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6. Q. Hortensius, L. F., the orator, born in B. C. 114, eight years before Cicero, the same year that L. Crassus made his famous speech for the Vestal Licinia (Cic. Brut. 64, 94). At the early age of nineteen he appeared in the forum, and his first speech gained the applause of the consuls, L. Crassus and Q. Scaevola, the former the greatest orator, the latter the first jurist of the day. Crassus also heard his second speech for Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, who had been expelled by his brother Chrestus. His client was restored (Cic. de Orat. 3.61). By these speeches Hortensius at once rose to eminence as an advocate. Q. Hortensius, says Cicero, ad modum adolescentis ingenium simul spectatum et probatum est (Brut. 64). But his forensic pursuits were soon interrupted by the Social War, in which he was obliged to serve two campaigns (B. C. 91, 90), in the first as a legionary, in the second as tribunus militum (Brut. 89). In the year 86 B. C. he defended young Cn. Pompeius, who was accused of having embezzled some of the public booty taken at Asculum in the course of the war (Brut. (64). But, for the most part, the courts were silent during the anarchy which followed the Marian massacres, up to the return of Sulla, B. C. 83. But these troubles, though they checked the young orator in his career, left him complete master of the courts--rex judiciorum,-- as Cicero calls him (Divin. in Q. Caecil. 7). For Crassus had died before the landing of Marius ; Antonius, Catulus, and others fell victims in the massacres; and Cotta, who survived, yielded the first place to his younger rival. Hortensius, therefore, began his brilliant professional cancer anew, and was carried along on the top of the wave till he met a more powerful than himself in Cicero. Henceforth he confined himself to civil life, and was wont to boast in his old age that he had never borne arms in any domestic strife (Cic. Fam. 2.16). He attached himself closely to the dominant Sullane or aristocratic party, and his chief professional labours were in defending men of this party, when accused of mal-adminstration and extortion in their provinees, or of bribery and the like in canvaissilng for public honlours. His constant success, partly due to his own eloquence, readiness, and skill (of which we shall say somewhat hereafter, was yet in great measure due to circumstances. The judices at that time were all taken form the senatorial order, i. e. from the same party with those who were arraigned before them, and the presiding praetor was of the same party. Moreover, the accusers were for the most part young men, of ability indeed and ambition, but quite unequal to cope with the experience and eloquence of Hortensius. Nor did lie neglect baser methods to ensure success. Part of the plundered money, which he was engaged to secure to his clients, was unscrupulously expended in corrupting the judices; those who accepted the bribes receiving marked ballots to prevent their playing false (Cic. Divin. in Q. Caecil. 7). It is true this statement rests chiefly on the authority of a rival advocate. But Cicero would hardly have dared to make it so broadly in open court, with his opponent before him, unless he had good warrant for its truth. Turius, or Furins, mentioned by Horace (Scrm. 2.1. 49), is said to have been one of the judices corrupted by Hortensius.

This domination over the courts continued up to about the year B. C. 70, when Hortensius was retained by Verres against Cicero. Cicero had come to Rome from Athens in B. C. 81, and first met Hortensius as the advocate of P. Quinctius. Cicero's speech is extant, and not the least interesting part is that in which he describes and admits the extraordinary gifts of his future rival (pro Quinct. 1, 2, 22, 24, 26). But Cicero again left Rome, and did not finally settle there till B. C. 74, about three years before the Verrine affair came on.

Meantime, Hortensius had begun his course of civil honours. He was quaestor in B. C. 81, and Cicero himself bears witness to the integrity with which his accounts were kept (in Verr. 1.14, 39). Soon after he defended M. Canuleius (Brut. 92) ; Cn. Dolabella, when accused of extortion in Cilicia by M. Scaurus; another Cn. Dolabella, arraigned by Caesar for like offences in Macedonia [DOLABELLA, Nos. 5, 6]. In B. C. 75 he was aediie, Cotta the orator being consul, and Cicero quaestor in Sicily (Brut. 92). The games and shows he exhibited as aedile were long remembered for their extaordinary splendour (Cic. de )Off. 2.16); but great part of this splendour was the loan of those noble clients, whose robberies he had so successfully excused (Cic. in Verr. 1.19, 22; Ascon. ad l.). In B. C. 72 he was praetor urbanus, and had the task of trying those delinquents whom he had hitherto defended. In B. C. 69 he reached the summit of civic ambition, being consul for that year with Q. Caecilius Metellus. After his consulship the province of Crete feii to him by lot, but he resigned it in favour of his colleague.

