Alfred J. Church.

Roman life in the days of Cicero online

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after letter he poured out to Atticus his fears, his complaints, and his
wants. Why had he listened to the bad advice of his friends? He had
wished to stay at Rome and fight out the quarrel. Why had Hortensius
advised him to retire from the struggle? It must have been jealousy,
jealousy of one whom he knew to be a more successful advocate than
himself. Why had Atticus hindered his purposes when he thought of
putting an end to all his trouble by killing himself? Why were all his
friends, why was Atticus himself, so lukewarm in his cause? In one
letter he artfully reproaches himself for his neglect of his friends in
times past as the cause of their present indifference. But the reproach
is of course really leveled at them.

"If ever," he writes in one letter, "fortune shall restore me to my
country and to you, I will certainly take care that of all my friends;
none shall be more rejoiced than you. All my duty to you, a duty which I
must own in time past was sadly wanting, shall be so faithfully
discharged that you will feel that I have been restored to you quite as
much as I shall have been restored to my brother and to my children. For
whatever I have wronged you, and indeed because I have wronged you,
pardon me; for I have wronged myself far worse. I do not write this as
not knowing that you feel the very greatest trouble on my account; but
if you were and had been under the obligation to love me, as much as you
actually do love me and have loved me, you never would have allowed me
to lack the wise advice which you have so abundantly at your command."
This is perhaps a little obscure, as it is certainly somewhat subtle;
but Cicero means that Atticus had not interested himself in his affairs
as much as he would have felt bound to do, if he (Cicero) had been less
remiss in the duties of friendship.

To another correspondent, his wife Terentia, he poured out his heart yet
more freely. "Don't think," he writes in one of his letters to her,
"that I write longer letters to others than to you, except indeed I have
received some long communication which I feel I must answer. Indeed I
have nothing to write; and in these days I find it the most difficult of
duties. Writing to you and to my dearest Tullia I never can do without
floods of tears. I see you are utterly miserable, and I wanted you to be
completely happy. I might have made you so. I could have made you had I
been less timid.... My heart's delight, my deepest regret is to think
that you, to whom all used to look for help, should now be involved in
such sorrow, such distress! and that I should be to blame, I who saved
others only to ruin myself and mine!... As for expenditure, let others,
who can if they will, undertake it. And if you love me, don't distress
your health, which is already, I know, feeble. All night, all day I
think of you. I see that you are undertaking all imaginable labors on my
behalf; I only fear that you will not be able to endure them. I am aware
that all depends upon you. If we are to succeed in what you wish and are
now trying to compass, take care of your health." In another he writes:
"Unhappy that I am! to think that one so virtuous, so loyal, so honest,
so kind, should be so afflicted, and all on my account. And my dearest
Tullia, too, that she should be so unhappy about a father in whom she
once found so much happiness. And what shall I say about my dear little
Cicero? That he should feel the bitterest sorrow and trouble as soon as
he began to feel any thing! If all this was really, as you write, the
work of fate, I could endure it a little more easily; but it was all
brought about by my fault, thinking that I was loved by men who really
were jealous of me, and keeping aloof from others who were really on my

