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Cicero appointed Proconsul of Cilicia, B.C. 51—50.

When the correspondence opens again in the spring of B.C. 51 an event has happened, of no particular importance in itself, but of supreme interest to Cicero, and very fortunate for the readers of the correspondence. One of Pompey's new laws ordained that no one was to take a province till the fifth year after laying down his consulship or praetorship. Pompey broke his own law by keeping his province, the Spains—his position in regard to them was altogether exceptional—but, in order to carry out the law in other cases, the senate arranged that ex-consuls and ex-praetors who had not been to provinces should in turn draw lots for vacant governorships. Cicero and Bibulus appear to have been the senior consulares in that position, and with much reluctance Cicero allowed his name to be cast into the urn. He drew Cilicia and Bibulus Syria. He says that his motive was a desire to obey the wishes of the senate. Another motive may have been a desire to be away from Rome while the controversy as to Caesar's retirement from his province was settled, and to retrieve a position of some political importance, which he had certainly not increased during the last few years. When it came to the actual start, however, he felt all the gêne of the business—the formation and control of his staff, the separation from friends, and the residence far from the "light and life" of Rome, among officials who were certainly commonplace and probably corrupt, and amidst a population, perhaps acute and accomplished, but certainly servile and ill content, and in some parts predatory and barbarous. At the best, they would be emphatically provincial, in a dreary sense of the word. He felt unequal to the worry and bore of the whole business, and reproached himself with the folly of the undertaking. Of course, this regret is mingled with his usual self-congratulation on the purity with which he means to manage his province. But even that feeling is not strong enough to prevent his longing earnestly to have the period of banishment as short as possible, or to prevent the alarm with which he hears of a probable invasion by the Parthians. One effect of his almost two years' absence from Rome was, I think, to deprive him of the power of judging clearly of the course of events. He had constant intelligence and excellent correspondents—especially Caelius—still he could not really grasp what was going on under the surface: and when he returned to find the civil war on the point of breaking out, he was, after all, taken by surprise, and had no plan of action ready. This, as well as his government of the province, will be fully illustrated in the next volume of the correspondence.

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