Rev. W. Lucas Collins

Part 1 out of 3

Produced by Stan Goodman, Ted Garvin, Lazar Liveanu and PG Distributed

_Ancient Classics for English Readers_

edited by the



by the



I have to acknowledge my obligations to Mr. Forsyth's well-known 'Life of
Cicero', especially as a guide to the biographical materials which abound
in his Orations and Letters. Mr. Long's scholarly volumes have also been
found useful. For the translations, such as they are, I am responsible. If
I could have met with any which seemed to me more satisfactory, I would
gladly have adopted them.







When we speak, in the language of our title-page, of the 'Ancient
Classics', we must remember that the word 'ancient' is to be taken with
a considerable difference, in one sense. Ancient all the Greek and Roman
authors are, as dated comparatively with our modern era. But as to the
antique character of their writings, there is often a difference which
is not merely one of date. The poetry of Homer and Hesiod is ancient, as
having been sung and written when the society in which the authors lived,
and to which they addressed themselves, was in its comparative infancy.
The chronicles of Herodotus are ancient, partly from their subject-matter
and partly from their primitive style. But in this sense there are ancient
authors belonging to every nation which has a literature of its own.
Viewed in this light, the history of Thucydides, the letters and orations
of Cicero, are not ancient at all. Bede, and Chaucer, and Matthew of
Paris, and Froissart, are far more redolent of antiquity. The several
books which make up what we call the Bible are all ancient, no doubt; but
even between the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and the Epistles of St.
Paul there is a far wider real interval than the mere lapse of centuries.

In one respect, the times of Cicero, in spite of their complicated
politics, should have more interest for a modern reader than most of what
is called Ancient History. Forget the date but for a moment, and there
is scarcely anything ancient about them. The scenes and actors are
modern--terribly modern; far more so than the middle ages of Christendom.
Between the times of our own Plantagenets and Georges, for instance, there
is a far wider gap, in all but years, than between the consulships of
Caesar and Napoleon. The habits of life, the ways of thinking, the family
affections, the tastes of the Romans of Cicero's day, were in many
respects wonderfully like our own; the political jealousies and rivalries
have repeated themselves again and again in the last two or three
centuries of Europe: their code of political honour and morality, debased
as it was, was not much lower than that which was held by some great
statesmen a generation or two before us. Let us be thankful if the most
frightful of their vices were the exclusive shame of paganism.

It was in an old but humble country-house, neat the town of Arpinum, under
the Volscian hills, that Marcus Tullius Cicero was born, one hundred
and six years before the Christian era. The family was of ancient
'equestrian'[1] dignity, but as none of its members had hitherto borne
any office of state, it did not rank as 'noble'. His grandfather and his
father had borne the same three names--the last an inheritance from some
forgotten ancestor, who had either been successful in the cultivation of
vetches (_cicer_), or, as less complimentary traditions said, had a
wart of that shape upon his nose. The grandfather was still living when
the little Cicero was born; a stout old conservative, who had successfully
resisted the attempt to introduce vote by ballot into his native town, and
hated the Greeks (who were just then coming into fashion) as heartily as
his English representative, fifty years ago, might have hated a Frenchman.
"The more Greek a man knew", he protested, "the greater rascal he turned
out". The father was a man of quiet habits, taking no part even in local
politics, given to books, and to the enlargement and improvement of the
old family house, which, up to his time, seems not to have been more than
a modest grange. The situation (on a small island formed by the little
river Fibrenus[2]) was beautiful and romantic; and the love for it, which
grew up with the young Cicero as a child, he never lost in the busy days
of his manhood. It was in his eyes, he said, what Ithaca was to Ulysses,

"A rough, wild nurse-land, but whose crops are men".

[Footnote 1: The _Equites_ were originally those who served in the
Roman cavalry; but latterly all citizens came to be reckoned in the class
who had a certain property qualification, and who could prove free
descent up to their grandfather.]

[Footnote 2: Now known as Il Fiume della Posta. Fragments of Cicero's
villa are thought to have been discovered built into the walls of the
deserted convent of San Dominico. The ruin known as 'Cicero's Tower' has
probably no connection with him.]

There was an aptness in the quotation; for at Arpinum, a few years before,
was born that Caius Marius, seven times consul of Rome, who had at least
the virtue of manhood in him, if he had few besides.

But the quiet country gentleman was ambitious for his son. Cicero's
father, like Horace's, determined to give him the best education in his
power; and of course the best education was to be found in Rome, and the
best teachers there were Greeks. So to Rome young Marcus was taken in
due time, with his younger brother Quintus. They lodged with their
uncle-in-law, Aculeo, a lawyer of some distinction, who had a house in
rather a fashionable quarter of the city, and moved in good society; and
the two boys attended the Greek lectures with their town cousins. Greek
was as necessary a part of a Roman gentleman's education in those days as
Latin and French are with us now; like Latin, it was the key to literature
(for the Romans had as yet, it must be remembered, nothing worth calling
literature of their own); and, like French, it was the language of
refinement and the play of polished society. Let us hope that by this time
the good old grandfather was gathered peacefully into his urn; it might
have broken his heart to have seen how enthusiastically his grandson
Marcus threw himself into this newfangled study; and one of those letters
of his riper years, stuffed full of Greek terms and phrases even to
affectation, would have drawn anything but blessings from the old
gentleman if he had lived to hear them read.

Young Cicero went through the regular curriculum--grammar, rhetoric, and
the Greek poets and historians. Like many other youthful geniuses, he
wrote a good deal of poetry of his own, which his friends, as was natural,
thought very highly of at the time, and of which he himself retained the
same good opinion to the end of his life, as would have been natural to
few men except Cicero. But his more important studies began after he had
assumed the 'white gown' which marked the emergence of the young Roman
from boyhood into more responsible life--at sixteen years of age. He then
entered on a special education for the bar. It could scarcely be called a
profession, for an advocate's practice at Rome was gratuitous; but it was
the best training for public life;--it was the ready means, to an able and
eloquent man, of gaining that popular influence which would secure
his election in due course to the great magistracies which formed the
successive steps to political power. The mode of studying law at Rome bore
a very considerable resemblance to the preparation for the English bar.
Our modern law-student purchases his admission to the chambers of some
special pleader or conveyancer, where he is supposed to learn his future
business by copying precedents and answering cases, and he also attends
the public lectures at the Inns of Court. So at Rome the young aspirant
was to be found (but at a much earlier hour than would suit the Temple or
Lincoln's Inn) in the open hall of some great jurist's House, listening
to his opinions given to the throng of clients who crowded there every
morning; while his more zealous pupils would accompany him in his stroll
in the Forum, and attend his pleadings in the courts or his speeches on
the Rostra, either taking down upon their tablets, or storing in their
memories, his _dicta_ upon legal questions.[1] In such wise Cicero
became the pupil of Mucius Scaevola, whose house was called "the oracle
of Rome"--scarcely ever leaving his side, as he himself expresses it; and
after that great lawyer's death, attaching himself in much the same way to
a younger cousin of the same name and scarcely less reputation. Besides
this, to arm himself at all points for his proposed career, he read logic
with Diodotus the Stoic, studied the action of Esop and Roscius--then the
stars of the Roman stage--declaimed aloud like Demosthenes in private,
made copious notes, practised translation in order to form a written
style, and read hard day and night. He trained severely as an intellectual
athlete; and if none of his contemporaries attained such splendid success,
perhaps none worked so hard for it. He made use, too, of certain special
advantages which were open to him--little appreciated, or at least seldom
acknowledged, by the men of his day--the society and conversation of
elegant and accomplished women. In Scaevola's domestic circle, where the
mother, the daughters, and the grand-daughters successively seem to have
been such charming talkers that language found new graces from their lips,
the young advocate learnt some of his not least valuable lessons. "It
makes no little difference", said he in his riper years, "what style of
expression one becomes familiar with in the associations of daily life".
It was another point of resemblance between the age of Cicero and the
times in which we live--the influence of the "queens of society", whether
for good or evil.

[Footnote 1: These _dicta_, or 'opinions', of the great jurists,
acquired a sort of legal validity in the Roman law-courts, like 'cases'
with us.]

But no man could be completely educated for a public career at Rome until
he had been a soldier. By what must seem to us a mistake in the Republican
system--a mistake which we have seen made more than once in the late
American war--high political offices were necessarily combined with
military command. The highest minister of state, consul or praetor,
however hopelessly civilian in tastes and antecedents, might be sent to
conduct a campaign in Italy or abroad at a few hours' notice. If a man was
a heaven-born general, all went well; if not, he had usually a chance of
learning in the school of defeat. It was desirable, at all events, that he
should have seen what war was in his youth. Young Cicero served his first
campaign, at the age of eighteen, under the father of a man whom he was to
know only too well in after life--Pompey the Great--and in the division of
the army which was commanded by Sylla as lieutenant-general. He bore arms
only for a year or two, and probably saw no very arduous service, or we
should certainly have beard of it from himself; and he never was in camp
again until he took the chief command, thirty-seven years afterwards,
as pro-consul in Cilicia. He was at Rome, leading a quiet
student-life--happily for himself, too young to be forced or tempted into
an active part--during the bloody feuds between Sylla and the younger

He seems to have made his first appearance as an advocate when he was
about twenty-five, in some suit of which we know nothing. Two years
afterwards he undertook his first defence of a prisoner on a capital
charge, and secured by his eloquence the acquittal of Sextus Roscius on an
accusation of having murdered his father. The charge appears to have been
a mere conspiracy, wholly unsupported by evidence; but the accuser was a
favourite with Sylla, whose power was all but absolute; and the innocence
of the accused was a very insufficient protection before a Roman jury of
those days. What kind of considerations, besides the merits of the case
and the rhetoric of counsel, did usually sway these tribunals, we shall
see hereafter. In consequence of this decided success, briefs came in upon
the young pleader almost too quickly. Like many other successful orators,
he had to combat some natural deficiencies; he had inherited from his
father a somewhat delicate constitution; his lungs were not powerful,
and his voice required careful management; and the loud declamation and
vehement action which he had adopted from his models--and which were
necessary conditions of success in the large arena in which a Roman
advocate had to plead--he found very hard work. He left Rome for a while,
and retired for rest and change to Athens.

The six months which he spent there, though busy and studious, must have
been very pleasant ones. To one like Cicero, Athens was at once classic
and holy ground. It combined all those associations and attractions which
we might now expect to find in a visit to the capitals of Greece and
of Italy, and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Poetry, rhetoric, philosophy,
religion--all, to his eyes, had their cradle there. It was the home of
all that was literature to him; and there, too, were the great Eleusinian
mysteries--which are mysteries still, but which contained under their
veil whatever faith in the Invisible and Eternal rested in the mind of an
enlightened pagan. There can be little doubt but that Cicero took this
opportunity of initiation. His brother Quintus and one of his cousins were
with him at Athens; and in that city he also renewed his acquaintance with
an old school-fellow, Titus Pomponius, who lived so long in the city, and
became so thoroughly Athenian in his tastes and habits, that he is better
known to us, as he was to his contemporaries, by the surname of Atticus,
which was given him half in jest, than by his more sonorous Roman name. It
is to the accidental circumstance of Atticus remaining so long a voluntary
exile from Rome, and to the correspondence which was maintained
between the two friends, with occasional intervals, for something like
four-and-twenty years, that we are indebted for a more thorough insight
into the character of Cicero than we have as to any other of the great
minds of antiquity; nearly four hundred of his letters to Atticus, written
in all the familiar confidence of private friendship by a man by no
means reticent as to his personal feelings, having been preserved to us.
Atticus's replies are lost; it is said that he was prudent enough, after
his friend's unhappy death, to reclaim and destroy them. They would
perhaps have told us, in his case, not very much that we care to know
beyond what we know already. Rich, luxurious, with elegant tastes and
easy morality--a true Epicurean, as he boasted himself to be--Atticus had
nevertheless a kind heart and an open hand. He has generally been called
selfish, somewhat unfairly; at least his selfishness never took the form
of indifference or unkindness to others. In one sense he was a truer
philosopher than Cicero: for he seems to have acted through life on that
maxim of Socrates which his friend professed to approve, but certainly
never followed,--that "a wise man kept out of public business". His
vocation was certainly not patriotism; but the worldly wisdom which
kept well with men of all political colours, and eschewed the wretched
intrigues and bloody feuds of Rome, stands out in no unfavourable contrast
with the conduct of many of her _soi-disant_ patriots. If he declined
to take a side himself, men of all parties resorted to him in their
adversity; and the man who befriended the younger Marius in his exile,
protected the widow of Antony, gave shelter on his estates to the victims
of the triumvirate's proscription, and was always ready to offer his
friend Cicero both his house and his purse whenever the political horizon
clouded round him,--this man was surely as good a citizen as the noisiest
clamourer for "liberty" in the Forum, or the readiest hand with the
dagger. He kept his life and his property safe through all those years of
peril and proscription, with less sacrifice of principle than many who
had made louder professions, and died--by a singular act of voluntary
starvation, to make short work with an incurable disease--at a ripe old
age; a godless Epicurean, no doubt, but not the worst of them.

