LIFE OF CICERO
IN TWO VOLUMES
NEW YORK HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE 1881
CONTENTS OF VOLUME I.
CHAPTER I. PAGE INTRODUCTION. 7
HIS EDUCATION. 40
THE CONDITION OF ROME. 62
HIS EARLY PLEADINGS.—SEXTUS ROSCIUS AMERINUS.—HIS INCOME. 80
CICERO AS QUAESTOR. 107
CICERO AS AEDILE AND PRAETOR. 162
CICERO AS CONSUL. 184
CICERO AFTER HIS CONSULSHIP. 240
THE TRIUMVIRATE. 264
HIS EXILE. 297
* * * * *
APPENDIX A. 335
APPENDIX B. 340
APPENDIX C. 242
APPENDIX D. 345
APPENDIX E. 347
THE LIFE OF CICERO.
I am conscious of a certain audacity in thus attempting to give a further life of Cicero which I feel I may probably fail in justifying by any new information; and on this account the enterprise, though it has been long considered, has been postponed, so that it may be left for those who come after me to burn or publish, as they may think proper; or, should it appear during my life, I may have become callous, through age, to criticism.
The project of my work was anterior to the life by Mr. Forsyth, and was first suggested to me as I was reviewing the earlier volumes of Dean Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire. In an article on the Dean's work, prepared for one of the magazines of the day, I inserted an apology for the character of Cicero, which was found to be too long as an episode, and was discarded by me, not without regret. From that time the subject has grown in my estimation till it has reached its present dimensions.
I may say with truth that my book has sprung from love of the man, and from a heartfelt admiration of his virtues and his conduct, as well as of his gifts. I must acknowledge that in discussing his character with men of letters, as I have been prone to do, I have found none quite to agree with me. His intellect they have admitted, and his industry; but his patriotism they have doubted, his sincerity they have disputed, and his courage they have denied. It might have become me to have been silenced by their verdict; but I have rather been instigated to appeal to the public, and to ask them to agree with me against my friends. It is not only that Cicero has touched all matters of interest to men, and has given a new grace to all that he has touched; that as an orator, a rhetorician, an essayist, and a correspondent he was supreme; that as a statesman he was honest, as an advocate fearless, and as a governor pure; that he was a man whose intellectual part always dominated that of the body; that in taste he was excellent, in thought both correct and enterprising, and that in language he was perfect. All this has been already so said of him by other biographers. Plutarch, who is as familiar to us as though he had been English, and Middleton, who thoroughly loved his subject, and latterly Mr. Forsyth, who has struggled to be honest to him, might have sufficed as telling us so much as that. But there was a humanity in Cicero, a something almost of Christianity, a stepping forward out of the dead intellectualities of Roman life into moral perceptions, into natural affections, into domesticity, philanthropy, and conscious discharge of duty, which do not seem to have been as yet fully appreciated. To have loved his neighbor as himself before the teaching of Christ was much for a man to achieve; and that he did this is what I claim for Cicero, and hope to bring home to the minds of those who can find time for reading yet another added to the constantly increasing volumes about Roman times.
It has been the habit of some latter writers, who have left to Cicero his literary honors, to rob him of those which had been accorded to him as a politician. Macaulay, expressing his surprise at the fecundity of Cicero, and then passing on to the praise of the Philippics as senatorial speeches, says of him that he seems to have been at the head of the "minds of the second order." We cannot judge of the classification without knowing how many of the great men of the world are to be included in the first rank. But Macaulay probably intended to express an opinion that Cicero was inferior because he himself had never dominated others as Marius had done, and Sylla, and Pompey, and Caesar, and Augustus. But what if Cicero was ambitious for the good of others, while these men had desired power only for themselves?
Dean Merivale says that Cicero was "discreet and decorous," as with a similar sneer another clergyman, Sydney Smith, ridiculed a Tory prime-minister because he was true to his wife. There is nothing so open to the bitterness of a little joke as those humble virtues by which no glitter can be gained, but only the happiness of many preserved. And the Dean declares that Cicero himself was not, except once or twice, and for a "moment only, a real power in the State." Men who usurped authority, such as those I have named, were the "real powers," and it was in opposition to such usurpation that Cicero was always urgent. Mr. Forsyth, who, as I have said, strives to be impartial, tells us that "the chief fault of Cicero's moral character was a want of sincerity." Absence of sincerity there was not. Deficiency of sincerity there was. Who among men has been free from such blame since history and the lives of men were first written? It will be my object to show that though less than godlike in that gift, by comparison with other men around him he was sincere, as he was also self-denying; which, if the two virtues be well examined, will indicate the same phase of character.
But of all modern writers Mr. Froude has been the hardest to Cicero. His sketch of the life of Caesar is one prolonged censure on that of Cicero. Our historian, with all that glory of language for which he is so remarkable, has covered the poor orator with obloquy. There is no period in Cicero's life so touching, I think, as that during which he was hesitating whether, in the service of the Republic, it did or did not behoove him to join Pompey before the battle of Pharsalia. At this time he wrote to his friend Atticus various letters full of agonizing doubts as to what was demanded from him by his duty to his country, by his friendship for Pompey, by loyalty to his party, and by his own dignity. As to a passage in one of those, Mr. Froude says "that Cicero had lately spoken of Caesar's continuance in life as a disgrace to the State." "It has been seen also that he had long thought of assassination as the readiest means of ending it," says Mr. Froude. The "It has been seen" refers to a statement made a few pages earlier, in which he translates certain words written by Cicero to Atticus. "He considered it a disgrace to them that Caesar was alive." That is his translation; and in his indignation he puts other words, as it were, into the mouth of his literary brother of two thousand years before. "Why did not somebody kill him?" The Latin words themselves are added in a note, "Cum vivere ipsum turpe sit nobis." Hot indignation has so carried the translator away that he has missed the very sense of Cicero's language. "When even to draw the breath of life at such a time is a disgrace to us!" That is what Cicero meant. Mr. Froude in a preceding passage gives us another passage from a letter to Atticus, "Caesar was mortal." So much is an intended translation. Then Mr. Froude tells us how Cicero had "hailed Caesar's eventual murder with rapture;" and goes on to say, "We read the words with sorrow and yet with pity." But Cicero had never dreamed of Caesar's murder. The words of the passage are as follows: "Hunc primum mortalem esse, deinde etiam multis modis extingui posse cogitabam." "I bethought myself in the first place that this man was mortal, and then that there were a hundred ways in which he might be put on one side." All the latter authorities have, I believe, supposed the "hunc" or "this man" to be Pompey. I should say that this was proved by the gist of the whole letter—one of the most interesting that was ever written, as telling the workings of a great man's mind at a peculiar crisis of his life—did I not know that former learned editors have supposed Caesar to have been meant. But whether Caesar or Pompey, there is nothing in it to do with murder. It is a question—Cicero is saying to his friend—of the stability of the Republic. When a matter so great is considered, how is a man to trouble himself as to an individual who may die any day, or cease from any accident to be of weight? Cicero was speaking of the effect of this or that step on his own part. Am I, he says, for the sake of Pompey to bring down hordes of barbarians on my own country, sacrificing the Republic for the sake of a friend who is here to-day and may be gone to-morrow? Or for the sake of an enemy, if the reader thinks that the "hunc" refers to Caesar. The argument is the same. Am I to consider an individual when the Republic is at stake? Mr. Froude tells us that he reads "the words with sorrow and yet with pity." So would every one, I think, sympathizing with the patriot's doubts as to his leader, as to his party, and as to his country. Mr. Froude does so because he gathers from them that Cicero is premeditating the murder of Caesar!
It is natural that a man should be judged out of his own mouth. A man who speaks much, and so speaks that his words shall be listened to and read, will be so judged. But it is not too much to demand that when a man's character is at stake his own words shall be thoroughly sifted before they are used against him.
The writer of the biographical notice in the Encyclopedia Britannica on Cicero, sends down to posterity a statement that in the time of the first triumvirate, when our hero was withstanding the machinations of Caesar and Pompey against the liberties of Rome, he was open to be bought. The augurship would have bought him. "So pitiful," says the biographer, "was the bribe to which he would have sacrificed his honor, his opinions, and the commonwealth!" With no more sententious language was the character of a great man ever offered up to public scorn. And on what evidence? We should have known nothing of the bribe and the corruption but for a few playful words in a letter from Cicero himself to Atticus. He is writing from one of his villas to his friend in Rome, and asks for the news of the day: Who are to be the new consuls? Who is to have the vacant augurship? Ah, says he, they might have caught even me with that bait; as he said on another occasion that he was so much in debt as to be fit for a rebel; and again, as I shall have to explain just now, that he was like to be called in question under the Cincian law because of a present of books! This was just at the point of his life when he was declining all offers of public service—of public service for which his soul longed—because they were made to him by Caesar. It was then that the "Vigintiviratus" was refused, which Quintilian mentions to his honor. It was then that he refused to be Caesar's lieutenant. It was then that he might have been fourth with Caesar, and Pompey, and Crassus, had he not felt himself bound not to serve against the Republic. And yet the biographer does not hesitate to load him with infamy because of a playful word in a letter half jocose and half pathetic to his friend. If a man's deeds be always honest, surely he should not be accused of dishonesty on the strength of some light word spoken in the confidence of familiar intercourse. The light words are taken to be grave because they meet the modern critic's eye clothed in the majesty of a dead language; and thus it comes to pass that their very meaning is misunderstood.
