an untrue word has been traced to him, is to suppose that you know all
the coast because one jutting headland has been defined to you. He who
so expresses himself on a man's character is either ignorant of human
nature, or is in search of stones with which to pelt his enemy. "He
has lied! He has lied!" How often in our own political contests do we
hear the cry with a note of triumph! And if he have, how often has
he told the truth? And if he have, how many are entitled by pure
innocence in that matter to throw a stone at him? And if he have, do
we not know how lies will come to the tongue of a man without thought
of lying? In his stoutest efforts after the truth a man may so express
himself that when afterward he is driven to compare his recent and his
former words, he shall hardly be able to say even to himself that he
has not lied. It is by the tenor of a man's whole life that we must
judge him, whether he be a liar or no.

To expect a man to be the same at sixty as he was at thirty, is to
suppose that the sun at noon shall be graced with the colors which
adorn its setting. And there are men whose intellects are set on so
fine a pivot that a variation in the breeze of the moment, which
coarser minds shall not feel, will carry them round with a rapidity
which baffles the common eye. The man who saw his duty clearly on this
side in the morning shall, before the evening come, recognize it on
the other; and then again, and again, and yet again the vane shall go
round. It may be that an instrument shall be too fine for our daily
uses. We do not want a clock to strike the minutes, or a glass to tell
the momentary changes in the atmosphere. It may be found that for the
work of the world, the coarse work--and no work is so coarse, though
none is so important, as that which falls commonly into the hands of
statesmen--instruments strong in texture, and by reason of their
rudeness not liable to sudden impressions, may be the best. That it is
which we mean when we declare that a scrupulous man is impractical in
politics. But the same man may, at various periods of his life, and
on various days at the same period, be scrupulous and unscrupulous,
impractical and practical, as the circumstances of the occasion may
affect him. At one moment the rale of simple honesty will prevail
with him. "Fiat justitia, ruat coelum." "Si fractus illabatur orbis
Impavidum ferient ruinae." At another he will see the necessity of a
compromise for the good of the many. He will tell himself that if the
best cannot be done, he must content himself with the next best.
He must shake hands with the imperfect, as the best way of lifting
himself up from a bad way toward a better. In obedience to his very
conscience he will temporize, and, finding no other way of achieving
good, will do even evil that good may come of it. "Rem si possis
recte; si non, quocunque modo rem." In judging of such a character as
this, a hard and fast line will certainly lead us astray. In judging
of Cicero, such a hard and fast line has too generally been used. He
was a man singularly sensitive to all influences. It must be admitted
that he was a vane, turning on a pivot finer than those on which
statesmen have generally been made to work. He had none of the fixed
purpose of Caesar, or the unflinching principle of Cato. They were men
cased in brass, whose feelings nothing could hurt. They suffered from
none of those inward flutterings of the heart, doubtful aspirations,
human longings, sharp sympathies, dreams of something better than
this world, fears of something worse, which make Cicero so like a
well-bred, polished gentleman of the present day. It is because he
has so little like a Roman that he is of all the Romans the most

Still there may be doubt whether, with all the intricacies of his
character, his career was such as to justify a further biography at
this distance of time. "What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?" asks
Hamlet, when he finds himself stirred by the passion thrown into the
bare recital of an old story by an itinerant player. What is Cicero to
us of the nineteenth century that we should care so much for him as to
read yet another book? Nevertheless, Hamlet was moved because the tale
was well told. There is matter in the earnestness, the pleasantness,
the patriotism, and the tragedy of the man's life to move a reader
still--if the story could only be written of him as it is felt! The
difficulty lies in that, and not in the nature of the story.

The period of Cicero's life was the very turning-point of civilization
and government in the history of the world. At that period of time the
world, as we know it, was Rome. Greece had sunk. The Macedonian Empire
had been destroyed. The kingdoms of the East--whether conquered,
or even when conquering, as was Parthia for awhile--were barbaric,
outside the circle of cultivation, and to be brought into it only
by the arms and influence of Rome. During Caesar's career Gaul was
conquered; and Britain, with what was known of Germany, supposed to
be partly conquered. The subjugation of Africa and Spain was all but
completed. Letters, too, had been or were being introduced. Cicero's
use of language was so perfect that it seems to us to have been almost
necessarily the result of a long established art of Latin literature.
But, in truth, he is the earliest of the prose writers of his country
with whose works we are familiar. Excepting Varro, who was born but
ten years before him, no earlier Latin prose writer has left more than
a name to us; and the one work by which Varro is at all known, the
De Re Rustica, was written after Cicero's death. Lucretius, whose
language we regard as almost archaic, so unlike is it to that of
Virgil or Horace, was born eight years after Cicero. In a great degree
Cicero formed the Latin language--or produced that manipulation of it
which has made it so graceful in prose, and so powerful a vehicle
of thought. That which he took from any Latin writer he took from

And it was then, just then, that there arose in Rome that
unpremeditated change in its form of government which resulted in the
self-assumed dictatorship of Caesar, and the usurpation of the Empire
by Augustus. The old Rome had had kings. Then the name and the power
became odious--the name to all the citizens, no doubt, but the power
simply to the nobility, who grudged the supremacy of one man. The
kings were abolished, and an oligarchy was established under the name
of a Republic, with its annual magistrates--at first its two Consuls,
then its Praetors and others, and occasionally a Dictator, as some
current event demanded a concentration of temporary power in a single
hand for a certain purpose.

The Republic was no republic, as we understand the word; nor did it
ever become so, though their was always going on a perpetual struggle
to transfer the power from the nobles to the people, in which
something was always being given or pretended to be given to the
outside class. But so little was as yet understood of liberty that, as
each plebeian made his way up into high place and became one of the
magistrates of the State, he became also one of the oligarchical
faction. There was a continued contest, with a certain amount of good
faith on each side, on behalf of the so-called Republic--but still a
contest for power. This became so continued that a foreign war was at
times regarded as a blessing, because it concentrated the energies of
the State, which had been split and used by the two sections--by each
against the other. It is probably the case that the invasion of
the Gauls in earlier days, and, later on, the second Punic war,
threatening as they were in their incidents to the power of Rome,
provided the Republic with that vitality which kept it so long in
existence. Then came Marius, dominant on one side as a tribune of the
people, and Sylla, as aristocrat on the other, and the civil wars
between them, in which, as one prevailed or the other, Rome was
mastered. How Marius died, and Sylla reigned for three bloody, fatal
years, is outside the scope of our purpose--except in this, that
Cicero saw Sylla's proscriptions, and made his first essay into public
life hot with anger at the Dictator's tyranny.

It occurs to us as we read the history of Rome, beginning with the
early Consuls and going to the death of Caesar and of Cicero, and the
accomplished despotism of Augustus, that the Republic could not have
been saved by any efforts, and was in truth not worth the saving. We
are apt to think, judging from our own idea of liberty, that there was
so much of tyranny, so little of real freedom in the Roman form of
government, that it was not good enough to deserve our sympathies. But
it had been successful. It had made a great people, and had produced a
wide-spread civilization. Roman citizenship was to those outside the
one thing the most worthy to be obtained. That career which led the
great Romans up from the state of Quaestor to the Aedile's, Praetor's,
and Consul's chair, and thence to the rich reward of provincial
government, was held to be the highest then open to the ambition of
man. The Kings of Greece, and of the East, and of Africa were supposed
to be inferior in their very rank to a Roman Proconsul, and this
greatness was carried on with a semblance of liberty, and was
compatible with a belief in the majesty of the Roman citizen. When
Cicero began his work, Consuls, Praetors, Aediles, and Quaestors were
still chosen by the votes of the citizens. There was bribery,
no doubt, and intimidation, and a resort to those dirty arts of
canvassing with which we English have been so familiar; but in
Cicero's time the male free inhabitants of Rome did generally carry
the candidates to whom they attached themselves. The salt of their
republican theory was not as yet altogether washed out from their

The love of absolute liberty as it has been cultivated among modern
races did not exist in the time of Cicero. The idea never seems to
have reached even his bosom, human and humanitarian as were his
sympathies, that a man, as man, should be free. Half the inhabitants
of Rome were slaves, and the institution was so grafted in the life
of the time that it never occurred to a Roman that slaves, as a body,
should be manumitted. The slaves themselves, though they were not,
as have been the slaves whom we have seen, of a different color and
presumed inferior race, do not themselves seem to have entertained any
such idea. They were instigated now and again to servile wars,
but there was no rising in quest of freedom generally. Nor was it
repugnant to the Roman theory of liberty that the people whom they
dominated, though not subjected to slavery, should still be outside
the pale of civil freedom. That boon was to be reserved for the
Roman citizen, and for him only. It had become common to admit to
citizenship the inhabitants of other towns and further territories.
The glory was kept not altogether for Rome, but for Romans.

