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Cicero under the new régime, B.C. 47 to B.C. 44

The mutinous legions were either satisfied by the payment of their promised bounties, or sent over to Sicily to be ready for the next year's campaign in Africa. The troubles in Rome caused by Dolabella's wild measures collapsed in the presence of the Dictator, who, however, pardoned Dolabella and continued to employ him. To Cicero Caesar's arrival brought the long-wished-for freedom to quit Brundisium and resume his life at Rome or in his villas. Caesar landed at Tarentum, and Cicero went with others from Brundisium in a complimentary procession to meet him. Whatever doubts he had felt as to the reception he was likely to meet were quickly dispelled by Caesar's cordial kindness. As soon as he saw Cicero in the procession he alighted from his carriage, greeted him warmly, and walked some distance conversing with him exclusively.1 Caesar always liked Cicero, and we can imagine that, returning to Italy after an absence of three years, so crowded with various experiences, there would be abundant subjects of conversation between men of such wide interests without touching on dangerous political topics. Caesar seems finally to have expressed a courteous desire that Cicero should return to Rome. On the 1st of October therefore he writes to Terentia, announcing his arrival at Tusculum on the 7th or the next day. The letter is from Venusia, so that he was already on his way home by the Appia. From that time till the death of Caesar he resumes his old life as far as residence and studies are concerned. But it was in other respects a changed life. Outwardly things at Rome seemed to be going on as before. The comitia still elected the magistrates; the senate still met for deliberation and the transaction of public business; the law courts were still sitting in the forum. In fact, for a time at any rate, Cicero complains that he was overwhelmed with legal business.2 But the spirit was all gone out of it. The will of a single man really controlled everything. The comitia returned his nominees; the senate merely registered his decrees, and dutifully recognized his appointments, when they were not rather made by a lex passed as a matter of course by the tribes. Even the law courts felt the hand of the master, and though they still probably settled private suits unchecked, men accused of public crimes were tried before the Dictator in his own house (cognitio), or were banished and recalled by his single fiat. The constitution, so dear to Cicero, and under which he had lived in the constant excitement of success and fame, was practically abrogated. The Dictatorship, begun while Caesar was still at Alexandria, continued till the end of B.C. 46, was renewed at the beginning of B.C. 45, and made lifelong after Munda. It gave him unlimited control over all magistrates and all citizens, and all parts of the empire. "If we seek freedom," Cicero says to M. Marcellus, "what place is free from the master's hand?"3 From the first, therefore, Cicero refrained as much as he could from speaking in the senate, and absented himself from it as often as he dared.4

Neither did he find the old charm in social life at Rome. With one or two exceptions he declares that he finds no satisfaction in the society with which he is forced to live.5 He dines constantly with the Caesarians, who sought his society, enjoyed his wit, and, as he flattered himself, had a genuine regard for him, and he confesses that he liked dining out.6 He even gave up his old simplicity of living, and allowed Hirtius and Dolabella to initiate him in the mysteries of the fashionable epicure.7 Yet when the excitement was over—and he had a natural love for society—he sadly reflected how few of those with whom he thus passed a few hours of gaiety could be reckoned as friends. "Am I to seek comfort with my friends?" he says to Lucceius in answer to his letter of condolence. "How many of them are there? You know, for they were common to us both. Some have fallen, others have somehow grown callous."8 This is a subject on which, as he gets on in life, a man is likely to take a somewhat exaggerated view, and after all perhaps Cicero still found in general society as much satisfaction as it can give, which is not very much. And though the number of his friends was of course greatly curtailed, there were still some left.


1 Plut. Cic. 39.

2 P.97.

3 P.113.

4 Pp.137, 171, 172.

5 P.70.

6 See p.103 "I like a dinner party. I talk freely there on whatever comes upon the tapis, and convert sighs into loud bursts of laughter."

7 Pp.76, 93, 95.

8 P.247.

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