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A History of Roman Literature by Charles Thomas Cruttwell

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To return to the consideration of his treatise on Antiquities, from which
we have digressed. The great interest of the subject will be our excuse
for dwelling longer upon it. There is no Latin book the recovery of which
the present century would hail with so much pleasure as this. When
antiquarianism is leading to such fruitful results, and the study of
ancient religion is so earnestly pursued, the aid of Varro's research
would be invaluable. And it is the more disappointing to lose it, since we
have reason for believing that it was in existence during the lifetime of
Petrarch. He declares that he saw it when a boy, and afterwards, when he
knew its value, tried all means, but without success, to obtain it. This
story has been doubted, chiefly on the ground that direct quotations from
the work are not made after the sixth century. But this by itself is
scarcely a sufficient reason, since the Church gathered all the knowledge
of it she required from the writings of St Augustine. From him we learn
that Varro feared the entire collapse of the old faith; that he attributed
its decline in some measure to the outward representations of divine
objects; and, observing that Rome had existed 170 years without any image
in her temples, instanced Judea to prove "_eos qui primi simulacra deorum
populis posuerunt, eos civitatibus suis et metum dempsisse, et errorem
addidisse_." [22] Other fragments of deep interest are preserved by
Augustine. One, showing the conception of the state religion as a purely
human institution, explains why human antiquities are placed before
divine, "_Sicut prior est pictor quam tabula picta, prior faber quam
aedificium; ita priores sunt civitates, quam ea quae a civitatibus
instituta sunt._" Another describes the different classes of theology,
according to a division first made by the Pontifex Scaevola, [23] as
poetical, philosophical, and political, or as mythical, physical, and
civil. [24] Against the first of these Varro fulminated forth all the
shafts of his satire: _In eo multa sunt contra dignitatem et naturam
immortalium ficta ... quae non modo in hominem, sed etiam quae in
contemptissimum hominem cadere possunt_. About the second he did not say
much, except guardedly to imply that it was not fitted for a popular
ceremonial. The third, which it was his strong desire to keep alive, as it
was afterwards that of Virgil, seemed to him the chief glory of Rome. He
did not scruple to say (and Polybius had said it before him) that the
grandeur of the Republic was due to the piety of the Republic. It was
reserved for the philosopher of a later age [25] to asperse with bitter
ridicule ceremonies to which all before him had conformed while they
disbelieved, and had respected while seeing through their object.

Varro dedicated his work to Caesar, who was then Pontifex Maximus, and
well able to appreciate the chain of reasoning it contained. The acute
mind of Varro had doubtless seen in Caesar a disposition to rehabilitate
the fallen ceremonial, and foreseeing his supremacy in the state, had laid
before him this great manual for his guidance. Caesar evinced the deepest
respect for Varro, and must have carefully studied his views. At least it
can be no mere coincidence that Augustus, in carrying out his
predecessor's plans for the restoration of public worship, should have
followed so closely on the lines which we see from Augustine Varro struck
out. To consider Varro's labours as undirected to any practical object
would be to misinterpret them altogether. No man was less of the mere
_savant_ or the mere _litterateur_ than he.

Besides this larger work Varro seems to have written smaller ones, as
introductions or pendants to it. Among these were the _Aitia_, or
_rationale_ of Roman manners and customs, and a work _de gente populi
Romani_, the most noticeable feature of which was its chronological
calculation, which fixed the building of Rome to the date now generally
received, and called the Varronian Era (753 B.C.). It contained also
computations and theories with regard to the early history of many other
states with which Rome came in contact, _e.g._ Athens, Argos, etc., and is
referred to more than once by St Augustine. [26] The names of many other
treatises on this subject are preserved; and this is not surprising, when
we learn that no less than 620 books belonging to 74 different works can
be traced to his indefatigable pen, so that, as an ancient critic says,
"so much has he written that it seems impossible he could have read
anything, so much has he read that it seems incredible he could have
written anything."

In the domain of history and biography he was somewhat less active. He
wrote, however, memoirs of his campaigns, and a short biography of Pompey.
A work of his, first mentioned by Cicero, to which peculiar interest
attaches, is the _Imagines_ or _Hebdomades_, called by Cicero
"_Peplographia_ Varronis." [27] It was a series of portraits--700 in all--
of Greek and Roman celebrities, [28] with a short biography attached to
each, and a metrical epigram as well. This was intended to be, and soon
became, a popular work. An abridged edition was issued shortly after the
first, 39 B.C. no doubt to meet the increased demand. This work is
mentioned by Pliny as embodying a new and most acceptable process, [29]
whereby the impressions of the portraits were multiplied, and the reading
public could acquaint themselves with the physiognomy and features of
great men. [30] What this process was has been the subject of much doubt.
Some think it was merely an improved method of miniature drawing, others,
dwelling on the general acceptableness of the invention, strongly contend
that it was some method of multiplying the portraits like that of copper
or wood engraving, and this seems by far the most probable view; but what
the method was the notices are much too vague for us to determine.

The next works to be noticed are those on practical science. As far as we
can judge he seems to have imitated Cato in bringing out a kind of
encyclopaedia, adapted for general readers. Augustine speaks of him as
having exhaustively treated the whole circle of the liberal, or as he
prefers to call it, the secular arts. [31] Those to which most weight were
attached would seem to have been grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, medicine,
and geometry. From one or two passages that are preserved, we should be
inclined to fancy that Varro attached a superstitious (almost a
Pythagorean) importance to numbers. [32] He himself was not an adherent of
any system, but as Mommsen quaintly expresses it, he led a blind dance
between them all, veering now to one now to another, as he wished to avoid
any unpleasant conclusion or to catch at some attractive idea. Not
strictly connected with the _Encyclopaedia_, but going to some extent over
the same ground though in a far more thorough and systematic way, was the
great treatise _De Lingua Latina_, in twenty-five books, of which the
first four were dedicated to Septimius, the last twenty-one (to the
orator's infinite delight) to Cicero. Few things gave Cicero greater
pleasure than this testimony of Varro's regard. With his insatiable
appetite for praise, he could not but observe with regret that Varro,
trusted by Pompey, courted by Caesar, and reverenced by all alike, had
never made any confidential advances to him. Probably the deeply-read
student and simple-natured man failed to appreciate the more brilliant, if
less profound, scholarship of the orator, and the vacillation and
complexity of his character. While Cicero loaded him with praises and
protestations of friendship, Varro appears to have maintained a somewhat
cool or distant attitude. At last, however, this reserve was broken
through. In 47 B.C. he seems to have promised Cicero to dedicate a work to
him, which by its magnitude and interest required careful labour. In the
letter prefixed to the posterior _Academica_, 45 B.C., Cicero evinces much
impatience at having been kept two years waiting for his promised boon,
and inscribes his own treatise with Varro's name as a polite reminder
which he hopes his friend will not think immodest. In the opening chapters
Cicero extols Varro's learning with that warmth of heart and total absence
of jealousy which form so pleasing a trait in his character. Their
diffuseness amusingly contrasts with Varro's brevity in his dedication.
When it appeared, there occurred not a word of compliment, nothing beyond
the bare announcement _In his ad te scribam_. [33] Truly Varro was no
"mutual admirationist."

C. O. Muller, who has edited this treatise with great care, is of opinion
that it was never completely finished. He argues partly from the words
_politius a me limantur_, put into Varro's mouth by Cicero, partly from
the civil troubles and the perils into which Varro's life was placed,
partly from the loose unpolished character of the work, that it represents
a first draught intended, but not ready for, publication. For example, the
same thing is treated more than once; _Jubar_ is twice illustrated by the
same quotation, [34] _Canis_ is twice derived from _canere_; [35] _merces_
is differently explained in two places; [36] _Lympha_ is derived both from
_lapsus aquae_, and from _Nympha_; [37] _valicinari_ from _vesanus_ and
_versibus viendis_. [38] Again marginal additions or corrections, which
have been the means of destroying the syntactical connection, seemed to
have been placed in the text by the author. [39] Other insertions of a
more important character though they illustrate the point, yet break the
thread of thought; and in one book, the seventh, the want of order is so
apparent that its finished character could hardly be maintained. These
facts lead him to conclude that the book was published without his
knowledge, and perhaps against his will, by those who pillaged his
library. It is obvious that this is a theory which can neither be proved
nor disproved. It is an ingenious excuse for Varro's negligence in not
putting his excellent materials together with more care. The plan of the
work is as follows:--

Book I.--On the origin of the Latin language.

Books II.-VII. First Part.--On the imposition of names.
Thus subdivided--
_a_ ii-iv. On etymology. ii. What can be said against it.
iii. What can be said for it.
iv. About its form and character.
_b_ v.-vii. Origin of words. v. Names of places and all that is in them.
vi. Names of time, things that happen in time, &c.
vii. Poetical words.

Books VIII.-XIII. Second Part.--On declension and inflection.
Again subdivided--
_a_ viii.-x. The general method (_disciplina_) of declension.
viii. Against a universal analogy obtaining.
ix. In favour of it.
x. On the theory of declension.
_b_ xi.-xiii. On the special declensions.

Books XIV.-XXV. Third Part.--On syntax (_Quemadmodum verba inter se

Of this elaborate treatise only books V.-X. remain, and those in a
mutilated and unsatisfactory condition, so that we are unable to form a
clear idea of the value of the whole. Moreover, much of what we have is
rendered useless, except for antiquarian purposes, by the extremely crude
notions of etymology displayed. _Caelum_ is from _cavus_, or from _chaos_;
_terra_ from _teri, quia teritur_; _Sol_ from _solus_; _lepus_ from
_levipes_, &c. The seventh book must always be a repertory of interesting
quotations, many of which are not found elsewhere; and the essay on
_Analogia_ in books IX. and X. is well worthy of study, as showing on what
sort of premises the ancients formed their grammatical reasonings. The
work on grammar was followed or preceded by another on philosophy on a
precisely similar plan. This was studied, like so many of his other works,
by Tertullian, Jerome, and Augustine. Its store of facts was no doubt
remarkable, but as a popular exposition of philosophical ideas, it must
have been very inferior to the treatises of Cicero.

The last or nearly the last book he wrote was the treatise on agriculture,
_De Re Rustica_, which has fortunately come down to us entire; and with
the kindred works of Cato and Columella, forms one of the most deeply
interesting products of the Roman mind. It is in three books: the first
dedicated to his wife Fundania, the second to Turanius Niger, the third to
Pinnius. Varro was in his 81st year when he drew upon his memory and
experience for this congenial work, 36 B.C. The destruction of his library
had thrown him on his own resources to a great extent; nevertheless, the
amount of book-lore which he displays in this dialogue is enormous. The
design is mapped out, as in his other treatises, with stately precision.
He meets some friends at the temple of Tellus by appointment with the
sacristan, "_ab_ aeditimo, _ut dicere didicimus a patribus nostris; ut
corrigimur ab recentibus urbanis, ab_ aedituo." These friends' names,
Fundanius, Agrius, and Agrasius, suggest the nature of the conversation,
which turns mainly on the purchase and cultivation of land and stock. They
are soon joined by Licinius Stolo and Tremellius Scrofa, the last-
mentioned being the highest living authority on agricultural matters. The
conversation is carried on with zest, and somewhat more naturally than in
Cicero's dialogues. A warm eulogy is passed on the soil, climate, and
cultivation of Italy, the whole party agreeing that it exceeds in natural
blessings all other lands. The first book contains directions for raising
crops of all kinds as well as vegetables and flowers, and is brought to an
abrupt termination by the arrival of the priest's freedman who narrates
the murder of his master. The party promise to attend the funeral, and
with the sarcastic reflection _de casu humano magis querentes quam
admirantes id Romae factum_, the book ends. The next treats of stock (_de
re pecuaria_), and one or two new personages are introduced, as Mennas,
Murius, and Vaccius (the last, of course, taking on himself to speak of
kine), and ends with an account of the dairy and sheep-shearing. The third
is devoted to an account of the preserves (_de villicis pastionibus_)
which includes aviaries, whether for pleasure or profit, fish-tanks, deer-
forests, rabbit-warrens, and all such luxuries of a country house as are
independent of tillage or pasturage--and a most brilliant catalogue it is.
As Varro and his friends, most of whom are called by the names of birds
(Merula, Pavo, Pica, and Passer), discourse to one another of their
various country seats, and as they mention those of other senators, more
or less splendid than their own, we recognise the pride and grandeur of
those few Roman families who at this time parcelled out between them the
riches of the world. Varro, whose life had been peaceful and unambitious,
had realized enough to possess three princely villas, in one of which
there was a marble aviary, with a duck-pond, bosquet, rosary, and two
spacious colonnades attached, in which were kept, solely for the master's
pleasure, 3000 of the choicest songsters of the wood. That grosser taste
which fattened these beautiful beings for the table or the market was
foreign to him; as also was the affectation which had made Hortensius
sacrifice his career to the enjoyment of his pets. There is something
almost terrible in the thought that the costly luxuries of which these
haughty nobles talk with so much urbanity, were wrung from the wretched
provincials by every kind of extortion and excess; that bribes of untold
value passed from the hands of cringing monarchs into those of violent
proconsuls, to minister to the lust and greed, or at best to the wanton
luxury, of a small governing class. In Varro's pleasant dialogue we see
the bright side of the picture; in the speeches of Cicero the dark side.
Doubtless there is a charm about the lofty pride that brooks no superior
on earth, and almost without knowing it, treats other nations as mere
ministers to its comfort: but the nemesis was close at hand; those who
could not stoop to assist as seconds in the work of government must lie as
victims beneath the assassin's knife or the heel of the upstart freedman.

