previous next


Cicero's Correspondents.

The persons to whom the chief letters are addressed in this volume, besides Atticus, are Cicero's brother Quintus and P. Lentulus Spinther. There are two excellent letters to M. Marius, and one very interesting, though rather surprising, epistle to L. Lucceius. Others of more than average interest are to Terentia, M. Fadius Gallus, C. Scribonius Curio, and Tiro. ATTICUS (B.C. 109—32) is a man of whom we should be glad to know more than we do. He was the
Titus Pomponius Atticus.
friend of all the leading men of the day— Pompey, Caesar, Cicero, Antony, Brutus—father-in-law of Agrippa, and survived to be a constant correspondent of Augustus, between B.C. 43 and his death in B.C. 32. He was spared and respected by both sides in the civil wars, from Sulla to the Second Triumvirate. The secret of his success seems to have been that he was no man's rival. He resolutely declined all official employment, even on the staff of his brother-in-law Quintus Cicero. He committed himself to no side in politics, and, not being in the senate, had no occasion by vote or speech to wound the feelings of anyone. So, too, though he cared for literature, it was rather as a friendly critic of others than as an author. He did, it is true, compile some books on Roman history, on historical portraits, and certain family biographies; but they were not such as made him a rival of any of his Contemporaries. They were rather the productions of a rich amateur, who had leisure to indulge a quasi-literary taste, without any thought of joining the ranks of professed writers. Thirdly, he had great wealth, partly inherited, partly acquired by prudent speculation in the purchase of town properties, or in loans to states or public bodies on fair terms: and this wealth was at the service of his friends, but not in the lavish or reckless manner, which often earns only ingratitude without being of any permanent service to the recipients. He lent money, but expected to be repaid even by his brother-in-law. And this prudence helped to retain the confidence, while his sympathetic temperament secured the liking, of most. Again, he had the valuable knack of constantly replenishing the number of his friends among men junior to himself. His character attracted the liking of Sulla, who was twenty-seven years his senior, and he remained the close friend of his contemporaries Hortensius and Cicero (the former five years his senior, the latter three years his junior) till the day of their death. But we also find him on intimate terms with Brutus, twenty-four, and Octavian, forty-six years junior to himself. Lastly, he was not too much at Rome. More than twenty years of his earlier manhood (B.C. 87—65) were spent in Greece, principally at Athens, partly in study and partly in business. And Athens at this time, long deprived of political importance, had still the charm not only of its illustrious past, but also of its surviving character as the home of culture and refinement. When he at length returned to Rome in B.C. 65, he had already purchased a property in Epirus, near Buthrotum (see p.3), where he built a villa, in which he continued to spend a considerable part of his remaining years. This was sufficiently remote, not only from Rome, but from the summer residences of the Roman nobles, to secure his isolation from the intrigues and enmities of Roman society. He did not indeed—as who does ?—always escape giving offence. At the very beginning of the correspondence we hear of his vain attempts to mollify the anger of L. Lucceius—how incurred we do not know; and Quintus Cicero, of whose sharp temper we hear so much, was on more than one occasion on the point of a rupture with him. But his family life was generally as pleasing as his connexion with his friends. With his mother, who lived to a great age, he boasted that he had never been reconciled, because he had never quarrelled. He was the only one who could get on with the crusty uncle Caecilius. In the delicate matter of his sister Pomponia's differences with her husband Quintus Cicero, he seems to have acted with kindness as well as prudence; and though he married late in life (B.C. 56, when he was in his fifty-third year), he appears to have made an excellent husband to Pilia and a very affectionate father to his daughter. His unwearied sympathy with the varied moods of Cicero—whether of exultation, irritation, or despair—and the entire confidence which Cicero feels that he will have that sympathy in every case, are creditable to both. It is only between sincere souls that one can speak to the other as to a second self, as Cicero often alleges that he does to Atticus.

Of QUINTUS CICERO, the next most important correspondent in this volume, we get a fairly clear picture.

