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Social life at Rome in the Age of Cicero by W. Warde Fowler

Part 2 out of 6

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If Cicero, the most tender-hearted of Roman public men, could urge
the claims of the companies so strongly, and, as in this last letter,
without any allusion to the interests of the province and its people,
we may well imagine how others, less scrupulous, must have combined
with the capitalists to work havoc in regions that only needed peace
and mild government to recover from centuries of misery. Such a letter
is the best comment we can have on the pernicious system of raising
taxes by contract--a system which was to be modified, regulated, and
eventually reduced to harmless dimensions under the benevolent and
scientific government of the early Empire.

We must now turn to the other department of the activity of the men of
business, that of banking and money-lending (_negotiatores_).

On the north or sunny side of the Forum we noticed in our walk round
the city the shops of the bankers (_tabernae argentariae_).
The _argentarii_ were originally, as their name suggests, only
money-changers, a class of small business men that arose in response
to a need felt as soon as increasing commerce and extended empire
brought foreign coin in large quantities to Rome. The Italian
communities outside the Roman State issued their own coinage until
they were admitted to the civitas after the Social War,--a fact which
alone is sufficient to show the need of men who made it their business
to know the current value of various coins in Roman money; and as
Rome became involved in the affairs of the East, there were always
circulating in the city the tetradrachms of Antioch and Alexandria,
the Rhodian drachmas, and the cistophori of the kings of Pergamus,
afterwards coined in the province of Asia.[127] No doubt the
money-changing business was a profitable one, and itself led to the
formation of capital which could be used in taking deposits and making
advances; and, as Professor Purser puts it,[128] the mere possession
of a quantity of coin for purposes of change would be likely to
develop spontaneously the profession of banking. In the same way the
_nummularii_, or assayers of the coin, having a mass of it in their
hands, would tend to develop a private business as well as their
official public one. All these, argentarii or nummularii, might be
called _foeneratores_, from the interest (_foenus_) which they charged
in their transactions. The profession was a respectable one, for
honesty and exactness in accounts were absolutely necessary to success
in it.[129] If the reader will turn to Cicero's speech in defence
of Caecina (6. 16), he will find these accounts appealed to, though
apparently not actually produced in court; but in the _Noctes Atticae_
of Aulus Gellius (xiv. 2) a judge who is describing a civil case which
came before him, mentions, among the documents produced, _mensae
rationes_, i.e. the accounts kept by the banker.

Your argentarius seems to have been ready to undertake for you almost
all that a modern banker will do for his customer. He would take
deposits of money, either for the depositor's use or to bear interest,
and would make payments on his behalf on receipt of a written order,
answering to our cheque;[130] this was a practice probably introduced
from Greece, for in the Eastern Mediterranean the whole business of
credit and exchange had long been reduced to a system. Again, if you
wished to be supplied with money during a journey, or to pay a sum to
any one at a distance, e.g. in Greece or Asia, your argentarius
would arrange it for you by giving you letters of credit or bills of
exchange on a banker at such towns as you might mention, and so save
you the trouble of carrying a heavy weight of coin with you. When,
Cicero sent his son to the University of Athens, he wished to give
him a generous allowance,--too generous, as we should think, for it
amounted to about L640 a year,--and he asked Atticus whether it could
be managed for him by _permutatio_, i.e. exchange, and received an
affirmative answer[131]. So too when his beloved freedman secretary
Tiro fell ill of fever at Patrae, Cicero finds it easy to get a local
banker there to advance him all the money he needed, and to pay the
doctor, engaging himself to repay the money to any agent whom the
banker might name[132].

Your argentarius would also attend for you, or appoint an agent to
attend, at any public auction in which you were interested as seller
or purchaser, and would pay or receive the money for you,--a practice
which must have greatly helped him in getting to know the current
value of all kinds of property, and indeed in learning to understand
human nature on its business side. In the passage from the _pro
Caecina_ quoted just now, a lady, Caesennia, wished to buy an estate;
she employs an agent, Aebutius, no doubt recommended by her banker,
and to him the estate is knocked down. He undertakes that the
argentarius of the vendor, who is present at the auction, shall be
paid the value, and this is ultimately done by Caesennia, and the sum
entered in the banker's books (tabulae).

But perhaps the most important part of the business was the finding
money for those who were in want of it, i.e. making advances on
interest. The poor man who was in need of ready money could get it
from the argentarius in coin if he had any security to offer, and,
as we saw in the last chapter, might get entangled more and more
hopelessly in the nets of the money-lender. Whether the same
argentarius did this small business and also the work of supplying the
rich man with credit, we do not know; it may have been the case that
the great money-lenders like Atticus themselves employed argentarii,
and so kept them going. That Atticus would undertake, anyhow, for a
friend like Cicero, any amount of money-finding, we know well from
many letters of Cicero, written when he was anxious to buy a piece
of land at any cost on which to erect a shrine to his beloved
daughter[133]; and we may be pretty sure that Atticus could not have
done all that Cicero importunately pressed upon him if he had not had
a number of useful professional agents at command. From these same
letters we also learn that finding money by no means necessarily meant
finding coin; in a society where every one was lending or borrowing,
and probably doing both at the same time, what actually passed was
chiefly securities, mortgages, debts, and so on. If you wanted to hand
over a hundred thousand or so to a creditor, what your agent had as
often as not to do was to persuade that creditor to accept as payment
the debts owing to yourself from others, i.e. you would hand over to
him, if he would accept them, the bonds or other securities given you
by your own debtors.[134]

It is plain then that the money-lenders had an enormous business, even
in Rome alone, and risky as it undoubtedly was, it must often have
been a profitable one. And it was not only at Rome that men were
borrowing and lending, but over the whole Empire. For reasons which it
would need an economic treatise to explain, private men, cities, and
even kings were in want of money; it was needed to meet the increased
cost of living and the constantly increasing standard of living among
the educated;[135] it was needed by the cities of Greece and the East
to repair the damages done in the wars of the last three hundred
years; it was needed by the poorer provincials to pay the taxes for
which neither the publicani nor the Roman government could afford to
wait; and it was needed by the kings who had come within the dismal
shadow of the Roman Empire, in order to carry on their own government,
or to satisfy the demands of the neighbouring provincial governor, or
to bribe the ruling men at Rome to get some decree passed in their
favour. Cicero, at the end of his life, looking back to his own
consulship in 63, says that at no time in his recollection was the
whole world in such a condition of indebtedness,[136] and in a famous
passage in his second Catilinarian oration he has drawn a picture of
the various classes of debtors in Rome and Italy at that time (_Cat._
ii. Sec. 18 foll.). He tells us of those who have wealth and yet will not
pay their debts; of those who are in debt and look to a revolution to
absolve them; of the veterans of the Sullan army, settled in colonies
such as Faesulae, who had rushed into debt in order to live luxurious
lives; of old debtors of the city, getting deeper and deeper into the
quagmire, who joined the conspiracy as a last desperate venture. There
was in fact in that famous year a real social fermentation going on,
caused by economic disturbance of the most serious kind; the germs of
the disease can be traced back to the Hannibalic war and its effects
on Italy, but all the symptoms had been continually exacerbated by the
negligence and ignorance of the government, and brought to a head by
the Social and Civil Wars in 90-82 B.C. In 63 the State escaped an
economic catastrophe through the vigilance of Cicero and the alliance
of the respectable classes under his leadership. In 49, and again in
48, it escaped a similar disaster through the good sense of Caesar and
his agents, who succeeded in steering between Scylla and Charybdis by
saving the debtors without ruining the lenders.[137]

Wonderful figures are given by later writers, such as Plutarch, of the
debts and loans of the great men of this time, and they may stand as
giving us a general impression of private financial recklessness. But
the only authentic information that has come down to us is what
Cicero drops from time to time in his correspondence about his own
affairs,[138] and even this needs much explanation which we are unable
to apply to it. What is certain is that Cicero never had more than a
very moderate income on which he could depend, and that at times he
was hard up for money, especially of course after his exile and the
confiscation of his property; and that on the other hand he never had
any difficulty in getting the sums he needed, and never shows the
smallest real anxiety about his finances. His profession as a
barrister only brought him a return indirectly in the form of an
occasional legacy or gift, since fees were forbidden by a lex Cincia;
his books could hardly have paid him, at least in the form of money;
his inherited property was small, and his Italian villas were not
profitable farms, nor was it the practice to let such country houses,
as we do now, when not occupying them; he declined a provincial
government, the usual source of wealth, and when at last compelled
to undertake one, only realised what was then a paltry sum,--some
L17,500, all of which, while in deposit at Ephesus, was seized by
the Pompeians in the Civil War.[139] Yet even early in life he could
afford the necessary expenses for election to successive magistracies,
and could live in the style demanded of an important public man.
Immediately after his consulship he paid L28,000 for Crassus' house
on the Palatine, and it is here that we first discover how he managed
such financial operations. Here are his own words in a letter to a
friend of December 62 B.C.:[140] "I have bought the house for 3,500
sestertia ... so you may now look on me as so deeply in debt as to be
eager to join a conspiracy if any one would admit me! ... Money is
plentiful at 6 per cent, and the success of my measures (in the
consulship) has caused me to be regarded as a good security."

The simple fact was that Cicero was always regarded as a safe man to
lend money to, by the business men and the great capitalists; partly
because he was an honest man,--a _vir bonus_ who would never dream of
repudiation or bankruptcy; partly because he knew every one, and had
a hundred wealthy friends besides the lender of the moment and among
them, most faithful of all, the prudent and indefatigable Atticus.
Undoubtedly then it was by borrowing, and regularly paying interest
on the loans, that he raised money whenever he wanted it. He may have
occasionally made money in the companies of tax-collectors; we have
seen that he probably had shares in some of their ventures. But there
is no clear evidence in his letters of this source of wealth,[141] and
there is abundant evidence of the borrowing. After his return from
exile, though the senate had given him somewhat meagre compensation
for the loss of his property, he began at once to borrow and to build:
"I am building in three places," he writes to his brother,[142] "and
am patching up my other houses. I live somewhat more lavishly than I
used to do; I am obliged to do so." Here again we know from whom he
borrowed,--it was this same brother, who of course had no more certain
income than his own, probably less. But he had been governor of Asia
for three years (61-58 B.C.), and must have realised large sums even
in that exhausted province; and at this moment he was legatus to
Pompeius as special commissioner for organising the supply of
corn, and thus was in immediate contact with one of the greatest
millionaires of the day. In order to repay his brother all Marcus
had to do was to borrow from other friends. "In regard to money I am
crippled. But the liberality of my brother I have repaid, in spite of
his protests, by the aid of my friends, that I might not be drained
quite dry myself" (_ad Att._ iv. 3). Two years later an unwary reader
might feel some astonishment at finding that Quintus himself was now
deep in debt;[143] but as he continues to read the correspondence his
astonishment will vanish. With the prospect before him of a prolonged
stay in Gaul with Caesar, Quintus might doubtless have borrowed to any
extent; and in fact with Caesar's help--the proceeds of the Gallic
wars--both brothers found themselves in opulence. The Civil War, and
the repayment of his debts to Caesar, nearly ruined Marcus towards the
end of his life, but nothing prevented his contriving to find money
for any object on which he had set his heart; when in his grief for
the loss of his daughter he wishes to buy suburban gardens where a
shrine to her memory may (strange to say) attract public notice, he
tells Atticus to buy what is necessary _at any cost_. "Manage the
business your own way; do not consider what my purse demands--about
that I care nothing--but what I _want_."[144]

Such being the financial method of Cicero and his brother, we cannot
be surprised to find that the younger generation of the family
followed faithfully in the footsteps of their elders. We have seen
that the young Marcus had a large allowance at Athens and on the whole
he seems to have kept fairly well within it, in spite of some trouble;
but his cousin the younger Quintus, coming to see his uncle in
December 45, showed him a gloomy countenance, and on being asked the
meaning of it, said that he was going with Caesar to the Parthian war
in order to avoid his creditors, and presumably to make money to pay
them with.[145] He had not even enough money for the journey out. His
uncle did not offer to give him any, but he does not seem to have
thought very seriously of the young man's embarrassments.

One more example of the financial dealings of the business men of this
extraordinary age, and we will bring this chapter to an end. It is a
story which has luckily been preserved in Cicero's speech in defence
of a certain Rabirius Postumus in the year 54, who was accused under
Caesar's law de pecuniis repetundis (extortion in the provinces). It
is a remarkable revelation of all the most striking methods of making
and using money in the last years of the Republic.

