« AnteriorContinuar »
instrument of this policy, which in fact was realised for the brief period of Cicero's consulate, and the three succeeding years. *
Mommsen's theory of an ironical, contemptuous deference on the part of Caesar towards Cicero, which even showed itself ready to flatter the weaknesses of an intellect which it despised, is as untrue to history as it is injurious to the character of Caesar himself. It is simply fiction, and inartistic fiction. Caesar saw, as he saw everything, that Cicero was a great power. His speeches not only swayed the assembly, but they discharged the highest work now done by our best newspapers, magazines, and reviews. To gain Cicero was what it would now be to secure the advocacy of the Times ; or rather what it would be were there no other paper, review, or magazine but the Times, and were the leaders of the
agetur improbe. Uni, uni hoc damus ne id quidem roganti, nec suam causam (ut ait) agenti, sed publicam. But Cicero never succeeded in acquiring an affectionate regard for Pompeius—a feeling against which in the case of Caesar he had to struggle hard. His comment on the death of Pompeius does not speak the language of real grief:
Non possum eius casum non dolere; hominem enim integrum et castum et gravem cognovi.'-Att. xi. 6, 5.
* This ideal period he himself often refers to in the words nostra tempora, and describes its duration in Fam. i. 9, 12, “Tenebam memoria nobis consulibus ea fundamenta iacta ex Kalendis Ianuariis confirmandi senatus, ut neminem mirari oporteret Nonis Decembribus tantum vel animi fuisse in illo ordine vel auctoritatis. Idemque memineram nobis privatis usque ad Caesarem et Bibulum consules, cum sententiae nostrae magnum in senatu pondus haberent, unum fere sensum fuisse bonorum omnium.' It is worth mentioning here that the oft-quoted verse
O fortunatam natam me consule Romam
is often misunderstood. Its meaning is fixed by a passage in the pro Flacco, 102. The words may be rendered—
O happy fate of Rome to date
Her birthday from my consulate!' The birthday was the celebrated December 5, on which he put Lentulus and his accomplices to death : this is the passage from the speech for Flaccus: "O Nonae illae Decembres quae me consule fuistis! Quem ego diem vere natalem huius urbis, aut certe salutarem, appellare possum. The phrase natam me consule Romam, for quae diem natalem me consule habuisti is like the expression of Horace (Epp. i. 5, 9) cras nato Caesare laetus Dat veniam somnumque dies. So also Plautus says (Pseud. i. 3, 16) hodie nate, meaning, you who are celebrating your birthday to-day.' Seneca (de brev. vit. 5) speaks of Cicero's consulate as praised by him “justly but immoderately (non sine caussa, sed sine fine laudatus), and no one can read in an unprejudiced spirit the history of the time without seeing what a very important part the great orator then played on the Roman stage.
Times written by Burke and Sheridan. He placed the public in possession of the political situation. It is true, as Mommsen points out, that he came forward in the trial of Verres against the sena-| ? torial iudicia when they were already set aside, that he thundered against Catiline when his departure was already an accomplished fact. It is true that the second Philippic was not delivered till Antonius had fled to Cisalpine Gaul. But were these speeches therefore useless, or mere exhibitions of powerful pleading? By no means. They put the public in possession of the circumstances in each of these cases, and taught them to look on these circumstances with the eyes of the speaker and his party; they converted resistance into acceptance, and warmed acceptance into enthusiasm; they provided faith with reasons, doubt with arguments, and triumph with words.
Professor Beesly,* in a vigorous essay, maintains that the Catilinarian conspiracy (though falsely called a conspiracy according to him) was really an attempt to revolutionize the statean attempt which was near succeeding, and which was made by the revolutionary party under the leadership of Catiline, who was the political successor of the Gracchi, of Saturninus, of Drusus, of Sulpicius, and of Cinna. That the movement is not to be wholly accounted for by saying that the parties to it were dissolute youths,' 'insolvent debtors,' and · disbanded soldiers,' he has shown very clearly.t Nor has he failed to make it plain that Caesar was at this time in no sense the leader of the popular party. But neither was Catiline. Until he failed in his suit for the consulship in 691 (b.c. 63), and seemed about to fail in 692 (b.c. 62), he does not seem to have even conceived the idea of an émeute ; for the rumoured plot to murder Cotta and Torquatus, the consuls of the year 692 (b. c. 67), was discredited even by the hypothetical victim $66 Torquatus. It is here that Mr. Beesly's brilliant picture seems blurred. He confesses that the popular cause might have been in better hands, but he seems blind to the utter incapacity and pitiable stupidity of Catiline and the whole revolutionary party. Catiline drifted into the ranks of the insurgents. After foolishly vapour
* Catiline, Clodius, and Tiberius : London, Chapman & Hall, 1878.
† Yet that the special city following of Catiline was mainly composed of debtors who sought novae tabulae is plain from the invariable language of Cicero.
ing in the senate about putting himself at the head of the popular party, he was too weak and undecided to take any step. The feebleness of such a man would have saved him from the fate of the Gracchi and Saturninus had he remained at Rome, but it suited the Optimates that he should show his hand, and Cicero succeeded in forcing Catiline to join the insurgents, and thus to give colour to the stories (mostly exaggerated) about the widespread and terrible Catilinarian conspiracy. Then the gross blunder of Lentulus in making overtures to the Allobroges rendered possible the coup d'état of the 5th December. So the dull aristocrat was completely out-manouvred by the adroit parvenu. The situation was no doubt menacing, chiefly on account of the vagueness and the wide area of the suspicion which prevailed. Even the loyalty of Cicero's colleague Antonius was breathed upon. Cicero saw that he must strike a blow, but was determined not to invoke the military power. The people would never brook the abnegation of the right of appeal to the tribes in the case of persons guilty only of a plot to commit assassinations, or to abolish debts. But if the conspirators could be proved guilty of complicity with a foreign foe, of an attempt on the commonwealth, these extreme measures might be resorted to. Catiline declared himself a public enemy when he repaired to the camp of Manlius, and Lentulus twisted for himself the rope which strangled him in the Tullianum.
In short, it seems to me that Catiline (whose atrocities are probably much exaggerated, and whose chief defect was his stupidity) * finds his political analogue not in Marat or Robespierre, but in Guy Fawkest or Smith O'Brien, who, had Fortune called him to die in battle, would have known how to die as well as Catiline, and who did not know much better how to effect the purpose of his life. Of course, in private life, there was all the
* Cicero, in his speech pro Murena ($$ 50, 51), records some 'wild and whirling words' of Catiline. His whole portrait in this passage is in a more bold and picturesque attitude than we are accustomed to. However, the expressions there attributed to Catiline by Cicero probably derived most of their force and point from the orator himself, who was interested in making his foiled adversary appear as formidable as possible.
+ In the Gunpowder Plot there is much that resembles the attempt of Catiline, not only in the crudeness of its conception, but also in the disproportionate alarm excited a fact to which the Book of Common Prayer quite recently bore witness.
difference in the world between the high-minded and singlehearted Irish enthusiast and the stolid rake' (as Professor Palmer has aptly called him) who, even after full allowance is made for the exaggerations of his delineator and destroyer, must be admitted to have earned as bad a character in a bad age as was consistent with his dulness and want of individuality. Indeed, I cannot help thinking that Cicero has done all that could be done to secure a place in history for Catiline. He has manufactured a somewhat imposing stage-villain out of very scanty materials. It is a strong proof of the amazing literary power of the orator. Surely no one would have been more surprised than Catiline himself (who seems to have been but too conscious of his own mediocrity) had he known that the time would come when he should occupy a niche beside Caesar Borgia, when his existence should be reconciled with the Divine supervision of the world only on the theory that
Plagues and earthquakes break not Heaven's design: I own I can look on Catiline as but a very mild type of epidemic, and only as a sort of make-believe stage earthquake.
Georges Thouret has shown in an excellent paper in the Leipziger Studien* that it is well-nigh certain that both Plutarch and Dio Cassius took their accounts of the conspiracy of Catiline from the lost treatise tepi úratelaç which Cicero mentions to Atticus in the words commentarium consulatus mei Graece scriptum misi ad te (Att. i. 19, 10). This work, as well as the letter to Pompeius in Latin, de rebus suis in consulatu gestis, has completely perished; and of the third essay on the same subject, the Latin poem also mentioned in Att. i. 19, 10, we preserve only a few verses, which, however, are a valuable aid in the critical treatment of that passage. Accordingly, if it be allowed that Plutarch and Dio Cassius found in the repì úmatelas materials for their history of the conspiracy, then we may reduce the records of this important episode to two—the Ciceronian and the Sallustian; for Appian and Florus followed Sallust. Now Cicero had not sufficient evidence to convict Caesar of complicity with Catiline. We may infer from the account of Plutarch that Cicero in his treatise nepi únarcías refused to implicate Caesar, though he did implicate Crassus, and thereby earned his hostility. Again, Plutarch (Vit. Caes. 8) tells how Caesar was assailed on leaving the Senate on the famous 5th of December, adding toūto uèv oớv oủk oid όπως ο Κικέρων είπερ ήν αληθες εν τω περί της υπατείας ουκ šypafev. The same writer tells us that Cicero did incriminate Caesar after his death. Knowing, therefore, that Cicero has deliberately suppressed his real opinion on this important question, and that Sallust (though not the mere special pleader that Mommsen would make him) is strongly prejudiced in Caesar's favour, we are bound very carefully to reconsider the almost unanimous verdict of modern historians acquitting Caesar. To the proofs of the guilt of Caesar put forward by Mommsen the following considerations may be added.
* Vol. !., Part ii., pp. 303–360.
We have the unequivocal evidence of Suetonius. He is undoubtedly disposed to embrace views unfavourable to the character of Caesar, and so modern historians think they may neglect his distinct evidence that Caesar was publicly arraigned as one of the conspirators :-recidit rursus in diserimen aliud inter socios Catilinae nominatus et apud Novium Nigrum quaestorem a L. Vettio indice, et in senatu a Q. Curio ... Curius e Catilina se cognovisse dicebat, Vettius etiam chirographum eius Catilinae datum pollicebatur (Iul. 17). However, in a very similar passage (Iul. 9) Suetonius states that, in the year of the city 688 (b. c. 66), Caesar entered into a conspiracy with Crassus to make Crassus dictator with himself as Magister Equitum, and to secure by a coup d'état the consulship for P. Sulla and L. Autronius; and he distinctly gives as his authorities Tanusius Geminus,* M. Actorius Naso, a letter of Cicero to Axius, the Edicts of Bibulus, and the speeches of C. Curio senior. Now the two last-named may be discounted as notoriously hostile to Caesar, but who can deny that the testimony of the three first-named writers is unimpeachable? If therefore, as seems probable, Suetonius relied on the same authority in the question of Caesar's complicity with Catiline, surely his evidence is altogether worthy of credence. And indeed what antecedent objection besets the
* If Tanusius is the Volusius of Catullus (xxxvi. 1) he must have been a far from attractive writer, but not necessarily untrustworthy. There is a possible allusion to the guilt of Caesar in pro Mur. 84. But this cannot be the passage to which Plutarch refers, as it was written during the lifetime of Caesar. The passage Att. x. 8, 8, does not refer to the Catilinarian conspiracy,