The style of this work is much more pleasing than that of the _Latin
Language_. It is brisk and pointed, and shows none of the signs of old
age. It abounds with proverbs, [40] patriotic reflections, and ancient
lore, [41] but is nevertheless disfigured with occasional faults,
especially the uncritical acceptance of marvels, such as the impregnation
of mares by the wind [42] ("_an incredible thing but nevertheless true_");
the production of bees from dead meat (both of which puerilities are
repeated unquestioningly by Virgil), the custom of wolves plunging swine
into cold water to cool their flesh which is so hot as to be otherwise
quite uneatable, and of shrew mice occasionally gnawing a nest for
themselves and rearing their young in the hide of a fat sow, &c. [43] He
also attempts one or two etymologies; the best is _via_ which he tells us
is for _veha_, and _villa_ for _vehula_; _capra_ from _capere_ is less
plausible. Altogether this must be placed at the head of the Roman
treatises on husbandry as being at once the work of a man of practical
experience, which Cato was, and Columella was not, and of elegant and
varied learning, to which Columella might, but Cato could not, pretend.
There is, indeed, rather too great a parade of erudition, so much so as
occasionally to encumber the work; but the general effect is very
pleasing, and more particularly the third book, which shows us the calm
and innocent life of one, who, during the turbulent and bloody climax of
political strife, sought in the great recollections of the past a solace
for evils which he was powerless to cure, and whose end he could not


NOTE I.--_The Menippean Satires of Varro._

The reader will find all the information on this subject in Riese's
edition of the _Menippean Satires_, Leipsic, 1865. We append a few
fragments showing their style, language, and metrical treatment.

(1) From the _ammon metreis_.

"Quem secuntur eum rutundis velitis leves parmis
Ante signani quadratis multisignibus tecti."

We observe here the rare rhythm, analogous to the iambic scazon, of a
trochaic tetrameter with a long penultimate syllable.

(2) From the _Anthropopolis_.

"Non fit thesauris non auro pectu' solutum;
Non demunt animis curas et religiones
Persarum montes, non atria diviti' Crassi."

The style here reminds us strongly of Horace.

(3) From the _Bimarcus_.

"Tunc repente caelitum altum tonitribus templum tonescat,
Et pater divon trisu cum fulmen igni fervido actum
Mutat in tholum macelli."

(4) From the _Dolium aut Seria_, in anapaestics.

"Mundus domus est maxima homulli
Quam quinque altitonae flammigerae
Zonae cingunt per quam limbus
Bis sex signis stellumicantibus
Aptus in obliquo aethere Lunae
Bigas acceptat."

The sentiment reminds us of Plato.

(5) From the _Est modus matulae_, on wine.

"Vino nihil iucundius quisquam bibit
Hoc aegritudinem ad medendam invenerunt,
Hoc hilaritatis dulce seminarium,
Hoc continet coagulum convivia."

(6) From the _Eumenides_, in galliambics, from which those of Catullus may
be a study.

"Tibi typana non inanes sonitus Matri' Deum
Tonimu', canimu' tibi nos tibi nunc semiviti;
Teretem cornam volantem iactant tibi Galli."

(7) From the _Marcipor_, a fine description.

"Repente noctis circiter meridie
Cum pictus aer fervidis late ignibus
Caeli chorean astricen ostenderet
Nubes aquali frigido velo leves
Caeli cavernas aureas subduxerant
Aquam vomentes inferam mortalibus
Ventique frigido se ab axe eruperant,
Phrenetici septentrionum filii
Secum ferentes regulas ramos syrus.
At nos caduci naufragi ut ciconiae,
Quarum bipinnis fulminis plumas vapor
Percussit, alte maesti in terram cecidimus."

NOTE II.--_The Logistorici_.

The _Logistorici_, which, as we have said, were imitated from Heraclides
Ponticus, are alluded to under the name _Hrakleideion_ by Cicero. He says
(Att. xv. 27, 2), _Excudam aliquid Hrakleideion, quod lateat in thesauris
tuis_ (xvi. 2, 5) _Hrakleideion, si Brundisium salvi, adoriemur._ In xvi.
3, 1, he alludes to the work as his _Cato Major de Senectute_. Varro had
promised him a _Hrakleideion_. _Varro ... a quo adhuc_ Hr. _illud non
abstuli_ (xvi. 11, 3). He received it (xvi. 12).

NOTE III.--_Some Fragments of Varro Atacinus._

This poet, who is by later writers often confounded with Varro Reatinus,
was much more finished in his style, and therefore more read by the
Augustan writers. Frequently when they speak of Varro it is to him that
they refer. We append some passages from his _Chorographia_.


"Vidit et aetherio mundum torquerier axe
Et septem aeternis sonitum dare vocibus orbes,
Nitentes aliis alios quae maxima divis
Laetitia est. At tunc longe gratissima Phoebi
Dextera consimiles meditator reddere voces."


"Ergo inter solis stationem ad sidera septem
Exporrecta iacet tellus: huic extima fluctu
Oceani, interior Neptuno cingitur ora."


"At quinque aethertis zonis accingitur orbis
Ac vastant mas hiemes mediamque calores:
Sed terrae extremas inter mediamque coluntur
Quas solis valido numquam vis atterat igne'."

From the _Ephemeris_, two passages which Virgil has copied.


"Tum liceat pelagi volucres tardaeqne paludis
Cernere inexpleto studio gestire lavandi
Et velut insolitum pennis infundere rorem.
Aut arguta lacus circumvolitavit hirando."


"Et vos suspiciens caelum (mirabile visu)
Naribus aerium patulis decerpsit odorem,
Nec tenuis formica cavis non erebit ova."

An epigram attributed to him, but probably of somewhat later date, is as

"Marmoreo Licinus tumulo iacet, at Cato parvo;
Pompeius nullo. Ciedimus esse deos?"

NOTE IV.--_On the Jurists, Critics, and Grammarians of less note._

The study of law had received a great impulse from the labours of
Scaevola. But among his successors none can be named beside him, though
many attained to a respectable eminence. The business of public life had
now become so engrossing that statesmen had no leisure to study law
deeply, nor jurists to devote themselves to politics. Hence there was a
gradual divergence between the two careers, and universal principles began
to make themselves felt in jurisprudence. The chief name of this period is
_Sulpicius Rufus_ (born 105 B.C.), who is mentioned with great respect in
Cicero's _Brutus_ as a high-minded man and a cultivated student. His
contribution lay rather in methodical treatment than in amassing new
material. Speeches are also attributed to him (Quint. iv. 2, 106), though
sometimes there is an uncertainty whether the older orator is not meant.
Letters of his are preserved among those of Cicero, and show the extreme
purity of language attained by the highly educated (Ad Fam. iv. 5). Other
jurists are _P. Orbius_, a pupil of _Juventius_, of whom Cicero thought
highly; _Ateius_, probably the father of that Ateius Capito who obtained
great celebrity in the next period, and _Pacuvius Labeo_, whose fame was
also eclipsed by that of his son. Somewhat later we find _C. Trebatius_,
the friend of Cicero and recipient of some of his most interesting
letters. He was a brilliant but not profound lawyer, and devoted himself
more particularly to the pontifical law. His dexterous conduct through the
civil wars enabled him to preserve his influence under the reign of
Augustus. Horace professes to ask his advice (Sat. ii. 1, 4):

"Docte Trebati
Quid faciam, praescribe."

Trebatius replies: "Cease to write, or if you cannot do that, celebrate
the exploits of Caesar." This courtier-like counsel is characteristic of
the man, and helps to explain the high position he was enabled to take
under the empire. Two other jurists are worthy of mention, _A.
Cascellius_, a contemporary of Trebatius, and noted for his sarcastic wit;
and _Q. Aelius Tubero_, who wrote also on history and rhetoric, but
finally gave himself exclusively to legal studies.

Among grammatical critics, the most important is _P. Nigidius Figulus_
(98-46 B.C.). He was, like Varro, conservative in his views, and is
considered by Gellius to come next to him in erudition. They appear to
have been generally coupled together by later writers, but probably from
the similarity of their studies rather than from any equality of talent.
Nigidius was a mystic, and devoted much of his time to Pythagorean
speculations, and the celebration of various religious mysteries. His
_Commentarii_ treated of grammar, orthography, etymology, &c. In the
latter he appears to have copied Varro in deriving all Latin words from
native roots. Besides grammar, he wrote on sacrificial rites, on theology
(_de dis_), and natural science. One or two references are made to him in
the curious _Apology_ of Apuleius. In the investigation of the
supernatural he was followed by _Caecina_, who wrote on the Etruscan
ceremonial, and drew up a theory of portents and prodigies.

The younger generation produced few grammarians of merit. We hear of
_Ateius Praetextatus_, who was equally well known as a rhetorician. He was
born at Athens, set free for his attainments, and called himself
_Philologus_ (Suet. De Gram. 10). He seems to have had some influence with
the young nobles, with whom a teacher of grammar, who was also a fluent
and persuasive speaker, was always welcome. Another instance is found in
_Valerius Cato_, who lost his patrimony when quite a youth by the rapacity
of Sulla, and was compelled to teach in order to obtain a living. He
speedily became popular, and was considered an excellent trainer of poets.
He is called--

"Cato Grammaticus, Latina Siren,
Qui solus legit et facit poetas."

Having acquired a moderate fortune and bought a villa at Tusculum, he sank
through mismanagement again into poverty, from which he never emerged, but
died in a garret, destitute of the necessaries of life. His fate was the
subject of several epigrams, of which one by Bibaculus is preserved in
Suetonius (De Cr. ii).

The only other name worth notice is that of _Santra_, who is called by
Martial _Salebrosus_. He seems to have written chiefly on the history of
Roman literature, and, in particular, to have commented on the poems of
Naevius. Many obscurer writers are mentioned in Suetonius's treatise, to
which, with that on rhetoric by the same author, the reader is here



Marcus Tullius Cicero, [1] the greatest name in Roman literature, was born
on his father's estate near Arpinum, 3d Jan. 106 B.C. Arpinum had received
the citizenship some time before, but his family though old and of
equestrian position had never held any office in Rome. Cicero was
therefore a _novus homo_, a _parvenu_, as we should say, and this made the
struggle for honours which occupied the greater part of his career, both
unusual and arduous. For this struggle, in which his extraordinary talent
seemed to predict success, his father determined to prepare the boy by an
education under his own eye in Rome. Marcus lived there for some years
with his brother Quintus, studying under the best masters (among whom was
the poet Archias), learning the principles of grammar and rhetoric, and
storing his mind with the great works of Greek literature. He now made the
acquaintance of the three celebrated men to whom he so often refers in his
writings, the Augur Mucius Scaevola, and the orators Crassus and Antonius,
with whom he often conversed, and asked them such questions as his boyish
modesty permitted. At this time too he made his first essays in verse, the
poem called _Pontius Glaucus_, and perhaps the _Phaenomena_ and
_Prognostics_ [2] of Aratus. On assuming the manly gown he at once
attached himself to Scaevola for the purpose of learning law, attending
him not only in his private consultations, but also to the courts when he
pleaded, and to the assembly when he harangued the people. His industry
was untiring. As he tells us himself, he renounced dissipation, pleasure,
exercise, even society; his whole spare time was spent in reading,
writing, and declaiming, besides daily attendance at the forum, where he
drank in with eager zeal the fervid eloquence of the great speakers.
Naturally keen to observe, he quickened his faculties by assiduous
attention; not a tone, not a gesture, not a turn of speech ever escaped
him; all were noted down in his ready memory to be turned to good account
when his own day should come. Meanwhile he prepared himself by deeper
studies for rising to oratorical eminence. He attended the subtle lectures
of Philo the Academic, and practised the minute dialectic of the Stoics
under Diodotus, and tested his command over both philosophy and
disputation by declaiming in Greek before the rhetorician Molo.

At the age of twenty-five he thought himself qualified to appear before
the world. The speech for Quintius, [3] delivered 81 B.C. is not his
first, but it is one of his earliest. In it he appears as the opponent of
Hortensius. At this time Sulla was all-powerful at Rome. He had crushed
with pitiless ferocity the remnants of the Marian party; he had reinstated
the senate in its privileges, abased the tribunate, checked the power of
the knights, and still swayed public opinion by a rule of terror. In his
twenty-seventh year, Cicero, by defending S. Roscius Amerinus, [4] exposed
himself to the dictator's wrath. Roscius, whose accuser was Sulla's
powerful freedman Chrysogonus, was, though innocent, in imminent danger of
conviction, but Cicero's staunch courage and irresistible eloquence
procured his acquittal. The effect of this speech was instantaneous; the
young aspirant was at once ranked among the great orators of the day.

