Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Life of Cicero by Anthony Trollope

Part 6 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Brutus It is because he dared to live on that we are taught to think
so little of him? because he had antedated Christianity so far as to
feel when the moment came that such an escape was, in truth, unmanly.
He doubted, and when the deed had not been done he expressed regret
that he had allowed himself to live. But he did not do it? as Cato
would have done, or Brutus.

It may be as well here to combat, in as few words as possible, the
assertions which have been made that Cicero, having begun life as a
democrat, discarded his colors as soon as he had received from the
people those honors for which he had sought popularity. They who have
said so have taken their idea from the fact that, in much of his early
forensic work, he spoke against the aristocratic party. He attacked
Sulla, through his favorite Chrysogonus, in his defence of Roscius
Amerinus. He afterward defended a woman of Arretium in the spirit of
antagonism to Sulla. His accusation of Verres was made on the same
side in politics, and was carried on in opposition to Hortensius and
the oligarchs. He defended the Tribune Caius Cornelius. Then, when he
became Consul, he devoted himself to the destruction of Catiline,
who was joined with many, perhaps with Caesar's sympathy, in the
conspiracy for the overthrow of the Republic. Caesar soon became the
leader of the democracy? became rather what Mommsen describes as
"Democracy" itself; and as Cicero had defended the Senate from
Catiline, and had refused to attach himself to Caesar, he is supposed
to have turned from the political ideas of his youth, and to have
become a Conservative when Conservative ideas suited his ambition.

I will not accept the excuse put forward on his behalf, that the early
speeches were made on the side of democracy because the exigencies of
the occasion required him to so devote his energies as an advocate. No
doubt he was an advocate, as are our barristers of to-day, and, as an
advocate, supported this side or that; but we shall be wrong if we
suppose that the Roman "patronus" supplied his services under such
inducements. With us a man goes into the profession of the law with
the intention of making money, and takes the cases right and left,
unless there be special circumstances which may debar him from doing
so with honor. It is a point of etiquette with him to give his assis-
tance, in turn, as he may be called on; so much so, that leading men
are not unfrequently employed on one side simply that they may not be
employed on the other side. It should not be urged on the part of
Cicero that, so actuated, he defended Amerinus, a case in which he took
part against the aristocrats, or defended Publius Sulla, in doing which
he appeared on the side of the aristocracy. Such a defence of his
conduct would be misleading, and might be confuted. It would be confuted
by those who suppose him to have been "notoriously a political trimmer,"
as Mommsen has[269] called him; or a "deserter," as he was described by
Dio Cassius and by the Pseudo-Sallust,[270] by showing that in fact he
took up causes under the influence of strong personal motives such as
rarely govern an English barrister. These motives were in many cases
partly political; but they operated in such a manner as to give no
guide to his political views. In defending Sulla's nephew he was
moved, as far as we know, solely by private motives. In defending
Amerinus he may be said to have attacked Sulla. His object was to
stamp out the still burning embers of Sulla's cruelty; but not the
less was he wedded to Sulla's general views as to the restoration of
the authority of the Senate. In his early speeches, especially in that
spoken against Verres, he denounces the corruption of the senatorial
judges; but at that very period of his life he again and again
expresses his own belief in the glory and majesty of the Senate. In
accusing Verres he accused the general corruption of Rome's provincial
governors; and as they were always past-Consuls or past-Praetors, and
had been the elite of the aristocracy, he may be said so far to have
taken the part of a democrat; but he had done so only so far as he had
found himself bound by a sense of duty to put a stop to corruption.
The venality of the judges and the rapacity of governors had been fit
objects for his eloquence; but I deny that he can be fairly charged
with having tampered with democracy because he had thus used his
eloquence on behalf of the people.

He was no doubt stirred by other political motives less praiseworthy,
though submitted to in accordance with the practice and the known
usages of Rome. He had undertaken to speak for Catiline when Catiline
was accused of corruption on his return from Africa, knowing that
Catiline had been guilty. He did not do so; but the intention, for our
present purpose, is the same as the doing. To have defended Catiline
would have assisted him in his operations as a candidate for the
Consulship. Catiline was a bad subject for a defence--as was Fonteius,
whom he certainly did defend--and Catiline was a democrat. But Cicero,
had he defended Catiline, would not have done so as holding out his
hand to democracy. Cicero, when, in the Pro Lege Manilia, he for the
first time addressed the people, certainly spoke in opposition to the
wishes of the Senate in proposing that Pompey should have the command
of the Mithridatic war; but his views were not democratic. It has
been said that this was done because Pompey could help him to the
Consulship. To me it seems that he had already declared to himself
that among leading men in Rome Pompey was the one to whom the Republic
would look with the most security as a bulwark, and that on that
account he had resolved to bind himself to Pompey in some political
marriage. Be that as it may, there was no tampering with democracy in
the speech Pro Lege Manilia. Of all the extant orations made by him
before his Consulship, the attentive reader will sympathize the least
with that of Fonteius. After his scathing onslaught on Verres for
provincial plunder, he defended the plunderer of the Gauls, and held
up the suffering allies of Rome to ridicule as being hardly entitled
to good government. This he did simply as an advocate, without
political motive of any kind--in the days in which he was supposed
to be currying favor with democracy--governed by private friendship,
looking forward, probably, to some friendly office in return, as
was customary. It was thus that afterward he defended Antony, his
colleague in the Consulship, whom he knew to have been a corrupt
governor. Autronius had been a party to Catiline's conspiracy, and
Autronius had been Cicero's school-fellow; but Cicero, for some
reserved reason with which we are not acquainted, refused to plead for
Autronius. There is, I maintain, no ground for suggesting that Cicero
had shown by his speeches before his Consulship any party adherence.
The declaration which he made after his Consulship, in the speech for
Sulla, that up to the time of Catiline's first conspiracy forensic
duties had not allowed him to devote himself to party politics, is
entitled to belief: we know, indeed, that it was so. As Quaestor,
as Aedile, and as Praetor, he did not interfere in the political
questions of Rome, except in demanding justice from judges and purity
from governors. When he became Consul then he became a politician, and
after that there was certainly no vacillation in his views. Critics
say that he surrendered himself to Caesar when Caesar became master.
We shall come to that hereafter; but the accusation with which I
am dealing now is that which charges him with having abandoned the
democratic memories of his youth as soon as he had enveloped himself
with the consular purple. There had been no democratic promises,
and there was no change when he became Consul. In truth, Cicero's
political convictions were the same from the beginning to the end
of his career, with a consistency which is by no means usual in
politicians; for though, before his Consulship, he had not taken up
politics as a business he had entertained certain political views, as
do all men who live in public. From the first to the last we may best
describe him by the word we have now in use, as a conservative. The
government of Rome had been an oligarchy for many years, though
much had been done by the citizens to reduce the thraldom which an
oligarchy is sure to exact. To that oligarchy Cicero was bound by all
the convictions, by all the practices, and by all the prejudices of
his life. When he speaks of a Republic he speaks of a people and of an
Empire governed by an oligarchy; he speaks of a power to be kept in
the hands of a few--for the benefit of the few, and of the many if it
might be--but at any rate in the hands of a few. That those few should
be so select as to admit of no new-comers among them, would probably
have been a portion of his political creed, had he not been himself a
"novus homo." As he was the first of his family to storm the barrier
of the fortress, he had been forced to depend much on popular opinion;
but not on that account had there been any dealings between him and
democracy. That the Empire should be governed according to the old
oligarchical forms which had been in use for more than four centuries,
and had created the power of Rome--that was his political creed. That
Consuls, Censors, and Senators might go on to the end of time with no
diminution of their dignity, but with great increase of justice and
honor and truth among them--that was his political aspiration. They
had made Rome what it was, and he knew and could imagine nothing
better; and, odious as an oligarchy is seen to be under the strong
light of experience to which prolonged ages has subjected it, the
aspiration on his part was noble. He has been wrongly accused of
deserting "that democracy with which he had flirted in his youth."
There had been no democracy in his youth, though there had existed
such a condition in the time of the Gracchi. There was none in
his youth and none in his age. That which has been wrongly called
democracy was conspiracy--not a conspiracy of democrats such as led to
our Commonwealth, or to the American Independence, or to the French
Revolution; but conspiracy of a few nobles for the better assurance of
the plunder, and the power, and the high places of the Empire. Of any
tendency toward democracy no man has been less justly accused than
Cicero, unless it might be Caesar. To Caesar we must accord the ment
of having seen that a continuation of the old oligarchical forms was
impracticable This Cicero did not see. He thought that the wounds
inflicted by the degeneracy and profligacy of individuals were
curable. It is attributed to Caesar that he conceived the grand idea
of establishing general liberty under the sole dominion of one great,
and therefore beneficent, ruler. I think he saw no farther than that
he, by strategy, management, and courage might become this ruler,
whether beneficent or the reverse. But here I think that it becomes
the writer, whether he be historian, biographer, or fill whatever
meaner position he may in literature, to declare that no beneficence
can accompany such a form of government. For all temporary sleekness,
for metropolitan comfort and fatness, the bill has to be paid sooner
or later in ignorance, poverty, and oppression. With an oligarchy
there will be other, perhaps graver, faults; but with an oligarchy
there will be salt, though it be among a few. There will be a Cicero
now and again--or at least a Cato. From the dead, stagnant level of
personal despotism there can be no rising to life till corruption
paralyzes the hands of power, and the fabric falls by its own decay Of
this no proof can be found in the world's history so manifest as that
taught by the Roman Empire.