My friend Mr. Collins speaks, in his charming little volume on Cicero, of "quiet evasions" of the Cincian law, and tells us that we are taught by Cicero's letters not to trust Cicero's words when he was in a boasting vein. What has the one thing to do with the other? He names no quiet evasions. Mr. Collins makes a surmise, by which the character of Cicero for honesty is impugned—without evidence. The anonymous biographer altogether misinterprets Cicero. Mr. Froude charges Cicero with anticipation of murder, grounding his charge on words which he has not taken the trouble to understand. Cicero is accused on the strength of his own private letters. It is because we have not the private letters of other persons that they are not so accused. The courtesies of the world exact, I will not say demand, certain deviations from straightforward expression; and these are made most often in private conversations and in private correspondence. Cicero complies with the ways of the world; but his epistles are no longer private, and he is therefore subjected to charges of falsehood. It is because Cicero's letters, written altogether for privacy, have been found worthy to be made public that such accusations have been made. When the injustice of these critics strikes me, I almost wish that Cicero's letters had not been preserved.
As I have referred to the evidence of those who have, in these latter days, spoken against Cicero, I will endeavor to place before the reader the testimony of his character which was given by writers, chiefly of his own nation, who dealt with his name for the hundred and fifty years after his death—from the time of Augustus down to that of Adrian—a period much given to literature, in which the name of a politician and a man of literature would assuredly be much discussed. Readers will see in what language he was spoken of by those who came after him. I trust they will believe that if I knew of testimony on the other side, of records adverse to the man, I would give them. The first passage to which I will allude does not bear Cicero's name; and it may be that I am wrong in assuming honor to Cicero from a passage in poetry, itself so famous, in which no direct allusion is made to himself. But the idea that Virgil in the following lines refers to the manner in which Cicero soothed the multitude who rose to destroy the theatre when the knights took their front seats in accordance with Otho's law, does not originate with me. I give the lines as translated by Dryden, with the original in a note.
"As when in tumults rise the ignoble crowd, Mad are their motions, and their tongues are loud; And stones and brands in rattling volleys fly, And all the rustic arms that fury can supply; If then some grave and pious man appear, They hush their noise, and lend a listening ear; He soothes with sober words their angry mood, And quenches their innate desire of blood."
This, if it be not intended for a portrait of Cicero on that occasion, exactly describes his position and his success. We have a fragment of Cornelius Nepos, the biographer of the Augustan age, declaring that at Cicero's death men had to doubt whether literature or the Republic had lost the most. Livy declared of him only, that he would be the best writer of Latin prose who was most like to Cicero. Velleius Paterculus, who wrote in the time of Tiberius, speaks of Cicero's achievements with the highest honor. "At this period," he says, "lived Marcus Cicero, who owed everything to himself; a man of altogether a new family, as distinguished for ability as he was for the purity of his life." Valerius Maximus quotes him as an example of a forgiving character. Perhaps the warmest praise ever given to him came from the pen of Pliny the elder, from whose address to the memory of Cicero I will quote only a few words, as I shall refer to it more at length when speaking of his consulship. "Hail thou," says Pliny, "who first among men was called the father of your country." Martial, in one of his distichs, tells the traveller that if he have but a book of Cicero's writing he may fancy that he is travelling with Cicero himself. Lucan, in his bombastic verse, declares how Cicero dared to speak of peace in the camp of Pharsalia. The reader may think that Cicero should have said nothing of the kind, but Lucan mentions him with all honor. Not Tacitus, as I think, but some author whose essay De Oratoribus was written about the time of Tacitus, and whose work has come to us with the name of Tacitus, has told us of Cicero that he was a master of logic, of ethics, and of physical science. Everybody remembers the passage in Juvenal,
"Sed Roma parentem Roma patrem patriae Ciceronem libera dixit."
"Rome, even when she was free, declared him to be the father of his country." Even Plutarch, who generally seems to have a touch of jealousy when speaking of Cicero, declares that he verified the prediction of Plato, "That every State would be delivered from its calamities whenever power should fortunately unite with wisdom and justice in one person." The praises of Quintilian as to the man are so mixed with the admiration of the critic for the hero of letters, that I would have omitted to mention them here were it not that they will help to declare what was the general opinion as to Cicero at the time in which it was written. He has been speaking of Demosthenes, and then goes on: "Nor in regard to Cicero do I see that he ever failed in the duty of a good citizen. There is in evidence of this the splendor of his consulship, the rare integrity of his provincial administration, his refusal of office under Caesar, the firmness of his mind on the civil wars, giving way neither to hope nor fear, though these sorrows came heavily on him in his old age. On all these occasions he did the best he could for the Republic." Florus, who wrote after the twelve Caesars, in the time of Trajan and of Adrian, whose rapid summary of Roman events can hardly be called a history, tells us, in a few words, how Catiline's conspiracy was crushed by the authority of Cicero and Cato in opposition to that of Caesar. Then, when he has passed in a few short chapters over all the intervening history of the Roman Empire, he relates, in pathetic words, the death of Cicero. "It was the custom in Rome to put up on the rostra the heads of those who had been slain; but now the city was not able to restrain its tears when the head of Cicero was seen there, upon the spot from which the citizens had so often listened to his words." Such is the testimony given to this man by the writers who may be supposed to have known most of him as having been nearest to his time. They all wrote after him. Sallust, who was certainly his enemy, wrote of him in his lifetime, but never wrote in his dispraise. It is evident that public opinion forbade him to do so. Sallust is never warm in Cicero's praise, as were those subsequent authors whose words I have quoted, and has been made subject to reproach for envy, for having passed too lightly over Cicero's doings and words in his account of Catiline's conspiracy; but what he did say was to Cicero's credit. Men had heard of the danger, and therefore, says Sallust, "They conceived the idea of intrusting the consulship to Cicero. For before that the nobles were envious, and thought that the consulship would be polluted if it were conferred on a novus homo, however distinguished. But when danger came, envy and pride had to give way." He afterward declares that Cicero made a speech against Catiline most brilliant, and at the same time useful to the Republic. This was lukewarm praise, but coming from Sallust, who would have censured if he could, it is as eloquent as any eulogy. There is extant a passage attributed to Sallust full of virulent abuse of Cicero, but no one now imagines that Sallust wrote it. It is called the Declamation of Sallust against Cicero, and bears intrinsic evidence that it was written in after years. It suited some one to forge pretended invectives between Sallust and Cicero, and is chiefly noteworthy here because it gives to Dio Cassius a foundation for the hardest of hard words he said against the orator.
Dio Cassius was a Greek who wrote in the reign of Alexander Severus, more than two centuries and a half after the death of Cicero, and he no doubt speaks evil enough of our hero. What was the special cause of jealousy on his part cannot probably be now known, but the nature of his hatred may be gathered from the passage in the note, which is so foul-mouthed that it can be only inserted under the veil of his own language. Among other absurdities Dio Cassius says of Cicero that in his latter days he put away a gay young wife, forty years younger than himself, in order that he might enjoy without disturbance the company of another lady who was nearly as much older than himself as his wife was younger.
Now I ask, having brought forward so strong a testimony, not, I will say, as to the character of the man, but of the estimation in which he was held by those who came shortly after him in his own country; having shown, as I profess that I have shown, that his name was always treated with singular dignity and respect, not only by the lovers of the old Republic but by the minions of the Empire; having found that no charge was ever made against him either for insincerity or cowardice or dishonesty by those who dealt commonly with his name, am I not justified in saying that they who have in later days accused him should have shown their authority? Their authority they have always found in his own words. It is on his own evidence against himself that they have depended—on his own evidence, or occasionally on their own surmises. When we are told of his cowardice, because those human vacillations of his, humane as well as human, have been laid bare to us as they came quivering out of his bosom on to his fingers! He is a coward to the critics because they have written without giving themselves time to feel the true meaning of his own words. If we had only known his acts and not his words—how he stood up against the judges at the trial of Verres, with what courage he encountered the responsibility of his doings at the time of Catiline, how he joined Pompey in Macedonia from a sense of sheer duty, how he defied Antony when to defy Antony was probable death—then we should not call him a coward! It is out of his own mouth that he is condemned. Then surely his words should be understood. Queen Christina says of him, in one of her maxims, that "Cicero was the only coward that was capable of great actions." The Queen of Sweden, whose sentences are never worth very much, has known her history well enough to have learned that Cicero's acts were noble, but has not understood the meaning of words sufficiently to extract from Cicero's own expressions their true bearing. The bravest of us all, if he is in high place, has to doubt much before he can know what true courage will demand of him; and these doubts the man of words will express, if there be given to him an alter ego such as Cicero had in Atticus.
In reference to the biography of Mr Forsyth I must, in justice both to him and to Cicero, quote one passage from the work: "Let those who, like De Quincey, Mommsen, and others, speak disparagingly of Cicero, and are so lavish in praise of Caesar, recollect that Caesar never was troubled by a conscience." Here it is that we find that advance almost to Christianity of which I have spoken, and that superiority of mind being which makes Cicero the most fit to be loved of all the Romans.