Thus, though the government was oligarchical, and the very essence
of freedom ignored, there was a something which stood in the name
of liberty, and could endear itself to a real patriot. With genuine
patriotism Cicero loved his country, and beginning his public life as
he did at the close of Sylla's tyranny, he was able to entertain
a dream that the old state of things might be restored and the
republican form of government maintained. There should still be two
Consuls in Rome, whose annual election would guard the State against
regal dominion. And there should, at the same time, be such
a continuance of power in the hands of the better class--the
"optimates," as he called them--as would preserve the city from
democracy and revolution. No man ever trusted more entirely to popular
opinion than Cicero, or was more anxious for aristocratic authority.
But neither in one direction nor the other did he look for personal
aggrandizement, beyond that which might come to him in accordance with
the law and in subjection to the old form of government.

It is because he was in truth patriotic, because his dreams of a
Republic were noble dreams, because he was intent on doing good in
public affairs, because he was anxious for the honor of Rome and of
Romans, not because he was or was not a "real power in the State" that
his memory is still worth recording. Added to this was the intellect
and the wit and erudition of the man, which were at any rate supreme.
And then, though we can now see that his efforts were doomed to
failure by the nature of the circumstances surrounding him, he was
so nearly successful, so often on the verge of success, that we are
exalted by the romance of his story into the region of personal
sympathy. As we are moved by the aspirations and sufferings of a hero
in a tragedy, so are we stirred by the efforts, the fortune, and at
last the fall of this man. There is a picturesqueness about the life
of Cicero which is wanting in the stories of Marius or Sylla, of
Pompey, or even of Caesar--a picturesqueness which is produced in
great part by these very doubtings which have been counted against him
as insincerity.

His hands were clean when the hands of all around him were defiled by
greed. How infinitely Cicero must have risen above his time when he
could have clean hands! A man in our days will keep himself clean from
leprosy because to be a leper is to be despised by those around him.
Advancing wisdom has taught us that such leprosy is bad, and public
opinion coerces us. There is something too, we must suppose, in the
lessons of Christianity. Or it may be that the man of our day, with
all these advantages, does not keep himself clean--that so many
go astray that public opinion shall almost seem to tremble in the
balance. Even with us this and that abomination becomes allowable
because so many do it. With the Romans, in the time of Cicero, greed,
feeding itself on usury, rapine, and dishonesty, was so fully the
recognized condition of life that its indulgence entailed no disgrace.
But Cicero, with eyes within him which saw farther than the eyes of
other men, perceived the baseness of the stain. It has been said also
of him that he was not altogether free from reproach. It has been
suggested that he accepted payment for his services as an advocate,
any such payment being illegal. The accusation is founded on the
knowledge that other advocates allowed themselves to be paid, and
on the belief that Cicero could not have lived as he did without an
income from that source. And then there is a story told of him that,
though he did much at a certain period of his life to repress the
usury, and to excite at the same time the enmity of a powerful friend,
he might have done more. As we go on, the stories of these things will
be told; but the very nature of the allegations against him prove how
high he soared in honesty above the manners of his day. In discussing
the character of the men, little is thought of the robberies of
Sylla, the borrowings of Caesar, the money-lending of Brutus, or the
accumulated wealth of Crassus. To plunder a province, to drive usury
to the verge of personal slavery, to accept bribes for perjured
judgment, to take illegal fees for services supposed to be gratuitous,
was so much the custom of the noble Romans that we hardly hate his
dishonest greed when displayed in its ordinary course. But because
Cicero's honesty was abnormal, we are first surprised, and then,
suspecting little deviations, rise up in wrath against him, because in
the midst of Roman profligacy he was not altogether a Puritan in his
money matters.

Cicero is known to us in three great capacities: as a statesman, an
advocate, and a man of letters. As the combination of such pursuits is
common in our own days, so also was it in his. Caesar added them all
to the great work of his life as a soldier. But it was given to Cicero
to take a part in all those political struggles, from the resignation
of Sylla to the first rising of the young Octavius, which were made on
behalf of the Republic, and were ended by its downfall. His political
life contains the story of the conversion of Rome from republican to
imperial rule; and Rome was then the world. Could there have been no
Augustus, no Nero, and then no Trajan, all Europe would have been
different. Cicero's efforts were put forth to prevent the coming of an
Augustus or a Nero, or the need of a Trajan; and as we read of them we
feel that, had success been possible, he would have succeeded.

As an advocate he was unsurpassed. From him came the feeling--whether
it be right or wrong--that a lawyer, in pleading for his client,
should give to that client's cause not only all his learning and
all his wit, but also all his sympathy. To me it is marvellous, and
interesting rather than beautiful, to see how completely Cicero can
put off his own identity and assume another's in any cause, whatever
it be, of which he has taken the charge. It must, however, be borne
in mind that in old Rome the distinction between speeches made in
political and in civil or criminal cases was not equally well marked
as with us, and also that the reader having the speeches which have
come down to us, whether of one nature or the other, presented to him
in the same volume, is apt to confuse the public and that which may,
perhaps, be called the private work of the man. In the speeches best
known to us Cicero was working as a public man for public objects, and
the ardor, I may say the fury, of his energy in the cause which he was
advocating was due to his public aspirations. The orations which
have come to us in three sets, some of them published only but never
spoken--those against Verres, against Catiline, and the Philippics
against Antony--were all of this nature, though the first concerned
the conduct of a criminal charge against one individual. Of these I
will speak in their turn; but I mention them here in order that I may,
if possible, induce the reader to begin his inquiry into Cicero's
character as an advocate with a just conception of the objects of the
man. He wished, no doubt, to shine, as does the barrister of to-day:
he wished to rise; he wished, if you will, to make his fortune, not by
the taking of fees, but by extending himself into higher influence by
the authority of his name. No doubt he undertook this and the other
case without reference to the truth or honesty of the cause, and, when
he did so, used all his energy for the bad, as he did for the good
cause. There seems to be special accusation made against him on his
head, as though, the very fact that he undertook his work without pay
threw upon him the additional obligation of undertaking no cause that
was not in itself upright. With us the advocate does this notoriously
for his fee. Cicero did it as notoriously in furtherance of some
political object of the moment, or in maintenance of a friendship
which was politically important. I say nothing against the modern
practice. This would not be the place for such an argument. Nor do I
say that, by rules of absolute right and wrong, Cicero was right; but
he was as right, at any rate, as the modern barrister. And in reaching
the high-minded conditions under which he worked, he had only the
light of his own genius to guide him. When compare the clothing of the
savage race with our own, their beads and woad and straw and fibres
with our own petticoats and pantaloons, we acknowledge the progress of
civilization and the growth of machinery. It is not a wonderful thing
to us that an African prince should not be as perfectly dressed as
a young man in Piccadilly. But, when we make a comparison of morals
between our own time and a period before Christ, we seem to forget
that more should be expected from us than from those who lived two
thousand years ago.

There are some of those pleadings, speeches made by Cicero on behalf
of or against an accused party, from which we may learn more of Roman
life than from any other source left to us. Much we may gather from
Terence, much from Horace, something from Juvenal. There is hardly,
indeed, a Latin author from which an attentive reader may not pick up
some detail of Roman customs. Cicero's letters are themselves very
prolific. But the pretty things of the poets are not quite facts, nor
are the bitter things of the satirist; and though a man's letters to
his friend may be true, such letters as come to us will have been the
products of the greater minds, and will have come from a small and
special class. I fear that the Newgate Calendar of the day would tell
us more of the ways of living then prevailing than the letters of Lady
Mary W. Montagu or of Horace Walpole. From the orations against
Verres we learn how the people of a province lived under the tyranny
inflicted upon them; and from those spoken in defence of Sextus
Amerinus and Aulus Cluentius, we gather something of the horrors
of Roman life--not in Rome, indeed, but within the limits of Roman

It is, however, as a man of letters that Cicero will be held in the
highest esteem. It has been his good-fortune to have a great part of
what he wrote preserved for future ages. His works have not perished,
as have those of his contemporaries, Varro and Hortensius. But this
has been due to two causes, which were independent of Fortune.
He himself believed in their value, and took measures for their
protection; and those who lived in his own time, and in the
immediately succeeding ages, entertained the same belief and took the
same care. Livy said that, to write Latin well, the writer should
write it like Cicero; and Quintilian, the first of Latin critics,
repeated to us what Livy had asserted.[27] There is a sweetness of
language about Cicero which runs into the very sound; so that passages
read aright would, by their very cadences, charm the ear of listeners
ignorant of the language. Eulogy never was so happy as his. Eulogy,
however, is tasteless in comparison with invective. Cicero's abuse is
awful. Let the reader curious in such matters turn to the diatribes
against Vatinius, one of Caesar's creatures, and to that against the
unfortunate Proconsul Piso; or to his attacks on Gabinius, who was
Consul together with Piso in the year of Cicero's banishment. There
are wonderful morsels in the philippics dealing with Antony's private
character; but the words which he uses against Gabinius and Piso beat
all that I know elsewhere in the science of invective. Junius could
not approach him; and even Macaulay, though he has, in certain
passages, been very bitter, has not allowed himself the latitude which
Roman taste and Roman manners permitted to Cicero.