We must return to Cicero, and deal somewhat briefly with the next few
years of his life. He extended his foreign tour for two years, visiting
the chief cities of Asia Minor, remaining for a short time at Rhodes
to take lessons once more from his old tutor Molo the rhetorician, and
everywhere availing himself of the lectures of the most renowned Greek
professors, to correct and improve his own style of composition and
delivery. Soon after his return to Rome, he married. Of the character of
his wife Terentia very different views have been taken. She appears to
have written to him very kindly during his long forced absences. Her
letters have not reached us; but in all her husband's replies she is
mentioned in terms of apparently the most sincere affection. He calls
her repeatedly his "darling"--"the delight of his eyes"--"the best of
mothers;" yet he procured a divorce from her, for no distinctly assigned
reason, after a married life of thirty years, during which we find no
trace of any serious domestic unhappiness. The imputations on her honour
made by Plutarch, and repeated by others, seem utterly without foundation;
and Cicero's own share in the transaction is not improved by the fact of
his taking another wife as soon as possible--a ward of his own, an almost
girl, with whom he did not live a year before a second divorce released
him. Terentia is said also to have had an imperious temper; but the
only ground for this assertion seems to have been that she quarrelled
occasionally with her sister-in-law Pomponia, sister of Atticus and wife
of Quintus Cicero; and since Pomponia, by her own brother's account,
showed her temper very disagreeably to her husband, the feud between the
ladies was more likely to have been her fault than Terentia's. But the
very low notion of the marriage relations entertained by both the later
Greeks and Romans helps to throw some light upon a proceeding which would
otherwise seem very mysterious. Terentia, as is pretty plain from the
hints in her husband's letters, was not a good manager in money matters;
there is room for suspicion that she was not even an honest one in his
absence, and was "making a purse" for herself; she had thus failed in
one of the only two qualifications which, according to Demosthenes--an
authority who ranked very high in Cicero's eyes--were essential in a wife,
to be "a faithful house-guardian" and "a fruitful mother". She did not die
of a broken heart; she lived to be 104, and, according to Dio Cassius, to
have three more husbands. Divorces were easy enough at Rome, and had the
lady been a rich widow, there might be nothing so improbable in this
latter part of the story, though she was fifty years old at the date of
this first divorce.[1]

[Footnote 1: Cato, who is the favourite impersonation of all the moral
virtues of his age, divorced his wife--to oblige a friend!]



Increasing reputation as a brilliant and successful pleader, and the
social influence which this brought with it, secured the rapid succession
of Cicero to the highest public offices. Soon after his marriage he was
elected Quaestor--the first step on the official ladder--which, as he
already possessed the necessary property qualification, gave him a seat in
the Senate for life. The Aedileship and Praetorship followed subsequently,
each as early, in point of age, as it could legally be held.[1] His
practice as an advocate suffered no interruption, except that his
Quaestorship involved his spending a year in Sicily. The Praetor who
was appointed to the government of that province[2] had under him two
quaestors, who were a kind of comptrollers of the exchequer; and Cicero
was appointed to the western district, having his headquarters at
Lilybaeum. In the administration of his office there he showed himself a
thorough man of business. There was a dearth of corn at Rome that year,
and Sicily was the great granary of the empire. The energetic measures
which the new Quaestor took fully met the emergency. He was liberal to
the tenants of the State, courteous and accessible to all, upright in his
administration, and, above all, he kept his hands clean from bribes and
peculation. The provincials were as much astonished as delighted: for Rome
was not in the habit of sending them such officers. They invented honours
for him such as had never been bestowed on any minister before.

[Footnote 1: The Quaestors (of whom there were at this time twenty) acted
under the Senate as State treasurers. The Consul or other officer who
commanded in chief during a campaign would be accompanied by one of them
as paymaster-general.

The Aediles, who were four in number, had the care of all public
buildings, markets, roads, and the State property generally. They had also
the superintendence of the national festivals and public games.

The duties of the Praetors, of whom there were eight, were principally
judicial. The two seniors, called the 'City' and 'Foreign' respectively,
corresponded roughly to our Home and Foreign Secretaries. These were all
gradual steps to the office of Consul.]

[Footnote 2: The provinces of Rome, in their relation to the mother-state
of Italy, may be best compared with our own government of India, or such
of our crown colonies as have no representative assembly. They had each
their governor or lieutenant-governor, who must have been an ex-minister
of Rome: a man who had been Consul went out with the rank of
"pro-consul",--one who had been Praetor with the rank of "pro-praetor".
These held office for one or two years, and had the power of life and
death within their respective jurisdictions. They had under them one or
more officers who bore the title of Quaestor, who collected the taxes and
had the general management of the revenues of the province. The provinces
at this time were Sicily, Sardinia with Corsica, Spain and Gaul (each in
two divisions); Greece, divided into Macedonia and Achaia (the Morea);
Asia, Syria, Cilicia, Bithynia, Cyprus, and Africa in four divisions.
Others were added afterwards, under the Empire.]

No wonder the young official's head (he was not much over thirty)
was somewhat turned. "I thought", he said, in one of his speeches
afterwards--introducing with a quiet humour, and with all a practised
orator's skill, one of those personal anecdotes which relieve a long
speech--"I thought in my heart, at the time, that the people at Rome must
be talking of nothing but my quaestorship". And he goes on to tell his
audience how he was undeceived.

"The people of Sicily had devised for me unprecedented honours. So I left
the island in a state of great elation, thinking that the Roman people
would at once offer me everything without my seeking. But when I was
leaving my province, and on my road home, I happened to land at Puteoli
just at the time when a good many of our most fashionable people are
accustomed to resort to that neighbourhood. I very nearly collapsed,
gentlemen, when a man asked me what day I had left Rome, and whether there
was any news stirring? When I made answer that I was returning from my
province--'Oh! yes, to be sure', said he; 'Africa, I believe?' 'No', said
I to him, considerably annoyed and disgusted; 'from Sicily'. Then somebody
else, with the air of a man who knew all about it, said to him--'What!
don't you know that he was Quaestor at _Syracuse_?' [It was at
Lilybaeum--quite a different district.] No need to make a long story of
it; I swallowed my indignation, and made as though I, like the rest, had
come there for the waters. But I am not sure, gentlemen, whether that
scene did not do me more good than if everybody then and there had
publicly congratulated me. For after I had thus found out that the people
of Rome have somewhat deaf ears, but very keen and sharp eyes, I left off
cogitating what people would hear about me; I took care that thenceforth
they should see me before them every day: I lived in their sight, I stuck
close to the Forum; the porter at my gate refused no man admittance--my
very sleep was never allowed to be a plea against an audience".[1]

[Footnote 1: Defence of Plancius, c. 26, 27.]

Did we not say that Cicero was modern, not ancient? Have we not here the
original of that Cambridge senior wrangler, who, happening to enter a
London theatre at the same moment with the king, bowed all round with a
gratified embarrassment, thinking that the audience rose and cheered at

It was while he held the office of Aedile that he made his first
appearance as public prosecutor, and brought to justice the most important
criminal of the day. Verres, late Praetor in Sicily, was charged with
high crimes and misdemeanours in his government. The grand scale of his
offences, and the absorbing interest of the trial, have led to his case
being quoted as an obvious parallel to that of Warren Hastings, though
with much injustice to the latter, so far as it may seem to imply any
comparison of moral character. This Verres, the corrupt son of a corrupt
father, had during his three years' rule heaped on the unhappy province
every evil which tyranny and rapacity could inflict. He had found it
prosperous and contented: he left it exhausted and smarting under its
wrongs. He met his impeachment now with considerable confidence. The gains
of his first year of office were sufficient, he said, for himself; the
second had been for his friends; the third produced more than enough to
bribe a jury.

The trials at Rome took place in the Forum--the open space, of nearly five
acres, lying between the Capitoline and Palatine hills. It was the city
market-place, but it was also the place where the population assembled for
any public meeting, political or other--where the idle citizen strolled
to meet his friends and hear the gossip of the day, and where the man
of business made his appointments. Courts for the administration of
justice--magnificent halls, called _basilicae_--had by this time been
erected on the north and south sides, and in these the ordinary trials
took place; but for state trials the open Forum was itself the court. One
end of the wide area was raised on a somewhat higher level--a kind of dais
on a large scale--and was separated from the rest by the Rostra, a sort of
stage from which the orators spoke. It was here that the trials were held.
A temporary tribunal for the presiding officer, with accommodation for
counsel, witnesses, and jury, was erected in the open air; and the scene
may perhaps best be pictured by imagining the principal square in
some large town fitted up with open hustings on a large scale for an
old-fashioned county election, by no means omitting the intense popular
excitement and mob violence appropriate to such occasions. Temples of the
gods and other public buildings overlooked the area, and the steps of
these, on any occasion of great excitement, would be crowded by those who
were anxious to see at least, if they could not hear.

Verres, as a state criminal, would be tried before a special commission,
and by a jury composed at this time entirely from the senatorial order,
chosen by lot (with a limited right of challenge reserved to both parties)
from a panel made out every year by the praetor. This magistrate, who
was a kind of minister of justice, usually presided on such occasions,
occupying the curule chair, which was one of the well-known privileges of
high office at Rome. But his office was rather that of the modern chairman
who keeps order at a public meeting than that of a judge. Judge, in our
sense of the word, there was none; the jury were the judges both of law
and fact. They were, in short, the recognised assessors of the praetor, in
whose hands the administration of justice was supposed to lie. The law,
too, was of a highly flexible character, and the appeals of the advocates
were rather to the passions and feelings of the jurors than to the legal
points of the case. Cicero himself attached comparatively little weight
to this branch of his profession;--"Busy as I am", he says in one of his
speeches, "I could make myself lawyer enough in three days". The jurors
gave each their vote by ballot,--'guilty', 'not guilty', or (as in the
Scotch courts) 'not proven',--and the majority carried the verdict.

But such trials as that of Verres were much more like an impeachment
before the House of Commons than a calm judicial inquiry. The men who
would have to try a defendant of his class would be, in very few cases,
honest and impartial weighers of the evidence. Their large number (varying
from fifty to seventy) weakened the sense of individual responsibility,
and laid them more open to the appeal of the advocates to their political
passions. Most of them would come into court prejudiced in some degree
by the interests of party; many would be hot partisans. Cicero, in his
treatise on 'Oratory', explains clearly for the pleader's guidance the
nature of the tribunals to which he had to appeal. "Men are influenced
in their verdicts much more by prejudice or favour, or greed of gain,
or anger, or indignation, or pleasure, or hope or fear, or by
misapprehension, or by some excitement of their feelings, than either by
the facts of the case, or by established precedents, or by any rules or
principles whatever either of law or equity".

Verres was supported by some of the most powerful families at Rome.
Peculation on the part of governors of provinces had become almost a
recognised principle: many of those who held offices of state either had
done, or were waiting their turn to do, much the same as the present
defendant; and every effort had been made by his friends either to
put off the trial indefinitely, or to turn it into a sham by procuring
the appointment of a private friend and creature of his own as public
prosecutor. On the other hand, the Sicilian families, whom he had wronged
and outraged, had their share of influence also at Rome, and there was
a growing impatience of the insolence and rapacity of the old governing
houses, of whose worst qualities the ex-governor of Sicily was a fair
type. There were many reasons which would lead Cicero to take up such a
cause energetically. It was a great opening for him in what we may call
his profession: his former connection with the government of Sicily gave
him a personal interest in the cause of the province; and, above all, the
prosecution of a state offender of such importance was a lift at once into
the foremost ranks of political life. He spared no pains to get up his
case thoroughly. He went all over the island collecting evidence; and his
old popularity there did him good service in the work.

