Roman Life in the Days of Cicero By the REV. ALFRED J. CHURCH, M.A.
Author of "Stories from Homer"
TO OCTAVIUS OGLE, IN REMEMBRANCE OF A LONG FRIENDSHIP THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED.
I. A ROMAN BOY
II. A ROMAN UNDERGRADUATE
III. IN THE DAYS OF THE DICTATOR
IV. A ROMAN MAGISTRATE
V. A GREAT ROMAN CAUSE
VI. COUNTRY LIFE
VII. A GREAT CONSPIRACY
XI. A BRAWL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
XII. CATO, BRUTUS, AND PORCIA
XIII. A GOVERNOR IN HIS PROVINCE
XV. ANTONY AND AUGUSTUS
This book does not claim to be a life of Cicero or a history of the last days of the Roman Republic. Still less does it pretend to come into comparison with such a work as Bekker's Gallus, in which on a slender thread of narrative is hung a vast amount of facts relating to the social life of the Romans. I have tried to group round the central figure of Cicero various sketches of men and manners, and so to give my readers some idea of what life actually was in Rome, and the provinces of Rome, during the first six decades—to speak roughly—of the first century B.C. I speak of Cicero as the "central figure," not as judging him to be the most important man of the time, but because it is from him, from his speeches and letters, that we chiefly derive the information of which I have here made use. Hence it follows that I give, not indeed a life of the great orator, but a sketch of his personality and career. I have been obliged also to trespass on the domain of history: speaking of Cicero, I was obliged to speak also of Caesar and of Pompey, of Cato and of Antony, and to give a narrative, which I have striven to make as brief as possible, of their military achievements and political action. I must apologize for seeming to speak dogmatically on some questions which have been much disputed. It would have been obviously inconsistent with the character of the book to give the opposing arguments; and my only course was to state simply conclusions which I had done my best to make correct.
I have to acknowledge my obligations to Marquardt's Privat-Leben der Romer, Mr. Capes' University Life in Ancient Athens, and Mr. Watson's Select Letters of Cicero, I have also made frequent use of Mr. Anthony Trollope's Life of Cicero, a work full of sound sense, though curiously deficient in scholarship.
The publishers and myself hope that the illustrations, giving as there is good reason to believe they do the veritable likenesses of some of the chief actors in the scenes described, will have a special interest. It is not till we come down to comparatively recent times that we find art again lending the same aid to the understanding of history.
Some apology should perhaps be made for retaining the popular title of one of the illustrations. The learned are, we believe, agreed that the statue known as the "Dying Gladiator" does not represent a gladiator at all. Yet it seemed pedantic, in view of Byron's famous description, to let it appear under any other name.
HADLEY GREEN October 8, 1883.
ROMAN LIFE IN THE DAYS OF CICERO.
A ROMAN BOY.
A Roman father's first duty to his boy, after lifting him up in his arms in token that he was a true son of the house, was to furnish him with a first name out of the scanty list (just seventeen) to which his choice was limited. This naming was done on the eighth day after birth, and was accompanied with some religious ceremonies, and with a feast to which kinsfolk were invited. Thus named he was enrolled in some family or state register. The next care was to protect him from the malignant influence of the evil eye by hanging round his neck a gilded bulla, a round plate of metal. (The bulla was of leather if he was not of gentle birth.) This he wore till he assumed the dress of manhood. Then he laid it aside, possibly to assume it once more, if he attained the crowning honor to which a Roman could aspire, and was drawn in triumph up the slope of the Capitol. He was nursed by his mother, or, in any case, by a free-born woman. It was his mother that had exclusive charge of him for the first seven years of his life, and had much to say to the ordering of his life afterwards. For Roman mothers were not shut up like their sisters in Greece, but played no small part in affairs—witness the histories or legends (for it matters not for this purpose whether they are fact or fiction) of the Sabine wives, of Tullia, who stirred up her husband to seize a throne, or Veturia, who turned her son Coriolanus from his purpose of besieging Rome. At seven began the education which was to make him a citizen and a soldier. Swimming, riding, throwing the javelin developed his strength of body. He learned at the same time to be frugal, temperate in eating and drinking, modest and seemly in behavior, reverent to his elders, obedient to authority at home and abroad, and above all, pious towards the gods. If it was the duty of the father to act as priest in some temple of the State (for the priests were not a class apart from their fellow-citizens), or to conduct the worship in some chapel of the family, the lad would act as camillus or acolyte. When the clients, the dependents of the house, trooped into the hall in the early morning hours to pay their respects to their patron, or to ask his advice and assistance in their affairs, the lad would stand by his father's chair and make acquaintance with his humble friends. When the hall was thrown open, and high festival was held, he would be present and hear the talk on public affairs or on past times. He would listen to and sometimes take part in the songs which celebrated great heroes. When the body of some famous soldier or statesman was carried outside the walls to be buried or burned, he would be taken to hear the oration pronounced over the bier.
At one time it was the custom, if we may believe a quaint story which one of the Roman writers tells us, for the senators to introduce their young sons to the sittings of their assembly, very much in the same way as the boys of Westminster School are admitted to hear the debates in the Houses of Parliament. The story professes to show how it was that one of the families of the race of Papirius came to bear the name of Praetextatus, i.e., clad in the praetexta (the garb of boyhood), and it runs thus:—"It was the custom in the early days of the Roman State that the senators should bring their young sons into the Senate to the end that they might learn in their early days how great affairs of the commonwealth were managed. And that no harm should ensue to the city, it was strictly enjoined upon the lads that they should not say aught of the things which they had heard within the House. It happened on a day that the Senate, after long debate upon a certain matter, adjourned the thing to the morrow. Hereupon the son of a certain senator, named Papirius, was much importuned by his mother to tell the matter which had been thus painfully debated. And when the lad, remembering the command which had been laid upon him that he should be silent about such matters, refused to tell it, the woman besought him to speak more urgently, till at the last, being worn out by her importunities, he contrived this thing. 'The Senate,' he said, 'debated whether something might not be done whereby there should be more harmony in families than is now seen to be; and whether, should it be judged expedient to make any change, this should be to order that a husband should have many wives, or a wife should have more husbands than one.' Then the woman, being much disturbed by the thing which she had heard, hastened to all the matrons of her acquaintance, and stirred them up not to suffer any such thing. Thus it came to pass that the Senate, meeting the next day, were astonished beyond measure to see a great multitude of women gathered together at the doors, who besought them not to make any change; or, if any, certainly not to permit that a man should have more wives than one. Then the young Papirius told the story how his mother had questioned him, and how he had devised this story to escape from her importunity. Thereupon the Senate, judging that all boys might not have the same constancy and wit, and that the State might suffer damage from the revealing of things that had best be kept secret, made this law, that no sons of a senator should thereafter come into the House, save only this young Papirius, but that he should have the right to come so long as he should wear the praetexta."
While this general education was going on, the lad was receiving some definite teaching. He learned of course to read, to write, and to cypher. The elder Cato used to write in large characters for the benefit of his sons portions of history, probably composed by himself or by his contemporary Fabius, surnamed the "Painter" (the author of a chronicle of Italy from the landing of Aeneas down to the end of the Second Punic War). He was tempted to learn by playthings, which ingeniously combined instruction and amusement. Ivory letters—probably in earlier times a less costly material was used—were put into his hands, just as they are put into the hands of children now-a-days, that he might learn how to form words. As soon as reading was acquired, he began to learn by heart. "When we were boys," Cicero represents himself as saying to his brother Quintus, in one of his Dialogues, "we used to learn the 'Twelve Tables.'" The "Twelve Tables" were the laws which Appius of evil fame and his colleagues the decemvirs had arranged in a code. "No one," he goes on to say, "learns them now." Books had become far more common in the forty years which had passed between Cicero's boyhood and the time at which he is supposed to be speaking; and the tedious lesson of his early days had given place to something more varied and interesting.
Writing the boy learned by following with the pen (a sharp-pointed stylus of metal), forms of letters which had been engraved on tablets of wood. At first his hand was held and guided by the teacher. This was judged by the experienced to be a better plan than allowing him to shape letters for himself on the wax-covered tablet. Of course parchment and paper were far too expensive materials to be used for exercises and copies. As books were rare and costly, dictation became a matter of much importance. The boy wrote, in part at least, his own schoolbooks. Horace remembers with a shudder what he had himself written at the dictation of his schoolmaster, who was accustomed to enforce good writing and spelling with many blows. He never could reconcile himself to the early poets whose verse had furnished the matter of these lessons.