I think it is made clear by a study of Cicero's life and works, up
to the period of his exile, that an adhesion to the old forms of the
Roman Government was his guiding principle. I am sure that they who
follow me to the close of his career will acknowledge that after
his exile he lived for this principle, and that he died for it.
"Respublica," the Republic, was the one word which to his ear
contained a political charm. It was the shibboleth by which men were
to be conjured into well-being. The word constitution is nearly as
potent with us. But it is essential that the reader of Roman history
and Roman biography should understand that the appellation had in it,
for all Roman ears, a thoroughly conservative meaning. Among those who
at Cicero's period dealt with politics in Rome--all of whom, no doubt,
spoke of the Republic as the vessel of State which was to be defended
by all persons--there were four classes. These were they who simply
desired the plunder of the State--the Catilines, the Sullas of the
day, and the Antonys; men such as Verres had been, and Fonteius, and
Autronius. The other three can be best typified each by one man. There
was Caesar, who knew that the Republic was gone, past all hope. There
was Cato--"the dogmatical fool Cato" as Mommsen calls him, perhaps
with some lack of the historian's dignity--who was true to the
Republic, who could not bend an inch, and was thus as detrimental to
any hope of reconstruction as a Catiline or a Caesar. Cicero was of
the fourth class, believing in the Republic, intent on saving it,
imbued amid all his doubts with a conviction that if the "optimates"
or "boni"--the leading men of the party--would be true to themselves,
Consuls, Censors, and Senate would still suffice to rule the world;
but prepared to give and take with those who were opposed to him. It
was his idea that political integrity should keep its own hands clean,
but should wink at much dirt in the world at large. Nothing, he
saw, could be done by Catonic rigor. We can see now that Ciceronic
compromises were, and must have been, equally ineffective. The patient
was past cure. But in seeking the truth as to Cicero, we have to
perceive that amid all his doubts, frequently in despondency,
sometimes overwhelmed by the misery and hopelessness of his condition,
he did hold fast by this idea to the end. The frequent expressions
made to Atticus in opposition to this belief are to be taken as the
murmurs of his mind at the moment; as you shall hear a man swear that
all is gone, and see him tear his hair, and shall yet know that there
is a deep fund of hope within his bosom. It was the ingratitude of his
political friends, his "boni" and his "optimates," of Pompey as their
head, which tried him the sorest; but he was always forgiving them,
forgiving Pompey as the head of them, because he knew that, were he to
be severed from them, then the political world must be closed to him

Of Cicero's strength or Cicero's weakness Pompey seems to have known
nothing. He was no judge of men. Caesar measured him with a great
approach to accuracy. Caesar knew him to be the best Roman of his day;
one who, if he could be brought over to serve in Caesarean ranks,
would be invaluable--because of his honesty, his eloquence, and his
capability; but he knew him as one who must be silenced if he were not
brought to serve on the Caesarean side. Such a man, however, might
be silenced for a while--taught to perceive that his efforts were
vain--and then brought into favor by further overtures, and made of
use. Personally he was pleasant to Caesar, who had taste enough to
know that he was a man worthy of all personal dignity. But Caesar was
not, I think, quite accurate in his estimation, having allowed himself
to believe at the last that Cicero's energy on behalf of the Republic
had been quelled.

[Sidenote: B. C. 58, aetat. 49]

Now we will go back to the story of Cicero's exile. Gradually during
the preceding year he had learned that Clodius was preparing to
attack him, and to doubt whether he could expect protection from the
Triumvirate. That he could be made safe by the justice either of the
people or by that of any court before which he could be tried, seems
never to have occurred to him. He knew the people and he knew the
courts too well. Pompey no doubt might have warded off the coming
evil; such at least was Cicero's idea. To him Pompey was the greatest
political power as yet extant in Rome; but he was beginning to believe
that Pompey would be untrue to him. When he had sent to Pompey a long
account of the grand doings of his Consulship, Pompey had replied with
faintest praises. He had rejected the overtures of the Triumvirate. In
the last letter to Atticus in the year before, written in August,[271]
he had declared that the Republic was ruined; that they who had
brought things to this pass--meaning the Triumvirate--were hostile;
but, for himself, he was confident in saying that he was quite safe
in the good will of men around him. There is a letter to his brother
written in November, the next letter in the collection, in which he
says that Pompey and Caesar promise him everything. With the exception
of two letters of introduction, we have nothing from him till he
writes to Atticus from the first scene of his exile.

When the new year commenced, Clodius was Tribune of the people, and
immediately was active. Piso and Gabinius were Consuls. Piso was
kinsman to Piso Frugi, who had married Cicero's daughter,[272]and was
expected to befriend Cicero at this crisis. But Clodius procured the
allotment of Syria and Macedonia to the two Consuls by the popular
vote. They were provinces rich in plunder; and it was matter of
importance for a Consul to know that the prey which should come to
him as Proconsul should be worthy of his grasp. They were, therefore,
ready to support the Tribune in what he proposed to do. It was
necessary to Cicero's enemies that there should be some law by which
Cicero might be condemned. It would not be within the power of
Clodius, even with the Triumvirate at his back, to drive the man out
of Rome and out of Italy, without an alleged cause. Though justice had
been tabooed, law was still in vogue. Now there was a matter as to
which Cicero was open to attack. As Consul he had caused certain Roman
citizens to be executed as conspirators, in the teeth of a law which
enacted that no Roman citizen should be condemned to die except by
a direct vote of the people. It had certainly become a maxim of the
constitution of the Republic that a citizen should not be made to
suffer death except by the voice of the people. The Valerian, the
Porcian, and the Sempronian laws had all been passed to that effect.
Now there had been no popular vote as to the execution of Lentulus and
the other conspirators, who had been taken red-handed in Rome in the
affair of Catiline. Their death had been decreed by the Senate, and
the decree of the Senate had been carried out by Cicero; but no decree
of the Senate had the power of a law. In spite of that decree the old
law was in force; and no appeal to the people had been allowed to
Lentulus. But there had grown up in the constitution a practice which
had been supposed to override the Valerian and Porcian laws. In
certain emergencies the Senate would call upon the Consuls to see that
the Republic should suffer no injury, and it had been held that at
such moments the Consuls were invested with an authority above all
law. Cicero had been thus strengthened when, as Consul, he had
struggled with Catiline; but it was an open question, as Cicero
himself very well knew. In the year of his Consulship--the very year
in which Lentulus and the others had been strangled--he had defended
Rabirius, who was then accused of having killed a citizen thirty years
before. Rabirius was charged with having slaughtered the Tribune
Saturninus by consular authority, the Consuls of the day having been
ordered to defend the Republic, as Cicero had been ordered. Rabirius
probably had not killed Saturninus, nor did any one now care whether
he had done so or not. The trial had been brought about notoriously by
the agency of Caesar, who caused himself to be selected by the Praetor
as one of the two judges for the occasion;[273] and Caesar's object as
notoriously was to lessen the authority of the Senate, and to support
the democratic interest. Both Cicero and Hortensius defended Rabirius,
but he was condemned by Caesar, and, as we are told, himself only
escaped by using that appeal to the people in support of which he had
himself been brought to trial. In this, as in so many of the forensic
actions of the day, there had been an admixture of violence and law.
We must, I think, acknowledge that there was the same leaven of
illegality in the proceedings against Lentulus. It had no doubt been
the intention of the constitution that a Consul, in the heat of an
emergency, should use his personal authority for the protection of
the Commonwealth, but it cannot be alleged that there was such an
emergency, when the full Senate had had time to debate on the fate
of the Catiline criminals. Both from Caesar's words as reported by
Sallust, and from Cicero's as given to us by himself, we are aware
that an idea of the illegality of the proceeding was present in the
minds of Senators at the moment. But, though law was loved at Rome,
all forensic and legislative proceedings were at this time carried
on with monstrous illegality. Consuls consulted the heavens falsely;
Tribunes used their veto violently; judges accepted bribes openly; the
votes of the people were manipulated fraudulently. In the trial and
escape of Rabirius, the laws were despised by those who pretended
to vindicate them. Clodius had now become a Tribune by the means of
certain legal provision, but yet in opposition to all law. In the
conduct of the affair against Catiline Cicero seems to have been
actuated by pure patriotism, and to have been supported by a fine
courage; but he knew that in destroying Lentulus and Cethegus he
subjected himself to certain dangers. He had willingly faced these
dangers for the sake of the object in view. As long as he might remain
the darling of the people, as he was at that moment, he would no doubt
be safe; but it was not given to any one to be for long the darling of
the Roman people. Cicero bad become so by using an eloquence to which
the Romans were peculiarly susceptible; but though they loved sweet
tongues, long purses went farther with them. Since Cicero's Consulship
he had done nothing to offend the people, except to remain occasionally
out of their sight; but he had lost the brilliancy of his popularity,
and he was aware that it was so.