It was in the year before his consulship, after he was designated, that the prosecution of Verres commenced. Cicero was then aedile-elect, though Hortensius and his party had endeavoured to prevent his election, and another Metellus praetorelect ; so that, had the cause been put off till the next year, Cicero would have had the weight of consular and praetorian authority against him. The skill and activity by which he baffled the schemes of his opponents will be found under his life (p. 710; see also VERRES). Suffice it to say here, that the issue of this contest was to dethrone Hortensius from the seat which had been already tottering, and to establish his rival, the despised provincial of Arpinum, as the first orator and advocate of the Roman forum. No doubt the victory was complete, though here, as in all the contests between the two orators, the remark of Quintilian is worth noticing, viz. that we have only Cicero's own speeches, and have small means of judging what the case on the other side was (Instit. 10.1). It is true also that Verres was backed by all the power of the Sullane aristocracy. But this party had been much weakened by the measures passed by Pompey in his consulship with Crassus in the year before (B. C. 70). Especially, the Aemilian law, which transferred the judicial power from the senators to the senators, equites, and tribune aerarii conjointly, must have very much weakened the influence of Hortensius and his party. (Ascon. and Cic. in Pison. p. 16; in Cornel. p. 67, Orelli ; see COTTA, No. 11).

After his consulship, Hortensius took a leading part in supporting the optimates against the rising power of Pompey. He opposed the Gabinian law, which invested that great commander with absolute power on the Mediterranean, in order to put down the pirates of Cilicia (B. C. 67); and the Manilian, by which the conduct of the war against Mithridates was transferred from Lucullus (of the Sullane party) to Pompeius (B. C. 66). In favour of the latter, Cicero made his first political speech.

In the memorable year B. C. 63 Cicero was unanimously elected consul. He had already become estranged from the popular party, with whom he had hitherto acted. The intrigues of Caesar and Crassus, who supported his opponents C. Antonius and the notorious Catiline, touched him personally; and he found it his duty as consul to oppose the turbulent measures of the popular leaders, such as the agrarian law of Rullus. Above all, the conspiracy of Catiline, to which Crassus was suspected of being privy, forced him to combine with the senate for the safety of the state. He thus came to act with the Sullane nobility, and Hortensius no longer appears as his rival. We first find them pleading together for C. Rabirins, an old senator, who was indicted for the murder of C. Saturninus, tribune of the plebs in the times of Sulla. They both appeared as counsel for L. Muraena, when accused of bribery in canvassing for the consulship by Sulpicius and Cato; and again for P. Sulla, accused as an accomplice of Catiline. On all these occasions Hortensius allowed Cicero to speak last--a manifest admission of his former rival's superiority. And that this was the general opinion appears from the fact, that M. Piso (consul in 61), in calling over the senate, named Cicero second, and Hortensius only fourth. About the same time we find Cicero, in a letter to their mutual friend Atticus, calling him "noster Hortensius" (ad Att. 1.14).

The last active part which Hortensius took in public life was in the debates of the senate in the prosecution of the infamous Clodius for his offence against the Bona Dea. Fearing delay, he supported the amendment of Fufius, that Clodius should be tried before the ordinary judices, instead of before a court selected by the praetor. Cicero condemns his conduct in strong terms (ad Att. 1.16; cf. 14), and seems to have considered the success of this amendment as the chief cause of Clodius's acquittal. [CLODIUS, p. 771.] In the subsequent quarrels between Milo and Clodius, Hortensius showed such zeal for the former, that he was nearly being murdered by the hired ruffians of Clodius (Cic. pro Milon. 14).

