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Letters of the Exile (Letters LV-LXXXVIII).

The letters from Cicero as an exile are painful reading for those who entertain a regard for his character. It was not unnatural, indeed, that he should feel it grievously. He had so completely convinced himself of the extraordinary value of his services to the state, of the importance of his position in Roman politics, and of the view that the Optimates would take of the necessity of retaining him, that to see himself treated like a fraudulent or unsuccessful provincial governor, of no importance to anyone but himself, was a bitter blow to his self-esteem. The actual loss was immense. His only means were now the amount of money he had been able to take with him, or was able to borrow. All was gone except such property as his wife retained in her own right. He was a dependent upon her, instead of being her support and the master of his own household. The services of freedmen—readily rendered when he was prosperous—would now be a matter of favour and personal attachment, which was not always sufficient to retain them. The "life and light" of the city, in which no man ever took a more eager interest and delight, were closed to him. He was cut off from his family, and from familiar intercourse with friends, on both of which he was much dependent for personal happiness. Lastly, wherever he lived, he lived, as it were, on sufferance, no longer an object of respect as a statesman, or the source of help to others by his eloquence. But, disagreeable as all this was to a man of Cicero's sensitive vanity, there was something still worse. Even in towns which were the legal distance from Italy he could not safely stay, if they were within the jurisdiction of one of his personal enemies, or contained other exiles, who owed him an ill turn. He was protected by no law, and more than one instance of such a man's falling a victim to an enemy's dagger is recorded. Cicero's first idea was to go to Malta: but Malta was for some purposes in the jurisdiction of the governor of Sicily, and the governor of Sicily (C. Vergilius) 1objected to his passing through Sicily or staying at Malta. We have no reason for supposing Vergilius personally hostile to Cicero, but he may have thought that Cicero's services to the Sicilians in the Case of Verres would have called out some expression of feeling on their part in his favour, which would have been awkward for a Roman governor. Cicero therefore crossed to Epirus, and travelled down the Egnatian road to Thessalonica. This was the official capital of the province of Macedonia, and the quaestor in Macedonia, Gnaeus Plancius, met Cicero at Dyrrachium, invited him to fix his residence there with him, and accompanied him on his journey. Here he stayed till November in a state of anxiety and distress, faithfully reflected in his letters, waiting to hear how far the elections for B.C. 57 would result in putting his friends in office, and watching for any political changes that would favour his recall: but prepared to go still farther to Cyzicus, if the incoming governor, L. Calpurnius Piso, who, as consul in B.C. 58 with Gabinius, had shown decided animus against him, should still retain that feeling in Macedonia. Events, however, in Rome during the summer and autumn of B.C. 58 gave him better hopes. Clodius, by his violent proceedings, as well as by his legislation, had alienated Pompey, and caused him to favour Cicero's recall. Of the new consuls Lentulus was his friend, and Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos (who as tribune in B.C. 63—62 had prevented his speech when laying down his consulship) consented to waive all opposition. A majority of the new tribunes were also favourable to him, especially P. Sestius and T. Annius Milo; and in spite of constant ups and downs in his feelings of confidence, he had on the whole concluded that his recall was certain to take place. Towards the end of November he therefore travelled back to Dyrrachium, a libera civitas in which he had many friends, and where he thought he might be safe, and from which he could cross to Italy as soon as he heard of the law for his recall having been passed. Here, however, he was kept waiting through many months of anxiety. Clodius had managed to make his recall as difficult as possible. He had, while tribune, obtained an order from the people forbidding the consuls to bring the subject before the senate, and Piso and Gabinius had during their year of office pleaded that law as a bar to introducing the question.

1 See vol. i., pp.129, 138; cp. pro Planc. 95-96.

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