There was, indeed, evidence enough against the late governor. The reckless
gratification of his avarice and his passions had seldom satisfied him,
without the addition of some bitter insult to the sufferers. But there was
even a more atrocious feature in the case, of which Cicero did not fail to
make good use in his appeal to a Roman jury. Many of the unhappy victims
had the Roman franchise. The torture of an unfortunate Sicilian might be
turned into a jest by a clever advocate for the defence, and regarded by a
philosophic jury with less than the cold compassion with which we regard
the sufferings of the lower animals; but "to scourge a man that was a
Roman and uncondemned", even in the far-off province of Judea, was a
thought which, a century later, made the officers of the great Empire,
at its pitch of power, tremble before a wandering teacher who bore the
despised name of Christian. No one can possibly tell the tale so well as
Cicero himself; and the passage from his speech for the prosecution is an
admirable specimen both of his power of pathetic narrative and scathing
denunciation, "How shall I speak of Publius Gavius, a citizen of Consa?
With what powers of voice, with what force of language, with what
sufficient indignation of soul, can I tell the tale? Indignation, at
least, will not fail me: the more must I strive that in this my pleading
the other requisites may be made to meet the gravity of the subject, the
intensity of my feeling. For the accusation is such that, when it was
first laid before me, I did not think to make use of it; though I knew it
to be perfectly true, I did not think it would be credible.--How shall I
now proceed?--when I have already been speaking for so many hours on one
subject--his atrocious cruelty; when I have exhausted upon other points
well-nigh all the powers of language such as alone is suited to that man's
crimes;--when I have taken no precaution to secure your attention by any
variety in my charges against him,--in what fashion can I now speak on a
charge of this importance? I think there is one way--one course, and only
one, left for me to take. I will place the facts before you; and they have
in themselves such weight, that no eloquence--I will not say of mine, for
I have none--but of any man's, is needed to excite your feelings.

"This Gavius of Consa, of whom I speak, had been among the crowds of Roman
citizens who had been thrown into prison under that man. Somehow he had
made his escape out of the Quarries,[1] and had got to Messana; and when
he saw Italy and the towers of Rhegium now so close to him, and out of
the horror and shadow of death felt himself breathe with a new life as he
scented once more the fresh air of liberty and the laws, he began to talk
at Messana, and to complain that he, a Roman citizen, had been put in
irons--that he was going straight to Rome--that he would be ready there
for Verres on his arrival.

[Footnote 1: This was one of the state prisons at Syracuse, so called,
said to have been constructed by the tyrant Dionysius. They were the
quarries from which the stone was dug for building the city, and had been
converted to their present purpose. Cicero, who no doubt had seen the one
in question, describes it as sunk to an immense depth in the solid rock.
There was no roof; and the unhappy prisoners were exposed there "to the
sun by day and to the rain and frosts by night". In these places the
survivors of the unfortunate Athenian expedition against Syracuse were
confined, and died in great numbers.]

"The wretched man little knew that he might as well have talked in this
fashion in the governor's palace before his very face, as at Messana.
For, as I told you before, this city he had selected for himself as the
accomplice in his crimes, the receiver of his stolen goods, the confidant
of all his wickedness. So Gavius is brought at once before the city
magistrates; and, as it so chanced, on that very day Verres himself came
to Messana. The case is reported to him; that there is a certain Roman
citizen who complained of having been put into the Quarries at Syracuse;
that as he was just going on board ship, and was uttering threats--really
too atrocious--against Verres, they had detained him, and kept him in
custody, that the governor himself might decide about him as should seem
to him good. Verres thanks the gentlemen, and extols their goodwill and
zeal for his interests. He himself, burning with rage and malice, comes
down to the court. His eyes flashed fire; cruelty was written on every
line of his face. All present watched anxiously to see to what lengths he
meant to go, or what steps he would take; when suddenly he ordered the
prisoner to be dragged forth, and to be stripped and bound in the open
forum, and the rods to be got ready at once. The unhappy man cried out
that he was a Roman citizen--that he had the municipal franchise
of Consa--that he had served in a campaign with Lucius Pretius, a
distinguished Roman knight, now engaged in business at Panormus, from whom
Verres might ascertain the truth of his statement. Then that man replies
that he has discovered that he, Gavius, has been sent into Sicily as a
spy by the ringleaders of the runaway slaves; of which charge there was
neither witness nor trace of any kind, or even suspicion in any man's
mind. Then he ordered the man to be scourged severely all over his body.
Yes--a Roman citizen was cut to pieces with rods in the open forum at
Messana, gentlemen; and as the punishment went on, no word, no groan of
the wretched man, in all his anguish, was heard amid the sound of the
lashes, but this cry,--'I am a Roman citizen!' By such protest of
citizenship he thought he could at least save himself from anything like
blows--could escape the indignity of personal torture. But not only did he
fail in thus deprecating the insult of the lash, but when he redoubled
his entreaties and his appeal to the name of Rome, a cross--yes, I say, a
cross--was ordered for that most unfortunate and ill-fated man, who had
never yet beheld such an abuse of a governor's power.

"O name of liberty, sweet to our ears! O rights of citizenship, in which
we glory! O laws of Porcius and Sempronius! O privilege of the tribune,
long and sorely regretted, and at last restored to the people of Rome!
Has it all come to this, that a Roman citizen in a province of the Roman
people--in a federal town--is to be bound and beaten with rods in the
forum by a man who only holds those rods and axes--those awful emblems--by
grace of that same people of Rome? What shall I say of the fact that fire,
and red-hot plates, and other tortures were applied? Even if his agonised
entreaties and pitiable cries did not check you, were you not moved by the
tears and groans which burst from the Roman citizens who were present at
the scene? Did you dare to drag to the cross any man who claimed to be a
citizen of Rome?--I did not intend, gentlemen, in my former pleading, to
press this case so strongly--I did not indeed; for you saw yourselves
how the public feeling was already embittered against the defendant by
indignation, and hate, and dread of a common peril".

He then proceeds to prove by witnesses the facts of the case and the
falsehood of the charge against Gavius of having been a spy. "However", he
goes on to say, addressing himself now to Verres, "we will grant, if
you please, that your suspicions on this point, if false, were honestly

"You did not know who the man was; you suspected him of being a spy. I do
not ask the grounds of your suspicion. I impeach you on your own evidence.
He said he was a Roman citizen. Had you yourself, Verres, been seized and
led out to execution, in Persia, say, or in the farthest Indies, what
other cry or protest could you raise but that you were a Roman citizen?
And if you, a stranger there among strangers, in the hands of barbarians,
amongst men who dwell in the farthest and remotest regions of the earth,
would have found protection in the name of your city, known and renowned
in every nation under heaven, could the victim whom you were dragging to
the cross, be he who he might--and you did not know who he was--when he
declared he was a citizen of Rome, could he obtain from you, a Roman
magistrate, by the mere mention and claim of citizenship, not only no
reprieve, but not even a brief respite from death?

"Men of neither rank nor wealth, of humble birth and station, sail the
seas; they touch at some spot they never saw before, where they are
neither personally known to those whom they visit, nor can always find
any to vouch for their nationality. But in this single fact of their
citizenship they feel they shall be safe, not only with our own governors,
who are held in check by the terror of the laws and of public opinion--not
only among those who share that citizenship of Rome, and who are
united with them by community of language, of laws, and of many things
besides--but go where they may, this, they think, will be their safe
guard. Take away this confidence, destroy this safeguard for our Roman
citizens--once establish the principle that there is no protection in the
words, 'I am a citizen of Rome'--that praetor or other magistrate may with
impunity sentence to what punishment he will a man who says he is a Roman
citizen, merely because somebody does not know it for a fact; and at
once, by admitting such a defence, you are shutting up against our
Roman citizens all our provinces, all foreign states, despotic or
independent--all the whole world, in short, which has ever lain open to
our national enterprise beyond all".

He turns again to Verres.

"But why talk of Gavius? as though it were Gavius on whom you were
wreaking a private vengeance, instead of rather waging war against the
very name and rights of Roman citizenship. You showed yourself an enemy,
I say, not to the individual man, but to the common cause of liberty. For
what meant it that, when the authorities of Messana, according to their
usual custom, would have erected the cross behind their city on the
Pompeian road, you ordered it to be set up on the side that looked toward
the Strait? Nay, and added this--which you cannot deny, which you said
openly in the hearing of all--that you chose that spot for this reason,
that as he had called himself a Roman citizen, he might be able, from his
cross of punishment, to see in the distance his country and his home! And
so, gentlemen, that cross was the only one, since Messana was a city, that
was ever erected on that spot. A point which commanded a view of Italy was
chosen by the defendant for the express reason that the dying sufferer, in
his last agony and torment, might see how the rights of the slave and the
freeman were separated by that narrow streak of sea; that Italy might
look upon a son of hers suffering the capital penalty reserved for slaves

"It is a crime to put a citizen of Rome in bonds; it is an atrocity to
scourge him; to put him to death is well-nigh parricide; what shall I say
it is to crucify him?--Language has no word by which I may designate such
an enormity. Yet with all this yon man was not content. 'Let him look',
said he, 'towards his country; let him die in full sight of freedom and
the laws'. It was not Gavius; it was not a single victim, unknown to fame,
a mere individual Roman citizen; it was the common cause of liberty,
the common rights of citizenship, which you there outraged and put to a
shameful death".

But in order to judge of the thrilling effect of such passages upon a
Roman jury, they must be read in the grand periods of the oration itself,
to which no translation into a language so different in idiom and rhythm
as English is from Latin can possibly do justice. The fruitless appeal
made by the unhappy citizen to the outraged majesty of Rome, and the
indignant demand for vengeance which the great orator founds upon
it--proclaiming the recognised principle that, in every quarter of the
world, the humblest wanderer who could say he was a Roman citizen should
find protection in the name--will be always remembered as having supplied
Lord Palmerston with one of his most telling illustrations. But this great
speech of Cicero's--perhaps the most magnificent piece of declamation in
any language--though written and preserved to us was never spoken. The
whole of the pleadings in the case, which extend to some length, were
composed for the occasion, no doubt, in substance, and we have to thank
Cicero for publishing them afterwards in full. But Verres only waited
to hear the brief opening speech of his prosecutor; he did not dare to
challenge a verdict, but allowing judgment to go by default, withdrew to
Marseilles soon after the trial opened. He lived there, undisturbed in the
enjoyment of his plunder, long enough to see the fall and assassination
of his great accuser, but only (as it is said) to share his fate soon
afterwards as one of the victims of Antony's proscription. Of his guilt
there can be no question; his fear to face a court in which he had many
friends is sufficient presumptive evidence of it; but we must hesitate in
assuming the deepness of its dye from the terrible invectives of Cicero.
No sensible person will form an opinion upon the real merits of a case,
even in an English court of justice now, entirely from the speech of the
counsel for the prosecution. And if we were to go back a century or two,
to the state trials of those days, we know that to form our estimate of a
prisoner's guilt from such data only would be doing him a gross injustice.
We have only to remember the exclamation of Warren Hastings himself, whose
trial, as has been said, has so many points of resemblance with that of
Verres, when Burke sat down after the torrent of eloquence which he had
hurled against the accused in his opening speech for the prosecution;--"I
thought myself for the moment", said Hastings, "the guiltiest man in

The result of this trial was to raise Cicero at once to the leadership--if
so modern an expression may be used--of the Roman bar. Up to this time the
position had been held by Hortensius, the counsel for Verres, whom Cicero
himself calls "the king of the courts". He was eight years the senior of
Cicero in age, and many more professionally, for he is said to have made
his first public speech at nineteen. He had the advantage of the most
extraordinary memory, a musical voice, and a rich flow of language: but
Cicero more than implies that he was not above bribing a jury. It was not
more disgraceful in those days than bribing a voter in our own. The two
men were very unlike in one respect; Hortensius was a fop and an exquisite
(he is said to have brought an action against a colleague for disarranging
the folds of his gown), while Cicero's vanity was quite of another kind.
After Verres's trial, the two advocates were frequently engaged together
in the same cause and on the same side: but Hortensius seems quietly to
have abdicated his forensic sovereignty before the rising fame of his
younger rival. They became, ostensibly at least, personal friends. What
jealousy there was between them, strange to say, seems always to have been
on the side of Cicero, who could not be convinced of the friendly feeling
which, on Hortensius's part, there seems no reason to doubt. After his
rival's death, however, Cicero did full justice to his merits and his
eloquence, and even inscribed to his memory a treatise on 'Glory', which
has been lost.