Our Roman boy must have found arithmetic a more troublesome thing than the figures now in use (for which we cannot be too thankful to the Arabs their inventors) have made it. It is difficult to imagine how any thing like a long sum in multiplication or division could have been done with the Roman numerals, so cumbrous were they. The number, for instance, which we represent by the figures 89 would require for its expression no less than nine figures, LXXXVIIII. The boy was helped by using the fingers, the left hand being used to signify numbers below a hundred, and the right numbers above it. Sometimes his teacher would have a counting-board, on which units, tens, and hundreds would be represented by variously colored balls. The sums which he did were mostly of a practical kind. Here is the sample that Horace gives of an arithmetic lesson. "The Roman boys are taught to divide the penny by long calculations. 'If from five ounces be subtracted one, what is the remainder?' At once you can answer, 'A third of a penny.' 'Good, you will be able to take care of your money. If an ounce be added what does it make?' 'The half of a penny.'"
While he was acquiring this knowledge he was also learning a language, the one language besides his own which to a Roman was worth knowing—Greek. Very possibly he had begun to pick it up in the nursery, where a Greek slave girl was to be found, just as the French bonne or the German nursery-governess is among our own wealthier families. He certainly began to acquire it when he reached the age at which his regular education was commenced. Cato the Elder, though he made it a practice to teach his own sons, had nevertheless a Greek slave who was capable of undertaking the work, and who actually did teach, to the profit of his very frugal master, the sons of other nobles. Aemilius, the conqueror of Macedonia, who was a few years younger than Cato, had as a tutor a Greek of some distinction. While preparing the procession of his triumph he had sent to Athens for a scene-painter, as we should call him, who might make pictures of conquered towns wherewith to illustrate his victories. He added to the commission a stipulation that the artist should also be qualified to take the place of tutor. By good fortune the Athenians happened to have in stock, so to speak, exactly the man he wanted, one Metrodorus. Cicero had a Greek teacher in his own family, not for his son indeed, who was not born till later, but for his own benefit. This was one Diodotus, a Stoic philosopher. Cicero had been his pupil in his boyhood, and gave him a home till the day of his death, "I learned many things from him, logic especially." In old age he lost his sight. "Yet," says his pupil, "he devoted himself to study even more diligently than before; he had books read to him night and day. These were studies which he could pursue without his eyes; but he also, and this seems almost incredible, taught geometry without them, instructing his learners whence and whither the line was to be drawn, and of what kind it was to be." It is interesting to know that when the old man died he left his benefactor about nine thousand pounds.
Of course only wealthy Romans could command for their sons the services of such teachers as Diodotus; but any well-to-do-household contained a slave who had more or less acquaintance with Greek. In Cicero's time a century and more of conquests on the part of Rome over Greek and Greek-speaking communities had brought into Italian families a vast number of slaves who knew the Greek language, and something, often a good deal, of Greek literature. One of these would probably be set apart as the boy's attendant; from him he would learn to speak and read a language, a knowledge of which was at least as common at Rome as is a knowledge of French among English gentlemen.
If the Roman boy of whom we are speaking belonged to a very wealthy and distinguished family, he would probably receive his education at home. Commonly he would go to school. There were schools, girls' schools as well as boys' schools, at Rome in the days of the wicked Appius Claudius. The schoolmaster appears among the Etruscans in the story of Camillus, when the traitor, who offers to hand over to the Roman general the sons of the chief citizen of Falerii, is at his command scourged back into the town by his scholars. We find him again in the same story in the Latin town of Tusculum, where it is mentioned as one of the signs of a time of profound peace (Camillus had hurriedly marched against the town on a false report of its having revolted), that the hum of scholars at their lessons was heard in the market-place. At Rome, as time went on, and the Forum became more and more busy and noisy, the schools were removed to more suitable localities. Their appliances for teaching were improved and increased. Possibly maps were added, certainly reading books. Homer was read, and, as we have seen, the old Latin play-writers, and, afterwards, Virgil. Horace threatens the book which willfully insists on going out into the world with this fate, that old age will find it in a far-off suburb teaching boys their letters. Some hundred years afterwards the prophecy was fulfilled. Juvenal tells us how the schoolboys stood each with a lamp in one hand and a well-thumbed Horace or sooty Virgil in the other. Quintilian, writing about the same time, goes into detail, as becomes an old schoolmaster. "It is an admirable practice that the boy's reading should begin with Homer and Virgil. The tragic writers also are useful; and there is much benefit to be got from the lyric poets also. But here you must make a selection not of authors only, but a part of authors." It is curious to find him banishing altogether a book that is, or certainly was, more extensively used in our schools than any other classic, the Heroides of Ovid.
These, and such as these, then, are the books which our Roman boy would have to read. Composition would not be forgotten. "Let him take," says the author just quoted, "the fables of Aesop and tell them in simple language, never rising above the ordinary level. Then let him pass on to a style less plain; then, again, to bolder paraphrases, sometimes shortening, sometimes amplifying the original, but always following his sense." He also suggests the writing of themes and characters. One example he gives is this, "Was Crates the philosopher right when, having met an ignorant boy, he administered a beating to his teacher?" Many subjects of these themes have been preserved. Hannibal was naturally one often chosen. His passage of the Alps, and the question whether he should have advanced on the city immediately after the battle of Cannae, were frequently discussed. Cicero mentions a subject of the speculative kind. "It is forbidden to a stranger to mount the wall. A. mounts the wall, but only to help the citizens in repelling their enemies. Has A. broken the law?"
To make these studies more interesting to the Roman boy, his schoolmaster called in the aid of emulation. "I feel sure," says Quintilian, "that the practice which I remember to have been employed by my own teachers was any thing but useless. They were accustomed to divide the boys into classes, and they set us to speak in the order of our powers; every one taking his turn according to his proficiency. Our performances were duly estimated; and prodigious were the struggles which we had for victory. To be the head of one's class was considered the most glorious thing conceivable. But the decision was not made once for all. The next month brought the vanquished an opportunity of renewing the contest. He who had been victorious in the first encounter was not led by success to relax his efforts, and a feeling of vexation impelled the vanquished to do away with the disgrace of defeat. This practice, I am sure, supplied a keener stimulus to learning than did all the exhortations of our teachers, the care of our tutors, and the wishes of our parents." Nor did the schoolmaster trust to emulation alone. The third choice of the famous Winchester line, "Either learn, or go: there is yet another choice—to be flogged," was liberally employed. Horace celebrates his old schoolmaster as a "man of many blows," and another distinguished pupil of this teacher, the Busby or Keate of antiquity, has specified the weapons which he employed, the ferule and the thong. The thong is the familiar "tawse" of schools north of the Border. The ferule was a name given both to the bamboo and to the yellow cane, which grew plentifully both in the islands of the Greek Archipelago and in Southern Italy, as notably at Cannae in Apulia, where it gave a name to the scene of the great battle. The virga was also used, a rod commonly of birch, a tree the educational use of which had been already discovered. The walls of Pompeii indeed show that the practice of Eton is truly classical down to its details.
As to the advantage of the practice opinions were divided. One enthusiastic advocate goes so far as to say that the Greek word for a cane signifies by derivation, "the sharpener of the young" (narthex, nearous thegein), but the best authorities were against it. Seneca is indignant with the savage who will "butcher" a young learner because he hesitates at a word—a venial fault indeed, one would think, when we remember what must have been the aspect of a Roman book, written as it was in capitals, almost without stops, and with little or no distinction between the words. And Quintilian is equally decided, though he allows that flogging was an "institution."
As to holidays the practice of the Roman schools probably resembled that which prevails in the Scotch Universities, though with a less magnificent length of vacation. Every one had a holiday on the "days of Saturn" (a festival beginning on the seventeenth of December), and the schoolboys had one of their own on the "days of Minerva," which fell in the latter half of March; but the "long vacation" was in the summer. Horace speaks of lads carrying their fees to school on the fifteenth of the month for eight months in the year (if this interpretation of a doubtful passage is correct). Perhaps as this was a country school the holidays were made longer than usual, to let the scholars take their part in the harvest, which as including the vintage would not be over till somewhat late in the autumn. We find Martial, however, imploring a schoolmaster to remember that the heat of July was not favorable to learning, and suggesting that he should abdicate his seat till the fifteenth of October brought a season more convenient for study. Rome indeed was probably deserted in the later summer and autumn by the wealthier class, who were doubtless disposed to agree in the poet's remark, a remark to which the idlest schoolboy will forgive its Latin for the sake of its admirable sentiment:
"Aestate pueri si valent satis discunt." "In summer boys learn enough, if they keep their health."