In discussing popularity in Rome we have to remember of what elements
it was formed. We hear that this or that man was potent at some
special time by the assistance coming to him from the popular voice.
There was in Rome a vast population of idle men, who had been trained
by their city life to look to the fact of their citizenship for their
support, and who did, in truth, live on their citizenship. Of "panem
et circenses" we have all heard, and know that eleemosynary bread and
the public amusements of the day supplied the material and aesthetic
wants of many Romans. But men so fed and so amused were sure to need
further occupations. They became attached to certain friends, to
certain patrons, and to certain parties, and soon learned that a
return was expected for the food and for the excitement supplied to
them. This they gave by holding themselves in readiness for whatever
violence was needed from them, till it became notorious in Rome that a
great party man might best attain his political object by fighting for
it in the streets. This was the meaning of that saying of Crassus,
that a man could not be considered rich till he could keep an army in
his own pay. A popular vote obtained and declared by a faction fight
in the forum was still a popular vote, and if supported by sufficient
violence would be valid. There had been street fighting of the kind
when Cicero had defended Cains Cornelius, in the year after his
Praetorship; there had been fighting of the kind when Rabirius had
been condemned in his Consulship. We shall learn by-and-by to what
extent such fighting prevailed when Clodius was killed by Milo's
body-guard. At the period of which we are now writing, when Clodius
was intent on pursuing Cicero to his ruin, it was a question with
Cicero himself whether he would not trust to a certain faction in Rome
to fight for him, and so to protect him. Though his popularity was
on the wane--that general popularity which, we may presume, had been
produced by the tone of his voice and the grace of his language--there
still remained to him that other popularity which consisted, in truth,
of the trained bands employed by the "boni" and the "optimates," and
which might be used, if need were, in opposition to trained bands on
the other side.

The bill first proposed by Clodius to the people with the object of
destroying Cicero did not mention Cicero, nor, in truth, refer to him.
It purported to enact that he who had caused to be executed any Roman
citizen not duly condemned to death, should himself be deprived of
the privilege of water or fire.[274] This condemned no suggested
malefactor to death; but, in accordance with Roman law, made it
impossible that any Roman so condemned should live within whatever
bounds might be named for this withholding of fire and water. The
penalty intended was banishment; but by this enactment no individual
would be banished. Cicero, however, at once took the suggestion to
himself, and put himself into mourning, as a man accused and about
to be brought to his trial. He went about the streets accompanied by
crowds armed for his protection; and Clodius also caused himself to be
so accompanied. There came thus to be a question which might prevail
should there be a general fight. The Senate was, as a body, on
Cicero's side, but was quite unable to cope with the Triumvirate.
Caesar no doubt had resolved that Cicero should be made to go, and
Caesar was lord of the Triumvirate. On behalf of Cicero there was a
large body of the conservative or oligarchical party who were still
true to him; and they, too, all went into the usual public mourning,
evincing their desire that the accused man should be rescued from his

The bitterness of Clodius would be surprising did we not know how
bitter had been Cicero's tongue. When the affair of the Bona Dea had
taken place there was no special enmity between this debauched young
man and the great Consul. Cicero, though his own life had ever been
clean and well ordered, rather affected the company of fast young men
when he found them to be witty as well as clever. This very Clodius
had been in his good books till the affair of the Bona Dea. But now
the Tribune's hatred was internecine. I have hitherto said nothing,
and need say but little, of a certain disreputable lady named Clodia.
She was the sister of Clodius and the wife of Metellus Celer. She was
accused by public voice in Rome of living in incest with her brother,
and of poisoning her husband. Cicero calls her afterward, in his
defence of Caelius, "amica omnium." She had the nickname of Quadran-
taria[275] given to her, because she frequented the public baths, at
which the charge was a farthing. It must be said also of her, either
in praise or in dispraise, that she was the Lesbia who inspired the
muse of Catullus. It was rumored in Rome that she had endeavored to
set her cap at Cicero. Cicero in his raillery had not spared the lady.
To speak publicly the grossest evil of women was not opposed to any
idea of gallantry current among the Romans. Our sense of chivalry, as
well as decency, is disgusted by the language used by Horace to women
who once to him were young and pretty, but have become old and ugly.
The venom of Cicero's abuse of Clodia annoys us, and we have to
remember that the gentle ideas which we have taken in with our mother's
milk had not grown into use with the Romans. It is necessary that this
woman's name should be mentioned, and it may appear here as she was one
of the causes of that hatred which burnt between Clodius and Cicero,
till Clodius was killed in a street row.

It has been presumed that Cicero was badly advised in presuming
publicly that the new law was intended against himself, and in taking
upon himself the outward signs of a man under affliction. "The
resolution," says Middleton, "of changing his gown was too hasty and
inconsiderate, and helped to precipitate his ruin." He was sensible
of his error when too late, and oft reproaches Atticus that, being
a stander-by, and less heated with the game than himself, he would
suffer him to make such blunders. And he quotes the words written to
Atticus: "Here my judgment first failed me, or, indeed, brought me
into trouble. We were blind, blind I say, in changing our raiment and
in appealing to the populace.----I handed myself and all belonging
to me over to my enemies, while you were looking on, while you were
holding your peace; yes, you, who, if your wit in the matter was no
better than mine, were impeded by no personal fears."[276] But the
reader should study the entire letter, and study it in the original,
for no translator can give its true purport. This the reader must do
before he can understand Cicero's state of mind when writing it, or
his relation to Atticus; or the thoughts which distracted him when,
in accordance with the advice of Atticus, he resolved, while yet
uncondemned, to retire into banishment. The censure to which Atticus
is subjected throughout this letter is that which a thoughtful,
hesitating, scrupulous man is so often disposed to address to himself.
After reminding Atticus of the sort of advice which should have
been given--the want of which in the first moment of his exile he
regrets--and doing this in words of which it is very difficult now to
catch the exact flavor, he begs to be pardoned for his reproaches.
"You will forgive me this," he says. "I blame myself more than I do
you; but I look to you as a second self, and I make you a sharer with
me of my own folly." I take this letter out of its course, and speak
of it as connected with that terrible period of doubt to which it
refers, in which he had to decide whether he would remain in Rome and
fight it out, or run before his enemies. But in writing the letter
afterward his mind was as much disturbed as when he did fly. I am
inclined, therefore, to think that Middleton and others may have been
wrong in blaming his flight, which they have done, because in his
subsequent vacillating moods he blamed himself. How the battle might
have gone had he remained, we have no evidence to show; but we do
know that though he fled, he returned soon with renewed glory, and
altogether overcame the attempt which had been made to destroy him.