In this speech we see Cicero espousing the popular side. The change which
afterwards took place in his political conduct may perhaps be explained by
his strong hatred on the one hand for personal domination, and by his
enthusiasm on the other for the great traditions of the past. Averse by
nature to all extremes, and ever disposed towards the weaker cause, he
became a vacillating statesman, because his genius was literary not
political, and because (being a scrupulously conscientious man, and
without the inheritance of a family political creed to guide him) he found
it hard to judge on which side right lay. The three crises of his life,
his defence of Roscius, his contest with Catiline, and his resistance to
Antony, were precisely the three occasions when no such doubts were
possible, and on all these the conduct of Cicero, as well as his genius,
shines with its brightest lustre. To the speech for Roscius, his first and
therefore his boldest effort, he always looked back with justifiable
pride, and drew from it perhaps in after life a spur to meet greater
dangers, greater because experience enabled him to foresee them. [5]

About this time Cicero's health began to fail from too constant study and
over severe exertions in pleading. The tremendous calls on a Roman
orator's physique must have prevented any but robust men from attaining
eminence. The place where he spoke, girt as it was with the proudest
monuments of imperial dominion, the assembled multitudes, the magnitude of
the political issues on which in reality nearly every criminal trial
turned, all these roused the spirit of the speaker to its utmost tension,
and awoke a corresponding vehemence of action and voice.

Cicero therefore retired to Athens, where he spent six months studying
philosophy with Antiochus the Academic, and with Zeno and Phaedrus who
were both Epicureans. His brother Quintus and his friend Atticus were
fellow-students with him. He next travelled in Asia Minor, seeking the
help and advice of all the celebrated rhetoricians he met, as Menippus of
Stratonice, Dionysius of Magnesia, Aeschylus of Cnidos, Xenocles of
Adramyttium. At Rhodes he again placed himself under Molo, whose wise
counsel checked the Asiatic exuberance which to his latest years Cicero
could never quite discard; and after an absence of over two years he
returned home thoroughly restored in health, and steadily determined to
win his place as the greatest orator of Rome (76 B.C.). Meanwhile Sulla
had died, and Cicero no longer incurred danger by expressing his views. He
soon after defended the great comedian Roscius [6] on a charge of fraud in
a civil speech still extant, and apparently towards the end of the same
year was married to Terentia, a lady of high birth, with whom he lived for
upwards of thirty years.

In 75 B.C. Cicero was elected quaestor, and obtained the province of
Sicily under the Praetor Sextus Peducaeus. While there he conciliated good
will by his integrity and kindness, and on his departure was loaded with
honours by the grateful provincials. But he saw the necessity of remaining
in Rome for the future, if he wished to become known; consequently he took
a house near the forum, and applied himself unremittingly to the calls of
his profession. He was now placed on the list of senators, and in the year
70 appeared as a candidate for the aedileship. The only oration we know of
during the intervening years is that for Tullius [7] (71 B.C.); but many
cases of importance must have been pleaded by him, since in the
preliminary speech by which he secured the conduct of the case against
Verres, [8] he triumphantly brings himself forward as the only man whose
tried capacity and unfailing success makes him a match for Hortensius, who
is retained on the other side. This year is memorable for the impeachment
of Verres, the only instance almost where Cicero acted as public
prosecutor, his kindly nature being apter to defend than to accuse; but on
this occasion he burned with righteous indignation, and spared no labour
or expense to ransack Sicily for evidence of the infamous praetor's guilt.

Cicero was tied to the Sicilians, whom he called his clients, by acts of
mutual kindness, and he now stood forth to avenge them with a good will.
The friends of Verres tried to procure a _Praevaricatio_, or sham
accusation, conducted by a friend of the defendant, but Cicero stopped
this by his brilliant and withering invective on Caecilius, the unlucky
candidate for this dishonourable office. The judges, who were all
senators, could not but award the prosecution to Cicero, who, determined
to obtain a conviction, conducted it with the utmost despatch. Waiving his
right to speak, and bringing on the witnesses contrary to custom at the
outset of the trial, he produced evidence so crushing that Verres
absconded, and the splendid orations which remain [9] had no occasion to
be, and never were, delivered. It was Cicero's justifiable boast that he
obtained all the offices of state in the first year in which he could by
law hold them. In 69 B.C. he was elected at the head of the poll as Curule
Aedile, a post of no special dignity, something between that of a mayor
and a commissioner of works, but admitting a liberal expenditure on the
public shows, and so useful towards acquiring the popularity necessary for
one who aspired to the consulship. To this year are to be referred the
extant speeches for Fonteius [10] and Caecina, [11] and perhaps the lost
ones for Matridius [12] and Oppius. [13] Cicero contrived without any
great expenditure to make his aedileship a success. The people were well
disposed to him, and regarded him as their most brilliant representative.

The next year (68 B.C.) is important for the historian as that in which
begins Cicero's Correspondence--a mine of information more trustworthy
than anything else in the whole range of antiquity, and of exquisite
Latinity, and in style unsurpassed and unsurpassable. The wealth that had
flowed in from various sources, such as bequests, presents from foreign
potentates or grateful clients at home, loans probably from the same
source, to which we must add his wife's considerable dowry, he proceeded
to expend in erecting a _villa_ at Tusculum. Such villas were the fairest
ornaments of Italy, "_ocelli Italiae_," as Cicero calls them, and their
splendour may be inferred from the descriptions of Varro and Pliny.
Cicero's, however, though it contained choice works of art and many rare
books, could not challenge comparison with those of great nobles such as
Catulus, Lucullus, or Crassus, but it was tastefully laid out so as to
resemble in miniature the Academy of Athens, where several of his happiest
hours had been spent, and to which in thought he often returned. Later in
life he purchased other country-seats at Antium, Asturia, Sinuessa,
Arpinum, Formiae, Cumae, Puteoli, and Pompeii; but the Tusculan was always
his favourite.

In the year 67 Cicero stood for the praetorship, the election to which was
twice put off, owing to the disturbances connected with Gabinius' motion
for giving the command of the Mediterranean to Pompey, and that of Otho
for assigning separate seats in the theatre to the knights. But the third
election ratified the results of the two previous ones, and brought in
Cicero with a large majority as _Praetor Urbanus_ over the heads of seven,
some of them very distinguished, competitors. He entered on his office 66
B.C. and signalised himself by his high conduct as a judge; but this did
not, however, prevent him from exercising his profession as an advocate,
for in this year he defended Fundanius [14] in a speech now lost, and
Cluentius [15] (who was accused of poisoning) in an extremely long and
complicated argument, one of the most difficult, but from the light it
throws on the depraved morals of the time one of the most important of all
his speeches. Another oration belonging to this year, and the first
political harangue which Cicero delivered, was that in favour of the
Manilian law, [16] which conferred on Pompey the conduct of the war
against Mithridates. The bill was highly popular; Caesar openly favoured
it, and Cicero had no difficulty in carrying the entire assembly with him.
It is a singularly happy effort of his eloquence, and contains a noble
panegyric on Pompey, the more admirable because there was no personal
motive behind it. At the expiration of his praetorian year he had the
option of a province, which was a means of acquiring wealth eagerly
coveted by the ambitious; but Cicero felt the necessity of remaining at
Rome too strongly to be tempted by such a bribe. "Out of sight, out of
mind," was nowhere so true as at Rome. If he remained away a year, who
could tell whether his chance for the Consulship might not be
irretrievably compromised?

In the following year (65 B.C.) he announced himself as a candidate for
this, the great object of his ambition, and received from his brother some
most valuable suggestions in the essay or letter known as _De Petitione
Consulatus_. This _manual_ (for so it might be called) of _electioneering
tactics_, gives a curious insight into the customs of the time, and in
union with many shrewd and pertinent remarks, contains independent
testimony to the evil characters of Antony and Catiline. But Cicero relied
more on his eloquence than on the arts of canvassing. It was at this
juncture that he defended the ex-tribune Cornelius, [17] who had been
accused of _maiestas_, with such surpassing skill as to draw forth from
Quintilian a special tribute of praise. This speech is unfortunately lost.
His speech _in the white gown_, [18] of which a few fragments are
preserved by Asconius, was delivered the following year, only a few days
before the election, to support the senatorial measure for checking
corrupt canvassing. When the _comitia_ were held, Cicero was elected by a
unanimous vote, a fact which reflects credit upon those who gave it. For
the candidate to whom they did honour had no claims of birth, or wealth,
or military glory; he had never flattered them, never bribed them; his
sole title to their favour was his splendid genius, his unsullied
character, and his defence of their rights whenever right was on their
side. The only trial at which Cicero pleaded during this year was that of
Q. Gellius, [19] in which he was successful.

The beginning of his consulship (63 B.C.) was signalised by three great
oratorical displays, viz. the speeches against the agrarian law of Rullus
[20] and the extempore speech delivered on behalf of Roscius Otho. The
populace on seeing Otho enter the theatre, rose in a body and greeted him
with hisses: a tumult ensued; Cicero was sent for; he summoned the people
into an adjoining temple, and rebuked them with such sparkling wit as to
restore completely their good humour. It is to this triumph of eloquence
that Virgil is thought to refer in the magnificent simile (_Aen._ i. 148):

"Ac veluti magno in populo cum saepe coorta est
Seditio, saevitque animis ignobile volgus;
Iamque faces et saxa volant, furor arma ministrat;
Tum pietate gravem ac meritis si forte virum quem
Aspexere silent arrectisque auribus adstant;
Ille regit dictis animos et pectora mulcet."

The next speech, which still remains to us, is a defence of the senator
Rabirius; [21] that on behalf of Calpurnius Piso is lost. [22] But the
efforts which make this year forever memorable are the four orations
against Catiline. [23] These were almost extemporaneous, and in their
trenchant vigour and terrible mastery of invective are unsurpassed except
by the second Philippic. In the very heat of the crisis, however, Cicero
found time to defend his friend Muraena [2] in a brilliant and jocose
speech, which shows the marvellous versatility of the man. That warm
Italian nature, open to every gust of feeling, over which impressions came
and went like summer clouds, could turn at a moment's notice from the
hand-to-hand grapple of a deadly duel to the lightest and most delicate
rapier practice of the fencing school.

As soon as Cicero retired from office (62 B.C.) he found enemies ready to
accuse him. Metellus the Tribune declared that he had violated the
Constitution. Cicero replied to him in a spirited speech, which he alludes
to under the name _Oratio Metellina_, but he felt himself on insecure
ground. Catiline was indeed crushed, but the ramifications of the
conspiracy extended far and wide. Autronius and Sulla were implicated in
it; the former Cicero refused to aid, the latter he defended in a speech
which is lost to us. [25] The only other speech of this year is that on
behalf of the poet Archias, [26] who had been accused of usurping the
rights of a Roman citizen. In the following year (61 B.C.) occurred the
scandal about Clodius. This profligate demagogue would have been acquitted
on an _alibi_, had it not been for Cicero's damaging evidence; he
nevertheless contrived to procure a final acquittal by the most abominable
means, but determined to wreak his vengeance by working Cicero's ruin. To
this resolution the personal taunts of the great orator no doubt
contributed. We have an account from Cicero's pen of the scenes that took
place in the senate during the trial--the invectives poured forth by
Clodius and the no less fiery retorts of his opponent. We must not imagine
our orator's talent as always finding vent in the lofty strain which we
are accustomed to associate with him. On the contrary, his attacks at
times were pitched in another key, and he would frequently exchange
sarcastic jests in a way that we should regard as incompatible with
decency, and almost with self-respect. On one occasion, for instance, he
had a skirmish of wit, which was vociferously applauded by an admiring
senate: "You have bought a house," says Clodius. (We quote from Forsyth.)
"One would think," rejoins Cicero, "that you said I had bought a jury."
"They did not believe you on your oath!" exclaims Clodius. "Yes," retorted
Cicero, "twenty-five of the jury did believe _me_, but thirty-one did not
believe _you_, for they took care to get their money beforehand!" These
and similar pleasantries, however they may have tickled the ears of the
senate, awoke in Clodius an implacable hatred, which could only be
satisfied with Cicero's fall; and the better to strike at him he made an
attempt (unsuccessful at first, but carried out somewhat later) to be made
a plebeian and elected tribune of the people (60 B.C.).

