Ground covered by the Correspondence.The correspondence of Cicero, as preserved for us by his freedman Tiro, does not open till the thirty-ninth year of the orator's life, and is so strictly contemporary, dealing so exclusively with the affairs of the moment, that little light is thrown by it on by his previous life. It does not become continuous till the year after his consulship (B.C. 62). There are no letters in the year of the consulship itself or the year of his canvass for the consulship (B.C. 64 and 63). It begins in B.C. 68, and between that date and B.C. 65 there are only eleven letters. We have, therefore, nothing exactly contemporaneous to help us to form a judgment on the great event which coloured so much of his after life, the suppression of the Catilinarian conspiracy and the execution of the conspirators, in the last month of his consulship. But setting aside the first eleven letters, we have from that time forward a correspondence illustrating, as no other document in antiquity does, the hopes and fears, the doubts and difficulties, of a keen politician living through the most momentous period of Roman history, the period of the fall of the Republic, beginning with Pompey's return from the East in B.C. 62, and ending with the appearance of the young Octavian on the scene and the formation of the Triumvirate in B.C. 43, of whose victims Cicero was one of the first and most illustrious. It is by his conduct and speeches during this period that Cicero's claim to be a statesman and a patriot must be judged, and by his writings in the same period that his place in literature must chiefly be assigned. Before B.C. 63 his biography, if we had it, would be that of the advocate and the official, no doubt with certain general views on political questions as they occurred, but not yet committed definitely to a party, or inclined to regard politics as the absorbing interest of his life. In his early youth his hero had been his fellow townsman Marius, in whose honour he composed a poem about the time of taking the toga virilis. But it was as the successful general, and before the days of the civil war. And though he served in the army of Sulla in the Marsic war (B.C. 90—88), he always regarded his cruelties with horror, however much he may have afterwards approved of certain points of his legislation. It was not till the consulship that he became definitely a party man 1 and an Optimate, and even then his feelings were much distracted by a strong belief—strangely ill-founded—that Pompey would be as successful as a statesman as he had been fortunate as a general. For him he had also a warm personal attachment, which never seems to have wholly died out, in spite of much petulance of language. This partly accounts for the surrender of B.C. 56, and his acquiescence in the policy of the triumvirs, an acquiescence never hearty indeed, as far as Caesar and Crassus were concerned, but in which he consoled himself with the belief that nothing very unconstitutional could be done while Pompey was practically directing affairs at Rome.
The various nature of the Correspondence.It is through this period of political change and excitement that the correspondence will take us, with some important gaps indeed, but on the whole fullest when it is most wanted to show the feelings and motives guiding the active politicians of the day, or at any rate the effect which events had upon one eager and acute intellect and sensitive heart. One charm of the correspondence is variety. There is almost every sort of letter. Those to Atticus are unstudied, spontaneous, and reflect the varying moods of the writer. At times of special excitement they follow each other day by day, and sometimes more than once in the same day; and the writer seems to conceal nothing, however much it might expose him to ridicule, and to the charge of fickleness, weakness, or even cowardice. Those addressed to other friends are sometimes familiar and playful, some times angry and indignant. Some of them are careful and elaborate state papers, others mere formal introductions and recommendations. Business, literature, and philosophy all have their share in them; and, what is so rare in ancient literature, the family relations of the writer, his dealings with wife, son, and daughter, brother and nephew, and sons-in-law, are all depicted for us, often with the utmost frankness. After reading them we seem to know Cicero the man, as well as Cicero the statesman and orator. The eleven letters which precede the consulship are happily, from this point of view, addressed to Atticus. For it was to Atticus that he wrote with the least concealment, and with the confidence that any detail, however small, which concerned himself would be interesting to his correspondent. It is well, therefore, that, though we thus come into his life when it was more than half over, we should at once hear his genuine sentiments on whatever subjects he may be speaking. Besides his own, we have about ninety letters to Cicero from some of the chief men of the day—Pompey, Caesar, Cato, Brutus, Antony, and many others. They are of very various excellence. The best of them are by much less known men. Neither Pompey nor Caesar were good letter-writers, or, if the latter was so, he was too busy to use his powers.
Cicero's position previous to the beginning of the Correspondence in B.C. 68.The letters begin, then, in B.C. 68, when Cicero was in his thirty-seventh year. He was already a man of established reputation both as a pleader and a writer. Rhetorical treatises (B.C. 86), translations from Xenophon and Plato (B.C. 84), and from the poems of Aratus (B.C. 81), had given evidence of a varied literary interest and a promise of future eminence, while his success as an advocate had led to the first step in the official cursus honorum by his becoming a quaestor
Quaestor, B.C. 75.
Cicero's Boyhood and EducationStill Cicero was a novus homo, and the jealous exclusiveness of the great families at Rome might yet prevent his attainment of the highest office of all. When the correspondence opens he is a candidate for the praetorship, which he obtained without difficulty, at the head of the poll. But his birth might still be a bar to the consulship. His father, M. Tullius, lived at Arpinum, an ancient city of the Volscians and afterwards of the Samnites, which had long enjoyed a partial, and from B.C. 188 a complete, Roman franchise, and was included in the Cornelian tribe. Cicero's mother's name was Helvia, of whom we know nothing but the one anecdote told by Quintus (Fam. 16.26), who says that she used to seal the wine jars when they were emptied, so that none might be drained without her knowing it—a testimony to her economy and careful housewifery. His father had weak health and resided almost entirely in his villa at Arpinum, which he had considerably enlarged, much devoted to study and literature (de Leg. 2.1). But though he apparently possessed considerable property, giving him equestrian rank, and though Cicero says that his family was very ancient, yet neither he nor any of his ancestors had held Roman magistracies. Marcus and his brother Quintus were the first of their family to do so, and both had to depend on character and ability to secure their elections. But though the father did nothing for his sons by holding curule office himself, he did the best for their education that was possible. Cicero calls him optimus et prudentissimus, and speaks with gratitude of what he had done for his sons in this respect. They were sent early to Rome to the house of C. Aculeo, a learned jurisconsult, married to a sister of Helvia; and attended—with their cousins, the sons of Aculeo—the best schools in the city (De Orat. 2.1-2). The young Marcus showed extraordinary ability from the first, and that avidity for reading and study which never forsook him. As a young man he diligently attended the chambers of renowned jurisconsults, especially those of the elder and younger Scaevola, Crassus, and Antonius, and soon found that his calling in life was oratory. It was not till he was twenty-eight years old, however—when he had already written much and pleaded many cases—that he went on a visit of between two and three years to Greece, Asia, and Rhodes, to study in the various schools of rhetoric and philosophy, and to view their famous cities (B.C. 79—77). It was after his return from this tour that his age (he was now thirty-one) made the seeking of office at Rome possible From that time his election to the several offices—quaestorship, aedileship, praetorship, consulship—followed without any repulse, each in the first year of his age at which he was legally capable of being elected. He had doubtless made the acquaintance of Titus Pomponius, afterwards called Atticus, early in life. But it seems that it was their intimacy at Athens (B.C. 79), where Atticus, who was three years his senior, had been residing for several years, that began the very close and warm friendship which lasted with nothing but the slightest and most passing of clouds till his death. His brother Quintus was married to Pomponia, a sister of Atticus; but the marriage turned out unfortunately, and was a strain upon the friendship of Cicero and Atticus rather than an additional bond. This source of uneasiness meets us in the very first letter of the correspondence, and crops up again and again till the final rupture of the ill-assorted union by divorce in B.C. 44. Nothing, however, had apparently interrupted the correspondence of the two friends, which had been going on for a long time before the first letter which has been preserved.
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, 2 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. 3 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.
The Praetorship, B.C. 66In the next year (B.C. 67) we find Cicero elected to the praetorship, after at least two interruptions to the comitia, which, though not aimed at himself, gave him a foretaste of the political troubles to come a few years later. He is, however, at present simply annoyed at the inconvenience, not yet apprehensive of any harm to the constitution. The double postponement, indeed, had the effect of gratifying his vanity: for his own name was returned three times first of the list of eight. His praetorship (B.C. 66) passed without any startling event. The two somewhat meagre letters which remain belonging to this year tell us hardly anything. Still he began more or less to define his political position by advocating the lex Manilia, for putting the Mithridatic war into the hands of Pompey; and one of his most elaborate forensic speeches —that for Cluentius—was delivered in the course of the year: in which also his brother Quintus was elected to the aedileship.
Preparations for the Consulship, B.C. 65—64So far Cicero had risen steadily and without serious difficulty up the official ladder. But the stress was now to come. The old families seem not to have been so ready to oppose the rise of the novus homo to the praetorship. It was the consulship on which they tried to keep a tight hand. Accordingly, immediately after the year of his praetorship, we find him anxiously looking out for support and inquiring who are likely to be his competitors. The interesting point in regard to this is his connexion with Catiline. In his speech in the senate delivered in the following year (in toga candida, B.C. 64) he denounced Catiline in the most violent language, accusing him of every conceivable crime; yet in B.C. 65 he not only contemplated being elected with him without any expression of disgust, but even considered whether he should not undertake his defence on some charge that was being brought against him—perhaps for his conduct during the Sullan proscriptions. To whitewash Catiline is a hopeless task; and it throws a lurid light upon the political and moral sentiments of the time to find Cicero even contemplating such a conjunction. After this, for two years, there is a break in the correspondence. Atticus had probably returned to Rome, and if there were letters to others (as no doubt there were) they have been lost. A certain light is thrown on the proceedings of the year of candidature (B.C. 64) by the essay "On the duties of a candidate," ascribed to his brother Quintus, who was himself to be a candidate for the praetorship in the next year (B.C. 63). We may see from this essay that Pompey was still regarded as the greatest and most influential man at Rome; that Catiline's character was so atrocious in the eyes of most, that his opposition was not to be feared; that Cicero's "newness " was a really formidable bar to his election, and that his chief support was to be looked for from the individuals and companies for whom he had acted as counsel, and who hoped to secure his services in the future. The support of the nobles was not a certainty. There had been a taint of popularity in some of Cicero's utterances, and the writer urges him to convince the consulars that he was at one with the Optimates, while at the same time aiming at the conciliation of the equestrian order. This was, in fact, to be Cicero's political position in the future. The party of the Optimates—in spite of his disgust at the indifference and frivolity of many of them—was to be his party: his favourite constitutional object was to be to keep the equites and the senate on good terms: and his greatest embarrassment was how to reconcile this position with his personal loyalty to Pompey, and his views as to the reforms necessary in the government of the provinces.
The Consulship, B.C. 63.For the momentous year of the consulship we have no letters. His brother Quintus was in Rome as candidate and then praetor-designate; Atticus was also in Rome; and the business, as well as the dignity of a consul, were against any thing like ordinary correspondence. Of the earlier part of the consulship we have little record. The speeches against Rullus were delivered at the beginning of the year, and commit Cicero pretty definitely to a policy as to the ager publicus —which was, to his disgust, entirely reversed by the triumvirs in B.C. 59—but they do not show any sense of coming trouble. Cicero, however, throughout his consulship took a very definite line against the populares. Not only did he defend Rabirius Postumus, when accused by Caesar of the assassination of Saturninus, and address the people against offering violence to L. Roscius on account of the unpopular lex theatralis but he even resisted the restoration to their civil rights of the sons of the men proscribed by Sulla, avowedly on the ground of the necessity of maintaining the established order, though he knew and confessed the justice of the proposal. 5
The Conspiracy of Catiline.Any movement, therefore, on the side of the popular party had now his opposition with which to reckon. He professes to have known very early in his year of office that some more than usually dangerous movement was in contemplation. We cannot well decide from the violent denunciation of Catiline contained—to judge from extant fragments—in the speech in toga candida, how far Cicero was really acquainted with any definite designs of his. Roman orators indulged in a violence of language so alien from modern ideas and habits, that it is difficult to draw definite conclusions. But it appears from Sallust that Catiline had, in a secret meeting before the elections of B.C. 64, professed an intention of going all lengths in a revolutionary programme and, if that was the case, Cicero would be sure to have had some secret information on the subject. But his hands were partly tied by the fact that the comitia had given him a colleague-C. Antonius- deeply implicated in Catiline's policy, whatever it was. Pompey, whom he regarded as the champion of law and order, was in the East: and Catiline's candidature—and it was supposed his policy also—had had the almost open support of the richest man in Rome, M. Licinius Crassus, and of the most influential man of the populares, C. Iulius Caesar. In the house of one or the other of them, indeed, the meeting at which Catiline first unfolded his purposes was believed to have been held. Still Catiline had not been guilty of any overt act which enabled Cicero to attack him. He had, indeed, been informed, on very questionable authority, that Catiline had made a plot to assassinate him while holding the elections, and he made a considerable parade of taking precautions for his safety—letting it be seen that he wore a cuirass under his toga, and causing his house to be guarded by the younger members of his party. The elections, according to Plutarch, had at least been once postponed from the ordinary time in July, though this has been denied. 6 At any rate it was not till they had taken place and Catiline had been once more rejected, that any definite step is alleged to have been taken by him, such as Cicero could lay hold of to attack him. On the 20th of October, in the senate, Cicero made a speech warning the Fathers of the impending danger, and on the 21st called upon Catiline for an explanation in their presence. But, after all, even the famous meeting of the 5th of November, in the house of M. Porcius Laeca, betrayed to Cicero by Fulvia, the mistress of Q. Curius, would not have sufficed as grounds for the denunciation of the first extant speech against Catiline (7th of November), if it had not been for something else. For some months past there had been rumours of risings in various parts of Italy; but by the beginning of November it was known that C. Manlius (or Mallius) had collected a band of desperadoes near Faesulae, and, having established there a camp on the 27th of October, meant to advance on Rome. Manlius had been a centurion in Sulla's army, and had received an allotment of confiscated land in Etruria; but, like others, had failed to prosper. The movement was one born of discontent with embarrassments which were mostly brought about by extravagance or incompetence. But the rapidity with which Manlius was able to gather a formidable force round him seems to show that there were genuine grievances also affecting the agricultural classes in Etruria generally. At any rate there was now no doubt that a formidable disturbance was brewing; the senate voted that there was a tumultus, authorized the raising of troops, and named commanders in the several districts affected. It was complicity in this rising that Cicero now sought to establish against Catiline and his partisans in Rome. The report of the meeting in the house of Laeca gave him the pretext for his first step—a fiery denunciation of Catiline in the senate on the 7th of November. Catiline left Rome, joined the camp of Manlius, and assumed the ensigns of imperium. That he was allowed thus to leave the city is a proof that Cicero had as yet no information enabling him to act at once. It was the right of every citizen to avoid standing a trial by going into exile. Catiline was now under notice of prosecution for vis, and when leaving Rome he professed to be going to Marseilles, which had the jus exilii. But when it was known that he had stopped short at Faesulae the senate at once declared both him and Manlius hostes, and authorized the consuls to proceed against them. The expedition was intrusted to Antonius, in spite of his known sympathy with Catiline, while Cicero was retained with special powers to protect the city. The result is too well known to be more than glanced at here. Catiline's partisans were detected by letters confided to certain envoys of the Allobroges, which were held to convict them of the guilt of treason, as instigating Catiline to march on Rome, and the senate of the Allobroges to assist the invasion by sending Cavalry to Faesulae.
Execution of he conspirators, December, B.C. 63. Its legal grounds and consequences.The decree of the senate, videant consules, etc., had come to be considered as reviving the full imperium of the consul, and investing him with the power of life and death over all citizens. Cicero acted on this (questionable) constitutional doctrine. He endeavoured, indeed, to shelter himself under the authority of a senatorial vote. But the senate never had the power to try or condemn a citizen. It could only record its advice to the consul. The whole legal responsibility for the condemnation and death of the conspirators, arrested in consequence of these letters, rested on the consul. To our moral judgment as to Cicero's conduct it is of primary importance to determine whether or not these men were guilty: to his legal and constitutional position it matters not at all. Nor was that point ever raised against him. The whole question turns on whether the doctrine was true that the senatus consultum ultimum gave the consul the right of inflicting death upon citizens without trial, i.e., without appeal to the people, on the analogy of the dictator seditionis sedandae causa, thus practically defeating that most ancient and cherished safeguard of Roman liberty, the ius provocationis. The precedents were few, and scarcely such as would appeal to popular approval. The murder of Tiberius Gracchus had been ex post facto approved by the senate in B.C. 133—2. In the case of Gaius Gracchus, in B.C. 121, the senate had voted uti consul Opimius rempublicam defenderet, and in virtue of that the consul had authorized the killing of Gaius and his friends: thus for the first time exercising imperium sine provocatione. Opimius had been impeached after his year of office, but acquitted, which the senate might claim as a confirmation of the right, in spite of the lex of Gaius Gracchus, which confirmed the right of provocatio in all cases. In B.C. 100 the tribune Saturninus and the praetor Glaucia were arrested in consequence of a similar decree, which this time joined the other magistrates to the consuls as authorized to protect the Republic: their death, however, was an act of violence on the part of a mob. Its legality had been impugned by Caesar's condemnation of Rabirius, as duovir capitalis, but to a certain extent confirmed by the failure to secure his conviction on the trial of his appeal to the people. In B.C. 88 and 83 this decree of the senate was again passed, in the first case in favour of Sulla against the tribune Sulpicius, who was in consequence put to death; and in the second case in favour of the consuls (partisans of Marius) against the followers of Sulla. Again in B.C. 77 the decree was passed in consequence of the insurrection of the proconsul Lepidus, who, however, escaped to Sardinia and died there. In every case but one this decree had been passed against the popular party. The only legal sanction given to the exercise of the imperium sine provocatione was the acquittal of the consul Opimius in B.C. 120. But the jury which tried that case probably consisted entirely of senators, who would not stultify their own proceedings by condemning him. To rely upon such precedents required either great boldness (never a characteristic of Cicero), or the most profound conviction of the essential righteousness of the measure, and the clearest assurance that the safety of the state—the supreme law—justified the breach of every constitutional principle. Cicero was not left long in doubt as to whether there would be any to question his proceeding. On the last day of the year, when about to address the people, as was customary, on laying down his consulship, the tribune Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos forbade him to speak, on the express ground that he "had put citizens to death uncondemned "—quod cives indemnatos necavisset. Cicero consoled himself with taking the required oath as to having observed the laws, with an additional declaration that he had "saved the state." Nevertheless, he must have felt deeply annoyed and alarmed at the action of Metellus, for he had been a legatus of Pompey, and was supposed to represent his views, and it was upon the approbation and support of Pompey, now on the eve of his return from the East, that Cicero particularly reckoned.
Letters after B. C. 63.The letters in our collection now recommence. The first of the year (B.C. 62) is one addressed to Pompey, expressing some discontent at the qualified manner in which he had written on recent events, and affirming his own conviction that he had acted in the best interests of the state and with universal approval. But indeed the whole correspondence to the end of Cicero's exile is permeated with this subject directly or indirectly. His quarrel with Metellus Nepos brought upon him a remonstrance from the latter's brother (or cousin), Metellus Celer (Letters XIII, XIV), and when the correspondence for B.C. 61 opens, we find him already on the eve of the quarrel with Publius Clodius which was to bring upon him the exile of B.C. 58.
Publius Clodius Pulcher.P. CLODIUS PULCHER was an extreme instance of a character not uncommon among the nobility in the last age of the Republic. Of high birth, and possessed of no small amount of ability and energy, he belonged by origin and connexion to the Optimates; but he regarded politics as a game to be played for his personal aggrandizement, and public office as a means of replenishing a purse drained by boundless extravagance and self-indulgence. His record had been bad. He had accompanied his brother-in-law Lucullus, or had joined his staff, in the war with Mithridates, and had helped to excite a mutiny in his army in revenge for some fancied slight. He had then gone to Cilicia, where another brother-in-law, Q. Marcus Rex, was propraetor, and while commanding a fleet under him had fallen into the hands of pirates, and when freed from them had gone—apparently in a private capacity—to Antioch, where he again excited a mutiny of Syrian troops engaged in a war against the Arabians (B.C. 70—65). On his return to Rome he attempted to make himself conspicuous by prosecuting Catiline, but accepted a bribe to withdraw. In B.C. 64, on the staff of the governor of Gallia Narbonensis, he is accused of having enriched himself with plunder. For a time after that he was still acting as a member of the party of the Optimates; seems to have supported Cicero during the Catiline conspiracy; and in B.C. 62 stood for the quaestorship and was elected. His violation of the mysteries was alleged to have been committed in December of that year, and before he could go to the province allotted to him as quaestor in Sicily he had to stand a trial for sacrilege. Such an offence—penetrating in disguise into the house of the Pontifex Maximus, when his wife was engaged in the secret rites of the Bona Dea—would place him under a curse, and not only prevent his entering upon his quaestorship, but would disfranchise and politically ruin him. Clodius would seem not to have been a person of sufficient character or importance to make this trial a political event. But not only had he powerful backers, but his opponents also, by proposing an innovation in the manner of selecting the jurors for trying him, had managed to give a spurious political importance to the case. One of the most brilliant of the early letters (XV, p.37) gives us a graphic picture of the trial. Clodius was acquitted and went to his province, but returned in B.C. 60, apparently prepared for a change of parties. Cicero and he had quarreled over the trial. He had said sarcastic things about the sacred consulship, and Cicero had retaliated by bitter speeches in the senate, and by giving evidence at the trial of having seen Clodius in Rome three hours before he professed to have been at Interamna, on the day of the alleged sacrilege. It is perhaps possible that his alibi may have been true in substance, for he may have been well out of Rome on his way to Interamna after seeing Cicero. But, however that may be, he nourished a grudge against Cicero, which he presently had an opportunity of satisfying. The year of his return to Rome from Sicily (B.C. 60) was the same as that of Caesar's return from Spain. Pompey—who had returned the year before—was at enmity with the senate on account of the difficulties raised to the confirmation of his acta and the allotments for his veterans. Caesar had a grievance because of the difficulties put in the way of his triumph. The two coalesced, taking in the millionaire Crassus, to form a triumvirate or coalition of three, with a view to getting measures they desired passed, and offices for themselves or their partisans. This was a great blow to Cicero, who clung feverously to Pompey as a political leader, but could not follow him in a coalition with Caesar: for he knew that the object of it was a series of measures of which he heartily disapproved. His hope of seeing Pompey coming to act as acknowledged leader of the Optimates was dashed to the ground. He could not make up his mind wholly to abandon him, or, on the other hand, to cut himself adrift from the party of Optimates, to whose policy he had so deeply committed himself. Clodius was troubled by no such scruples. Perhaps Caesar had given him substantial reasons for his change of policy. At any rate, from this time forward he acts as an extreme popularis—much too extreme, as it turned out, for Pompey's taste. As a patrician his next step in the official ladder would naturally have been the aedileship. But that peaceful office did not suit his present purpose. The tribuneship would give him the right to bring forward measures in the comitia tributa, such as he desired to pass, and would in particular give him the opportunity of attacking Cicero. The difficulty was that to become tribune he must cease to be a patrician. He could only do that by being adopted into a plebeian gens. He had a plebeian ready to do it in B.C. 59. But for a man who was sui iuris to be adopted required a formal meeting of the old comitia curiata, and such a meeting required the presence of an augur, as well as some kind of sanction of the pontifices. Caesar was Pontifex Maximus, and Pompey was a member of the college of augurs. Their influence would be sufficient to secure or prevent this being done. Their consent was, it appears, for a time withheld. But Caesar was going to Gaul at the end of his consulship, and desired to have as few powerful enemies at Rome during his absence as possible. Still he had a personal feeling for Cicero, and when it was known that one of Clodius's objects in seeking to become a plebeian and a tribune was to attack him, Caesar offered him two chances of honourable retreat—first as one of the commissioners to administer his land law, and again as one of his legati in Gaul. But Cicero would not accept the first, because he was vehemently opposed to the law itself: nor the second, because he had no taste for provincial business, even supposing the proconsul to be to his liking; and because he could not believe that P. Clodius would venture to attack him, or would succeed if he did. Caesar's consulship of B.C. 59 roused his worst fears for the Republic; and, though he thought little of the statesmanship or good sense of Caesar's hostile colleague Bibulus, he was thoroughly disgusted with the policy of the triumvirs, with the contemptuous treatment of the senate, with the highhanded disregard of the auspices—by means of which Bibulus tried to invalidate the laws and other acta of Caesar—and with the armed forces which Pompey brought into the campus, nominally to keep order, but really to overawe the comitia, and secure the passing of Caesar's laws. Nor was it in his nature to conceal his feelings. Speaking early in the year in defence of his former colleague, C. Antonius, accused of maiestas for his conduct in Macedonia, he expressed in no doubtful terms his view of the political situation. Within a few hours the words were reported to the triumvirs, and all formalities were promptly gone through for the adoption of Clodius. Caesar himself presided at the comitia curiata, Pompey attended as augur, and the thing was done in a few minutes. Even then Cicero does not appear to have been alarmed, or to have been fully aware of what the object of Publius was. While on his usual spring visit to his seaside villas in April (B.C. 59), he expressed surprise at hearing from the young Curio that Clodius was a candidate for the tribuneship (vol. i., p.99). His surprise no doubt was more or less assumed: he must have understood that Clodius's object in the adoption was the tribunate, and must have had many uneasy reflexions as to the use which he would make of the office when he got it. Indeed there was not very much doubt about it, for Publius openly avowed his intentions. We have accordingly numerous references, in the letters to Atticus, to Cicero's doubts about the course he ought to adopt. Should he accept Caesar's offer of a legation in Gaul, or a free and votive legation? Should he stay in Rome and fight it out? The latter course was the one on which he was still resolved in July, when Clodius had been, or was on the point of being, elected tribune (p. 110). He afterwards wavered (p.113), but was encouraged by the belief that all the "orders" were favourable to him, and were becoming alienated from the triumvirs (pp. 117, 119), especially after the affair of Vettius (pp.122-124), and by the friendly disposition of many of the colleagues of Clodius in the tribuneship. With such feelings of confidence and courage the letters of B.C. 59 come to an end.
The Exile, April, B. C. 58-August, B. C. 57.The correspondence only opens again in April of B.C. 58, when the worst has happened. Clodius entered upon his tribuneship on the 10th of December, B.C. 59, and lost little time in proposing a law to the comitia for the trial of any magistrate guilty of putting citizens to death without trial (qui cives indemnatos necavisset). The wording of the law thus left it open to plead that it applied only to such act as occurred after its enactment, for the pluperfect necavisset in the dependent clause answers to the future perfect in a direct one. And this was the interpretation that Caesar, while approving the law itself, desired to put upon it. 7 He again offered Cicero a legation in Gaul, but would do nothing for him if he stayed in Rome; while Pompey, who had been profuse in promises of protection, either avoided seeing Cicero, or treated his abject entreaties with cold disdain. 8 Every citizen, by a humane custom at Rome, had the right of avoiding a prosecution by quitting the city and residing in some town which had the ius exilii. It is this course that we find Cicero already entered upon when the correspondence of the year begins. In the letters of this year of exile he continually reproaches himself with not having stayed and even supported the law, in full confidence that it could not be applied to himself. He attributes his having taken the less courageous course to the advice of his friends, who were actuated by jealousy and a desire to get rid of him. Even Atticus he thinks was timid, at the best, in advising his retirement. It is the only occasion in all the correspondence in which the least cloud seems to have rested on the perfect friendship of the two men. Atticus does not appear to have shown any annoyance at the querulous remarks of his friend. He steadily continued to write, giving information and advice, and made no difficulty in supplying his friend with money. During Cicero's absence Atticus became still more wealthy than before by inheriting the estates of his cross-grained uncle Caecilius. But he was always careful as to the investment of his money and he would not, perhaps, have been so ready to trust Cicero, had he not felt confidence in the ultimate recovery of his civil status. Still his confidence was peculiarly welcome at a time which would have been otherwise one of great pressure. For Clodius had followed up Cicero's retirement with the usual lex in regard to persons leaving Rome to avoid a trial—a prohibition "of fire and water" within a fixed distance from Italy, which involved the confiscation of all his property in Italy. His villas were dismantled, his town house pulled down, and a vote of the people obtained by Clodius for the consecration of its site as a templum dedicated to Liberty, and a scheme was formed and the work actually commenced for occupying part of it by an extension of an existing porticus or colonnade (the porticus Catuli) to contain a statue of Liberty. That this consecration was regular is shown by the pleas by which it was afterwards sought to reverse it. 9 When Cicero was recalled the question came before the pontifices, who decided that the consecration was not valid unless it had been done by the "order of the people." It could not be denied on the face of it that there had been such an order. Cicero was obliged to resort to the plea that Clodius's adoption had been irregular and invalid, that therefore he was not legally a tribune, and could not take an order of the people. Finally, the senate seems to have decided that its restoration to Cicero was part of the general restitutio in integrum voted by the comitia centuriata; and a sum of money was assigned to him for the rebuilding of the house. Clodius refused to recognize the validity of this decree of the senate, and attempted by violence to interrupt the workmen engaged on the house. We have a lively picture of this in Letter XCI (vol. i., pp. 194-196).
Letters of the Exile (Letters LV-LXXXVIII).The letters from Cicero as an exile are painful reading for those who entertain a regard for his character. It was not unnatural, indeed, that he should feel it grievously. He had so completely convinced himself of the extraordinary value of his services to the state, of the importance of his position in Roman politics, and of the view that the Optimates would take of the necessity of retaining him, that to see himself treated like a fraudulent or unsuccessful provincial governor, of no importance to anyone but himself, was a bitter blow to his self-esteem. The actual loss was immense. His only means were now the amount of money he had been able to take with him, or was able to borrow. All was gone except such property as his wife retained in her own right. He was a dependent upon her, instead of being her support and the master of his own household. The services of freedmen—readily rendered when he was prosperous—would now be a matter of favour and personal attachment, which was not always sufficient to retain them. The "life and light" of the city, in which no man ever took a more eager interest and delight, were closed to him. He was cut off from his family, and from familiar intercourse with friends, on both of which he was much dependent for personal happiness. Lastly, wherever he lived, he lived, as it were, on sufferance, no longer an object of respect as a statesman, or the source of help to others by his eloquence. But, disagreeable as all this was to a man of Cicero's sensitive vanity, there was something still worse. Even in towns which were the legal distance from Italy he could not safely stay, if they were within the jurisdiction of one of his personal enemies, or contained other exiles, who owed him an ill turn. He was protected by no law, and more than one instance of such a man's falling a victim to an enemy's dagger is recorded. Cicero's first idea was to go to Malta: but Malta was for some purposes in the jurisdiction of the governor of Sicily, and the governor of Sicily (C. Vergilius) 10objected to his passing through Sicily or staying at Malta. We have no reason for supposing Vergilius personally hostile to Cicero, but he may have thought that Cicero's services to the Sicilians in the Case of Verres would have called out some expression of feeling on their part in his favour, which would have been awkward for a Roman governor. Cicero therefore crossed to Epirus, and travelled down the Egnatian road to Thessalonica. This was the official capital of the province of Macedonia, and the quaestor in Macedonia, Gnaeus Plancius, met Cicero at Dyrrachium, invited him to fix his residence there with him, and accompanied him on his journey. Here he stayed till November in a state of anxiety and distress, faithfully reflected in his letters, waiting to hear how far the elections for B.C. 57 would result in putting his friends in office, and watching for any political changes that would favour his recall: but prepared to go still farther to Cyzicus, if the incoming governor, L. Calpurnius Piso, who, as consul in B.C. 58 with Gabinius, had shown decided animus against him, should still retain that feeling in Macedonia. Events, however, in Rome during the summer and autumn of B.C. 58 gave him better hopes. Clodius, by his violent proceedings, as well as by his legislation, had alienated Pompey, and caused him to favour Cicero's recall. Of the new consuls Lentulus was his friend, and Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos (who as tribune in B.C. 63—62 had prevented his speech when laying down his consulship) consented to waive all opposition. A majority of the new tribunes were also favourable to him, especially P. Sestius and T. Annius Milo; and in spite of constant ups and downs in his feelings of confidence, he had on the whole concluded that his recall was certain to take place. Towards the end of November he therefore travelled back to Dyrrachium, a libera civitas in which he had many friends, and where he thought he might be safe, and from which he could cross to Italy as soon as he heard of the law for his recall having been passed. Here, however, he was kept waiting through many months of anxiety. Clodius had managed to make his recall as difficult as possible. He had, while tribune, obtained an order from the people forbidding the consuls to bring the subject before the senate, and Piso and Gabinius had during their year of office pleaded that law as a bar to introducing the question.
The Recall, August, B. C. 57.The new consuls were not, or did not consider themselves, so bound, and Lentulus having brought the subject forward, the senate early passed a resolution that Cicero's recall was to take precedence of all other business. In accordance with the resolution of the senate, a law was proposed by the consul Lentulus in the comitia centuriata, and probably one by Milo to the tributa. But Clodius, though no longer armed with the tribuneship, was not yet beaten. He obtained the aid of some gladiators belonging to his brother Appius, and more than once interrupted and dispersed an assembly of the comitia. In the riots thus occasioned blood was shed on both sides, and Cicero's brother Quintus on one occasion nearly lost his life. This was the beginning of the series of violent contests between Clodius and Milo, only ended by the murder of the former on the Appian road in B.C. 52. But Clodius was a candidate for the aedileship in this year (B.C. 57), and could be barred from that office legally by a prosecution for vis, of which Milo gave notice against him. It was, perhaps, a desire to avoid this, as much as fear of Milo's counter exhibition of violence, that at length caused him to relax in his opposition, or at any rate to abstain from violently interrupting the comitia. Accordingly, on the 4th of August, the law proposed by both consuls, and supported by Pompey, was passed unanimously by the centuries. Cicero, we must presume, had received trustworthy information that this was to be the case (showing that some understanding had been come to with Clodius, or there would have been no certainty of his not violently dispersing the comitia again), for on that same day he set sail from Dyrrachium and landed at Brundisium on the 5th. His triumphant return to Rome is described in the eighty-ninth letter of this collection. For Pompey's share in securing it he expressed, and seems really to have felt, an exaggerated gratitude, which still influenced him in the unhappy months of B.C. 49, when he was hesitating as to joining him beyond seas in the civil war. But though Clodius had somehow been prevented from hindering his recall, he by no means relaxed his hostility. He not only tried to excite the populace against him by arguing that the scarcity and consequent high price of corn, from which the people were at that time suffering, was in some way attributable to Cicero's policy, but he also opposed the restoration of his house; and when a decree of the senate was passed in Cicero's favour on that point, brought his armed ruffians to prevent the workmen from going on with the rebuilding, as well as to molest Cicero himself (vol. i., p.195). This was followed by a determined opposition by Milo to the holding of the elections for B.C. 56, until his prosecution of Clodius de vi should have been tried. Clodius, however, was acquitted 11, and, being elected aedile, immediately commenced a counter accusation against Milo for vis. He impeached him before the comitia in February (B.C. 56), on which occasion Pompey spoke in Milo's defence in the midst of a storm of interruptions got up by the friends of Clodius (vol. i., pp.214, 217). Milo was also acquitted, and the rest of Clodius's aedileship seems to have passed without farther acts of open violence.
Cicero and the Triumvirs.But Cicero had now other causes of anxiety. He had spoken in favour of the commission offered to Pompey in B.C. 57 for superintending the corn-supply of Rome (cura annonae). Pompey was to have fifteen legates, a good supply of ships and men, and considerable powers in all corn-growing countries in the Mediterranean. Cicero supported this, partly from gratitude to Pompey, but partly also from a wish to promote his power and influence against the ever-increasing influence and fame of Caesar. He secretly hoped that a jealousy might grow up between them; that Pompey would be drawn closer to the Optimates; and that the union of the triumvirate might be gradually weakened and finally disappear. Pompey was thoroughly offended and alarmed by the insults offered him by the Clodian mob, and by Clodius's own denunciations of him; and if he could be convinced that these were suggested or approved by Caesar or Crassus, it would go far to withdraw him from friendship with either of them. With Crassus, indeed, he had never been on cordial terms: it was only Caesar's influence that had caused him to form any union with him. Caesar, on the other hand, was likely to be uneasy at the great powers which the cura annonae put into Pompey's hands; and at the possible suggestion of offering him the dictatorship, if the Clodian riots became quite intolerable. On the whole, Cicero thought that he saw the element of a very pretty quarrel, from which he hoped that the result might be "liberty the orderly working of the constitution, that is, without the irregular supremacy of anyone, at any rate of anyone of the popular party. He had, however, a delicate part to play. He did not wish or dare to break openly with Caesar, or to speak too openly to Pompey; and he was conscious that the intemperance, folly, or indifference of many of the Optimates made it difficult to reckon on their support, and made that support a very questionable benefit if accorded. But though his letters of this period are full of expressions indicating doubt of Pompey and irritation with him, yet he seems still to have spoken of him with warmth on public occasions, while he avoided mentioning Caesar, or spoke of him only in cold terms.
Renewal of the Triumvirate at Luca, April, B.C. 56, and Cicero's change of policy.The hope, however, of detaching Pompey from Caesar was dashed by the meeting at Luca in April,B.C. 56, at which a fresh arrangement was made for the mutual advantage of the triumvirs. Caesar got the promise of the introduction of a law giving him an additional five years of command in Gaul, with special privileges as to his candidature for the consulship of B.C. 48; while Pompey and Crassus bargained for a second consulship in B.C. 55, and the reversion of the Spains (to be held as a single province) and Syria respectively, each for five years. The care taken that none of the three should have imperium overlapping that of the others was indeed a sign of mutual distrust and jealousy. But the bargain was made with sufficient approval of the members of the party crowding Luca to secure its being carried out by the comitia. The union seemed stronger than ever; and Cicero at length resolved on a great change of attitude. Opposition to the triumvirs had been abandoned, he saw, by the very party for whom he had been incurring the enmity of Pompey and Caesar. Why should he hold out any longer? "Since those who have no power," he writes to Atticus in April, "refuse me their affection, let me take care to secure the affection of those who have power. You will say, 'I could have wished that you had done so before.' I know you did wish it, and that I have made a real ass of myself." 12 This is the first indication in the letters of the change. But it was soon to be publicly avowed. The opposition to the consulship of Pompey and Crassus was so violent that no election took place during B.C. 56, and they were only elected under the presidency of interreges at the beginning of February, B.C. 55. But by the lex Sempronia the senate was bound to name the consular provinces—i.e., the provinces to be governed by the incoming consuls after their year of office—before the elections, and in his speech on the subject (be Provinciis Consularibus), delivered apparently in July, B.C. 56, Cicero, while urging that Piso and Gabinius should have successors appointed to them in Macedonia and Syria, took occasion to announce and defend his own reconciliation with Caesar, and to support his continuance in the governorship of Gaul. Shortly afterwards, when defending the citizenship of L. Cornelius Balbus, he delivered a glowing panegyric on Pompey's character and services to the state. This was followed by a complete abstention from any farther opposition to the carrying out of Caesar's law for the allotment of the Campanian land—a subject which he had himself brought before the senate only a short time before, and on which he really continued to feel strongly. 13 Cicero's most elaborate defence of his change of front is contained in a long letter to P. Lentulus Spinther, written two years afterwards. 14The gist of it is much the same as the remark to Atticus already quoted. "Pompey and Caesar were all-powerful, and could not be resisted without civil violence, if not downright civil war. The Optimates were feeble and shifty, had shown ingratitude to Cicero himself, and had openly favoured his enemy Clodius. Public peace and safety must be the statesman's chief object, and almost any concession was to be preferred to endangering these." Nevertheless, we cannot think that Cicero was ever heartily reconciled to the policy, or the unconstitutional preponderance of the triumvirs. He patched up some sort of reconciliation with Crassus, and his personal affection for Pompey made it comparatively easy for him to give him a kind of support. Caesar was away, and a correspondence filled on both sides with courteous expressions could be maintained without seriously compromising his convictions. But Cicero was never easy under the yoke. From B.C. 55 to B.C. 52 he sought several opportunities for a prolonged stay in the country, devoting himself—in default of politics—to literature. The fruits of this were the de Oratore and the de Republica, besides poems on his own times and on his consulship. Still he was obliged from time to time to appear in the forum and senate-house, and in various ways to gratify Pompey and Caesar. It must have been a great strain upon his loyalty to this new political friendship when, in B.C. 54, Pompey called upon him to undertake the defence of P. Vatinius, whom he had not long before attacked so fiercely while defending Sestius. Vatinius had been a tribune in B.C. 59, acting entirely in Caesar's interests, and Cicero believed him to have been his enemy both in the matter of his exile and in the opposition to his recall. He had denounced him in terms that would have made it almost impossible, one would think, to have spoken in his defence in any cause whatever. At best he represented all that Cicero most disliked in politics; and on this very election, to the praetorship, for which he was charged with bribery (de sodalitiis), Cicero had already spoken in strongly hostile terms in the senate. For now undertaking his defence he has, in fact, no explanation to give to Lentulus (vol. i., p.319), and he was long sore at having been forced to do it. Through B.C. 54 and 53 he was busied with his de Republica, and was kept more in touch with Caesar by the fact that his brother Quintus was serving as legatus to the latter in Britain and Gaul, and that his
Quintus Cicero in Gaul.
Pompey's third consulship and the trial of Milo, B.C. 52.Pompey's six months' sole consulship of B.C. 52 ("that divine third consulship"), the rumour of his dictatorship, and the growing determination of the Optimates to play off Pompey against Caesar (Crassus having disappeared) and to insist on Caesar resigning his province and army before the end of his ten years' tenure, and before standing for a second consulship, caused Cicero's hope of a final dissolution of the unconstitutional compact to revive again; and made him draw more and more closely to Pompey as the chief hope of the boni. In the beginning of the year he had found himself in opposition, or quasi-opposition, to Pompey in regard to the prosecution of Milo for the murder of Clodius. But though in the previous year he had declared that the election of Milo to the consulship was of the utmost importance to his own position and the safety of the state, 17now that it was rendered impossible by Milo's condemnation, he seems to have placed all his hopes on Pompey. Unfortunately, there is here a break in the correspondence. There is no letter of the last six months of B.C. 53, and only four (perhaps only three) of B.C. 52. 18 So that the riots which prevented Milo's election, the death of Clodius and the riots following it, and the consequent sole consulship of Pompey, with the latter's new legislation and the trial of Milo—all have to be sought for elsewhere. The last letter of this volume and of this year, addressed to M. Marius in December, B.C. 52, alludes to the condemnation of Milo, and to the numerous prosecutions following it. "Here, in Rome, I am so distracted by the number of trials, the crowded Courts, and the new legislation, that I daily offer prayers that there may be no intercalation."19
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.
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.
Quintus Tullius Cicero.
P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther.
M. Fadius Gallus M. Marius L. Lucceius C. Scribonius Curio C. Trebatius Testa.
“ “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.)