Quintus Tullius Cicero.
Four years younger than his famous brother (b. B.C. 102), he followed him at the due distance up the ladder of official promotion to the praetorship, to which he was elected in the year of his elder's consulship. There, however, Quintus stopped. He never seems to have stood for the consulship. He had no oratorical genius to give him reputation in the forum, nor were his literary productions of any value, either for style or originality. His abilities for administration, as shown in his three years' government of Asia, appear to have been respectable, but were marred by faults of temper, which too often betrayed him into extreme violence of language. In military command he showed courage and energy in defending his camp in the rising of the Gauls in the winter of B.C. 54—53; but he spoilt the reputation thus gained by the mistake Committed in the autumn of B.C. 53, which Cost the loss of a considerable number of troops, and all but allowed the roving Germans to storm his camp. He remained another year in Gaul, but did nothing to retrieve this mistake. In military affairs fortune rarely forgives. In politics he seems to have contented himself generally with saying ditto to his brother. And this continued to be the case up to Pharsalia. After that, finding himself on the losing side, he turned somewhat fiercely upon the brother, whom he regarded as having misled him; and for a time there was a miserable breach between them, which, however, did not last very long. When the end came it found the brothers united in heart as in misfortune. His private happiness was marred by an uncongenial marriage. Pomponia—sister of Atticus—seems to have been as high-tempered as her husband, and less placable. The constant quarrels between them exercised the patience both of Cicero and Atticus, and crops up all through the correspondence. One effect of them was the loss of all control over their son, who, being called upon to smooth over the differences between father and mother, naturally took up at an early age a line of his own, and showed a disposition to act independently of his elders.

The letters to TERENTIA do not fill much space in the Correspondence, and are rarely interesting.

Terentia.
Married about B.C. 80, Cicero seems to have lived in harmony with her at least till the time of his return from exile, during which unhappy period he acknowledges the activity of her exertions in support of his recall, and the drain which his ruin was making upon her resources. Terentia had a large private fortune, and apparently used it liberally in his service. Nevertheless, immediately on his return from exile, there seems to have been some cause of coldness between the husband and wife. He darkly alludes to certain domestic troubles in the first letter to Atticus written from Rome (vol i., p.189), and repeats the hint in the next (p.193). When he landed at Brundisium it was Tullia, not Terentia, who came to meet him (p.187), and for some time after she appears to be presiding in his house rather than Terentia (see pp.224, 257). Whatever the cause of this coldness was, however, it appears to have been removed for a time. He kept up a correspondence with her while he was in Cilicia (B.C. 51—50), and though he does not seem pleased at her having arranged the marriage of Tullia with Dolabella, he addresses her warmly when about to return, and was met by her on landing. During the five or six months that followed, before Cicero left Italy to join Pompey, there is no indication of any alienation: but the short notes from Pompey's camp, and in the first half of B.C. 47, are cold and conventional, and on his return to Brundisium after Pharsalia, and during his lengthened stay there, he appears to have declined to allow her to come and see him. Soon after his return to Rome, in September, B.C. 47, matters came to a climax. Perhaps some of the mischief was caused by the mismanagement or dishonesty of Terentia's steward, Philotimus, of whom we hear a good deal in the letters from Cilicia: but whatever was the origin of the quarrel, Cicero asserts that on his return he found his affairs in a state of utter disorder. It may well have been that, like other adherents to the losing cause, he had to suffer from loss of any property that could be easily laid hands on in Rome, and that Terentia had had no power to save it. But Cicero, rightly or wrongly, attributed the embarrassment which he found awaiting him to his wife. He says in a letter to Gnaeus Plancius : 1"I should not have taken any new step at a time of such general disaster had not on my return found my private affairs in as sorry a position as the public. The fact is, that when I saw that, owing to the criminal conduct of those to whom my life and fortunes ought, in return for my never-to-be-forgotten services, to have been their dearest object, there was nothing safe within the walls of my house, nothing that was not the subject of some intrigue, I made up my mind that I must arm myself by the faithful support of new marriage connexions against the perfidy of the old." This is a lame excuse for a man of sixty separating from the companion of his whole manhood, and in the eyes of Roman Society it was rendered still more questionable by a prompt marriage with a young girl, rich, and his own ward: from whom, however, he soon again divorced himself, angered, it is said, by her want of feeling at the death of Tullia. Terentia long survived her husband, living, we are told, to be over a hundred years old. Divorce was, of course, not regarded in these days of the Republic as it had once been, or as it is now among ourselves. still we should have been glad, both for his fame and his happiness, if the few years remaining to him had not had this additional cloud. A man of sixty embarking on such matrimonial enterprise is not a dignified spectacle, or one pleasing to gods and men.