There was no check as yet in Cicero's career. It had been a steady course
of fame and success, honestly earned and well deserved; and it was soon to
culminate in that great civil triumph which earned for him the proud title
of _Pater Patriae_--the Father of his Country. It was a phrase which
the orator himself had invented; and it is possible that, with all his
natural self-complacency, he might have felt a little uncomfortable under
the compliment, when he remembered on whom he had originally bestowed
it--upon that Caius Marius, whose death in his bed at a good old age,
after being seven times consul, he afterwards uses as an argument, in the
mouth of one of his imaginary disputants, against the existence of an
overruling Providence. In the prime of his manhood he reached the great
object of a Roman's ambition--he became virtually Prime Minister of the
republic: for he was elected, by acclamation rather than by vote, the
first of the two consuls for the year, and his colleague, Caius Antonius
(who had beaten the third candidate, the notorious Catiline, by a few
votes only) was a man who valued his office chiefly for its opportunities
of peculation, and whom Cicero knew how to manage. It is true that this
high dignity--so jealous were the old republican principles of individual
power--would last only for a year; but that year was to be a most eventful
one, both for Cicero and for Rome. The terrible days of Marius and Sylla
had passed, only to leave behind a taste for blood and licence amongst
the corrupt aristocracy and turbulent commons. There were men amongst
the younger nobles quite ready to risk their lives in the struggle for
absolute power; and the mob was ready to follow whatever leader was bold
enough to bid highest for their support.

It is impossible here to do much more than glance at the well-known story
of Catiline's conspiracy. It was the attempt of an able and desperate man
to make himself and his partisans masters of Rome by a bloody revolution.
Catiline was a member of a noble but impoverished family, who had borne
arms under Sylla, and had served an early apprenticeship in bloodshed
under that unscrupulous leader. Cicero has described his character in
terms which probably are not unfair, because the portrait was drawn by
him, in the course of his defence of a young friend who had been too much
connected with Catiline, for the distinct purpose of showing the popular
qualities which had dazzled and attracted so many of the youth of Rome.

"He had about him very many of, I can hardly say the visible tokens, but
the adumbrations of the highest qualities. There was in his character
that which tempted him to indulge the worst passions, but also that which
spurred him to energy and hard work. Licentious appetites burnt fiercely
within him, but there was also a strong love of active military service.
I believe that there never lived on earth such a monster of
inconsistency,--such a compound of opposite tastes and passions brought
into conflict with each other. Who at one time was a greater favourite
with our most illustrious men? Who was a closer intimate with our very
basest? Who could be more greedy of money than he was? Who could lavish it
more profusely? There were these marvellous qualities in the man,--he made
friends so universally, he retained them by his obliging ways, he was
ready to share what he had with them all, to help them at their need with
his money, his influence, his personal exertions--not stopping short of
the most audacious crime, if there was need of it. He could change his
very nature, and rule himself by circumstances, and turn and bend in any
direction. He lived soberly with the serious, he was a boon companion with
the gay; grave with the elders, merry with the young; reckless among the
desperate, profligate with the depraved. With a nature so complex
and many-sided, he not only collected round him wicked and desperate
characters from all quarters of the world, but he also attracted many
brave and good men by his simulation of virtue. It would have been
impossible for him to have organised that atrocious attack upon the
Commonwealth, unless that fierce outgrowth of depraved passions had rested
on some under-stratum of agreeable qualities and powers of endurance".

Born in the same year with Cicero, his unsuccessful rival for the
consulship, and hating him with the implacable hatred with which a bad,
ambitious, and able man hates an opponent who is his superior in ability
and popularity as well as character, Catiline seems to have felt, as his
revolutionary plot ripened, that between the new consul and himself the
fates of Rome must choose. He had gathered round him a band of profligate
young nobles, deep in debt like himself, and of needy and unscrupulous
adventurers of all classes. He had partisans who were collecting and
drilling troops for him in several parts of Italy. The programme was
assassination, abolition of debts, confiscation of property: so little of
novelty is there in revolutionary principles. The first plan had been to
murder the consuls of the year before, and seize the government. It had
failed through his own impatience. He now hired assassins against Cicero,
choosing the opportunity of the election of the incoming consuls, which
always took place some time before their entrance on office. But the plot
was discovered, and the election was put off. When it did take place,
Cicero appeared in the meeting, wearing somewhat ostentatiously a corslet
of bright steel, to show that he knew his danger; and Catiline's partisans
found the place of meeting already occupied by a strong force of the
younger citizens of the middle class, who had armed themselves for the
consul's protection. The election passed off quietly, and Catiline was
again rejected. A second time he tried assassination, and it failed--so
watchful and well informed was the intended victim. And now Cicero,
perhaps, was roused to a consciousness that one or other must fall; for in
the unusually determined measures which he took in the suppression of the
conspiracy, the mixture of personal alarm with patriotic indignation
is very perceptible. By a fortunate chance, the whole plan of the
conspirators was betrayed. Rebel camps had been formed not only in Italy,
but in Spain and Mauritania: Rome was to be set on fire, the slaves to be
armed, criminals let loose, the friends of order to be put out of the way.
The consul called a meeting of the senate in the temple of Jupiter Stator,
a strong position on the Palatine Hill, and denounced the plot in all
its details, naming even the very day fixed for the outbreak. The
arch-conspirator had the audacity to be present, and Cicero addressed him
personally in the eloquent invective which has come to us as his "First
Oration against Catiline". His object was to drive his enemy from the
city to the camp of his partisans, and thus to bring matters at once to a
crisis for which he now felt himself prepared. This daily state of public
insecurity and personal danger had lasted too long, he said:

"Therefore, let these conspirators at once take their side; let them
separate themselves from honest citizens, and gather themselves together
somewhere else; let them put a wall between us, as I have often said. Let
us have them no longer thus plotting the assassination of a consul in his
own house, overawing our courts of justice with armed bands, besieging the
senate-house with drawn swords, collecting their incendiary stores to burn
our city. Let us at last be able to read plainly in every Roman's face
whether he be loyal to his country or no. I may promise you this,
gentlemen of the Senate--there shall be no lack of diligence on the part
of your consuls; there will be, I trust, no lack of dignity and firmness
on your own, of spirit amongst the Roman knights, of unanimity amongst all
honest men, but that when Catiline has once gone from us, everything
will be not only discovered and brought into the light of day, but also
crushed,--ay, and punished. Under such auspices, I bid you, Catiline. go
forth to wage your impious and unhallowed war.--go, to the salvation of
the state, to your own overthrow and destruction, to the ruin of all who
have joined you in your great wickedness and treason. And thou, great
Jupiter, whose worship Romulus founded here coeval with our city;--whom we
call truly the 'Stay'[1] of our capital and our empire; thou wilt protect
thine own altars and the temples of thy kindred gods, the walls and
roof-trees of our homes, the lives and fortunes of our citizens, from yon
man and his accomplices. These enemies of all good men, invaders of their
country, plunderers of Italy, linked together in a mutual bond of crime
and an alliance of villany, thou wilt surely, visit with an everlasting
punishment, living and dead'".

[Footnote 1: 'Stator'.]

Catiline's courage did not fail him. He had been sitting alone--for, all
the other senators had shrunk away from the bench of which he had taken
possession. He rose, and in reply to Cicero, in a forced tone of humility
protested his innocence. He tried also another point. Was he,--a man of
ancient and noble family;--to be hastily condemned by his fellow-nobles
on the word of this 'foreigner', as he contemptuously called Cicero--this
_parvenu_ from Arpinum? But the appeal failed; his voice was drowned
in the cries of 'traitor' which arose on all sides, and with threats and
curses, vowing that since he was driven to desperation he would involve
all Rome in his ruin, he rushed out of the Senate-house. At dead of night
he left the city, and joined the insurgent camp at Faesulae.

When the thunders of Cicero's eloquence had driven Catiline from the
Senate-house, and forced him to join his fellow-traitors, and so put
himself in the position of levying open war against the state, it remained
to deal with those influential conspirators who had been detected and
seized within the city walls. In three subsequent speeches in the Senate
he justified the course he had taken in allowing Catiline to escape,
exposed further particulars of the conspiracy, and urged the adoption
of strong measures to crush it out within the city. Even now, not all
Cicero's eloquence, nor all the efforts of our imagination to realise, as
men realised it then, the imminence of the public danger, can reconcile
the summary process adopted by the consul with our English notions of calm
and deliberate justice. Of the guilt of the men there was no doubt; most
of them even admitted it. But there was no formal trial; and a few hours
after a vote of death had been passed upon them in a hesitating Senate,
Lentulus and Cethegus, two members of that august body, with three of
their companions in guilt, were brought from their separate places of
confinement, with some degree of secrecy (as appears from different
writers), carried down into the gloomy prison-vaults of the Tullianum,[1]
and there quietly strangled, by the sole authority of the consul.
Unquestionably they deserved death, if ever political criminals deserved
it: the lives and liberties of good citizens were in danger; it was
necessary to strike deep and strike swiftly at a conspiracy which extended
no man knew how widely, and in which men like Julius Caesar and Crassus
were strongly suspected of being engaged. The consuls had been armed with
extra-constitutional powers, conveyed by special resolution of the Senate
in the comprehensive formula that they "were to look to it that the state
suffered no damage". Still, without going so far as to call this
unexampled proceeding, as the German critic Mommsen does, "an act of the
most brutal tyranny", it is easy to understand how Mr. Forsyth, bringing
a calm and dispassionate legal judgment to bear upon the case, finds it
impossible to reconcile it with our ideas of dignified and even-handed
justice.[2] It was the hasty instinct of self-preservation, the act of
a weak government uncertain of its very friends, under the influence of
terror--a terror for which, no doubt, there were abundant grounds. When
Cicero stood on the prison steps, where he had waited to receive the
report of those who were making sure work with the prisoners within, and
announced their fate to the assembled crowd below in the single word
"_Vixerunt_" (a euphemism which we can only weakly translate into
"They have lived their life"), no doubt he felt that he and the republic
held theirs from that moment by a firmer tenure; no doubt very many of
those who heard him felt that they could breathe again, now that the
grasp of Catiline's assassins was, for the moment at all events, off
their throats; and the crowd who followed the consul home were sincere
enough when they hailed such a vigorous avenger as the 'Father of his
Country'. But none the less it was that which politicians have called
worse than a crime--it was a political blunder; and Cicero came to find
it so in after years; though--partly from his immense self-appreciation,
and partly from an honest determination to stand by his act and deed in
all its consequences--he never suffered the shadow of such a confession
to appear in his most intimate correspondence. He claimed for himself
ever afterwards the sole glory of having saved the state by such
prompt and decided action; and in this he was fully borne out by the
facts: justifiable or unjustifiable, the act was his; and there were
burning hearts at Rome which dared not speak out against the popular
consul, but set it down to his sole account against the day of

[Footnote 1: A state dungeon, said to have been built in the reign of
Servius Tullius. It was twelve feet under ground. Executions often took
place there, and the bodies of the criminals were afterwards thrown down
the Gemonian steps (which were close at hand) into the Forum, for the
people to see.]

[Footnote 2: Life of Cicero, p. 119.]

For the present, however, all went successfully. The boldness of the
consul's measures cowed the disaffected, and confirmed the timid and
wavering. His colleague Antonius--himself by no means to be depended on at
this crisis, having but lately formed a coalition with Catiline as against
Cicero in the election for consuls--had, by judicious management, been got
away from Rome to take the command against the rebel army in Etruria. He
did not, indeed, engage in the campaign actively in person, having
just now a fit of the gout, either real or pretended; but his
lieutenant-general was an old soldier who cared chiefly for his duty, and
Catiline's band--reckless and desperate men who had gathered to his camp
from all motives and from all quarters--were at length brought to bay, and
died fighting hard to the last. Scarcely a man of them, except the slaves
and robbers who had swelled their ranks, either escaped or was made
prisoner. Catiline's body--easily recognised by his remarkable height--was
found, still breathing, lying far in advance of his followers, surrounded
by the dead bodies of the Roman legionaries--for the loss on the side of
the Republic had been very severe. The last that remained to him of the
many noble qualities which had marked his earlier years was a desperate
personal courage.