Meanwhile Cicero had returned to his profession, and defended Scipio
Nasica; [27] he had also composed a history of his consulship in Greek, on
which (to use his own expression) he had emptied all the scent-boxes of
Isocrates, and touched it lightly with the brush of Aristotle; moreover,
he collected into one volume the speeches he had delivered as consul under
the title of _Consular Orations_. [28] At this time the coalition known as
the First Triumvirate was formed, and Cicero, disgusted at its
unscrupulous conduct, left Rome for his Tusculan villa, where he meditated
writing a work on universal geography. Soon, however, impatient of
retirement, he returned to Rome, defended A. Themius [29] twice, and both
times successfully, and afterwards, aided by Hortensius (with whose party
he had now allied himself), L. Valerius Flaccus (59 B.C.). [30]

But Clodius's vengeance was by this time imminent, and Pompey's assurances
did not quiet Cicero's mind. He retired for some months to his Antian
villa, and announced his intention of publishing a collection of anecdotes
of contemporary statesmen, in the style of Theopompus, which would be, if
we possessed it, an extremely valuable work. On his return to Rome (58
B.C.) he found the feeling strongly against him, and a bill of Clodius's
was passed, interdicting him from fire and water, confiscating his
property, and outlawing his person. The pusillanimity he shows in his
exile exceeds even the measure of what we could have believed. It must be
remembered that the love of country was a passion with the ancients, to a
degree now difficult to realise; and exile from it, even for a time, was
felt to be an intolerable evil. But Cicero's exile did not last long; in
August of the following year (57 B.C.) he was recalled with no dissentient
voice but that of Clodius, and at once hastened to Rome, where he
addressed the senate and people in terms of extravagant compliment. These
are the line speeches "on his return," [31] in the first of which he
thanks the senate, and in the second the people; in the third he addresses
the pontiffs, trying to persuade them that he has a right to reclaim the
site of his house, [32] in the fourth [33] which was delivered early the
next year, he rings the changes on the same subject.

The next year (56 B.C.) is signalised by several important speeches.
Whatever we may think of his political conduct during this trying period,
his professional activity was most remarkable. He defended L. Bestia [34]
(who was accused of electoral corruption when candidate for the
praetorship) but unsuccessfully; and also P. Sextius, [35] on a charge of
bribery and illegal violence, in which he was supported by Hortensius.
Soon after we find him in the country in correspondence with Lucceius, on
the subject of the history of his consulship; but he soon returned to Rome
and before the year ended delivered his fine speech on the consular
provinces, [36] in which he opposed the curtailment of Caesar's command in
Gaul; and also that on behalf of Coelius, [37] a lively and elegant
oration which has been quoted to prove that Cicero was indifferent to
purity of morals, because he palliates as an advocate and a friend the
youthful indiscretions of his client.

In 55 B.C. he pleaded the cause of Caninius Gallus, [38] in a successful
speech now lost, and attacked the ex-consul Piso [39] (who had long roused
his resentment) in terms of the most unmeasured and unworthy invective.
Towards the close of the year he completed his great treatise, _De
Oratore_, the most finished and faultless of all his compositions; and so
active was his mind at this epoch, that he offered to write a treatise on
Britain, if Quintus, who had been there with Caesar, would furnish him
with the materials. His own poems, _de Consulatu_ and _de Temporibus suis_
had been completed before this, and, as we learn from the letters, were
highly approved by Caesar. Next year (54 B.C.) he defended Plancius [40]
and Scaurus, [41] the former of which orations is still extant; and later
on, Rabirius Postumus, [42] who was accused, probably with justice, of
extortion. This year had witnessed another change in Cicero's policy; he
had transferred his allegiance from Pompey to Caesar. In 52 B.C. occurred
the celebrated trial of Milo for the murder of Clodius, in which Cicero,
who appeared for the defendant, was hampered by the presence of Pompey's
armed retainers, and made but a poor speech; the magnificent and
exhaustive oratorical display that we possess [43] having been written
after Milo's condemnation and sent to him in his exile at Marseilles,
where he received it with sarcastic praise. At the close of this year
Cicero was appointed to the government of the province of Cilicia, where
he conducted himself with an integrity and moderation little known to
Roman pro-consuls, and returned in 50 B.C. scarcely richer than he had set

During the following years Cicero played a subordinate part. In the great
convulsions that were shaking the state men of a different sort were
required; men who possessed the first requisite for the statesman, the one
thing that Cicero lacked, firmness. Had Cicero been as firm as he was
clear-sighted, he might have headed the statesmanship of Rome. But while
he saw the drift of affairs he had not courage to act upon his insight; he
allowed himself to be made the tool, now of Pompey, now of Caesar, till
both were tired of him. "I wish," said Pompey, when Cicero joined him in
Epirus, "that Cicero would go over to the other side; perhaps he would
then be afraid of us." The only speeches we possess of this period were
delivered subsequently to the victorious entry of Caesar, and exhibit a
prudent but most unworthy adulation. That for Marcellus [44] (46 B.C.) was
uttered in the senate, and from its gross flattery of the dictator was
long supposed to be spurious; the others on behalf of Ligarius [45] and
King Deiotarus [46] are in a scarcely more elevated strain. Cicero was
neither satisfied with himself nor with the world; he remained for the
most time in retirement, and devoted his energies to other literary
labours. But his absence had proved his value. No sooner is Caesar dead
than he appears once more at the head of the state, and surpasses all his
former efforts in the final contest waged with the brutal and unscrupulous
Antony. On the history of this eventful period we shall not touch, but
merely notice the fourteen glorious orations called _Philippicae_ [47]
(after those of Demosthenes), with which as by a bright halo he encircled
the closing period of his life.

The first was delivered in the senate (2d September, 44 B.C.) and in it
Cicero, who had been persuaded by Brutus, most fortunately for his glory,
to return to Rome, excuses his long absence from affairs, and complains
with great boldness of Antony's threatening attitude. This roused the
anger of his opponent, who delivered a fierce invective upon Cicero, to
which the latter replied by that tremendous outburst of mingled
imprecation, abuse, self-justification, and exalted patriotism, which is
known as the Second Philippic. This was not published until Antony had
left Rome; but it is composed as if it had been delivered immediately
after the speech which provoked it. Never in all the history of eloquence
has a traitor been so terribly denounced, an enemy so mercilessly
scourged. It has always been considered by critics as Cicero's crowning
masterpiece. The other Philippics, some of which were uttered in the
senate, while others were extempore harangues before the people, were
delivered in quick succession between December 44 B.C. and April 43 B.C.
They cost the orator his life. When Antony and Octavius entered Rome
together, and each sacrificed his friends to the other's bloodthirsty
vengeance, Cicero was surrendered by Octavius to Antony's minions. He was
apprised of the danger, and for a while thought of escaping, but nobler
thoughts prevailed, and he determined to meet his fate, and seal by death
a life devoted to his country. The end is well-known; on the 7th of
December he was murdered by Popillius Laenas, a man whom he had often
befriended, and his head and hands sent to Antony, who nailed them to the
rostra, in mockery of the immortal eloquence of which that spot had so
often been the scene, and which was now for ever hushed, leaving to
posterity the bitter reflection that Freedom had perished, and with her
Eloquence, her legitimate and noblest child.

The works of this many-sided genius may be classed under three chief
divisions, on each of which we shall offer a few critical remarks; his
Orations, his Philosophical and Rhetorical Treatises, and his

Cicero was above all things an Orator. To be the greatest orator of Rome,
the equal of Demosthenes, was his supreme desire, and to it all other
studies were made subservient. Poetry, history, law, philosophy, were
regarded by him only as so many qualifications without which an orator
could not be perfect. He could not conceive a great orator except as a
great man, nor a good orator except as a good man. The integrity of his
public conduct, the purity of his private life, wonderful if contrasted
with the standard of those around him, arose in no small degree from the
proud consciousness that he who was at the head of Roman eloquence must
lead in all respects a higher life than other men. The cherished theory of
Quintilian, that a perfect orator would be the best man that earth could
produce, is really but a restatement of Cicero's firm belief. His highest
faculties, his entire nature, conspired to develop the powers of eloquence
that glowed within him; and though to us his philosophical treatises or
his letters may be more refreshing or full of richer interest than his
speeches, yet it is by these that his great fame has been mainly acquired,
and it is these which beyond comparison best display his genius.

Of the eighty or thereabouts which he is known to have composed, fifty-
nine are in whole or in part preserved. They enable us to form a complete
estimate of his excellences and defects, for they belong to almost every
department of eloquence. Some, as we have seen, are deliberative, others
judicial, others descriptive, others personal; and while in the two latter
classes his talents are nobly conspicuous, the first is as ill-adapted as
the second is pre-eminently suitable to his special gifts. As pleader for
an accused person, Cicero cannot, we may say _could_ not, be surpassed. It
was this exercise of his talent that gave him the deepest pleasure, and
sometimes, as he says with noble pride, seemed to lift him almost above
the privileges of humanity; for to help the weak, to save the accused from
death, is a work worthy of the gods. In invective, notwithstanding his
splendid anger against Catiline, Antony, and Piso, he does not appear at
his happiest; and the reason is not far to seek. It has often been laid to
his reproach that he corresponded and even held friendly intercourse with
men whom he holds up at another time to the execration of mankind.
Catiline, Antony, Clodius, not to mention other less notorious criminals,
had all had friendly relations with him. And even at the very time of his
most indignant speeches, we know from his confidential correspondence that
he often meditated advances towards the men concerned, which showed at
least an indulgent attitude. The truth is, that his character was all
sympathy, he had so many points of contact with every human being, he was
so full of human feeling, that he could in a moment put himself into each
man's position and draw out whatever plea or excuse his conduct admitted.
It was not his nature to feel anger long; it evaporates almost in the
speaking; he soon returns to the kind and charitable construction which,
except for reasons of argument, he was always the foremost to assume. No
man who lived was ever more forgiving. And it is this, and not moral
blindness or indifference, which explains the glaring inconsistencies of
his relations to others. It will follow from this that he was pre-
eminently fitted for the oratory of panegyric. And beyond doubt he has
succeeded in this difficult department better than any other orator,
ancient or modern. Whether he praises his country, its religion, its laws,
its citizens, its senate, or its individual magistrates, he does it with
enthusiasm, a splendour, a geniality, and an inconceivable richness of
felicitous expression which make us love the man as much as we admire his
genius. [48]

And here we do not find that apparent want of conviction that so painfully
jars on the impression of reality which is the first testimony to an
orator's worth. When he praises, he praises with all his heart. When he
raises the strain of moral indignation we can almost always beneath the
orator's enthusiasm detect the rhetorician's art. We shall have occasion
to notice in a future page the distressing loss of power which at a later
period this affectation of moral sentiment involved. In Cicero it does not
intrude upon the surface, it is only remotely present in the background,
and to the Romans themselves no doubt appeared an excellence rather than a
defect. Nevertheless, if we compare Cicero with Demosthenes in this
respect, we shall at once acknowledge the decisive superiority of the
latter, not only in his never pretending to take a lofty tone when he is
simply abusing an enemy, but in his immeasurably deeper earnestness when a
question of patriotism or moral right calls out his highest powers. Cicero
has always an array of common-places ready for any subject; every case
which he argues can be shown to involve such issues as the belief in a
divine providence, the loyalty to patriotic tradition, the maintenance of
the constitution, or the sanctity of family life; and on these well-worn
themes he dilates with a magnificent prodigality of pathetic ornament
which, while it lends splendour to his style, contrasts most unfavourably
with the curt, business-like, and strictly relevant arguments of

For deliberative eloquence it has been already said that Cicero was not
well fitted, since on great questions of state it is not so much the
orator's fire or even his arguments that move as the authority which
attaches to his person. And in this lofty source of influence Cicero was
deficient. It was not by his fiery invective, or his impressive pictures
of the peril of the state, that the senate was persuaded to condemn the
Catilinarian conspirators to death without a trial; it was the stern
authoritative accents of Cato that settled their wavering resolution.
Cicero was always applauded; men like Crassus, Pompey, or Caesar, were

Even in his own special department of judicial eloquence Cicero's mind was
not able to cope with the great principles of law. Such fundamental
questions as "Whether law may be set aside for the purpose of saving the
state?" "How far an illegal action which has had good results is
justifiable?" questions which concern the statesman and philosopher as
much as the jurist, he meets with a superficial and merely popular
treatment. Without any firm basis of opinion, either philosophical like
Cato's, personal like Caesar's, or traditional like that of the senate, he
was compelled to judge questions by the results which he could foresee at
the moment, and by the floating popular standard to which, as an advocate,
he had naturally turned.

