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Cicero and the Triumvirs.

But Cicero had now other causes of anxiety. He had spoken in favour of the commission offered to Pompey in B.C. 57 for superintending the corn-supply of Rome (cura annonae). Pompey was to have fifteen legates, a good supply of ships and men, and considerable powers in all corn-growing countries in the Mediterranean. Cicero supported this, partly from gratitude to Pompey, but partly also from a wish to promote his power and influence against the ever-increasing influence and fame of Caesar. He secretly hoped that a jealousy might grow up between them; that Pompey would be drawn closer to the Optimates; and that the union of the triumvirate might be gradually weakened and finally disappear. Pompey was thoroughly offended and alarmed by the insults offered him by the Clodian mob, and by Clodius's own denunciations of him; and if he could be convinced that these were suggested or approved by Caesar or Crassus, it would go far to withdraw him from friendship with either of them. With Crassus, indeed, he had never been on cordial terms: it was only Caesar's influence that had caused him to form any union with him. Caesar, on the other hand, was likely to be uneasy at the great powers which the cura annonae put into Pompey's hands; and at the possible suggestion of offering him the dictatorship, if the Clodian riots became quite intolerable. On the whole, Cicero thought that he saw the element of a very pretty quarrel, from which he hoped that the result might be "liberty the orderly working of the constitution, that is, without the irregular supremacy of anyone, at any rate of anyone of the popular party. He had, however, a delicate part to play. He did not wish or dare to break openly with Caesar, or to speak too openly to Pompey; and he was conscious that the intemperance, folly, or indifference of many of the Optimates made it difficult to reckon on their support, and made that support a very questionable benefit if accorded. But though his letters of this period are full of expressions indicating doubt of Pompey and irritation with him, yet he seems still to have spoken of him with warmth on public occasions, while he avoided mentioning Caesar, or spoke of him only in cold terms.


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