The father of this Rabirius, says Cicero, had been a distinguished
member of the equestrian order, and "fortissimus et maximus
publicanus"; not greedy of money, but most liberal to his friends--in
other words, he was not a miser, for that character was rare in this
age, but lent his money freely in order to acquire influence and
consideration. The son took up the same line of business, and engaged
in a wide sphere of financial operations. He dealt largely in the
stock of the tax-companies; he lent money to cities in several
provinces; he lent money to Ptolemy Auletes, King of Egypt, both
before he was expelled from his kingdom by sedition, and afterwards
when he was in Rome in 59 and 58, intriguing to induce the senate
to have him restored. Rabirius never doubted that he would be so
restored, and seems to have failed to see the probability of such a
policy being contested or quarrelled about, as actually happened in
the winter of 57-56. He lent, and persuaded his friends to lend:[146]
he represented the king's cause as a good investment; and then, like
the investing agent of to-day who slips so easily from carelessness
into crime, he had to go on lending more and more, because he feared
that if he stopped the king might turn against him.

He had staked the mass of his substance on a desperate venture. But
time went on and Ptolemy was not restored, and without the revenues of
his kingdom he of course could not pay his creditors. At last, at the
end of the year 56, Gabinius, then governor of Syria, had pressure
put on him by the creditors--among them perhaps both Caesar and
Pompeius--to march into Egypt without the authority of the senate. He
took Rabirius with him, and, in order to secure the repayment,
the latter was made superintendent (dioikaetaes) of the Egyptian
revenues[147]. Unluckily for him, his wily debtor did after all turn
against him, and he escaped from Egypt with difficulty and with the
loss of all his wealth. When Gabinius was accused de repetundis and
found guilty of accepting enormous sums from Ptolemy, Rabirius was
involved in the same prosecution as having received part of the money;
Cicero defended him, and as it seems with success, on the plea that
equites were not liable to prosecution under the lex Julia. Towards
the end of his speech he drew a clever picture of his unlucky client's
misfortunes, and declared that he would have had to quit the Forum,
i.e. to leave the Stock Exchange in disgrace, if Caesar had not come
to his rescue by placing large sums at his disposal.

What Rabirius did was simply to gamble on a gigantic scale, and get
others to gamble with him. The luck turned against him, and he came
utterly to grief. There seems indeed to have been a perfect passion
for dealing with money in this wild way among the men of wealth and
influence; it was the fancy of the hour, and no disgrace attached to
it if a man could escape ruin. Thus the vast capital accumulated--the
sources of which were almost entirely in the provinces and the
kingdoms on the frontiers--was hardly ever used productively. It never
returned to the region whence it came, to be used in developing
its resources; the idea of using it even in Italy for industrial
undertakings was absent from the mind of the gambler. Those numberless
villas, of which we shall speak in another chapter, were homes of
luxury and magnificence, not centres of agricultural industry. There
are indeed some signs that in this very generation the revival of
Italian agriculture was beginning, and more especially the cultivation
of the olive and the vine; Varro, some twenty years later, could claim
that Italy was the best cultivated country in the world.[148] It may
be that the din of the "insanum forum" and its wild speculation has
prevented our hearing of the quiet efforts in the country to put
capital to a legitimate productive use. But of the social life of the
city the Forum was the heart, and of any prudent or scientific use of
capital the Forum knew hardly anything.

Of the two classes of business men we have been describing, the
tax-farmers and the money-lenders, it is hard to say which wrought the
most mischief in the Empire; they played into each other's hands in
wringing money out of the helpless provincials. Together too they did
incalculable harm, morally and socially, among the upper strata of
Roman society at home. Economic maladies react upon the mental, and
moral condition of a State. Where the idea of making money for its
own sake, or merely for the sake of the pleasure derivable from
excitement, is paramount in the minds of so large a section of
society, moral perception quickly becomes warped. The sense of justice
disappears, because when the fever is on a man he does not stop to ask
whether his gains are ill-gotten; and in this age the only restriction
on the plundering of the subjects of the Empire was a legal one, and
that of no great efficacy. There are many repulsive things in the
exquisite poetry of Catullus, but none of them jar on the modern mind
quite so sharply as his virulent attacks on a provincial governor in
whose suite he had gone to Bithynia in the hope of enriching himself,
and under whose just administration he had failed to do so. There
is lost also the sense of a duty arising out of the possession of
wealth--the feeling that it should do some good in the world, or at
least be in part applied to some useful purpose. Lastly, the exciting
pursuit of wealth helps to produce a curious restlessness and
instability of character, of which we have many examples in the age
we are studying. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," are words
that might be applied to many a young man among Cicero's acquaintance,
and to many women also.

No sudden operation could cure these evils--they needed the careful
and gradual treatment of a wise physician. As in so many other ways,
so here Augustus showed his wonderful instinct as a social reformer.
The first requisite of all was an age of comparative peace--a healthy
atmosphere in which the patient could recover his natural tone. Next
in importance was the removal of the incitement to enrich yourself and
to spend illegally or unprofitably, and the revival of a sense of duty
towards the State and its rulers. Provincial governors were made
more really responsible, and a scientific census revealed the actual
tax-paying capacity of the provincials; tax-farming was more closely
superintended and gradually disappeared. It is true enough that even
under the Empire great fortunes were made and lost, but the gambling
spirit, the wild recklessness in monetary dealings, are not met with
again. The Roman Forum ceased to be insane, and Italy became once more
the home of much happy and useful country life. The passionate and
reckless self-consciousness of Catullus is succeeded in the next
generation by the calm sweet hopefulness of Virgil; in passing from
the one poet to the other, we feel that we are leaving behind us an
age of over-sensitive self-seeking and entering on one in which duty
and honour, labour on the land and hard work for the State, may be
reckoned as things more likely to make life worth living than all the
accumulated capital of a Crassus.



Above the men of business of equestrian rank, in social standing
though not necessarily in wealth, there was in Cicero's time an
aristocracy which a Roman of that day would perhaps have found it a
little difficult to explain or define to a foreigner. Fortunately all
foreigners coming to Rome would know what was meant by the senate,
the great council which received envoys from all nations outside the
Empire; and the stranger might be told in the first place that all
members of that august assembly, with their families, were considered
as elevated above the equestrian order, and as forming the main body
of the aristocracy proper. But if the informant were by chance a
conservative Roman of old family, he might proceed to qualify this
definition. "There are now in the senate," he might say, "plenty of
men who are only there because they have held the quaestorship, which
Sulla made the qualification for a seat, and there are many equites
whom Sulla made into senators by the form of a vote of the people;
such men, even the great orator Cicero himself, I do not reckon as
really members of the nobility, because they do not belong to old
families who have done the State good service in past time. They have
no images of their ancestors in their houses; they come from municipal
towns, or spring from some low family in the city; they may have
raised themselves by their talents, perhaps only by their money,
but they have no guarantee of antiquity, their names are not in our
annals. All we true conservative Romans (and a, Roman is hardly a
Roman if not conservative) profoundly believe that a man whose family
has once attained to high public honour and done good public service,
will be a safer person to elect as a magistrate than one whose family
is unknown and untried--a belief which is surely based on a truth of
human nature. I should count a man who happens not to be in the senate
himself, for want of wealth or inclination, but whose family has its
images and its traditions of great ancestors, as far more truly an
"optimate" than most of these new men. Fortunately our most famous
families, whose names are known all over the Empire, are still to be
found in the senate, and indeed form a powerful body there, capable of
resisting to the last the revolutionary dangers that threaten us. The
people still elect to magistracies the Aemilii, Lutatii, Claudii,
Cornelii, Julii, and many more families that have been famous in our
history, and will, I trust, continue to elect them so long as our
Republic lasts."[149]

There was indeed a glamour about these splendid names, as there is
about the titles of our ancient noble families; their holders may
almost be said to have claimed high office as a right, like the Whig
families Of the Revolution for a century after their triumph. Though
we may use the word in a wider sense in this chapter, these grand old
families were the true aristocracy, and inspired just that respect in
the minds of men outside their circle which is still so familiar to us
in England. Cicero was to such men an "outsider," a _novus homo_; and
the close reader of Cicero's letters, if he is looking out (as he
should be) for Cicero's constantly changing attitude of mind as he
addresses himself to various correspondents, cannot fail to see how
comparatively awkward and stilted he often is when writing to one of
these great nobles, with whom he has never been really intimate; and
how easily his pen glides along when he is letting himself talk to
Atticus, or Poetus, or M. Marius, men who were outside the pale of
nobility. It is true that he is sometimes embarrassed in other ways
when writing to great personages, as, for example, Lentulus Spinther,
consul in 57, or to Appius Claudius, consul in 53; but had they been
men of his own kind he never would have felt that embarrassment in the
same degree. When writing to such men he rarely or never indulges
in those little sportive jokes or allusions which enliven his more
intimate correspondence, nor does he tell the truth so strictly, for
they might not always care to hear it.

Here is a specimen which will give some idea of his manner in writing
to an aristocrat: he is congratulating L. Aemilius Paullus, who
secured his election to the consulship in the summer of 51 B.C.:

"Though I never doubted that the Roman people, considering your
eminent services to the Republic and _the splendid position of your
family_, would enthusiastically elect you consul by a unanimous vote,
yet I felt extreme delight when the news reached me; and I pray
the gods to render your official career fortunate, and to make the
administration of your office worthy of your own position and _that
of your ancestors_.... And would that it had been in my power to have
been at home to see that wished-for day, and to have given you the
support which your noble services and kindness to me deserved! But
since the unexpected and unlooked-for accident of my having to take
a province has deprived me of that opportunity, yet, that I may be
enabled to see you as consul actually administering the state in a
manner worthy of your position, I earnestly beg you to take care to
prevent my being treated unfairly, or having additional time added
to my year of office. If you do that, you will abundantly crown your
former acts of kindness to me."[150]

This Aemilius Paullus, like Spinther and many others, belonged to
a respectable but somewhat characterless type of aristocrat; these
formed a considerable and a powerful section of the senate, where they
were an obstacle to reform and administrative efficiency. They were
really a survival from the old type of Roman noble, which had done
excellent work in its day; men in whom the individual had been kept in
strict subordination to the State, and whose personal idiosyncrasies
and ambitions only excited suspicion. But towards the end of the
Republican period the individual had free play; at no time in ancient
history do we meet with so many various and interesting kinds of
individuality, even among the nobilitas itself. This is not merely the
result of the abundant literature in which their traits have come down
to us; it was a fact of the age, in which the idea of the State had
fallen into the background, and the individual found no restraint
on his thoughts and little on his actions, no hindrance to the
development of his capacity either for good or evil. Sulla,
Catiline, Pompeius, Cato, Clodius, Caesar, all have their marked
characteristics, familiar to all who read the history of the Roman
revolution. Caesar is the most remarkable example of strong character
among the men of high aristocratic descent, and it is interesting to
notice how entirely he was without the exclusive tendency which we
associate with aristocrats. He was intimate with men of all ranks; his
closest friends seem to have been men who were noble. While the high
aristocrats looked down as a rule on Cicero the novus homo, and for
some years positively hated him[151], Caesar, though differing from
him _toto coelo_ in politics, was always on pleasant terms of personal
intercourse with him; he had a charm of manner, a literary taste, and
a genuine admiration for genius, which was invariably irresistible
to the sensitive "novus homo." With Pompey, though he trusted him
politically as he never trusted Caesar, Cicero was never so intimate.
They had not the same common interests; Cicero could laugh at Pompey
behind his back, but hardly once in his correspondence does he attempt
to raise a jest about Caesar.

Thus in the governing or senatorial aristocracy we find men of a great
variety of character, from the old-fashioned nobilis, exclusive in
society and obstructive in politics, to the man of individual genius
and literary ability, whether of blue blood like Caesar, or like
Cicero the scion of a municipal family which has never gained or
sought political distinction. But for the purposes of this chapter
we may discern and discuss two main types of character in this
aristocracy: first, that on which the new Greek culture had worked to
advantage, not destroying the best Roman qualities, but drawing them
into usefulness in new ways; secondly, that on which the same culture
had worked to its harm by taking advantage of weak points in the Roman
armour, sapping the true Roman quality without substituting any other
excellence. We will briefly trace the growth of these two types, and
take an example of each among Cicero's intimate friends, not from
the famous personages familiar to every one, but from eminent and
interesting men of whom the ordinary student knows comparatively

Ever since the Hannibalic war, and probably even before it, Roman
nobles had felt the power of Greek culture; they had begun to think,
to learn about peoples who were different from themselves in habits
and manners, and to advance, the best of them at least, in wisdom and
knowledge; and this is true in spite of the unquestioned fact that it
was in this same era that the seeds were sown of moral and political
degeneracy. We shall have abundant opportunity of noting the effects
of this degeneracy in the last age of the Republic, but it is pleasant
to dwell for a moment on that more wholesome Greek influence which
enticed the finer minds among the Roman nobility into a new region of
culture, stimulating thought and strengthening the springs of conduct.