It may, however, be said that the need of biographical memoirs as to a
man of letters is by no means in proportion to the excellence of
the work that he has achieved. Alexander is known but little to us,
because we know so little of the details of his life. Caesar is much
to us, because we have in truth been made acquainted with him. But
Shakspeare, of whose absolute doings we know almost nothing, would
not be nearer or dearer had he even had a Boswell to paint his daily
portrait. The man of letters is, in truth, ever writing his own
biography. What there is in his mind is being declared to the world at
large by himself; and if he can so write that the world at large
shall care to read what is written, no other memoir will, perhaps,
be necessary. For myself I have never regretted those details of
Shakspeare's life which a Boswell of the time might have given us. But
Cicero's personality as a man of letters seems especially to require
elucidation. His letters lose their chief charm if the character of
the man be not known, and the incidents of his life. His essays
on rhetoric--the written lessons which he has left on the art of
oratory--are a running commentary on his own career as an orator. Most
of his speeches require for their understanding a knowledge of
the circumstances of his life. The treatises which we know as his
Philosophy--works which have been most wrongly represented by being
grouped under that name--can only be read with advantage by the light
of his own experience. There are two separate classes of his so-called
Philosophy, in describing which the word philosophy, if it be used at
all, must be made to bear two different senses. He handles in one set
of treatises, not, I think, with his happiest efforts, the teaching
of the old Greek schools. Such are the Tusculan Disquisitions, the
Academics, and the De Finibus. From reading these, without reference
to the idiosyncrasies of the writer, the student would be led to
believe that Cicero himself was a philosopher after that sort. But he
was, in truth, the last of men to lend his ears

"To those budge doctors of the stoic fur."

Cicero was a man thoroughly human in all his strength and all his
weakness. To sit apart from the world and be happy amid scorn,
poverty, and obscurity, with a mess of cabbage and a crust, absolutely
contented with abstract virtue, has probably been given to no man;
but of none has it been less within the reach than of Cicero. To
him ginger was always hot in the mouth, whether it was the spice of
politics, or of social delight, or of intellectual enterprise. When
in his deep sorrow at the death of his daughter, when for a time the
Republic was dead to him, and public and private life were equally
black, he craved employment. Then he took down his Greek manuscripts
and amused himself as best he might by writing this way or that. It
was a matter on which his intellect could work and his energies be
employed, though the theory of his life was in no way concerned in it.
Such was one class of his Philosophy. The other consisted of a code of
morals which he created for himself by his own convictions, formed on
the world around him, and which displayed itself in essays, such
as those De Officiis--on the duties of life; De Senectute, De
Amicitia--on old age and friendship, and the like, which were not only
intended for use, but are of use to any man or woman who will study
them up to this day. There are others, treatises on law and on
government and religion, which have all been lumped together, for the
misguidance of school-boys, under the name of Cicero's Philosophy. But
they, be they of one class or the other, require an understanding of
the man's character before they can be enjoyed.

For these reasons I think that there are incidents in the life, the
character, and the work of Cicero which ought to make his biography
interesting. His story is fraught with energy, with success, with
pathos, and with tragedy. And then it is the story of a man human as
men are now. No child of Rome ever better loved his country, but no
child of Rome was ever so little like a Roman. Arms and battles were
to him abominable, as they are to us. But arms and battles were the
delight of Romans. He was ridiculed in his own time, and has been
ridiculed ever since, for the alliterating twang of the line in which
he declared his feeling:

"Cedant arma togas; concedat laurea linguae."

But the thing said was thoroughly good, and the better because the
opinion was addressed to men among whom the glory of arms was still
in ascendant over the achievements of intellectual enterprise. The
greatest men have been those who have stepped out from the mass, and
gone beyond their time--seeing things, with eyesight almost divine,
which have hitherto been hidden from the crowd. Such was Columbus when
he made his way across the Western Ocean; such were Galileo and Bacon;
such was Pythagoras, if the ideas we have of him be at all true. Such
also was Cicero. It is not given to the age in which such men live
to know them. Could their age even recognize them, they would not
overstep their age as they do. Looking back at him now, we can see
how like a Christian was the man--so like, that in essentials we can
hardly see the difference. He could love another as himself--as nearly
as a man may do; and he taught such love as a doctrine.[28]

He believed in the existence of one supreme God.[29] He believed
that man would rise again and live forever in some heaven.[30] I am
conscious that I cannot much promote this view of Cicero's character
by quoting isolated passages from his works--words which taken alone
may be interpreted in one sense or another, and which should be read,
each with its context, before their due meaning can be understood. But
I may perhaps succeed in explaining to a reader what it is that I hope
to do in the following pages, and why it is that I undertake a work
which must be laborious, and for which many will think that there is
no remaining need.

I would not have it thought that, because I have so spoken of Cicero's
aspirations and convictions, I intend to put him forth as a faultless
personage in history. He was much too human to be perfect. Those who
love the cold attitude of indifference may sing of Cato as perfect.
Cicero was ambitious, and often unscrupulous in his ambition. He was
a loving husband and a loving father; but at the end of his life he
could quarrel with his old wife irrecoverably, and could idolize
his daughter, while he ruined his son by indulgence. He was very great
while he spoke of his country, which he did so often; but he was
almost as little when he spoke of himself--which he did as often.
In money-matters he was honest--for the times in which he lived,
wonderfully honest; but in words he was not always equally
trustworthy. He could flatter where he did not love. I admit that
it was so, though I will not admit without a protest that the word
insincere should be applied to him as describing his character
generally. He was so much more sincere than others that the protest is
needed. If a man stand but five feet eleven inches in his shoes, shall
he be called a pygmy? And yet to declare that he measures full six
feet would be untrue.

Cicero was a busybody. Were there anything to do, he wished to do it,
let it be what it might. "Cedant arma togae." If anything was written
on his heart, it was that. Yet he loved the idea of leading an army,
and panted for a military triumph. Letters and literary life were dear
to him, and yet he liked to think that he could live on equal terms
with the young bloods of Rome, such as Coelius. As far as I can judge,
he cared nothing for luxurious eating and drinking, and yet he wished
to be reckoned among the gormands and gourmets of his times. He was so
little like the "budge doctors of the stoic fur," of whom it was his
delight to write when he had nothing else to do, that he could not
bear any touch of adversity with equanimity. The stoic requires to be
hardened against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." It is
his profession to be indifferent to the "whips and scorns of time." No
man was less hardened, or more subject to suffering from scorns
and whips. There be those who think proneness to such suffering is
unmanly, or that the sufferer should at any rate hide his agony.
Cicero did not. Whether of his glory or of his shame, whether of his
joy or of his sorrow, whether of his love or of his hatred, whether of
his hopes or of his despair, he spoke openly, as he did of all things.
It has not been the way of heroes, as we read of them; but it is the
way with men as we live with them.

What a man he would have been for London life! How he would have
enjoyed his club, picking up the news of the day from all lips, while
he seemed to give it to all ears! How popular he would have been at
the Carlton, and how men would have listened to him while every great
or little crisis was discussed! How supreme he would have sat on the
Treasury bench, or how unanswerable, how fatal, how joyous, when
attacking the Government from the opposite seats! How crowded would
have been his rack with invitations to dinner! How delighted would
have been the middle-aged countesses of the time to hold with him mild
intellectual flirtations--and the girls of the period, how proud to
get his autograph, how much prouder to have touched the lips of the
great orator with theirs! How the pages of the magazines would have
run over with little essays from his pen! "Have you seen our Cicero's
paper on agriculture? That lucky fellow, Editor--, got him to do it
last month!" "Of course you have read Cicero's article on the soul.
The bishops don't know which way to turn." "So the political article
in the _Quarterly_ is Cicero's?" "Of course you know the art-criticism
in the _Times_ this year is Tully's doing?" But that would probably be
a bounce. And then what letters he would write! With the penny-post
instead of travelling messengers at his command, and pen instead of
wax and sticks, or perhaps with an instrument-writer and a private
secretary, he would have answered all questions and solved all
difficulties. He would have so abounded with intellectual fertility
that men would not have known whether most to admire his powers of
expression or to deprecate his want of reticence.

There will necessarily be much to be said of Cicero's writings in the
following pages, as it is my object to delineate the literary man as
well as the politician. In doing this, there arises a difficulty as to
the sequence in which his works should be taken. It will hardly suit
the purpose in view to speak of them all either chronologically or
separately as to their subjects. The speeches and the letters clearly
require the former treatment as applying each to the very moment of
time at which they were either spoken or written. His treatises,
whether on rhetoric or on the Greek philosophy, or on government,
or on morals, can best be taken apart as belonging in a very small
degree, if at all, to the period in which they were written. I will
therefore endeavor to introduce the orations and letters as the
periods may suit, and to treat of his essays afterward by themselves.

A few words I must say as to the Roman names I have used in my
narrative. There is a difficulty in this respect, because the practice
of my boyhood has partially changed itself. Pompey used to be Pompey
without a blush. Now with an erudite English writer he is generally
Pompeius. The denizens of Africa--the "nigger" world--have had, I
think, something to do with this. But with no erudite English writer
is Terence Terentius, or Virgil Virgilius, or Horace Horatius. Were I
to speak of Livius, the erudite English listener would think that I
alluded to an old author long prior to our dear historian. And though
we now talk of Sulla instead of Sylla, we hardly venture on Antonius
instead of Antony. Considering all this, I have thought it better to
cling to the sounds which have ever been familiar to myself; and as
I talk of Virgil and of Horace and Ovid freely and without fear, so
shall I speak also of Pompey and of Antony and of Catiline. In regard
to Sulla, the change has been so complete that I must allow the old
name to have re-established itself altogether.