Something, perhaps, may be said of the teachers, into whose hands the boys of Rome were committed. We have a little book, of not more than twoscore pages in all, which gives us "lives of illustrious schoolmasters;" and from which we may glean a few facts. The first business of a schoolmaster was to teach grammar, and grammar Rome owed, as she owed most of her knowledge, to a Greek, a certain Crates, who coming as ambassador from one of the kings of Asia Minor, broke his leg while walking in the ill-paved streets of Rome, and occupied his leisure by giving lectures at his house. Most of the early teachers were Greeks. Catulus bought a Greek slave for somewhat more than fifteen hundred pounds, and giving him his freedom set him up as a schoolmaster; another of the same nation received a salary of between three and four hundred pounds, his patron taking and probably making a considerable profit out of the pupils' fees. Orbilius, the man of blows, was probably of Greek descent. He had been first a beadle, then a trumpeter, then a trooper in his youth, and came to Rome in the year in which Cicero was consul. He seems to have been as severe on the parents of his pupils as he was in another way on the lads themselves, for he wrote a book in which he exposed their meanness and ingratitude. His troubles, however, did not prevent him living to the great age of one hundred and three. The author of the little book about schoolmasters had seen his statue in his native town. It was a marble figure, in a sitting posture, with two writing desks beside it. The favorite authors of Orbilius, who was of the old-fashioned school, were, as has been said, the early dramatists. Caecilius, a younger man, to whom Atticus the friend and correspondent of Cicero gave his freedom, lectured on Virgil, with whom, as he was intimate with one of Virgil's associates, he probably had some acquaintance. A certain Flaccus had the credit of having first invented prizes. He used to pit lads of equal age against each other, supplying not only a subject on which to write, but a prize for the victor. This was commonly some handsome or rare old book. Augustus made him tutor to his grandsons, giving him a salary of eight hundred pounds per annum. Twenty years later, a fashionable schoolmaster is said to have made between three and four thousands.
These schoolmasters were also sometimes teachers of eloquence, lecturing to men. One Gnipho, for instance, is mentioned among them, as having held his classes in the house of Julius Caesar (Caesar was left an orphan at fifteen); and afterwards, when his distinguished pupil was grown up, in his own. But Cicero, when he was praetor, and at the very height of his fame, is said to have attended his lectures. This was the year in which he delivered the very finest of his non-political speeches, his defence of Cluentius. He must have been a very clever teacher from whom so great an orator hoped to learn something.
These teachers of eloquence were what we may call the "Professors" of Rome. A lad had commonly "finished his education" when he put on the "man's gown;" but if he thought of political life, of becoming a statesman, and taking office in the commonwealth, he had much yet to learn. He had to make himself a lawyer and an orator. Law he learned by attaching himself, by becoming the pupil, as we should say, of some great man that was famed for his knowledge. Cicero relates to us his own experience: "My father introduced me to the Augur Scaevola; and the result was that, as far as possible and permissible, I never left the old man's side. Thus I committed to memory many a learned argument of his, many a terse and clever maxim, while I sought to add to my own knowledge from his stores of special learning. When the Augur died I betook myself to the Pontiff of the same name and family." Elsewhere we have a picture of this second Scaevola and his pupils. "Though he did not undertake to give instruction to any one, yet he practically taught those who were anxious to listen to him by allowing them to hear his answers to those who consulted him." These consultations took place either in the Forum or at his own house. In the Forum the great lawyer indicated that clients were at liberty to approach by walking across the open space from corner to corner. The train of young Romans would then follow his steps, just as the students follow the physician or the surgeon through the wards of a hospital. When he gave audience at home they would stand by his chair. It must be remembered that the great man took no payment either from client or from pupil.
But the young Roman had not only to learn law, he must also learn how to speak-learn, as far as such a thing can be learned, how to be eloquent. What we in this country call the career of the public man was there called the career of the orator. With us it is much a matter of chance whether a man can speak or not. We have had statesmen who wielded all the power that one man ever can wield in this country who had no sort of eloquence. We have had others who had this gift in the highest degree, but never reached even one of the lower offices in the government. Sometimes a young politician will go to a professional teacher to get cured of some defect or trick of speech; but that such teaching is part of the necessary training of a statesman is an idea quite strange to us. A Roman received it as a matter of course. Of course, like other things at Rome, it made its way but slowly. Just before the middle of the second century b.c. the Senate resolved: "Seeing that mention has been made of certain philosophers and rhetoricians, let Pomponius the praetor see to it, as he shall hold it to be for the public good, and for his own honor, that none such be found at Rome." Early in the first century the censors issued an edict forbidding certain Latin rhetoricians to teach. One of these censors was the great orator Crassus, greatest of all the predecessors of Cicero. Cicero puts into his mouth an apology for this proceeding: "I was not actuated by any hostility to learning or culture. These Latin rhetoricians were mere ignorant pretenders, inefficient imitators of their Greek rivals, from whom the Roman youth were not likely to learn any thing but impudence." In spite of the censors, however, and in spite of the fashionable belief in Rome that what was Greek must be far better than what was of native growth, the Latin teachers rose into favor. "I remember," says Cicero, "when we were boys, one Lucius Plotinus, who was the first to teach eloquence in Latin; how, when the studious youth of the capital crowded to hear him it vexed me much, that I was not permitted to attend him. I was checked, however, by the opinion of learned men, who held that in this matter the abilities of the young were more profitably nourished by exercises in Greek." We are reminded of our own Doctor Johnson, who declared that he would not disgrace the walls of Westminster Abbey by an epitaph in English.
The chief part of the instruction which these teachers gave was to propose imaginary cases involving some legal difficulty for their pupils to discuss. One or two of these cases may be given.
One day in summer a party of young men from Rome made an excursion to Ostia, and coming down to the seashore found there some fishermen who were about to draw in a net. With these they made a bargain that they should have the draught for a certain sum. The money was paid. When the net was drawn up no fish were found in it, but a hamper sewn with thread of gold. The buyers allege this to be theirs as the draught of the net. The fishermen claim it as not being fish. To whom did it belong?
Certain slave-dealers, landing a cargo of slaves at Brundisium, and having with them a very beautiful boy of great value, fearing lest the custom-house officers should lay hands upon him, put upon him the bulla and the purple-edged robe that free-born lads were wont to wear. The deceit was not discovered. But when they came to Rome, and the matter was talked of, it was maintained that the boy was really free, seeing that it was his master who of his own free will had given him the token of freedom.
I shall conclude this chapter with a very pretty picture, which a Roman poet draws of the life which he led with his teacher in the days when he was first entering upon manhood. "When first my timid steps lost the guardianship of the purple stripe, and the bulla of the boy was hung up for offering to the quaint household gods; when flattering comrades came about me, and I might cast my eyes without rebuke over the whole busy street under the shelter of the yet unsullied gown; in the days when the path is doubtful, and the wanderer knowing naught of life comes with bewildered soul to the many-branching roads—then I made myself your adopted child. You took at once into the bosom of another Socrates my tender years; your rule, applied with skillful disguise, straightens each perverse habit; nature is molded by reason, and struggles to be subdued, and assumes under your hands its plastic lineaments. Ay, well I mind how I would wear away long summer suns with you, and pluck with you the bloom of night's first hours. One work we had, one certain time for rest, and at one modest table unbent from sterner thoughts."
It accords with this charming picture to be told that the pupil, dying in youth, left his property to his old tutor, and that the latter handed it over to the kinsfolk of the deceased, keeping for himself the books only.
A ROMAN UNDERGRADUATE.
In the last chapter we had no particular "Roman Boy" in view; but our "Roman Undergraduate" will be a real person, Cicero's son. It will be interesting to trace the notices which we find of him in his father's letters and books. "You will be glad to hear," he writes in one of his earliest letters to Atticus, "that a little son has been born to me, and that Terentia is doing well." From time to time we hear of him, and always spoken of in terms of the tenderest affection. He is his "honey-sweet Cicero," his "little philosopher." When the father is in exile the son's name is put on the address of his letters along with those of his mother and sister. His prospects are the subject of most anxious thought. Terentia, who had a considerable fortune of her own, proposes to sell an estate. "Pray think," he writes, "what will happen to us. If the same ill fortune shall continue to pursue us, what will happen to our unhappy boy? I cannot write any more. My tears fairly overpower me; I should be sorry to make you as sad as myself. I will say so much. If my friends do their duty by me, I shall not want for money; if they do not, your means will not save me. I do implore you, by all our troubles, do not ruin the poor lad. Indeed he is ruined enough already. If he has only something to keep him from want, then modest merit and moderate good fortune will give him all he wants."