For the month that yet remained of his consulship, Cicero was the foremost
man in Rome--and, as a consequence, in the whole world. Nobles and commons
vied in doing honour to the saviour of the state. Catulus and Cato--men
from whose lips words of honour came with a double weight--saluted him
publicly by that memorable title of _Pater Patriae_; and not only the
capital, but most of the provincial towns of Italy, voted him some
public testimony of his unrivalled services. No man had a more profound
appreciation of those services than the great orator himself. It is
possible that other men have felt quite as vain of their own exploits, and
on far less grounds; but surely no man ever paraded his self-complacency
like Cicero. His vanity was indeed a thing to marvel at rather than to
smile at, because it was the vanity of so able a man. Other great men have
been either too really great to entertain the feeling, or have been wise
enough to keep it to themselves. But to Cicero it must have been one of
the enjoyments of his life. He harped upon his consulship in season and
out of season, in his letters, in his judicial pleadings, in his public
speeches (and we may be sure in his conversation), until one would think
his friends must have hated the subject even more than his enemies. He
wrote accounts of it in prose and verse, in Latin and Greek--and, no
doubt, only limited them to those languages because they were the only
ones he knew. The well-known line which provoked the ridicule of critics
like Juvenal and Quintilian, because of the unlucky jingle peculiarly
unpleasant to a Roman ear:

"O fortunatam natam me consule Romam!"

expresses the sentiment which--rhyme or no rhyme, reason or no reason--he
was continually repeating in some form or other to himself and to every
one who would listen.

His consulship closed in glory; but on his very last day of office there
was a warning voice raised amidst the triumph, which might have opened his
eyes--perhaps it did--to the troubles which were to come. He stood up in
the Rostra to make the usual address to the people on laying down his
authority. Metellus Nepos had been newly elected one of the tribunes: it
was his office to guard jealously all the rights and privileges of the
Roman commons. Influenced, it is said, by Caesar--possibly himself an
undiscovered partisan of Catiline--he dealt a blow at the retiring consul
under cover of a discharge of duty. As Cicero was about to speak, he
interposed a tribune's 'veto'; no man should be heard, he said, who _had
put Roman citizens to death without a trial_. There was consternation
in the Forum. Cicero could not dispute what was a perfectly legal exercise
of the tribune's power; only, in a few emphatic words which he seized the
opportunity of adding to the usual formal oath on quitting office, he
protested that his act had saved Rome. The people shouted in answer, "Thou
hast said true!" and Cicero went home a private citizen, but with that
hearty tribute from his grateful countrymen ringing pleasantly in his
ears. But the bitter words of Metellus were yet to be echoed by his
enemies again and again, until that fickle popular voice took them up, and
howled them after the once popular consul.

Let us follow him for a while into private life; a pleasanter
companionship for us, we confess, than the unstable glories of the
political arena at Rome. In his family and social relations, the great
orator wins from us an amount of personal interest and sympathy which he
fails sometimes to command in his career as a statesman. At forty-five
years of age he has become a very wealthy man--has bought for something
like L30,000 a noble mansion on the Palatine Hill; and besides the
old-fashioned family seat near Arpinum--now become his own by his father's
death--he has built, or enlarged, or bought as they stood, villas at
Antium, at Formiae, at Pompeii, at Cumae, at Puteoli, and at half-a-dozen
other places, besides the one favourite spot of all, which was to him
almost what Abbotsford was to Scott, the home which it was the delight
of his life to embellish--his country-house among the pleasant hills of
Tusculum.[1] It had once belonged to Sulla, and was about twelve miles
from Rome. In that beloved building and its arrangements he indulged, as
an ample purse allowed him, not only a highly-cultivated taste, but in
some respects almost a whimsical fancy. "A mere cottage", he himself terms
it in one place; but this was when he was deprecating accusations of
extravagance which were brought against him, and we all understand
something of the pride which in such matters "apes humility". He would
have it on the plan of the Academia at Athens, with its _palaestra_
and open colonnade, where, as he tells us, he could walk and discuss
politics or philosophy with his friends. Greek taste and design were as
fashionable among the Romans of that day as the Louis Quatorze style was
with our grandfathers. But its grand feature was a library, and its most
valued furniture was books. Without books, he said, a house was but a body
without a soul. He entertained for these treasures not only the calm love
of a reader, but the passion of a bibliophile; he was particular about his
bindings, and admired the gay colours of the covers in which the precious
manuscripts were kept as well as the more intellectual beauties within. He
had clever Greek slaves employed from time to time in making copies of all
such works as were not to be readily purchased. He could walk across, too,
as he tells us, to his neighbour's, the young Lucullus, a kind of ward
of his, and borrow from the library of that splendid mansion any book he
wanted. His friend Atticus collected for him everywhere--manuscripts,
paintings, statuary; though for sculpture he professes not to care much,
except for such subjects as might form appropriate decorations for his
_palaestra_ and his library. Very pleasant must have been the days
spent together by the two friends--so alike in their private tastes and
habits, so far apart in their chosen course of life--when they met there
in the brief holidays which Cicero stole from the law-courts and the
Forum, and sauntered in the shady walks, or lounged in the cool library,
in that home of lettered ease, where the busy lawyer and politician
declared that he forgot for a while all the toils and vexations of public

[Footnote 1: Near the modern town of Frascati. But there is no certainty
as to the site of Cicero's villa.]

He had his little annoyances, however, even in these happy hours of
retirement. Morning calls were an infliction to which a country gentleman
was liable in ancient Italy as in modern England. A man like Cicero was
very good company, and somewhat of a lion besides; and country neighbours,
wherever he set up his rest, insisted on bestowing their tediousness on
him. His villa at Formiae, his favourite residence next to Tusculum, was,
he protested, more like a public hall. Most of his visitors, indeed, had
the consideration not to trouble him after ten or eleven in the forenoon
(fashionable calls in those days began uncomfortably early); but there
were one or two, especially his next-door neighbour, Arrius, and a
friend's friend, named Sebosus, who were in and out at all hours: the
former had an unfortunate taste for philosophical discussion, and was
postponing his return to Rome (he was good enough to say) from day to day
in order to enjoy these long mornings in Cicero's conversation. Such are
the doleful complaints in two or three of the letters to Atticus; but,
like all such complaints, they were probably only half in earnest:
popularity, even at a watering-place, was not very unpleasant, and the
writer doubtless knew how to practise the social philosophy which he
recommends to others, and took his place cheerfully and pleasantly in the
society which he found about him--not despising his honest neighbours
because they had not all adorned a consulship or saved a state.

There were times when Cicero fancied that this rural life, with all its
refinements of wealth and taste and literary leisure, was better worth
living than the public life of the capital. His friends and his books, he
said, were the company most congenial to him; "politics might go to the
dogs;" to count the waves as they rolled on the beach was happiness; he
"had rather be mayor of Antium than consul at Rome"; "rather sit in
his own library with Atticus in their favourite seat under the bust of
Aristotle than in the curule chair". It is true that these longings for
retirement usually followed some political defeat or mortification; that
his natural sphere, the only life in which he could be really happy, was
in the keen excitement of party warfare--the glorious battle-field of the
Senate and the Forum. The true key-note of his mind is to be found in
these words to his friend Coelius: "Cling to the city, my friend, and
live in her light: all employment abroad, as I have felt from my earliest
manhood, is obscure and petty for those who have abilities to make them
famous at Rome". Yet the other strain had nothing in it of affectation, or
hypocrisy: it was the schoolboy escaped from work, thoroughly enjoying
his holiday, and fancying that nothing would be so delightful as to have
holidays always. In this, again, there was a similarity between Cicero's
taste and that of Horace. The poet loved his Sabine farm and all its rural
delights--after his fashion; and perhaps thought honestly that he loved it
more than he really did. Above all, he loved to write about it. With that
fancy, half-real, perhaps, and half-affected, for pastoral simplicity,
which has always marked a state of over-luxurious civilisation, he
protests to himself that there is nothing like the country. But perhaps
Horace discharges a sly jest at himself, in a sort of aside to his
readers, in the person of Alphius, the rich city money-lender, who is made
to utter that pretty apostrophe to rural happiness:

"Happy the man, in busy schemes unskilled,
Who, living simply, like our sires of old,
Tills the few acres which his father tilled,
Vexed by no thoughts of usury or gold".
Martin's 'Horace'

And who, after thus expatiating for some stanzas on the charms of the
country, calls in all his money one week in order to settle there, and
puts it all out again (no doubt at higher interest) the week after. "_O
rus, quando to aspiciam_!" has been the cry of public men before and
since Cicero's day, to whom, as to the great Roman, banishment from
political life, and condemnation to perpetual leisure, would have been a
sentence that would have crushed their very souls.

He was very happy at this time in his family. His wife and he loved one
another with an honest affection; anything more would have been out of the
natural course of things in Roman society at any date, and even so much as
this was become a notable exception in these later days. It is paying a
high honour to the character of Cicero and his household--and from all
evidence that has come down to us it may be paid with truth--that even in
those evil times it might have presented the original of what Virgil
drew as almost a fancy picture, or one to be realised only in some happy
retirement into which the civilised vices of the capital had never

"Where loving children climb to reach a kiss--
A home of chaste delights and wedded bliss.[1]"

His little daughter, Tullia, or Tulliola, which was her pet name (the
Roman diminutives being formed somewhat more elegantly than ours, by
adding a syllable instead of cutting short), was the delight of his
heart in his earlier letters to Atticus he is constantly making some
affectionate mention of her--sending her love, or some playful message
which his friend would understand. She had been happily married (though
she was then but thirteen at the most) the year before his consulship;
but the affectionate intercourse between father and daughter was never
interrupted until her early death. His only son, Marcus, born after a
considerable interval, who succeeded to Tullia's place as a household pet,
is made also occasionally to send some childish word of remembrance to his
father's old friend:

"Cicero the Little sends his compliments to Titus the Athenian"--"Cicero
the Philosopher salutes Titus the Politician.[2]" These messages are
written in Greek at the end of the letters. Abeken thinks that in the
originals they might have been added in the little Cicero's own hand, "to
show that he had begun Greek;" "a conjecture", says Mr. Merivale, "too
pleasant not to be readily admitted". The boy gave his father some trouble
in after life. He served with some credit as an officer of cavalry under
Pompey in Greece, or at least got into no trouble there. Some years after,
he wished to take service in Spain, under Caesar, against the sons
of Pompey; but the father did not approve of this change of side. He
persuaded him to go to Athens to study instead, allowing him what both
Atticus and himself thought a very liberal income--not sufficient,
however, for him to keep a horse, which Cicero held to be an unnecessary
luxury. Probably the young cavalry officer might not have been of the same
opinion; at any rate, he got into more trouble among the philosophers than
he did in the army. He spent a great deal more than his allowance, and one
of the professors, whose lectures he attended, had the credit of helping
him to spend it. The young man must have shared the kindly disposition
of his father. He wrote a confidential letter to Tiro, the old family
servant, showing very good feeling, and promising reformation. It is
doubtful how far the promise was kept. He rose, however, subsequently to
place and power under Augustus, but died without issue; and, so far at
least as history knows them, the line of the Ciceros was extinct. It had
flashed into fame with the great orator, and died out with him.

[Footnote 1: "Interia dulces pendent circum oscula nati; Casta pudicitiam
servat domus".--Georg. ii. 524.]

[Footnote 2: See 'Letters to Atticus', ii. 9, 12; Merivale's translation
of Abeken's 'Cicero in Seinen Briefen', p. 114.]