Even the old Cato himself, most rigid of Roman conservatives, was not
unmoved by this influence,[152] and it was to him that Rome owed the
introduction of Ennius, the greatest literary figure of that age, into
Roman society[153]. But the first genuine example of the new culture,
of the Hellenic enthusiasm of the age, is to be found in Aemilius
Paullus, the conqueror of Macedonia, a true Roman aristocrat who was
delighted to learn from Greeks. Plutarch's _Life_ of this man is a
valuable record of the tendencies of the time. After his failure to
obtain a second consulship, Plutarch tells us[154] that he retired
into private life, devoting himself to religious duties and to the
education of his children, training these in the old Roman habits in
which he had himself been trained, but also in Greek culture, and that
with even greater enthusiasm. He had about them Greek teachers, not
only of grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy, but of the fine arts, and
even of out-door pursuits, such as hunting (to which the Romans were
not greatly addicted), and of the care of horses and dogs; and he made
a point of being present himself at all their exercises, bodily and
mental. The result of this wholesome Xenophontic education is seen in
his son, the great Scipio Aemilianus, who was adopted into the family
of the Scipios in the lifetime of his father. Whatever view we may
take of this great man's conduct in war and politics, there can hardly
be a doubt that the Romans themselves were right in treasuring his
memory as one of the best of their race. When we put all the facts of
his life together, from his early youth, of which his friend Polybius
has left us a most beautiful picture,[155] to his sudden and probably
violent death in the maturity of his powers, we are compelled to
believe that he was really a man of wide sympathies, a strong sense of
justice which guided him steadily through good report and ill, perfect
purity of life, and hatred of all that was low and bad, whether
in rich or poor. He was not, like his father, a Roman aristocrat
patronising Greek culture;[156] in him we see a perfectly natural
and mature combination of the noblest qualities of the Roman and the
wholesomest qualities of the Greek. "It was an awakening truth,"
says a great authority, "in the minds of Romans like Scipio, that
intellectual culture must be built upon a foundation of moral
rectitude: and such a foundation they could find in the storehouse of
their own domestic traditions."[157] When Cicero, who held him to
be the greatest of Romans, wrote his dialogue on the State (_de
Republica_), with the new idea pervading it of the moral and political
ascendancy of a single man, he made Scipio the hero and the one
ascendant figure in his work, and ended it with an imitation of the
Platonic "myth," in the form of a "dream of Scipio."

Scipio gathered round him a circle of able and cultured men, both
Roman and Greek, including almost every living Roman of ability, and
among the Greeks the historian Polybius and the philosopher Panaetius,
of whom we shall have more to learn in the course of this volume. Of
this circle the best and ablest men of Cicero's earlier days were
mentally the children, and his own views both of literature and
politics were largely formed upon the Scipionic tradition. Indeed to
understand the mental and moral furniture of the Roman mind in the
Ciceronian age, it is absolutely necessary to study that of the
generation which made that mind what it was; but here space can only
be found to point out how the enlightenment of the Scipionic circle
opened out new ways in manners, in literature, in philosophical
receptivity, and lastly in the study of the law, which was destined to
be Rome's greatest contribution to civilisation.

Manners, the demeanour of the individual in social intercourse, are a
valuable index, if not an entirely conclusive one, of the mental and
moral tone of society in any age. Ease and courteousness of bearing
mean, as a rule, that the sense of another's claims as a human being
are always present to the mind. Whatever be the shortcomings of the
last age of the Republic, we must give due credit to the fact that in
their outward demeanour towards each other the educated men of that
age almost invariably show good breeding. It is true enough that
public vituperation, in senate or law-courts, was a fact of every day,
and the wealth of violent personal abuse which a gentleman like Cicero
could expend on one whom for the time he hated, or who had done
him some wrong, passes all belief.[158] But the history of this
vituperation is a curious one; it was a traditional method of hostile
oratory, and sprang from an old Roman root, the tendency to defamation
and satire, which may itself be attributed in part to the Italian
custom of levelling abuse at a public man (e.g. at his triumph) in
order to avert evil from him.[159] To single out a man's personal
ugliness, to calumniate his ancestry in the vilest terms,--these were
little more than traditional practices, oratorical devices, which the
rhetorical education of the day encouraged, and which no one took
very seriously.[160] But we are concerned in this chapter mainly with
private life; and there we find almost universal consideration and
courtesy. In the whole of the Ciceronian correspondence there is
hardly a letter that does not show good breeding, and there are many
that are the natural result of real kindly feeling and true sympathy.

A good example of the best type of Roman manners is to be found in
Plutarch's _Life_ of Gaius Gracchus, the younger contemporary of
Scipio, who had married his sister. Plutarch draws a picture of him so
vivid that by common consent it is ascribed to the memoirs of some one
who knew him. "In all his dealings with men," says the biographer, "he
was always dignified yet always courteous"; that is, while he inspired
respect, men felt also that he would do anything in his power for
them. That this was said of him by a Roman, and not invented for him
by Plutarch, seems probable because the combination is one peculiarly
Roman; so Livy, when he wishes to describe the finest type of Roman
character, says that a certain man was "haud minus libertatis alienae
quam suae dignitatis memor."[161] This same combination meets us also
in the little pictures of the social life of cultivated men which
Cicero has left us in some of his dialogues. There the speakers are
usually of the nobility, often distinguished members of senatorial
families, as in the _de Oratore_, where the chief _personae_ are
Crassus, Antonius, and Scaevola, the conservative triumvirate of the
day. They all seem grave, or but seldom gently jocular, respectful to
each other, and perhaps a trifle tedious; they never quarrel, however
deeply they may differ, and we may guess that they did not hold their
opinions strongly enough to urge them to open rupture. We seem to see
the same grave faces, with rather noses and large mouths, which meet
us in the sculptures of Augustus' Ara Pacis,[162]--full of dignity,
but a little wanting in animation.

There is one singular exception to the good manners of the period; but
as the result rather of affectation than of nature, it may help to
prove our rule. Again and again in Plutarch's _Life_ of Cato the
younger the mention of his rudeness proves the strength of the
tradition about him. It was said that this lost him the consulship,
as he declined to make himself agreeable in the style expected from
candidates[163]. Even in a letter to Cicero, an old friend, though not
actually rude, he is absurdly patronising and impertinent to a man
many years his senior, and writes in very bad taste. Probably the
enmity between him and Caesar arose or was confirmed in this way,
as Cato always made a point of being rudest to those whom he most
disliked. He fancied that he was imitating his great ancestor, and
asserting the virtue of good old Roman bluntness against modern Greek
affectation; he did not in the least see that he was himself a curious
example of Roman affectation, shown up by the real amenities of
intercourse, for which Romans had largely to thank Greece[164].

In literature too the average capacity of this aristocracy was high,
though the greatest literary figures of the age, if we except Caesar,
do not, strictly speaking, belong to it; Cicero was a novus homo, and
Lucretius and Catullus were not of the senatorial order. But the new
education, as we shall see later on, was admirably calculated to
train men in the art of speaking and writing, if not in the habit of
independent thinking; and among the nobles who reaped the full fruits
of this education every one could write in Latin and probably also
in Greek, and if he aimed at public distinction, could speak without
disgracing himself in the senate and the courts. Oratory was, in fact,
the staple product of the age, and the chief _raison d'etre_ of its
literary activity. Long ago the practice had begun of writing out
successful speeches delivered in the senate, in the courts, or at
funerals; the means of publication were easy, as a consequence of the
number of Greek slaves who could act as copyists, and thus oratory
formed the basis of a prose literature which is essentially
Roman,[165] rooted in the practical necessities of the life of the
Roman noble, though deeply tinged with the Greek ideas and forms of
expression acquired in the process of education in vogue. Treatises on
rhetoric, the art of effective expression in prose, form an important
part of it; two of them still survive from the time of Sulla,--the
_Rhetorica ad Herennium_ of an unknown author, and Cicero's early
treatise _de Inventione_. Later on Cicero wrote his admirable dialogue
_de Oratore_ and other works on the same subject, ending with his
_Brutus_, a catalogue raisonnee, invaluable to us, of all the great
Roman orators down to his own time.

In history writing the standard was not so high. The rhetorical
education made men good professional orators, but indifferent and
dilettante historians, and the example of more accurate historical
investigation and reflection set by Polybius was not followed, except
perhaps by Caelius Antipater in the Gracchan age.[166] History was
affected for the worse by the rhetorical art, as indeed poetry was
destined also to be; Sallust, though we owe much to him, was in fact
an amateur, who thought more of style and expression than of truth
and fact. Caesar, who did not profess to be a historian, but only to
provide the materials for history,[167] stands alone in making facts
more important than words, and rarely troubles his reader with
speeches or other rhetorical superfluities.[168] Biographies and
autobiographies were fashionable; of the former only those of
Cornelius Nepos, one of Cicero's many friends, have come down to us,
and none of the latter, but we know a long list of eminent men who
wrote their own memoirs, including Catulus the elder, Rutilius the
famous victim of equestrian judges, Sulla, and Lucullus. But far above
all other prose writers of the age stand two men, neither of them
Roman by birth, but yet members of the senatorial order; the one a man
of encyclopaedic learning, with what we may almost call a scientific
interest in the subjects which he treated in awkward and homely Latin,
the other a man of comparatively little learning, but gifted with so
exquisite a sense of the beautiful in expression, and at the same
time with a humanity so real and in that day so rare, that it is not
without good cause that he has recently been called the most highly
cultured man of all antiquity.[169] Of Varro's numerous works we have
unluckily but few survivals; of Cicero's we have still such a mass
as will for ever provide ample material for studying the life, the
manners, the thought of his day.

A large part of this mass consists of the correspondence of which we
are making such frequent use in these chapters. Letter-writing is
perhaps the most pleasing and genuine of all the literary activities
of the time; men took pains to write well, yet not with any definite
prospect of publication, such as was the motive a century later in
the days of Seneca and Pliny. The nine hundred and odd letters of the
Ciceronian collection are most of them neither mere communications
nor yet rhetorical exercises, but real letters, the intercourse of
intimate friends at a distance, in which their inmost thoughts can
often be seen. Cicero is indeed apt to become rhetorical even in his
letters, when writing under excitement about politics; but the most
delightful letters in the collection are those in which he writes
to his friends in happy and natural language of his daily life and
occupations, his books, his villas, his children, his joys and
sorrows. It is strange that the great historian of Rome in our time
entirely failed to see the charm and the value of these letters, as of
all Cicero's writings; his countrymen have now agreed to differ from
him, and to restore a great writer to his true position.

In philosophical receptivity too the brightest and finest minds among
this aristocracy show an ability which is almost astonishing, when we
consider that there had been no education in Rome worth the name until
the second century B.C.[170] I use the word receptivity, because the
Romans of our period never really learnt to think for themselves; they
never grappled with a problem, or struck out a new line of thought.
But so far as we can judge by Cicero's philosophical works, the only
ones of his age which have come down to us, the power to read with
understanding and to reproduce with skill was unquestionably of a high
order. The opportunities for study were not wanting; private libraries
were numerous, and all Cicero's friends who had collected books were
glad to let him have the use of them.[171] Greek philosophers were
often domesticated in wealthy families, and could discourse with the
statesman when he had leisure from public business. Much of this was
no more than fashion, and real endeavour and earnestness were rare;
but the fact remains that one philosophical system, more especially on
its ethical side, took real possession of the best type of Roman mind,
and had permanent and saving influence on it.