In B. C. 61 Pompey returned victorious from the Mithridatic war. He found he could no longer command a party of his own. He must side with one of the two factions which had been fully formed during his absence in the East--the old party of the optimates and the new popular party, led by Caesar and Crassus, who used Clodius as their instrument. Hence followed (ill B. C. 60) the coalition of Pompey with Caesar and Crassus (erroneously called the first triumvirate). Hortensius now drew back from public life, seeing probably that his own party must yield to the arts and power of the coalition, and yet not choosing to forsake it. From this time to his death (in B. C. 50) he confined himself to his advocate's duties. He defended Flaccus, accused of extortion in Asia, jointly with Cicero, and took occasion to extol the acts of the latter in his consulship (ad Att. 2.25). He also pleaded the cause of P. Lentulus Spinther, against whom Pompey had promoted an accusation for his conduct respecting Ptolemy Auletes, though Cicero, fearing a second banishment, declined the office (ad Fam. 1.1, 2.1). He joined Cicero again iN the defence of Sextius, and again allowed him to speak last (pro Sext. 2.6). When the latter was in his province (B. C. 51), Hortensius defended his own nephew, M. Valerius Messalla, who was accused of bribery in canvassing for the consulship. He was, as usual, successful; but the case was so flagrant, that, next day, when Hortensius entered the theatre of Curio, he was received with a round of hisses--a thing mainly remarkable, because it was the first time lie had suffered any thing of the kind (ad Fam. 8.2). In the beginning of April, B. C. 50, he appeared for the last time, with his wonted success, for App. Claudius, accused de majestate et ambitu by Dolabella, the future sonin-law of Cicero. He died not long after. Cicero received the news of his death at Rhodes, as he was returning home from his province, and was deeply affected by it (ad Att. 6.6; comp. Brut. 1.)

In the above sketch of Hortensius's life, we have kept Cicero constantly in view, for it is from him--his speeches and letters, and other works--that we owe almost all our knowledge of his great rival. It may be well to recur to the relation in which they stood to each other at different times. We have seen that up to Cicero's consulship, in 63 B. C., they were continually opposed. professionally and politically. After this period they usually acted together professionally -- for Hortensius retired (as we have seen) from political life in the year 60. Hortensius, in his easy way, seems to have yielded without much struggle to Cicero; yet the latter seems never quite to have got over jealousy for his former rival. When he was driven into exile by Clodius (in 58), Hortensius appears to have used his influence to procure his return ; yet Cicero could not be persuaded but that he was playing a part, and was secretly doing his utmost to keep him from Rome. Atticus in vain endeavoured to undeceive him. (Ad Q. Frat. 1.3, 4, ad Att. 3.9.) On his return, indeed, he made public acknowledgment of his error, and spoke very handsomely of Hortensius (pro Sext. 16-19, post Redit. 13, 14), and soon after he was named by Hortensius and Pompey to fill the place in the college of augurs, made vacant by the death of Q. Metellus Celer (Brut. 1, Philipp. 2.2, 13); yet, when Atticus begged him to dedicate some work to Hortensius, he evaded the request (ad Att. 4.6);--for the little treatise De Gloria, inscribed " Hortensius," was not written till 45 B. C., after the death of the orator. The same feelings recur in Cicelo's letters from his province. In his extreme anxiety to return at the expiration of his year, he continually expresses his fears that Hortensius is playing hint false, and working under-handle to have him detained yet longer (ad Att. 5.17 ; comp. ib. 2. &c.). There seems to have been really no ground for these suspicions, and we must set them down to the naturally susceptible and irritable temper of Cicero. It must be confessed, moreover, that the conduct of some of his great friends, Pompey in particular, had been such as to justify suspicions of others.