All Cicero's biographers have found considerable difficulty in tracing, at
all satisfactorily, the sources of the magnificent fortune which must have
been required to keep up, and to embellish in accordance with so luxurious
a taste, so many residences in all parts of the country. True, these
expenses often led Cicero into debt and difficulties; but what he borrowed
from his friends he seems always to have repaid, so that the money must
have come in from some quarter or other. His patrimony at Arpinum would
not appear to have been large; he got only some L3000 or L4000 dowry
with Terentia; and we find no hint of his making money by any commercial
speculations, as some Roman gentlemen did. On the other hand, it is the
barest justice to him to say that his hands were clean from those
ill-gotten gains which made the fortunes of many of the wealthiest public
men at Rome, who were criminals in only a less degree than
Verres--peculation, extortion, and downright robbery in the unfortunate
provinces which they were sent out to govern. Such opportunities lay as
ready to his grasp as to other men's, but he steadily eschewed them. His
declining the tempting prize of a provincial government, which was his
right on the expiration of his praetorship, may fairly be attributed to
his having in view the higher object of the consulship, to secure which,
by an early and persistent canvass, he felt it necessary to remain in
Rome. But he again waived the right when his consulship was over; and
when, some years afterwards, he went unwillingly as pro-consul to
Cilicia, his administration there, as before in his lower office in
Sicily, was marked by a probity and honesty quite exceptional in a Roman
governor. His emoluments, confined strictly within the legal bounds,
would be only moderate, and, whatever they were, came too late in
his life to be any explanation of his earlier expenditure. He received
many valuable legacies, at different times, from personal friends or
grateful clients who died childless (be it remembered how the barrenness
of the marriage union had become then, at Rome, as it is said to be in
some countries now, the reproach of a sensual and effete aristocracy); he
boasts himself, in one of his 'Philippics', that he had received from this
source above L170,000. Mr. Forsyth also notices the large presents that
were made by foreign kings and states to conciliate the support and
advocacy of the leading men at Rome--"we can hardly call them bribes, for
in many cases the relation of patron and client was avowedly established
between a foreign state and some influential Roman: and it became his
duty, as of course it was his interest, to defend it in the Senate and
before the people". In this way, he thinks, Cicero held "retainers" from
Dyrrachium; and, he might have added, from Sicily. The great orator's own
boast was, that he never took anything for his services as an advocate;
and, indeed, such payments were forbidden by law.[1] But with all respect
for Cicero's material honesty, one learns from his letters, unfortunately,
not to put implicit confidence in him when he is in a boasting vein; and
he might not look upon voluntary gifts, after a cause was decided, in the
light of payment. Paetus, one of his clients, gave him a valuable library
of books; and one cannot believe that this was a solitary instance of
the quiet evasion of the Cincian law, or that there were not other
transactions of the same nature which never found their way into any
letter of Cicero's that was likely to come down to us.

[Footnote 1: The principle passed, like so many others, from the old Roman
law into our own, so that to this very day, a barrister's fees, being
considered in the nature of an _honorarium_, or voluntary present
made to him for his services, are not recoverable by law.]



We must return to Rome. Cicero had never left it but for his short
occasional holiday. Though no longer in office, the ex-consul was still
one of the foremost public men, and his late dignity gave him important
precedence in the Senate. He was soon to be brought into contact, and more
or less into opposition, with the two great chiefs of parties in whose
feuds he became at length so fatally involved. Pompey and Caesar were both
gradually becoming formidable, and both had ambitious plans of their own,
totally inconsistent with any remnant of republican liberty--plans which
Cicero more or less suspected, and of that suspicion they were probably
both aware. Both, by their successful campaigns, had not only acquired
fame and honours, but a far more dangerous influence--an influence which
was to overwhelm all others hereafter--in the affection of their legions.
Pompey was still absent in Spain, but soon to return from his long war
against Mithridates, to enjoy the most splendid triumph ever seen at Rome,
and to take the lead of the oligarchical party just so long and so far as
they would help him to the power he coveted. The enemies whom Cicero had
made by his strong measures in the matter of the Catilinarian conspiracy
now took advantage of Pompey's name and popularity to make an attack upon
him. The tribune Metellus, constant to his old party watchword, moved in
the Senate that the successful general, upon whom all expectations were
centred, should be recalled to Rome with his army "to restore the violated
constitution". All knew against whom the motion was aimed, and what the
violation of the constitution meant; it was the putting citizens to death
without a trial. The measure was not passed, though Caesar, jealous of
Cicero even more than of Pompey, lent himself to the attempt.

But the blow fell on Cicero at last from a very different quarter, and
from the mere private grudge of a determined and unprincipled man. Publius
Clodius, a young man of noble family, once a friend and supporter of
Cicero against Catiline, but who had already made himself notorious for
the most abandoned profligacy, was detected, in a woman's dress, at the
celebration of the rites of the Bona Dea--a kind of religious freemasonry
amongst the Roman ladies, the mysteries of which are very little known,
and probably would in any case be best left without explanation. But for a
man to have been present at them was a sacrilege hitherto unheard of, and
which was held to lay the whole city under the just wrath of the offended
goddess. The celebration had been held in the house of Caesar, as praetor,
under the presidency of his wife Pompeia; and it was said that the object
of the young profligate was an intrigue with that lady. The circumstances
are not favourable to the suspicion; but Caesar divorced her forthwith,
with the often-quoted remark that "Caesar's wife must not be even
suspected". For this crime--unpardonable even in that corrupt society,
when crimes of far deeper dye passed almost unreproved--Clodius was,
after some delay, brought to public trial. The defence set up was an
_alibi_, and Cicero came forward as a witness to disprove it: he had
met and spoken with Clodius in Rome that very evening. The evidence was
clear enough, but the jury had been tampered with by Clodius and his
friends; liberal bribery, and other corrupting influences of even a more
disgraceful kind, had been successfully brought to bear upon the majority
of them, and he escaped conviction by a few votes. But he never forgave
the part which Cicero had taken against him; and from that time forth the
latter found a new, unscrupulous, indefatigable enemy, of whose services
his old opponents gladly availed themselves. Cicero himself for some
time underrated this new danger. He lost no opportunity of taunting
the unconvicted criminal in the bitterest terms in the Senate, and of
exchanging with him--very much to the detriment of his own character and
dignity, in our modern eyes--the coarsest jests when they met in the
street. But the temptation to a jest, of whatever kind, was always
irresistible to Cicero: it was a weakness for which he more than once paid
dearly, for they were remembered against him when be had forgotten them.
Meanwhile Clodius--a sort of milder Catiline, not without many popular
qualities--had got himself elected tribune; degrading himself formally
from his own order of nobles for that purpose, since the tribune must be
a man of the commons. The powers of the office were formidable for all
purposes of obstruction and attack; Clodius had taken pains to ingratiate
himself with all classes; and the consuls of the year were men of infamous
character, for whom he had, found a successful means of bribery by the
promise of getting a special law passed to secure them the choice of the
richest provincial governments--those coveted fields of plunder--of which
they would otherwise have had to take their chance by lot. When all was
ripe for his revenge, he brought before the people in full assembly the
following bill of pains and penalties:--"Be it enacted, that whoever has
put to death a Roman citizen uncondemned in due form of trial, shall be
interdicted from fire and water". Such was the legal form of words which
implied banishment from Rome, outlawry, and social excommunication. Every
man knew against whom the motion was levelled. It was carried--carried in
spite of the indignation of all honest men in Rome, in spite of all
Cicero's humiliating efforts to obtain its rejection.

It was in vain that he put on mourning, as was the custom with those who
were impeached of public crimes, and went about the streets thus silently
imploring the pity of his fellow-citizens. In vain the whole of his own
equestrian order, and in fact, as he declares, "all honest men" (it was
his favourite term for men of his own party); adopted the same dress to
show their sympathy, and twenty thousand youths of good family--all in
mourning--accompanied him through the city. The Senate even met and passed
a resolution that their whole house should put on mourning too. But
Gabinius, one of the consuls, at once called a public meeting, and warned
the people not to make the mistake of thinking that the Senate was Rome.

In vain, also, was any personal appeal which Cicero could make to the only
two men who might have had influence enough to sway the popular vote. He
was ostensibly on good terms both with Pompey and Caesar; in fact, he
made it his policy so to be. He foresaw that on their future course would
probably depend the fate of Rome, and he persuaded himself, perhaps
honestly, that he could make them "better citizens". But he trusted
neither; and both saw in him an obstacle to their own ambition. Caesar
now looked on coldly, not altogether sorry at the turn which affairs had
taken, and faintly suggested that perhaps some "milder measure" might
serve to meet the case. From Pompey Cicero had a right to look for some
active support; indeed, such had been promised in case of need. He threw
himself at his feet with prayers and tears, but even this last humiliation
was in vain; and he anticipated the execution of that disgraceful edict
by a voluntary withdrawal into exile. Piso, one of the consuls, had
satirically suggested that thus he might "save Rome" a second time. His
property was at once confiscated; his villas at Tusculum and at Formiae
were plundered and laid waste, the consuls claiming the lion's share of
the spoil; and Clodius, with his armed mob, set fire to the noble house
on the Palatine, razed it to the ground, and erected on the site a temple

Cicero had friends who strongly urged him to defy the edict; to remain
at Rome, and call on all good citizens to arm in his defence. Modern
historians very generally have assumed that, if he could have made up his
mind to such a course, it would probably have been successful. He was to
rely, we suppose, upon those "twenty thousand Roman youths "--rather a
broken reed to trust to (remembering what those young gallants were), with
Caesar against him, now at the head of his legions just outside the gates
of Rome. He himself seriously contemplated suicide, and consulted his
friends as to the propriety of such a step in the gravest and most
business-like manner; though, with our modern notions on the subject, such
a consultation has more of the ludicrous than the sublime. The sensible
and practical Atticus convinced him that such a solution of his
difficulties would be the greatest possible mistake--a mistake, moreover,
which could never be rectified.

But almost any course would have become him better than that which he
chose. Had he remained and faced Clodius and his bravos manfully--or had
he turned his back upon Rome for ever, and shaken the dust off his feet
against the ungrateful city, and become a noble pensioner upon Atticus at
Buthrotum--he would have died a greater man. He wandered from place to
place sheltered by friends whose unselfish loyalty marks their names
with honour in that false and evil generation--Sica, and Flaccus, and
Plancius--bemoaning himself like a woman,--"too blinded with tears to
write", "loathing the light of day". Atticus thought he was going mad. It
is not pleasant to dwell upon this miserable weakness of a great mind,
which Cicero's most eager eulogists admit, and which his detractors have
not failed to make the most of. Nor is it easy to find excuse for him, but
we will give him all the benefit of Mr. Forsyth's defence:

"Seldom has misfortune so crushed a noble spirit, and never, perhaps, has
the 'bitter bread of banishment' seemed more bitter to any one than to
him. We must remember that the love of country was a passion with the
ancients to a degree which it is now difficult to realise, and exile
from it even for a time was felt to be an intolerable evil. The nearest
approach to such a feeling was perhaps that of some favourite under an
European monarchy, when, frowned upon by his sovereign, he was hurled from
place and power, and banished from the court. The change to Cicero was
indeed tremendous. Not only was he an exile from Rome, the scene of all
his hopes, his glories, his triumphs, but he was under the ban of an
outlaw. If found within a certain distance from the capital, he must die,
and it was death to any one to give him food or shelter. His property
was destroyed, his family was penniless, and the people whom he had so
faithfully served were the authors of his ruin. All this may be urged
in his behalf, but still it would have been only consistent with Roman
fortitude to have shown that he possessed something of the spirit of the
fallen archangel".[1]

[Footnote 1: Forsyth's Life of Cicero, p. 190.]

His exile lasted nearly a year and a half. Long before that time there had
come a reaction in his favour. The new consuls were well disposed towards
him; Clodius's insolence had already disgusted Pompey; Caesar was absent
with his legions in Gaul; his own friends, who had all along been active
in his favour (though in his querulous mood he accused them of apathy)
took advantage of the change, his generous rival Hortensius being amongst
the most active; and all the frantic violence of Clodius and his party
served only to delay for a while the return which they could not prevent.
A motion for his recall was carried at last by an immense majority.

Cicero had one remarkable ally on that occasion. On one of the days when
the Senate was known to be discussing his recall, the 'Andromache' of
Ennius was being played in the theatre. The popular actor Esop, whose name
has come down to us in conjunction with that of Roscius, was playing
the principal character. The great orator had been his pupil, and was
evidently regarded by him as a personal friend. With all the force of his
consummate art, he threw into Andromache's lament for her absent father
his own feelings for Cicero. The words in the part were strikingly
appropriate, and he did not hesitate to insert a phrase or two of his own
when he came to speak of the man

"Who with a constant mind upheld the state,
Stood on the people's side in perilous times,
Ne'er reeked of his own life, nor spared himself".

So significant and empathetic were his tone and gesture as he addressed
himself pointedly to his Roman audience, that they recalled him, and,
amid a storm of plaudits, made him repeat the passage. He added to it the
words--which were not set down for him--

"Best of all friends in direst strait of war!"

and the applause was redoubled. The actor drew courage from his success.
When, as the play went on, he came to speak the words--

"And you--you let him live a banished man--
See him driven forth and hunted from your gates!"

he pointed to the nobles, knights, and commons, as they sat in their
respective seats in the crowded rows before him, his own voice broke with
grief, and the tears even more than the applause of the whole audience
bore witness alike to their feelings towards the exile, and the dramatic
power of the actor. "He pleaded my cause before the Roman people", says
Cicero (for it is he that tells the story), "with far more weight of
eloquence than I could have pleaded for myself".[1]

[Footnote 1: Defence of Sestius, c. 56, &c.]