Stoicism was brought to Rome by Panaetius of Rhodes, the intimate
friend of Scipio, a mild and tactful Greek whose Rhodian birth gave
him perhaps some advantage in associating with the old allies of his
state. He came to Rome at a critical moment, when even the best men
were drifting into pure material self-seeking; and the results of his
teaching were during two centuries so wholesome and inspiring that we
may almost think of him as a missionary. The ground had been prepared
for him in some sense by Polybius, who introduced him to Scipio and
his circle, and who was then engaged in writing his history. From
Polybius the Romans, the best of them at least, first learnt to
realise their own empire and the great change it had wrought in the
world; to think about what they had done and the qualities that
enabled them to do it. From Panaetius they were to learn a
philosophical creed which might direct and save them in the future,
which might serve as ballast in public and private life, just when the
ship was beginning to drift in moral helplessness. He was the founder
of a school of practical wisdom, singularly well adapted to the Roman
character and intellect, which were always practical rather than
speculative; and far better suited to ordinary human life than the old
rigid and austere Stoic ethics, of which the younger Cato was the
only eminent Roman disciple. From what we know of Panaetius' ethical
teaching,--and in the first two books of Cicero's work, _de Officiis_,
we have a fairly complete view of it,--we do not find the old doctrine
that absolute wisdom and justice are the only ends to pursue, and
everything else indifferent; a doctrine which put the old-fashioned
Stoic out of court in public life. The relative element, the useful,
played a great part in the teaching of Panaetius. Though his system
is based on the highest principles to which moral teaching could then
appeal, it did not exclude the give and take, the compromise without
which no practical man of affairs can make way, nor yet the wealth and
bodily comforts that secure leisure for thought.[172]

Panaetius' mission was carried on by another Rhodian philosopher, the
famous Posidonius, who lived long enough to know Cicero himself
and many of his contemporaries; a man less inspiring perhaps than
Panaetius, but of greater knowledge and attainment; a traveller,
geographer, and a man of the world, whose writings on many subjects,
though lost to us, really lie at the back of a great part of the Roman
literary output of his time.[173] He was the disciple of Panaetius;
envoy from Rhodes to Rome in the terrible year 86; and later on the
inmate of Roman families, and the admired friend of Cicero Pompeius,
and Varro. Philosophy was only one of the many pursuits of this
extraordinary man, whose literary and historical influence can be
traced in almost every leading Roman author for a century at least;
but his philosophical importance was during his lifetime perhaps
predominant. The generation that knew him was rich in Stoics; for
example, Aelius Stilo, the master of Varro, "doctissimus eorum
temporum," as Gellius calls him;[2] Rutilius, who was mentioned just
now as having written memoirs; and among others probably the great
lawyer Mucius Scaevola. Cato, as we have seen, was not a follower of
the Roman school of Stoicism, but of the older and uncompromising
doctrine; but Cicero, though never a professed Stoic, was really
deeply influenced, and towards the end of his life almost fascinated,
by a creed which suited his humanity while it stimulated his instinct
for righteousness.[174] And, like Cicero, many other men of serious
character felt the power of Stoicism almost unconsciously, without
openly professing it.

Stoicism then was in several ways congenial to the Roman spirit, but
in one direction it had an inspiring influence which has been of
lasting moment to the world. Up to the time of Panaetius and the
Scipionic circle the Roman idea and study of law had been of a crabbed
practical character, wanting in breadth of treatment, destitute of any
philosophical conception of the moral principles which lie behind all
law and government. The Stoic doctrine of universal law ruling the
world--a divine law, emanating from the universal Reason--seems to
have called up life in these dry bones. It might be held by a Roman
Stoic that human law comes into existence when man becomes aware of
the divine law, and recognises its claim upon him. Morality is thus
identical with law in the widest sense of the word, for both are
equally called into being by the Right Reason, which is the universal
primary force.[175] It is not possible here to show how this grand and
elevating idea of law may have affected Roman jurisprudence, but we
will just notice that the first quasi-philosophical treatment of law
is found following the age of Panaetius and the Scipionic circle; that
the phrase _ius gentium_ then begins to take the meaning of general
principles or rules common to all peoples, and founded on "natural
reason";[176] and that this led by degrees to the later idea of the
Law of Nature, and to the cosmopolitanism of the Roman legal system,
which came to embrace all peoples and degrees in its rational and
beneficent influence. If the Greek had a genius for beauty, and the
Jew for righteousness, the Roman had a genius for law; and the power
of Stoicism in ennobling and enriching his native conception of it is
probably not to be easily over-estimated.

Thus behind the stormy scenes of public life in this period there is a
process going on which will be of value not only to the Roman Empire
but to modern civilisation. It was carried on more especially by two
men of the highest character, Q. Mucius Scaevola, Cicero's adviser
in his early days, and often his model in later life; and Servius
Sulpicius Rufus, his exact contemporary and lifelong friend. Neither
Scaevola nor Sulpicius were, so far as we know, professed disciples
of Stoicism; but that they applied perhaps half unconsciously the
principles of Stoicism to their own legal studies is almost certain.
The combination of legal training and Stoic influence (whether direct
or unconscious) seems to have been capable of bringing the Roman
aristocratic character to a high pitch of perfection; and it will be
pleasant to take this friend of Cicero, whose public career we can
clearly trace, and one or two of whose letters we still possess, as
our example of a really well spent life in an age when time and talent
were constantly abused and wasted.

Sulpicius and Cicero were born in the same year, 106; they went hand
in hand in early life, and remained friends till their deaths in 43,
Sulpicius dying a few months before Cicero. They were both attached
in early youth to the Scaevola just mentioned, the first of the great
series of scientific Roman lawyers. But the consulship of Cicero
made a wide divergence in their lives. In that year Sulpicius was a
candidate for the consulship and failed; and then, resigning further
attempts to obtain the highest honour, he retired for the next twelve
years into private life, devoting himself to the work which has made
his name immortal. His writings are lost; nothing remains of them but
a few chance fragments and allusions; but he was reckoned the second
of the great writers on legal subjects, and it is probable that he
contributed as much as any of them to the work of making Roman
law what it has been as a power in the world, a factor in modern
civilisation. For he treated it, as his friend said of him,[177] with
the hand and mind of an artist, laying out his whole subject and
distributing it into its constituent parts, by definition and
interpretation making clear what seemed obscure, and distinguishing
the false from the true in legal principle. In the splendid panegyric
pronounced on him in the senate after his death,[178] Cicero again
emphatically declared him to be unrivalled in jurisprudence. In
beautiful but untranslatable language he claims that he was "non magis
iuris consultus, quam iustitiae,"--an encomium which all great
lawyers might well envy; he aimed rather at enabling men to be rid of
litigation than at encouraging them to engage in it.

From such passages we might conjecture, even if we knew nothing
more about him, that Sulpicius was a man of very fine clay, of real
_humanitas_ in the widest sense of that expressive word; and this
is entirely borne out in other ways.[179] Emerging at last from
retirement, he stood again for the consulship in 52 B.C., and was
elected. The year of his office, 51, was the first in which the
enemies of Caesar, with Cato at their head, began to attack his
position and clamour for his recall from his command; this violent
hostility Sulpicius tried, not without temporary success, to restrain,
and the fact that a man of so just a mind should have taken this
line is one of the best arguments for the reasonableness of Caesar's
cause.[180] When war broke out he was greatly perplexed how to act;
his breadth of view made decision difficult, and he seems to have
been at all times more a student than a man of action. With some
heart-burnings he joined Caesar in the struggle, and accepted from him
the government of Achaia; it was at this time that he wrote the famous
letter of consolation to Cicero on the death of his beloved daughter
Tullia, which is full of true feeling and kindliness, though evidently
composed with effort, if not with difficulty. After Caesar's death he
of course acted with Cicero against Antony, and in the spring of
43, making always for peace and good-will, he gave his life for his
country in a way that claims our admiration more really than the
suicide of Cato the professional Stoic; he headed an embassy to
Antony, though dangerously ill at the time, and died in this last
effort to obtain a hearing for the voice of justice. He has a
_monumentum aere perennius_ in the speech of his old friend urging the
senate to vote him a public funeral and a statue, as one who had laid
down his life for his country.

We must now turn to consider how the mischievous side of the new Greek
culture, in combination with other tendencies of the time, found its
way into weak points in the armour of the Roman aristocracy.

The pursuit of ease and pleasure, to which the attainment of wealth
and political power were too often merely subordinated, is a leading
characteristic of the time. It is seen in many different forms, in
many different types of character; but at the root of the whole
corruption is the spirit of the coarser side of Epicureanism. As with
Roman Stoicism, so too with Roman Epicureanism, it is not so much the
professed holding of philosophical tenets that affected life; in the
case of the latter system, it was the coincidence of its popularity
with the decay of the old Roman faith and morality, and with the
abnormal opportunities of self-indulgence. Cato as a professed Stoic,
Lucretius as an enthusiastic Epicurean, stand quite apart from
the mass of men who were actuated one way or the other by these
philosophical creeds. The majority simply played with the philosophy,
while following the natural bent of their individual character; but
such dilettanteism was often quite enough to affect that character
permanently for good or evil.

"Epicureanism popularised inevitably turns to vice." Was it really
popular at Rome? Cicero tells us in a valuable passage[181] that one
Amafinius had written on it, and that a great number of copies of his
book were sold, partly because the arguments were easy to follow,
partly because the doctrine was pleasant, and partly too because men
failed to get hold of anything better. The date of this Amafinius is
uncertain, but it is probable that Cicero is here speaking of the
latter part of the second century B.C.; and he goes on to say that
other writers took up the same line of teaching, and established it
over the whole of Italy (Italiam totam occupaverunt). If this was
in the time of the Social and Civil Wars, of the proscriptions, of
increasing crime and self-seeking, we can well understand that the
doctrine was popular. We have a remarkable example of it in the life
of a public man of Cicero's own time, the object of the most envenomed
invective that he ever uttered.[182] We cannot believe a tithe of what
he says about this man, Calpurnius Piso, consul in 58; but in this
particular matter of the damage done him by Epicurean teaching we have
independent evidence which confirms it. Piso, then a young man, made
acquaintance with a Greek of this school of thought, learnt from him
that pleasure was the sole end of life, and failing to appreciate the
true meaning and bearing of the doctrine, fell into the trap. It was
a dangerous doctrine, Cicero says, for a youth of no remarkable
intelligence; and the tutor, instead of being the young man's guide to
virtue, was used by him as an authority for vice.[183] This Greek was
a certain Philodemus, a few of whose poems are preserved in the _Greek
Anthology_; and a glance at them will show at once how dangerous such
a man would be as the companion of a Roman youth. He may not himself
have been a bad man--Cicero indeed rather suggests the contrary,
calling him _vere humanus_--but the air about him was poisonous. In
his pupil, if we can trust in the smallest degree the picture drawn of
him by Cicero, we may see a specimen of the young men of the age whose
talents might have made them useful in the world, but for the strength
of the current that drew them into self-indulgence.

Not only the pursuit of pleasure, but its correlative, the avoidance
of work and duty, can be abundantly illustrated in this age; and this
too may have had a subtle connexion with Epicurean teaching, which had
always discouraged the individual from distraction in the service of
the State, as disturbing to the free development of his own virtue.
Sulla did much hard work, but made the serious blunder of retiring to
enjoy himself just when his new constitutional machinery needed the
most careful watching and tending. Lucullus, after showing a wonderful
capacity for work and a greater genius for war than perhaps any man of
his time, retired from public life as a millionaire and a quietist,
to enjoy the wealth that has become proverbial, and a luxury that is
astonishing, even if we make due allowance for the exaggeration of our
accounts of it. To his library we have already been introduced; those
who would see him in his banqueting-hall, or rather one of the many
in his palace, may turn to the fortieth chapter of Plutarch's most
interesting _Life_ of him, and read the story there told of the dinner
he gave to Cicero and Pompeius in the "Apollo" dining-room.[184]

The same cynical carelessness about public affairs and neglect of
duty, as compared with private ease or advantage, seems to have been
characteristic of the ordinary senator. Active and busy in his own
interest, he was indifferent to that of the State. There are distinct
signs that the attendance in the senate was not good. When Cicero was
away in Cilicia his correspondent writes of difficulties in getting
together a sufficient number even for such important business as the
settlement of provincial governments.[185] On the other hand, much
private business was done, and many jobs perpetrated, in a thin
senate; in 66 a tribune proposed that no senator should be dispensed
from the action of a law unless two hundred were present.[186] It was
in such a thin senate, we may be sure, that the virtuous Brutus was
dispensed from the law which forbade lending to foreign borrowers in
Rome, and thus was enabled to lend to the miserable Salaminians of
Cyprus at 48 per cent, and to recover his money under the bond.[187]
Writing to his brother in December 57, Cicero speaks of business done
in a senate full for the time of year, which was midwinter, just
before the Saturnalia, when only two hundred were present out of about
six hundred. In February 54, a month when the senate had always much
business to get through, it was so cold one day that the few members
present clamoured for dismissal and obtained it.[188] And when the
senate did meet there was a constant tendency to let things go. No
reform of procedure is mentioned as even thought of, at a time when
it was far more necessary than in our Parliament; business was talked
about, postponed obstructed, and personal animosities and private
interests seem, so far as we can judge from the correspondence of the
time, to have been predominant. With wearisome iteration the letters
speak of nothing done, of business postponed, or of the passing of
some senatus consultum, the utter futility of which is obvious even
now.[189] Even the magistrates seem to have been growing careless; we
hear of a praetor presiding in the court de repetundis who had not
taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the text of the law which
governed its procedure;[190] and that praetors were worse than
careless about their action in civil cases is proved by another law of
the same tribune Cornelius mentioned just now, "that praetors should
abide by the rules laid down in their edicts."[191]

But all these futilities, and much of the same kind outside of the
senate, together with the quarrels of individuals, the chances and
incidents of elections, and all such gossip as forms the staple
commodity of the society papers of to-day, were a source of infinite
delight to another type of pleasure-loving public man, the last to be
illustrated here.