It has been customary to notify the division of years in the period of
which I am about to write by dating from two different eras, counting
down from the building of Rome, A.U.C., or "anno urbis conditae," and
back from the birth of Christ, which we English mark by the letters
B.C., before Christ. In dealing with Cicero, writers (both French and
English) have not uncommonly added a third mode of dating, assigning
his doings or sayings to the year of his age. There is again a fourth
mode, common among the Romans, of indicating the special years by
naming the Consuls, or one of them. "O nata mecum consule Manlio,"
Horace says, when addressing his cask of wine. That was, indeed, the
official mode of indicating a date, and may probably be taken as
showing how strong the impression in the Roman mind was of the
succession of their Consuls. In the following pages I will use
generally the date B.C., which, though perhaps less simple than the
A.U.C., gives to the mind of the modern reader a clearer idea of the
juxtaposition of events. The reader will surely know that Christ was
born in the reign of Augustus, and crucified in that of Tiberius; but
he will not perhaps know, without the trouble of some calculation,
how far removed from the period of Christ was the year 648 A.U.C., in
which Cicero was born. To this I will add on the margin the year
of Cicero's life. He was nearly sixty-four when he died. I shall,
therefore, call that year his sixty-third year.


[1] Froude's Caesar, p.444.

[2] Ibid., p.428.

[3] Ad Att., lib.xiii., 28.

[4] Ad Att., lib.ix., 10.

[5] Froude, p.365.

[6] Ad Att., lib.ii., 5: "Quo quidem uno ego ab istis capi possum."

[7] The Cincian law, of which I shall have to speak again, forbade
Roman advocates to take any payment for their services. Cicero
expressly declares that he has always obeyed that law. He accused
others of disobeying it, as, for instance, Hortensius. But no
contemporary has accused him. Mr. Collins refers to some books which
had been given to Cicero by his friend Poetus. They are mentioned in a
letter to Atticus, lib. i., 20; and Cicero, joking, says that he has
consulted Cincius--perhaps some descendant of him who made the law 145
years before--as to the legality of accepting the present. But we have
no reason for supposing that he had ever acted as an advocate for

[8] Virgil, Aeneid, i., 150:

"Ac, veluti magno in populo quum saepe coorta est
Seditio, saevitque animis ignobile vulgus;
Jamque faces, et saxa volant; furor arma ministrat:
Tum, pietate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
Conspexere, silent, arrectisque auribus adstant;
Iste regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet."

[9] The author is saying that a history from Cicero would have been
invaluable, and the words are "interitu ejus utrum respublica an
historia magis dolcat".

[10] Quintilian tells us this, lib. ii., c. 5. The passage of Livy
is not extant. The commentators suppose it to have been taken from a
letter to his son.

[11] Velleius Paterculus, lib.ii., c.34.

[12] Valerius Maximus, lib.iv., c.2; 4.

[13] Pliny, Hist. Nat., lib.vii., xxxi., 30.

[14] Martial, lib xiv., 188.

[15] Lucan, lib.vii., 62:

"Cunctorum voces Romani maximus auctor
Tullius eloquii, cujus sub jure togaque
Pacificas saevus tremuit Catilina secures,
Pertulit iratus bellis, cum rostra forumque
Optaret passus tam longa silentia miles
Addidit invalidae robur facundia causae"

[16] Tacitus, De Oratoribus, xxx.

[17] Juvenal, viii., 243.

[18] Demosthenes and Cicero compared.

[19] Quintilian, xii., 1.

[20] "Repudiatus vigintiviratus." He refused a position of official
value rendered vacant by the death of one Cosconius. See Letters to
Atticus, 2,19.

[21] Florus, lib.iv, 1. In a letter from Essex to Foulke Greville,
the writing of which has been attributed to Bacon by Mr. Spedding,
Florus is said simply to have epitomized Livy (Life, vol. ii, p.23).
In this I think that Bacon has shorn him of his honors.

[22] Florus, lib.iv., 1.

[23] Sallust, Catilinaria, xxiii.

[24] I will add the concluding passage from the pseudo declamation, in
order that the reader may see the nature of the words which were put
into Sallust's mouth: "Quos tyrannos appellabas, eorum nune potentiae
faves; qui tibi ante optumates videbantur, eosdem nune dementes ac
furiosos vocas; Vatinii caussam agis, de Sextio male existumas;
Bibulum petulantissumis verbis laedis, laudas Caesarem; quern maxume
odisti, ei maxume obsequeris. Aliud stans, aliud sedens, de republica
sentis; his maledicis, illos odisti; levissume transfuga, neque in
hac, neque illa parte fidem habes." Hence Dio Cassius declared
that Cicero had been called a turncoat. [Greek text: kai automalos

[25] Dio Cassius, lib.xlvi., 18: [Greek text: pros haen kai autaen
toiautas epistolas grapheis oias an grapseien anaer skoptolaes
athuroglorros ... kai proseti kai to stoma auton diaballein
epecheiraese tosautae aselgeia kai akatharsia para panta ton bion
choomenos oste maede ton suggenestuton apechesthai, alla taen te
gunaika proagogeuein kai taen thugatera moicheuein.]

[26] As it happens, De Quincey specially calls Cicero a man of
conscience "Cicero is one of the very few pagan statesmen who can be
described as a thoroughly conscientious man," he says. The purport of
his illogical essay on Cicero is no doubt thoroughly hostile to the
man. It is chiefly worth reading on account of the amusing virulence
with which Middleton, the biographer, is attacked.

[27] Quintilian, lib.ii, c.5.

[28] De Finibus, lib.v., ca.xxii.: "Nemo est igitur, qui non hanc
affectionem animi probet atque laudet."

[29] De Rep., lib.vi., ca.vii: "Nihil est enim illi principi deo,
qui omnem hunc mundum regit, quod quidem in terris fiat acceptius."
Tusc. Quest., lib., ca.xxx.: "Vetat enim dominans ille in nobis

[30] De Rep., lib.vi., ca.vii.: "Certum esse in coelo definitum
locum, ubi beati aevo sempiterno fruantur."



At Arpinum, on the river Liris, a little stream which has been made to
sound sweetly in our ears by Horace,[31] in a villa residence near the
town, Marcus Tullius Cicero was born, 106 years before Christ, on the
3d of January, according to the calendar then in use. Pompey the Great
was born in the same year. Arpinum was a State which had been admitted
into Roman citizenship, lying between Rome and Capua, just within that
portion of Italy which was till the other day called the Kingdom of
Naples. The district from which he came is noted, also, as having
given birth to Marius. Cicero was of an equestrian family, which means
as much as though we were to say among ourselves that a man had been
born a gentleman and nothing more. An "eques" or knight in Cicero's
time became so, or might become so, by being in possession of a
certain income. The title conferred no nobility. The plebeian, it will
be understood, could not become patrician, though he might become
noble--as Cicero did. The patrician must have been born so--must have
sprung from the purple of certain fixed families.[32] Cicero was born
a plebeian, of equestrian rank and became ennobled when he was ranked
among the senators because of his service among the high magistrates
of the Republic. As none of his family had served before him, he was
"novus homo," a new man, and therefore not noble till he had achieved
nobility himself. A man was noble who could reckon a Consul, a
Praetor, or an Aedile among his ancestors. Such was not the case with
Cicero. As he filled all these offices, his son was noble--as were his
son's sons and grandsons, if such there were.

It was common to Romans to have three names, and our Cicero had three.
Marcus, which was similar in its use to the Christian name of one of
us, had been that of his grandfather and father, and was handed on to
his son. This, called the praenomen, was conferred on the child when a
babe with a ceremony not unlike that of our baptism. There was but
a limited choice of such names among the Romans, so that an initial
letter will generally declare to those accustomed to the literature
that intended. A. stands for Aulus, P. for Publius, M. generally
for Marcus, C. for Caius, though there was a Cneus also. The nomen,
Tullius, was that of the family. Of this family of Tullius to which
Cicero belonged we know no details. Plutarch tells us that of his
father nothing was said but in extremes, some declaring that he had
been a fuller, and others that he had been descended from a prince who
had governed the Volsci. We do not see why he may not have sprung from
the prince, and also have been a fuller. There can, however, be no
doubt that he was a gentleman, not uneducated himself, with means
and the desire to give his children the best education which Rome or
Greece afforded. The third name or cognomen, that of Cicero, belonged
to a branch of the family of Tullius. This third name had generally
its origin, as do so many of our surnames, in some specialty of place,
or trade, or chance circumstance. It was said that an attestor had
been called Cicero from "cicer," a vetch, because his nose was marked
with the figure of that vegetable. It is more probable that the family
prospered by the growing and sale of vetches. Be that as it may, the
name had been well established before the orator's time. Cicero's
mother was one Helvia, of whom we are told that she was well-born and
rich. Cicero himself never alludes to her--as neither, if I remember
rightly, did Horace to his mother, though he speaks so frequently of
his father. Helvia's younger son, Quintus, tells a story of his mother
in a letter, which has been, by chance, preserved among those written
by our Cicero. She was in the habit of sealing up the empty wine-jars,
as well as those which were full, so that a jar emptied on the sly by
a guzzling slave might be at once known. This is told in a letter to
Tiro, a favorite slave belonging to Marcus, of whom we shall hear
often in the course of our work. As the old lady sealed up the jars,
though they contained no wine, so must Tiro write letters, though he
has nothing to say in them. This kind of argument, taken from the old
familiar stories of one's childhood and one's parents, could be only
used to a dear and familiar friend. Such was Tiro, though still a
slave, to the two brothers. Roman life admitted of such friendships,
though the slave was so completely the creature of the master that his
life and death were at the master's disposal.