But while denying to Cicero the highest legal attributes, we must not
forget that the jury before whom he pleaded demanded eloquence rather than
profound knowledge. The orations to which they were accustomed were laid
out according to a fixed rhetorical plan, the plan proposed in the
treatise to Herennius and in Cicero's own youthful work, the _De
Inventione_. There is the introduction, containing the preliminary
statement of the case, and the ethical proof; the body of the speech, the
argument, and the peroration addressing itself to the passions of the
judge. No better instance is found of this systematic treatment than the
speech for Milo, [49] declared by native critics to be faultless, and of
which, for the sake of illustration, we give a succinct analysis. It must
be remembered that he has a bad case. He commences with a few introductory
remarks intended to recommend himself and conciliate his judges, dilating
on the special causes which make his address less confident than usual,
and claiming their indulgence for it. He then answers certain _a priori_
objections likely to be offered, as that no homicide deserves to live,
which is refuted by the legal permission to kill in self-defence; that
Milo's act had already been condemned by the senate, which is refuted by
the fact that a majority of senators praised it; that Pompey had decided
the question of law, which is refuted by his permitting a trial at all,
which he would not have done unless a legal defence could be entertained.
The objections answered, and a special compliment having been judiciously
paid to the presiding judge, he proceeds to the _Expositio_, or statement
of facts. In this particular case they were by no means advantageous;
consequently, Cicero shows his art by cloaking them in an involved
narration which, while apparently plausible, is in reality based on a
suppression of truth. Having rapidly disposed of these, he proceeds to
sketch the line of defence with its several successive arguments. He
declares himself about to prove that so far from being the aggressor, Milo
did but defend himself against a plot laid by Clodius. As this was quite a
new light to the jury, their minds must be prepared for it by persuasive
grounds of probability. He first shows that Clodius had strong reasons for
wishing to be rid of Milo, Milo on the contrary had still stronger ones
for not wishing to be rid of Clodius; he next shows that Clodius's life
and character had been such as to make assassination a natural act for him
to commit, while Milo on the contrary had always refused to commit
violence, though he had many times had the power to do so; next, that time
and place and circumstances favoured Clodius, but were altogether against
Milo, some plausible objections notwithstanding, which he states with
consummate art, and then proceeds to demolish; next, that the indifference
of the accused to the crimes laid to his charge is surely incompatible
with guilt; and lastly, that even if his innocence could not be proved, as
it most certainly can, still he might take credit to himself for having
done the state a service by destroying one of its worst enemies. And then,
in the peroration that follows, he rouses the passions of the judges by a
glowing picture of Clodius's guilt, balanced by an equally glowing one of
Milo's virtues; he shows that Providence itself had intervened to bring
the sinful career of Clodius to an end, and sanctified Milo by making him
its instrument, and he concludes with a brilliant avowal of love and
admiration for his client, for whose loss, if he is to be condemned,
nothing can ever console him. But the judges will not condemn him; they
will follow in the path pointed out by heaven, and restore a faithful
citizen to that country which longs for his service.--Had Cicero but had
the courage to deliver this speech, there can be scarcely any doubt what
the result would have been. Neither senate, nor judges, nor people, ever
could resist, or ever tried to resist, the impassioned eloquence of their
great orator.

In the above speech the argumentative and ethical portions are highly
elaborated, but the descriptive and personal are, comparatively speaking,
absent. Yet in nothing is Cicero more conspicuous than in his clear and
lifelike descriptions. His portraits are photographic. Whether he
describes the money-loving Chaerea with his shaven eye-brows and head
reeking with cunning and malice; [50] or the insolent Verres, lolling on a
litter with eight bearers, like an Asiatic despot, stretched on a bed of
rose-leaves; [51] or Vatinius, darting forward to speak, his eyes starting
from his head, his neck swollen, and his muscles rigid; [52] or the
Gaulish and Greek witnesses, of whom the former swagger erect across the
forum, [53] the latter chatter and gesticulate without ever looking up;
[54] we see in each case the master's powerful hand. Other descriptions
are longer and more ambitious; the confusion of the Catilinarian
conspirators after detection; [55] the character of Catiline; [56] the
debauchery of Antony in Varro's villa; [57] the scourging and crucifixion
of Gavius; [58] the grim old Censor Appius frowning on Clodia his
degenerate descendent; [59] the tissue of monstrous crime which fills page
after page of the _Cluentius_. [60] These are pictures for all time; they
combine the poet's eye with the stern spirit of the moralist. His power of
description is equalled by the readiness of his wit. Raillery, banter,
sarcasm, jest, irony light and grave, the whole artillery of wit, is
always at his command; and though to our taste many of his jokes are
coarse, others dull, and others unfair or in bad taste, yet the Romans
were never tired of extolling them. These are varied with digressions of a
graver cast: philosophical sentiments, patriotic allusions, gentle
moralisings, and rare gems of ancient legend, succeed each other in the
kaleidoscope of his shifting fancy, whose combinations may appear
irregular, but are generally bound together by chains of the most delicate

His chief faults are exaggeration, vanity, and an inordinate love of
words. The former is at once a conscious rhetorical artifice, and an
unconscious effect of his vehement and excitable temperament. It probably
did not deceive his hearers any more than it deceives us. His vanity is
more deplorable; and the only palliation it admits is the fact that it is
a defect which rarely goes with a bad heart. Had Cicero been less vain, he
might have been more ambitious; as it was, his ridiculous self-conceit
injured no one but himself. His wordiness is of all his faults the most
seductive and the most conspicuous, and procured for him even in his
lifetime the epithet of _Asiatic_. He himself was sensible that his
periods were overloaded. As has been well said, he leaves nothing to the
imagination. [61] Later critics strongly censured him, and both Tacitus
and Quintilian think it necessary to assert his pre-eminence. His wealth
of illustration chokes the idea, as creepers choke the forest tree; both
are beautiful and bright with flowers, but both injure what they adorn.

Nevertheless, if we are to judge his oratory by its effect on those for
whom it was intended, and to whom it was addressed; as the vehement,
gorgeous, impassioned utterance of an Italian speaking to Italians his
countrymen, whom he knew, whom he charmed, whom he mastered; we shall not
be able to refuse him a place as equal to the greatest of those whose
eloquence has swayed the destinies of the world.

We now turn to consider Cicero as a Philosopher, in which character he was
allowed to be the greatest teacher that Rome ever had, and has descended
through the Middle Ages to our own time with his authority, indeed,
shaken, but his popularity scarcely diminished. We must first observe that
philosophy formed no part of his inner and real life. It was only when
inactivity in public affairs was forced upon him that he devoted himself
to its pursuit. During the agitation of the first triumvirate, he composed
the _De Republica_ and _De Legibus_, and during Caesar's dictatorship and
the consulship of Antony, he matured the great works of his old age. But
the moment he was able to return with honour to his post, he threw aside
philosophy, and devoted himself to politics, thus clearly proving that he
regarded it as a solace for leisure or a refuge from misfortune, rather
than as the serious business of life. The system that would alone be
suitable to such a character would be a sober scepticism, for scepticism
in thought corresponds exactly to vacillation in conduct. But though his
mind inclined to scepticism, he had aspirations far higher than his
intellect or his conduct could attain; in his noblest moments he half
rises to the grand Stoic ideal of a self-sufficient and all-wise virtue.
But he cannot maintain himself at that height, and in general he takes the
view of the Academy that all truth is but a question of more or less

To understand the philosophy of Cicero, it is necessary to remember both
his own mental training, and the condition of those for whom he wrote. He
himself regarded philosophy as food for eloquence, as one of the chief
ingredients of a perfect orator. And his own mind, which by nature and
practice had been cast in the oratorical mould, naturally leaned to that
system which best admitted of presenting truth under the form of two
competing rhetorical demonstrations. His readers, too, would be most
attracted by this form of truth. He did not write for the original
thinkers, the Catos, the Varros, and the Scaevolas; [62]
wrote for the great mass of intelligent men, men of the world, whom he
wished to interest in the lofty problems of which philosophy treats. He
therefore above all things strove to make philosophy eloquent. He read for
this purpose Plato, Aristotle, and almost all the great masters who ruled
the schools in his day; but being on a level with his age and not above
it, he naturally turned rather to the thinkers nearest his own time, whose
clearer treatment also made them most easily understood. These were
chiefly Epicureans, Stoics, and Academicians; and from the different
_placita_ of these schools he selected such views as harmonised with his
own prepossessions, but neither chained himself down to any special
doctrine, nor endeavoured to force any doctrine of his own upon others. In
some of his more popular works, as those on political science and on moral
duties, [63] he does not employ any strictness of method; but in his more
systematic treatises he both recognises and strives to attain a regular
process of investigation. We see this in the _Topica_, the _De Finibus_,
and the _Tusculanae Disputationes_, in all of which he was greatly
assisted by the Academic point of view which strove to reconcile
philosophy with the dictates of common sense. A purely speculative ideal
such as that of Aristotle or Plato had already ceased to be propounded
even by the Greek systems; and Roman philosophy carried to a much more
thorough development the practical tendency of the later Greek schools. In
the _Hortensius_, a work unfortunately lost, which he intended to be the
introduction to his great philosophical course, he removed the current
objections to the study, and showed philosophy to be the only comforter in
affliction and the true guide of life. The pursuit of virtue, therefore,
being the proper end of wisdom, such speculations only should be pursued
as are within the sphere of human knowledge. Nevertheless he is
inconsistent with his own programme, for he extends his investigations far
beyond the limits of ethics into the loftiest problems which can exercise
the human mind. Carried away by the enthusiasm which he has caught from
the great Greek sages, he asserts in one place [64] that the search for
divine truth is preferable even to the duties of practical life; but that
is an isolated statement. His strong Roman instinct calls him back to
recognise the paramount claims of daily life; and he is nowhere more
himself than when he declares that every one would leave philosophy to
take care of herself at the first summons of duty. [65] This subordination
of the theoretical to the practical led him to confuse in a rhetorical
presentation the several parts of philosophy, and it seeks and finds its
justification to a great extent in the endless disputes in which in every
department of thought the three chief schools were involved. Physics (as
the term was understood in his day) seemed to him the most mysterious and
doubtful portion of the whole. A knowledge of the body and its properties
is difficult enough; how much more unattainable is a knowledge of such
entities as the Deity and the soul! Those who pronounce absolutely on
points like these involve themselves in the most inextricable
contradictions. While they declare as certainties things that obviously
differ in the general credence they meet with, they forget that certainty
does not admit of degrees, whereas probability does. How much more
reasonable therefore to regard such questions as coming within the sphere
of the probable, and varying between the highest and the lowest degrees of
probability. [66]

In his moral theory Cicero shows greater decision. He is unwavering in his
repudiation of the Epicurean view that virtue and pleasure are one, [67]
and generally adheres to that of the other schools, who here agree in
declaring that virtue consists in following nature. [68] But here occurs
the difficulty as to what place is to be assigned to external goods. At
one time he inclines to the lofty view of the Stoic that virtue is in
itself sufficient for happiness; at another, struck by its inapplicability
to practical life, he thinks this less true than the Peripatetic theory,
which takes account of external circumstances, and though considering them
as inappreciable when weighed in the balance against virtue, nevertheless
admits that within certain limits they are necessary to a complete life.
Thus it appears that both in physics and morals he doubted the reality of
the great abstract conceptions of reason, and came back to the
presentations of sense as at all events the most indisputably probable.
This would lead us to infer that he rested upon the senses as the ultimate
criterion of truth. But if he adopts them as a criterion at all, he does
so with great reservations. He allows the senses indeed the power of
judging between sweet and bitter, near and distant, and the like, but he
never allows them to determine what is good and what is evil. [69] And
similarly he allows the intellect the power of judgment on genera and
species, but he does not deny that it sometimes spins out problems which
it is wholly unable to solve. [70] Since therefore neither the senses nor
the intellect are capable of supplying an infallible criterion, we must
reject the Stoic doctrine that there are certain sensations so forcible as
to produce an irresistible conviction of their truth. For these
philosophers ascribe the full possession of this conviction to the sage
alone, and he is not, nor can he be, one of the generality of mankind.
Hence Cicero, who writes for these, gives his opinion that there are
certain sensuous impressions in which from their permanence and force a
man may safely trust, though he cannot assert them to be absolutely true.
[71] This liberal and popular doctrine he is aware will be undermined by
the absolute scepticism of the New Academy; [72] but he is willing to risk
this, and to put his view forward as the best possible approximation to

With these ultimate principles Cicero, in his _De Natura Deorum_,
approaches the questions of the existence of God and of the human soul.
The bias of his own nobler nature led him to hold fast these two vital
truths, but he is fully aware that in attempting to prove them the Stoics
have used arguments which are not convincing. In the Tusculan disputations
[73] he acknowledges the necessity of assuming one supreme Creator or
Ruler of all things, endued with eternal motion in himself; and he
connects this view with the affinity which he everywhere assumes to
subsist between the human and divine spirit. With regard to the essence of
the human soul he has no clear views; but he strenuously asserts its
existence and phenomenal manifestation analogous to those of the Deity,
and is disposed to ascribe to it immortality also. [74] Free Will he
considers to be a truth of peculiar importance, probably from the
practical consideration that on it responsibility and, therefore, morality
itself ultimately rest.

From this brief abstract it will be seen that Cicero's speculative beliefs
were to a great extent determined by his moral convictions, and by his
strong persuasion of the dignity of human nature. This leads him to combat
with vigour, and satirise with merciless wit, the Epicurean theory of
life; and while his strong common sense forbids him to accept the Stoic
doctrine in all its defiant harshness, he strengthens the Peripatetic
view, to which he on the whole leans, by introducing elements drawn from
it. The peculiar combination which he thus strives to form takes its
colour from his own character and from the terms of his native language.
The Greeks declare that the beautiful (_to kalon_) is good; Cicero
declares that the honourable (_honestum_) alone is good. Where, therefore,
the Greeks had spoken of _to kalon_, and we should speak of moral good,
Cicero speaks of _honestum_, and founds precisely similar arguments upon
it. This conception implies, besides self-regarding rectitude, the praise
of others and the rewards of glory, and hence is eminently suited to the
public-spirited men for whom he wrote. To it is opposed the base
(_turpe_), that disgraceful evil which all good men would avoid. But as
his whole moral theory is built on observation as much as on reading or
reflection, he never stretches a rule too tight; he makes allowance for
overpowering circumstances, for the temper and bent of the individual.
Applicable to all who are engaged in an honourable career with the
stimulus of success before them, his ethics were especially suited to the
noble families of Rome to whom the approval of their conscience was indeed
a necessity of happiness, but the approval of those whom they respected
was at least equally so.

The list of his philosophical works is interesting and may well be given
here. The _Paradoxa_ (written 46 B.C.), [75] explains certain paradoxes of
the Stoics. The _Consolatio_ (45 B.C.) was written soon after the death of
his daughter Tullia, whom he tenderly loved. It is lost with the exception
of a few fragments. The same fate has befallen the _Hortensius_, which
would have been an extremely interesting treatise. The _De finibus bonorum
et malorum_, in five books, was composed in 45 B.C. In the first part M.
Manlius Torquatus expounds the Epicurean views, which Cicero confutes
(books i. ii.); in the second, Cato acts as champion of the Stoics, who
are shown by Cicero to be by no means so exclusive as they profess (books
iii. iv.); in the third and last Piso explains the theories of the Academy
and the Lyceum. The _Academica_ is divided into two editions; the first,
called _Lucullus_, is still extant; the second, dedicated to Varro, exists
in a considerable portion. The _Tusculan Disputations, Timaeus_ (now
lost), and the _De Natura Deorum_, were all composed in the same year (45
B.C.). The latter is in the form of a dialogue between Velleius the
Epicurean, Balbus the Stoic, and Cotta the Academic, which is supposed to
have been held in 77 B.C. The following year were produced _Laelius or De
Amicitia, De Divinatione_, an important essay, _De Fato, Cato Major_ or
_De Senectute, De Gloria_ (now lost), _De Officiis_, an excellent moral
treatise addressed to his son, and _De Virtutibus_, which with the
_Oeconomics and Protagoras_ (translations from the Greek), and the _De
Auguriis_ (51 B.C.?) complete the list of his strictly philosophical
works. Political science is treated by him in the _De Republica_, of which
the first two books remain in a tolerably complete state, the other four
only in fragments, [76] and in the _De Legibus_, of which three books only
remain. The former was commenced in the year 54 B.C. but not published
until two years later, at which time probably the latter treatise was
written, but apparently never published. While in these works the form of
dialogue is borrowed from the Greek, the argument is strongly coloured by
his patriotic sympathies. He proves that the Roman polity, which fuses in
a happy combination the three elements of monarchy, aristocracy, and
democracy, is the best suited for organic development and external
dominion; and he treats many constitutional and legal questions with
eloquence and insight. Our loss of the complete text of these books is to
be deplored rather on account of the interesting information and numerous
allusions they contained, than from their value as an exposition of the
principles of law or government. The style is highly elaborated, and its
even flow is broken by beautiful quotations from the old poets, especially
the _Annals_ of Ennius.

The rhetorical works of Cicero are both numerous and important. A
practical science, of which the principles were of a nature intelligible
to all, and needed only a clear exposition and the authority of personal
experience, was, of all literary subjects, the best suited to bring out
the rich qualities of Cicero's mind. Accordingly we find that even in his
early manhood he attempted to propound a theory of oratory in the
unfinished work _De Inventione_, or _Rhetorica_, as it is sometimes
called. This was compiled partly from the Greek authorities, partly from
the treatise _Ad Herennium_, which we have noticed under the last period.
But he himself was quite conscious of its deficiencies, and alludes to it
more than once as an unripe and youthful work. The fruits of his mature
judgment were preserved in the _De Oratore_, a dialogue between some of
the great orators of former days, in three books, written 55 B.C. The
chief speakers are Crassus and Antonius, and we infer from Cicero's
identifying himself with the former's views that he regarded him on the
whole as the higher orator. The next work in the series is the invaluable
_Brutus sive de claris Oratoribus_, a vast mine of information on the
history of the Roman bar, and the progress of oratorical excellence. The
scene is laid in the Tusculan villa, where Cicero meets some of his
younger friends shortly after the death of Hortensius. In his criticism of
orators, past and present, he pays a touching tribute to the character and
splendid talents of his late rival and at the same time intimate friend,
and laments, what he foresaw too well, the speedy downfall of Roman
eloquence. [77] All these works of his later years are tinged with a deep
sadness which lends a special charm to their graceful periods; his
political despondency drove him to seek solace in literary thought, but he
could not so far lose himself even among his beloved worthies of the past
as to throw off the cloud of gloom that softened but did not obscure his
genius. The _Orator ad M. Brutum_ is intended to give us his ideal of what
a perfect orator should be; its treatment is brilliant but imperfect. The
_Partitiones Oratoriae_, or Catechism of the Art of Oratory, in questions
and answers, belongs to the educational sphere; and, after the example of
Cato's books, is addressed to his son. The _Topica_, written in 44 B.C.,
contains an account of the invention of arguments, and belongs partly to
logic, partly to rhetoric. The last work of this class is the _De Optimo
Genere Oratorum_, which stands as a preface to the crown speeches of
Demosthenes and Aeschines, which Cicero had translated. The chief interest
consists in the discussion it raises on the comparative merits of the
Attic and Asiatic styles.

In all these works there reigns throughout a magnificence of language and
a calm grandeur of tone well befitting the literary representative of the
"assembly of kings." Nowhere perhaps in all literature can be found
compositions in which so many sources of permanent attraction meet;
dignity, sweetness, an inexpressible and majestic eloquence, drawing the
reader along until he seems lost in a sea of grand language and lofty
thoughts, and at the same time a sympathetic human feeling, a genial
desire to persuade, a patient perseverance in illustration, an inimitable
clearness of expression; admirable qualities, whose rich harmonious
combination is perhaps incompatible with the profoundest philosophic
wisdom, but which have raised Cicero to take the lead among those great
popular teachers who have expressed, and by expressing furthered, the
growing enlightenment of mankind.

The letters of Cicero are among the most interesting remains of antiquity.
The ancients paid more attention to letter-writing than we do; they
thought their friends as worthy as the public of well-weighed expressions
and a careful style. But no other writer who has come down to us can be
compared with Cicero, for the grace, the naturalness, and the unreserve of
his communications. Seneca and Pliny, Walpole and Pope, wrote for the
world, not for their correspondents. Among the moderns Mme. de Sevigne
approaches most nearly to the excellences of Cicero.

In the days when newspapers were unknown a Roman provincial governor
depended for information solely upon private letters. It was of the utmost
importance that he should hear from the capital and be able to convey his
own messages to it. Yet, unless he was able to maintain couriers of his
own, it was almost impossible to send or receive news. In such cases he
had to depend on the fidelity of chance messengers, a precarious ground of
confidence. We find that all the great nobles retained in their service
one or more of these _tabellarii_. Cicero was often disquieted by the
thought that his letters might have miscarried; at times he dared not
write at all, so great was the risk of accident or foul play.

Letters were sometimes written on parchment with a reed [78] dipped in
ink, [79] but far more frequently on waxen tablets with the _stilus_. Wax
was preferred to other material, as admitting a swifter hand and an easier
erasure. When Cicero wrote, his ideas came so fast that his handwriting
became illegible. His brother more than once complains of this defect. We
hear of his writing three letters to Atticus in one day. Familiar missives
like these were penned at any spare moment during the day's business, at
the senate during a dull speech, at the forum when witnesses were being
examined, at the bath, or oftener still between the courses at dinner.
Thrown off in a moment while the impression that dictated them was still
fresh, they bear witness to every changing mood, and lay bare the inmost
soul of the writer. But, as a rule, few Romans were at the pains to write
their letters with their own hand. They delegated this mechanical process
to slaves. [80] It seems strange that nothing similar to our running hand
should have been invented among them. Perhaps it was owing to the
abundance of these humble aids to labour. From the constant use of
amanuenses it often resulted that no direct evidence of authorship existed
beyond the appended seal. When Antony read before the senate a private
letter from Cicero, the orator replied, "What madness it is to bring
forward as a witness against me a letter of which I might with perfect
impunity deny the genuineness." The seal, stamped with the signet-ring,
was of wax, and laid over the fastening of the thread which bound the
tablets together. Hence the many ingenious devices for obliterating,
softening, or imitating the impression, which are so often alluded to by
orators and satirists.

Many of the more important letters, such as Cicero's to Lentulus, that of
Quintus to Cicero, &c. were political pamphlets, which, after they had
done their work, were often published, and met with a ready sale. It is
impossible to ascertain approximately the amount of copying that went on
in Rome, but it was probably far less than is generally supposed. There is
nothing so cramping to the inventive faculty as the existence of slave
labour. How else can we account for the absence of any machinery for
multiplying copies of documents, an inconvenience which, in the case of
the _acta diurna_, as well as of important letters, must have been keenly
felt? Even shorthand and cipher, though known, were rarely practised.
Caesar, [81] however, used them; but in many points he was beyond his age.
In America, where labour is refractory, mechanical substitutes for it are
daily being invented. A calculating machine, and a writing machine, which
not only multiplies but forms the original copy, are inventions so simple
as to indicate that it was want of enterprise rather than of ingenuity
which, made the Romans content with such an imperfect apparatus.

To write a letter well one must have the desire to please. This Cicero
possessed to an almost feminine extent. He thirsted for the approbation of
the good, and when he could not get that he put up with the applause of
the many. And thus his letters are full of that heartiness and vigour
which comes from the determination to do everything he tries to do well.
They have besides the most perfect and unmistakable reality. Every foible
is confessed; every passing thought, even such as one would rather not
confess even to oneself, is revealed and recorded to his friend. It is
from these letters to a great extent that Cicero has been so severely
judged. He stands, say his critics, self-condemned. This is true; but it
is equally true that the ingenuity which pieces together a mosaic out of
these scattered fragments of evidence, and labels it _the character of
Cicero_, is altogether misapplied. One man may reveal everything; another
may reveal nothing; our opinion in either case must be based on the
inferences of common sense and experience of the world, for neither of
such persons is a witness to be trusted. Weakness and inconsistency are
visible indeed in all Cicero's letters; but who can imagine Caesar or
Crassus writing such letters at all? The perfect unreserve which gives
them their charm and their value for us is also the highest possible
testimony to the uprightness of their author.

The collection comprises a great variety of subjects and a considerable
number of correspondents. The most important are those to Atticus, which
were already published in the time of Nepos. Other large volumes existed,
of which only one, that entitled _ad Familiares_ has come down entire to
us. Like the volume to Atticus, it consists of sixteen books, extending
from the year after his consulship until that of his death. The collection
was made by Tiro, Cicero's freedman, after his death, and was perhaps the
earliest of the series. A small collection of letters to his brother (_ad
Quintum Fratrem_), in six books, still remains, and a correspondence
between Cicero and Brutus in two books. The former were written between
the years 60 and 54 B.C. the latter in the period subsequent to the death
of Caesar. The letters to Atticus give us information on all sorts of
topics, political, pecuniary, personal, literary. Everything that occupied
Cicero's mind is spoken of with freedom, for Atticus, though cold and
prudent, had the rare gift of drawing others out. This quality, as well as
his prudence, is attested by Cornelius Nepos; and we observe that when he
advised Cicero his counsel was almost always wise and right. He sustained
him in his adversity, when heart-broken and helpless he contemplated, but
lacked courage to commit suicide; and he sympathised with his success, as
well as aided him in a more tangible sense with the resources of his vast
fortune. Among the many things discussed in the letters we are struck by
the total absence of the philosophical and religious questions which in
other places he describes as his greatest delight. Religion, as we
understand it, had no place in his heart. If we did not possess the
letters, if we judged only by his dialogues and his orations, we should
have imagined him deeply interested in all that concerned the national
faith; but we see that in his genuine moments he never gave it a thought.
Politics, letters, art, his own fame, and the success of his party, such
are the points on which he loves to dwell. But he is also most
communicative on domestic matters, and shows the tenderest family feeling.
To his wife, until the unhappy period of his divorce, to his brother, to
his unworthy son, but above all to his daughter, his beloved _Tulliola_,
he pours forth, all the warmth of a deep affection; and even his freedman
Tiro comes in for a share of kindly banter which shows the friendly
footing on which the great man and his dependant stood. Cicero was of all
men the most humane. While accepting slavery as an institution of his
ancestors, he did all he could to make its burden lighter; he conversed
with his slaves, assisted them, mourned their death, and, in a word,
treated them as human beings. We learn from the letters that in this
matter, and in another of equal importance, the gladiatorial shows, Cicero
was far ahead of the feeling of his time. When he listened to his heart,
it always led him right. And if it led him above all things to repose
complete confidence on his one intimate friend, that only draws us to him
the more; he felt like Bacon that a crowd is not company, and faces are
but a gallery of pictures, and talk is but a tinkling cymbal, where there
is no love.

It only remains very shortly to mention his poetry. He himself knew that
he had not the poetic afflatus, but his immense facility of style which
made it as easy for him to write in verse as in prose, and his desire to
rival the Greeks in every department of composition, tempted him to essay
his wings in various flights of song. We have mentioned his poem on Marius
and those on his consulship and times, which pleased himself best and drew
forth from others the greatest ridicule. He wrote also versions from the
Iliad, of which he quotes several in various works; heroic poems called
_Halcyone_ and _Cimon_, an elegy called _Tamelastis_, [82] a _Libellus
iocularis_, about which we have no certain information, and various
epigrams to Tiro, Caninius, and others. It will he necessary to refer to
some of these works on a future page. We shall therefore pass them by
here, and conclude the chapter with a short notice of the principal
orators who were younger contemporaries of Cicero.

COELIUS, with whom Cicero was often brought into relations, was a quick,
polished, and sometimes lofty speaker; [83] CALIDIUS a delicate and
harmonious one. On one occasion when Calidius was accusing a man of
conspiring against his life, he pleaded with such smoothness and languor,
that Cicero, who was for the defence, at once gained his cause by the
_argumentum ad hominem. Tu istuc M. Calidi nisi fingeres sic ageres?
praesertim cum ista eloquentia alienorum hominum pericula defendere
acerrime soleas, tuum negligeres? Ubi dolor? ubi ardor animi, qui etiam ex
infantium ingeniis elicere voces et querelas solet? Nulla perturbatio
animi, nulla corporis: frons non percussa, non femur; pedis, quod minimum
est, nulla supplosio. Itaque tantum abfuit ut imflammares animos nostros,
somnum isto loco vix tenebamus_. [84] CURIO he describes as bold and
flowing; CALVUS from affectation of Attic purity, as cold, cautious, and
jejune. His dry, sententious style, to which BRUTUS also inclined, was a
reaction from the splendour of Cicero, a splendour which men like these
could never hope to reach; and perhaps it was better that they should
reject all ornament rather than misapply it. It seems that after Cicero
oratory had lost the fountain of its life; he responded so perfectly to
the exigencies of the popular taste and the possibilities of the time,
that after him no new theory of eloquence could be produced, while to
improve upon his practice was evidently hopeless. Thus the reaction that
comes after literary perfection conspired with the dawn of freedom to make
Cicero the last as well as the greatest of those who deserved the name of
orator; and we acknowledge the justice of the poet's epigram, [85]
questioned as it was at the time.


_Poetry of Cicero._

The poems of Cicero are of considerable importance to the student of Latin
versification. His great facility and formal polish made him successful in
producing a much more finished and harmonious cadence than had before been
attained. Coming between Ennius and Lucretius, and evidently studied by
the latter, he is an important link in metrical development. We propose in
this note merely to give some examples of his versification that the
student may judge for himself, and compare them with those of Lucretius,
Catullus, and Virgil. They are quoted from the edition of Orelli (vol. iv.
p. 0112 _sqq._).

From the _Marius_ (Cic. de Legg. I. i. S 2):

"Hic lovis altisoni subito pinnata satelles
Arboris e trunco serpentis saucia morsu
Subrigit, ipsa feris transfigens unguibus, anguem
Semianimum et varia graviter cervice micantem,
Quem se intorquentem lanians rostroque cruentans,
Iam saltata animos, iam duros ulta dolores,
Abiecit ceflantem et laceratum adfligit in unda,
Seque obitu a solis nitidos convertit ad ortus.
Hanc ubi praepetibus pennis lapsuque vo antem
Conspexit Marius, divini miminis augur,
Faustaque signa suae laudis reditusque notavit,
Partibus intonuit caeli pater ipse sinistris.
Sic aquilae clarum firmavit Iuppiter omen."

Praises of himself, from the poem on his consulship (Div. I. ii. S 17

"Haec tardata diu species multumque morata
Consulet tandem celsa est in sede locata,
Atque una tixi ac signati temporis hora,
Iuppiter excelsa clarabat sceptra columna;
Et clades patriae flamma ferroque parata
Vocibus Allobrogum patribus populoque patebat.
Rite igitur veteres quorum monumenta tenetis,
Qui populos urbisque modo ac virtute regebant,
Ritectiam vestri quorum pietasque fidesque
Praestitit ac longe vicit sapientia cunctos
Praecipue coluere vigenti numine divos.
Haec adeo penitus cura videri sagaci
Otia qui studiis laeti tenuere decoris,
Inque Academia umbrifera nitidoque Lyceo
Fuderunt claras fecundi pectoris artis:
E quibus ereptum primo iam a flore in ventae,
Te patria in media virtuttum mole locavit.
Tu tamen auxiferas curas requiete relaxans
Quod patriae vacat id studiis nobisque dedisti."

We append some verses by Quintus Cicero, who the orator declared would
make a better poet than himself. They are on the twelve constellations,
a well-worn but apparently attractive subject:

"Flumina verna cient obscuro lumine Pisces,
Curriculumque Aries aequat noctisque dieque,
Cornua quem comunt florum praenuntia Tauri,
Aridaque aestatis Gemini primordia pandunt,
Longaque iam minuit praeclarus lumina Cancer,
Languiticusque Leo proflat ferus ore calores.
Post modicum quatiens Virgo fugat orta vaporem.
Autumnni reserat porfas aequatque diurna
Tempora nocturnis disperse sidere Libra,
Et fetos ramos denudat flamma Nepai.
Pigra sagittipotens iaculatur frigora terris.
Bruma gelu glacians iubare spirat Capricorni:
Quam sequitur nebulas rorans liquor altus Aquari:
Tanta supra circaque vigent ubi flumina. Mundi
At dextra laevaque cict rota fulgida Solis
Mobile curriculum, et Lunae simulacra feruntur.
Squama sub aeterno conspectu torta Draconis
Eminet: hanc inter fulgentem sidera septem
Magna quatit stellans, quam serrans serus in alia
Conditur Oceani ripa cum luce Bootes."

This is poor stuff; two epigrams are more interesting:


"Crede ratem ventis, animum ne crede puellis:
Namque est feminea tutior unda fide."


"Femina nulla bona est, et, si bona contigit ulla,
Nescio quo fato res mala facta bona."

We observe the entire lack of inspiration, combined with considerable
smoothness, but both, in a feebler degree, which are characteristic of his
brother's poems.



It is well known that Cicero felt strongly tempted to write a history of
Rome. Considering the stirring events among which he lived, the grandeur
of Rome's past, and the exhaustless literary resources which he himself
possessed, we are not surprised either at his conceiving the idea or at
his friends encouraging it. Nevertheless it is fortunate for his literary
fame that he abandoned the proposal, [1] for he would have failed in
history almost more signally than he did in poetry. His mind was not
adapted for the kind of research required, nor his judgment for weighing
historic evidence. When Lucceius announced his intention of writing a
history which should include the Catilinarian conspiracy, Cicero did not
scruple to beg him to enlarge a little on the truth. "You must grant
something to our friendship; let me pray you to delineate my exploits in a
way that shall reflect the greatest possible glory on myself." [2] A lax
conception of historical responsibility, which is not peculiar to Cicero.
He is but an exaggerated type of his nation in this respect. No Roman
author, unless it be Tacitus, has been able fully to grasp the extreme
complexity as well as difficulty of the historian's task. Even the sage
Quintilian maintains the popular misconception when he says, "History is
closely akin to poetry, and is written for purposes of narration not of
proof; being composed with the motive of transmitting our fame to
posterity, it avoids the dulness of continuous narrative by the use of
rarer words and freer periphrases." [3] We may conclude that this
criticism is based on a careful study of the greatest recognised models.
This false opinion arose no doubt from the narrowness of view which
persisted in regarding all kinds of literature as merely exercises in
_style_. For instance accuracy of statements was not regarded as the goal
and object of the writer's labours, but rather as a useful means of
obtaining _clearness of arrangement_; abundant information helped towards
_condensation_; original observation towards _vivacity_; personal
experience of the events towards _pathos_ or _eloquence_.

So unfortunately prevalent was this view that a writer was not called a
historian unless he had considerable pretensions to style. Thus, men who
could write, and had written, in an informal way, excellent historical
accounts, were not studied by their countrymen as historians. Their
writings were relegated to the limbo of antiquarian remains. The habit of
writing notes of their campaigns, memoranda of their public conduct,
copies of their speeches, &c. had for some time been usual among the abler
or more ambitious nobles. Often these were kept by them, laid by for
future elaboration: oftener still they were published, or sent in the form
of letters to the author's friends. The letters of Cicero and his numerous
correspondents present such a series of raw material for history; and in
reading any of the antiquarian writers of Rome we are struck by the large
number of monographs, essays, pamphlets, rough notes, commentaries, and
the like, attributed to public men, to which they had access.

It is quite clear that for many years these documents had existed, and
equally clear that, unless their author was celebrated or their style
elegant, the majority of readers entirely neglected them. Nevertheless
they formed a rich material for the diligent and capable historian. In
using them, however, we could not expect him to show the same critical
acumen, the same impartiality, as a modern writer trained in scientific
criticism and the broad culture of international ideas; to expect this
would be to expect an impossibility. To look at events from a national
instead of a party point of view was hard; to look at them from a human
point of view, as Polybius had done, was still harder. Thus we cannot
expect from Republican Rome any historical work of the same scope and
depth as those of Herodotus and Thucydides; neither the dramatic genius of
the one nor the philosophic insight of the other was to be gained there.
All we can look for is a clear comprehensive narrative, without flagrant
misrepresentation, of some of the leading episodes, and such we
fortunately possess in the memoirs of Caesar and the biographical essays
of Sallust.

The immediate object of the Commentaries of JULIUS CAESAR (100-44 B.C.),
was no doubt to furnish the senate with an authentic military report on
the Gallic and Civil Wars. But they had also an ulterior purpose. They
aspired to justify their author in the eyes of Rome and of posterity in
his attitude of hostility to the constitution.

Pompey was perhaps quite as desirous of supreme power as Caesar, and was
equally ready to make all patriotic motives subordinate to self-interest.
Nevertheless he gained, by his connexion with the senate, the reputation
of defender of the constitution, and thought fit to appropriate the
language of patriotism. Caesar, in his _Commentaries_--which, though both
unfinished and, historically speaking, unconnected with one another,
reveal the deeper connexion of successive products of the same creative
policy--labours throughout to show that he acted in accordance with the
forms of the constitution and for the general good of Rome. This he does
not as a rule attempt to prove by argument. Occasionally he does so, as
when any serious accusation was brought against the legitimacy of his
acts; and these are among the most important and interesting chapters in
his work. [4] But his habitual method of exculpating himself is by his
persuasive moderation of statement, and his masterly collocation of
events. In reading the narrative of the Civil War it is hard to resist the
conviction that he was unfairly treated. Without any terms of reprobation,
with scarcely any harsh language, with merely that wondrous skill in
manipulating the series of facts which genius possesses, he has made his
readers, even against their prepossession, disapprove of Pompey's attitude
and condemn the bitter hostility of the senate. So, too, in the report of
the Gallic War, where diplomatic caution was less required, the same
apparent candour, the same perfect statement of his case, appears. In
every instance of aggressive and ambitious war, there is some equitable
proposal refused, some act of injustice not acknowledged, some
infringement of the dignity of the Roman people committed, which makes it
seem only natural that Caesar should exact reprisals by the sword. On two
or three occasions he betrays how little regard he had for good faith when
barbarians were in consideration, and how completely absent was that
generous clemency in the case of a vanquished foreign prince, which when
exercised towards his own countrymen procured him such enviable renown.
[5] His treacherous conduct towards the Usipetes and Tenchteri, which he
relates with perfect _sang froid_, [6] is such as to shock us beyond
description; his brutal vengeance upon the Atuatici and Veneti, [7] all
whose leading men he murdered, and sold the rest, to the number of 53,000,
by auction; his cruel detention of the noble Vercingetorix, who, after
acting like an honourable foe in the field, voluntarily gave himself up to
appease the conqueror's wrath; [8] these are blots in Caesar's scutcheon,
which, if they do not place him below the recognised standard of action of
the time, prevent him from being placed in any way above it. The theory
that good faith is unnecessary with an uncivilised foe, is but the other
side of the doctrine that it is merely a thing of expediency in the case
of a civilised one. And neither Rome herself, nor many of her greatest
generals, can free themselves from the grievous stain of perfidious
dealing with those whom they found themselves powerful enough so to treat.

But if we can neither approve the want of principle, nor accept the _ex
parte_ statements which are embodied in Caesar's _Commentaries_, we can
admire to the utmost the incredible and almost superhuman activity which,
more than any other quality, enabled him to overcome his enemies. This is
evidently the means on which he himself most relied. The prominence he has
given to it in his writings makes it almost equivalent to a precept. The
burden of his achievements is the continual repetition of _quam celerrime
contendendum ratus,--maximis citissimisque itineribus profectus_,--and
other phrases describing the rapidity of his movements. By this he so
terrified the Pompeians that, hearing he was _en route_ for Rome, they
fled in such dismay as not even to take the money they had amassed for the
war, but to leave it a prey to Caesar. And by the want of this, as he
sarcastically observes, the Pompeians lost their only chance of crushing
him, when, driven from Dyrrhachium, with his army seriously crippled and
provisions almost exhausted, he must have succumbed to the numerous and
well-fed forces opposed to him. [9] He himself would never have committed
such a mistake. The after-work of his victories was frequently more
decisive than the victories themselves. He always pursued his enemies into
their camp, by storming which he not only broke their spirit, but made it
difficult for them to retain their unity of action. No man ever knew so
well the truth of the adage "nothing succeeds like success;" and his
_Commentaries_ from first to last are instinct with a triumphant
consciousness of his knowledge and of his having invariably acted upon it.