If the older noble families were apathetic and idle, there were plenty
of young men, rising most often from the class below, whose minds were
intensely active--active in the pursuit of pleasure, but pleasure in
the comparatively harmless form of amusement and excitement. One of
these, the son of a banker at Puteoli, Marcus Caelius Rufus, stands
out as a living portrait in his own letters to Cicero, of which no
fewer than seventeen are preserved.[192] Of his early years too we
know a good deal, told us in the speech in defence of him spoken by
Cicero in the year 56; and these combined sources of information make
him the most interesting figure in the life of his age. M. Boissier
has written a delightful essay on him in his _Ciceron et ses amis_,
and Professor Tyrrell has done the like in the introduction to the
fourth volume of his edition of Cicero's letters; but they have
treated him less as a type of the youth of his day than as the friend
and pupil of Cicero. Caelius will always repay fresh study; he was
amusing and interesting to his contemporaries, and so he will be for
ever to us. He is a veritable Proteus--you never know what shape he
will take next;

Omnia transformat sese in miracula rerum----

we can trace no less than six such transformations in the story of
his life. And this instability, let us note at once, was not the
restlessness of a jaded _roue_, but the coruscation of a clever mind
wholly without principle, intensely interested in his _monde_, in the
life in which he moved, with all its enjoyment and excitement.

Caelius' father brought his son to Cicero, as soon as he had taken
his toga virilis, to study law and oratory, and Cicero was evidently
attracted by the bright and lively boy; he never deserted him, and
the last letter of Caelius to his old preceptor was written only just
before his own sad end. But Cicero was not the man to keep an unstable
character out of mischief; he loved young men, especially clever ones,
and was apt to take an optimistic view of them, as he did of his own
son and nephew. Caelius, always attracted by novelty, left Cicero and
attached himself to Catiline; and for this vagary, as well as for his
own want of success in controlling his pupil, Cicero rather awkwardly
and amusingly apologises in the early chapters of his speech in his
defence. Wild oats must be sown, he says; when a youth has given full
fling to his propensities to vice, they will leave him, and he may
become a useful citizen,--a dangerous view of a preceptor's duty,
which reminds us of the treatment, of the boy Nero by his philosopher
guardian long afterwards.[193]

Caelius escaped the fate of Catiline and his crew only to fall into
the hands of another clique not less dangerous for his moral welfare.
He became one of a group of brilliant young men, among whom were
probably Catullus and Calvus the poets, who were lovers, and
passionate lovers, of the infamous Clodia; they were needy, she found
them money, and they hovered about her like moths about a candle. In
such a life of passion and pleasure quarrels were inevitable. If the
Lesbia of Catullus be Clodia, as we may believe, she had thrown the
poet over with a light heart. It was apparently of his own free will
that Caelius deserted her: in revenge she turned upon him with an
accusation of theft and attempt to poison. What truth there was in the
charges we do not really know, but Cicero defended him successfully,
and in this way we come to know the details of this unsteady life.

In gratitude, and possibly in shame, Caelius now returned to his old
friend, and abandoned the whole ring of his vicious companions for
diligent practice in the courts, where he obtained considerable fame
as an orator. A fragment of a speech of his preserved by Quintilian
shows, as Professor Tyrrell observes, wonderful power of graphic
and picturesque utterance.[194] Cicero, writing of him after his
death,[195] says that he was at this time on the right side in
politics, and that as tribune of the plebs in 56 he successfully
supported the good cause, and checked revolutionary and seditious
movements. All was going well with him until Cicero went as governor
to Cilicia in 51. Cicero seems to have felt complete confidence
in him, and invited him to become his confidential political
correspondent; fifteen out of his seventeen letters were written in
this capacity. These letters show us the man as clearly as if we had
his diary before us. Caelius is no idle scamp or lazy Epicurean; his
mind is constantly active: nothing escapes his notice: the minutest
and most sordid things delight him. He is bright, happy, witty,
frivolous, and doubtless lovable. It is amusing to see how Cicero
himself now and again catches the infection, and tries (in vain) to
write in the same frivolous manner.[196] Caelius has some political
insight; he sees civil war approaching, but he takes it all as a game,
and on the eve of events which were to shake the world he trifles
with the symptoms as though they were the silliest gossip of the
capital.[197] In none of these letters is there the smallest vestige
of principle to be found. On the very eve of civil war he tells
Cicero[198] that as soon as war breaks out the right thing to do is to
join the stronger side. Judging Caesar's side to be the stronger, he
joined it accordingly, and did his best to induce Cicero to do the
same. As M. Boissier happily says, he never cared to "menager ses

He had, however, to discover that if to change over to Caesar was the
safer course, to turn a political somersault once more, to try and
undermine the work of the master, meant simply ruin. We have the story
of his sixth and last transformation from Caesar himself, who was not,
however, in Italy at the time.[199] Credit in Italy had been seriously
upset by the outbreak of Civil War, and Caesar had been at much pains
to steady it by an ordinance which has been alluded to in the last
chapter.[200] In 48 Caelius was praetor; in the master's absence he
suddenly took up the cause of the debtors, and tried to evoke appeals
against the decisions of his colleague Trebonius,--a great lawyer and
a just man. Failing in this, he started as a downright revolutionary,
proposing first the abolition of house-rent, and finally the abolition
of all debts; and Milo, in exile at Massilia, was summoned to help
him to raise Italy against Caesar. This was too much, and both were
quickly caught and killed as they were stirring up gladiators and
other slave-bands among the latifundia of South Italy.

Caelius' letters give us a chance of seeing what that life of the
Forum really was which so fascinated the young men of the day, and
some of the old, such as Cicero himself. We can see these children
playing on the very edge of the crater, like the French noblesse
before the Revolution. In both cases there was a semi-consciousness
that the eruption was not far off,--but they went on playing. What was
it that so greatly amused and pleased them?

What Caelius is always writing of is mainly elections and canvassing,
accusations and trials, games and shows. Elections he treats as pure
sport, as a kind of enjoyable gambling, or as a means of spiting some
one whom you want to annoy. With elections accusations were often
connected: if a man were accused before his election he could not
continue to stand; if condemned after it he was disqualified; here
were ways in which personal spite might deprive him of success at the
last moment.[201] Accusations, too were of course the best means by
which an ambitious young man could come to the front. The whole number
of trials mentioned by Caelius is astonishing; sometimes there is such
a complication of them as is difficult to follow. Every one is ready
to lay an accusation, without the smallest regard for truth. Young
Appius Claudius accuses Servilius, and makes a mess of the attack,
while the praetor mismanages the conduct of the trial, so that nothing
comes of it; but finally Appius is himself accused by the Servilii
_de vi_, in order to keep him from further attacks on Servilius![202]
Appius the father quarrelled with Caelius and egged on others to
accuse him, though he was curule aedile at the time. "Their impudence
was so boundless that they secured that an information should be
laid against me for a very serious crime (under the Scantinian law).
Scarcely had Pola got the words out of his mouth, when I laid an
information under the same law against the censor, Appius. I never saw
a more successful stroke!"[203]

Of the games, and the panthers to be exhibited at them, about which
Caelius is for ever worrying his friend in Cilicia, we shall see
something in another chapter. There is plenty of other gossip in these
letters, and gossip often about unsavoury matters which need not be
noticed here. It lets in a flood of light upon the causes of the
general incompetence and inefficiency; the life of the Forum was a
demoralising one:

Uni se atque eidem studio omnes dedere et arti
uerba dare ut caute possint, pugnare dolose:
blanditia certare, bonum simulare uirum se:
insidias facere, ut si hostes sint omnibus omnes.[204]

From what has been said in this sketch it should be clear that we have
in the aristocracy of this period a complicated society, the various
aspects of which can hardly be united in a single picture. It is
partly a hereditary aristocracy, with all the pride and exclusiveness
of a group of old families accustomed to power and consequence. It is
in the main a society of gentlemen, dignified in manner, and kindly
towards each other, and it is also a society of high culture and
literary ability, though poor in creative genius, and unimaginative.
On the other hand, it is a class which has lost its interest in
the State, and is energetic only when pursuing its own interests:
pleasure-loving, luxurious, gossiping, trifling with serious matters,
short-sighted in politics because anxious only for personal advance.
"Rari nantes in gurgite vasto" are the men who are really in earnest,
but they are there; we must not forget that in Lucretius and Cicero
this society produced one of the greatest poets and one of the most
perfect prose writers that the world treasures; in Sulpicius a lawyer
of permanent value to humanity, and in Caesar not only an author and a
scholar but a man of action unrivalled in capacity and industry.



In order to appreciate the position of women of various types in the
society we are examining, it is necessary to make it clear what Roman
marriage originally and ideally meant. In any society, it will be
found that the position and influence of woman can be fairly well
discerned from the nature of the marriage ceremony and the conditions
under which it is carried out. At Rome, in all periods of her history,
a _iustum matrimonium_, i.e. a marriage sanctioned by law and
religion, and therefore entirely legal in all its results, was a
matter of great moment, not to be achieved without many forms and
ceremonies. The reason for this elaboration is obvious, at any rate
to any one who has some acquaintance with ancient life in Greece or
Italy. As we shall see later on, the house was a residence for the
divine members of the family, as well as the human; the entrance,
therefore, of a bride into the household,--of one, that is, who had no
part nor lot in that family life--meant some straining of the relation
between the divine and human members. The human part of the family
brings in a new member, but it has to be assured that the divine part
is willing to accept her before the step taken can be regarded as
complete. She has to enter the family in such a way as to be able to
share in its sacra, i.e. in the worship of the household spirits,
the ancestors in their tombs, or in any special cult attached to the
family. In order to secure this eligibility, she was in the earliest
times subjected to a ceremony which was clearly of a sacramental
character, and which had as its effect the transference of the bride
from the hand (manus) of her father, i.e. from absolute subjection to
him as the head of her own family, to the hand of her husband, i.e. to
absolute subjection to him as the head of her new family.

