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Cicero the successful Advocate.

The eleven letters, then, which date before the consulship, show us Cicero in full career of success as an advocate and rising official, not as yet apparently much interested in party politics, but with his mind, in the intervals of forensic business, engaged on the adornment of the new villa at Tusculum, the first of the numerous country residences which his growing wealth or his heightened ideas of the dignity of his position prompted him to purchase. Atticus is commissioned to search in Athens and elsewhere for objects of art suitable for the residence of a wealthy Roman, who at the same time was a scholar and man of letters. He is beginning to feel the charm of at any rate a temporary retreat from the constant bustle and occupations of the city. Though Cicero loved Rome, and could hardly conceive of life unconnected with its business and excitements, 1 and eagerly looked for news of the city in his absence, yet there was another side to his character. His interest in literature and philosophy was quite as genuine as his interest in the forum and senate-house. When the season came for temporarily withdrawing from the latter, he returned to the former with eager passion. But Tusculum was too near Rome to secure him the quiet and solitude necessary for study and composition. Thus, though he says (vol. i., p.4), "I am so delighted with my Tusculan villa that I never feel really happy till I get there," he often found it necessary, when engaged in any serious literary work, to seek the more complete retirement of Formiae, Cumae, or Pompeii, near all of which he acquired properties, besides an inheritance at Arpinum. 2 But the important achievements in literature were still in the future. The few letters of B.C. 68—67 are full of directions to Atticus for the collection of books or works of
Death of Cicero's Father.
art suitable to his house, and of matters of Death private interest. They are also short andsometimes abrupt. The famous allusion to his father's death in the second letter of this collection, contained in a single line—pater nobis decessit a.d. III Kal. Decembris—followed by directions to Atticus as to articles of vertu for his villa, has much exercised the minds of admirers, who do not like to think Cicero capable of such a cold-hearted sentence. It is certainly very unlike his usual manner. 3 He is more apt to exaggerate than understate his emotions; and in the first letter extant he speaks with real feeling of the death of a cousin. Elsewhere—as we have seen—he refers to his father with respect and gratitude. How then are we to account for such a cold announcement? Several expedients have been hit upon. First, to change decessit to discessit, and to refer the sentence to the father's quitting Rome, and not life; in which case it is not easy to see why the information is given at all. Second, to suppose it to be a mere answer to a request for the information on the part of Atticus; in which case the date must refer to some previous year, or the letter must be placed considerably later, to allow of time for Atticus to hear of the death and to write his question. In favour of the first is the fact that Asconius (§ 82) says that Cicero lost his father when he was a candidate for the consulship (B.C. 64). Some doubt has been thrown upon the genuineness of the passage in Asconius; and, if that is not trustworthy, we have nothing else to help us. On the whole I think we must leave the announcement as it stands in all its baldness. Cicero's father had long been an invalid, and Atticus may have been well aware that the end was expected. He would also be acquainted with the son's feelings towards his father, and Cicero may have held it unnecessary to enlarge upon them. It is possible, too, that he had already written to tell Atticus of the death and of his own feelings, but had omitted the date, which he here supplies. Whatever may be the true explanation—impossible now to recover—everything we know of Cicero forbids us to reckon insensibility among his faults, or reserve in expressing his feelings among his characteristics.


1 "The city, the city, my dear Rufus—stick to that, and live in its full light. Residence elsewhere—as I made up my mind early in life—is mere eclipse and obscurity to those whose energy is capable of shining at Rome. "—Fam. 2.12 (vol. ii., p.166).

2 Even at these he found troublesome people to interrupt him. See vol. i., pp.102, 104.

3 Yet the announcement of the birth of his son (p. i6) and of the dangerous confinement of Tullia (vol. ii., p.403) are almost equally brief.

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