This is nearly all that is known of Cicero's father and mother, or of
his old home.

There is, however, sufficient evidence that the father paid great
attention to the education of his sons--if, in the case of Marcus, any
evidence were wanting where the result is so manifest by the work of
his life. At a very early age, probably when he was eight--in the
year which produced Julius Caasar--he was sent to Rome, and there was
devoted to studies which from the first were intended to fit him for
public life. Middleton says that the father lived in Rome with his
son, and argues from this that he was a man of large means. But Cicero
gives no authority for this. It is more probable that he lived at the
house of one Acaleo, who had married his mother's sister, and had sons
with whom Cicero was educated. Stories are told of his precocious
talents and performances such as we are accustomed to hear of many
remarkable men--not unfrequently from their own mouths. It is said of
him that he was intimate with the two great advocates of the time,
Lucius Crassus and Marcus Antonius the orator, the grandfather of
Cicero's future enemy, whom we know as Marc Antony. Cicero speaks of
them both as though he had seen them and talked much of them in
his youth. He tells us anecdotes of them;[33] how they were both
accustomed to conceal their knowledge of Greek, fancying that the
people in whose eyes they were anxious to shine would think more of
them if they seemed to have contented themselves simply with Roman
words and Roman thoughts. But the intimacy was probably that which a
lad now is apt to feel that he has enjoyed with a great man, if he has
seen and heard him, and perhaps been taken by the hand. He himself
gives in very plain language an account of his own studies when he was
seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen. He speaks of the orators of that
day[34]: "When I was above all things anxious to listen to these men,
the banishment of Cotta was a great sorrow to me. I was passionately
intent on hearing those who were left, daily writing, reading, and
making notes. Nor was I content only with practice in the art of
speaking. In the following year Varius had to go, condemned by his own
enactment; and at this time, in working at the civil law, I gave much
of my time to Quintus Scaevola, the son of Publius, who, though he
took no pupils, by explaining points to those who consulted him, gave
great assistance to students. The year after, when Sulla and Pompey
were Consuls, I learned what oratory really means by listening to
Publius Sulpicius, who as tribune was daily making harangues. It
was then that Philo, the Chief of the Academy, with other leading
philosophers of Athens, had been put to flight by the war with
Mithridates, and had come to Rome. To him I devoted myself entirety,
stirred up by a wonderful appetite for acquiring the Greek philosophy.
But in that, though the variety of the pursuit and its greatness
charmed me altogether, yet it seemed to me that the very essence of
judicial conclusion was altogether suppressed. In that year Sulpicius
perished, and in the next, three of our greatest orators,

Quintus Catulus, Marcus Antonius, and Caius Julius, were cruelly
killed." This was the time of the civil war between Marius and Sulla.
"In the same year I took lessons from Molo the Rhodian, a great
pleader and master of the art." In the next chapter he tells us that
he passed his time also with Diodatus the Stoic, who afterward lived
with him, and died in his house. Here we have an authentic description
of the manner in which Cicero passed his time as a youth at Rome,
and one we can reduce probably to absolute truth by lessening the
superlatives. Nothing in it, however, is more remarkable than the
confession that, while his young intellect rejoiced in the subtle
argumentation of the Greek philosophers, his clear common sense
quarrelled with their inability to reach any positive conclusion.

But before these days of real study had come upon him he had given
himself up to juvenile poetry. He is said to have written a poem
called Pontius Glaucus when he was fourteen years old. This was no
doubt a translation from the Greek, as were most of the poems that he
wrote, and many portions of his prose treatises.[35] Plutarch tells us
that the poem was extant in his time, and declares that, "in process
of time, when he had studied this art with greater application, he was
looked upon as the best poet, as well as the greatest orator in Rome.
"The English translators of Plutarch tell us that their author was an
indifferent judge of Latin poetry, and allege as proof of this that
he praised Cicero as a poet, a praise which he gave "contrary to the
opinion of Juvenal." But Juvenal has given no opinion of Cicero's
poetry, having simply quoted one unfortunate line noted for its
egotism, and declared that Cicero would never have had his head cut
off had his philippics been of the same nature.[36] The evidence of
Quintus Mucius Scaevola as to Cicero's poetry was perhaps better, as
he had the means, at any rate, of reading it. He believed that
the Marius, a poem written by Cicero in praise of his great
fellow-townsman, would live to posterity forever. The story of the old
man's prophecy comes to us, no doubt, from Cicero himself, and is put
into the mouth of his brother;[37] but had it been untrue it would
have been contradicted.

The Glaucus was a translation from the Greek done by a boy, probably
as a boy's lesson It is not uncommon that such exercises should be
treasured by parents, or perhaps by the performer himself, and not
impossible that they should be made to reappear afterward as original
compositions. Lord Brougham tells us in his autobiogiaphy that in his
early youth he tried his hand at writing English essays, and even
tales of fiction.[38] "I find one of these," he says, "Has survived
the waste-paper basket, and it may amuse my readers to see the sort
of composition I was guilty of at the age of thirteen. My tale was
entitled 'Memnon, or Human Wisdom,' and is as follows." Then we have
a fair translation of Voltaire's romance, "Memnon," or "La Sagesse
Humaine." The old lord, when he was collecting his papers for his
autobiography, had altogether forgotten his Voltaire, and thought that
he had composed the story! Nothing so absurd as that is told of Cicero
by himself or on his behalf.

It may be as well to say here what there may be to be said as to
Cicero's poetry generally. But little of it remains to us, and by that
little it has been admitted that he has not achieved the name of a
great poet; but what he did was too great in extent and too good in
its nature to be passed over altogether without notice. It has been
his fate to be rather ridiculed than read as a maker of verses, and
that ridicule has come from two lines which I have already quoted. The
longest piece which we have is from the Phaenomena of Aratus, which he
translated from the Greek when he was eighteen years old, and which
describes the heavenly bodies. It is known to us best by the extracts
from it given by the author himself in his treatise, De Natura Deorum.
It must be owned that it is not pleasant reading. But translated
poetry seldom is pleasant, and could hardly be made so on such a
subject by a boy of eighteen. The Marius was written two years after
this, and we have a passage from it, quoted by the author in his De
Divinatione, containing some fine lines. It tells the story of the
battle of the eagle and the serpent. Cicero took it, no doubt (not
translated it, however), from the passage in the Iliad, lib, xii,
200, which has been rendered by Pope with less than his usual fire,
and by Lord Derby with no peculiar charm. Virgil has reproduced the
picture with his own peculiar grace of words. His version has been
translated by Dryden, but better, perhaps, by Christopher Pitt.
Voltaire has translated Cicero's lines with great power, and Shelley
has reproduced the same idea at much greater length in the first canto
of the Revolt of Islam, taking it probably from Cicero, but, if not,
from Voltaire.[39] I venture to think that, of the nine versions,
Cicero's is the best, and that it is the most melodious piece of Latin
poetry we have up to that date. Twenty-seven years afterward, when
Lucretius was probably at work on his great poem, Cicero wrote an
account of his consulship in verse. Of this we have fifty or sixty
lines, in which the author describes the heavenly warnings which were
given as to the affairs of his own consular year. The story is not a
happy one, but the lines are harmonious. It is often worth our while
to inquire how poetry has become such as it is, and how the altered
and improved phases of versification have arisen. To trace our melody
from Chaucer to Tennyson is matter of interest to us all. Of Cicero as
a poet we may say that he found Latin versification rough, and left it
smooth and musical. Now, as we go on with the orator's life and prose
works, we need not return to his poetry.

