III[3arg] What Tullius Tiro, Cicero's freedman, criticized in the speech which Marcus Cato delivered in the senate in defence of the Rhodians; and our answer to his strictures.
THE State of Rhodes is famed for the happy situation of the island, its celebrated works of art, its skill in seamanship and its naval victories. Although a friend and ally of the Roman people, that State was on cordial terms with Perses, son of Philip and king of Macedon, with whom the Romans were at war; 1 accordingly, the Rhodians often sent envoys to Rome and tried to reconcile the contending parties. But when their attempts at peace-making failed, many of the Rhodians harangued the people in their assemblies, urging that if peace were not made, the Rhodians should aid the king in his contest with the people of Rome; but as to that question no official action was taken. When, however, Perses was defeated and taken prisoner, the Rhodians were in great fear because of what had been said and done on many occasions in the popular assemblies; and they sent envoys to Rome, to apologize for the hastiness of some of their fellow-citizens and vindicate their loyalty as a community. When the envoys reached Rome and were admitted to the [p. 13] senate, after having humbly pleaded their cause they left the House, and the senators were called upon for their opinions. When some of the members complained of the Rhodians, declaring that they had been disloyal, and recommended that war be declared upon them, then Marcus Cato arose. He endeavoured to defend and save our very good and faithful allies, to whom many of the most distinguished senators were hostile through a desire to plunder and possess their wealth; and he delivered that famous speech entitled For the Rhodians, which is included in the fifth book of his Origins and is also in circulation as a separate publication. Now Tullius Tiro, Marcus Cicero's freedman, was unquestionably a man of refined taste and by no means unacquainted with our early history and literature. He had been liberally educated from his earliest years, and Cicero found in him an assistant, and in a sense a partner, in his literary work. But surely Tiro showed more presumption than can be tolerated or excused. For he wrote a letter 2 to Quintus Axius, a friend of his patron, with excessive assurance and warmth, in which, as he imagined, he criticized that speech For the Rhodians with keen and fine judgment. It chanced to take my fancy to touch upon certain of the animadversions which he makes in that letter, and I shall doubtless be the more readily pardoned for finding fault with Tiro, because he took Cato to task. His first charge was that Cato, “ignorantly and absurdly,” to use Tiro's own language, made use of a preamble which was excessively arrogant and excessively severe and fault-finding, in which he declared that he feared lest the fathers, having their [p. 15] minds upset by joy and exultation at their success, might act unwisely and be in no state of mind for understanding and deliberating aright. Tiro says: “Advocates who are pleading for clients ought in their opening remarks to win over and propitiate the jurors with complimentary and respectful language; they ought, while their minds, as they wait to hear the case, are still in suspense and cool, to render them complacent, and not to arouse contradiction by insults and arrogant threats.” Then he has given us Cato's own preamble, which runs as follows: 3 “I am aware that in happy, successful and prosperous times the minds of most men are wont to be puffed up, and their arrogance and self-confidence to wax and swell. Therefore I am now gravely concerned, since this enterprise has gone on so successfully, lest something adverse may happen in our deliberations, to bring to naught our good fortune, and lest this joy of ours may become too extravagant. Adversity subdues and shows what ought to be done; prosperity, since it inspires joy, commonly turns men aside from wise counsel and right understanding. Therefore it is with the greater emphasis that I advise and urge that this matter be put off for a few days, until we regain our self-command after so great rejoicing.” “Then what Cato says next,” continues Tiro, “amounts to a confession rather than a defence; for it does not contain a refutation or shifting of the charge, but the sharing of it with many others, which of course amounts to nothing in the way of excuse. Moreover,” says Tiro, “he also acknowledges that the Rhodians, who were accused of favouring the king's cause against the Roman people [p. 17] and wishing him success, did so from motives of self-interest, for fear that the Romans, already proud and self-confident, with the addition of a victory over king Perses might become immoderately insolent.” And he gives Cato's own words, as follows: 4 “And I really think that the Rhodians did not wish us to end the war as we did, with a victory over king Perses. But it was not the Rhodians alone who had that feeling, but I believe that many peoples and many nations agreed with them. And I am inclined to think that some of them did not wish us success, not in order that we might be disgraced, but because they feared that if there were no one of whom we stood in dread, we would do whatsoever we chose. I think, then, that it was with an eye to their own freedom that they held that opinion, in order not to be under our sole dominion and enslaved to us. But for all that, the Rhodians never publicly aided Perses. Reflect how much more cautiously we deal with one another as individuals. For each one of us, if he thinks that anything is being done contrary to his interests, strives with might and main to prevent it; but they in spite of all permitted this very thing to happen.” Now as to his criticism of Cato's introduction, Tiro ought to have known that although Cato defended the Rhodians, he did so as a senator who had been consul and censor and was recommending what he thought was best for the public welfare, not as an advocate pleading the cause of the accused. For one kind of introduction is appropriate for a man who is defending clients before jurors and striving in every way to excite pity and compassion; quite another for a man of eminent authority, when the [p. 19] senate is asked for its opinion on a matter of State, and when, indignant at the highly unjust opinions of some of the members, he gives plain and emphatic expression at once to his indignation and his sorrow, speaking in behalf of the public welfare and the safety of our allies. Indeed, it is a proper and salutary rule of the schools of rhetoric, that jurors who are to pass judgment on the person of a stranger and on a case which does not personally concern them (so that apart from the duty of acting as jurors no danger or emolument will come to them) ought to be conciliated and induced by mild and soothing language to have regard for the reputation and safety of the prisoner at the bar. But when the common prestige, honour and advantage of all are involved, and therefore one must advise what is to be done, or what must be put off that has already been begun, then one who busies oneself with an introduction designed to make his hearers friendly and kindly disposed towards himself wastes his efforts in needless talk. For the common interests and dangers have themselves already disposed the jurors to listen to advice, and it is rather they themselves that demand good-will 5 on the part of their counsellor. But when Tiro says that Cato admitted that the Rhodians did not wish the Romans to fight as successfully as they did, and king Perses to be conquered by the Roman people, and when he asserts that he declared that not the Rhodians alone, but many other nations too, had the same feeling, but that this availed nothing in excuse or extenuation of their fault—in this very first point Tiro is guilty of a shameless lie. He quotes Cato's words, yet misrepresents him by giving them a false interpretation. [p. 21] For Cato does not admit that the Rhodians did not wish the Roman people to be victorious, but said that he thought they did not; and this was unquestionably an expression of his own opinion, not an concession of the guilt of the Rhodians. On this point, in my judgment at least, Cato is not only free from reproach, but is even deserving of praise and admiration. For he apparently expressed a frank and conscientious opinion adverse to the Rhodians; but then, having established confidence in his candour, 6 he so changed and shifted that very statement which seemed to militate against them, that on that account alone it seemed right that they should be more highly esteemed and beloved by the people of Rome; inasmuch as they took no steps to aid the king, although they wished him to succeed and although his success would have been to their advantage. Later on, Tiro quotes the following words from the same speech: 7 “Shall we, then, of a sudden abandon these great services given and received and this strong friendship? Shall we be the first to do what we say they merely wished to do?” “This,” says Tiro, “is a worthless and faulty argument. 8 For it might be replied: 'Certainly we shall anticipate them, for if we do not, we shall be caught unawares and must fall into the snares against which we failed to guard in advance.' Lucilius,” he says, “justly criticizes 9 the poet Euripides for this reason, that when king Polyphontes declared that he had killed his brother, because his brother had [p. 23] previously planned to slay him, Meropa, his brother's wife, confuted the king with these words 10 :
If, as you say, my husband planned your death,But that,” says Tiro, “is altogether full of absurdity, to wish to do something, and yet have the design and purpose of never doing what you wish to do.” But, as a matter of fact, Tiro failed to observe that the reason for taking precautions is not the same in all cases, and that the occupations and actions of human life, and the obligations of anticipation or postponement or even of taking vengeance or precautions, are not like a combat of gladiators. For to a gladiator ready to fight the fortune of battle offers the alternative, either to kill, if he should conquer, or to die, if he should yield. But the life of men in general is not restricted by such unfair or inevitable necessities that one must be first to commit an injury in order to avoid suffering injury. In fact, such conduct was so alien to the humanity of the Roman people that they often forbore to avenge the wrongs inflicted upon them. Then Tiro says that later in that same speech Cato used arguments that were disingenuous and excessively audacious, not suited to the character which Cato showed at other times, but cunning and deceitful, resembling the subtleties of the Greek sophists. “For although,” says he, “he charged the Rhodians with having wished to make war on the Roman people, he declared that they did not deserve punishment, because they had not made war in spite of their strong desire to do so.” He says that Cato introduced what the logicians call an [p. 25] ἐπαγωγή, 11 a most treacherous and sophistical device. designed not so much for the truth as for cavil, since by deceptive examples he tried to establish and prove that no one who wished to do wrong deserved to be punished, unless he actually accomplished his desire. Now Cato's words in that speech are as follows: 12 “He who uses the strongest language against them says that they wished to be our enemies. Pray is there any one of you who, so far as he is concerned, would think it fair to suffer punishment because he is accused of having wished to do wrong? No one, I think; for so far as I am concerned, I should not.” Then a little farther on he says: 13 “What? Is there any law so severe as to provide that if anyone wish to do so and so, he be fined a thousand sesterces, provided that be less than half his property; 14 if anyone shall desire to have more than five hundred acres, 15 let the fine be so much; if anyone shall wish to have a greater number of cattle, let the fine be thus and so. In fact, we all wish to have more, and we do so with impunity.” Later he continues: 16 “But if it is not right for honour to be conferred because anyone says that he wished to do well, but yet did not do so, shall the Rhodians suffer, not because they did wrong, but because they are said to have wished to do wrong?” With such arguments Tullius Tiro says that Marcus Cato strove to show that the Rhodians also ought not to be punished, because although they had wished to be enemies of the Roman people, [p. 27] they had actually not been such. Furthermore, he says that it cannot be denied that to wish to have more than five hundred acres, which was forbidden by Stolo's 17 bill, is not exactly the same thing as to wish to make an unjust and unrighteous war upon the Roman people; also that it could not be denied that rewards and punishments belong to different categories. “For services,” he says, “that are promised should be awaited, and not rewarded until they are performed; but in the case of threatening injuries, it is fair to guard against them rather than wait for them. For it is an admission of the greatest folly,” he declares, “not to go to meet wickedness that is planned, but to await and expect it, and then, when it has been committed and accomplished, at last to inflict punishment, when what is done cannot be undone.” These are the criticisms which Tiro passed upon Cato, not altogether pointless or wholly unreasonable; but as a matter of fact, Cato did not leave this ἐπαγωγή bare, isolated and unsupported, but he propped it up in various ways and clothed it with many other arguments. Furthermore, since lie had an eye as much to the interests of the State as to those of the Rhodians, he regarded nothing that he said or did in that matter as discreditable, provided he strove by every kind of argument to save our allies. And first of all, he very cleverly sought to find actions which are prohibited, not by natural or by international law, but by statutes passed to remedy some evil or meet an emergency; such for example as the one which limited the number of cattle or the amount of land. In such cases that which is forbidden cannot lawfully be done; but to [p. 29] wish to do it, if it should be allowed, is not dishonourable. And then he gradually compared and connected such actions as these with that which in itself it is neither lawful to do nor to wish to do. Then finally, in order that the impropriety of the comparison may not become evident, he defends it by numerous bulwarks, not laying great stress on those trivial and ideal censures of unlawful desires, such as form the arguments of philosophers in their leisure moments, but striving with might and main for one single end, namely, that the cause of the Rhodians, whose friendship it was to the interests of the commonwealth to retain, should be shown either to be just, or in any event, at least pardonable. Accordingly, he now affirms that the Rhodians did not make war and did not desire to do so; but again he declares that only acts should be considered and judged, and that mere empty wishes are liable neither to laws nor punishment; sometimes, however, as if admitting their guilt, he asks that they be pardoned and shows that forgiveness is expedient in human relations, arousing fear of popular outbreaks, if pardon is not granted, and on the other hand showing that if they forgive, the greatness of the Roman people will be maintained. The charge of arrogance too, which in particular was brought against the Rhodians in the senate at that time, he evaded and eluded by a brilliant and all but inspired mode of reply. I shall give Cato's very words, 18 since Tiro has passed them by: “They say that the Rhodians are arrogant, bringing a charge against them which I should on no account wish to have brought against me and my children. Suppose they are arrogant. What is that to us? [p. 31] Are you to be angry merely because someone is more arrogant than we are?” Absolutely nothing could be said with greater force or weight than this apostrophe against men proud of their deeds, loving pride in themselves, but condemning it in others. It is further to be observed that throughout that speech of Cato's recourse is had to every weapon and device of the art rhetorical; but we are not conscious of their use, as we are in mock combats or in battles feigned for the sake of entertainment. For the case was not pleaded, I say, with an excess of refinement, elegance and observance of rule, but just as in a doubtful battle, when the troops are scattered, the contest rages in many parts of the field with uncertain outcome, so in that case at that time, when the notorious arrogance of the Rhodians had aroused the hatred and hostility of many men, Cato used every method of protection and defence without discrimination, at one time commending the Rhodians as of the highest merit, again exculpating them and declaring them blameless, yet again demanding that their property and riches should not be coveted, now asking for their pardon as if they were in the wrong, now pointing out their friendship to the commonwealth, appealing now to clemency, now to the mercy shown by our forefathers, now to the public interest. All this might perhaps have been said in a more orderly and euphonic style, yet I do not believe that it could have been said with greater vigour and vividness. It was therefore unfair of Tullius Tiro to single out from all the qualities of so rich a speech, apt in their connection with one another, a small and bare part to criticize, by asserting that it was not worthy [p. 33] of Marcus Cato to maintain that the mere desire for delinquencies that were not actually committed did not merit punishment. But one will form a juster and more candid opinion of these words of mine, spoken in reply to Tullius Tiro, and judge accordingly, if one will take in hand Cato's own speech in its entirety, and will also take the trouble to look up and read the letter of Tiro to Axius. For then he will be able either to correct or confirm what I have said more truthfully and after fuller examination.
You too should only plan, till that time came.