In this time of his distress a strong effort was made by the Senate to
rescue him. It was proposed to them that they all as a body should go
into mourning on his behalf; indeed, the Senate passed a vote to this
effect, but were prevented by the two Consuls from carrying it out.
As to what he had best do he and his friends were divided. Some
recommended that he should remain where he was, and defend himself
by street-fighting should it be necessary. In doing this he would
acknowledge that law no longer prevailed in Rome--a condition of
things to which many had given in their adherence, but with which
Cicero would surely have been the last to comply. He himself, in his
despair, thought for a time that the old Roman mode of escape would
be preferable, and that he might with decorum end his life and his
troubles by suicide. Atticus and others dissuaded him from this, and
recommended him to fly. Among these Cato and Hortensius have both
been named. To this advice he at last yielded, and it may be doubted
whether any better could have been given. Lawlessness, which had been
rampant in Rome before, had, under the Triumvirate, become almost
lawful. It was Caesar's intention to carry out his will with such
compliance with the forms of the Republic as might suit him, but in
utter disregard to all such forms when they did not suit him. The
banishment of Cicero was one of the last steps taken by Caesar before
he left Rome for his campaigns in Gaul. He was already in command of
the legions, and was just without the city. He had endeavored to buy
Cicero, but had failed. Having failed, he had determined to be rid of
him. Clodius was but his tool, as were Pompey and the two Consuls. Had
Cicero endeavored to support himself by violence in Rome, his contest
would, in fact have been with Caesar.

Cicero, before he went, applied for protection personally to Piso
the Consul, and to Pompey. Gabinius, the other Consul, had already
declared his purpose to the Senate, but Piso was bound to him by
family ties. He himself relates to us in his oration, spoken after his
return, against this Piso, the manner of the meeting between him and
Rome's chief officer. Piso told him--so at least Cicero declared in
the Senate, and we have heard of no contradiction--that Gabinius was
so driven by debts as to be unable to hold up his head without a rich
province; that he himself, Piso, could only hope to get a province by
taking part with Gabinius; that any application to the Consuls was
useless, and that every one must look after himself.[277] Concerning
his appeal to Pompey two stories have been given to us, neither of
which appears to be true. Plutarch says that when Cicero had travelled
out from Rome to Pompey's Alban villa, Pompey ran out of the back-door
to avoid meeting him. Plutarch cared more for a good story than for
accuracy, and is not worthy of much credit as to details unless when
corroborated. The other account is based on Cicero's assertion that he
did see Pompey on this occasion. Nine or ten years after the meeting
he refers to it in a letter to Atticus, which leaves no doubt as to
the fact. The story founded on that letter declares that Cicero threw
himself bodily at his old friend's feet, and that Pompey did not
lend a hand to raise him, but told him simply that everything was in
Caesar's hands. This narrative is, I think, due to a misinterpretation
of Cicero's words, though it is given by a close translation of them.
He is describing Pompey when Caesar after his Gallic wars had crossed
the Rubicon, and the two late Triumvirates--the third having perished
miserably in the East--were in arms against each other. "Alter ardet
furore et scelere" he says.[278] Caesar is pressing on unscrupulous
in his passion. "Alter is qui nos sibi quondam ad pedes stratos ne
sublevabat quidem, qui se nihil contra hujus voluntatem aiebat facere
posse." "That other one," he continues--meaning Pompey, and pursuing
his picture of the present contrast--"who in days gone by would not
even lift me when I lay at his feet, and told me that he could do
nothing but as Caesar wished it." This little supposed detail of
biography has been given, no doubt, from an accurate reading of the
words; but in it the spirit of the writer's mind as he wrote it has
surely been missed. The prostration of which he spoke, from which
Pompey would not raise him, the memory of which was still so bitter
to him, was not a prostration of the body. I hold it to have been
impossible that Cicero should have assumed such an attitude before
Pompey, or that he would so have written to Atticus had he done so. It
would have been neither Roman nor Ciceronian, as displayed by Cicero
to Pompey. He had gone to his old ally and told him of his trouble,
and had no doubt reminded him of those promises of assistance which
Pompey had so often made. Then Pompey had refused to help him, and had
assured him, with too much truth, that Caesar's will was everything.
Again, we have to remember that in judging of the meaning of words
between two such correspondents as Cicero and Atticus, we must read
between the lines, and interpret the words by creating for ourselves
something of the spirit in which they were written and in which they
were received. I cannot imagine that, in describing to Atticus what
had occurred at that interview nine years after it had taken place,
Cicero had intended it to be understood that he had really grovelled
in the dust.

Toward the end of March he started from Rome, intending to take refuge
among his friends in Sicily. On the same day Clodius brought in a bill
directed against Cicero by name and caused it to be carried by the
people, "Ut Marco Tullio aqua et igni interdictum sit"--that it should
be illegal to supply Cicero with fire and water. The law when passed
forbade any one to harbor the criminal within four hundred miles
of Rome, and declared the doing so to be a capital offence. It is
evident, from the action of those who obeyed the law, and of those who
did not, that legal results were not feared so much as the ill-will of
those who had driven Cicero to his exile. They who refused him succor
did do so not because to give it him would be illegal, but lest Caesar
and Pompey would be offended. It did not last long, and during the
short period of his exile he found perhaps more of friendship than of
enmity; but he directed his steps in accordance with the bearing of
party-spirit. We are told that he was afraid to go to Athens, because
at Athens lived that Autronius whom he had refused to defend.
Autronius had been convicted of conspiracy and banished, and, having
been a Catilinarian conspirator, had been in truth on Caesar's side.
Nor were geographical facts sufficiently established to tell Cicero
what places were and what were not without the forbidden circle. He
sojourned first at Vibo, in the extreme south of Italy, intending to
pass from thence into Sicily. It was there that he learned that a
certain distance had been prescribed; but it seems that he had already
heard that the Proconsular Governor of the island would not receive
him, fearing Caesar. Then he came north from Vibo to Brundisium, that
being the port by which travellers generally went from Italy to
the East. He had determined to leave his family in Rome, feeling,
probably, that it would be easier for him to find a temporary home
for himself than for him and them together. And there were money
difficulties in which Atticus helped him.[279] Atticus, always
wealthy, had now become a very rich man by the death of an uncle. We
do not know of what nature were the money arrangements made by Cicero
at the time, but there can be no doubt that the losses by his exile
were very great. There was a thorough disruption of his property, for
which the subsequent generosity of his country was unable altogether
to atone. But this sat lightly on Cicero's heart. Pecuniary losses
never weighed heavily with him.

As he journeyed back from Vibo to Brundisium friends were very kind to
him, in spite of the law. Toward the end of the speech which he made
five years afterward on behalf of his friend C. Plancius he explains
the debt of gratitude which he owed to his client, whose kindness to
him in his exile had been very great. He commences his story of the
goodness of Plancius by describing the generosity of the towns on the
road to Brundisium, and the hospitality of his friend Flavius, who had
received him at his house in the neighborhood of that town, and had
placed him safely on board a ship when at last he resolved to cross
over to Dyrrachium. There were many schemes running in his head at
this time. At one period he had resolved to pass through Macedonia
into Asia, and to remain for a while at Cyzicum. This idea he
expresses in a letter to his wife written from Brundisium. Then he
goes, wailing no doubt, but in words which to me seem very natural
as coming from a husband in such a condition: "O me perditum, O me
afflictum;"[280] exclamations which it is impossible to translate, as
they refer to his wife's separation from himself rather than to his
own personal sufferings. "How am I to ask you to come to me?" he says;
"you a woman, ill in health worn out in body and in spirit. I cannot
ask you! Must I then live without you? It must be so, I think. If
there be any hope of my return, it is you must look to it, you that
must strengthen it; but if, as I fear, the thing is done, then come to
me. If I can have you I shall not be altogether destroyed." No doubt
these are wailings; but is a man unmanly because he so wails to the
wife of his bosom? Other humans have written prettily about women: it
was common for Romans to do so. Catullus desires from Lesbia as many
kisses as are the stars of night or the sands of Libya. Horace swears
that he would perish for Chloe if Chloe might be left alive. "When I
am dying," says Tibullus to Delia, "may I be gazing at you; may my
last grasp hold your hand." Propertius tells Cynthia that she stands
to him in lieu of home and parents, and all the joys of life. "Whether
he be sad with his friends or happy, Cynthia does it all." The
language in each case is perfect; but what other Roman was there of
whom we have evidence that he spoke to his wife like this? Ovid in his
letters from his banishment says much of his love for his wife; but
there is no passion expressed in anything that Ovid wrote. Clodius, as
soon as the enactment against Cicero became law, caused it be carried
into effect with all its possible cruelties. The criminal's property
was confiscated. The house on the Palatine Hill was destroyed, and the
goods were put up to auction, with, as we arc told, a great lack
of buyers. His choicest treasures were carried away by the Consuls
themselves. Piso, who had lived near him in Rome, got for himself and
for his father-in-law the rich booty from the town house. The country
villas were also destroyed, and Gabinius, who had a country house
close by Cicero's Tusculan retreat, took even the very shrubs out of
the garden. He tells the story of the greed and enmity of the Consuls
in the speech he made after his return, Pro Domo Sua,[281] pleading
for the restitution of his household property. "My house on the
Palatine was burnt," he says, "not by any accident, but by arson.
In the mean time the Consuls were feasting, and were congratulating
themselves among the conspirators, when one boasted that he had been
Catiline's friend, the other that Cethegus had been his cousin." By
this he implies that the conspiracy which during his Consulship had
been so odious to Rome was now, in these days of the Triumvirate,
again in favor among Roman aristocrats.