The names of many masters have been given to us as those under whom
Cicero's education was carried on. Among others he is supposed, at a
very early age, to have been confided to Archias. Archias was a Greek,
born at Antioch, who devoted himself to letters, and, if we are to
believe what Cicero says, when speaking as an advocate, excelled all
his rivals of the day. Like many other educated Greeks, he made his
way to Rome, and was received as one of the household of Lucullus,
with whom he travelled, accompanying him even to the wars. He became a
citizen of Rome--so Cicero assures us--and Cicero's tutor. What Cicero
owed to him we do not know, but to Cicero Archias owed immortality.
His claim to citizenship was disputed; and Cicero, pleading on his
behalf, made one of those shorter speeches which are perfect in
melody, in taste, and in language. There is a passage in which
speaking on behalf of so excellent a professor in the art, he sings
the praises of literature generally. I know no words written in praise
of books more persuasive or more valuable. "Other recreations," he
says, "do not belong to all seasons nor to all ages, nor to all
places. These pursuits nourish our youth and delight our old age. They
adorn our prosperity and give a refuge and a solace to our troubles.
They charm us at home, and they are not in our way when we are abroad.
They go to bed with us. They travel about with us. They accompany us
as we escape into the country."[40] Archias probably did something for
him in directing his taste, and has been rewarded thus richly. As to
other lessons, we know that he was instructed in law by Scaevola, and
he has told us that he listened to Crassus and Antony. At sixteen he
went through the ceremony of putting off his boy's dress, the toga
praetexta, and appearing in the toga virilis before the Praetor, thus
assuming his right to go about a man's business. At sixteen the work
of education was _not_ finished--no more than it is with us when a lad
at Oxford becomes "of age" at twenty-one; nor was he put beyond his
father's power, the "patria potestas," from which no age availed to
liberate a son; but, nevertheless, it was a very joyful ceremony,
and was duly performed by Cicero in the midst of his studies with

At eighteen he joined the army. That doctrine of the division of labor
which now, with us, runs through and dominates all pursuits, had not
as yet been made plain to the minds of men at Rome by the political
economists of the day. It was well that a man should know something of
many things--that he should especially, if he intended to be a leader
of men, be both soldier and orator. To rise to be Consul, having first
been Quaestor, Aedile, and Praetor, was the path of glory. It had been
the special duty of the Consuls of Rome, since the establishment of
consular government, to lead the armies of the Republic. A portion of
the duty devolved upon the Praetors, as wars became more numerous; and
latterly the commanders were attended by Quaestors. The Governors of
the provinces, Proconsuls, or Propretors with proconsular authority,
always combined military with civil authority. The art of war was,
therefore, a necessary part of the education of a man intended to rise
in the service of the State. Cicero, though, in his endeavor to follow
his own tastes, he made a strong effort to keep himself free from
such work, and to remain at Rome instead of being sent abroad as
a Governor, had at last to go where fighting was in some degree
necessary, and, in the saddest phase of his life, appeared in Italy
with his lictors, demanding the honors of a triumph. In anticipation
of such a career, no doubt under the advice of his friends, he now
went out to see, if not a battle, something, at any rate, of war. It
has already been said how the citizenship of Rome was conferred on
some of the small Italian States around, and not on others. Hence, of
course, arose jealousy, which was increased by the feeling on the part
of those excluded that they were called to furnish soldiers to
Rome, as well as those who were included. Then there was formed
a combination of Italian cities, sworn to remedy the injury thus
inflicted on them. Their purpose was to fight Rome in order that they
might achieve Roman citizenship; and hence arose the first civil war
which distracted the Empire. Pompeius Strabo, father of Pompey the
Great, was then Consul (B.C. 89), and Cicero was sent out to see the
campaign under him. Marius and Sulla, the two Romans who were destined
soon to bathe Rome in blood, had not yet quarrelled, though they had
been brought to hate each other--Marius by jealousy, and Sulla by
rivalry. In this war they both served under the Consuls, and Cicero
served with Sulla. We know nothing of his doings in that campaign.
There are no tidings even of a misfortune such as that which
happened to Horace when he went out to fight, and came home from the
battle-field "relicta non bene parmula."

Rome trampled on the rebellious cities, and in the end admitted them
to citizenship. But probably the most important, certainly the most
notorious, result of the Italian war, was the deep antagonism of
Marius and Sulla. Sulla had made himself conspicuous by his fortune on
the occasion, whereas Marius, who had become the great soldier of
the Republic, and had been six times Consul, failed to gather fresh
laurels. Rome was falling into that state of anarchy which was the
cause of all the glory and all the disgrace of Cicero's life, and was
open to the dominion of any soldier whose grasp might be the least
scrupulous and the strongest. Marius, after a series of romantic
adventures with which we must not connect ourselves here, was
triumphant only just before his death, while Sulla went off with his
army, pillaged Athens, plundered Asia Minor generally, and made terms
with Mithridates, though he did not conquer him. With the purport, no
doubt, of conquering Mithridates, but perhaps with the stronger object
of getting him out of Rome, the army had been intrusted to him, with
the consent of the Marian faction.

Then came those three years, when Sulla was in the East and Marius
dead, of which Cicero speaks as a period of peace, in which a student
was able to study in Rome. "Triennium fere fuit urbs sine armis."[41]
These must have been the years 86, 85, and 84 before Christ, when
Cicero was twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three years old; and
it was this period, in truth, of which he speaks, and not of earlier
years, when he tells us of his studies with Philo, and Molo, and
Diodatus. Precocious as he was in literature, writing one poem--or
translating it--when he was fourteen, and another when he was
eighteen, he was by no means in a hurry to commence the work of his
life. He is said also to have written a treatise on military tactics
when he was nineteen; which again, no doubt, means that he had
exercised himself by translating such an essay from the Greek. This,
happily, does not remain. But we have four books, Rhetoricorum ad C.
Herennium, and two books De Inventione, attributed to his twentieth
and twenty-first years, which are published with his works, and
commence the series. Of all that we have from him, they are perhaps
the least worth reading; but as they are, or were, among his
recognized writings, a word shall be said of them in their proper

The success of the education of Cicero probably became a commonplace
among Latin school-masters and Latin writers. In the dialogue De
Oratoribus, attributed to Tacitus, the story of it is given by Messala
when he is praising the orators of the earlier age. "We know well,"
says Messala, "that book of Cicero which is called Brutus, in the
latter part of which he describes to us the beginning and the progress
of his own eloquence, and, as it were, the bringing up on which it was
founded. He tells us that he had learned civil law under Q. Mutius
Scaevola; that he had exhausted the realm of philosophy--learning that
of the Academy under Philo, and that of the Stoics under Diodatus;
that, not content with these treatises, he had travelled through
Greece and Asia, so as to embrace the whole world of art. And thus
it had come about that in the works of Cicero no knowledge is
wanting--neither of music, nor of grammar, nor any other liberal
accomplishment. He understood the subtilty of logic, the purpose of
ethics, the effects and causes of things." Then the speaker goes on to
explain what may be expected from study such as that. "Thus it is, my
good friends--thus, that from the acquirement of many arts, and from a
general knowledge of all things, eloquence that is truly admirable is
created in its full force; for the power and capacity of an orator
need not be hemmed in, as are those of other callings, by certain
narrow bounds; but that man is the true orator who is able to speak
on all subjects with dignity and grace, so as to persuade those who
listen, and to delight them, in a manner suited to the nature of the
subject in hand and the convenience of the time."[42]

We might fancy that we were reading words from Cicero himself! Then
the speaker in this imaginary conversation goes on to tell us how far
matters had derogated in his time, pointing out at the same time that
the evils which he deplores had shown themselves even before Cicero,
but had been put down, as far as the law could put them down, by its
interference. He is speaking of those schools of rhetoric in which
Greek professors of the art gave lessons for money, which were evil in
their nature, and not, as it appears, efficacious even for the purpose
in hand. "But now," continues Messala, "our very boys are brought into
the schools of those lecturers who are called 'rhetores,' who had
sprung up before Cicero, to the displeasure of our ancestors, as is
evident from the fact that when Crassus and Domitius were Censors they
were ordered to shut up their school of impudence, as Cicero calls it.
Our boys, as I was going to say, are taken to these lecture-rooms, in
which it is hard to say whether the atmosphere of the place, or the
lads they are thrown among, or the nature of the lessons taught, are
the most injurious. In the place itself there is neither discipline
nor respect. All who go there are equally ignorant. The boys among the
boys, the lads among the lads, utter and listen to just what words
they please. Their very exercises are, for the most part, useless.
Two kinds are in vogue with these 'rhetores,' called 'suasoriae' and
'controversiae,'" tending, we may perhaps say, to persuade or to
refute. "Of these, the 'suasoriae,' as being the lighter and requiring
less of experience, are given to the little boys, the 'controversiae'
to the bigger lads. But--oh heavens, what they are--what miserable
compositions!" Then he tells us the subjects selected. Rape, incest,
and other horrors are subjected to the lads for their declamation, in
order that they may learn to be orators.

Messala then explains that in those latter days--his days, that
is--under the rule of despotic princes, truly large subjects are not
allowed to be discussed in public--confessing, however, that those
large subjects, though they afford fine opportunities to orators, are
not beneficial to the State at large. But it was thus, he says, that
Cicero became what he was, who would not have grown into favor had he
defended only P. Quintius and Archias, and had had nothing to do with
Catiline, or Milo, or Verres, or Antony--showing, by-the-way, how
great was the reputation of that speech, Pro Milone, with which we
shall have to deal farther on.

The treatise becomes somewhat confused, a portion of it having
probably been lost. From whose mouth the last words are supposed to
come is not apparent. It ends with a rhapsody in favor of imperial
government--suitable, indeed, to the time of Domitian, but very unlike
Tacitus. While, however, it praises despotism, it declares that
only by the evils which despotism had quelled could eloquence
be maintained. "Our country, indeed, while it was astray in its
government; while it tore itself to pieces by parties and quarrels and
discord; while there was no peace in the Forum, no agreement in the
Senate, no moderation on the judgment-seat, no reverence for letters,
no control among the magistrates, boasted, no doubt, a stronger

From what we are thus told of Cicero, not what we hear from himself,
we are able to form an idea of the nature of his education. With his
mind fixed from his early days on the ambition of doing something
noble with himself, he gave himself up to all kinds of learning. It
was Macaulay, I think, who said of him that the idea of conquering the
"omne scibile--the understanding of all things within the reach of
human intellect--was before his eyes as it was before those of Bacon.
The special preparation which was, in Cicero's time, employed for
students at the bar is also described in the treatise from which I
have quoted--the preparation which is supposed to have been the very
opposite of that afforded by the "rhetores." "Among ourselves, the
youth who was intended to achieve eloquence in the Forum, when already
trained at home and exercised in classical knowledge, was brought by
his father or his friends to that orator who might then be considered
to be the leading man in the city. It became his daily work to follow
that man, to accompany him, to be conversant with all his speeches,
whether in the courts of law or at public meetings, so that he might
learn, if I might say so, to fight in the very thick of the throng."
It was thus that Cicero studied his art. A few lines farther down, the
pseudo-Tacitus tells us that Crassus, in his nineteenth year, held a
brief against Carbo; that Caesar did so in his twenty-first against
Dolabella; and Pollio, in his twenty-second year, against Cato.[43] In
this precocity Cicero did not imitate Crassus, or show an example to
the Romans who followed him. He was twenty-six when he pleaded his
first cause. Sulla had then succeeded in crushing the Marian faction,
and the Sullan proscriptions had taken place, and were nominally over.
Sulla had been declared Dictator, and had proclaimed that there should
be no more selections for death. The Republic was supposed to be
restored. "Recuperata republica----tum primum nos ad causas et
privatas et publicas adire cepimus,"[44] "The Republic having been
restored, I then first applied myself to pleadings, both private and

Of Cicero's politics at that time we are enabled to form a fair
judgment. Marius had been his townsman; Sulla had been his captain.
But the one thing dear to him was the Republic--what he thought to be
the Republic. He was neither Manan nor Sullan The turbulence in which
so much noble blood had flowed--the "crudelis interitus oratorum," the
crushing out of the old legalized form of government--was abominable
to him. It was his hope, no doubt his expectation, that these old
forms should be restored in all their power. There seemed to be more
probability of this--there was more probability of it--on the side of
Sulla than the other. On Sulla's side was Pompey, the then rising man,
who, being of the same age with Cicero, had already pushed himself
into prominence, who was surnamed the Great, and who "triumphed"
during these very two years in which Cicero began his career; who
through Cicero's whole life was his bugbear, his stumbling-block, and
his mistake. But on that side were the "optimates," the men who, if
they did not lead, ought to lead the Republic; those who, if they were
not respectable, ought to be so; those who, if they did not love their
country, ought to love it. If there was a hope, it was with them.
The old state of things--that oligarchy which has been called a
Republic--had made Rome what it was; had produced power, civilization,
art, and literature. It had enabled such a one as Cicero was himself
to aspire to lead, though he had been humbly born, and had come to
Rome from an untried provincial family. To him the Republic--as he
fancied that it had been, as he fancied that it might be--was all that
was good, all that was gracious, all that was beneficent. On Sulla's
side lay what chance there was of returning to the old ways. When
Sulla was declared Dictator, it was presumed that the Republic was
restored. But not on this account should it be supposed that Cicero
regarded the proscriptions of Sulla with favor, or that he was
otherwise than shocked by the wholesale robberies for which the
proscription paved the way. This is a matter with which it will be
necessary to deal more fully when we come in our next chapter to the
first speeches made by Cicero; in the very first of which, as I place
them, he attacks the Sullan robberies with an audacity which, when
we remember that Sulla was still in power, rescues, at any rate, in
regard to this period of his life, the character of the orator from
that charge of cowardice which has been imputed to him.

It is necessary here, in this chapter devoted to the education of
Cicero, to allude to his two first speeches, because that education
was not completed till afterward--so that they may be regarded as
experiments, or trials, as it were, of his force and sufficiency.
"Not content with these teachers"--teachers who had come to Rome from
Greece and Asia--"he had travelled through Greece and Asia, so as to
embrace the whole world of art." These words, quoted a few pages back
from the treatise attributed to Tacitus, refer to a passage in the
Brutus in which Cicero makes a statement to that effect. "When I
reached Athens,[45] I passed six months with Antiochus, by far the
best known and most erudite of the teachers of the old Academy, and
with him, as my great authority and master, I renewed that study of
philosophy which I had never abandoned--which from my boyhood I had
followed with always increasing success. At the same time I practised
oratory laboriously with Demetrius Syrus, also at Athens, a well-known
and by no means incapable master of the art of speaking. After that I
wandered over all Asia, and came across the best orators there, with
whom I practised, enjoying their willing assistance." There is more of
it, which need not be repeated verbatim, giving the names of those who
aided him in Asia: Menippus of Stratonice--who, he says, was sweet
enough to have belonged himself to Athens--with Dionysius of Magnesia,
with Oeschilus of Cnidos, and with Xenocles of Adramyttium. Then at
Rhodes he came across his old friend Molo, and applied himself again
to the teaching of his former master. Quintilian explains to us how
this was done with a purpose, so that the young orator, when he had
made a first attempt with his half-fledged wings in the courts, might
go back to his masters for awhile[46].

He was twenty-eight when he started on this tour. It has been
suggested that he did so in fear of the resentment of Sulla, with
whose favorites and with whose practices he had dealt very plainly.
There is no reason for alleging this, except that Sulla was powerful,
that Sulla was blood-thirsty, and that Sulla must have been offended.
This kind of argument is often used. It is supposed to be natural, or
at least probable, that in a certain position a man should have been
a coward or a knave, ungrateful or cruel; and in the presumption
thus raised the accusation is brought against him. "Fearing Sulla's
resentment," Plutarch says, "he travelled into Greece, and gave out
that the recovery of his health was the motive." There is no evidence
that such was his reason for travelling; and, as Middleton says in his
behalf, it is certain that he "continued for a year after this in Rome
without any apprehension of danger." It is best to take a man's own
account of his own doings and their causes, unless there be ground for
doubting the statement made. It is thus that Cicero himself speaks of
his journey: "Now," he says, still in his Brutus[47], "as you wish to
know what I am--not simply what mark I may have on my body from my
birth, or with what surroundings of childhood I was brought up--I will
include some details which might perhaps seem hardly necessary. At
this time I was thin and weak, my neck being long and narrow--a habit
and form of body which is supposed to be adverse to long life; and
those who loved me thought the more of this, because I had taken to
speaking without relaxation, without recreation with all the powers of
my voice, and with much muscular action.

When my friends and the doctors desired me to give up speaking, I
resolved that, rather than abandon my career as an orator, I would
face any danger. But when it occurred to me that by lowering my voice,
by changing my method of speaking, I might avoid the danger, and at
the same time learn to speak with more elegance, I accepted that as
a reason for going into Asia, so that I might study how to change
my mode of elocution. Thus, when I had been two years at work upon
causes, and when my name was already well known in the Forum, I took
my departure, and left Rome."

During the six months that he was at Athens he renewed an early
acquaintance with one who was destined to become the most faithful,
and certainly the best known, of his friends. This was Titus
Pomponius, known to the world as that Atticus to whom were addressed
something more than half the large body of letters which were written
by Cicero, and which have remained for our use.[48] He seems to have
lived much with Atticus, who was occupied with similar studies, though
with altogether different results. Atticus applied himself to the
practices of the Epicurean school, and did in truth become "Epicuri de
grege porcus." To enjoy life, to amass a fortune, to keep himself free
from all turmoils of war or state, to make the best of the times,
whether they were bad or good, without any attempt on his part to
mend them--this was the philosophy of Titus Pomponius, who was called
Atticus because Athens, full of art and literature, easy, unenergetic,
and luxurious, was dear to him. To this philosophy, or rather to this
theory of life, Cicero was altogether opposed. He studied in all the
schools--among the Platonists, the Stoics, even with the
Epicureans enough to know their dogmas so that he might criticise
them--proclaiming himself to belong to the new Academy, or younger
school of Platonists, but in truth drawing no system of morals or rule
of life from any of them. To him, and also to Atticus, no doubt, these
pursuits afforded an intellectual pastime. Atticus found himself able
to justify to himself the bent of his disposition by the name of a
philosopher, and therefore became an Epicurean. Cicero could in no way
justify to himself any deviation from the energy of public life, from
its utility, from its ambition, from its loves, or from its hatred;
and from the Greek philosophers whom he named of this or the other
school, received only some assistance in that handling of so-called
philosophy which became the chief amusement of his future life. This
was well understood by the Latin authors who wrote of Cicero after
his own time. Quintilian, speaking of Cicero and Brutus as writers of
philosophy, says of the latter, "Suffecit ponderi rerum; seias enim
sentire quae dicit"[49]--"He was equal to the weight of the subject,
for you feel that he believes what he writes" He leaves the inference,
of course, that Cicero wrote on such matters only for the exercise of
his ingenuity, as a school-boy writes.