This is, perhaps, a good opportunity of saying something about the lady
herself. Who she was we do not certainly know. There was a family of the
name in Rome, the most notable of whom perhaps was the Terentius
Varro[7] whose rashness brought upon his country the terrible disaster
of the defeat of Cannae. She had a half-sister, probably older than
herself, of the name of Fabia, who was a vestal virgin. She brought her
husband, to whom she was married about 78 B.C., a fair dowry, about
three thousand five hundred pounds. We have seen how affectionately
Cicero writes to her during his exile. She is his darling, his only
hope; the mere thought of her makes his eyes overflow with tears. And
she seems to have deserved all his praise and affection, exerting
herself to the utmost to help him, and ready to impoverish herself to
find him the means that he needed. Four letters of this period have been
preserved. There are twenty others belonging to the years 50-47 B.C. The
earlier of these are sufficiently affectionate. When he is about to
return to Rome from his province (Cilicia), she is still the most
amiable, the dearest of women. Then we begin to see signs of coolness,
yet nothing that would strike us did we not know what was afterwards to
happen. He excuses the rarity of his letters. There is no one by whom to
send them. If there were, he was willing to write. The greetings became
formal, the superlatives "dearest," "fondest," "best," are dropped. "You
are glad," he writes after the battle of Pharsalia had dashed his hopes,
"that I have got back safe to Italy; I hope that you may continue to be
glad." "Don't think of coming," he goes on, "it is a long journey and
not very safe; and I don't see what good you would do if you should
come." In another letter he gives directions about getting ready his
house at Tusculum for the reception of guests. The letter is dated on
the first of October, and he and his friends would come probably to stay
several days, on the seventh. If there was not a tub in the bath-room,
one must be provided. The greeting is of the briefest and most formal.
Meanwhile we know from what he writes to Atticus that he was greatly
dissatisfied with the lady's conduct. Money matters were at the bottom
of their quarrel. She was careless, he thinks, and extravagant. Though
he was a rich man, yet he was often in need of ready money, and Terentia
could not be relied upon to help him. His vexation takes form in a
letter to Atticus. "As to Terentia - there are other things without
number of which I don't speak - what can be worse than this? You wrote to
her to send me bills for one hundred and eight pounds; for there was so
much money left in hand. She sent me just ninety pounds, and added a
note that this was all. If she was capable of abstracting such a trifle
from so small a sum, don't you see what she would have done in matters
of real importance?" The quarrel ended in a divorce, a thing far more
common than, happily, it is among ourselves, but still a painful and
discreditable end to an union which had lasted for more than
five-and-twenty years. Terentia long survived her husband, dying in
extreme old age (as much, it was said, as a hundred and three years),
far on in the reign of Augustus; and after a considerable experience of
matrimony, if it be true that she married three or even, according to
some accounts, four other husbands.

[Footnote 7: Another of the same name was an eminent man of letters of
Cicero's own time.]

Terentia's daughter, Tullia, had a short and unhappy life. She was born,
it would seem, about 79 B.C., and married when fifteen or sixteen to a
young Roman noble, Piso Frugi by name. "The best, the most loyal of
men," Cicero calls him. He died in 57 B.C., and Rome lost, if his
father-in-law's praises of him may be trusted, an orator of the very
highest promise. "I never knew any one who surpassed my son-in-law,
Piso, in zeal, in industry, and, I may fairly say, in ability." The next
year she married a certain Crassipes, a very shadowy person indeed. We
know nothing of what manner of man he was, or what became of him. But in
50 B.C. Tullia was free to marry again. Her third venture was of her own
or her mother's contriving. Her father was at his government in Cilicia,
and he hears of the affair with surprise. "Believe me," he writes to
Atticus, "nothing could have been less expected by me. Tiberius Nero had
made proposals to me, and I had sent friends to discuss the matter with
the ladies. But when they got to Rome the betrothal had taken place.
This, I hope, will be a better match. I fancy the ladies were very much
pleased with the young gentleman's complaisance and courtesy, but do not
look for the thorns." The "thorns," however, were there. A friend who
kept Cicero acquainted with the news of Rome, told him as much, though
he wraps up his meaning in the usual polite phrases. "I congratulate
you," he writes, "on your alliance with one who is, I really believe, a
worthy fellow. I do indeed think this of him. If there have been some
things in which he has not done justice to himself, these are now past
and gone; any traces that may be left will soon, I am sure, disappear,
thanks to your good influence and to his respect for Tullia. He is not
offensive in his errors, and does not seem slow to appreciate better
things." Tullia, however, was not more successful than other wives in
reforming her husband. Her marriage seems to have been unhappy almost
from the beginning. It was brought to an end by a divorce after about
three years. Shortly afterward Tullia, who could have been little more
than thirty, died, to the inconsolable grief of her father. "My grief,"
he writes to Atticus, "passes all consolation. Yet I have done what
certainly no one ever did before, written a treatise for my own
consolation. (I will send you the book if the copyists have finished
it.) And indeed there is nothing like it. I write day after day, and all
day long; not that I can get any good from it, but it occupies me a
little, not much indeed; the violence of my grief is too much for me.
Still I am soothed, and do my best to compose, not my feelings, indeed,
but, if I can, my face." And again: "Next to your company nothing is
more agreeable to me than solitude. Then all my converse is with books;
yet this is interrupted by tears; these I resist as well as I can; but
at present I fail." At one time he thought of finding comfort in unusual
honors to the dead. He would build a shrine of which Tullia should be
the deity. "I am determined," he writes, "on building the shrine. From
this purpose I cannot be turned ... Unless the building be finished this
summer, I shall hold myself guilty." He fixes upon a design. He begs
Atticus, in one of his letters, to buy some columns of marble of Chios
for the building. He discusses the question of the site. Some gardens
near Rome strike him as a convenient place. It must be conveniently near
if it is to attract worshipers. "I would sooner sell or mortgage, or
live on little, than be disappointed." Then he thought that he would
build it on the grounds of his villa. In the end he did not build it at
all. Perhaps the best memorial of Tullia is the beautiful letter in
which one of Cicero's friends seeks to console him for his loss. "She
had lived," he says, "as long as life was worth living, as long as the
republic stood." One passage, though it has often been quoted before, I
must give. "I wish to tell you of something which brought me no small
consolation, hoping that it may also somewhat diminish your sorrow. On
my way back from Asia, as I was sailing from Aeigina to Megara, I began
to contemplate the places that lay around me. Behind me was Aegina,
before me Megara; on my right hand the Piraeus, on my left hand Corinth;
towns all of them that were once at the very height of prosperity, but
now lie ruined and desolate before our eyes. I began thus to reflect:
'Strange! do we, poor creatures of a day, bear it ill if one of us
perish of disease, or are slain with the sword, we whose life is bound
to be short, while the dead bodies of so many lie here inclosed within
so small a compass?"