It is hard for a man, even in regard to his own private purposes, to analyze the meaning of a conscience, if he put out of question all belief in a future life. Why should a man do right if it be not for a reward here or hereafter? Why should anything be right—or wrong? The Stoics tried to get over the difficulty by declaring that if a man could conquer all his personal desires he would become, by doing so, happy, and would therefore have achieved the only end at which a man can rationally aim. The school had many scholars, but probably never a believer. The normal Greek or Roman might be deterred by the law, which means fear of punishment, or by the opinion of his neighbors, which means ignominy. He might recognize the fact that comfort would combine itself with innocence, or disease and want with lust and greed. In this there was little need of a conscience—hardly, perhaps, room for it. But when ambition came, with all the opportunities that chance, audacity, and intellect would give—as it did to Sylla, to Caesar, and to Augustus—then there was nothing to restrain the men. There was to such a man no right but his power, no wrong but opposition to it. His cruelty or his clemency might be more or less, as his conviction of the utility of this or that other weapon for dominating men might be strong with him. Or there might be some variation in the flowing of the blood about his heart which might make a massacre of citizens a pleasing diversion or a painful process to him; but there was no conscience. With the man of whom we are about to speak conscience was strong. In his sometimes doubtful wanderings after political wisdom—in those mental mazes which have been called insincerity—we shall see him, if we look well into his doings, struggling to find whether, in searching for what was his duty, he should go to this side or to that. Might he best hope a return to that state of things which he thought good for his country by adhering to Caesar or to Pompey? We see the workings of his conscience, and, as we remember that Scipio's dream of his, we feel sure that he had, in truth, within him a recognition of a future life.
In discussing the character of a man, there is no course of error so fertile as the drawing of a hard and fast line. We are attracted by salient points, and, seeing them clearly, we jump to conclusions, as though there were a light-house on every point by which the nature of the coast would certainly be shown to us. And so it will, if we accept the light only for so much of the shore as it illumines. But to say that a man is insincere because he has vacillated in this or the other difficulty, that he is a coward because he has feared certain dangers, that he is dishonest because he has swerved, that he is a liar because an untrue word has been traced to him, is to suppose that you know all the coast because one jutting headland has been defined to you. He who so expresses himself on a man's character is either ignorant of human nature, or is in search of stones with which to pelt his enemy. "He has lied! He has lied!" How often in our own political contests do we hear the cry with a note of triumph! And if he have, how often has he told the truth? And if he have, how many are entitled by pure innocence in that matter to throw a stone at him? And if he have, do we not know how lies will come to the tongue of a man without thought of lying? In his stoutest efforts after the truth a man may so express himself that when afterward he is driven to compare his recent and his former words, he shall hardly be able to say even to himself that he has not lied. It is by the tenor of a man's whole life that we must judge him, whether he be a liar or no.
To expect a man to be the same at sixty as he was at thirty, is to suppose that the sun at noon shall be graced with the colors which adorn its setting. And there are men whose intellects are set on so fine a pivot that a variation in the breeze of the moment, which coarser minds shall not feel, will carry them round with a rapidity which baffles the common eye. The man who saw his duty clearly on this side in the morning shall, before the evening come, recognize it on the other; and then again, and again, and yet again the vane shall go round. It may be that an instrument shall be too fine for our daily uses. We do not want a clock to strike the minutes, or a glass to tell the momentary changes in the atmosphere. It may be found that for the work of the world, the coarse work—and no work is so coarse, though none is so important, as that which falls commonly into the hands of statesmen—instruments strong in texture, and by reason of their rudeness not liable to sudden impressions, may be the best. That it is which we mean when we declare that a scrupulous man is impractical in politics. But the same man may, at various periods of his life, and on various days at the same period, be scrupulous and unscrupulous, impractical and practical, as the circumstances of the occasion may affect him. At one moment the rule of simple honesty will prevail with him. "Fiat justitia, ruat c[oe]lum." "Si fractus illabatur orbis Impavidum ferient ruinae." At another he will see the necessity of a compromise for the good of the many. He will tell himself that if the best cannot be done, he must content himself with the next best. He must shake hands with the imperfect, as the best way of lifting himself up from a bad way toward a better. In obedience to his very conscience he will temporize, and, finding no other way of achieving good, will do even evil that good may come of it. "Rem si possis recte; si non, quocunque modo rem." In judging of such a character as this, a hard and fast line will certainly lead us astray. In judging of Cicero, such a hard and fast line has too generally been used. He was a man singularly sensitive to all influences. It must be admitted that he was a vane, turning on a pivot finer than those on which statesmen have generally been made to work. He had none of the fixed purpose of Caesar, or the unflinching principle of Cato. They were men cased in brass, whose feelings nothing could hurt. They suffered from none of those inward flutterings of the heart, doubtful aspirations, human longings, sharp sympathies, dreams of something better than this world, fears of something worse, which make Cicero so like a well-bred, polished gentleman of the present day. It is because he has so little like a Roman that he is of all the Romans the most attractive.
Still there may be doubt whether, with all the intricacies of his character, his career was such as to justify a further biography at this distance of time. "What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?" asks Hamlet, when he finds himself stirred by the passion thrown into the bare recital of an old story by an itinerant player. What is Cicero to us of the nineteenth century that we should care so much for him as to read yet another book? Nevertheless, Hamlet was moved because the tale was well told. There is matter in the earnestness, the pleasantness, the patriotism, and the tragedy of the man's life to move a reader still—if the story could only be written of him as it is felt! The difficulty lies in that, and not in the nature of the story.
The period of Cicero's life was the very turning-point of civilization and government in the history of the world. At that period of time the world, as we know it, was Rome. Greece had sunk. The Macedonian Empire had been destroyed. The kingdoms of the East—whether conquered, or even when conquering, as was Parthia for awhile—were barbaric, outside the circle of cultivation, and to be brought into it only by the arms and influence of Rome. During Caesar's career Gaul was conquered; and Britain, with what was known of Germany, supposed to be partly conquered. The subjugation of Africa and Spain was all but completed. Letters, too, had been or were being introduced. Cicero's use of language was so perfect that it seems to us to have been almost necessarily the result of a long established art of Latin literature. But, in truth, he is the earliest of the prose writers of his country with whose works we are familiar. Excepting Varro, who was born but ten years before him, no earlier Latin prose writer has left more than a name to us; and the one work by which Varro is at all known, the De Re Rustica, was written after Cicero's death. Lucretius, whose language we regard as almost archaic, so unlike is it to that of Virgil or Horace, was born eight years after Cicero. In a great degree Cicero formed the Latin language—or produced that manipulation of it which has made it so graceful in prose, and so powerful a vehicle of thought. That which he took from any Latin writer he took from Terence.
And it was then, just then, that there arose in Rome that unpremeditated change in its form of government which resulted in the self-assumed dictatorship of Caesar, and the usurpation of the Empire by Augustus. The old Rome had had kings. Then the name and the power became odious—the name to all the citizens, no doubt, but the power simply to the nobility, who grudged the supremacy of one man. The kings were abolished, and an oligarchy was established under the name of a Republic, with its annual magistrates—at first its two Consuls, then its Praetors and others, and occasionally a Dictator, as some current event demanded a concentration of temporary power in a single hand for a certain purpose. The Republic was no republic, as we understand the word; nor did it ever become so, though their was always going on a perpetual struggle to transfer the power from the nobles to the people, in which something was always being given or pretended to be given to the outside class. But so little was as yet understood of liberty that, as each plebeian made his way up into high place and became one of the magistrates of the State, he became also one of the oligarchical faction. There was a continued contest, with a certain amount of good faith on each side, on behalf of the so-called Republic—but still a contest for power. This became so continued that a foreign war was at times regarded as a blessing, because it concentrated the energies of the State, which had been split and used by the two sections—by each against the other. It is probably the case that the invasion of the Gauls in earlier days, and, later on, the second Punic war, threatening as they were in their incidents to the power of Rome, provided the Republic with that vitality which kept it so long in existence. Then came Marius, dominant on one side as a tribune of the people, and Sylla, as aristocrat on the other, and the civil wars between them, in which, as one prevailed or the other, Rome was mastered. How Marius died, and Sylla reigned for three bloody, fatal years, is outside the scope of our purpose—except in this, that Cicero saw Sylla's proscriptions, and made his first essay into public life hot with anger at the Dictator's tyranny.
It occurs to us as we read the history of Rome, beginning with the early Consuls and going to the death of Caesar and of Cicero, and the accomplished despotism of Augustus, that the Republic could not have been saved by any efforts, and was in truth not worth the saving. We are apt to think, judging from our own idea of liberty, that there was so much of tyranny, so little of real freedom in the Roman form of government, that it was not good enough to deserve our sympathies. But it had been successful. It had made a great people, and had produced a wide-spread civilization. Roman citizenship was to those outside the one thing the most worthy to be obtained. That career which led the great Romans up from the state of Quaestor to the AEdile's, Praetor's, and Consul's chair, and thence to the rich reward of provincial government, was held to be the highest then open to the ambition of man. The Kings of Greece, and of the East, and of Africa were supposed to be inferior in their very rank to a Roman Proconsul, and this greatness was carried on with a semblance of liberty, and was compatible with a belief in the majesty of the Roman citizen. When Cicero began his work, Consuls, Praetors, AEdiles, and Quaestors were still chosen by the votes of the citizens. There was bribery, no doubt, and intimidation, and a resort to those dirty arts of canvassing with which we English have been so familiar; but in Cicero's time the male free inhabitants of Rome did generally carry the candidates to whom they attached themselves. The salt of their republican theory was not as yet altogether washed out from their practice.
