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First period of letters, pp. 1-128. From 15th of March to 31st of August

THE letters in this volume bring us to the end of the correspondence and to the last period of Cicero's life. They naturally fall into two divisions, those following the assassination of Caesar to September, B.C.44—five months of hesitation and doubt—and those which begin after Cicero's return to Rome from his abortive start for Greece (31st August), and bring him before us once more active and eager, all doubt and hesitation thrown to the winds. He is straining every nerve to organize opposition to Antony, whom he has now made up his mind to be the enemy of the constitution and of liberty—a weaker and a worse Caesar, trading on his great patron's name, intoxicated with the wealth that has fallen into his hands, and stained with every private and public vice.

The first period is one of disenchantment, the second of desperate strife. The disenchantment indeed begins at once: The volume opens with a note, scarcely more than a line in length, addressed to one of the assassins, of almost hysterical exultation. Cicero had been in the senate when the assassination took place:1 he tells us of the "joy with which he feasted his eyes on the just execution of a tyrant."2 He and again declares that the Ides of March consoled him for all his troubles and disappointments.3 The assassins he calls "heroes" or almost divinities.4 But the uselessness of this treacherous crime was at once made evident, and became more and more conspicuous every day that followed it. Within a month Cicero saw that "the constitution had not been recovered along with liberty," 5 and was discussing with Atticus whose fault it was. At the meeting of the senate, summoned by Antony on the 17th of March, the acta of Caesar had been confirmed, and a public funeral voted.6 The revulsion of popular feeling, caused by Antony's funeral oration and the publication of Caesar's will, had encouraged Antony to make the fullest use of the confirmation of the acta, until Cicero indignantly exclaimed that the concession made to the exigencies of the time was "being abused without moderation or gratitude,"7 that "measures which Caesar would never have taken nor sanctioned are now produced from his forged minutes," and that "we, who could not endure being his slaves, are the humble servants of his memorandum books."8

1 This has been doubted, but I think his own expressions make it practically certain.

2 P. 29 (ad Att. xiv. 14)

3 Pp.8, 11, 26, 29, 34.

4 Pp.28, 91

5 Pp.9, 10, 11, 20, 28, 42, 48, 55.

6 P. 17

7 P.37.

8 Pp.27, 28; cp. p. 36: "We seemed not to have been freed from a tyranny—only from a tyrant: for though the tyrant has been killed we obey his every word . . . immunities are being granted; immense sums of money squandered; exiles recalled; forged decrees of the senate entered in the aerarium."

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