Appointed to the government of Cilicia, Cicero takes his son with him into the province. When he starts on his campaign against the mountain tribes, the boy and his cousin, young Quintus, are sent to the court of Deiotarus, one of the native princes of Galatia. "The young Ciceros," he writes to Atticus, "are with Deiotarus. If need be, they will be taken to Rhodes." Atticus, it may be mentioned, was uncle to Quintus, and might be anxious about him. The need was probably the case of the old prince himself marching to Cicero's help. This he had promised to do, but the campaign was finished without him. This was in the year 51 B.C., and Marcus was nearly fourteen years old, his cousin being his senior by about two years. "They are very fond of each other," writes Cicero; "they learn, they amuse themselves together, but one wants the rein, the other the spur." (Doubtless the latter is the writer's son.) "I am very fond of Dionysius their teacher: the lads say that he is apt to get furiously angry. But a more learned and more blameless man there does not live." A year or so afterwards he seems to have thought less favorably of him. "I let him go reluctantly when I thought of him as the tutor of the two lads, but quite willingly as an ungrateful fellow." In B.C. 49, when the lad was about half through his sixteenth year, Cicero "gave him his toga." To take the toga, that is to exchange the gown of the boy with its stripe of purple for the plain white gown of the citizen, marked the beginning of independence (though indeed a Roman's son was even in mature manhood under his father's control). The ceremony took place at Arpinum, much to the delight of the inhabitants, who felt of course the greatest pride and interest in their famous fellow-townsman. But it was a sad time. "There and every where as I journeyed I saw sorrow and dismay. The prospect of this vast trouble is sad indeed." The "vast trouble" was the civil war between Caesar and Pompey. This indeed had already broken out. While Cicero was entertaining his kinsfolk and friends at Arpinum, Pompey was preparing to fly from Italy. The war was probably not an unmixed evil to a lad who was just beginning to think himself a man. He hastened across the Adriatic to join his father's friend, and was appointed to the command of a squadron of auxiliary cavalry. His maneuvers were probably assisted by some veteran subordinate; but his I seat on horseback, his skill with the javelin, and his general soldierly qualities were highly praised both by his chief and by his comrades. After the defeat at Pharsalia he waited with his father at Brundisium till a kind letter from Caesar assured him of pardon. In B.C. 46 he was made aedile at Arpinum, his cousin being appointed at the same time. The next year he would have gladly resumed his military career. Fighting was going on in Spain, where the sons of Pompey were holding out against the forces of Caesar; and the young Cicero, who was probably not very particular on which side he drew his sword, was ready to take service against the son of his old general. Neither the cause nor the career pleased the father, and the son's wish was overruled, just as an English lad has sometimes to give up the unremunerative profession of arms, when there is a living in the family, or an opening in a bank, or a promising connection with a firm of solicitors. It was settled that he should take up his residence at Athens, which was then the university of Rome, not indeed exactly in the sense in which Oxford and Cambridge are the universities of England, but still a place of liberal culture, where the sons of wealthy Roman families were accustomed to complete their education. Four-and-twenty years before the father had paid a long visit to the city, partly for study's sake. "In those days," he writes, "I was emaciated and feeble to a degree; my neck was long and thin; a habit of body and a figure that are thought to indicate much danger to life, if aggravated by a laborious profession and constant straining of the voice. My friends thought the more of this, because in those days I was accustomed to deliver all my speeches without any relaxation of effort, without any variety, at the very top of my voice, and with most abundant gesticulation. At first, when friends and physicians advised me to abandon advocacy for a while, I felt that I would sooner run any risk than relinquish the hope of oratorical distinction. Afterwards I reflected that by learning to moderate and regulate my voice, and changing my style of speaking, I might both avert the danger that threatened my health and also acquire a more self-controlled manner. It was a resolve to break through the habits I had formed that induced me to travel to the East. I had practiced for two years, and my name had become well known when I left Rome. Coming to Athens I spent six months with Antiochus, the most distinguished and learned philosopher of the Old Academy, than whom there was no wiser or more famous teacher. At the same time I practiced myself diligently under the care of Demetrius Syrus, an old and not undistinguished master of eloquence." To Athens, then, Cicero always looked back with affection. He hears, for instance, that Appius is going to build a portico at Eleusis. "Will you think me a fool," he writes to Atticus, "if I do the same at the Academy? 'I think so,' you will say. But I love Athens, the very place, much; and I shall be glad to have some memorial of me there."
The new undergraduate, as we should call him, was to have a liberal allowance. "He shall have as much as Publilius, as much as Lentulus the Flamen, allow their sons." It would be interesting to know the amount, but unhappily this cannot be recovered. All that we know is that the richest young men in Rome were not to have more. "I will guarantee," writes this liberal father, "that none of the three young men [whom he names] who, I hear, will be at Athens at the same time shall live at more expense than he will be able to do on those rents." These "rents" were the incomings from certain properties at Rome. "Only," he adds, "I do not think he will want a horse."
We know something of the university buildings, so to speak, which the young Cicero found at Athens. "To seek for truth among the groves of Academus" is the phrase by which a more famous contemporary, the poet Horace, describes his studies at Athens. He probably uses it generally to express philosophical pursuits; taken strictly it would mean that he attached himself to the sage whose pride it was to be the successor of Plato. Academus was a local hero, connected with the legend of Theseus and Helen. Near his grove, or sacred inclosure, which adjoined the road to Eleusis, Plato had bought a garden. It was but a small spot, purchased for a sum which maybe represented by about three or four hundred pounds of our money, but it had been enlarged by the liberality of successive benefactors. This then was one famous lecture-room. Another was the Lyceum. Here Aristotle had taught, and after Aristotle, Theophrastus, and after him, a long succession of thinkers of the same school. A third institution of the same kind was the garden in which Epicurus had assembled his disciples, and which he bequeathed to trustees for their benefit and the benefit of their successors for all time.
To a Roman of the nobler sort these gardens and buildings must have been as holy places. It was with these rather than with the temples of gods that he connected what there was of goodness and purity in his life. To worship Jupiter or Romulus did not make him a better man, though it might be his necessary duty as a citizen; his real religion, as we understand it, was his reverence for Plato or Zeno. Athens to him was not only what Athens, but what the Holy Land is to us. Cicero describes something of this feeling in the following passage: "We had been listening to Antiochus (a teacher of the Academics) in the school called the Ptolemaeus, where he was wont to lecture. Marcus Piso was with me, and my brother Quintus, and Atticus, and Lucius Cicero, by relationship a cousin, in affection a brother. We agreed among ourselves to finish our afternoon walk in the Academy, chiefly because that place was sure not to be crowded at that hour. At the proper time we met at Piso's house; thence, occupied with varied talk, we traversed the six furlongs that lie between the Double Gate and the Academy; and entering the walls which can give such good reason for their fame, found there the solitude which we sought. 'Is it,' said Piso, 'by some natural instinct or through some delusion that when we see the very spots where famous men have lived we are far more touched than when we hear of the things that they have done, or read something that they have written? It is thus that I am affected at this moment. I think of Plato, who was, we are told, the first who lectured in this place; his little garden which lies there close at hand seems not only to remind me of him, but actually to bring him up before my eyes. Here spake Speusippus, here Xenocrates, here his disciple Polemo—to Polemo indeed belonged this seat which we have before us.'" This was the Polemo who had been converted, as we should say, when, bursting in after a night of revel upon a lecture in which Xenocrates was discoursing of temperance, he listened to such purpose that from that moment he became a changed man. Then Atticus describes how he found the same charms of association in the garden which had belonged to his own master, Epicurus; while Quintus Cicero supplies what we should call the classical element by speaking of Sophocles and the grove of Colonus, still musical, it seems, with the same song of the nightingale which had charmed the ear of the poet more than three centuries before.
One or other, perhaps more than one, of these famous places the young Cicero frequented. He probably witnessed, he possibly took part (for strangers were admitted to membership) in, the celebrations with which the college of Athenian youths (Ephebi) commemorated the glories of their city, the procession to the tombs of those who died at Marathon, and the boat-races in the Bay of Salamis. That he gave his father some trouble is only too certain. His private tutor in rhetoric, as we should call him, was a certain Gorgias, a man of ability, and a writer of some note, but a worthless and profligate fellow. Cicero peremptorily ordered his son to dismiss him; and the young man seems to have obeyed and reformed. We may hope at least that the repentance which he expresses for his misdoings in a letter to Tiro, his father's freedman, was genuine. This is his picture of his life in the days of repentance and soberness: "I am on terms of the closest intimacy with Cratippus, living with him more as a son than as a pupil. Not only do I hear his lectures with delight, but I am greatly taken with the geniality which is peculiar to the man. I spend whole days with him, and often no small part of the night; for I beg him to dine with me as often as he can. This has become so habitual with him that he often looks in upon us at dinner when we are not expecting him; he lays aside the sternness of the philosopher and jokes with us in the pleasantest fashion. As for Bruttius, he never leaves me; frugal and strict as is his life, he is yet a most delightful companion. For we do not entirely banish mirth from our daily studies in philology. I have hired a lodging for him close by; and do my best to help his poverty out of my own narrow means. I have begun to practice Greek declamation with Cassius, and wish to have a Latin course with Bruttius. My friends and daily companions are the pupils whom Cratippus brought with him from Mitylene, well-read men, of whom he highly approves. I also see much of Epicrates, who is the first man at Athens." After some pleasant words to Tiro, who had bought a farm, and whom he expects to find turned into a farmer, bringing stores, holding consultations with his bailiff, and putting by fruit-seeds in his pocket from dessert, he says, "I should be glad if you would send me as quickly as possible a copyist, a Greek by preference. I have to spend much pains on writing out my notes."