The love of absolute liberty as it has been cultivated among modern races did not exist in the time of Cicero. The idea never seems to have reached even his bosom, human and humanitarian as were his sympathies, that a man, as man, should be free. Half the inhabitants of Rome were slaves, and the institution was so grafted in the life of the time that it never occurred to a Roman that slaves, as a body, should be manumitted. The slaves themselves, though they were not, as have been the slaves whom we have seen, of a different color and presumed inferior race, do not themselves seem to have entertained any such idea. They were instigated now and again to servile wars, but there was no rising in quest of freedom generally. Nor was it repugnant to the Roman theory of liberty that the people whom they dominated, though not subjected to slavery, should still be outside the pale of civil freedom. That boon was to be reserved for the Roman citizen, and for him only. It had become common to admit to citizenship the inhabitants of other towns and further territories. The glory was kept not altogether for Rome, but for Romans.
Thus, though the government was oligarchical, and the very essence of freedom ignored, there was a something which stood in the name of liberty, and could endear itself to a real patriot. With genuine patriotism Cicero loved his country, and beginning his public life as he did at the close of Sylla's tyranny, he was able to entertain a dream that the old state of things might be restored and the republican form of government maintained. There should still be two Consuls in Rome, whose annual election would guard the State against regal dominion. And there should, at the same time, be such a continuance of power in the hands of the better class—the "optimates," as he called them—as would preserve the city from democracy and revolution. No man ever trusted more entirely to popular opinion than Cicero, or was more anxious for aristocratic authority. But neither in one direction nor the other did he look for personal aggrandizement, beyond that which might come to him in accordance with the law and in subjection to the old form of government.
It is because he was in truth patriotic, because his dreams of a Republic were noble dreams, because he was intent on doing good in public affairs, because he was anxious for the honor of Rome and of Romans, not because he was or was not a "real power in the State" that his memory is still worth recording. Added to this was the intellect and the wit and erudition of the man, which were at any rate supreme. And then, though we can now see that his efforts were doomed to failure by the nature of the circumstances surrounding him, he was so nearly successful, so often on the verge of success, that we are exalted by the romance of his story into the region of personal sympathy. As we are moved by the aspirations and sufferings of a hero in a tragedy, so are we stirred by the efforts, the fortune, and at last the fall of this man. There is a picturesqueness about the life of Cicero which is wanting in the stories of Marius or Sylla, of Pompey, or even of Caesar—a picturesqueness which is produced in great part by these very doubtings which have been counted against him as insincerity.
His hands were clean when the hands of all around him were defiled by greed. How infinitely Cicero must have risen above his time when he could have clean hands! A man in our days will keep himself clean from leprosy because to be a leper is to be despised by those around him. Advancing wisdom has taught us that such leprosy is bad, and public opinion coerces us. There is something too, we must suppose, in the lessons of Christianity. Or it may be that the man of our day, with all these advantages, does not keep himself clean—that so many go astray that public opinion shall almost seem to tremble in the balance. Even with us this and that abomination becomes allowable because so many do it. With the Romans, in the time of Cicero, greed, feeding itself on usury, rapine, and dishonesty, was so fully the recognized condition of life that its indulgence entailed no disgrace. But Cicero, with eyes within him which saw farther than the eyes of other men, perceived the baseness of the stain. It has been said also of him that he was not altogether free from reproach. It has been suggested that he accepted payment for his services as an advocate, any such payment being illegal. The accusation is founded on the knowledge that other advocates allowed themselves to be paid, and on the belief that Cicero could not have lived as he did without an income from that source. And then there is a story told of him that, though he did much at a certain period of his life to repress the usury, and to excite at the same time the enmity of a powerful friend, he might have done more. As we go on, the stories of these things will be told; but the very nature of the allegations against him prove how high he soared in honesty above the manners of his day. In discussing the character of the men, little is thought of the robberies of Sylla, the borrowings of Caesar, the money-lending of Brutus, or the accumulated wealth of Crassus. To plunder a province, to drive usury to the verge of personal slavery, to accept bribes for perjured judgment, to take illegal fees for services supposed to be gratuitous, was so much the custom of the noble Romans that we hardly hate his dishonest greed when displayed in its ordinary course. But because Cicero's honesty was abnormal, we are first surprised, and then, suspecting little deviations, rise up in wrath against him, because in the midst of Roman profligacy he was not altogether a Puritan in his money matters.
Cicero is known to us in three great capacities: as a statesman, an advocate, and a man of letters. As the combination of such pursuits is common in our own days, so also was it in his. Caesar added them all to the great work of his life as a soldier. But it was given to Cicero to take a part in all those political struggles, from the resignation of Sylla to the first rising of the young Octavius, which were made on behalf of the Republic, and were ended by its downfall. His political life contains the story of the conversion of Rome from republican to imperial rule; and Rome was then the world. Could there have been no Augustus, no Nero, and then no Trajan, all Europe would have been different. Cicero's efforts were put forth to prevent the coming of an Augustus or a Nero, or the need of a Trajan; and as we read of them we feel that, had success been possible, he would have succeeded.
As an advocate he was unsurpassed. From him came the feeling—whether it be right or wrong—that a lawyer, in pleading for his client, should give to that client's cause not only all his learning and all his wit, but also all his sympathy. To me it is marvellous, and interesting rather than beautiful, to see how completely Cicero can put off his own identity and assume another's in any cause, whatever it be, of which he has taken the charge. It must, however, be borne in mind that in old Rome the distinction between speeches made in political and in civil or criminal cases was not equally well marked as with us, and also that the reader having the speeches which have come down to us, whether of one nature or the other, presented to him in the same volume, is apt to confuse the public and that which may, perhaps, be called the private work of the man. In the speeches best known to us Cicero was working as a public man for public objects, and the ardor, I may say the fury, of his energy in the cause which he was advocating was due to his public aspirations. The orations which have come to us in three sets, some of them published only but never spoken—those against Verres, against Catiline, and the Philippics against Antony—were all of this nature, though the first concerned the conduct of a criminal charge against one individual. Of these I will speak in their turn; but I mention them here in order that I may, if possible, induce the reader to begin his inquiry into Cicero's character as an advocate with a just conception of the objects of the man. He wished, no doubt, to shine, as does the barrister of to-day: he wished to rise; he wished, if you will, to make his fortune, not by the taking of fees, but by extending himself into higher influence by the authority of his name. No doubt he undertook this and the other case without reference to the truth or honesty of the cause, and, when he did so, used all his energy for the bad, as he did for the good cause. There seems to be special accusation made against him on his head, as though, the very fact that he undertook his work without pay threw upon him the additional obligation of undertaking no cause that was not in itself upright. With us the advocate does this notoriously for his fee. Cicero did it as notoriously in furtherance of some political object of the moment, or in maintenance of a friendship which was politically important. I say nothing against the modern practice. This would not be the place for such an argument. Nor do I say that, by rules of absolute right and wrong, Cicero was right; but he was as right, at any rate, as the modern barrister. And in reaching the high-minded conditions under which he worked, he had only the light of his own genius to guide him. When compare the clothing of the savage race with our own, their beads and woad and straw and fibres with our own petticoats and pantaloons, we acknowledge the progress of civilization and the growth of machinery. It is not a wonderful thing to us that an African prince should not be as perfectly dressed as a young man in Piccadilly. But, when we make a comparison of morals between our own time and a period before Christ, we seem to forget that more should be expected from us than from those who lived two thousand years ago.
There are some of those pleadings, speeches made by Cicero on behalf of or against an accused party, from which we may learn more of Roman life than from any other source left to us. Much we may gather from Terence, much from Horace, something from Juvenal. There is hardly, indeed, a Latin author from which an attentive reader may not pick up some detail of Roman customs. Cicero's letters are themselves very prolific. But the pretty things of the poets are not quite facts, nor are the bitter things of the satirist; and though a man's letters to his friend may be true, such letters as come to us will have been the products of the greater minds, and will have come from a small and special class. I fear that the Newgate Calendar of the day would tell us more of the ways of living then prevailing than the letters of Lady Mary W. Montagu or of Horace Walpole. From the orations against Verres we learn how the people of a province lived under the tyranny inflicted upon them; and from those spoken in defence of Sextus Amerinus and Aulus Cluentius, we gather something of the horrors of Roman life—not in Rome, indeed, but within the limits of Roman citizenship.
It is, however, as a man of letters that Cicero will be held in the highest esteem. It has been his good-fortune to have a great part of what he wrote preserved for future ages. His works have not perished, as have those of his contemporaries, Varro and Hortensius. But this has been due to two causes, which were independent of Fortune. He himself believed in their value, and took measures for their protection; and those who lived in his own time, and in the immediately succeeding ages, entertained the same belief and took the same care. Livy said that, to write Latin well, the writer should write it like Cicero; and Quintilian, the first of Latin critics, repeated to us what Livy had asserted. There is a sweetness of language about Cicero which runs into the very sound; so that passages read aright would, by their very cadences, charm the ear of listeners ignorant of the language. Eulogy never was so happy as his. Eulogy, however, is tasteless in comparison with invective. Cicero's abuse is awful. Let the reader curious in such matters turn to the diatribes against Vatinius, one of Caesar's creatures, and to that against the unfortunate Proconsul Piso; or to his attacks on Gabinius, who was Consul together with Piso in the year of Cicero's banishment. There are wonderful morsels in the philippics dealing with Antony's private character; but the words which he uses against Gabinius and Piso beat all that I know elsewhere in the science of invective. Junius could not approach him; and even Macaulay, though he has, in certain passages, been very bitter, has not allowed himself the latitude which Roman taste and Roman manners permitted to Cicero.