He had been visited with a remarkable dream, while staying with one of
his friends in Italy, during the earlier days of his exile, which he now
recalled with some interest. He tells us this story also himself,
though he puts it into the mouth of another speaker, in his dialogue on
"Divination". If few were so fond of introducing personal anecdotes into
every place where he could find room for them, fewer still could tell
them so well.

"I had lain awake a great part of the night, and at last towards dawn had
begun to sleep soundly and heavily. I had given orders to my attendant
that, in this case, though we had to start that very morning, strict
silence should be kept, and that I was on no account to be disturbed;
when about seven o'clock I awoke, and told him my dream. I thought I was
wandering alone in some solitary place, when Caius Marius appeared to me,
with his fasces bound with laurel, and asked why I was so sad? And when I
answered that I had been driven from my country, he caught my hand, bade
me be of good cheer, and put me under the guidance of his own lictor to
lead me to his monument; there, he said, I should find my deliverance".

So indeed it had turned out. The temple dedicated to Honour and Virtue, in
which the Senate sat when they passed the first resolution for Cicero's
recall, was known as the "Monument of Marius". There is no need to doubt
the perfect good faith of the story which he tells, and it may be set down
as one of the earliest authenticated instances of a dream coming true.
But if dreams are fashioned out of our waking imaginations, it is easy to
believe that the fortunes of his great townsman Marius, and the scenes in
the Senate at Rome, were continually present to the exile's thoughts.

His return was a triumphal progress. He landed at Brundusium on his
daughter's birthday. She had only just lost her husband Piso, who had
gallantly maintained her father's cause throughout, but she was the first
to welcome him with tears of joy which overmastered her sorrow. He was
careful to lose no chance of making his return impressive. He took his way
to Rome with the slow march of a conqueror. The journey which Horace made
easily in twelve days, occupied Cicero twenty-four. But he chose not the
shortest but the most public route, through Naples, Capua, Minturnae,
Terracina, and Aricia.

Let him tell the story of his own reception. If he tells it (as he does
more than once) with an undisguised pride, it is a pride with which it
is impossible not to sympathise. He boasted afterwards that he had been
"carried back to Rome on the shoulders of Italy;" and Plutarch says it was
a boast he had good right to make.

"Who does not know what my return home was like? How the people of
Brundusium held out to me, as I might say, the right hand of welcome on
behalf of all my native land? From thence to Rome my progress was like
a march of all Italy. There was no district, no town, corporation, or
colony, from which a public deputation was not sent to congratulate me.
Why need I speak of my arrival at each place? how the people crowded the
streets in the towns; how they flocked in from the country--fathers of
families with wives and children? How can I describe those days, when all
kept holiday, as though it were some high festival of the immortal gods,
in joy for my safe return? That single day was to me like immortality;
when I returned to my own city, when I saw the Senate and the population
of all ranks come forth to greet me, when Rome herself looked as though
she had wrenched herself from her foundations to rush to embrace her
preserver. For she received me in such sort, that not only all sexes,
ages, and callings, men and women, of every rank and degree, but even the
very walls, the houses, the temples, seemed to share the universal joy".

The Senate in a body came out to receive him on the Appian road; a gilded
chariot waited for him at the city gates; the lower class of citizens
crowded the steps of the temples to see him as he passed; and so he rode,
escorted by troops of friends, more than a conqueror, to the Capitol.

His exultation was naturally as intense as his despair had been. He
made two of his most florid speeches (if indeed they be his, which is
doubtful), one in the Senate and another to the people assembled in the
Forum, in which he congratulated himself on his return, and Rome on having
regained her most illustrious citizen. It is a curious note of the temper
and logical capacities of the mob, in all ages of the world alike,
that within a few hours of their applauding to the echo this speech
of Cicero's, Clodius succeeded in exciting them to a serious riot by
appealing to the ruinous price of corn as one of the results of the
exile's return.

For nearly four years more, though unable to shake Cicero's recovered
position in the state--for he was now supported by Pompey--Clodius and his
partisans, backed by a strong force of trained gladiators in their pay,
kept Rome in a state of anarchy which is almost inexplicable. It was more
than suspected that Crassus, now utterly estranged from Pompey, supplied
out of his enormous wealth the means of keeping on foot this lawless
agitation. Elections were overawed, meetings of the Senate interrupted,
assassinations threatened and attempted. Already men began to look to
military rule, and to think a good cause none the worse for being backed
by "strong battalions". Things were fast tending to the point where Pompey
and Caesar, trusty allies as yet in profession and appearance, deadly
rivals at heart, hoped to step in with their veteran legions. Even Cicero,
the man of peace and constitutional statesman, felt comfort in the thought
that this final argument could be resorted to by his own party. But
Clodius's mob-government, at any rate, was to be put an end to somewhat
suddenly. Milo, now one of the candidates for the consulship, a man of
determined and unscrupulous character, had turned his own weapons
against him, and maintained an opposition patrol of hired gladiators and
wild-beast fighters. The Senate quite approved, if they did not openly
sanction, this irregular championship of their order. The two parties
walked the streets of Rome like the Capulets and Montagues at Verona; and
it was said that Milo had been heard to swear that he would rid the city
of Clodius if he ever got the chance. It came at last, in a casual
meeting on the Appian road, near Bovillae. A scuffle began between their
retainers, and Clodius was killed--his friends said, murdered. The
excitement at Rome was intense: the dead body was carried and laid
publicly on the Rostra. Riots ensued; Milo was obliged to fly, and
renounce his hopes of power; and the Senate, intimidated, named
Pompey--not indeed "Dictator", for the name had become almost as hateful
as that of King--but sole consul, for the safety of the state.

Cicero had resumed his practice as an advocate, and was now called upon to
defend Milo. But Pompey, either from some private grudge, or in order to
win favour with the populace, determined that Milo should be convicted.
The jury were overawed by his presence in person at the trial, and by the
occupation by armed soldiers of all the avenues of the court under
colour of keeping order. It was really as great an outrage upon the free
administration of justice as the presence of a regiment of soldiers at the
entrance to Westminster Hall would be at a modern trial for high treason
or sedition. Cicero affected to see in Pompey's legionaries nothing more
than the maintainers of the peace of the city. But he knew better; and the
fine passage in the opening of his speech for the defence, as it has come
down to us, is at once a magnificent piece of irony, and a vindication of
the rights of counsel.

"Although I am conscious, gentlemen, that it is a disgrace to me to
show fear when I stand here to plead in behalf of one of the bravest of
men;--and especially does such weakness ill become me, that when Milo
himself is far more anxious about the safety of the state than about his
own, I should be unable to bring to his defence the like magnanimous
spirit;--yet this strange scene and strangely constituted court does
terrify my eyes, for, turn them where I will, I look in vain for the
ancient customs of the Forum, and the old style of public trials. For your
tribunal to-day is girt with no such audience as was wont; this is no
ordinary crowd that hems us in. Yon guards whom you see on duty in front
of all the temples, though set to prevent violence, yet still do a sort
of violence to the pleader; since in the Forum and the count of justice,
though the military force which surrounds us be wholesome and needful, yet
we cannot even be thus freed from apprehension without looking with some
apprehension on the means. And if I thought they were set there in hostile
array against Milo, I would yield to circumstances, gentlemen, and feel
there was no room for the pleader amidst such a display of weapons. But
I am encouraged by the advice of a man of great wisdom and justice--of
Pompey, who surely would not think it compatible with that justice, after
committing a prisoner to the verdict of a jury, then to hand him over
to the swords of his soldiers; nor consonant with his wisdom to arm the
violent passions of a mob with the authority of the state. Therefore those
weapons, those officers and men, proclaim to us not peril but protection;
they encourage us to be not only undisturbed but confident; they promise
me not only support in pleading for the defence, but silence for it to be
listened to. As to the rest of the audience, so far as it is composed of
peaceful citizens, all, I know, are on our side; nor is there any single
man among all those crowds whom you see occupying every point from which a
glimpse of this court can be gained, looking on in anxious expectation
of the result of this trial, who, while he approves the boldness of the
defendant, does not also feel that the fate of himself, his children, and
his country, hangs upon the issue of to-day".

After an elaborate argument to prove that the slaying of Clodius by Milo
was in self-defence, or, at the worst, that it was a fate which he well
deserved as a public enemy, he closes his speech with a peroration, the
pathos of which has always been admired:

"I would it had been the will of heaven--if I may say so with all
reverence for my country, for I fear lest my duty to my client may make me
say what is disloyal towards her--I would that Publius Clodius were not
only alive, but that he were praetor, consul, dictator even, before my
eyes had seen this sight! But what says Milo? He speaks like a brave man,
and a man whom it is your duty to protect--'Not so--by no means', says he.
'Clodius has met the doom he well deserved: I am ready, if it must be so,
to meet that which I do not deserve'. ... But I must stop; I can no longer
speak for tears; and tears are an argument which he would scorn for his
defence. I entreat you, I adjure you, ye who sit here in judgment, that in
your verdict you dare to give utterance to what I know you feel".

But the appeal was in vain, or rather, as far as we can ascertain, was
never made,--at least in such powerful terms as those in which we read
it. The great advocate was wholly unmanned by the scene before him, grew
nervous, and broke down utterly in his speech for the defence. This
presence of a military force under the orders of Pompey--the man in whom
he saw, as he hoped, the good genius of Rome--overawed and disturbed him.
The speech which we read is almost certainly not that which he delivered,
but, as in the previous case of Verres, the finished and elaborate
composition of his calmer hours. Milo was convicted by a large majority;
in fact, there can be little doubt but that he was legally guilty, however
political expediency might, in the eyes of Cicero and his party, have
justified his deed. Cato sat on the jury, and did all he could to insure
an acquittal, showing openly his voting-paper to his fellow jurors, with
that scorn of the "liberty of silence" which he shared with Cicero.

Milo escaped any worse penalty by at once going into voluntary banishment
at Marseilles. But he showed more practical philosophy than his advocate;
for when he read the speech in his exile, he is said to have declared that
"it was fortunate for him it was not spoken, or he should never have known
the flavour of the red mullet of Marseilles".

The removal of Clodius was a deliverance upon which Cicero never ceased to
congratulate himself. That "battle of Bovillae", as he terms it, became an
era in his mental records of only less significance than his consulship.
His own public life continued to be honourable and successful. He was
elected into the College of Augurs, an honour which he had long coveted;
and he was appointed to the government of Cilicia. This latter was a
greatness literally "thrust upon him", and which he would gladly have
declined, for it took him away in these eventful days from his beloved
Rome; and to these grand opportunities for enriching himself he was,
as has been said, honourably indifferent. The appointment to a distant
province was, in fact, to a man like Cicero, little better than an
honourable form of exile: it was like conferring on a man who had been,
and might hope one day to be again, Prime Minister of England, the
governor-generalship of Bombay.

One consolation he found on reaching his new government--that even in the
farthest wilds of Cilicia there were people who had heard of "the consul
who saved Rome". And again the astonished provincials marvelled at a
governor who looked upon them as having rights of their own, and neither
robbed nor ill-used them. He made a little war, too, upon some troublesome
hill-tribes (intrusting the command chiefly to his brother Quintus, who
had served with distinction under Caesar in Gaul), and gained a victory
which his legions thought of sufficient importance to salute him with
the honoured title of "imperator". Such military honours are especially
flattering to men who, like Cicero, are naturally and essentially
civilians; and to Cicero's vanity they were doubly delightful. Unluckily
they led him to entertain hopes of the further glory of a triumph; and
this, but for the revolution which followed, he might possibly have
obtained. As it was, the only result was his parading about with him
everywhere, from town to town, for months after his return, the lictors
with laurelled fasces, which betokened that a triumph was claimed--a
pompous incumbrance, which became, as he confessed, a grand subject for
evil-disposed jesters, and a considerable inconvenience to himself.