He went across from Brundisium to Dyrrachium, and from thence to
Thessalonica, where he was treated with most loving-kindness by
Plancius, who was Quaestor in these parts, and who came down to
Dyrrachium to meet him, clad in mourning for the occasion. This was
the Plancius whom he afterward defended, and indeed he was bound to do
so. Plancius seems to have had but little dread of the law, though he
was a Roman officer employed in the very province to the government of
which the present Consul Piso had already been appointed. Thessalonica
was within four hundred miles, and yet Cicero lived there with Plancius
for some months.

The letters from Cicero during his exile are to me very touching,
though I have been told so often that in having written them he lacked
the fortitude of a Roman. Perhaps I am more capable of appreciating
natural humanity than Roman fortitude. We remember the story of the
Spartan boy who allowed the fox to bite him beneath his frock without
crying. I think we may imagine that he refrained from tears in public,
before some herd of school-fellows, or a bench of masters, or amid the
sternness of parental authority; but that he told his sister afterward
how he had been tortured, or his mother as he lay against her bosom,
or perhaps his chosen chum. Such reticences are made dignified by the
occasion, when something has to be won by controlling the expression
to which nature uncontrolled would give utterance, but are not in
themselves evidence either of sagacity or of courage. Roman fortitude
was but a suit of armor to be worn on state occasions. If we come
across a warrior with his crested helmet and his sword and his spear,
we see, no doubt, an impressive object. If we could find him in his
night-shirt, the same man would be there, but those who do not look
deeply into things would be apt to despise him because his grand
trappings were absent. Chance has given us Cicero in his night-shirt.
The linen is of such fine texture that we are delighted with it,
but we despise the man because he wore a garment--such as we wear
ourselves indeed, though when we wear it nobody is then brought in to
look at us.

There is one most touching letter written from Thessalonica to his
brother, by whom, after thoughts vacillating this way and that, he was
unwilling to be visited, thinking that a meeting would bring more of
pain than of service. "Mi frater, mi frater, mi frater!" he begins.
The words in English would hardly give all the pathos. "Did you think
that I did not write because I am angry, or that I did not wish to see
you? I angry with you! But I could not endure to be seen by you. You
would not have seen your brother; not him whom you had left; not him
whom you had known; not him whom, weeping as you went away, you had
dismissed, weeping himself as he strove to follow you."[282] Then he
heaps blame on his own head, bitterly accusing himself because he had
brought his brother to such a pass of sorrow. In this letter he throws
great blame upon Hortensius, whom together with Pompey he accuses of
betraying him. What truth there may have been in this accusation as to
Hortensius we have no means of saying. He couples Pompey in the same
charge, and as to Pompey's treatment of him there can be no doubt.
Pompey had been untrue to his promises because of his bond with
Caesar. It is probable that Hortensius had failed to put himself
forward on Cicero's behalf with that alacrity which the one advocate
had expected from the other. Cicero and Hortensius were friends
afterward, but so were Cicero and Pompey. Cicero was forgiving by
nature, and also by self-training. It did not suit his purposes to
retain his enmities. Had there been a possibility of reconciling
Antony to the cause of the "optimates" after the Philippies, he would
have availed himself of it.

Cicero at one time intended to go to Buthrotum in Epirus, where
Atticus possessed a house and property; but he changed his purpose.
He remained at Thessalonica till November, and then returned to
Dyrrachium, having all through his exile been kept alive by tidings of
steps taken for his recall. There seems very soon to have grown up a
feeling in Rome that the city had disgraced itself by banishing such
a man; and Caesar had gone to his provinces. We can well imagine that
when he had once left Rome, with all his purposes achieved, having so
far quieted the tongue of the strong speaker who might have disturbed
them, he would take no further steps to perpetuate the orator's
banishment. Then Pompey and Clodius soon quarrelled. Pompey, without
Caesar to direct him, found the arrogance of the Patrician Tribune
insupportable. We hear of wheels within wheels, and stories within
stories, in the drama of Roman history as it was played at this time.
Together with Cicero, it had been necessary to Caesar's projects that
Cato also should be got out of Rome; and this had been managed by
means of Clodius, who had a bill passed for the honorable employment
of Cato on state purposes in Cyprus. Cato had found himself obliged
to go. It was as though our Prime-minister had got parliamentary
authority for sending a noisy member of the Opposition to Asiatic
Turkey for six months There was an attempt, or an alleged attempt, of
Clodius to have Pompey murdered; and there was street-fighting, so
that Pompey was besieged, or pretended to be besieged, in his own
house. "We might as well seek to set a charivari to music as to write
the history of this political witches' revel," says Mommsen, speaking
of the state of Rome when Caesar was gone, Cicero banished, and
Pompey supposed to be in the ascendant.[283] There was, at any rate,
quarrelling between Clodius and Pompey, in the course of which Pompey
was induced to consent to Cicero's return. Then Clodius took upon
himself, in revenge, to turn against the Triumvirate altogether, and
to repudiate even Caesar himself. But it was all a vain hurly-burly,
as to which Caesar, when he heard the details in Gaul, could only have
felt how little was to be gained by maintaining his alliance with
Pompey. He had achieved his purpose, which he could not have done
without the assistance of Crassus, whose wealth, and of Pompey, whose
authority, stood highest in Rome; and now, having had his legions
voted to him, and his provinces, and his prolonged term of years, he
cared nothing for either of them.

There is a little story which must be repeated, as against Cicero, in
reference to this period of his exile, because it has been told in all
records of his life. Were I to omit the little story, it would seem as
though I shunned the records which have been repeated as opposed to
his credit. He had written, some time back, a squib in which he had
been severe upon the elder Curio; so it is supposed; but it matters
little who was the object or what the subject. This had got wind in
Rome, as such matters do sometimes, and he now feared that it would
do him a mischief with the Curios and the friends of the Curios. The
authorship was only matter of gossip. Could it not be denied? "As it
is written," says Cicero, "in a style inferior to that which is usual
to me, can it not be shown not to have been mine?"[284] Had Cicero
possessed all the Christian virtues, as we hope that prelates and
pastors possess them in this happy land, he would not have been
betrayed into, at any rate, the expression of such a wish. As it is,
the enemies of Cicero must make the most of it. His friends, I think,
will look upon it leniently.

Continued efforts were made among Cicero's friends at Rome to bring
him back, with which he was not altogether contented. He argues the
matter repeatedly with Atticus, not always in the best temper. His
friends at Rome were, he thought, doing the matter amiss: they would
fail, and he would still have to finish his days abroad. Atticus,
in his way to Epirus, visits him at Dyrrachium, and he is sure that
Atticus would not have left Rome but that the affair was hopeless.
The reader of the correspondence is certainly led to the belief that
Atticus must have been the most patient of friends; but he feels, at
the same time, that Atticus would not have been patient had not Cicero
been affectionate and true. The Consuls for the new year were Lentulus
and Metellus Nepos. The former was Cicero's declared friend, and the
other had already abandoned his enmity. Clodius was no longer Tribune,
and Pompey had been brought to yield. The Senate were all but unanimous.
But there was still life in Clodius and his party; and day dragged
itself after day, and month after month, while Cicero still lingered
at Dyrrachium, waiting till a bill should have been passed by the
people. Pompey, who was never whole-hearted in anything, had declared
that a bill voted by the people would be necessary. The bill at last
was voted, on the 14th of August, and Cicero, who knew well what was
being done at Rome, passed over from Dyrrachium to Brundisium on the
same day, having been a year and four months absent from Rome. During
the year B.C. 57, up to the time of his return, he wrote but three
letters that have come to us--two very short notes to Atticus, in the
first of which he declares that he will come over on the authority of
a decree of the Senate, without waiting for a law. In the second he
falls again into despair, declaring that everything is over. In the
third he asks Metellus for his aid, telling the Consul that unless it
be given soon the man for whom it is asked will no longer be living to
receive it. Metellus did give the aid very cordially.