A short time before one of Cicero's friends had sent a satisfactory report of the young man's behavior to his father. "I found your son devoted to the most laudable studies and enjoying an excellent reputation for steadiness. Don't fancy, my dear Cicero, that I say this to please you; there is not in Athens a more lovable young man than your son, nor one more devoted to those high pursuits in which you would have him interested."
Among the contemporaries of the young Cicero was, as has been said, the poet Horace. His had been a more studious boyhood. He had not been taken away from his books to serve as a cavalry officer under Pompey. In him accordingly we see the regular course of the studies of a Roman lad. "It was my lot," he says, "to be bred up at Rome, and to be taught how much the wrath of Achilles harmed the Greeks. In other words, he had read his Homer, just as an English boy reads him at Eton or Harrow. "Kind Athens," he goes on, "added a little more learning, to the end that I might be able to distinguish right from wrong, and to seek for truth amongst the groves of Academus." And just in the same way the English youth goes on to read philosophy at Oxford.
The studies of the two young men were interrupted by the same cause, the civil war which followed the death of Caesar. They took service with Brutus, both having the same rank, that of military tribune, a command answering more or less nearly to that of colonel in our own army. It was, however, mainly an ornamental rank, being bestowed sometimes by favor of the general in command, sometimes by a popular vote. The young Cicero indeed had already served, and he now distinguished himself greatly, winning some considerable successes in the command of the cavalry which Brutus afterwards gave him. When the hopes of the party were crushed at Phillippi, he joined the younger Pompey in Sicily; but took an opportunity of an amnesty which was offered four years afterwards to return to Rome. Here he must have found his old fellow-student, who had also reconciled himself to the victorious party. He was made one of the college of augurs, and also a commissioner of the mint, and in B.C. 30 he had the honour of sharing the consulship with Augustus himself. It was to him that the dispatch announcing the final defeat and death of Antony was delivered; and it fell to him to execute the decree which ordered the destruction of all the statues of the fallen chief. "Then," says Plutarch, "by the ordering of heaven the punishment of Antony was inflicted at last by the house of Cicero." His time of office ended, he went as Governor to Asia, or, according to some accounts, to Syria; and thus disappears from our view.
Pliny the Elder tells us that he was a drunkard, sarcastically observing that he sought to avenge himself on Antony by robbing him of the reputation which he had before enjoyed of being the hardest drinker of the time. As the story which he tells of the younger Cicero being able to swallow twelve pints of wine at a draught is clearly incredible, perhaps we may disbelieve the whole, and with it the other anecdote, that he threw a cup at the head of Marcus Agrippa, son-in-law to the Emperor, and after him the greatest man in Rome.
IN THE DAYS OF THE DICTATOR.
In November 82 B.C., Cornelius Sulla became absolute master of Rome. It is not part of my purpose to give a history of this man. He was a great soldier who had won victories in Africa and Asia over the enemies of Rome, and in Italy itself over the "allies," as they were called, that is the Italian nations, who at various times had made treaties with Rome, and who in the early part of the first century B.C. rebelled against her, thinking that they were robbed of the rights and privileges which belonged to them. And he was the leader of the party of the nobles, just as Marius was the leader of the party of the people. Once before he had made himself supreme in the capital; and then he had used his power with moderation. But he was called away to carry on the war in Asia against Mithridates, the great King of Pontus; and his enemies had got the upper hand, and had used the opportunity most cruelly. A terrible list of victims, called the "proscription," because it was posted up in the forum, was prepared. Fifty senators and a thousand knights (peers and gentlemen we should call them) were put to death, almost all of them without any kind of trial. Sulla himself was outlawed. But he had an army which he had led to victory and had enriched with prize-money, and which was entirely devoted to him; and he was not inclined to let his enemies triumph. He hastened back to Italy, and landed in the spring of 83. In the November of the following year, just outside the walls of Rome, was fought the final battle of the war.
The opposing army was absolutely destroyed and Sulla had every thing at his mercy. He waited for a few days outside the city till the Senate had passed a decree giving him absolute power to change the laws, to fill the offices of State, and to deal with the lives and properties of citizens as it might please him. This done, he entered Rome. Then came another proscription. The chief of his enemies, Marius. was gone. He had died, tormented it was said by remorse, seventeen days after he had reached the crowning glory, promised him in his youth by an oracle, and had been made consul for the seventh time. The conqueror had to content himself with the same vengeance that Charles II. in our own country exacted from the remains of Cromwell. The ashes of Marius were taken out of his tomb on the Flaminian Way, the great North Road of Rome, and were thrown into the Anio. But many of his friends and partisans survived, and these were slaughtered without mercy. Eighty names were put on the fatal list on the first day, two hundred and twenty on the second, and as many more on the third. With the deaths of many of these victims politics had nothing to do. Sulla allowed his friends and favorites to put into the list the names of men against whom they happened to bear a grudge, or whose property they coveted. No one knew who might be the next to fall. Even Sulla's own partisans were alarmed. A young senator, Caius Metellus, one of a family which was strongly attached to Sulla and with which he was connected by marriage, had the courage to ask him in public when there would be an end to this terrible state of things. "We do not beg you," he said, "to remit the punishment of those whom you have made up your mind to remove; we do beg you to do away with the anxiety of those whom you have resolved to spare." "I am not yet certain," answered Sulla, "whom I shall spare." "Then at least," said Metellus, "you can tell us whom you mean to punish." "That I will do," replied the tyrant. It was indeed a terrible time that followed, Plutarch thus describes it: "He denounced against any who might shelter or save the life of a proscribed person the punishment of death for his humanity. He made no exemption for mother, or son, or parent. The murderers received a payment of two talents (about L470) for each victim; it was paid to a slave who killed his master, to a son who killed his father. The most monstrous thing of all, it was thought, was that the sons and grandsons of the proscribed were declared to be legally infamous and that their property was confiscated. Nor was it only in Rome but in all the cities of Italy that the proscription was carried out. There was not a single temple, not a house but was polluted with blood. Husbands were slaughtered in the arms of their wives, and sons in the arms of their mothers. And the number of those who fell victims to anger and hatred was but small in comparison with the number who were put out of the way for the sake of their property. The murderers might well have said: 'His fine mansion has been the death of this man; or his gardens, or his baths.' Quintus Aurelius, a peaceable citizen, who had had only this share in the late civil troubles, that he had felt for the misfortunes of others, coming into the forum, read the list of the proscribed and found in it his own name. 'Unfortunate that I am,' he said, 'it is my farm at Alba that has been my ruin;' and he had not gone many steps before he was cut down by a man that was following him. Lucius Catiline's conduct was especially wicked. He had murdered his own brother. This was before the proscription began. He went to Sulla and begged that the name might be put in the list as if the man were still alive; and it was so put. His gratitude to Sulla was shown by his killing one Marius, who belonged to the opposite faction, and bringing his head to Sulla as he sat in the forum. (This Marius was a kinsman of the great democratic leader, and was one of the most popular men in Rome.) This done, he washed his hands in the holy water-basin of the temple of Apollo."
Forty senators and sixteen hundred knights, and more than as many men of obscure station, are said to have perished. At last, on the first of June, 81, the list was closed. Still the reign of terror was not yet at an end, as the strange story which I shall now relate will amply prove. To look into the details of a particular case makes us better able to imagine what it really was to live at Rome in the days of the Dictator than to read many pages of general description. The story is all the more impressive because the events happened after order had been restored and things were supposed to be proceeding in their regular course.
The proscription came to an end, as has been said, in the early summer of 81. In the autumn of the same year a certain Sextus Roscius was murdered in the streets of Rome as he was returning home from dinner. Roscius was a native of Ameria, a little town of Etruria, between fifty and sixty miles north of Rome. He was a wealthy man, possessed, it would seem, of some taste and culture, and an intimate friend of some of the noblest families at Rome. In politics he belonged to the party of Sulla, to which indeed in its less prosperous days he had rendered good service. Since its restoration to power he had lived much at Rome, evidently considering himself, as indeed he had the right to do, to be perfectly safe from any danger of proscription. But he was wealthy, and he had among his own kinsfolk enemies who desired and who would profit by his death. One of these, a certain Titus Roscius, surnamed Magnus, was at the time of the murder residing at Rome; the other, who was known as Capito, was at home at Ameria. The murder was committed about seven o'clock in the evening. A messenger immediately left Rome with the news, and made such haste to Ameria that he reached the place before dawn the next day. Strangely enough he went to the house not of the murdered man's son, who was living at Ameria in charge of his farms, but of the hostile kinsman Capito. Three days afterwards Capito and Magnus made their way to the camp of Sulla (he was besieging Volaterrae, another Etrurian town). They had an interview with one Chrysogonus, a Greek freedman of the Dictator, and explained to him how rich a prey they could secure if he would only help them. The deceased, it seems, had left a large sum of money and thirteen valuable farms, nearly all of them running down to the Tiber. And the son, the lawful heir, could easily be got out of the way. Roscius was a well-known and a popular man, yet no outcry had followed his disappearance. With the son, a simple farmer, ignorant of affairs, and wholly unknown to Rome, it would be easy to deal. Ultimately the three entered into alliance. The proscription was to be revived, so to speak, to take in this particular case, and the name of Roscius was included in the list of the condemned. All his wealth was treated as the property of the proscribed, and was sold by auction. It was purchased by Chrysogonus. The real value was between fifty and sixty thousand pounds. The price paid was something less than eighteen pounds. Three of the finest farms were at once handed over to Capito as his share of the spoil. Magnus acted as the agent of Chrysogonus for the remainder. He took possession of the house in which Roscius the younger was living, laid his hands on all its contents, among which was a considerable sum of money, and drove out the unfortunate young man in an absolutely penniless condition.
These proceedings excited great indignation at Ameria. The local senate passed a resolution to the effect that the committee of ten should proceed to Sulla's camp and put him in possession of the facts, with the object of removing the name of the father from the list of the proscribed, and reinstating the son in his inheritance. The ten proceeded accordingly to the camp, but Chrysogonus cajoled and over-reached them. It was represented to them by persons of high position that there was no need to trouble Sulla with the affair. The name should be removed from the list; the property should be restored. Capito, who was one of the ten, added his personal assurance to the same effect, and the deputation, satisfied that their object had been attained, returned to Ameria. There was of course no intention of fulfilling the promises thus made. The first idea of the trio was to deal with the son as they had dealt with the father. Some hint of this purpose was conveyed to him, and he fled to Rome, where he was hospitably entertained by Caecilia, a wealthy lady of the family of Metellus, and therefore related to Sulla's wife, who indeed bore the same name. As he was now safe from violence, it was resolved to take the audacious step of accusing him of the murder of his father. Outrageous as it seems, the plan held out some promise of success. The accused was a man of singularly reserved character, rough and boorish in manner, and with no thoughts beyond the rustic occupations to which his life was devoted. His father, on the other hand, had been a man of genial temper, who spent much of his time among the polished circles of the Capitol. If there was no positive estrangement between them, there was a great discrepancy of tastes, and probably very little intercourse. This it would be easy to exaggerate into something like a plausible charge, especially under the circumstances of the case. It was beyond doubt that many murders closely resembling the murder of Roscius had been committed during the past year, committed some of them by sons. This was the first time that an alleged culprit was brought to trial, and it was probable that the jury would be inclined to severity. In any case, and whatever the evidence, it was hoped that the verdict would not be such as to imply the guilt of a favorite of Sulla. He was the person who would profit most by the condemnation of the accused, and it was hoped that he would take the necessary means to secure it.
The friends of the father were satisfied of the innocence of the son, and they exerted themselves to secure for him an efficient defense. Sulla was so much dreaded that none of the more conspicuous orators of the time were willing to undertake the task. Cicero, however, had the courage which they wanted; and his speech, probably little altered from the form in which he delivered it, remains.
It was a horrible crime of which his client was accused, and the punishment the most awful known to the Roman law. The face of the guilty man was covered with a wolf's skin, as being one who was not worthy to see the light; shoes of wood were put upon his feet that they might not touch the earth. He was then thrust into a sack of leather, and with him four animals which were supposed to symbolize all that was most hideous and depraved—the dog, a common object of contempt; the cock, proverbial for its want of all filial affection; the poisonous viper; and the ape, which was the base imitation of man. In this strange company he was thrown into the nearest river or sea.
Cicero begins by explaining why he had undertaken a case which his elders and betters had declined. It was not because he was bolder, but because he was more insignificant than they, and could speak with impunity when they could not choose but be silent. He then gives the facts in detail, the murder of Roscius, the seizure of his property, the fruitless deputation to Sulla, the flight of the son to Rome, and the audacious resolve of his enemies to indict him for parricide. They had murdered his father, they had robbed him of his patrimony, and now they accused him—of what crime? Surely of nothing else than the crime of having escaped their attack. The thing reminded him of the story of Fimbria and Scaevola. Fimbria, an absolute madman, as was allowed by all who were not mad themselves, got some ruffian to stab Scaevola at the funeral of Marius. He was stabbed but not killed. When Fimbria found that he was likely to live, he indicted him. For what do you indict a man so blameless? asked some one. For what? for not allowing himself to be stabbed to the heart. This is exactly why the confederates have indicted Roscius. His crime has been of escaping from their hands. "Roscius killed his father," you say. "A young man, I suppose, led away by worthless companions." Not so; he is more than forty years of age. "Extravagance and debt drove him to it." No; you say yourself that he never goes to an entertainment, and he certainly owes nothing. "Well," you say, "his father disliked him." Why did he dislike him? "That," you reply, "I cannot say; but he certainly kept one son with him, and left this Roscius to look after his farms." Surely this is a strange punishment, to give him the charge of so fine an estate. "But," you repeat, "he kept his other with him." "Now listen to me," cries Cicero, turning with savage sarcasm to the prosecutor, "Providence never allowed you to know who your father was. Still you have read books. Do you remember in Caecilius' play how the father had two sons, and kept one with him and left the other in the country? and do you remember that the one who lived with him was not really his son, the other was true-born, and yet it was the true-born who lived in the country? And is it such a disgrace to live in the country? It is well that you did not live in old times when they took a Dictator from the plow; when the men who made Rome what it is cultivated their own land, but did not covet the land of others. 'Ah! but,' you say, 'the father intended to disinherit him.' Why? 'I cannot say.' Did he disinherit him? 'No, he did not.' Who stopped him? 'Well, he was thinking of it.' To whom did he say so? 'To no one.' Surely," cries Cicero, "this is to abuse the laws and justice and your dignity in the basest and most wanton way, to make charges which he not only cannot but does not even attempt to establish."
Shortly after comes a lively description of the prosecutor's demeanor. "It was really worth while, if you observed, gentlemen, the man's utter indifference as he was conducting his case. I take it that when he saw who was sitting on these benches, he asked whether such an one or such an one was engaged for the defense. Of me he never thought, for I had never spoken before in a criminal case. When he found that none of the usual speakers were concerned in it, he became so careless that when the humor took him, he sat down, then walked about, sometimes called a servant, to give him orders, I suppose, for dinner, and certainly treated this court in which you are sitting as if it were an absolute solitude. At last he brought his speech to an end. I rose to reply. He could be seen to breathe again that it was I and no one else. I noticed, gentlemen, that he continued to laugh and be inattentive till I mentioned Chrysogonus. As soon as I got to him my friend roused himself and was evidently astonished. I saw what had touched him, and repeated the name a second time, and a third. From that time men have never ceased to run briskly backwards and forwards, to tell Chrysogonus, I suppose, that there was some one in the country who ventured to oppose his pleasure, that the case was being pleaded otherwise than as he imagined it would be; that the sham sale of goods was being exposed, the confederacy grievously handled, his popularity and power disregarded, that the people were giving their whole attention to the cause, and that the common opinion was that the transaction generally was disgraceful.
"Then," continued the speaker, "this charge of parricide, so monstrous is the crime, must have the very strongest evidence to support it. There was a case at Tarracina of a man being found murdered in the chamber where he was sleeping, his two sons, both young men, being in the same room. No one could be found, either slave or free man, who seemed likely to have done the deed; and as the two sons, grown up as they were, declared that they knew nothing about it, they were indicted for parricide. What could be so suspicious? Suspicious, do I say? Nay, worse. That neither knew any thing about it? That any one had ventured into that chamber at the very time when there were in it two young men who would certainly perceive and defeat the attempt? Yet, because it was proved to the jury that the young men had been found fast asleep, with the door wide open, they were acquitted. It was thought incredible that men who had just committed so monstrous a crime could possibly sleep. Why, Solon, the wisest of all legislators, drawing up his code of laws, provided no punishment for this crime; and when he was asked the reason replied that he believed that no one would ever commit it. To provide a punishment would be to suggest rather than prevent. Our own ancestors provided indeed a punishment, but it was of the strangest kind, showing how strange, how monstrous they thought the crime. And what evidence do you bring forward? The man was not at Rome. That is proved. There-fore he must have done it, if he did it at all, by the hands of others. Who were these others? Were they free men or slaves? If they were free men where did they come from, where live? How did he hire them? Where is the proof? You haven't a shred of evidence, and yet you accuse him of parricide. And if they were slaves, where, again I ask, are they? There were two slaves who saw the deed; but they belonged to the confederate not to the accused. Why do you not produce them? Purely because they would prove your guilt.
"It is there indeed that we find the real truth of the matter. It was the maxim of a famous lawyer, Ask: who profited by the deed? I ask it now. It was Magnus who profited. He was poor before, and now he is rich. And then he was in Rome at the time of the murder; and he was familiar with assassins. Remember too the strange speed with which he sent the news to Ameria, and sent it, not to the son, as one might expect, but to Capito his accomplice; for that he was an accomplice is evident enough. What else could he be when he so cheated the deputation that went to Sulla at Volaterrae?"
Cicero then turned to Chrysogonus, and attacked him with a boldness which is surprising, when we remember how high he stood in the favor of the absolute master of Rome, "See how he comes down from his fine mansion on the Palatine. Yes, and he has for his own enjoyment a delightful retreat in the suburbs, and many an estate besides, and not one of them but is both handsome and conveniently near. His house is crowded with ware of Corinth and Delos, among them that famous self-acting cooking apparatus, which he lately bought at a price so high that the passers-by, when they heard the clerk call out the highest bid, supposed that it must be a farm which was being sold. And what quantities, think you, he has of embossed plate, and coverlets of purple, and pictures, and statues, and colored marbles! Such quantities, I tell you, as scarce could be piled together in one mansion in a time of tumult and rapine from many wealthy establishments. And his household—why should I describe how many it numbers, and how varied are its accomplishments? I do not speak of ordinary domestics, the cook, the baker, the litter-bearer. Why, for the mere enjoyment of his ears he has such a multitude of men that the whole neighborhood echoes again with the daily music of singers, and harp-players, and flute-players, and with the uproar of his nightly banquets. What daily expenses, what extravagance, as you well know, gentlemen, there must be in such a life as this! how costly must be these banquets! Creditable banquets, indeed, held in such a house—a house, do I say, and not a manufactory of wickedness, a place of entertainment for every kind of crime? And as for the man himself—you see, gentlemen, how he bustles every where about the forum, with his hair fashionably arranged and dripping with perfumes; what a crowd of citizens, yes, of citizens, follow him; you see how he looks down upon every one, thinks no one can be compared to himself, fancies himself the one rich and powerful man in Rome?"
The jury seems to have caught the contagion of courage from the advocate. They acquitted the accused. It is not known whether he ever recovered his property. But as Sulla retired from power in the following year, and died the year after, we may hope that the favorites and the villains whom he had sheltered were compelled to disgorge some at least of their gains.
A ROMAN MAGISTRATE.
Of all the base creatures who found a profit in the massacres and plunderings which Sulla commanded or permitted, not one was baser than Caius Verres. The crimes that he committed would be beyond our belief if it were not for the fact that he never denied them. He betrayed his friends, he perverted justice, he plundered a temple with as little scruple as he plundered a private house, he murdered a citizen as boldly as he murdered a foreigner; in fact, he was the most audacious, the most cruel, the most shameless of men. And yet he rose to high office at home and abroad, and had it not been for the courage, sagacity, and eloquence of one man, he might have risen to the very highest. What Roman citizens had sometimes, and Roman subjects, it is to be feared, very often to endure may be seen from the picture which we are enabled to draw of a Roman magistrate.
Roman politicians began public life as quaestors. (A quaestor was an official who managed money matters for higher magistrates. Every governor of a province had one or more quaestors under him. They were elected at Rome, and their posts were assigned to them by lot.) Verres was quaestor in Gaul and embezzled the public money; he was quaestor in Cilicia with Dolabella, a like-minded governor, and diligently used his opportunity. This time it was not money only, but works of art, on which he laid his hands; and in these the great cities, whether in Asia or in Europe, were still rich. The most audacious, perhaps, of these robberies was perpetrated in the island of Delos. Delos was known all over the world as the island of Apollo. The legend was that it was the birthplace of the god. None of his shrines was more frequented or more famous. Verres was indifferent to such considerations. He stripped the temple of its finest statues, and loaded a merchant ship which he had hired with the booty. But this time he was not lucky enough to secure it. The islanders, though they had discovered the theft, did not, indeed, venture to complain. They thought it was the doing of the governor, and a governor, though his proceedings might be impeached after his term of office, was not a person with whom it was safe to remonstrate. But a terrible storm suddenly burst upon the island. The governor's departure was delayed. To set sail in such weather was out of the question. The sea was indeed so high that the town became scarcely habitable. Then Verres' ship was wrecked, and the statues were found cast upon the shore. The governor ordered them to be replaced in the temple, and the storm subsided as suddenly as it had arisen.
On his return to Rome Dolabella was impeached for extortion. With characteristic baseness Verres gave evidence against him, evidence so convincing as to cause a verdict of guilty. But he thus secured his own gains, and these he used so profusely in the purchase of votes that two or three years afterwards he was elected praetor. The praetors performed various functions which were assigned to them by lot. Chance, or it may possibly have been contrivance, gave to Verres the most considerable of them all. He was made "Praetor of the City;" that is, a judge before whom a certain class of very important causes were tried. Of course he showed himself scandalously unjust. One instance of his proceedings may suffice.
A certain Junius had made a contract for keeping the temple of Castor in repair. When Verres came into office he had died, leaving a son under age. There had been some neglect, due probably to the troubles of the times, in seeing that the contracts had been duly executed, and the Senate passed a resolution that Verres and one of his fellow-praetors should see to the matter. The temple of Castor came under review like the others, and Verres, knowing that the original contractor was dead, inquired who was the responsible person. When he heard of the son under age he recognized at once a golden opportunity. It was one of the maxims which he had laid down for his own guidance, and which he had even been wont to give out for the benefit of his friends, that much profit might be made out of the property of wards. It had been arranged that the guardian of the young Junius should take the contract into his own hands, and, as the temple was in excellent repair, there was no difficulty in the way. Verres summoned the guardian to appear before him. "Is there any thing," he asked, "that your ward has not made good, and which we ought to require of him?" "No," said he, "every thing is quite right; all the statues and offerings are there, and the fabric is in excellent repair." From the praetor's point of view this was not satisfactory; and he determined on a personal visit. Accordingly he went to the temple, and inspected it. The ceiling was excellent; the whole building in the best repair. "What is to be done?" he asked of one of his satellites. "Well," said the man, "there is nothing for you to meddle with here, except possibly to require that the columns should be restored to the perpendicular." "Restored to the perpendicular? what do you mean?" said Verres, who knew nothing of architecture. It was explained to him that it very seldom happened that a column was absolutely true to the perpendicular. "Very good," said Verres; "we will have the columns made perpendicular." Notice accordingly was sent to the lad's guardians. Disturbed at the prospect of indefinite loss to their ward's property, they sought an interview with Verres. One of the noble family of Marcellus waited upon him, and remonstrated against the iniquity of the proceeding. The remonstrance was in vain. The praetor showed no signs of relenting. There yet remained one way, a way only too well known to all who had to deal with him, of obtaining their object. Application must be made to his mistress (a Greek freedwoman of the name of Chelidon or "The Swallow"). If she could be induced to take an interest in the case something might yet be done. Degrading as such a course must have been to men of rank and honor, they resolved, in the interest of their ward, to take it. They went to Chelidon's house. It was thronged with people who were seeking favors from the praetor. Some were begging for decisions in their favor; some for fresh trials of their cases. "I want possession," cried one. "He must not take the property from me," said another. "Don't let him pronounce judgment against me," cried a third. "The property must be assigned to me," was the demand of a fourth. Some were counting out money; others signing bonds. The deputation, after waiting awhile, were admitted to the presence. Their spokesman explained the case, begged for Chelidon's assistance, and promised a substantial consideration. The lady was very gracious. She would willingly do what she could, and would talk to the praetor about it. The deputation must come again the next day and hear how she had succeeded. They came again, but found that nothing could be done. Verres felt sure that a large sum of money was to be got out of the proceeding, and resolutely refused any compromise.