The other correspondents may be dismissed in few words. P. CORNELIUS LENTULUS SPINTHER, to

P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther.
whom some of the longest letters are addressed, represents the high aristocracy, to which Cicero wished to commend himself, though seeing keenly the weakness which underlay their magnificence. The part played by Lentulus in politics had been showy, but never founded on steadfast principle. He owed his earlier promotions to Caesar's influence, but in his consulship of B.C. 57 had taken the side of the aristocracy in promoting the recall of Cicero, though he had gone against their sentiment by supporting Pompey's appointment to the cura annonae. But as he was going to Cilicia in B.C. 56, Lentulus wished to have the lucrative task of restoring Ptolemy Auletes to the throne of Egypt, from which he had been righteously driven by his subjects. Therefore it was all to the good that Pompey should have business at home preventing him from taking this in hand. How Lentulus was baulked in this desire will appear in the letters. He no doubt had his full share of the Lenlulitas distinguishing his family. But all was forgiven by Cicero to a man who had promoted his recall, and he takes great pains to justify to Lentulus his own change of policy in regard to the triumvirs after B.C. 56. When the civil war began Lentulus joined Domitius at Corfinium, and with him fell into Caesar's hands, and was dismissed unharmed. He afterwards joined Pompey in Epirus, intent on succeeding Caesar as Pontifex Maximus, as soon as the latter had been satisfactorily disposed of. After Pharsalia he sought refuge at Rhodes, but was refused sanctuary by the islanders, and was eventually put to death, though we do not know by whom (Att. 11.13; Fam. 9.18).

M. FADIUS GALLUS, the Epicurean, and M. MARIUS, the valetudinarian and wit, were among friends valued for their personal and agreeable qualities

M. Fadius Gallus M. Marius L. Lucceius C. Scribonius Curio C. Trebatius Testa.
rather than for any public or political importance attaching to them. The same may be said of L. LUCCEIUS, of whose Roman history Cicero thought so well, that he wrote a remarkable letter begging for an honourable place in it for his consulship, as Pliny did to Tacitus. 2C. SCRIBONIUS CURIO, son of a great friend of Cicero, after a jeunesse orageuse, returned to Rome from his quaestorship in Asia, in B.C. 53, to take up the inheritance of his father, which he quickly dissipated. Cicero seems to have had a high idea of his abilities, and to have believed him capable of taking the lead of the Optimates. But in his tribuneship of B.C. 51—50 he disappointed all such hopes by openly joining Caesar's party, and resisting all attempts to recall him. He joined Caesar at Ravenna as soon as his tribuneship was out, and urged him to march on Rome. In B.C. 49 he was sent to secure Sicily and Africa. The first he did, but in the second he perished in battle against the senatorial governor and king Iuba. Cicero's relation to C. TREBATIUS TESTA, a learned jurisconsult, was apparently that of a patron or tutor, who, thinking that he has found a young man of ability, endeavours to push him. He sent him with a letter of introduction to Caesar, who was good-natured, though rather sarcastic as to the scope for legal abilities to be found in Gaul. He gave him, however, a military tribuneship, without exacting military duties, and apparently kept on good terms with him, for he employed him in B.C. 49 to communicate his wish to Cicero as to his remaining at Rome. Cicero's letters to him, though numerous, are not among the most interesting. They are full of banter of a rather forced and dull kind; and Cicero was evidently annoyed to find that his scheme for advancing Trebatius in Caesar's province had not been very successful. The friendship, however, survived the civil war, and we find Cicero in B.C. 44 dedicating his Topica to Trebatius.

“ “Tullius, of all the sons of royal Rome
That are, or have been, or are yet to come,
Most skilled to plead, most learned in debate,—
Catullus hails thee, small as thou art great.
Take thou from him his thanks, his fond regards,
The first of patrons from the least of bards.”

Catullus, xlix. (J. E. S.)

1 Letter DXXXIII (Fam. 4.14), about October, B.C. 46.

2 Vol. i., p. 226; Pliny, Ep., vii. 33.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: