« AnteriorContinuar »
absolutum verum ad aliquod severius iudicium ac maius supplicium reservatum? But if Cicero had defended Catiline, his act would have been neither immoral nor unprofessional. Catiline was at this time neither worse nor better than other Roman governors, who, when they were invested with power, as a rule misused it. But the detractors of Cicero speak as if he had thought of defending Catiline, the declared enemy of the State, the character blackened by the denunciations of the Catilinarian invectives—as one might speak of Burke, if, after impeaching Warren Hastings, he had undertaken the defence of Sir Elijah Impey. If Cicero, to improve the prospects of his own candidature, had defended Catiline on a charge of extortion, he would not have given greater offence to Roman sentiment than would now be given to English sentiment if a respectable and rising politician made common cause in his canvass with some young nobleman who had squandered large sums of money on the turf. England, happily for her subjects, does not look on proconsular malversation with the lenient eyes of ancient Rome.*
Perhaps never was a more childish criticism made on a great historical personage than that of Dio Cassius on Cicero:—ennupoTÉPICÉ TE yap (he was a trimmer), kaì TOTÈ uầu tà tourwv šott 8' ότε και τα εκείνων ίν' υπ' αμφοτέρων σπουδαζηται έπραττε. + Yet this foolish taunt has been echoed by the greatest of modern historians of Rome. Theodor Mommsen has so far forgotten the high functions of the historian in the self-imposed task of finding in Caesar the perfect man, that in introducing for the first time to his readers one who (however we may regard his character) must ever be among the most prominent figures in the picture of the dying Republic-one who in literature at least must ever be a marvel to the world-he can find no more respectable terms to
* The arguments drawn from the oratio in toga candida have been urged by Asconius against Fenestella, who maintains that Cicero did defend Catiline. Bücheler puts forWard the strange theory that Asconius, writing under Nero, cannot have known the passage, Att. i. 2, 1: hoc tempore Catilinam competitorem nostrum defendere cogitamus. Hence he argues that the collection of the letters to Atticus which we have could not have been published till after the period of Asconius.
† xxxvi. 43. Dio Cassius seems not to have read the letters at all. See note on Att. ii. 24, 2, where Dio's extraordinary theory about the real nature of the obscure plot of Vettius is given and commented on.
use than the notorious political trimmer, M. Tullius Cicero.'* This criticism is not only flippant and altogether inapplicable to a personage of the proportions of Cicero, but it rests (as I have endeavoured to show) on a misrepresentation of the position of a Roman advocate.
It is idle to seek to suppress or evade the fact that Cicero was looked on as a great power † by those who had intelligence enough to see that the tongue is as great an instrument of government as the hand. And he who had the strongest hand in those days and the largest brain, the great Julius Caesar, saw best what a power was Cicero. Indeed one of the most picturesque traits in a very picturesque character is the pertinacity with which Caesar refuses to be repulsed by Cicero. After he failed to gain thel great orator to his own interests, we read with pleasure of the magnanimity shown in offering him one of his own lieutenancies to protect him from Clodius, and afterwards a place among the twenty commissioners. The seventh, eighth, and ninth books of the letters to Atticus record in almost every letter the desire of Caesar, couched in the most manly and respectful terms, to gain over the great Marcus Tullius, or at least to secure his neutrality. I Plutarch (Cic. xxxix.) gives a very striking description of the trial of the arch-traitor Q. Ligarius, which shows strongly the influence of Cicero over the victor of Pharsalia, Aéyeral dè kai, Koivrov Aryapsov δίκην φεύγοντος, ότι των Καίσαρος πολεμίων είς εγεγόνει, και Κικέρωνος αυτω βοηθούντος, είπείν τον Καίσαρα προς τους φίλους: Τι κωλύει διά χρόνου Κικέρωνος ακούσαι λέγοντος, έπει πάλαι κέκριται πονηρός ο ανήρ και πολέμιος και έπει δ' αρξάμενος λέγειν ο Κικέρων
* In the same spirit Mommsen dismisses Cato with a remark on the irony of fate which had decreed that the epilogue of a great political tragedy should be spoken by the fool. But bis choicest flouts and jibes are kept for Pompeius, because when he returned at the head of his army after the Mithridatic War, he did not make himself master of Rome. The theory of the historian seems to be that any general who is strong enough to play successfully the rebel and traitor must be a fool if he refuses the part. To the Prussian historian his refusal is inexplicable, except on the hypothesis that he did not see his chance.
† A strong tribute to the personal reputation of Cicero is preserved in a letter from Cato (a man not likely to misrepresent the state of feeling at Rome), congratulating Cicero on the supplicatio which he himself had felt bound to oppose (Fam. xv. 5, 1).
# The magnanimity of Caesar at this period sometimes wrings from Cicero an almost involuntary expression of admiration ; see Fam. iv. 4, 4; vi. 6, 10.
υπερφυώς εκίνει, και προϋβαινεν αυτω πάθει τε ποικίλος και χάριτι θαυμαστός ο λόγος, πολλάς μεν ιέναι χρόας επί του προσώπου τον Καίσαρα, πάσας δε της ψυχής τρεπόμενον τροπάς κατάδηλον είναι: τέλος δε των κατά Φάρσαλoν άψαμένου του ρήτορος αγώνων, εκπαθή γενόμενον τιναχθήναι τω σώματι, και της χειρός εκβαλείν ένια των γραμματίων. Τον γούν άνθρωπον απέλυσε της αιτίας βεBraou évos. Such is the effect produced on Caesar-surely not a man to be caught by varnished superficiality-by the man whom Mommsen flouts as a journalist in the worst sense of the term,' a 'thorough dabbler,' who was nothing but an advocate, and not a good one.'*
In estimating the character of Cicero, and his relations with the men of his time-especially the man of his time, Caesar—the detractor of Cicero has a great advantage. Whatever tells against Cicero tells against him with damning force, for the witness against Cicero is Cicero himself, his letters being the only authority for much of the history of this period. But when the letters place Cicero in a favourable light-when, for instance, they show us Caesar suing for his adhesion, and gather
* A letter of Cicero to Paetus shows how much Caesar valued even the lighter efforts of the great consular.–Sed tamen ipse Caesar habet peracre iudicium, et, ut Servius, frater tuas, quem litteratissimum fuisse iudico, facile diceret : Hic versus Plauti non est, hic est,' quod tritas aures haberet notandis generibus poëtarum et consuetudine legendi, sic audio Caesarem, cum volumina iam confecerit årope equátwy, si quod adferatur ad eum pro meo, quod meum non sit, reiicere solere : quod eo nunc magis facit, quia vivunt mecum fere cotidie illius familiares. Incidunt autem in sermone vario rulta, quae fortasse illis cum dixi nec illitterata nec insulsa esse videantur. Haec ad illum cum reliquis actis perferuntur: ita enim ipse mandavit. Sic fit ut, si quid praeterea de me audiat, non audiendum putet.-Fam. ix. 16, 4.
It is astonishing how the pursuit of a theory may blind a historian to the proper appreciation of things. Here is the comment of Duruy on the relations between Cicero and Caesar described in the words just quoted—“Content de la royauté qu'il avait toujours, celle de l'esprit, il ne laissait percer les regrets qu'en de malignes plaisanteries. Ce rôle de frondeur spirituel plaisait à César ; il se délassait d'adulation. Chaque matin on lui apporta les bons mots de Cicéron, et il en faisait un recueil. L'ancien consulaire, le père de la patrie, devenu le bouffon de la tyrannie!”-Hist. des Romains,
Mommsen has well observed that in the soul of Caesar there was room for much besides the statesman. It is a pity that in his view of the relations between Caesar and Cicero he has so completely forgotten this just and profound remark. If he had remembered it, he might have added some touches, not the least graceful, to the portrait of his ideal man.
ing the crumbs that fell from his literary repasts—then, say the detractors, we have Cicero posing, the literary man conceiving a picturesque position and placing himself therein, elevating himself to a pedestal to be worshipped by the great man of the age. Now, to all this we can only make this reply. For much that is most admirable and amiable in the character of Cicero, as well as for all that may be made the object of reprehension or contempt, our sole authority is his correspondence. This correspondence (of course I refer to the private letters, which form so much the larger part of the collection, not the letters to public characters, which are in every way such as his speeches) to me seems the absolute reflection of the man's mind. He says to Atticus (viii. 14, 2), ego tecum tanquam mecum loquor, and to me it seems that he poured out his inmost thoughts as in a soliloquy. I can, however, suppose a reader of the letters honestly to entertain the view that Cicero had anticipated the long lease of life that his letters | would have, and deliberately placed his character and position in a favourable though unreal light. I say I can suppose this view to be held honestly, though I cannot conceive it to be held intelligently. For there is reason to believe that Cicero never thought of the chance that his letters might be preserved until the correspondence had nearly reached its close. But the theory which I cannot reconcile with either honesty or intelligence is the theory which supposes Cicero to have written with candour and sincerity when he acknowledges his shortsightedness and deplores his mistakes, but looks on him as a mere romancer when he describes the unexampled position which he held as a wielder of written and spoken words. And akin to this theory is that which speaks of all the greatest of his Optimate speeches as a price exacted from him by the nobles for their support in his candidature for the consulship, as if the optima causa was not to him dearer than life, as dear almost as fame, and as if any man of Cicero's ability would or could restrain himself from giving all his intellectual resources to the aid of a party of which he was the mainstay, and in a sense the creator. But, say the detractors, he defended Roscius and Cornelius, and thought of defending Catiline, ergo he sought the support of the democrats. Now he gained his object without this support. Ergo, say they, nearly all his consular speeches are
evidence of the dirty work which he was called on by a vile party to do, that he might earn the wages which he had received in advance.
The fact is that Cicero had set up for himself an idol in the restoration of the Optimate party,* of whom he gives us a fulllength picture in Sest., chapters xlvi., xlvii. : his political watchwords are senatus auctoritas,' and 'ordinum concordia'; his political triumph was the crushing of the Catilinarian conspiracy without an appeal to the sword, by inducing the wealthy middle class to make common cause with the aristocracy; and his political predecessor is Catulus.† It is by fostering the union between the Senate and knights that he hopes to bring about his cherished scheme, and to do this he was ready to erect the knights, in the words of Pliny (H. N. xiii. 8.), into a 'tertium corpus' or 'third estate.' In Pompeius : he saw (and long refused not to see) the
• It cannot be denied that his fidelity to the Optimate party wavered in the period immediately succeeding his restoration. The celebrated letter to Lentulus (Fam. i. 9) is rather an apology than a defence. But he always bitterly reproaches himself for any temporary defections from the causa optima, and his letters are never so gloomy as during his rapprochement towards Caesar. During the portion of Cicero's life coincident with Parts I.-III. of his correspondence there prevailed a perfect entente cordiale between the Senate and the Optimates. This, together with the installation of Pompeius". as the champion of the causa optima, was Cicero's political q$piration. This view of the situation in which, be it observed, the Optimates were by no means at one, some gravely distrusting Pompeius) became obviously Utopian after the year 698 (b. c. 56). Yet the Optimates finally coalesced with Pompeius against Caesar, and here, again, Cicero was in a minority, for he representş his policy before the civil war as having been one of conciliation ; see Phil. ii. 24 : Atque idem ego pacis concordiae compositionis auctor esse non destiti. Cicero feared that if Pompeius were victorious his sword would drink deep of the blood of Rome. Lucan (i. 330) finely says of Pompeius, that he had lieked the sword of Sulla, and had never forgotten the taste of blood. An estimate of Cicero's political position after his return from exile belongs to Part 1v. The political position of Cicero at that time is best described in his own words—diaeta curare incipio; chirurgiae taedet.'-Att. iv. 3, 3. † Att. i. 20, 3.
It cannot fail to be observed, that as long as Pompeius keeps up friendly relations with the popular leaders, Cicero is never tired of sneering at his vanity and pomposity; Sampsiceramus. Ara barches, Hierosolymarius, &c., are all jibes at the conquering hero who thinks he may be the successor of Sulla. It is only when he has thoroughly broken with the revolutionary party that Cicero speaks of him with sincere respect. We have a strong expression of the belief of Cicero that in Pompeius lay the only hope of the State in Att. ix. 1, 4: ‘Dabimus hoc Pompeio quod debemus. Nam me quidem alius nemo movet : non sermo bonorum qui nulli sunt; non causa quae acta timide est,