But I am anticipating. When Cicero was in exile the republic had yet
some years to live; and there were hopes that it might survive
altogether. The exile's prospects, too, began to brighten. Caesar had
reached for the present the height of his ambition, and was busy with
his province of Gaul. Pompey had quarreled with Clodius, whom he found
to be utterly unmanageable. And Cicero's friend, one Milo, of whom I
shall have to say more hereafter, being the most active of them all,
never ceased to agitate for his recall. It would be tedious to recall
all the vicissitudes of the struggle. As early as May the Senate passed
a resolution repealing the decree of banishment, the news of it having
caused an outburst of joy in the city. Accius' drama of "Telamon" was
being acted at the time, and the audience applauded each senator as he
entered the Senate, and rose from their places to greet the consul as he
came in. But the enthusiasm rose to its height when the actor who was
playing the part of Telamon (whose banishment from his country formed
part of the action of the drama) declaimed with significant emphasis the
following lines -

What! he - the man who still with steadfast heart
Strove for his country, who in perilous days
Spared neither life nor fortune, and bestowed
Most help when most she needed; who surpassed
In wit all other men. Father of Gods,
_His_ house - yea, _his_! - I saw devoured by fire;
And ye, ungrateful, foolish, without thought
Of all wherein he served you, could endure
To see him banished; yea, and to this hour
Suffer that he prolong an exile's day.

Still obstacle after obstacle was interposed, and it was not till the
fourth of August that the decree passed through all its stages and
became finally law. Cicero, who had been waiting at the point of Greece
nearest to Italy, to take the earliest opportunity of returning, had
been informed by his friends that he might now safely embark. He sailed
accordingly on the very day when the decree was passed, and reached
Brundisium on the morrow. It happened to be the day on which the
foundation of the colony was celebrated, and also the birthday of
Tullia, who had come so far to meet her father. The coincidence was
observed by the towns-people with delight. On the eighth the welcome
news came from Rome, and Cicero set out for the capital. "All along my
road the cities of Italy kept the day of my arrival as a holiday; the
ways were crowded with the deputations which were sent from all parts to
congratulate me. When I approached the city, my coming was honored by
such a concourse of men, such a heartiness of congratulation as are past
believing. The way from the gates, the ascent of the Capitol, the return
to my home made such a spectacle that in the very height of my joy I
could not but be sorry that a people so grateful had yet been so
unhappy, so cruelly oppressed." "That day," he said emphatically, "that
day was as good as immortality to me."



Clodius, who had taken the lead in driving Cicero into exile, was of
course furious at his return, and continued to show him an unceasing
hostility. His first care was to hinder the restoration of his property.
He had contrived to involve part at least of this in a considerable
difficulty. Cicero's house on the Palatine Hill had been pulled down and
the area dedicated - so at least Clodius alleged - to the Goddess of
Liberty. If this was true, it was sacred forever; it could not be
restored. The question was, Was it true? This question was referred to
the Pontiffs as judges of such matters. Cicero argued the case before
them, and they pronounced in his favor. It was now for the Senate to
act. A motion was made that the site should be restored. Clodius opposed
it, talking for three hours, till the anger of his audience compelled
him to bring his speech to an end. One of the tribunes in his interest
put his veto on the motion, but was frightened into withdrawing it. But
Clodius was not at the end of his resources. A set of armed ruffians
under his command drove out the workmen who were rebuilding the house. A
few days afterwards he made an attack on Cicero himself. He was wounded
in the struggle which followed, and might, says Cicero, have been
killed, "but," he adds, "I am tired of surgery."

Pompey was another object of his hatred, for he knew perfectly well that
without his consent his great enemy would not have been restored. Cicero
gives a lively picture of a scene in the Senate, in which this hatred
was vigorously expressed. "Pompey spoke, or rather wished to speak; for,
as soon as he rose, Clodius' hired ruffians shouted at him. All through
his speech it was the same; he was interrupted not only by shouts but by
abuse and curses. When he came to an end - and it must be allowed that he
showed courage; nothing frightened him: he said his say and sometimes
even obtained silence - then Clodius rose. He was met with such an uproar
from our side (for we had determined to give him back as good as he had
given) that he could not collect his thoughts, control his speech, or
command his countenance. This went on from three o'clock, when Pompey
had only just finished his speech, till five. Meanwhile every kind of
abuse, even to ribald verses, were shouted out against Clodius and his
sister. Pale with fury he turned to his followers, and in the midst of
the uproar asked them, 'Who is it that is killing the people with
hunger?' 'Pompey,' they answered. 'Who wants to go to Alexandria?'
'Pompey,' they answered again. 'And whom do _you_ want to go?'
'Crassus,' they said. About six o'clock the party of Clodius began, at
some given signal, it seemed, to spit at our side. Our rage now burst
out. They tried to drive us from our place, and we made a charge. The
partisans of Clodius fled. He was thrust down from the hustings. I then
made my escape, lest any thing worse should happen."

A third enemy, and one whom Clodius was destined to find more dangerous
than either Cicero or Pompey, was Annius Milo. Milo was on the mother's
side of an old Latin family. The name by which he was commonly known was
probably a nickname given him, it may be, in joking allusion to the Milo
of Crotona, the famous wrestler, who carried an ox on his shoulders and
ate it in a single day. For Milo was a great fighting man, a well-born
gladiator, one who was for cutting all political knots with the sword.
He was ambitious, and aspired to the consulship; but the dignity was
scarcely within his reach. His family was not of the highest; he was
deeply in debt; he had neither eloquence nor ability. His best chance,
therefore, was to attach himself to some powerful friend whose gratitude
he might earn. Just such a friend he seemed to find in Cicero. He saw
the great orator's fortunes were very low, but they would probably rise
again, and he would be grateful to those who helped him in his
adversity. Hence Milo's exertions to bring him back from banishment and
hence the quarrel with Clodius. The two men had their bands of hired, or
rather purchased, ruffians about the city, and came into frequent
collisions. Each indicted the other for murderous assault. Each publicly
declared that he should take the earliest chance of putting his I enemy
to death. What was probably a chance collision brought matters to a

On the twentieth of January Milo left Rome to pay a visit to Lanuvium, a
Latin town on the Appian road, and about fifteen miles south of Rome. It
was a small town, much decayed from the old days when its revolt
against Rome was thought to be a thing worth recording; but it
contained one of the most famous temples of Italy, the dwelling of Juno
the Preserver, whose image, in its goat-skin robe, its quaint, turned-up
shoes, with spear in one hand and small shield in the other, had a
peculiar sacredness. Milo was a native of the place, and its dictator;
and it was his duty on this occasion to nominate the chief priest of the
temple. He had been at a meeting of the Senate in the morning, and had
remained till the close of the sitting. Returning home he had changed
his dress and shoes, waited a while, as men have to wait, says Cicero,
while his wife was getting ready, and then started. He traveled in a
carriage his wife and a friend. Several maid-servants and a troop of
singing boys belonging to his wife followed. Much was made of this great
retinue of women and boys, as proving that Milo had no intention when he
started of coming to blows with his great enemy. But he had also with
him a number of armed slaves and several gladiators, among whom were two
famous masters of their art. He had traveled about ten miles when he met
Clodius, who had been delivering an address to the town council of
Aricia, another Latin town, nearer to the capital than Lanuvium, and was
now returning to Rome. He was on horseback, contrary to his usual
custom, which was to use a carriage, and he had with him thirty slaves
armed with swords. No person of distinction thought of traveling without
such attendants.

The two men passed each other, but Milo's gladiators fell out with the
slaves of Clodius. Clodius rode back and accosted the aggressors in a
threatening manner. One of the gladiators replied by wounding him in the
shoulder with his sword. A number of Milo's slaves hastened back to
assist their comrades. The party of Clodius was overpowered, and Clodius
himself, exhausted by his wound, took refuge in a roadside tavern, which
probably marked the first stage out of Rome. Milo, thinking that now he
had gone so far he might go a little further and rid himself of his
enemy forever, ordered his slaves to drag Clodius from his refuge and
finish him. This was promptly done. Cicero indeed declared that the
slaves did it without orders, and in the belief that their master had
been killed. But Rome believed the other story. The corpse of the dead
man lay for some time upon the road uncared for, for all his attendants
had either fallen in the struggle or had crept into hiding-places. Then
a Roman gentleman on his way to the city ordered it to be put into his
litter and taken to Rome, where it arrived just before nightfall. It was
laid out in state in the hall of his mansion, and his widow stood by
showing the wounds to the sympathizing crowd which thronged to see his
remains. Next day the excitement increased. Two of the tribunes
suggested that the body should be carried into the market-place, and
placed on the hustings from which the speaker commonly addressed the
people. Then it was resolved, at the suggestion of another Clodius, a
notary, and a client of the family, to do it a signal honor. "Thou shalt
not bury or burn a man within the city" was one of the oldest of Roman
laws. Clodius, the favorite of the people, should be an exception. His
body was carried into the Hall of Hostilius, the usual meeting-place of
the Senate. The benches, the tables, the platform from which the orators
spoke, the wooden tablets on which the clerks wrote their notes, were
collected to make a funeral pile on which the corpse was to be consumed.
The hall caught fire, and was burned to the ground; another large
building adjoining it, the Hall of Porcius, narrowly escaped the same
fate. The mob attacked several houses, that of Milo among them, and was
with difficulty repulsed.

It had been expected that Milo would voluntarily go into exile; but the
burning of the senate-house caused a strong reaction of feeling of which
he took advantage. He returned to Rome, and provided to canvass for the
consulship, making a present in money (which may be reckoned at
five-and-twenty shillings) to every voter. The city was in a continual
uproar; though the time for the new consuls to enter on their office was
long past, they had not even been elected, nor was there any prospect,
such was the violence of the rival candidates, of their being so. At
last the Senate had recourse to the only man who seemed able to deal
with the situation, and appointed Pompey sole consul. Pompey proposed
to institute for the trial of Milo's case a special court with a
special form of procedure. The limits of the time which it was to occupy
were strictly laid down. Three days were to be given to the examination
of witnesses, one to the speeches of counsel, the prosecution being
allowed two hours only, the defense three. After a vain resistance on
the part of Milo's friends, the proposal was carried, Pompey threatening
to use force if necessary. Popular feeling now set very strongly against
the accused. Pompey proclaimed that he went in fear of his life from his
violence; refused to appear in the Senate lest he should be

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Online LibraryAlfred J. ChurchRoman life in the days of Cicero → online text (page 10 of 13)