They next made an offer of about two thousand pounds. This again was rejected. Verres resolved that he would put up the contract to auction, and did his best that the guardians should have no notice of it. Here, however, he failed. They attended the auction and made a bid. Of course the lowest bidder ought to have been accepted, so long as he gave security for doing the work well. But Verres refused to accept it. He knocked down the contract to himself at a price of more than five thousand pounds, and this though there were persons willing to do it for less than a sixth of that sum. As a matter of fact very little was done. Four of the columns were pulled down and built up again with the same stones. Others were whitewashed; some had the old cement taken out and fresh put in. The highest estimate for all that could possibly be wanted was less than eight hundred pounds.
[Footnote 1: "Pointed," I suppose.]
His year of office ended, Verres was sent as governor to Sicily. By rights he should have remained there twelve months only, but his successor was detained by the Servile war in Italy, and his stay was thus extended to nearly three years, three years into which he crowded an incredible number of cruelties and robberies. Sicily was perhaps the wealthiest of all the provinces. Its fertile wheat-fields yielded harvests which, now that agriculture had begun to decay in Italy, provided no small part of the daily bread of Rome. In its cities, founded most of them several centuries before by colonists from Greece, were accumulated the riches of many generations. On the whole it had been lightly treated by its Roman conquerors. Some of its states had early discerned which would be the winning side, and by making their peace in time had secured their privileges and possessions. Others had been allowed to surrender themselves on favorable terms. This wealth had now been increasing without serious disturbance for more than a hundred years. The houses of the richer class were full of the rich tapestries of the East, of gold and silver plate cunningly chased or embossed, of statues and pictures wrought by the hands of the most famous artists of Greece. The temples were adorned with costly offerings and with images that were known all over the civilized world. The Sicilians were probably prepared to pay something for the privilege of being governed by Rome. And indeed the privilege was not without its value. The days of freedom indeed were over; but the turbulence, the incessant strife, the bitter struggles between neighbors and parties were also at an end. Men were left to accumulate wealth and to enjoy it without hindrance. Any moderate demands they were willing enough to meet. They did not complain, for instance, or at least did not complain aloud, that they were compelled to supply their rulers with a fixed quantity of corn at prices lower than could have been obtained in the open market. And they would probably have been ready to secure the good will of a governor who fancied himself a connoisseur in art with handsome presents from their museums and picture galleries. But the exactions of Verres exceeded all bounds both of custom and of endurance. The story of how he dealt with the wheat-growers of the province is too tedious and complicated to be told in this place. Let it suffice to say that he enriched himself and his greedy troop of followers at the cost of absolute ruin both to the cultivators of the soil and to the Roman capitalists who farmed this part of the public revenue. As to the way in which he laid his hands on the possessions of temples and of private citizens, his doings were emphatically summed up by his prosecutor when he came, as we shall afterwards see, to be put upon his trial. "I affirm that in the whole of Sicily, wealthy and old-established province as it is, in all those towns, in all those wealthy homes, there was not a single piece of silver plate, a single article of Corinthian or Delian ware, a single jewel or pearl, a single article of gold or ivory, a single picture, whether on panel or on canvas, which he did not hunt up and examine, and, if it pleased his fancy, abstract. This is a great thing to say, you think. Well, mark how I say it. It is not for the sake of rhetorical exaggeration that I make this sweeping assertion, that I declare that this fellow did not leave a single article of the kind in the whole province. I speak not in the language of the professional accuser but in plain Latin. Nay, I will put it more clearly still: in no single private house, in no town; in no place, profane or even sacred; in the hands of no Sicilian, of no citizen of Rome, did he leave a single article, public or private property, of things profane or things religious, which came under his eyes or touched his fancy."
Some of the more remarkable of these acts of spoliation it may be worth while to relate. A certain Heius, who was at once the wealthiest and most popular citizen of Messana, had a private chapel of great antiquity in his house, and in it four statues of the very greatest value. There was a Cupid by Praxiteles, a replica of a famous work which attracted visitors to the uninteresting little town of Thespiae in Boeotia; a Hercules from the chisel of Myro; and two bronze figures, "Basket-bearers," as they were called, because represented as carrying sacred vessels in baskets on their heads. These were the work of Polyclitus. The Cupid had been brought to Rome to ornament the forum on some great occasion, and had been carefully restored to its place. The chapel and its contents was the great sight of the town. No one passed through without inspecting it. It was naturally, therefore, one of the first things that Verres saw, Messana being on his route to the capital of his province. He did not actually take the statues, he bought them; but the price that he paid was so ridiculously low that purchase was only another name for robbery. Something near sixty pounds was given for the four. If we recall the prices that would be paid now-a-days for a couple of statues by Michael Angelo and two of the masterpieces of Raphael and Correggio, we may imagine what a monstrous fiction this sale must have been, all the more monstrous because the owner was a wealthy man, who had no temptation to sell, and who was known to value his possessions not only as works of art but as adding dignity to his hereditary worship.
A wealthy inhabitant of Tyndaris invited the governor to dinner. He was a Roman citizen and imagined that he might venture on a display which a provincial might have considered to be dangerous. Among the plate on the table was a silver dish adorned with some very fine medallions. It struck the fancy of the guest, who promptly had it removed, and who considered himself to be a marvel of moderation when he sent it back with the medallions abstracted.
His secretary happened one day to receive a letter which bore a noteworthy impression on the composition of chalk which the Greeks used for sealing. It attracted the attention of Verres, who inquired from what place it had come. Hearing that it had been sent from Agrigentum, he communicated to his agents in that town his desire that the seal-ring should be at once secured for him. And this was done. The unlucky possessor, another Roman citizen, by the way, had his ring actually drawn from his finger.
A still more audacious proceeding was to rob, not this time a mere Sicilian provincial or a simple Roman citizen, but one of the tributary kings, the heir of the great house of Antiochus, which not many years before had matched itself with the power of Rome. Two of the young princes had visited Rome, intending to prosecute their claims to the throne of Egypt, which, they contended, had come to them through their mother. The times were not favorable to the suit, and they returned to their country, one of them, Antiochus, probably the elder, choosing to take Sicily on his way. He naturally visited Syracuse, where Verres was residing, and Verres at once recognized a golden opportunity. The first thing was to send the visitor a handsome supply of wine, olive-oil, and wheat. The next was to invite him to dinner. The dining-room and table were richly furnished, the silver plate being particularly splendid. Antiochus was highly delighted with the entertainment, and lost no time in returning the compliment. The dinner to which he invited the governor was set out with a splendor to which Verres had nothing to compare. There was silver plate in abundance, and there were also cups of gold, these last adorned with magnificent gems.
Conspicuous among the ornaments of the table was a drinking vessel, all in one piece, probably of amethyst, and with a handle of gold. Verres expressed himself delighted with what he saw. He handled every vessel and was loud in its praises. The simple-minded King, on the other hand, heard the compliment with pride. Next day came a message. Would the King lend some of the more beautiful cups to his excellency? He wished to show them to his own artists. A special request was made for the amethyst cup. All was sent without a suspicion of danger.
But the King had still in his possession something that especially excited the Roman's cupidity. This was a candelabrum of gold richly adorned with jewels. It had been intended for an offering to the tutelary deity of Rome, Jupiter of the Capitol. But the temple, which had been burned to the ground in the civil wars, had not yet been rebuilt, and the princes, anxious that their gift should not be seen before it was publicly presented, resolved to carry it back with them to Syria. Verres, however, had got, no one knew how, some inkling of the matter, and he begged Antiochus to let him have a sight of it. The young prince, who, so far from being suspicious, was hardly sufficiently cautious, had it carefully wrapped up, and sent it to the governor's palace. When he had minutely inspected it, the messengers prepared to carry it back. Verres, however, had not seen enough of it. It clearly deserved more than one examination. Would they leave it with him for a time? They left it, suspecting nothing.
Antiochus, on his part, had no apprehensions. When some days had passed and the candelabrum was not returned, he sent to ask for it. The governor begged the messenger to come again the next day. It seemed a strange request; still the man came again and was again unsuccessful. The King himself then waited on the governor and begged him to return it. Verres hinted, or rather said plainly, that he should very much like it as a present. "This is impossible," replied the prince, "the honor due to Jupiter and public opinion forbid it. All the world knows that the offering is to be made, and I cannot go back from my word." Verres perceived that soft words would be useless, and took at once another line. The King, he said, must leave Sicily before nightfall. The public safety demanded it. He had heard of a piratical expedition which was on its way from Syria to the province, and that his departure was necessary. Antiochus had no choice but to obey; but before he went he publicly protested in the market-place of Syracuse against the wrong that had been done. His other valuables, the gold and the jewels, he did not so much regret; but it was monstrous that he should be robbed of the gift that he destined for the altar of the tutelary god of Rome.