It may, however, be said that the need of biographical memoirs as to a man of letters is by no means in proportion to the excellence of the work that he has achieved. Alexander is known but little to us, because we know so little of the details of his life. Caesar is much to us, because we have in truth been made acquainted with him. But Shakspeare, of whose absolute doings we know almost nothing, would not be nearer or dearer had he even had a Boswell to paint his daily portrait. The man of letters is, in truth, ever writing his own biography. What there is in his mind is being declared to the world at large by himself; and if he can so write that the world at large shall care to read what is written, no other memoir will, perhaps, be necessary. For myself I have never regretted those details of Shakspeare's life which a Boswell of the time might have given us. But Cicero's personality as a man of letters seems especially to require elucidation. His letters lose their chief charm if the character of the man be not known, and the incidents of his life. His essays on rhetoric—the written lessons which he has left on the art of oratory—are a running commentary on his own career as an orator. Most of his speeches require for their understanding a knowledge of the circumstances of his life. The treatises which we know as his Philosophy—works which have been most wrongly represented by being grouped under that name—can only be read with advantage by the light of his own experience. There are two separate classes of his so-called Philosophy, in describing which the word philosophy, if it be used at all, must be made to bear two different senses. He handles in one set of treatises, not, I think, with his happiest efforts, the teaching of the old Greek schools. Such are the Tusculan Disquisitions, the Academics, and the De Finibus. From reading these, without reference to the idiosyncrasies of the writer, the student would be led to believe that Cicero himself was a philosopher after that sort. But he was, in truth, the last of men to lend his ears
"To those budge doctors of the stoic fur."
Cicero was a man thoroughly human in all his strength and all his weakness. To sit apart from the world and be happy amid scorn, poverty, and obscurity, with a mess of cabbage and a crust, absolutely contented with abstract virtue, has probably been given to no man; but of none has it been less within the reach than of Cicero. To him ginger was always hot in the mouth, whether it was the spice of politics, or of social delight, or of intellectual enterprise. When in his deep sorrow at the death of his daughter, when for a time the Republic was dead to him, and public and private life were equally black, he craved employment. Then he took down his Greek manuscripts and amused himself as best he might by writing this way or that. It was a matter on which his intellect could work and his energies be employed, though the theory of his life was in no way concerned in it. Such was one class of his Philosophy. The other consisted of a code of morals which he created for himself by his own convictions, formed on the world around him, and which displayed itself in essays, such as those De Officiis—on the duties of life; De Senectute, De Amicitia—on old age and friendship, and the like, which were not only intended for use, but are of use to any man or woman who will study them up to this day. There are others, treatises on law and on government and religion, which have all been lumped together, for the misguidance of school-boys, under the name of Cicero's Philosophy. But they, be they of one class or the other, require an understanding of the man's character before they can be enjoyed.
For these reasons I think that there are incidents in the life, the character, and the work of Cicero which ought to make his biography interesting. His story is fraught with energy, with success, with pathos, and with tragedy. And then it is the story of a man human as men are now. No child of Rome ever better loved his country, but no child of Rome was ever so little like a Roman. Arms and battles were to him abominable, as they are to us. But arms and battles were the delight of Romans. He was ridiculed in his own time, and has been ridiculed ever since, for the alliterating twang of the line in which he declared his feeling:
"Cedant arma togae; concedat laurea linguae."
But the thing said was thoroughly good, and the better because the opinion was addressed to men among whom the glory of arms was still in ascendant over the achievements of intellectual enterprise. The greatest men have been those who have stepped out from the mass, and gone beyond their time—seeing things, with eyesight almost divine, which have hitherto been hidden from the crowd. Such was Columbus when he made his way across the Western Ocean; such were Galileo and Bacon; such was Pythagoras, if the ideas we have of him be at all true. Such also was Cicero. It is not given to the age in which such men live to know them. Could their age even recognize them, they would not overstep their age as they do. Looking back at him now, we can see how like a Christian was the man—so like, that in essentials we can hardly see the difference. He could love another as himself—as nearly as a man may do; and he taught such love as a doctrine. He believed in the existence of one supreme God. He believed that man would rise again and live forever in some heaven. I am conscious that I cannot much promote this view of Cicero's character by quoting isolated passages from his works—words which taken alone may be interpreted in one sense or another, and which should be read, each with its context, before their due meaning can be understood. But I may perhaps succeed in explaining to a reader what it is that I hope to do in the following pages, and why it is that I undertake a work which must be laborious, and for which many will think that there is no remaining need.
I would not have it thought that, because I have so spoken of Cicero's aspirations and convictions, I intend to put him forth as a faultless personage in history. He was much too human to be perfect. Those who love the cold attitude of indifference may sing of Cato as perfect. Cicero was ambitious, and often unscrupulous in his ambition. He was a loving husband and a loving father; but at the end of his life he could quarrel with his old wife irrecoverably, and could idolize his daughter, while he ruined his son by indulgence. He was very great while he spoke of his country, which he did so often; but he was almost as little when he spoke of himself—which he did as often. In money-matters he was honest—for the times in which he lived, wonderfully honest; but in words he was not always equally trustworthy. He could flatter where he did not love. I admit that it was so, though I will not admit without a protest that the word insincere should be applied to him as describing his character generally. He was so much more sincere than others that the protest is needed. If a man stand but five feet eleven inches in his shoes, shall he be called a pygmy? And yet to declare that he measures full six feet would be untrue.
Cicero was a busybody. Were there anything to do, he wished to do it, let it be what it might. "Cedant arma togae." If anything was written on his heart, it was that. Yet he loved the idea of leading an army, and panted for a military triumph. Letters and literary life were dear to him, and yet he liked to think that he could live on equal terms with the young bloods of Rome, such as C[oe]lius. As far as I can judge, he cared nothing for luxurious eating and drinking, and yet he wished to be reckoned among the gormands and gourmets of his times. He was so little like the "budge doctors of the stoic fur," of whom it was his delight to write when he had nothing else to do, that he could not bear any touch of adversity with equanimity. The stoic requires to be hardened against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." It is his profession to be indifferent to the "whips and scorns of time." No man was less hardened, or more subject to suffering from scorns and whips. There be those who think proneness to such suffering is unmanly, or that the sufferer should at any rate hide his agony. Cicero did not. Whether of his glory or of his shame, whether of his joy or of his sorrow, whether of his love or of his hatred, whether of his hopes or of his despair, he spoke openly, as he did of all things. It has not been the way of heroes, as we read of them; but it is the way with men as we live with them.
What a man he would have been for London life! How he would have enjoyed his club, picking up the news of the day from all lips, while he seemed to give it to all ears! How popular he would have been at the Carlton, and how men would have listened to him while every great or little crisis was discussed! How supreme he would have sat on the Treasury bench, or how unanswerable, how fatal, how joyous, when attacking the Government from the opposite seats! How crowded would have been his rack with invitations to dinner! How delighted would have been the middle-aged countesses of the time to hold with him mild intellectual flirtations—and the girls of the period, how proud to get his autograph, how much prouder to have touched the lips of the great orator with theirs! How the pages of the magazines would have run over with little essays from his pen! "Have you seen our Cicero's paper on agriculture? That lucky fellow, Editor ——, got him to do it last month!" "Of course you have read Cicero's article on the soul. The bishops don't know which way to turn." "So the political article in the Quarterly is Cicero's?" "Of course you know the art-criticism in the Times this year is Tully's doing?" But that would probably be a bounce. And then what letters he would write! With the penny-post instead of travelling messengers at his command, and pen instead of wax and sticks, or perhaps with an instrument-writer and a private secretary, he would have answered all questions and solved all difficulties. He would have so abounded with intellectual fertility that men would not have known whether most to admire his powers of expression or to deprecate his want of reticence.
There will necessarily be much to be said of Cicero's writings in the following pages, as it is my object to delineate the literary man as well as the politician. In doing this, there arises a difficulty as to the sequence in which his works should be taken. It will hardly suit the purpose in view to speak of them all either chronologically or separately as to their subjects. The speeches and the letters clearly require the former treatment as applying each to the very moment of time at which they were either spoken or written. His treatises, whether on rhetoric or on the Greek philosophy, or on government, or on morals, can best be taken apart as belonging in a very small degree, if at all, to the period in which they were written. I will therefore endeavor to introduce the orations and letters as the periods may suit, and to treat of his essays afterward by themselves.
A few words I must say as to the Roman names I have used in my narrative. There is a difficulty in this respect, because the practice of my boyhood has partially changed itself. Pompey used to be Pompey without a blush. Now with an erudite English writer he is generally Pompeius. The denizens of Africa—the "nigger" world—have had, I think, something to do with this. But with no erudite English writer is Terence Terentius, or Virgil Virgilius, or Horace Horatius. Were I to speak of Livius, the erudite English listener would think that I alluded to an old author long prior to our dear historian. And though we now talk of Sulla instead of Sylla, we hardly venture on Antonius instead of Antony. Considering all this, I have thought it better to cling to the sounds which have ever been familiar to myself; and as I talk of Virgil and of Horace and Ovid freely and without fear, so shall I speak also of Pompey and of Antony and of Catiline. In regard to Sulla, the change has been so complete that I must allow the old name to have re-established itself altogether.