It has been remarked that Cicero did nothing for literature during his
banishment, either by writing essays or preparing speeches; and it has
been implied that the prostration of mind arising from his misfortunes
must have been indeed complete, when a man whose general life was
made marvellous by its fecundity had been repressed into silence. It
should, however, be borne in mind that there could be no inducement
for the writing of speeches when there was no opportunity of
delivering them. As to his essays, including what we call his
Philosophy and his Rhetoric, they who are familiar with his works will
remember how apt he was, in all that he produced, to refer to the
writings of others. He translates and he quotes, and he makes constant
use of the arguments and illustrations of those who have gone before
him. He was a man who rarely worked without the use of a library. When
I think how impossible it would be for me to repeat this oft-told tale
of Cicero's life without a crowd of books within reach of my hand,
I can easily understand why Cicero was silent at Thessalonica and
Dyrrachium. It has been remarked also by a modern critic that we find
"in the letters from exile a carelessness and inaccuracy of expression
which contrasts strongly with the style of his happier days". I will
not for a moment put my judgment in such a matter in opposition to
that of Mr. Tyrrell--but I should myself have been inclined rather to
say that the style of Cicero's letters varies constantly, being very
different when used to Atticus, or to his brother, or to lighter
friends such as Poetus and Trebatius; and very different again when
business of state was in hand, as are his letters to Decimus Brutus,
Cassius Brutus, and Plancus. To be correct in familiar letters is not
to charm. A studied negligence is needed to make such work live to
posterity--a grace of loose expression which may indeed have been made
easy by use, but which is far from easy to the idle and unpractised
writer. His sorrow, perhaps, required a style of its own. I have not
felt my own untutored perception of the language to be offended by
unfitting slovenliness in the expression of his grief.


[266] See the evidence of Asconius on this point, as to which Cicero's
conduct has been much mistaken. We shall come to Milo's trial before

[267] The statement is made by Mr. Tyrrell in his biographical
introduction to the Epistles.

[268] The 600 years, or anni DC., is used to signify unlimited

[269] Mommsen's History, book v., ca.v.

[270] [Greek: _Automalos onomazeto_] is the phrase of Dio Cassius.
"Levissume transfuga" is the translation made by the author of the
"Declamatio in Ciceronem". If I might venture on a slang phrase, I
should say that [Greek: _automalos_] was a man who "went off on his
own hook." But no man was ever more loyal as a political adherent than

[271] Ad Att., ii., 25.

[272] We do not know when the marriage took place, or any of the
circumstances; but we are aware that when Tullia came, in the
following year, B.C. 57, to meet her father at Brundisium, she was a

[273] Suetonius, Julius Caesar, xii.: "Subornavit etiam qui C. Rabirio
perduellionis diem diceret."

[274] "Qui civem Romanum indemnatum perimisset, ei aqua at igni

[275]Plutarch tells us of this sobriquet, but gives another reason for
it, equally injurious to the lady's reputation.

[276] Ad Att., lib.iii., 15.

[277] In Pisonem, vi.

[278] Ad Att., lib.x., 4.

[279] We are told by Cornelius Nepos, in his life of Atticus, that
when Cicero fled from his country Atticus advanced to him two hundred
and fifty sesterces, or about L2000. I doubt, however, whether the
flight here referred to was not that early visit to Athens which
Cicero was supposed to have made in his fear of Sulla.

[280] Ad Fam., lib.xiv., iv.: "Tullius to his Terentia, and to his
young Tullia, and to his Cicero," meaning his boy.

[281] Pro Domo Sua, xxiv.

[282] Ad Quin. Fra., 1, 3.

[283] The reader who wishes to understand with what anarchy the
largest city in the world might still exist, should turn to chapter
viii. of book v. of Mommsen's History.

[284] Ad Att., lib.iii, 12.



(See ch. II, note [39])


Homer, Iliad, lib. xii, 200:

Oi rh' eti mermaerizon ephestaotes para taphroi.
Ornis gar sphin epaelthe peraesemenai memaosin,
Aietos upsipetaes ep' aristera laon eergon,
Phoinaeenta drakonta pheron onuchessi peloron,
Zoon et aspaironta kai oupo laetheto charmaes.
Kopse gar auton echonta kata staethos para deiraen,
Idnotheis opiso ho d'apo ethen aeke chamaze,
Algaesas odunaesi, mesoi d' eni kabbal' omilo
Autos de klagxas peteto pnoaeis anemoio.]

Pope's translation of the passage, book xii, 231:

"A signal omen stopp'd the passing host,
The martial fury in their wonder lost.
Jove's bird on sounding pinions beat the skies;
A bleeding serpent, of enormous size,
His talons trussed; alive, and curling round,
He stung the bird, whose throat received the wound.
Mad with the smart, he drops the fatal prey,
In airy circles wings his painful way,
Floats on the winds, and rends the heav'ns with cries.
Amid the host the fallen serpent lies.
They, pale with terror, mark its spires unroll'd,
And Jove's portent with beating hearts behold."

Lord Derby's Iliad, book xii, 236:

"For this I read the future, if indeed
To us, about to cross, this sign from Heaven
Was sent, to leftward of the astonished crowd:
A soaring eagle, bearing in his claws
A dragon huge of size, of blood-red hue,
Alive; yet dropped him ere he reached his home,
Nor to his nestlings bore the intended prey."

Cicero's telling of the story:

"Hic Jovis altisoni subito pinnata satelles,
Arboris e trunco serpentis saucia morsu,
Ipsa feris subigit transfigens unguibus anguem
Semianimum, et varia graviter cervice micantem.
Quem se intorquentem lanians, rostroque cruentans,
Jam satiata animum, jam duros ulta dolores,
Abjicit efflantem, et laceratum affligit in unda;
Seque obitu a solis nitidos convertit ad ortus."

Voltaire's translation:

"Tel on voit cet oiseau qui porte le tonnerre,
Blesse par un serpent elance de la terre;
Il s'envole, il entraine au sejour azure
L'ennemi tortueux dont il est entoure.
Le sang tombe des airs. Il dechire, il devore
Le reptile acharne qui le combat encore;
Il le perce, il le tient sous ses ongles vainqueurs;
Par cent coups redoubles il venge ses douleurs.
Le monstre, en expirant, se debat, se replie;
Il exhale en poisons les restes de sa vie;
Et l'aigle, tout sanglant, fier et victorieux,
Le rejette en fureur, et plane au haut des cieux."

Virgil's version, Aeneid, lib. xi., 751:

"Utque volans alte raptum quum fulva draconem
Fert aquila, implicuitque pedes, atque unguibus haesit
Saucius at serpens sinuosa volumina versat,
Arrectisque horret squamis, et sibilat ore,
Arduus insurgens. Illa haud minus urget obunco
Luctantem rostro; simul aethera verberat alis."

Dryden's translation from Virgil's Aeneid, book xi.:

"So stoops the yellow eagle from on high,
And bears a speckled serpent through the sky;
Fastening his crooked talons on the prey,
The prisoner hisses through the liquid way;
Resists the royal hawk, and though opprest,
She fights in volumes, and erects her crest.
Turn'd to her foe, she stiffens every scale,
And shoots her forky tongue, and whisks her threatening tail.
Against the victor all defence is weak.
Th' imperial bird still plies her with his beak:
He tears her bowels, and her breast he gores,
Then claps his pinions, and securely soars."

Pitt's translation, book xi.:

"As when th' imperial eagle soars on high,
And bears some speckled serpent through the sky,
While her sharp talons gripe the bleeding prey,
In many a fold her curling volumes play,
Her starting brazen scales with horror rise,
The sanguine flames flash dreadful from her eyes
She writhes, and hisses at her foe, in vain,
Who wins at ease the wide aerial plain,
With her strong hooky beak the captive plies,
And bears the struggling prey triumphant through the skies."

