A. F., belonged to a plebeian family, which came probably from Fercntinum in the territory of the Hernici. (Orelli, Inscr.
He was throughout life the personal and political friend of Caesar the dictator (Cic. Phil. 13.11
), but his name would scarcely have rescued the Hirtia gens xii. from obscurity, had not his death marked a crisis in the history of the republic. In B. C. 58 he was Caesar's legatus in Gaul (Cic. Fam. 16.27
), but was more frequently employed as a negotiator than as a soldier. In December B. C. 50, he was despatched with a commission to L. Balbus at Rome, and as he arrived and departed at night, his errand, as a known emissary of Caesar, caused much speculation and alarm, especially to Cn. Pompey. (Cic. Att. 7.4
.) Hirtius returned from Gaul on the breaking out of the civil war in B. C. 49, and was at Rome in April after Pompey's expulsion from Italy, at which time lie obtained for the younger Q. Cicero an audience with Caesar (ad Att.
10.4.5, 11). Whether he accompanied his patron to the Spanish war in the same year, or remained with Oppius, Balbus, and other Caesarians to watch over his interests in the capital, is unknown. Whether Hirtius were one of the ten praetors nominated by Caesar for B. C. 46 (D. C. 42.51
), and one of the ex-praetors who received consular ornaments (Suet. Cues.
76), is equally uncertain.
The grounds for supposing him to have been praetor,--the inscription “A. HIRTIUS PR.” on a coin (Eckhel, vol. v. p. 224),--apply equally to a prefecture of the city, and as Caesar, during his frequent absences from Rome, appointed many delegates, Hirtius was probably one of the number. Either as praetor or city-prefect, he may have been the author of the Lex Hirtia, for excluding the Pompeians from the magistracies. (Cic. Phil. 13.16
.) In B. C. 47, after the close of the Alexandrian war, Hirtius met Caesar at Antioch, and exerted himself in behalf of the elder Q. Cicero. (Cic. Att. 11.20
In the following year he was present at the games at Praeneste, and during Caesar's absence in Africa lived principally at his Tusculan estate, which was contiguous to Cicero's villa. (Ad Att.
12.2.) Though politically opposed, they were on friendly terms. Cicero gave Hirtius lessons in oratory, and Hirtius, in return, imparted to the orator, or to the orator's cook, some of the mysteries of the table. (Cic. Fam. 7.33
; Suet. de Clar. Rhet.
1.) Hirtius corresponded with Caesar during the African war (Cic. Fam. 9.6
), and left his Tusculan villa to meet him on his return to Italy (Id. Ib.
18), and accompanied him to Rome.
He did not attend the dictator to the second Spanish war, B. C. 45, but followed him to Narbonne, whence in a letter dated April 18, he announced to Cicero the defeat of the Pompeians (ad Att.
12.37). From Narbo, where Caesar joined him, Hirtius sent to Cicero his reply to the orator's panegyric of Cato, which was probably composed at Caesar's request, and was a prelude to his own more celebrated treatise " Anti-Cato." (Id. ad Att.
12.40.1, 41.4.) Hirtius disputed his commendations of Cato, but wrote in flattering terms of Cicero himself (comp. ad Att.
13.21), who accordingly took care to circulate freely the treatise of Hirtius. (Ad Att.
12.44, 45, 47.)
At the same time Hirtius appears to have renewed his efforts to reconcile Q. Cicero with his son, and to have softened Caesar's displeasure with the father. (Ad Att.
13.37. 40.) In B. C. 44 Hirtius received Belgic Gaul for his province, but he governed it by deputy (ad Att.
14.9), and attended Caesar at Rome, who nominated him and Vibius Pansa, his colleague in the augurate, consuls for B. C. 43. (Id. ad Fam.
7.4.) His long residence in the capital had made Hirtius better acquainted with the general feeling and state of parties than Caesar himself, and he joined the other leading Caesarians in counselling the dictator not to dismiss his guards (Vell. 2.57
; Plut. Caes. 57
; comp. Suet. Jul. 86
; D. C. 44.7
; App. BC 2.107
; Cic. Att. 14.22
.) Their advice was neglected, and Hirtius, deprived of his constant patron and friend, was, by his nomination to the consulship, brought into the centre and front of political convulsion, without strictly belonging to any one of its component parties.
As a Caesarian, he was opposed to Cicero and the senate; as a friend of the murdered dictator, to his assassins; and as a well-wisher to the public good and the new constitution, to Antony. But Hirtius was not qualified to cause or to control a revolution, and he took refuge at Puteoli from the despotic arrogance of Antony and the threats of the veterans. (Cic. Fam. 16.24
, ad Att.
14.9, 11.) Occasionally, indeed, he mediated between the latter and the party of Brutus and Cassius (ad Fam.
11.1), and his moderation led the conspirators to hope that through Cicero they might convert the tolerant Caesarian, who, though abhorring their act, did not renounce their intercourse, into an active partisan. Cicero discouraged, and secretly derided their hopes (ad Att.
14.20, 21, 15.5). But Hirtius, though inconvertible, was a useful friend to the opponents of Antony. Atticus applied to him for the protection of his estates near Buthrotum in Epeirus against the veterans whom Caesar had established in the neighbourhood (ad Att.
15.1, 3, 16.16). To Brutus and Cassius who had requested his aid, he gave the good advice not to return to Rome, where their destruction by Antony and the veterans was certain (ad Fam.
11.1), nor to leave Italy and appeal to arms when their success might be doubtful (ad Att.
15.6), and he had previously urged Dec. Brutus to quit the city, where his presence only led to daily bloodshed (ad Fam.
11.1). Both at this (B. C. 44) and at an earlier period of the revolution (45, 46, &c.), Cicero's letters show the importance he attached to his relations with Hirtius. When writing confidentially, indeed, he ranks him with the other " Pelopidae," that is, the Caesarian chiefs, whom he wished never to hear of or see again (ad Fam.
7.28, 30); but to Pompey, Brutus, and the senatorian party, he represents himself as on the best terms with Caesar's favourite (6.12).
At the baths of Puteoli, in April, B. C. 44, their daily intercourse was renewed, and Cicero again gave lessons in oratory to Hirtius and his colleague elect, Vibius Pansa (ad Att.
14.12, 22; Suet. de Clar. Rhet.
i.). His treatise de Fato
Cicero represents as arising out of a discussion with Hirtius at Puteoli in the same year (de Fato,
1). Hirtius left Campania to attend the senate summoned for the first of June by Antony (ad Att.
15.5), but finding himself in danger from the veterans, he returned to his Tusculan villa (ad Att.
In the autumn of this year Hirtius was disabled from attendance in the senate by sickness (ad Fam.
12.22), from which he never perfectly recovered (Phil.
1.15, 7.4, 10.8).
According to Cicero, the people offered vows for his restoration, and at such a crisis the moderate and unambitious Hirtius was of no mean worth to the commonwealth.
According to a decree of the senate passed in the preceding December (Cic. Phil.
iii. ad Fam.
11.6), Hirtius and Pansa summoned the senate for the 1st of January, B. C. 43.
After the usual sacrifices, they proceeded to the capitol, and laid before a numerous meeting the general state of the commonwealth, and the rogation respecting honours to Octavius Caesar, Dec. Brutus, and the martial and fourth legions.
The debate was opened by Hirtius and his colleague, who declared their attachment to the existing constitution, and exhorted the senate to similar firmness and consistency. (Phil.
5.1, 12, 13, 35, vi. I; D. C. 45.17
; App. BC 3.50
The discussion lasted four days. On the second the decree for honours to Brutus, Octavius, and the legions, was passed (App. BC 3.51
; Cic. Phil. 7.4
, 11.8, 13.10; Dio Cass,. 46.29; Plnt. Cic.
45; Vell. 2.61
; Suet. Octav.
10; Tac. Ann. 1.10
); but on the fourth, Cicero and the oligarchy failed in their motion to have Antony declared a public enemy, and for the city to assume the sagum. (Cic. Phil. 6.3
It was resolved--and the resolution was supported by Hirtius and the Caesarian party--to try negotiation, and to send delegates to his camp at Mutina. Hirtius, on whom the lot fell, was despatched in February, although still enfeebled by sickness, to Cisalpine Gaul.
He immediately attacked Antony's outposts, and drove them from Claterna; then, uniting his forces with those of Octavius at Forum Cornelii, he, as consul, took the chief command, and laid up both armies in winter-quarters. (App. BC 3.65
; Cic. Fam. 12.5
Hirtius did not wish for open, at least not immediate, collision with Antony, and the senate desired to have in the field a superior officer to Octavius. (D. C. 46.35
.) Antony, whom these movements compelled to divide his forces, addressed a letter to Hirtius and Octavius jointly, remonstrating with them for being the dupes of Cicero and his faction, and for weakening the Caesarian party by division. Without replying to it, Hirtius forwarded this letter to the senate, and an acute and acrimonious dissection of it forms the substance of Cicero's thirteenth Philippic. During some weeks of inactivity, Hirtius omitted no means of throwing supplies into Mutina, or of encouragement to Dec. Brutus to hold out against the incessant assaults of Antony, and the more dangerous progress of famine. (Frontin. Strat.
3.13.7, 14.3; Plin. Nat. 10.53
.) Towards the end of March his colleague, Pansa, crossed the Apennines and reaching Bononia, which Hirtius and Octavius had previously taken, was defeated on the following day by Antony at Forum Gallorum, and, as it proved, mortally wounded in the battle. (Cic. Fam. 10.30
; comp. Ov. Fast. 4.625
.) Hirtius, however, retrieved this disaster on the same evening, by suddenly attacking Antony on his return to the camp at Mutina. Honours, on Cicero's motion, had scarcely been decreed by the senate to Hirtius for his victory (Cic. Phil.
xiv.), when news arrived at Rome of the rout of Antony on the 27th, the deliverance of Mutina, and the fall of Hirtius in leading an assault on the besiegers' camp. (Ad Fam.
10.30, 33, 11.9, 10, 13, 12.25, Phil.
14.9, 10, 14; App. BC 3.66
; D. C. 46.36
; Plut. Ant. 17
45; Vell. 2.61
; Liv. Epit. 119
; Eutrop. 7.1
; Oros. 6.18
; Zonar. 10.14
.) Octavius sent the bodies of the slain consuls, with a numerous escort, to Rome, where they were received with extraordinary honours, and publicly buried in the Field of Mars.
The grief and dismay at their fall was universal : the company of contractors for funerals refused any recompense for their interment (V. Max. 5.2.10
; App. BC 3.76
; Vell. 2.62
); and the day of their death became an epoch of chronology. (Ovid. Trist.
4.10, 6; Tib. 3.5
.) Yet, however calamitous to the commonwealth, the fall of Hirtius and his colleague was probably fortunate for themselves. They could not have long hindered the union of Antony and Octavius, and they would have been among the first victims of proscription. To Octavius their removal from the scene was so timely, that he was accused by many of murdering them. (D. C. 46.39
; Suet. Aug.
11; Tac. Ann. 1.10
; Pseudo-Brut. ad Cic.
Whether the " A. HIRTIUS, a. f." mentioned in an inscription discovered at Ferentinum, as having, while censor or quinquennalis in the reign of Augustus, repaired or restored the walls of that town. were the son of the consul of B. C. 43 is uncertain. Orelli, Inscr.
n. 589, id. vol. ii. p. 172; Westphal, Camp. Romagn.
p. 84.) The Hirtius mentioned by Appian (App. BC 4.43
) as compelled by proscription to fly to Sex. Pompeius, may have been the same person, since many of the Pompeians were restored and even favoured by Augustus after the treaty at Misenum, in B. C. 39.
HIRTIA, whom Cicero, after his repudiation of Terentia, in B. C. 46, had some thoughts of marrying, was a sister of Hirtius.
He declined her, saying, that he could not undertake a wife and philosophy at once (Hieron. in Jovin.
1.38), and the words " Nihil vidi foedius " are supposed to refer to her.
But, as he shortly afterwards, without apology, espoused the young, beautiful, and rich Publilia, it is probable that Hirtia wanted youth and a good dower, as well as good looks.
The character of Hirtius is easy to delineate.
A revolution brought him into notice; ordinary times would have left him in obscurity.
He was a good officer, without military genius--for his last campaign with Antony shows nothing beyond secondary talent, and a skilful negotiator when the terms were prescribed. But Hirtius merits without abatement the praise of unwavering loyalty to his patron, of moderation in political prosperity, and of using his influence with Caesar unselfishly.
A staunch Caesarian, he protected the Pompeians, and while he deplored his benefactor's murder, he opposed the lawless and prodigal ambition of Antony. Cicero frequently mentions his addiction to the pleasures of the table (ad Fam.
9.16, 18, 20, ad Att.
12.2, 16.1), and Q. Cicero describes him as a licentious reveller (ad Fam.
16.17). Both charges were probably exaggerated, in the one case by political, in the other by personal dislike. But Hirtius had tastes more refined; and Caesar, when he commissioned him to answer the Cato
of Cicero, must have thought highly of his literary attainments. Hirtius divides with Oppius the claim to the authorship of the eighth book of the Gallic war
, as well as that of the Alexandrian
, and Spanish
. (Suet. Caes
52, 53, 56; Plin. Nat. 11.105
; Voss. de Hist. Lat.
p. 64; Dodwell. Dissert. de Auct.
lib. viii. de B. G. et Al. Af. et Hisp.
in Oudendorp's Caesar,
vol. ii. p. 869, ed. 1822.) Without determining the question, we may allow that Hirtius was quite capable of writing the best of these, the eighth of the commentaries on the Gaulish war, and the single book of the Alexandrine war, and that he certainly did not write the account of Caesar's last campaign in Spain. (Niebuhr, Lectures on Hist. of Rome,
vol. ii. pp. 46, 47, ed. Schmitz.)