It has been customary to notify the division of years in the period of which I am about to write by dating from two different eras, counting down from the building of Rome, A.U.C., or "anno urbis conditae," and back from the birth of Christ, which we English mark by the letters B.C., before Christ. In dealing with Cicero, writers (both French and English) have not uncommonly added a third mode of dating, assigning his doings or sayings to the year of his age. There is again a fourth mode, common among the Romans, of indicating the special years by naming the Consuls, or one of them. "O nata mecum consule Manlio," Horace says, when addressing his cask of wine. That was, indeed, the official mode of indicating a date, and may probably be taken as showing how strong the impression in the Roman mind was of the succession of their Consuls. In the following pages I will use generally the date B.C., which, though perhaps less simple than the A.U.C., gives to the mind of the modern reader a clearer idea of the juxtaposition of events. The reader will surely know that Christ was born in the reign of Augustus, and crucified in that of Tiberius; but he will not perhaps know, without the trouble of some calculation, how far removed from the period of Christ was the year 648 A.U.C., in which Cicero was born. To this I will add on the margin the year of Cicero's life. He was nearly sixty-four when he died. I shall, therefore, call that year his sixty-third year.
At Arpinum, on the river Liris, a little stream which has been made to sound sweetly in our ears by Horace, in a villa residence near the town, Marcus Tullius Cicero was born, 106 years before Christ, on the 3d of January, according to the calendar then in use. Pompey the Great was born in the same year. Arpinum was a State which had been admitted into Roman citizenship, lying between Rome and Capua, just within that portion of Italy which was till the other day called the Kingdom of Naples. The district from which he came is noted, also, as having given birth to Marius. Cicero was of an equestrian family, which means as much as though we were to say among ourselves that a man had been born a gentleman and nothing more. An "eques" or knight in Cicero's time became so, or might become so, by being in possession of a certain income. The title conferred no nobility. The plebeian, it will be understood, could not become patrician, though he might become noble—as Cicero did. The patrician must have been born so—must have sprung from the purple of certain fixed families. Cicero was born a plebeian, of equestrian rank and became ennobled when he was ranked among the senators because of his service among the high magistrates of the Republic. As none of his family had served before him, he was "novus homo," a new man, and therefore not noble till he had achieved nobility himself. A man was noble who could reckon a Consul, a Praetor, or an AEdile among his ancestors. Such was not the case with Cicero. As he filled all these offices, his son was noble—as were his son's sons and grandsons, if such there were.
It was common to Romans to have three names, and our Cicero had three. Marcus, which was similar in its use to the Christian name of one of us, had been that of his grandfather and father, and was handed on to his son. This, called the praenomen, was conferred on the child when a babe with a ceremony not unlike that of our baptism. There was but a limited choice of such names among the Romans, so that an initial letter will generally declare to those accustomed to the literature that intended. A. stands for Aulus, P. for Publius, M. generally for Marcus, C. for Caius, though there was a Cneus also. The nomen, Tullius, was that of the family. Of this family of Tullius to which Cicero belonged we know no details. Plutarch tells us that of his father nothing was said but in extremes, some declaring that he had been a fuller, and others that he had been descended from a prince who had governed the Volsci. We do not see why he may not have sprung from the prince, and also have been a fuller. There can, however, be no doubt that he was a gentleman, not uneducated himself, with means and the desire to give his children the best education which Rome or Greece afforded. The third name or cognomen, that of Cicero, belonged to a branch of the family of Tullius. This third name had generally its origin, as do so many of our surnames, in some specialty of place, or trade, or chance circumstance. It was said that an ancestor had been called Cicero from "cicer," a vetch, because his nose was marked with the figure of that vegetable. It is more probable that the family prospered by the growing and sale of vetches. Be that as it may, the name had been well established before the orator's time. Cicero's mother was one Helvia, of whom we are told that she was well-born and rich. Cicero himself never alludes to her—as neither, if I remember rightly, did Horace to his mother, though he speaks so frequently of his father. Helvia's younger son, Quintus, tells a story of his mother in a letter, which has been, by chance, preserved among those written by our Cicero. She was in the habit of sealing up the empty wine-jars, as well as those which were full, so that a jar emptied on the sly by a guzzling slave might be at once known. This is told in a letter to Tiro, a favorite slave belonging to Marcus, of whom we shall hear often in the course of our work. As the old lady sealed up the jars, though they contained no wine, so must Tiro write letters, though he has nothing to say in them. This kind of argument, taken from the old familiar stories of one's childhood and one's parents, could be only used to a dear and familiar friend. Such was Tiro, though still a slave, to the two brothers. Roman life admitted of such friendships, though the slave was so completely the creature of the master that his life and death were at the master's disposal. This is nearly all that is known of Cicero's father and mother, or of his old home.
There is, however, sufficient evidence that the father paid great attention to the education of his sons—if, in the case of Marcus, any evidence were wanting where the result is so manifest by the work of his life. At a very early age, probably when he was eight—in the year which produced Julius Caesar—he was sent to Rome, and there was devoted to studies which from the first were intended to fit him for public life. Middleton says that the father lived in Rome with his son, and argues from this that he was a man of large means. But Cicero gives no authority for this. It is more probable that he lived at the house of one Aculeo, who had married his mother's sister, and had sons with whom Cicero was educated. Stories are told of his precocious talents and performances such as we are accustomed to hear of many remarkable men—not unfrequently from their own mouths. It is said of him that he was intimate with the two great advocates of the time, Lucius Crassus and Marcus Antonius the orator, the grandfather of Cicero's future enemy, whom we know as Marc Antony. Cicero speaks of them both as though he had seen them and talked much of them in his youth. He tells us anecdotes of them; how they were both accustomed to conceal their knowledge of Greek, fancying that the people in whose eyes they were anxious to shine would think more of them if they seemed to have contented themselves simply with Roman words and Roman thoughts. But the intimacy was probably that which a lad now is apt to feel that he has enjoyed with a great man, if he has seen and heard him, and perhaps been taken by the hand. He himself gives in very plain language an account of his own studies when he was seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen. He speaks of the orators of that day: "When I was above all things anxious to listen to these men, the banishment of Cotta was a great sorrow to me. I was passionately intent on hearing those who were left, daily writing, reading, and making notes. Nor was I content only with practice in the art of speaking. In the following year Varius had to go, condemned by his own enactment; and at this time, in working at the civil law, I gave much of my time to Quintus Scaevola, the son of Publius, who, though he took no pupils, by explaining points to those who consulted him, gave great assistance to students. The year after, when Sulla and Pompey were Consuls, I learned what oratory really means by listening to Publius Sulpicius, who as tribune was daily making harangues. It was then that Philo, the Chief of the Academy, with other leading philosophers of Athens, had been put to flight by the war with Mithridates, and had come to Rome. To him I devoted myself entirety, stirred up by a wonderful appetite for acquiring the Greek philosophy. But in that, though the variety of the pursuit and its greatness charmed me altogether, yet it seemed to me that the very essence of judicial conclusion was altogether suppressed. In that year Sulpicius perished, and in the next, three of our greatest orators, Quintus Catulus, Marcus Antonius, and Caius Julius, were cruelly killed." This was the time of the civil war between Marius and Sulla. "In the same year I took lessons from Molo the Rhodian, a great pleader and master of the art." In the next chapter he tells us that he passed his time also with Diodatus the Stoic, who afterward lived with him, and died in his house. Here we have an authentic description of the manner in which Cicero passed his time as a youth at Rome, and one we can reduce probably to absolute truth by lessening the superlatives. Nothing in it, however, is more remarkable than the confession that, while his young intellect rejoiced in the subtle argumentation of the Greek philosophers, his clear common sense quarrelled with their inability to reach any positive conclusion.
But before these days of real study had come upon him he had given himself up to juvenile poetry. He is said to have written a poem called Pontius Glaucus when he was fourteen years old. This was no doubt a translation from the Greek, as were most of the poems that he wrote, and many portions of his prose treatises. Plutarch tells us that the poem was extant in his time, and declares that, "in process of time, when he had studied this art with greater application, he was looked upon as the best poet, as well as the greatest orator in Rome." The English translators of Plutarch tell us that their author was an indifferent judge of Latin poetry, and allege as proof of this that he praised Cicero as a poet, a praise which he gave "contrary to the opinion of Juvenal." But Juvenal has given no opinion of Cicero's poetry, having simply quoted one unfortunate line noted for its egotism, and declared that Cicero would never have had his head cut off had his philippics been of the same nature. The evidence of Quintus Mucius Scaevola as to Cicero's poetry was perhaps better, as he had the means, at any rate, of reading it. He believed that the Marius, a poem written by Cicero in praise of his great fellow-townsman, would live to posterity forever. The story of the old man's prophecy comes to us, no doubt, from Cicero himself, and is put into the mouth of his brother; but had it been untrue it would have been contradicted.
The Glaucus was a translation from the Greek done by a boy, probably as a boy's lesson It is not uncommon that such exercises should be treasured by parents, or perhaps by the performer himself, and not impossible that they should be made to reappear afterward as original compositions. Lord Brougham tells us in his autobiography that in his early youth he tried his hand at writing English essays, and even tales of fiction. "I find one of these," he says, "has survived the waste-paper basket, and it may amuse my readers to see the sort of composition I was guilty of at the age of thirteen. My tale was entitled 'Memnon, or Human Wisdom,' and is as follows." Then we have a fair translation of Voltaire's romance, "Memnon," or "La Sagesse Humaine." The old lord, when he was collecting his papers for his autobiography, had altogether forgotten his Voltaire, and thought that he had composed the story! Nothing so absurd as that is told of Cicero by himself or on his behalf.
It may be as well to say here what there may be to be said as to Cicero's poetry generally. But little of it remains to us, and by that little it has been admitted that he has not achieved the name of a great poet; but what he did was too great in extent and too good in its nature to be passed over altogether without notice. It has been his fate to be rather ridiculed than read as a maker of verses, and that ridicule has come from two lines which I have already quoted. The longest piece which we have is from the Phaenomena of Aratus, which he translated from the Greek when he was eighteen years old, and which describes the heavenly bodies. It is known to us best by the extracts from it given by the author himself in his treatise, De Natura Deorum. It must be owned that it is not pleasant reading. But translated poetry seldom is pleasant, and could hardly be made so on such a subject by a boy of eighteen. The Marius was written two years after this, and we have a passage from it, quoted by the author in his De Divinatione, containing some fine lines. It tells the story of the battle of the eagle and the serpent. Cicero took it, no doubt (not translated it, however), from the passage in the Iliad, lib, xii, 200, which has been rendered by Pope with less than his usual fire, and by Lord Derby with no peculiar charm. Virgil has reproduced the picture with his own peculiar grace of words. His version has been translated by Dryden, but better, perhaps, by Christopher Pitt. Voltaire has translated Cicero's lines with great power, and Shelley has reproduced the same idea at much greater length in the first canto of the Revolt of Islam, taking it probably from Cicero, but, if not, from Voltaire. I venture to think that, of the nine versions, Cicero's is the best, and that it is the most melodious piece of Latin poetry we have up to that date. Twenty-seven years afterward, when Lucretius was probably at work on his great poem, Cicero wrote an account of his consulship in verse. Of this we have fifty or sixty lines, in which the author describes the heavenly warnings which were given as to the affairs of his own consular year. The story is not a happy one, but the lines are harmonious. It is often worth our while to inquire how poetry has become such as it is, and how the altered and improved phases of versification have arisen. To trace our melody from Chaucer to Tennyson is matter of interest to us all. Of Cicero as a poet we may say that he found Latin versification rough, and left it smooth and musical. Now, as we go on with the orator's life and prose works, we need not return to his poetry.
The names of many masters have been given to us as those under whom Cicero's education was carried on. Among others he is supposed, at a very early age, to have been confided to Archias. Archias was a Greek, born at Antioch, who devoted himself to letters, and, if we are to believe what Cicero says, when speaking as an advocate, excelled all his rivals of the day. Like many other educated Greeks, he made his way to Rome, and was received as one of the household of Lucullus, with whom he travelled, accompanying him even to the wars. He became a citizen of Rome—so Cicero assures us—and Cicero's tutor. What Cicero owed to him we do not know, but to Cicero Archias owed immortality. His claim to citizenship was disputed; and Cicero, pleading on his behalf, made one of those shorter speeches which are perfect in melody, in taste, and in language. There is a passage in which speaking on behalf of so excellent a professor in the art, he sings the praises of literature generally. I know no words written in praise of books more persuasive or more valuable. "Other recreations," he says, "do not belong to all seasons nor to all ages, nor to all places. These pursuits nourish our youth and delight our old age. They adorn our prosperity and give a refuge and a solace to our troubles. They charm us at home, and they are not in our way when we are abroad. They go to bed with us. They travel about with us. They accompany us as we escape into the country." Archias probably did something for him in directing his taste, and has been rewarded thus richly. As to other lessons, we know that he was instructed in law by Scaevola, and he has told us that he listened to Crassus and Antony. At sixteen he went through the ceremony of putting off his boy's dress, the toga praetexta, and appearing in the toga virilis before the Praetor, thus assuming his right to go about a man's business. At sixteen the work of education was not finished—no more than it is with us when a lad at Oxford becomes "of age" at twenty-one; nor was he put beyond his father's power, the "patria potestas," from which no age availed to liberate a son; but, nevertheless, it was a very joyful ceremony, and was duly performed by Cicero in the midst of his studies with Scaevola.
At eighteen he joined the army. That doctrine of the division of labor which now, with us, runs through and dominates all pursuits, had not as yet been made plain to the minds of men at Rome by the political economists of the day. It was well that a man should know something of many things—that he should especially, if he intended to be a leader of men, be both soldier and orator. To rise to be Consul, having first been Quaestor, AEdile, and Praetor, was the path of glory. It had been the special duty of the Consuls of Rome, since the establishment of consular government, to lead the armies of the Republic. A portion of the duty devolved upon the Praetors, as wars became more numerous; and latterly the commanders were attended by Quaestors. The Governors of the provinces, Proconsuls, or Propraetors with proconsular authority, always combined military with civil authority. The art of war was, therefore, a necessary part of the education of a man intended to rise in the service of the State. Cicero, though, in his endeavor to follow his own tastes, he made a strong effort to keep himself free from such work, and to remain at Rome instead of being sent abroad as a Governor, had at last to go where fighting was in some degree necessary, and, in the saddest phase of his life, appeared in Italy with his lictors, demanding the honors of a triumph. In anticipation of such a career, no doubt under the advice of his friends, he now went out to see, if not a battle, something, at any rate, of war. It has already been said how the citizenship of Rome was conferred on some of the small Italian States around, and not on others. Hence, of course, arose jealousy, which was increased by the feeling on the part of those excluded that they were called to furnish soldiers to Rome, as well as those who were included. Then there was formed a combination of Italian cities, sworn to remedy the injury thus inflicted on them. Their purpose was to fight Rome in order that they might achieve Roman citizenship; and hence arose the first civil war which distracted the Empire. Pompeius Strabo, father of Pompey the Great, was then Consul (B.C. 89), and Cicero was sent out to see the campaign under him. Marius and Sulla, the two Romans who were destined soon to bathe Rome in blood, had not yet quarrelled, though they had been brought to hate each other—Marius by jealousy, and Sulla by rivalry. In this war they both served under the Consuls, and Cicero served with Sulla. We know nothing of his doings in that campaign. There are no tidings even of a misfortune such as that which happened to Horace when he went out to fight, and came home from the battle-field "relicta non bene parmula."
Rome trampled on the rebellious cities, and in the end admitted them to citizenship. But probably the most important, certainly the most notorious, result of the Italian war, was the deep antagonism of Marius and Sulla. Sulla had made himself conspicuous by his fortune on the occasion, whereas Marius, who had become the great soldier of the Republic, and had been six times Consul, failed to gather fresh laurels. Rome was falling into that state of anarchy which was the cause of all the glory and all the disgrace of Cicero's life, and was open to the dominion of any soldier whose grasp might be the least scrupulous and the strongest. Marius, after a series of romantic adventures with which we must not connect ourselves here, was triumphant only just before his death, while Sulla went off with his army, pillaged Athens, plundered Asia Minor generally, and made terms with Mithridates, though he did not conquer him. With the purport, no doubt, of conquering Mithridates, but perhaps with the stronger object of getting him out of Rome, the army had been intrusted to him, with the consent of the Marian faction.
Then came those three years, when Sulla was in the East and Marius dead, of which Cicero speaks as a period of peace, in which a student was able to study in Rome. "Triennium fere fuit urbs sine armis." These must have been the years 86, 85, and 84 before Christ, when Cicero was twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three years old; and it was this period, in truth, of which he speaks, and not of earlier years, when he tells us of his studies with Philo, and Molo, and Diodatus. Precocious as he was in literature, writing one poem—or translating it—when he was fourteen, and another when he was eighteen, he was by no means in a hurry to commence the work of his life. He is said also to have written a treatise on military tactics when he was nineteen; which again, no doubt, means that he had exercised himself by translating such an essay from the Greek. This, happily, does not remain. But we have four books, Rhetoricorum ad C. Herennium, and two books De Inventione, attributed to his twentieth and twenty-first years, which are published with his works, and commence the series. Of all that we have from him, they are perhaps the least worth reading; but as they are, or were, among his recognized writings, a word shall be said of them in their proper place.
The success of the education of Cicero probably became a commonplace among Latin school-masters and Latin writers. In the dialogue De Oratoribus, attributed to Tacitus, the story of it is given by Messala when he is praising the orators of the earlier age. "We know well," says Messala, "that book of Cicero which is called Brutus, in the latter part of which he describes to us the beginning and the progress of his own eloquence, and, as it were, the bringing up on which it was founded. He tells us that he had learned civil law under Q. Mutius Scaevola; that he had exhausted the realm of philosophy—learning that of the Academy under Philo, and that of the Stoics under Diodatus; that, not content with these treatises, he had travelled through Greece and Asia, so as to embrace the whole world of art. And thus it had come about that in the works of Cicero no knowledge is wanting—neither of music, nor of grammar, nor any other liberal accomplishment. He understood the subtilty of logic, the purpose of ethics, the effects and causes of things." Then the speaker goes on to explain what may be expected from study such as that. "Thus it is, my good friends—thus, that from the acquirement of many arts, and from a general knowledge of all things, eloquence that is truly admirable is created in its full force; for the power and capacity of an orator need not be hemmed in, as are those of other callings, by certain narrow bounds; but that man is the true orator who is able to speak on all subjects with dignity and grace, so as to persuade those who listen, and to delight them, in a manner suited to the nature of the subject in hand and the convenience of the time."