The future master of Rome was now coming home, after nearly ten years'
absence, at the head of the victorious legions with which he had struck
terror into the Germans, overrun all Spain, left his mark upon Britain,
and "pacified" Gaul. But Cicero, in common with most of the senatorial
party, failed to see in Julius Caesar the great man that he was. He
hesitated a little--Caesar would gladly have had his support, and made him
fair offers; but when the Rubicon was crossed, he threw in his lot with
Pompey. He was certainly influenced in part by personal attachment: Pompey
seems to have exercised a degree of fascination over his weakness. He knew
Pompey's indecision of character, and confessed that Caesar was "a prodigy
of energy;" but though the former showed little liking for him, he clung
to him nevertheless. He foreboded that, let the contest end which way
it would, "the result would certainly be a despotism". He foresaw that
Pompey's real designs were as dangerous to the liberties of Rome as any of
which Caesar could be suspected. "_Sullaturit animus_", he says of
him in one of his letters, coining a verb to put his idea strongly--"he
wants to be like Sulla". And it was no more than the truth. He found out
afterwards, as he tells Atticus, that proscription-lists of all Caesar's
adherents had been prepared by Pompey and his partisans, and that his old
friend's name figured as one of the victims. Only this makes it possible
to forgive him for the little feeling that he showed when he heard of
Pompey's own miserable end.

Cicero's conduct and motives at this eventful crisis have been discussed
over and over again. It may be questioned whether at this date we are in
any position to pass more than a very cautious and general judgment upon
them. We want all the "state papers" and political correspondence of
the day--not Cicero's letters only, but those of Caesar and Pompey and
Lentulus, and much information besides that was never trusted to pen or
paper--in order to lay down with any accuracy the course which a really
unselfish patriot could have taken. But there seems little reason to
accuse Cicero of double-dealing or trimming in the worst sense. His policy
was unquestionably, from first to last, a policy of expedients. But
expediency is, and must be more or less, the watchword of a statesman. If
he would practically serve his country, he must do to some extent what
Cicero professed to do--make friends with those in power. "_Sic
vivitur_"--"So goes the world;" "_Tempori serviendum est_"--"We
must bend to circumstances"--these are not the noblest mottoes, but they
are acted upon continually by the most respectable men in public and
private life, who do not open their hearts to their friends so
unreservedly as Cicero does to his friend Atticus. It seemed to him a
choice between Pompey and Caesar; and he probably hoped to be able so far
to influence the former, as to preserve some shadow of a constitution for
Rome. What he saw in those "dregs of a Republic",[1] as he himself calls
it, that was worth preserving;--how any honest despotism could seem to
him more to be dreaded than that prostituted liberty,--this is harder to
comprehend. The remark of Abeken seems to go very near the truth--"His
devotion to the commonwealth was grounded not so much upon his conviction
of its actual merits, as of its fitness for the display of his own

[Footnote 1: "Faex Romuli".]

But that commonwealth was past saving even in name. Within two months of
his having been declared a public enemy, all Italy was at Caesar's feet.
Before another year was past, the battle of Pharsalia had been fought, and
the great Pompey lay a headless corpse on the sea-shore in Egypt. It was
suggested to Cicero, who had hitherto remained constant to the fortunes of
his party, and was then in their camp at Dyrrachium, that he should take
the chief command, but he had the sense to decline; and though men called
him "traitor", and drew their swords upon him, he withdrew from a cause
which he saw was lost, and returned to Italy, though not to Rome.

The meeting between him and Caesar, which came at last, set at rest any
personal apprehensions from that quarter. Cicero does not appear to have
made any dishonourable submission, and the conqueror's behaviour was nobly
forgetful of the past. They gradually became on almost friendly terms. The
orator paid the Dictator compliments in the Senate, and found that, in
private society, his favourite jokes were repeated to the great man, and
were highly appreciated. With such little successes he was obliged now to
be content. He had again taken up his residence in Rome; but his political
occupation was gone, and his active mind had leisure to employ itself in
some of his literary works.

It was at this time that the blow fell upon him which prostrated him for
the time, as his exile had done, and under which he claims our far more
natural sympathy. His dear daughter Tullia--again married, but unhappily,
and just divorced--died at his Tusculan villa. Their loving intercourse
had undergone no change from her childhood, and his grief was for a
while inconsolable. He shut himself up for thirty days. The letters of
condolence from well-meaning friends were to him--as they so often are--as
the speeches of the three comforters to Job. He turned in vain, as he
pathetically says, to philosophy for consolation.

It was at this time that he wrote two of his philosophical treatises,
known to us as 'The True Ends of Life',[1] and the 'Tusculan
Disputations', of which more will be said hereafter. In this latter, which
he named from his favourite country-house, he addressed himself to the
subjects which suited best with his own sorrowful mood under his recent
bereavement. How men might learn to shake off the terrors of death--nay,
to look upon it rather as a release from pain and evil; how pain, mental
and bodily, may best be borne; how we may moderate our passions; and,
lastly, whether the practice of virtue be not all-sufficient for our

[Footnote 1: 'De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum'--a title hard to translate.]

A philosopher does not always find in himself a ready pupil. It was hardly
so in Cicero's case. His arguments were incontrovertible; but he found
them fail him sadly in their practical application to life. He never could
shake off from himself that dread of death which he felt in a degree
unusually vivid for a Roman. He sought his own happiness afterwards, as he
had done before, rather in the exciting struggle of public life than in
the special cultivation of any form of virtue; and he did not even find
the remedy for his present domestic sorrow in any of those general moral
reflections which philosophy, Christian as well as pagan, is so ready
to produce upon such occasions; which are all so undeniable, and all so
utterly unendurable to the mourner.

Cicero found his consolation, or that diversion of thought which so
mercifully serves the purpose of consolation, where most men of active
minds like his seek for it and find it--in hard work. The literary effort
of writing and completing the works which have been just mentioned
probably did more to soothe his mind than all the arguments which they
contained. He resumed his practice as an advocate so far as to plead a
cause before Caesar, now ruling as Dictator at Rome--the last cause, as
events happened, that he was ever to plead. It was a cause of no great
importance--a defence of Deiotarus, titulary king of Armenia, who was
accused of having entertained designs against the life of Caesar while
entertaining him as a guest in his palace. The Dictator reserved his
judgment until he should have made his campaign against the Parthians.
That more convenient season never came: for before the spring campaign
could open, the fatal "Ides of March" cut short Caesar's triumphs and
his life.



It remained for Cicero yet to take a part in one more great national
struggle--the last for Rome and for himself. No doubt there was some
grandeur in the cause which he once more so vigorously espoused--the
recovery of the liberties of Rome. But all the thunders of Cicero's
eloquence, and all the admiration of modern historians and poets, fail
to enlist our hearty sympathies with the assassins of Caesar. That
"consecration of the dagger" to the cause of liberty has been the fruitful
parent of too much evil ever since to make its use anything but hateful.
That Cicero was among the actual conspirators is probably not true, though
his enemies strongly asserted it. But at least he gloried in the deed when
done, and was eager to claim all the honours of a tyrannicide. Nay, he
went farther than the actual conspirators, in words at least; it is
curious to find him so careful to disclaim complicity in the act. "Would
that you had invited me to that banquet on the Ides of March! there would
then have been no leavings from the feast",--he writes to Cassius. He
would have had their daggers turned on Antony, at all events, as well as
on Caesar. He wishes that "the gods may damn Caesar after he is dead;"
professing on this occasion a belief in a future retribution, on which at
other times he was sceptical. It is but right to remember all this, when
the popular tide turned, and he himself came to be denounced to
political vengeance. The levity with which he continually speaks of the
assassination of Caesar--a man who had never treated _him_, at
any rate, with anything but a noble forbearance--is a blot on Cicero's
character which his warmest apologists admit.

The bloody deed in the Capitol was done--a deed which was to turn out
almost what Goethe called it--"the most absurd that ever was committed".
The great Dictator who lay there alone, a "bleeding piece of earth",
deserted by the very men who had sought of late to crown him, was perhaps
Rome's fittest master; certainly not the worst of the many with whom a
personal ambition took the place of principle. Three slaves took up
the dead body of their master, and carried it home to his house. Poor
wretches! they knew nothing about liberty or the constitution; they had
little to hope, and probably little to fear; they had only a humble duty
to do, and did it. But when we read of them, and of that freedman who, not
long before, sat by the dead body of Pompey till he could scrape together
wreck from the shore to light some sort of poor funeral-pile, we return
with a shudder of disgust to those "noble Romans" who occupy at this time
the foreground of history.

Caesar had been removed, but it is plain that Brutus and Cassius and their
party had neither the ability nor the energy to make any real use of their
bloody triumph. Cicero soon lost all hope of seeing in them the liberators
of his country, or of being able to guide himself the revolution which he
hoped he had seen begun. "We have been freed", he writes to Atticus,
"but we are not free". "We have struck down the tyrant, but the tyranny
survives". Antony, in fact, had taken the place of Caesar as master of
Rome--a change in all respects for the worse. He had surrounded himself
with guards; had obtained authority from the Senate to carry out all
decrees and orders left by the late Dictator; and when he could not find,
amongst Caesar's memoranda, materials to serve his purpose, he did not
hesitate to forge them. Cicero had no power, and might be in personal
danger, for Antony knew his sentiments as to state matters generally, and
more particularly towards himself. Rome was no longer any place for him,
and he soon left it--this time a voluntary exile. He wandered from
place to place, and tried as before to find interest and consolation in
philosophy. It was now that he wrote his charming essays on 'Friendship'
and on 'Old Age', and completed his work 'On the Nature of the Gods', and
that on 'Divination'. His treatise 'De Officiis' (a kind of pagan 'Whole
Duty of Man') is also of this date, as well as some smaller philosophical
works which have been lost. He professed himself hopeless of his country's
future, and disgusted with political life, and spoke of going to end his
days at Athens.

But, as before and always, his heart was in the Forum at Rome. Political
life was really the only atmosphere in which he felt himself breathe
vigorously. Unquestionably he had also an earnest patriotism, which would
have drawn him back to his country's side at any time when he believed
that she had need of his help. He was told that he was needed there
now; that there was a prospect of matters going better for the cause of
liberty; that Antony was coming to terms of some kind with the party of
Brutus,--and he returned.

For a short while these latter days brought with them a gleam of triumph
almost as bright as that which had marked the overthrow of Catiline's
conspiracy. Again, on his arrival at Rome, crowds rushed to meet him with
compliments and congratulations, as they had done some thirteen years
before. And in so far as his last days were spent in resisting to the
utmost the basest of all Rome's bad men, they were to him greater than any
triumph. Thenceforth it was a fight to the death between him and Antony;
so long as Antony lived, there could be no liberty for Rome. Cicero left
it to his enemy to make the first attack. It soon came. Two days after his
return, Antony spoke vehemently in the Senate against him, on the occasion
of moving a resolution to the effect that divine honours should be paid
to Caesar. Cicero had purposely stayed away, pleading fatigue after his
journey; really, because such a proposition was odious to him. Antony
denounced him as a coward and a traitor, and threatened to send men to
pull down his house about his head--that house which had once before been
pulled down, and rebuilt for him by his remorseful fellow-citizens.
Cicero went down to the Senate the following day, and there delivered a
well-prepared speech, the first of those fourteen which are known to us
as his 'Philippics'--a name which he seems first to have given to them in
jest, in remembrance of those which his favourite model Demosthenes
had delivered at Athens against Philip of Macedon. He defended his own
conduct, reviewed in strong but moderate terms the whole policy of Antony,
and warned him--still ostensibly as a friend--against the fate of Caesar.
The speaker was not unconscious what his own might possibly be.

"I have already, senators, reaped fruit enough from my return home, in
that I have had the opportunity to speak words which, whatever may betide,
will remain in evidence of my constancy in my duty, and you have listened
to me with much kindness and attention. And this privilege I will use so
often as I may without peril to you and to myself; when I cannot, I will
be careful of myself, not so much for my own sake as for the sake of my
country. For me, the life that I have lived seems already well-nigh long
enough, whether I look at my years or my honours; what little span may yet
be added to it should be your gain and the state's far more than my own".

Antony was not in the house when Cicero spoke; he had gone down to his
villa at Tibur. There he remained for a fortnight, brooding over his
reply--taking lessons, it was said, from professors in the art of
rhetorical self-defence. At last he came to Rome and answered his
opponent. His speech has not reached us; but we know that it contained the
old charges of having put Roman citizens to death without trial in the
case of the abettors of Catiline, and of having instigated Milo to the
assassination of Clodias. Antony added a new charge--that of complicity
with the murderers of Caesar. Above all, he laughed at Cicero's old
attempts as a poet; a mode of attack which, if not so alarming, was at
least as irritating as the rest. Cicero was not present--he dreaded
personal violence; for Antony, like Pompey at the trial of Milo, had
planted an armed guard of his own men outside and inside the Senate-house.
Before Cicero had nerved himself to reply, Antony had left Rome to put
himself at the head of his legions, and the two never met again.


Back to Full Books