When at Athens, Cicero was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries--as
to which Mr. Collins, in his little volume on Cicero, in the Ancient
Classics for English Readers, says that they "contained under this
veil whatever faith in the Invisible and Eternal rested in the mind of
an enlightened pagan." In this Mr. Collins is fully justified by what
Cicero himself has said although the character thus given to these
mysteries is very different from that which was attributed to them
by early Christian writers. They were to those pious but somewhat
prejudiced theologists mysterious and pagan, and therefore horrible.[50]
But Cicero declares in his dialogue with Atticus De Legibus, written
when he was fifty-five years old, in the prime of his intellect, that
"of all the glories and divine gifts which your Athens has produced for
the improvement of men nothing surpasses these mysteries, by which the
harshness of our uncivilized life has been softened, and we have been
lifted up to humanity; and as they are called 'initia,'" by which
aspirants were initiated, "so we have in truth found in them the seeds
of a new life. Nor have we received from them only the means of living
with satisfaction, but also of dying with a better hope as to the

Of what took place with Cicero and Atticus at their introduction to
the Eleusinian mysteries we know nothing. But it can hardly be that,
with such memories running in his mind after thirty years, expressed
in such language to the very friend who had then been his companion,
they should not have been accepted by him as indicating the
commencement of some great line of thought. The two doctrines which
seem to mark most clearly the difference between the men whom we
regard, the one as a pagan and the other as a Christian, are the
belief in a future life and the duty of doing well by our neighbors.
Here they are both indicated, the former in plain language, and
the latter in that assurance of the softening of the barbarity of
uncivilized life, "Quibus ex agresti immanique vita exculti ad
humanitatem et mitigati sumus."

Of the inner life of Cicero at this moment--how he ate, how he drank,
with what accompaniment of slaves he lived, how he was dressed, and
how lodged--we know very little; but we are told enough to be aware
that he could not have travelled, as he did in Greece and Asia,
without great expense. His brother Quintus was with him, so that cost,
if not double, was greatly increased. Antiochus, Demetrius Syrus,
Molo, Menippus, and the others did not give him their services for
nothing. These were gentlemen of whom we know that they were anxious
to carry their wares to the best market. And then he seems to have
been welcomed wherever he went, as though travelling in some sort "en
prince." No doubt he had brought with him the best introductions which
Rome could afford; but even with them a generous allowance must have
been necessary, and this must have come from his father's pocket.

As we go on, a question will arise as to Cicero's income and the
sources whence it came. He asserts of himself that he was never paid
for his services at the bar. To receive such payment was illegal,
but was usual. He claims to have kept himself exempt from whatever
meanness there may have been in so receiving such fees--exempt, at
any rate, from the fault of having broken the law. He has not been
believed. There is no evidence to convict him of falsehood, but he has
not been believed, because there have not been found palpable sources
of income sufficient for an expenditure so great as that which we know
to have been incident to the life he led. But we do not know what were
his father's means. Seeing the nature of the education given to the
lad, of the manner in which his future life was prepared for him from
his earliest days, of the promise made to him from his boyhood of a
career in the metropolis if he could make himself fit for it, of the
advantages which costly travel afforded him, I think we have reason to
suppose that the old Cicero was an opulent man, and that the house at
Arpinum was no humble farm, or fuller's poor establishment.


[31] Hor., lib.i., Ode xxii.,

"Non rura qua; Liris quicta
Mordet aqua taciturnus amnis."

[32] Such was the presumed condition of things at Rome. By the passing
of a special law a plebeian might, and occasionally did, become
patrician. The patricians had so nearly died out in the time of Julius
Caesar that he introduced fifty new families by the Lex Cassia.

[33] De Orat., lib.ii., ca.1.

[34] Brutus, ca.lxxxix.

[35] It should be remembered that in Latin literature it was the
recognized practice of authors to borrow wholesale from the Greek,
and that no charge of plagiarism attended such borrowing. Virgil, in
taking thoughts and language from Homer, was simply supposed to have
shown his judgment in accommodating Greek delights to Roman ears and
Roman intellects.

The idea as to literary larceny is of later date, and has grown up
with personal claims for originality and with copyright. Shakspeare
did not acknowledge whence he took his plots, because it was
unnecessary. Now, if a writer borrow a tale from the French, it is
held that he ought at least to owe the obligation, or perhaps even pay
for it.

[36] Juvenal, Sat.x., 122,

"O fortunatum natam me Consule Romam!
Antoni gladios potuit contemnere, si sic
Omnia dixisset."

[37] De Leg., lib.i., ca.1.

[38] Life and Times of Henry Lord Brougham, written by himself, vol.i.,
p. 58.

[39] I give the nine versions to which I allude in an Appendix A, at
the end of this volume, so that those curious in such matters may
compare the words in which the same picture has been drawn by various

[40] Pro Archia, ca.vii.

[41] Brutus, ca.xc.

[42] Tacitus, De Oratoribus, xxx.

[43] Quintilian, lib. xii., c. vi., who wrote about the same time as
this essayist, tells us of these three instances of early oratory,
not, however, specifying the exact age in either case. He also reminds
us that Demosthenes pleaded when he was a boy, and that Augustus at
the age of twelve made a public harangue in honor of his grandmother.

[44] Brutus, ca.xc.

[45] Brutus, xci.

[46] Quintilian, lib. xii., vi.: "Quum jam clarum meruisset inter
patronos, qui tum erant, nomen, in Asiam navigavit, seque et aliis
sine dubio eloquentiae ae sapientiae magistris, sed praecipue tamen
Apollonio Moloni, quem Romae quoque audierat, Rhodi rursus formandum
ae velut recognendum dedit".

[47] Brutus, xci.

[48] The total correspondence contains 817 letters, of which 52 were
written to Cicero, 396 were written by Cicero to Atticus, and 369 by
Cicero to his friends in general. We have no letters from Atticus to

[49] Quintilian, lib.x., ca.1.

[50] Clemens of Alexandria, in his exhortation to the Gentiles, is
very severe upon the iniquities of these rites. "All evil be to him,"
he says, "who brought them into fashion, whether it was Dardanus, or
Eetion the Thracian, or Midas the Phrygian." The old story which he
repeats as to Ceres and Proserpine may have been true, but he was
altogether ignorant of the changes which the common-sense of centuries
had produced.

[51] De Legibus, lib.ii., c.xiv.



It is far from my intention to write a history of Rome during the
Ciceronian period. Were I to attempt such a work, I should have to
include the doings of Sertorius in Spain, of Lucullus and Pompey in
the East, Caesar's ten years in Gaul, and the civil wars from the
taking of Marseilles to the final battles of Thapsus and Munda. With
very many of the great events which the period includes Cicero took
but slight concern--so slight that we can hardly fail to be astonished
when we find how little he had to say of them--he who ran through
all the offices of the State, who was the chosen guardian of certain
allied cities, who has left to us so large a mass of correspondence on
public subjects, and who was essentially a public man for thirty-four
years. But he was a public man who concerned himself personally with
Rome rather than with the Roman Empire. Home affairs, and not foreign
affairs, were dear to him. To Caesar's great deeds in Gaul we should
have had from him almost no allusion, had not his brother Quintus been
among Caesar's officers, and his young friend Trebatius been confided
by himself to Caesar's care. Of Pharsalia we only learn from him that,
in utter despair of heart, he allowed himself to be carried to the
war. Of the proconsular governments throughout the Roman Empire we
should not learn much from Cicero, were it not that it has been shown
to us by the trial of Verres how atrocious might be the conduct of a
Roman Governor, and by the narratives of Cicero's own rule in Cilicia,
how excellent. The history of the time has been written for modern
readers by Merivale and Mommsen, with great research and truth as to
facts, but, as I think with some strong feeling. Now Mr. Froude
has followed with his Caesar, which might well have been called
Anti-Cicero. All these in lauding, and the two latter in deifying,
the successful soldier, have, I think, dealt hardly with Cicero,
attributing to his utterances more than they mean; doubting his
sincerity, but seeing clearly the failure of his political efforts.
With the great facts of the Roman Empire as they gradually formed
themselves from the fall of Carthage, when the Empire began,[52] to
the establishment of Augustus, when it was consummated, I do not
pretend to deal, although by far the most momentous of them were
crowded into the life of Cicero. But in order that I may, if possible,
show the condition of his mind toward the Republic--that I may explain
what it was that he hoped and why he hoped it--I must go back and
relate in a few words what it was that Marius and Sulla had done for

Of both these men all the doings with which history is greatly
concerned were comprised within the early years of Cicero's life.

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