We might fancy that we were reading words from Cicero himself! Then the speaker in this imaginary conversation goes on to tell us how far matters had derogated in his time, pointing out at the same time that the evils which he deplores had shown themselves even before Cicero, but had been put down, as far as the law could put them down, by its interference. He is speaking of those schools of rhetoric in which Greek professors of the art gave lessons for money, which were evil in their nature, and not, as it appears, efficacious even for the purpose in hand. "But now," continues Messala, "our very boys are brought into the schools of those lecturers who are called 'rhetores,' who had sprung up before Cicero, to the displeasure of our ancestors, as is evident from the fact that when Crassus and Domitius were Censors they were ordered to shut up their school of impudence, as Cicero calls it. Our boys, as I was going to say, are taken to these lecture-rooms, in which it is hard to say whether the atmosphere of the place, or the lads they are thrown among, or the nature of the lessons taught, are the most injurious. In the place itself there is neither discipline nor respect. All who go there are equally ignorant. The boys among the boys, the lads among the lads, utter and listen to just what words they please. Their very exercises are, for the most part, useless. Two kinds are in vogue with these 'rhetores,' called 'suasoriae' and 'controversiae,'" tending, we may perhaps say, to persuade or to refute. "Of these, the 'suasoriae,' as being the lighter and requiring less of experience, are given to the little boys, the 'controversiae' to the bigger lads. But—oh heavens, what they are—what miserable compositions!" Then he tells us the subjects selected. Rape, incest, and other horrors are subjected to the lads for their declamation, in order that they may learn to be orators.
Messala then explains that in those latter days—his days, that is—under the rule of despotic princes, truly large subjects are not allowed to be discussed in public—confessing, however, that those large subjects, though they afford fine opportunities to orators, are not beneficial to the State at large. But it was thus, he says, that Cicero became what he was, who would not have grown into favor had he defended only P. Quintius and Archias, and had had nothing to do with Catiline, or Milo, or Verres, or Antony—showing, by-the-way, how great was the reputation of that speech, Pro Milone, with which we shall have to deal farther on.
The treatise becomes somewhat confused, a portion of it having probably been lost. From whose mouth the last words are supposed to come is not apparent. It ends with a rhapsody in favor of imperial government—suitable, indeed, to the time of Domitian, but very unlike Tacitus. While, however, it praises despotism, it declares that only by the evils which despotism had quelled could eloquence be maintained. "Our country, indeed, while it was astray in its government; while it tore itself to pieces by parties and quarrels and discord; while there was no peace in the Forum, no agreement in the Senate, no moderation on the judgment-seat, no reverence for letters, no control among the magistrates, boasted, no doubt, a stronger eloquence."
From what we are thus told of Cicero, not what we hear from himself, we are able to form an idea of the nature of his education. With his mind fixed from his early days on the ambition of doing something noble with himself, he gave himself up to all kinds of learning. It was Macaulay, I think, who said of him that the idea of conquering the "omne scibile,"—the understanding of all things within the reach of human intellect—was before his eyes as it was before those of Bacon. The special preparation which was, in Cicero's time, employed for students at the bar is also described in the treatise from which I have quoted—the preparation which is supposed to have been the very opposite of that afforded by the "rhetores." "Among ourselves, the youth who was intended to achieve eloquence in the Forum, when already trained at home and exercised in classical knowledge, was brought by his father or his friends to that orator who might then be considered to be the leading man in the city. It became his daily work to follow that man, to accompany him, to be conversant with all his speeches, whether in the courts of law or at public meetings, so that he might learn, if I might say so, to fight in the very thick of the throng." It was thus that Cicero studied his art. A few lines farther down, the pseudo-Tacitus tells us that Crassus, in his nineteenth year, held a brief against Carbo; that Caesar did so in his twenty-first against Dolabella; and Pollio, in his twenty-second year, against Cato. In this precocity Cicero did not imitate Crassus, or show an example to the Romans who followed him. He was twenty-six when he pleaded his first cause. Sulla had then succeeded in crushing the Marian faction, and the Sullan proscriptions had taken place, and were nominally over. Sulla had been declared Dictator, and had proclaimed that there should be no more selections for death. The Republic was supposed to be restored. "Recuperata republica * * * tum primum nos ad causas et privatas et publicas adire c[oe]pimus," "The Republic having been restored, I then first applied myself to pleadings, both private and public."
Of Cicero's politics at that time we are enabled to form a fair judgment. Marius had been his townsman; Sulla had been his captain. But the one thing dear to him was the Republic—what he thought to be the Republic. He was neither Marian nor Sullan. The turbulence in which so much noble blood had flowed—the "crudelis interitus oratorum," the crushing out of the old legalized form of government—was abominable to him. It was his hope, no doubt his expectation, that these old forms should be restored in all their power. There seemed to be more probability of this—there was more probability of it—on the side of Sulla than the other. On Sulla's side was Pompey, the then rising man, who, being of the same age with Cicero, had already pushed himself into prominence, who was surnamed the Great, and who "triumphed" during these very two years in which Cicero began his career; who through Cicero's whole life was his bugbear, his stumbling-block, and his mistake. But on that side were the "optimates," the men who, if they did not lead, ought to lead the Republic; those who, if they were not respectable, ought to be so; those who, if they did not love their country, ought to love it. If there was a hope, it was with them. The old state of things—that oligarchy which has been called a Republic—had made Rome what it was; had produced power, civilization, art, and literature. It had enabled such a one as Cicero was himself to aspire to lead, though he had been humbly born, and had come to Rome from an untried provincial family. To him the Republic—as he fancied that it had been, as he fancied that it might be—was all that was good, all that was gracious, all that was beneficent. On Sulla's side lay what chance there was of returning to the old ways. When Sulla was declared Dictator, it was presumed that the Republic was restored. But not on this account should it be supposed that Cicero regarded the proscriptions of Sulla with favor, or that he was otherwise than shocked by the wholesale robberies for which the proscription paved the way. This is a matter with which it will be necessary to deal more fully when we come in our next chapter to the first speeches made by Cicero; in the very first of which, as I place them, he attacks the Sullan robberies with an audacity which, when we remember that Sulla was still in power, rescues, at any rate, in regard to this period of his life, the character of the orator from that charge of cowardice which has been imputed to him.
It is necessary here, in this chapter devoted to the education of Cicero, to allude to his two first speeches, because that education was not completed till afterward—so that they may be regarded as experiments, or trials, as it were, of his force and sufficiency. "Not content with these teachers"—teachers who had come to Rome from Greece and Asia—"he had travelled through Greece and Asia, so as to embrace the whole world of art." These words, quoted a few pages back from the treatise attributed to Tacitus, refer to a passage in the Brutus in which Cicero makes a statement to that effect. "When I reached Athens, I passed six months with Antiochus, by far the best known and most erudite of the teachers of the old Academy, and with him, as my great authority and master, I renewed that study of philosophy which I had never abandoned—which from my boyhood I had followed with always increasing success. At the same time I practised oratory laboriously with Demetrius Syrus, also at Athens, a well-known and by no means incapable master of the art of speaking. After that I wandered over all Asia, and came across the best orators there, with whom I practised, enjoying their willing assistance." There is more of it, which need not be repeated verbatim, giving the names of those who aided him in Asia: Menippus of Stratonice—who, he says, was sweet enough to have belonged himself to Athens—with Dionysius of Magnesia, with [OE]schilus of Cnidos, and with Xenocles of Adramyttium. Then at Rhodes he came across his old friend Molo, and applied himself again to the teaching of his former master. Quintilian explains to us how this was done with a purpose, so that the young orator, when he had made a first attempt with his half-fledged wings in the courts, might go back to his masters for awhile.
He was twenty-eight when he started on this tour. It has been suggested that he did so in fear of the resentment of Sulla, with whose favorites and with whose practices he had dealt very plainly. There is no reason for alleging this, except that Sulla was powerful, that Sulla was blood-thirsty, and that Sulla must have been offended. This kind of argument is often used. It is supposed to be natural, or at least probable, that in a certain position a man should have been a coward or a knave, ungrateful or cruel; and in the presumption thus raised the accusation is brought against him. "Fearing Sulla's resentment," Plutarch says, "he travelled into Greece, and gave out that the recovery of his health was the motive." There is no evidence that such was his reason for travelling; and, as Middleton says in his behalf, it is certain that he "continued for a year after this in Rome without any apprehension of danger." It is best to take a man's own account of his own doings and their causes, unless there be ground for doubting the statement made. It is thus that Cicero himself speaks of his journey: "Now," he says, still in his Brutus, "as you wish to know what I am—not simply what mark I may have on my body from my birth, or with what surroundings of childhood I was brought up—I will include some details which might perhaps seem hardly necessary. At this time I was thin and weak, my neck being long and narrow—a habit and form of body which is supposed to be adverse to long life; and those who loved me thought the more of this, because I had taken to speaking without relaxation, without recreation with all the powers of my voice, and with much muscular action. When my friends and the doctors desired me to give up speaking, I resolved that, rather than abandon my career as an orator, I would face any danger. But when it occurred to me that by lowering my voice, by changing my method of speaking, I might avoid the danger, and at the same time learn to speak with more elegance, I accepted that as a reason for going into Asia, so that I might study how to change my mode of elocution. Thus, when I had been two years at work upon causes, and when my name was already well known in the Forum, I took my departure, and left Rome."