Shelley's version of the battle, The Revolt of Islam, canto i.:

"For in the air do I behold indeed
An eagle and a serpent wreathed in fight,
And now relaxing its impetuous flight,
Before the aerial rock on which I stood
The eagle, hovering, wheeled to left and right,
And hung with lingering wings over the flood,
And startled with its yells the wide air's solitude

"A shaft of light upon its wings descended,
And every golden feather gleamed therein--
Feather and scale inextricably blended
The serpent's mailed and many-colored skin
Shone through the plumes, its coils were twined within
By many a swollen and knotted fold, and high
And far, the neck receding lithe and thin,
Sustained a crested head, which warily
Shifted and glanced before the eagle's steadfast eye.

"Around, around, in ceaseless circles wheeling,
With clang of wings and scream, the eagle sailed
Incessantly--sometimes on high concealing
Its lessening orbs, sometimes, as if it failed,
Drooped through the air, and still it shrieked and wailed,
And casting back its eager head, with beak
And talon unremittingly assailed
The wreathed serpent, who did ever seek
Upon his enemy's heart a mortal wound to wreak

"What life, what power was kindled, and arose
Within the sphere of that appalling fray!
For, from the encounter of those wond'rous foes,
A vapor like the sea's suspended spray
Hung gathered; in the void air, far away,
Floated the shattered plumes; bright scales did leap,
Where'er the eagle's talons made their way,
Like sparks into the darkness; as they sweep,
Blood stains the snowy foam of the tumultuous deep.

"Swift chances in that combat--many a check,
And many a change--a dark and wild turmoil;
Sometimes the snake around his enemy's neck
Locked in stiff rings his adamantine coil,
Until the eagle, faint with pain and toil,
Remitted his strong flight, and near the sea
Languidly fluttered, hopeless so to foil
His adversary, who then reared on high
His red and burning crest, radiant with victory.

"Then on the white edge of the bursting surge,
Where they had sunk together, would the snake
Relax his suffocating grasp, and scourge
The wind with his wild writhings; for, to break
That chain of torment, the vast bird would shake
The strength of his unconquerable wings
As in despair, and with his sinewy neck
Dissolve in sudden shock those linked rings,
Then soar--as swift as smoke from a volcano springs.

"Wile baffled wile, and strength encountered strength,
Thus long, but unprevailing--the event
Of that portentous fight appeared at length.
Until the lamp of day was almost spent
It had endured, when lifeless, stark, and rent,
Hung high that mighty serpent, and at last
Fell to the sea, while o'er the continent,
With clang of wings and scream, the eagle past,
Heavily borne away on the exhausted blast."

I have repudiated the adverse criticism on Cicero's poetry which has
been attributed to Juvenal; but, having done so, am bound in fairness
to state that which is to be found elsewhere in any later author of
renown as a classic. In the treatise De Oratoribus, attributed to
Tacitus, and generally published with his works by him--a treatise
commenced, probably, in the last year of Vespasian's reign, and
completed only in that of Domitian--Cicero as a poet is spoken of
with a severity of censure which the writer presumes to have been his
recognized desert. "For Caesar," he says, "and Brutus made verses, and
sent them to the public libraries; not better, indeed, than Cicero, but
with less of general misfortune, because only a few people knew that
they had done so." This must be taken for what it is worth. The treatise,
let it have been written by whom it might, is full of wit, and is
charming in language and feeling. It is a dialogue after the manner of
Cicero himself, and is the work of an author well conversant with the
subjects in hand. But it is, no doubt, the case that those two
unfortunate lines which have been quoted became notorious in Rome when
there was a party anxious to put down Cicero.


(See ch.IV, note [84])


"There were at that time two orators, Cotta and Hortensius, who
towered above all others, and incited me to rival them. The first
spoke with self-restraint and moderation, clearly and easily,
expressing his ideas in appropriate language. The other was
magnificent and fierce; not such as you remember him, Brutus, when he
was already failing, but full of life both in his words and actions. I
then resolved that Hortensius should, of the two, be my model, because
I felt myself like to him in his energy, and nearer to him in his age.
I observed that when they were in the same causes, those for Canuleius
and for our consular Dolabella, though Cotta was the senior counsel,
Hortensius took the lead. A large gathering of men and the noise of
the Forum require that a speaker shall be quick, on fire, active, and
loud. The year after my return from Asia I undertook the charge of
causes that were honorable, and in that year I was seeking to be
Quaestor, Cotta to be Consul, and Hortensius to be Praetor. Then for a
year I served as Quaestor in Sicily. Cotta, after his Consulship, went
as governor into Gaul, and then Hortensius was, and was considered to
be, first at the bar. When I had been back from Sicily twelve months
I began to find that whatever there was within me had come to such
perfection as it might attain. I feel that I am speaking too much of
myself, but it is done, not that you may be made to own my ability or
my eloquence--which is far from my thoughts--but that you may see how
great was my toil and my industry. Then, when I had been employed for
nearly five years in many cases, and was accounted a leading advocate,
I specially concerned myself in conducting the great cause on behalf
of Sicily--the trial of Verres--when I and Hortensius were Aedile and
Consul designate.

"But as this discussion of ours is intended to produce not a mere
catalogue of orators, but some true lessons of oratory, let us see
what there was in Hortensius that we must blame. When he was out of
his Consulship, seeing that among past Consuls there was no one on a
par with him, and thinking but little of those who were below consular
rank, he became idle in his work to which from boyhood he had devoted
himself, and chose to live in the midst of his wealth, as he thought
a happier life--certainly an easier one. The first two or three years
took off something from him. As the gradual decay of a picture will
be observed by the true critic, though it be not seen by the world at
large, so was it with his decay. From day to day he became more and
more unlike his old self, failing in all branches of oratory, but
specially in the rapidity and continuity of his words. But for myself
I never rested, struggling always to increase whatever power there was
in me by practice of every kind, especially in writing. Passing over
many things in the year after I was Aedile, I will come to that in
which I was elected first Praetor, to the great delight of the public
generally; for I had gained the good-will of men, partly by my
attention to the causes which I undertook, but specially by a certain
new strain of eloquence, as excellent as it was uncommon, with which
I spoke." Cicero, when he wrote this of himself, was an old man
sixty-two years of age, broken hearted for the loss of his daughter,
to whom it was no doubt allowed among his friends to praise himself
with the garrulity of years, because it was understood that he had
been unequalled in the matter of which he was speaking. It is easy for
us to laugh at his boastings; but the account which he gives of his
early life, and of the manner in which he attained the excellence for
which he had been celebrated, is of value.


(See ch. VII, note [144])

There was still prevailing in Rome at this time a strong feeling that
a growing taste for these ornamental luxuries was injurious to the
Republic, undermining its simplicity and weakening its stability. We
are well aware that its simplicity was a thing of the past, and its
stability gone The existence of a Verres is proof that it was so; but
still the feeling remained--and did remain long after the time of
Cicero--that these beautiful things were a sign of decay. We know
how conquering Rome caught the taste for them from conquered Greece.
"Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes intulit agresti Latio".
[1] Cicero submitted himself to this new captivity readily, but with
apologies, as shown in his pretended abnegation of all knowledge
of art. Two years afterward, in a letter to Atticus, giving him
instructions as to the purchase of statues, he declares that he is
altogether carried away by his longing for such things, but not
without a feeling of shame. "Nam in eo genere sic studio efferimur ut
abs te adjuvandi, ab aliis propre reprehendi simus"[2]--"Though you
will help me, others I know will blame me." The same feeling is
expressed beautifully, but no doubt falsely, by Horace when he
declares, as Cicero had done, his own indifference to such delicacies:

"Gems, marbles, ivory, Tuscan statuettes,
Pictures, gold plate, Gaetulian coverlets,
There are who have not. One there is, I trow,
Who cares not greatly if he has or no."[3]

Many years afterward, in the time of Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus
says the same when he is telling how ignorant Mummius was of
sculpture, who, when he had taken Corinth, threatened those who had to
carry away the statues from their places, that if they broke any they
should be made to replace them. "You will not doubt, however," the
historian says, "that it would have been better for the Republic to
remain ignorant of these Corinthian gems than to understand them as
well as it does now.

That rudeness befitted the public honor better than our present
taste."[4] Cicero understood well enough, with one side of his
intelligence, that as the longing for these things grew in the minds
of rich men, as the leading Romans of the day became devoted to luxury
rather than to work, the ground on which the Republic stood must be
sapped. A Marcellus or a Scipio had taken glory in ornamenting the
city. A Verres or even an Hortensius--even a Cicero--was desirous of
beautiful things for his own house. But still, with the other side of
his intelligence, he saw that a perfect citizen might appreciate art,
and yet do his duty, might appreciate art, and yet save his country.
What he did not see was, that the temptations of luxury, though
compatible with virtue, are antagonistic to it. The camel may be made
to go through the eye of the needle--but it is difficult.