A feature which strikes every reader of Caesar is the admiration and
respect he has for his soldiers. Though unsparing of their lives when
occasion demanded, he never speaks of them as "food for powder." Once,
when his men clamoured for battle, but he thought he could gain his point
without shedding blood, he refused to fight, though the discontent became
alarming: "Cur, etiam secundo praelio, aliquas ex suis amitteret? Cur
vulnerari pateretur optime meritos de se milites? cur denique fortunam
periclitaretur, praesertim cum non minus esset imperatoris consilio
superare quam gladio?" This consideration for the lives of his soldiers,
when the storm was over, won him gratitude; and it was no single instance.
Everywhere they are mentioned with high praise, and no small portion of
the victory is ascribed to them. Stories of individual valour are
inserted, and several centurions singled out for special commendation.
Caesar lingers with delight over the exploits of his tenth legion.
Officers and men are all fondly remembered. The heroic conduct of Pulfio
and Varenus, who challenge each other to a display of valour, and by each
saving the other's life are reconciled to a friendly instead of a hostile
rivalry; [10] the intrepidity of the veterans at Lissus, whose self-
reliant bravery calls forth one of the finest descriptions in the whole
book; [11] and the loyal devotion of all when he announces his critical
position, and asks if they will stand by him, [12] are related with
glowing pride. Numerous other merely incidental notices, scattered through
both works, confirm the pleasing impression that commander and commanded
had full confidence in each other; and he relates [13] with pardonable
exultation the speaking fact that among all the hardships they endured
(hardships so terrible that Pompey, seeing the roots on which they
subsisted, declared he had beasts to fight with and not men) not a soldier
except Labienus and two Gaulish officers ever deserted his cause, though
thousands came over to him from the opposite side. It is the greatest
proof of his power over men, and thereby, of his military capacity, that
perhaps it is possible to show.

Besides their clear description of military manoeuvres, of engineering,
bridge-making, and all kinds of operations, in which they may be compared
with the despatches of the great generals of modern times, Caesar's
_Commentaries_ contain much useful information regarding the countries he
visited. There is a wonderful freshness and versatility about his mind.
While primarily considering a country, as he was forced to do, from its
strategical features, or its capacity for furnishing contingents or
tribute, he was nevertheless keenly alive to all objects of interest,
whether in nature or in human customs. The inquiring curiosity with which
Lucan upbraids him during his visit to Egypt, if it were not on that
occasion assumed, as some think, to hide his real projects, was one of the
chief characteristics of his mind. As soon as he thought Gaul was quiet he
hurried to Illyria, [14] animated by the desire to see those nations, and
to observe their customs for himself. His journey into Britain, though by
Suetonius attributed to avarice, which had been kindled by the report of
enormous pearls of fine quality to be found on our coasts, is by himself
attributed to his desire to see so strange a country, and to be the first
to conquer it. [15] His account of our island, though imperfect, is
extremely interesting. He mentions many of our products. The existence of
lead and iron ore was known to him; he does not allude to tin, but its
occurrence can hardly have been unknown to him. He remarks that the beech
and pine do not grow in the south of England, which is probably an
inaccuracy; [16] and he falls into the mistake of supposing that the north
of Scotland enjoys in winter a period of thirty days total darkness. His
account of Gaul, and, to a certain extent, of Germany, is more explicit.
He gives a fine description of the Druids and their mysterious religion,
noticing in particular the firm belief in the immortality of the soul,
which begot indifference to death, and was a great incentive to bravery.
[17] The effects of this belief are dwelt on by Lucan in one of his most
effective passages, [18] which is greatly borrowed from Caesar. Their
knowledge of letters, and their jealous restriction of it to themselves
and express prohibition of any written literature, he attributes partly to
their desire to keep the people ignorant, the common feeling of a powerful
priesthood, and partly to a conviction that writing injures the memory,
which among men of action should be kept in constant exercise. His
acquaintance with German civilization is more superficial, and shows that
incapacity for scientific criticism which was common to all antiquity.
[19] His testimony to the chastity of the German race, confirmed
afterwards by Tacitus, is interesting as showing one of the causes which
have contributed to its greatness. He relates, with apparent belief, the
existence of several extraordinary quadrupeds in the vast Hercynian
forest, such as the unicorn of heraldry, which here first appears; the
elk, which has no joints to its legs, and cannot lie down, whose bulk he
depreciates as much as he exaggerates that of the urus or wild bull, which
he describes as hardly inferior to the elephant in size. To have slain one
of these gigantic animals, and carried off its horns as a trophy, was
almost as great a glory as the possession of the grizzly bear's claws
among the Indians of the Rocky Mountains. Some of his remarks on the
temper of the Gauls might be applied almost without change to their modern
representatives. The French _elan_ is done ample justice to, as well as
the instability and self-esteem of that great people. "_Ut ad bella
suscipienda Gallorum alacer et promptus est animus, sic mollis ac minime
resistens ad calamitates perferendas mens eorum est_." [20] And again,
"_quod sunt in capessendis consiliis mobiles et novis plerumque rebus
student_." [21] He notices the tall stature of both Gauls and Germans,
which was at first the cause of some terror to his soldiers, and some
contemptuousness on their part. [22] "_Plerisque hominibus Gallis prae
magnitudine corporum suorum brevitas nostra contemptui est_."

Caesar himself was of commanding presence, great bodily endurance, and
heroic personal daring. These were qualities which his enemies knew how to
respect. On one occasion, when his legions were blockaded in Germany, he
penetrated at night to his camp disguised as a Gaul; and in more than one
battle he turned the fortune of the day by his extraordinary personal
courage, fighting on foot before his wavering troops, or snatching the
standard from the centurion's timid grasp. He took the greatest pains to
collect accurate information, and frequently he tells us who his
informants were. [23] Where there was no reason for the suppression or
misrepresentation of truth, Caesar's statements may be implicitly relied
on. No man knew human nature better, or how to decide between conflicting
assertions. He rarely indulges in conjecture, but in investigating the
motives of his adversaries he is penetrating and unmerciful. At the
commencement of the treatise on the civil war he gives his opinion as to
the considerations that weighed with Lentulus, Cato, Scipio, and Pompey;
and it is characteristic of the man that of all he deals most hardly with
Cato, whose pretensions annoyed him, and in whose virtue he did not
believe. To the bravest of his Gallic enemies he is not unjust. The Nervii
in particular, by their courage and self-devotion, excite his warm
admiration, [24] and while he felt it necessary to exterminate them, they
seem to have been among the very few that moved his pity.

As to the style of these two great works, no better criticism can be given
than that of Cicero in the _Brutus_; [25] "They are worthy of all praise:
they are unadorned, straightforward, and elegant, every ornament being
stripped off as it were a garment. While he desired to give others the
material out of which to create a history; he may perhaps have done a
kindness to conceited writers who wish to trick them out with meretricious
graces; [26] but he has deterred all men of sound taste from touching
them. For in history a pure and brilliant conciseness of style is the
highest attainable beauty." Condensed as they are, and often almost bald,
they have that matchless clearness which marks the mind that is master of
its entire subject. We have only to compare them with the excellent but
immeasurably inferior commentaries of Hirtius to estimate their value in
this respect. Precision, arrangement, method, are qualities that never
leave them from beginning to end. It is much to be regretted that they are
so imperfect and that the text is not in a better state. In the _Civil
War_ particularly, gaps frequently occur, and both the beginning and the
end are lost. They were written during the campaign, though no doubt cast
into their present form in the intervals of winter leisure. Hirtius, who,
at Caesar's request, appended an eighth book to the _Gallic War_, tells us
in a letter to Balbus, how rapidly he wrote. "I wish that those who will
read my book could know how unwillingly I took it in hand, that I might
acquit myself of folly and arrogance in completing what Caesar had begun.
For all agree; that the elegance of these commentaries surpasses the most
laborious efforts of other writers. They were edited to prevent historians
being ignorant of matters of such high importance. But so highly are they
approved by the universal verdict that the power of amplifying them has
been rather taken away than bestowed by their publication. [27] And yet I
have a right to marvel at this even more than others. For while others
know how faultlessly they are written, I know with what ease and rapidity
he dashed them off. For Caesar, besides the highest conceivable literary
gift, possessed the most perfect skill in explaining his designs." This
testimony of his most intimate friend is confirmed by a careful perusal of
the works, the elaboration of which, though very great, consists, not in
the execution of details, but in the carefully meditated design. The
_Commentaries_ have always been a favourite book with soldiers as with
scholars. Their Latinity is not more pure than their tactics are
instructive. Nor are the loftier graces of composition wanting. The
speeches of Curio rise into eloquence. [28] Petreius's despair at the
impending desertion of his army [29] is powerfully drawn, and the
contrast, brief but effective, between the Pompeians' luxury and his own
army's want of common necessaries, assumes all the grandeur of a moral
warning. [30]

The example of their general and their own devotion induced other
distinguished men to complete his work. A. Hirtius (consul 43 B.C.), who
served with him in the Gallic and Civil Wars, as we have seen, added at
his request an eighth book to the history of the former; and in the
judgment of the best critics the _Alexandrine War_ is also by his hand.
From these two treatises, which are written in careful imitation of
Caesar's manner, we form a high conception of the literary standard among
men of education. For Hirtius, though a good soldier and an efficient
consul, was a literary man only by accident. It was Caesar who ordered him
to write, first a reply to Cicero's panegyric on Cato, and then the Gallic
Commentary. Nevertheless, his two books show no inferiority in taste or
diction to those of his illustrious chief. They of course lack his genius;
but there is the same purity of style, the same perfect moderation of

Nothing is more striking than the admirable taste of the highest
conversational language at Rome in the seventh century of the Republic.
Not only Hirtius, but Matius, Balbus, Sulpicius, Brutus, Cassius and other
correspondents of Cicero, write to him in a dialect as pure as his own. It
is true they have not his grace, his inimitable freedom and copiousness.
Most of them are somewhat laboured, and give us the impression of having
acquired with difficulty the control of their inflexible material. But the
intimate study of the noble language in which they wrote compels us to
admit that it was fully equal to the clear exposition of the severest
thought and the most subtle diplomatic reasoning. But its prime was
already passing. Even men of the noblest family could not without long
discipline attain the lofty standard of the best conversational
requirements. Sextus Pompeius is said to have been _sermone barbarus_.
[31] On this Niebuhr well remarks: "It is remarkable to see how at that
time men who did not receive a thorough education neglected their mother-
tongue, and spoke a corrupt form of it. The _urbanitas_, or perfection of
the language, easily degenerated unless it were kept up by careful study.
Cicero [32] speaks of the _sermo urbanus_ in the time of Laelius, and
observes that the ladies of that age spoke exquisitely. But in Caesar's
time it had begun to decay." Caesar, in one of his writings, tells his
reader to shun like a rock every unusual form of speech. [33] And this
admirable counsel he has himself generally followed--but few
provincialisms or archaisms can be detected in his pages. [34] In respect
of style he stands far at the head of all the Latin historians. The
authorship of the _African War_ is doubtful; it seems best, with Niebuhr,
to assign it to Oppius. The _Spanish War_ is obviously written by a person
of a different sort. It may either be, as Niebuhr thinks, the work of a
centurion or military tribune in the common rank of life, or, as we
incline to think, of a provincial, perhaps a Spaniard, who was well read
in the older literature of Rome, but could not seize the complex and
delicate idiom of the _beau monde_ of his day. With vulgarisms like _bene
magni, in opere distenti_, [35] and inaccuracies like _ad ignoscendum_ for
_ad se excusandum_, [36] _quam opimam_ for _quam optimam_, [37] he
combines quotations from Ennius, _e.g. hic pes pede premitur, armis
teruntur arma_, [38] and rhetorical constructions, _e.g. alteri alteris
non solum mortem morti exaggerabant, sed tumulos tumulis exaequabant_.
[39] He quotes the words of Caesar in a form of which we can hardly
believe the dictator to have been guilty: "_Caesar gives conditions: he
never receives them_:" [40] and again, "_I am Caesar: I keep my faith_."
[41] Points like these, to which we may add his fondness for dwelling on
horrid details [42] (always omitted by Caesar), and for showy
descriptions, as that of the single combat between Turpio and Niger, [43]
seem to mark him out as in mind if not in race a Spaniard. These are the
very features we find recurring in Lucan and Seneca, which, joined to
undoubted talent, brought a most pernicious element into the Latin style.

To us Caesar's literary power is shown in the sphere of history. But to
his contemporaries he was even more distinguished in other fields. As an
orator he was second, and only second, to Cicero. [44] His vigorous sense,
close argument, brilliant wit, and perfect command of language, made him,
from his first appearance as accuser of Dolabella at the age of 22, one of
the foremost orators of Rome. And he possessed also, though he kept in
check, that greatest weapon of eloquence, the power to stir the passions.
But with him eloquence was a means, not an end. He spoke to gain his

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