The character of Hortensius was rather fitted to conciliate than to command--to call forth regard rather than esteem. He was not, as we have seen, at all scrupulous about the means he took to gain verdicts; but in considering this, we must not forget the low state of Roman manners (not to speak of morals) at this period. Personally he seems to stand above suspicion of corruption. Yet his enormous wealth was not all well gotten; for Cicero quotes a case in which Hortensius did not scruple to join Crassus in taking possession of the inheritance of Minuc. Basilius, though, from the circumstances, he must have known that the will under which he claimed was a forgery. (De Offic. 3.18; cf. Parad. 6.1; V. Max. 9.4.1.) And though he was honest as quaestor, though he would not accept a province to drain it of its riches, yet no doubt he shared the plunder of provinces, not immediately indeed, but in the shape of large fees and presents from the Dolabellas and other persons like Verres, whom he so often and so successfully defended. He liked to live at Rome and his villas; he loved an easy life and a fair fame, had little ambition, and therefore avoided all acts that might have made him amenable to prosecution. The same easy temper, joined as it often is with a kind heart and generous disposition, won him many friends; and perhaps we may say that he had no enemies. He lived to a good age, little disturbed by ill health, surrounded by all that wealth can give, alive to all his enjoyments, with as much of active occupation as he desired, without being disturbed by the political turbulence of his times. He died just at the time when civil war broke out, a complete specimen of an amiable Epicurean.

His eloquence was of the florid or (as it was termed) " Asiatic" style (Cic. Brut. 95), fitter for hearing than for reading. Yet he did write his speeches--on occasions at least (Cic. Brut. 96 ; V. Max. 5.9.2). His voice was soft and musical (Brut. 88); his memory so ready and retentive, that he is said to have been able to come out of a sale-room and repeat the auction-list backwards (Senec. Praef. in Controv. 1). We need not refer to Cicero (Cic. Brut. 88, in Caecil. 14) to perceive what use this must have been to him as an advocate. His action was very elaborate, so that sneerers called him Dionysia--the name of a well-known dancer of the day (Gel. 1.5); and the pains he bestowed in arranging the folds of his toga have been recorded by Macrobius (Saturn. 2.9). But in all this there must have been a real grace and dignity, for we read that Aesopus and Roscius, the tragedians, used to follow him into the forum to take a lesson in their own art.

Of his luxurious habits many stories are told. His house on the Palatine was that afterwards occupied by Augustus (Suet. Aug. 72); but this was comparatively simple and modest. In his villas no expense was spared. One he had near Bauli, described by Cicero (Acad. Prior. 2.3) ; a second in the Ager Tusculanus; but the most splendid was that near Laurentum. Here he laid up such a stock of wine, that he left 10,000 casks of Chian to his heir (Plin. H. N 14.6, 17). Here he had a park fill of all sorts of animals; and it was customary, during his sumptuous dinners, for a slave, dressed like Orpheus, to issue from the woods with these creatures following the sound of his cithara (Varr. R. R. 3.13). At Bauli he had immense fish-ponds, into which the sea came : the fish were so tame that they would feed from his land; none of them were molested, for he used to buy for his table at Puteoli; and he was so fond of them, that lie is said to have wept for the death of a favourite muraena (Varr. R. R. 3.17 ; Plin. Nat. 9.55). He was also very curious in trees: he is said to have fed them with wine, and we read that he once begged Cicero to change places in speaking, that he might perform this office for a favourite plane-tree at the proper time (Macrob. Satrn. 2.9). In pictures also lie must have spent large sums, at least he gave 144,001) sesterces for a single work from the hand of Cydias (Plin. HN. 35.40.26). It is a characteristic trait. that he came forward from his retirement (B. C. 55) to oppose the sumptuary law of Pompey and Crassus, and spoke so eloquently and wittily as to procure its rejection (D. C. 39.37). He was the first person at Rome who brought peacocks to table. (Plin. Nat. 10.23).

He was not happy in his family. By his first wife, the daughter of Catulus, he had one son (see below, No. 8). It was after the death of Lutatia that the curious transaction took place by which he bought or borrowed Marcia, the wife of Cato. CATO, No. 9, p. 648.] He is acquitted of sensual profligacy by Plutarch. (Cut. Mi. 25); though he wrote love-songs not of the most decent description. (Ov. Trist. 2.441; Gel. 19.9.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (14):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 2.16
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 3.61
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 72
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 10.23
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 9.55
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 19.9
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 1.5
    • Cicero, Brutus, 64
    • Cicero, Brutus, 88
    • Cicero, Brutus, 94
    • Cicero, Brutus, 95
    • Cicero, Brutus, 96
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 5.9.2
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 9.4.1
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