[1] Horace, Epis., lib.ii., 1.

[2] Ad Att., lib.i. 8.

[3] Horace, Epis., lib.ii., 11. The translation is Conington's.

[4] Vell. Pat., lib.i., xiii


(See ch. XI, note [235])


"Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium, atque innocentium copiam tantam
haberetis, ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset, quemnam
potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum putaretis! Nunc
vero cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius, qui non modo eorum hominum, qui nunc
sunt, gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit; quae
res est, quae cujusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere posset?
Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quatuor has res inesse
oportere, scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem,
felicitatem. Quis igitur hoc homine scientior umquam aut fuit, aut
esse debuit? qui e ludo, atque pueritiae disciplina, bello maximo
atque acerrimis hostibus, ad patris exercitum atque in militiae
disciplinam profectus est? qui extrema pueritia miles fuit summi
imperatoris? ineunte adolescentia maximi ipse exercitus imperator? qui
saepius cum hoste conflixit, quam quisquam cum inimico concertavit?
plura bella gessit, quam caeteri legerunt? plures provincias confecit,
quam alii concupiverunt? cujus adolescentia ad scientiam rei militaris
non alienis praeceptis, sed suis imperiis; non offensionibus belli,
sed victoriis; non stipendiis, sed triumphis est erudita? Quod
denique genus belli esse potest, in quo illum non exercuerit fortuna
reipublicae? Civile; Africanum; Transalpinum; Hispaniense; mistum
ex civitatibus atque ex bellicosissimis nationibus servile; navale
bellum, varia et diversa genera, et bellorum et hostium, non solum
gesta ab hoc uno, sed etiam confecta, nullam rem esse declarant, in
usu militari positam, quae hojus viri scientiam fugere posset.

* * * * *

"Quare cum et bellum ita necessarium sit, ut negligi non possit; ita
magnum, ut accuratissime sit administrandum; et cum ei imperatorem
praeficere possitis, in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis
virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna; dubitabitis, Quirites,
quin hoc tantum boni, quod vobis a diis immortalibus oblatum et datum
est, in rempublicam conservandam atque amplificandam conferatis?"

* * * * *

"I could wish, Quirites, that there was open to you so large a choice
of men capable at the same time, and honest, that you might find a
difficulty in deciding who might best be selected for command in a
war so momentous as this. But now when Pompey alone has surpassed in
achievements not only those who live, but all of whom we have read in
history, what is there to make any one hesitate in the matter? In my
opinion there are four qualities to be desired in a general--military
knowledge, valor, authority, and fortune. But whoever was or was ever
wanted to be more skilled than this man, who, taken fresh from school
and from the lessons of his boyhood, was subjected to the discipline
of his father's army during one of our severest wars, when our enemies
were strong against us? In his earliest youth he served under our
greatest general. As years went on he was himself in command over
a large army. He has been more frequent in fighting than others in
quarrelling. Few have read of so many battles as he has fought.

He has conquered more provinces than others have desired to pillage.
He learned the art of war not from written precepts, but by his own
practice; not from reverses, but from victories. He does not count his
campaigns, but the triumphs which he has won. What nature of warfare
is there in which the Republic has not used his services? Think of our
Civil war[1]--of our African war[2]--of our war on the other side of
the Alps[3]--of our Spanish wars[4]--of our Servile war[5]--which was
carried on by the energies of so many mighty people--and this Maritime
war.[6] How many enemies had we, how various were our contests! They
were all not only carried through by this one man, but brought to an
end so gloriously as to show that there is nothing in the practice of
warfare which has escaped his knowledge.

* * * * *

"Seeing, therefore, that this war cannot be neglected; that its
importance demands the utmost care in its administration; that it
requires a general in whom should be found sure military science,
manifest valor, conspicuous authority, and pre-eminent good
fortune--do you doubt, Quirites, but that you should use the great
blessing which the gods have given you for the preservation and glory
of the Republic?"

* * * * *

On reading, however, the piece over again, I almost doubt whether
there be any passages in it which should be selected as superior to


[1] "Civile;" when Sulla, with Pompey under him, was fighting with
young Marius and Cinna.

[2] "Africanum;" when he had fought with Domitius, the son-in-law of
Cinua, and with Hiarbas.

[3] "Transalpinum;" during his march through Gaul into Spain.

[4] "Hispaniense;" in which he conquered Sertorins.

[5] "Servile;" the war with Spartacus, with the slaves and gladiators.

[6] "Navale Bellum;" the war with the pirates.


(See page 268.)


"O male concordes, nimiaque cupidine caeci,
Quid miscere juvat vires orbemque tenere
In medio."

"Temporis angusti mansit concordia discors,
Paxque fuit non sponte ducum. Nam sola futuri
Crassus erat belli medius mora. Qualiter undas
Qui secat, et geminum gracilis mare separat isthmos,
Nec patitur conferre fretum; si terra recedat,
Ionium Aegaeo frangat mare. Sic, ubi saeva
Arma ducum dirimens, miserando funere Crassus
Assyrias latio maculavit sanguine Carras."

"Dividitur ferro regnum; populique potentis,
Quae mare, quae terras, quae totum possidet orbem,
Non cepit fortuna duos."

"Tu nova ne veteres obscurent acta triumphos,
Et victis cedat piratica laurea Gallis,
Magne, times; te jam series, ususque laborum
Erigit, impatiensque loci fortuna secundi.
Nec quemquam jam ferre _potest_ Caesarve priorem,
Pompeiusve parem, Quis juspius induit arma,
Seire nefas; magno se judice quisque tuesur,
Victrix causa deis placuit sed victa, Catoni.[1]
Nec coiere pares; alter vergentibus annis
In senium, longoque togae tranquilhor usu
Dedidicit jam paee ducem, famaeque petitor
Multa dar in vulgas, totus popularibus auris
Impelli, plausuque sui gaudere theatri;
Nec reparare novas vires, multumque priori
Credere fortunae, Stat magni nominis umbra."

"Sed non in Caesare tantum
Nomen erat, nec fama ducis, sed nescia virtus
Stare loco; solusque pudor non vincere bello.
Acer et indomitus; quo spes, quoque ira vocasset,
Ferre manum, et nunquam te merando parcere ferro;
Successus urgere suos; instare favori Numinis"--Lucan, lib.i.


[1] For the full understanding of this oft-quoted line the reader
should make himself acquainted with Cato's march across Libya after
the death of Pompey, as told by Lucan in his 9th book.

* * * * *

"O men so ill-fitted to agree, O men blind with greed, of what service
can it be that you should join your powers, and possess the world
between you?"

"For a short time the ill-sorted compact lasted, and there was a peace
which each of them abhorred. Crassus alone stood between the others,
hindering for a while the coming war--as an isthmus separates two
waters and forbids sea to meet sea. If the morsel of land gives way,
the Ionian waves and the Aegean dash themselves in foam against each
other. So was it with the arms of the two chiefs when Crassus fell,
and drenched the Assyrian Carrae with Roman blood."

"Then the possession of the Empire was put to the arbitration of the
sword. The fortunes of a people which possessed sea and earth and the
whole world, were not sufficient for two men."

"You, Magnus, you, Pompeius, fear lest newer deeds than yours should
make dull your old triumphs, and the scattering of the pirates should
be as nothing to the conquering of Gaul. The practice of many wars has
so exalted you, O Caesar, that you cannot put up with a second place.
Caesar will endure no superior; but Pompey will have no equal. Whose
cause was the better the poet dares not inquire! Each will have his
own advocate in history. On the side of the conqueror the gods ranged
themselves. Cato has chosen to follow the conquered.

"But surely the men were not equal. The one in declining years, who
had already changed his arms for the garb of peace, had unlearned the
general in the statesman--had become wont to talk to the people,
to devote himself to harangues, and to love the applause of his own
theatre. He has not cared to renew his strength, trusting to his old
fortune. There remains of him but the shadow of his great name."

"The name of Caesar does not loom so large; nor is his character as a
general so high. But there is a spirt which can content itself with
no achievements; there is but one feeling of shame--that of not
conquering; a man determined, not to be controlled, taking his arms
wherever lust of conquest or anger may call him; a man never sparing
the sword, creating all things from his own good-fortune trusting
always the favors of the gods."


Book of the day: