11. M. Claudius
Marcellus, M. F. M. N. (probably a son of the preceding), the friend of Cicero, and subject of the oration Pro M. Marcello,
ascribed, though erroneously, to the great orator.
He is first mentioned as curule aedile with P. Cledius in B. C. 56. (Cic. Att. 4.3
.) In February of that year he defended Milo, at Cicero's request, against the charge of violence brought against him by Clodius. (Cic. ad Q. Fr.
2.3.) In 54 he was one of the six advocates who defended the cause of M. Scaurus (Ascon. ad Scaur.
p. 20, ed. Orell.); and after the death of Clodius (B. C. 52), took a prominent part in the defence of Milo. (Id. ad Mion.
pp. 35, 40, 41.)
In the same year he was elected consul, together with Ser. Sulpicius Rufus, for the ensuing year. For this distinction he was probably indebted to the support and favour of Pompey; and during the period of his magistracy (B. C. 51 ) he showed himself a zealous partisan of the latter, and sought to secure his favour by urging the senate to extreme measures against Caesar. Among other modes in which he displayed his zeal, was the very indiscreet one of causing a citizen of Comum to be scourged, in order to show his contempt for the privileges lately bestowed by Caesar upon that colony. Cic. Att. 5.11
; Appian, App. BC 2.26
; Suet. Jul. 23
But his vehemence gradually abated, as he found himself opposed by his colleague Sulpicius and several of the tribunes, while Pompey himself lent him no active support, and even distinctly refused to second hint in his proposition for the immediate abrogation of Caesar's authority.
But the election of' the new consuls terminated favourably to the party of Pompey; and at length, on the 30th of September, Marcellus procured a resolution of the senate, that the whole subject should be brought under discussion on the 1st of March in the following year.
After this no further steps were taken before the expiration of his office. (Suet. Jul. 28
; D. C. 40.58
; Appian, B. C.2.26; Caes. Gal. 8.53
; Cic. Att. 8.3
; Caelius, ad Fam.
8.1, 8, 10, 13.)
But all the party zeal and animosity of Marcellus did not blind him to the obvious imprudence of forcing on a war for which they were unprepared; and hence, as it became evident that an open rupture was inevitable, he endeavoured to moderate the vehemence of his own party. Thus, in B. C. 50, we find him urging the senate to interpose their authority with the tribunes to induce them to withdraw their opposition (Cic. Fam. 8.13
) and at the beginning of the year 49 he in vain suggested the necessity of making levies of troops, before any open steps were taken against Caesar. (Caes. Civ. 1.2
.) His advice was overruled, and he was among the first to fly from Rome and Italy.
But though he joined Pompey and his partisans in Epeirus, it is clear that he did not engage with any heartiness in the cause of which, according to Cicero, he foresaw the failure front the beginning: and after the battle of Pharsalia he abandoned all thoughts of prolonging the contest, and withdrew to Mytilene, where he gave himself up to the pursuits of rhetoric and philosophy. Here Caesar was content to leave him unmolested in a kind of honourable exile; and Marcellus himself was unwilling to sue to the conqueror for forgiveness, though Cicero wrote to him repeatedly from Rome, urging him in the strongest manner to do so, and assuring him of the clemency of Caesar.
But though Marcellus himself would take no steps to procure his recall, his friends at Rome were not backward in their exertions for that purpose; and at length, in a fill assembly of the senate, C. Marcellus, the cousin of the exile, threw himself at Caesr's feet to implore the pardon of his kinsman, and his example was followed by the whole body of the assembly. Caesar yielded to this demonstration of opinion, and Marcellus was declared to be forgiven, and restored to all his former honours. Cicero wrote to announce to him this favourable result, in a letter now lost; but the answer of Marcellus is preserved, and is marked by a singular coldness, which would lead us to the conclusion that his indifference in this matter was real, and not assumed.
He, however, set out immediately on his return; but having touched at the Peiraeeus, where he had an interview with his former colleague, Sulpicius, then proconsul in Greece, he was assassinated immediately afterwards by one of his own attendants, P. Magius Chilo.
There seems no doubt that the deed was prompted by private resentment, though suspected at the time to have been committed at the instigation of Caesar. Sulpicius paid him all due funeral honours, and caused him to be buried in the Academy, where a monument was erected to him by the Athenians, at the public expense. (Cic. Fam. 4.4
, ad Att.
13.10-22, pro M. Marcello, passim, Brut.
Marcellus had been, as already observed, a friend of Cicero's from his earliest youth; their views on political affairs had generally coincided, and they continued to act in concert until the breaking out of the civil war. Hence we cannot wonder at the very high praises bestowed by the latter upon the wisdom and prudence of Marcellus, of whom he speaks on several occasions in terms which would lead us to suppose him a perfect model of a philosophic statesman. Caelius, on the contrary, calls him slow and inefficient; but while his conduct in his consulship was certainly not such as to give us a high opinion of his political sagacity or prudence, it would rather seem to have deserved censure for defects the very opposite of these. Of his merits as an orator, we are wholly incompetent to judge, but they are said to have been of a high order, and inferior to few except Cicero himself. (Cic. Brut. 71
. All the passages in Cicero relating to M. Marcellus will be found collected or referred to by Orelli, Onomasticon Tullian.
pp. 157, 158.
See also Drumann, Gesch. Roms,
vol. ii. p. 39,, &c., and Passow in Zimmermann's Zeitschrif jüi Alterthumswissenschaft,