This sacramental ceremony was called _confarreatio_, because a sacred
cake, made of the old Italian grain called _far_, and offered to
Jupiter Farreus,[205] was partaken of by bride and bridegroom, in the
presence of the Pontifex Maximus, the Flamen Dialis, and ten other
witnesses. At such a ceremony the auspices had of course been taken,
and apparently a victim was also slain, and offered probably to Ceres,
the skin of which was stretched over two seats (sellae), on which the
bride and bridegroom had to sit.[206] These details of the early form
of patrician marriage are only mentioned here to make the religious
character of the Roman idea of the rite quite plain; in other words,
to prove that the entrance of a bride into a family from outside was
a matter of very great difficulty and seriousness, not to be achieved
without special aid and the intervention of the gods. We may even
go so far as to say that the new materfamilias was in some sort
a priestess of the household, and that she must undergo a solemn
initiation before assuming that position. And we may still further
illustrate the mystical religious nature of the whole rite, if
we remember that throughout Roman history no one could hold the
priesthood of Jupiter (flaminium diale), or that of Mars or Quirinus,
or of the Rex sacrorum, who had not been born of parents wedded by
confarreatio, and that in each case the priest himself must be married
by the same ceremony.[207] This last mentioned fact may also serve to
remind us that it was not only the family and its sacra, its life and
its maintenance, that called for the ceremonies making up a iustum
matrimonium, but also the State and its sacra, its life and its
maintenance.[208] As confarreatio had as its immediate object the
providing of a materfamilias fully qualified in all her various
functions, and as its further object the providing of persons legally
qualified to perform the most important sacra of the state; so
marriage, in whatever form, had as its object at once the maintenance
of the family and its sacra and the production of men able to serve
the State in peace and war. To be a Roman citizen you must be the
product of a iustum matrimonium. From this initial fact flow all the
_iura_ or rights which together make up citizenship; whether the
private rights, which enable you to hold and transfer and to inherit
property under the shelter of the Roman law,[209] or the public
rights, which protect your person against violence and murder, and
enable you to give your vote in the public assembly and to seek
election to magistracies.[210]

Marriage then was a matter of the utmost importance in Roman life, and
in all the forms of it we find this importance marked by due solemnity
of ritual. In two other forms, besides confarreatio, the bride could
be brought under the hand of her husband, viz., _coemptio_ and _usus_,
with which we are not here specially concerned; for long before the
last century of the Republic all three methods had become practically
obsolete, or were only occasionally used for particular purposes. In
the course of time it had been found more convenient for a woman to
remain after her marriage in the hand of her father, or if he were
dead, in the "tutela" of a guardian (tutor), than to pass into that
of her husband; for in the latter case her property became absolutely
his. The natural tendency to escape from the restrictions of marital
_manus_ may be illustrated by a case such as the following: a woman
under the _tutela_ of a guardian wishes to marry; if she does so, and
passes under the _manus_ of her husband, her _tutor_ loses all control
over her property, which may probably be of great importance for
the family she is leaving; he therefore naturally objects to such a
marriage, and urges that she should be married without _manus_.[211]
In fact the interests of her own family would often clash with those
of the one she was about to enter, and a compromise could be effected
by the abandonment of marriage _cum manu_.

Now this, the abandonment of marriage _cum manu_, means simply that
certain legal consequences of the marriage ceremony were dropped,
and with them just those parts of the ceremony which produced these
consequences. Otherwise the marriage was absolutely as valid for all
purposes private and public as it could be made even by confarreatio
itself. The sacramental part was absent, and the survival of the
features of marriage by purchase, which we may see in the form of
coemptio, was also absent; but in all other respects the marriage
ceremony was the same as in marriage _cum manu_. It retained all
essential religious features, losing only a part of its legal
character. It will be as well briefly to describe a Roman wedding of
the type common in the last two centuries of the Republic.

To begin with, the boy and girl--for such they were, as we should look
on them, even at the time of marriage--have been betrothed, in all
probability, long before. Cicero tells us that he betrothed his
daughter Tullia to Calpurnius Piso Frugi early in 66 B.C.; the
marriage took place in 63. Tullia seems to have been born in 76, so
that she was ten years old at the time of betrothal and thirteen at
that of marriage. This is probably typical of what usually happened;
and it shows that the matter was really entirely in the hands of the
parents. It was a family arrangement, a _mariage de convenance_,
as has been and is the practice among many peoples, ancient and
modern.[212] The betrothal was indeed a promise rather than a definite
contract, and might be broken off without illegality; and thus if
there were a strong dislike on the part of either girl or boy a way of
escape could be found.[213] However this may be, we may be sure that
the idea of the marriage was not that of a union for love, though it
was distinguished from concubinage by an "affectio maritalis" as well
as by legal forms, and though a true attachment might, and often did,
as in modern times in like circumstances, arise out of it. It was the
idea of the service of the family and the State that lay at the root
of the union. This is well illustrated, like so many other Roman
ideas, in the _Aeneid_ of Virgil. Those who persist in looking on
Aeneas with modern eyes, and convict him of perfidy towards Dido,
forget that his passion for Dido was a sudden one, not sanctioned by
the gods or by favourable auspices, and that the ultimate union with
Lavinia, for whom he forms no such attachment, was one which would
recommend itself to every Roman as justified by the advantage to the
State. The poet, it is true, betrays his own intense humanity in
his treatment of the fate of Dido, but he does so in spite of his
theme,--the duty of every Roman to his family and the State. A Roman
would no doubt fall in love, like a youth of any other nation, but his
passion had nothing to do with his life of duty as a Roman. This idea
of marriage had serious consequences, to which we shall return later

When the day for the wedding arrives, our bride assumes her bridal
dress, laying aside the toga praetexta of her childhood and dedicating
her dolls to the Lar of her family; and wearing the reddish veil
(_flammeum_) and the woollen girdle fastened with a knot called the
knot of Hercules,[214] she awaits the arrival of the bridegroom in
her father's house. Meanwhile the auspices are being taken;[215] in
earlier times this was done by observing the flight of birds, but now
by examination of the entrails of a victim, apparently a sheep. If
this is satisfactory the youthful pair declare their consent to the
union and join their right hands as directed by a pronuba, i.e. a
married woman, who acts as a kind of priestess. Then after another
sacrifice and a wedding feast, the bride is conducted from her old
home to that of her husband, accompanied by three boys, sons of living
parents, one carrying a torch while the other two lead her by either
hand; flute-players go before, and nuts are thrown to the boys. This
_deductio_, charmingly described in the beautiful sixty-fifth poem of
Catullus, is full of interesting detail which must be omitted here.
When the bridegroom's house is reached, the bride smears the doorposts
with fat and oil and ties a woollen fillet round each: she is
then lifted over the threshold, is taken by her husband into the
partnership of fire and water--the essentials of domestic life--and
passes into the atrium. The morrow will find her a materfamilias,
sitting among her maids in that atrium, or in the more private
apartments behind it:

Claudite ostia, virgines
Lusimus satis. At boni
Coniuges, bene vivite, et
Munere assiduo valentem
Exercete iuventam.

Even the dissipated Catullus could not but treat the subject of
marriage with dignity and tenderness, and in this last stanza of his
poem he alludes to the duties of a married pair in language which
would have satisfied the strictest Roman. He has also touched another
chord which would echo in the heart of every good citizen, in the
delicious lines which just precede those quoted, and anticipate the
child--a son of course--that is to be born, and that will lie in
his mother's arms holding out his little hands, and smiling on his
father.[216] Nothing can better illustrate the contrast in the mind
of the Roman between passionate love and serious marriage than a
comparison of this lovely poem with those which tell the sordid
tale of the poet's intrigues with Lesbia (Clodia). The beauty and
_gravitas_ of married life as it used to be are still felt and still
found, but the depths of human feeling are not stirred by them. Love
lies beyond, is a fact outside the pale of the ordered life of the
family or the State.

No one who studies this ceremonial of Roman marriage, in the light of
the ideas which it indicates and reflects, can avoid the conclusion
that the position of the married woman must have been one of
substantial dignity, calling for and calling out a corresponding type
of character. Beyond doubt the position of the Roman materfamilias was
a much more dignified one than that of the Greek wife. She was far
indeed from being a mere drudge or squaw; she shared with her husband
in all the duties of the household, including those of religion, and
within the house itself she was practically supreme.[217] She lived in
the atrium, and was not shut away in a women's chamber; she nursed her
own children and brought them up; she had entire control of the female
slaves who were her maids; she took her meals with her husband, but
sitting, not reclining, and abstaining from wine; in all practical
matters she was consulted, and only on questions political or
intellectual was she expected to be silent. When she went out arrayed
in the graceful _stola matronalis_, she was treated with respect,
and the passers-by made way for her; but it is characteristic of
her position that she did not as a rule leave the house without the
knowledge of her husband, or without an escort.[218]

In keeping with this dignified position was the ideal character of the
materfamilias. Ideal we must call it, for it does not in all respects
coincide with the tradition of Roman women even in early times; but
we must remember that at all periods of Roman history the woman whose
memory survives is apt to be the woman who is not the ideal matron,
but one who forces herself into notice by violating the traditions of
womanhood. The typical matron would assuredly never dream of playing
a part in history; her influence was behind the scenes, and therefore
proportionally powerful. The legendary mother of Coriolanus (the
Volumnia of Shakespeare), Cornelia the mother of the Gracchi, Aurelia,
Caesar's mother, and Julia his daughter, did indirectly play a far
greater part in public life than the loud and vicious ladies who have
left behind them names famous or infamous; but they never claimed the
recognition of their power.

This peculiar character of the Roman matron, a combination of dignity,
industry, and practical wisdom, was exactly suited to attract the
attention of a gentle philosopher like Plutarch, who loved, with
genuine moral fervour, all that was noble and honest in human nature.
Not only does he constantly refer to the Roman ladies and their
character in his _Lives_ and his _Morals_, but in his series of more
than a hundred "Roman questions" the first nine, as well as many
others, are concerned with marriage and the household life; and in
his treatise called _Coniugalia praecepta_ he reflects many of
the features of the Roman matron. From him, in Sir Thomas North's
translation, Shakespeare drew the inspiration which enabled him to
produce on the Elizabethan stage at least one such typical matron. In
Coriolanus he has followed Plutarch so closely that the reader may
almost be referred to him as an authority; and in the contrast between
the austere and dignified Volumnia and the passionate and voluptuous
Cleopatra of the later play, the poet's imagination seems to have been
guided by a true historical instinct.

We need not doubt that the austere matron of the old type survived
into the age we are specially concerned with; but we hardly come
across her in the literature of the time, just because she was living
her own useful life, and did not seek publicity. Chance has indeed
preserved for us on stone the story of a wonderful lady, whose early
years of married life were spent in the trying time of the civil wars
of 49-43 B.C., and who, if a devoted husband's praises are to be
trusted, as indeed they may be, was a woman of the finest Roman cast,
and endowed with such a combination of practical virtues as we should
hardly have expected even in a Roman matron. But we shall return to
this inscription later on.

The ladies whom we meet with in Cicero's letters and in the other
literature of the last age of the Republic are not of this type. Since
the second Punic war the Roman lady has changed, like everything else
Roman. It is not possible here to trace the history of the change
in detail, but we may note that it seems to have begun within the
household, in matters of dress and expense, and later on affected the
life and bearing of women in society and politics. Marriages cum manu
became unusual: the wife remained in the potestas of her father, who
in most cases, doubtless, ceased to trouble himself about her, and as
her property did not pass to her husband, she could not but obtain a
new position of independence. Women began to be rich, and in the
year 169 B.C. a law was passed (lex Voconia) forbidding women of the
highest census[219] (who alone would probably be concerned) to inherit
legacies. Even before the end of the great war, and when private
luxury would seem out of place, it had been proposed to abolish the
Oppian law, which placed restrictions on the ornaments and apparel of
women; and in spite of the vehement opposition of Cato, then a young
man, the proposal was successful.[220] At the same time divorce, which
had probably never been impossible though it must have been rare,[221]
began to be a common practice. We find to our surprise that the
virtuous Aemilius Paullus, in other respects a model paterfamilias,
put away his wife, and when asked why he did so, replied that a woman
might be excellent in the eyes of her neighbours, but that only a
husband could tell where the shoe pinched.[222] And in estimating the
changed position of women within the family we must not forget the
fact that in the course of the long and unceasing wars of the second
century B.C., husbands were away from home for years together, and in
innumerable cases must have perished by the sword or pestilence, or
fallen into the hands of an enemy and been enslaved. It was inevitable
that as the male population diminished, as it undoubtedly did in
that century, the importance of woman should proportionately have
increased. Unfortunately too, even when the husbands were at home,
their wives sometimes seem to have wished to be rid of them. In 180
B.C. the consul Piso was believed to have been murdered by his wife,
and whether the story be true or not, the suspicion is at least
significant.[223] In 154 two noble ladies, wives of consulares, were
accused of poisoning their husbands and put to death by a council of
their own relations.[224] Though the evidence in these cases is not
by any means satisfactory, yet we can hardly doubt that there was a
tendency among women of the highest rank to give way to passion and
excitement; the evidence for the Bacchanalian conspiracy of 186 B.C.,
in which women played a very prominent part, is explicit, and shows
that there was a "new woman" even then, who had ceased to be satisfied
with the austere life of the family and with the mental comfort
supplied by the old religion, and was ready to break out into
recklessness even in matters which were the concern of the State.[225]
That they had already begun to exercise an undue influence over their
husbands in public affairs seems suggested by old Cato's famous dictum
that "all men rule over women, we Romans rule over all men, and our
wives rule over us."[226]

But it would be a great mistake to suppose that the men themselves
were not equally to blame. Wives do not poison their husbands without
some reason for hating them, and the reason is not difficult to guess.
It is a fact beyond doubt that in spite of the charm of family life as
it has been described above, neither law nor custom exacted conjugal
faithfulness from a husband.[227] Old Cato represents fairly well the
old idea of Roman virtue, yet it is clear enough, both from Plutarch's
_Life_ of him (e.g. ch. xxiv.) and from fragments of his own writings,
that his view of the conjugal relation was a coarse one,--that he
looked on the wife rather as a necessary agent for providing the State
with children than as a helpmeet to be tended and revered. And this
being so, we are not surprised to find that men are already beginning
to dislike and avoid marriage; a most dangerous symptom, with which a
century later Augustus found it impossible to cope. In the year 131,
just after Tiberius Gracchus had been trying to revive the population
of Italy by his agrarian law, Metellus Macedonicus the censor did what
he could to induce men to marry "liberorum creandorum causa"; and a
fragment of a speech of his on this subject became famous afterwards,
as quoted by Augustus with the same object. It is equally
characteristic of Roman humour and Roman hardness. "If we could do
without wives," he said to the people, "we should be rid of that
nuisance: but since nature has decreed that we can neither live
comfortably with them nor live at all without them, we must e'en look
rather to our permanent interests than to a passing pleasure."[228]

Now if we take into account these tendencies, on the part both of men
and women in the married state, and further consider the stormy
and revolutionary character of the half century that succeeded the
Gracchi,--the Social and Civil Wars, the proscriptions of Marius and
Sulla,--we shall be prepared to find the ladies of Cicero's time by no
means simply feminine in charm or homely in disposition. Most of them
are indeed mere names to us, and we have to be careful in weighing
what is said of them by later writers. But of two or three of them we
do in fact know a good deal.

The one of whom we really know most is the wife of Cicero, Terentia:
an ordinary lady, of no particular ability or interest, who may stand
as representative of the quieter type of married woman. She lived with
her husband about thirty years, and until towards the end of that
period, a long one for the age, we find nothing substantial against
her. If we had nothing but Cicero's letters to her, more than twenty
in number, and his allusions to her in other letters, we should
conclude that she was a faithful and on the whole a sensible wife. But
more than once he writes of her delicate health,[229] and as the poor
lady had at various times a great deal of trouble to go through, it is
quite possible that as she grew older she became short in her temper,
or trying in other ways to a husband so excitable and vacillating. We
find stories of her in Plutarch and elsewhere which represent her as
shrewish, too careful of her own money, and so on;[230] but facts are
of more account than the gossip of the day, and there is not a sign in
the letters that Cicero disliked or mistrusted her until the year 47.
Had there really been cause for mistrust it would have slipped out in
some letter to Atticus. Then, after his absence during the war,
he seems to have believed that she had neglected himself and his
interests: his letters to her grow colder and colder, and the last is
one which, as has been truly said, a gentleman would not write to
his housekeeper. The pity of it is that Cicero, after divorcing her,
married a young and rich wife, and does not seem to have behaved very
well to her. In a letter to Atticus (xii. 32) he writes that Publilia
wanted to come to him with her mother, when he was at Astura devoting
himself to grief for his daughter, and that he had answered that he
wished to be let alone. The letter shows Cicero at his worst, for once
heartless and discourteous; and if he could be so to a young lady who
wished to do her duty by him, what may he not have been to Terentia? I
suspect that Terentia was quite as much sinned against as sinning;
and may we not believe that of the innumerable married women who
were divorced at this time some at least were the victims of their
husbands' callousness rather than of their own shortcomings?

The wife of Cicero's brother Quintus does, however, seem to have been
a difficult person to get on with. She was a sister of Atticus, but
she did not share her brother's tact and universal good-will. Marcus
Cicero has recorded (_ad Att._ v. I) a scene in which her ill-temper
was so ludicrous that the divorce which took place afterwards needs no
explanation. The two brothers were travelling together, and Pomponia
was with them; something had irritated her. When they stopped to lunch
at a place belonging to Quintus at Arcanum, he asked his wife to
invite the ladies of the party in. "Nothing, as I thought, could be
more courteous, and that too not only in the actual words, but in his
intention and the expression of his face. But she, in the hearing of
us all, exclaimed, 'I am only a stranger here!'" Apparently she had
not been asked by her husband to see after the luncheon; this had been
done by a freedman, and she was annoyed. "There," said Quintus, "that
is what I have to put up with every day!" When he sent her dishes from
the triclinium, where the gentlemen were having their meal, she would
not taste them. This little domestic contretemps is too good to be
neglected, but we must turn to women of greater note and character.

Terentia and Pomponia and their kind seem to have had nothing in the
way of "higher education," nor do their husbands seem to have expected
from them any desire to share in their own intellectual interests. Not
once does Cicero allude to any pleasant social intercourse in which
his wife took part; and, to say the truth, he would probably have
avoided marriage with a woman of taste and knowledge. There were such
women, as we shall see, probably many of them; ever since the incoming
of wealth and of Greek education, of theatres and amusements and all
the pleasant out-of-door life of the city, what was now coming to be
called _cultus_ had occupied the minds and affected the habits of
Roman ladies as well as men. Unfortunately it was seldom that it was
found compatible with the old Roman ideal of the materfamilias and
her duties. The invasion of new manners was too sudden, as was the
corresponding invasion of wealth; such a lady as Cornelia, the famous
mother of the Gracchi, "who knew what education really meant, who had
learned men about her and could write well herself, and yet could
combine with these qualities the careful discharge of the duties
of wife and mother,"[231]--such ladies must have been rare, and in
Cicero's time hardly to be found. More and more the notion gained
ground that a clever woman who wished to make a figure in society, to
be the centre of her own _monde_, could not well realise her ambition
simply as a married woman. She would probably marry, play fast and
loose with the married state, neglect her children if she had any, and
after one or two divorces, die or disappear. So powerfully did this
idea of the incompatibility of culture and wifehood gain possession
of the Roman mind in the last century B.C., that Augustus found his
struggle with it the most difficult task he had to face; in vain he
exiled Ovid for publishing a work in which married women are most
frankly and explicitly left out of account, while all that is
attractive in the other sex to a man of taste and education is assumed
to be found only among those who have, so far at least, eschewed the
duties and burdens of married life. The culta puella and the cultus
puer of Ovid's fascinating yet repulsive poem[232] are the products of
a society which looks on pleasure, not reason or duty, as the main
end of life,--not indeed pleasure simply of the grosser type, but the
gratification of one's own wish for enjoyment and excitement, without
a thought of the misery all around, or any sense of the self-respect
that comes of active well-doing.

The most notable example of a woman of _cultus_ in Cicero's day was
the famous Clodia, the Lesbia (as we may now almost assume) who
fascinated Catullus and then threw him over. She had been married to a
man of family and high station, Metellus Celer, who had died, strange
to say, without divorcing her. She must have been a woman of great
beauty and charm, for she seems to have attracted round her a little
coterie of clever young men and poets, to whom she could lend money or
accord praise as suited the moment. Whether Cicero himself had once
come within reach of her attractions, and perhaps suffered by them, is
an open question, and depends chiefly on statements of Plutarch which
may (as has been said above) have no better foundation than the gossip
of society. But we know how two typical young men of the time, Caelius
and Catullus, flew into the candle and were singed; we know how
fiercely she turned on Caelius, exposing herself and him without a
moment's hesitation in a public court; and we know how cruelly she
treated the poet, who hated her for it even while he still loved

Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris;
Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.


She was, as M. Boissier has well said,[234] the exact counterpart
of her still more famous brother: "Elle apportait dans sa conduite
privee, dans ses engagements d'affection, les memes emportements et
les memes ardeurs que son frere dans la vie publique. Prompte a tous
les exces et ne rougissant pas de les avouer, aimant et haissant avec
fureur, incapable de se gouverner et detestant toute contrainte, elle
ne dementait pas cette grande et fiere famille dont elle descendait."
All this is true; we need not go beyond it and believe the worst that
has been said of her.

We have just a glimpse of another lady of _cultus_, but only a
glimpse. This was Sempronia, the wife of an honest man and the mother
of another;[235] but according to Sallust, who introduces her to us as
a principal in the conspiracy of Catiline, she was one of those who
found steady married life incompatible with literary and artistic
tastes. "She could play and dance more elegantly than an honest woman
should ... she played fast and loose with her money, and equally so
with her good fame."[236] She had no scruples, he says, in denying a
debt, or in helping in a murder: yet she had plenty of _esprit_, could
write verses and talk brilliantly, and she knew too how to assume an
air of modesty on occasion. Sallust loved to colour his portraits
highly, and in painting this woman he saw no doubt a chance of
literary effect; but that she was really in the conspiracy we cannot
doubt, and that she had private ends to gain by it is also probable.
She seems to be the first of a series of ladies who during the next
century and later were to be a power in politics, and most of whom
were at least capable of crime, public and private. There is indeed
one instance a few years earlier of a woman exercising an almost
supreme influence in the State, and a woman too of the worst kind.
Plutarch tells us in the most explicit way that when Lucullus in 75
B.C. was trying to secure for himself the command against Mithridates,
he found himself compelled to apply to a woman named Praecia, whose
social gifts and good nature gave her immense influence, which she
used with the pertinacity peculiar to such ladies. Her reputation,
however, was very bad, and among other lovers she had enslaved
Cethegus (afterwards the conspirator), whose power at the time was
immense at Rome. Thus, says Plutarch, the whole power of the State
fell into the hands of Praecia, for no public measure was passed if
Cethegus was not for it, in other words, if Praecia did not recommend
it to him. If the story be true, as it seems to be, Lucullus gained
her over by gifts and flattery, and thus Cethegus took up his cause
and got him the command.[237]

Even if we put aside as untrustworthy a great deal of what is told us
of the relations of men and women in this period, it must be confessed
that there is quite sufficient evidence to show that they were loose
in the extreme, and show an altogether unhealthy condition of family
and social life. The famous tigress of the story of Cluentius, Sassia,
as she appears in Cicero's defence of him, was beyond doubt a criminal
of the worst kind, however much we may discount the orator's rhetoric;
and her case proves that the evil did not exist only at Rome, but was
to be found even in a provincial town of no great importance. Divorce
was so common as to be almost inevitable. Husbands divorced
their wives on the smallest pretexts, and wives divorced their
husbands.[238] Even the virtuous Cato seems to have divorced his wife
Marcia in order that Hortensius should marry her, and after some years
to have married her again as the widow of Hortensius, with a large
fortune.[239] Cicero himself writes sometimes in the lightest-hearted
way of conjugal relations which we should think most serious;[240]
and we find him telling Atticus how he had met at dinner the actress
Cytheris, a woman of notoriously bad character. "I did not know she
was going to be there," he says, "but even the Socratic Aristippus
himself did not blush when he was taunted about Lais."[241] Caesar's
reputation in such matters was at all times bad, and though many of
the stories about him are manifestly false, his conquest by Cleopatra
was a fact, and we learn with regret that the Egyptian queen was
living in a villa of his in gardens beyond the Tiber during the year
46, when he was himself in Rome.

It will be a relief to the reader, after spending so much time in this
unwholesome atmosphere, to turn for a moment in the last place to a
record, unique and entirely credible, of a truly good and wholesome
woman, and of a long period of uninterrupted conjugal devotion. About
the year 8 B.C., not long before Ovid wrote those poems in which
married life was assumed to be hardly worth living, a husband in
high life at Rome lost the wife who had for forty-one years been his
faithful companion in prosperity, his wise and courageous counsellor
in adversity. He recorded her praises and the story of her devotion to
him in a long inscription, placed, as we may suppose, on the wall of
the tomb in which he laid her to rest, and a most fortunate chance has
preserved for us a great part of the marble on which this inscription
was engraved. It is in the form of a laudatio, or funeral encomium;
yet we cannot feel sure that he actually delivered it as a speech,
for throughout it he addresses, not an audience, but the lost wife
herself, in a manner unique among such documents of the kind as have
come down to us. He speaks to her as though she were still living,
though passed from his sight; and it is just this that makes it more
real and more touching than any memorial of the dead that has come
down to us from either Italy or Greece.[242]

In such a record names are of no great importance; it is no great
misfortune that we do not know quite for certain who this man and his
wife were. But there is a very strong probability that her name was
Turia, and that he was a certain Q. Lucretius Vespillo, who served
under Pompeius in Epirus in 48 B.C., whose romantic adventures in the
proscriptions of 43 are recorded by Appian,[243] and who eventually
became consul under Augustus in 19 B.C. We may venture to use these
names in telling the remarkable story. For telling it here no apology
is needed, for it has never been told in English as a whole, so far as
I am aware.

It begins when the pair were about to be married, probably in 49 B.C.,
and with a horrible family calamity, not unnatural at the moment of
the outbreak of a dangerous civil war. Both Turia's parents were
murdered suddenly and together at their country residence--perhaps,
as Mommsen suggested, by their own slaves. Immediately afterwards
Lucretius had to leave with Pompeius' army for Epirus, and Turia was
left alone, bereft of both her parents, to do what she could to secure
the punishment of the murderers. Alone as she was, or aided only by a
married sister, she at once showed the courage and energy which are
obvious in all we hear of her. She seems to have succeeded in tracking
the assassins and bringing them to justice: "even if I had been there
myself," says her husband, "I could have done no more."

But this was by no means the only dangerous task she had to undertake
in those years of civil war and insecurity. When Lucretius left her
they seem to have been staying at the villa where her parents had been
murdered; she had given him all her gold and pearls, and kept him
supplied in his absence with money, provisions, and even slaves, which
she contrived to smuggle over sea to Epirus.[244] And during the march
of Caesar's army through Italy she seems to have been threatened,
either in that villa or another, by some detachment of his troops, and
to have escaped only through her own courage and the clemency of one
whose name is not mentioned, but who can hardly be other than the
great Julius himself, a true gentleman, whose instinct and policy
alike it was throughout this civil war to be merciful to opponents.

A year later, while Lucretius was still away, yet another peril came
upon her. While Caesar was operating round Dyrrhachium, there was a
dangerous rising in Campania and Southern Italy, for which our giddy
friend Caelius Rufus was chiefly responsible; gladiators and ruffianly
shepherd slaves were enlisted, and by some of these the villa where
she was staying was attacked, and successfully defended by her--so
much at least it seems possible to infer from the fragment recently

One might think that Turia had already had her full share of trouble
and danger, but there is much more to come. About this time she had to
defend herself against another attack, not indeed on her person, but
on her rights as an heiress. An attempt was made by her relations to
upset her father's will, under which she and Lucretius were appointed
equal inheritors of his property. The result of this would have been
to make her the sole heiress, leaving out her husband and her
married sister; but she would have been under the legal _tutela_ or
guardianship of persons whose motive in attacking the will was to
obtain administration of the property.[245] No doubt they meant to
administer it for their own advantage; and it was absolutely necessary
that she should resist them. How she did it her husband does not tell
us, but he says that the enemy retreated from his position, yielding
to her firmness and perseverance (constantia). The patrimonium came,
as her father had intended, to herself and her husband; and he dwells
on the care with which they dealt with it, he exercising a _tutela_
over her share, while she exercised a _custodia_ over his. Very
touchingly he adds, "but of this I leave much unsaid, lest I should
seem to be claiming a share in the praise that is due to you alone."

When Lucretius returned to Italy, apparently pardoned by Caesar
for the part he had taken against him, the marriage must have been
consummated. Then came the murder of the Dictator, which plunged Italy
once more into civil war, until in 43 Antony Octavian and Lepidus made
their famous compact, and at once proceeded to that abominable work of
proscription which made a reign of terror at Rome, and spilt much
of the best Roman blood. The happiness of the pair was suddenly
destroyed, for Lucretius found himself named in the fatal lists.[246]
He seems to have been in the country, not far from Rome, when he
received a message from his wife, telling him of impending peril that
he might have to face at any moment, and warning him strongly against
a certain rash course--perhaps an attempt to escape to Sextus Pompeius
in Sicily, a course which cost the lives of many deluded victims.
She implored him to return to their own house in Rome, where she had
devised a secure hiding-place for him. She meant no doubt to die with
him there if he were discovered.

He obeyed his good genius and made for Rome, by night it would seem,
with only two faithful slaves. One of these fell lame and had to
be left behind; and Lucretius, leaning on the arm of the other,
approached the city gate. Suddenly they became aware of a troop of
soldiers issuing from it, and Lucretius took refuge in one of the many
tombs that lined the great roads outside the walls. They had not been
long in this dismal hiding when they were surprised by a party of
tomb-wreckers--ghouls who haunted these roads by night and lived by
robbing tombs or travellers. Luckily they wanted rather to rob than to
murder, and the slave gave himself up to them to be stripped, while
his master, who was no doubt disguised, perhaps as a slave, contrived
to slip out of their hands and reached the city gate safely. Here he
waited, as we might expect him to do, for his brave companion, and
then succeeded in making his way into the city and to his house, where
his wife concealed him between the roof and the ceiling of one of
their bedrooms, until the storm should blow over.

But neither life nor property was safe until some pardon and
restitution were obtained from one at least of the triumvirs. When at
last these were conceded by Octavian, he was himself absent in the
campaign that ended with Philippi, and Lepidus was consul in charge
of Rome. To Lepidus Turia had to go, to beg the confirmation of
Octavian's grace, and this brutal man received her with insult and
injury. She fell at his feet, as her husband describes with bitter
indignation, but instead of being raised and congratulated, she was
hustled, beaten like a slave, and driven from his presence. But
her perseverance had its ultimate reward. The clemency of Octavian
prevailed on his return to Italy, and this treatment of a lad; was
among the many crimes that called for the eventual degradation of

This was the last of their perilous escapes. A long period of happy
married life awaited them, more particularly after the battle of
Actium, when "peace and the republic were restored." One thing only
was wanting to complete their perfect felicity--they had no children.
It was this that caused Turia to make a proposal to her husband which,
coming from a truly unselfish woman, and seen in the light of Roman
ideas of married life, is far from unnatural; but to us it must seem
astonishing, and it filled Lucretius with horror. She urged that he
should divorce her, and take another wife in the hope of a son and
heir. If there is nothing very surprising in this from a Roman point
of view, it is indeed to us both surprising and touching that she
should have supported her request by a promise that she would be as
much a mother to the expected children as their own mother, and would
still be to Lucretius a sister, having nothing apart from him, nothing
secret, and taking away with her no part of their inheritance.

To us, reading this proposal in cold blood just nineteen hundred years
after it was made, it may seem foolishly impracticable; to her, whose
whole life was spent in unselfish devotion to her husband's interests,
whose warm love for him was always mingled with discretion, it was
simply an act of pietas--of wifely duty. Yet he could not for a moment
think so himself: his indignation at the bare idea of it lives for
ever on the marble in glowing words. "I must confess," he says, "that
the anger so burnt within me that my senses almost deserted me: that
you should ever have thought it possible that we could be separated
but by death, was most horrible to me. What was the need of children
compared with my loyalty to you: why should I exchange certain
happiness for an uncertain future? But I say no more of this: you
remained with me, for I could not yield without disgrace to myself and
unhappiness to both of us. The one sorrow that was in store for me was
that I was destined to survive you."

These two, we may feel sure, were wholly worthy of each other. What
she would have said of him, if he had been the first to go, we can
only guess; but he has left a portrait of her, as she lived and worked
in his household, which, mutilated though it is, may be inadequately
paraphrased as follows:

"You were a faithful wife to me," he says, "and an obedient one: you
were kind and gracious, sociable and friendly: you were assiduous at
your spinning (lanificia): you followed the religious rites of your
family and your state, and admitted no foreign cults or degraded magic
(superstitio): you did not dress conspicuously, nor seek to make
a display in your household arrangements. Your duty to our whole
household was exemplary: you tended my mother as carefully as if she
had been your own. You had innumerable other excellences, in common
with all other worthy matrons, but these I have mentioned were
peculiarly yours."

No one can study this inscription without becoming convinced that it
tells an unvarnished tale of truth--that here was really a rare and
precious woman; a Roman matron of the very best type, practical,
judicious, courageous, simple in her habits and courteous to all her
guests. And we feel that there is one human being, and one only,
of whom she is always thinking, to whom she has given her whole
heart--the husband whose words and deeds show that he was wholly
worthy of her.



From what has been said in preceding chapters of the duties and the
habits of the two sections of the upper stratum of society, it will
readily be inferred that the kind of education called for was one
mainly of character. In these men, whether for the work of business or
of government, what was wanted was the will to do well and justly,
and the instinctive hatred of all evil and unjust dealing. Such an
education of the will and character is supplied (whatever be its
shortcomings in other ways) by our English public school education,
for men whose work in life is in many ways singularly like that of the
Roman upper classes. Such an education, too, was outlined by Aristotle
for the men of his ideal state; and Mr. Newman's picture of the
probable results of it is so suggestive of what was really needed at
Rome that I may quote it here.[247]

"As its outcome at the age of twenty-one we may imagine a bronzed and
hardy youth, healthy in body and mind, able to bear hunger and hard
physical labour ... not untouched by studies which awake in men the
interest of civilised beings, and prepare them for the right use of
leisure in future years, and though burdened with little knowledge,
possessed of an educated sense of beauty, and an ingrained love of
what is noble and hatred of all that is the reverse. He would be
more cultivated and human than the best type of young Spartan, more
physically vigorous and reverential, though less intellectually
developed, than the best type of young Athenian--a nascent soldier and
servant of the state, not, like most young Athenians of ability, a
nascent orator. And as he would be only half way through his education
at an age when many Greeks had finished theirs, he would be more
conscious of his own immaturity. We feel at once how different he
would be from the clever lads who swarmed at Athens, youths with an
infinite capacity for picking holes, and capable of saying something
plausible on every subject under the sun."

If we note, with Mr. Newman, that Aristotle here makes if anything too
little of intellectual training (as indeed may also be said of our
own public schools), and add to his picture something more of that
knowledge which, when united with an honest will and healthy body,
will almost infallibly produce a sound judgment, we shall have a type
of character eminently fitted to share in the duties and the trials of
the government of such empires as the Roman and the British. But at
Rome, in the age of Cicero, such a type of character was rare indeed;
and though this was due to various causes, some of which have been
already noticed,--the building up of a Roman empire before the Romans
were ripe to appreciate the duties of an imperial state, and the
sudden incoming of wealth in an age when the idea of its productive
use was almost unknown,--yet it will occur to every reader that there
must have been also something wrong in the upbringing of the youth of
the upper classes to account for the rarity of really sound character,
for the frequent absence of what we should call the sense of duty,
public and private. I propose in this chapter to deal with the
question of Roman education just so far as to show where in Cicero's
time it was chiefly defective. It is a subject that has been very
completely worked out, and an excellent summary of the results will
be found in the little volume on Roman education written by the late
Professor A.S. Wilkins, just before his lamented death: but he was
describing its methods without special reference to its defects, and
it is these defects on which I wish more particularly to dwell.[248]

Let us notice, in the first place, how little is said in the
literature of the time, including biographies, of that period of life
which is now so full of interest to readers of memoirs, so full of
interest to ourselves as we look back to it in advancing years. It
may be that we now exaggerate the importance of childhood, but it is
equally certain that the Romans undervalued the importance of it. It
may be that we over-estimate the value of our public-school life, but
it is certain that the Romans had no such school life to be proud of.
Biography was at this time a favourite form of literature, and some of
the memoirs then written were available for use by later writers, such
as Valerius Maximus, Suetonius, and Plutarch; yet it is curious how
little has come down to us of the childhood or boyhood of the great
men of the time. Plutarch indeed was deeply interested in education,
including that of childhood, and we can hardly doubt that he would
have used in his Roman Lives any information that came in his way. He
does tell us something, for which we are eternally indebted to him, of
old Cato's method of educating his son,[249] and something too, in his
_Life of Aemilius Paullus_,[250] of the education of the eldest son of
that family, the great Scipio Aemilianus. But in each of these Lives
we shall find that this information is used rather to bring out the
character of the father than to illustrate the upbringing of the son;
and as a rule the Lives begin with the parentage of the hero, and then
pass on at once to his early manhood.

The Life of the younger Cato, however, is an exception to the rule,
which we must ascribe to the attraction which all historians and
philosophers felt to this singular character. Plutarch knew the naiue
and character of Cato's paedagogus, Sarpedon,[251] and tells us that
he was an obedient child, but would ask for the reason of everything,
in those questions beginning with "why" which are often embarrassing
to the teacher. Two stories in the second and third chapters of this
Life are also found in that insipid medley of fact and fable drawn
up in the reign of Tiberius, by Valerius Maximus, for educational
purposes;[252] a third, which is peculiarly significant, and seems to
bear the stamp of truth, is only to be found in Plutarch. I give it
here in full:

Book of the day: